Saturday, September 22, 2018

A Rising Tide Floats All Shoats: The Swine of Florence

Hurricane Florence and 9.7 Million Pigs 

by Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond - CounterPunch

September 22, 2018  

News of the potentially catastrophic flooding of pigs’ feces lagoons calls two things to mind.

The first is a Facebook post I saw last July: “People will give up straws to save fish, but they won’t stop eating fish to save fish.” In other words, the individual fish don’t matter, only “fish” do, just as ecofeminist Marti Kheel observed of environmentalists killing wolves to save “the wolf.”

The second is a childhood memory. At age eight in Dunn, North Carolina, I stood beside an injured pig, fallen or escaped from a slaughterhouse-bound truck.

Sue Coe, “Drowned Before Slaughtered” (2018).

We gathered on the asphalt by her body, the adults exchanging words about what was to be done as the odors of gasoline and oil mingled with the scent of charred flesh wafting from “Dobb’s Garage and Grill.”

My mother eventually led me away by the hand, explaining that Dobb’s and the other adults’ talk about saving the pig meant only that she would be preserved to be killed and eaten. She took me back to the road several times to keep the injured pig company. The pig was barely moving but her eyes were wide open. I wonder if she was retrieved for slaughter or if she died on the roadside. Perhaps she was still living when the highway sanitation workers removed her.

I am reminded of both the fish saved to be fished and the Dunn pig as hurricane Florence causes devastating flooding in the Carolinas and images of pigs in the aftermath of hurricanes Floyd, in 1999, and Matthew, in 2016, circulate in the news. In some photographs and videos, pigs are stranded on the rooftops of inundated intensive confinement facilities. In others, they are drowning or already dead, floating carcasses caught up in a current of liquid partially composed of their own excrement. Like the injured pig on the roadside, what would it mean to save those who remain?

There is widespread fear that North Carolina’s pig feces “lagoons” will overflow, spreading farm-related pollutants and toxins into the drinking water. Thus far, twenty-one have already spilled over. References to feces and lagoons are incessant. People are talking about excrement but they are not talking about the pigs. North Carolina has 9.7 million pigs, the second highest number in the United States. They are warehoused in what are known as concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), in sheds with slatted floors so that their waste – ten billion tons annually of urine, feces and dead piglets – can be efficiently collected below and, later, flushed into open-air lagoons. Even without a mega-storm, the lagoons are a major contributor to global warming, releasing methane, nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere; indeed, animal agriculture overall is the second largest contributor to human-made greenhouse gas emissions. Proximity to pig CAFOs is associated with pulmonary and respiratory diseases, disproportionately affecting people of color and low-income communities. If the lagoons continue to overflow, the environmental and health consequences will be dire. It will also mean that 9.7 million sentient, intelligent and sociable creatures will slowly drown. As of today, 5,500 pigs have already perished, in addition to 3.4 million warehoused chickens and turkeys.

In their reports about the feces lagoons, news media including the Los Angeles Times, the New Yorker and Democracy Now! employ photographs and videos not only of stranded, drowning pigs in past hurricanes but also of pigs tightly packed into filthy, dark pens with cement floors and no daylight, sometimes gazing directly at the camera. Susan Sontag observed that “to suffer is one thing; another thing is living with the photographed images of suffering, which does not necessarily strengthen conscience and the ability to be compassionate. It can also corrupt them. Once one has seen such images, one has started down the road of seeing more – and more. Images transfix. Images anesthetize.” It is as though the photographs and videos are directly connected to the pigs’ invisibility. The more we see of them, the less we see them. Their suffering is defiantly ignored in stories which, bizarrely, use their images but focus solely on their manure. But what about the pigs?

Standard industry practices structuring pigs’ lives are among the most brutal of all animal agriculture. So-called “breeding sows” divide their lives between gestation crates and farrowing crates, metal enclosures in which they are fully immobilized. Captive in concrete sheds where they never see the light of day, male piglets are castrated and both males and females have their tails docked and ears notched, all without anesthesia. Eventually, farmed pigs are transported to slaughterhouses, where stunning methods are not full-proof; frequently, they are still alive when they are strung upside down, have their throats slit and are lowered into scalding tanks.

Cloistered in CAFOs with Federal laws designating the documentation of animal agriculture’s operations as the United States’ number one domestic terror threat, farmed animals’ lives are invisible. Even when they come into focus, broadcast across television screens and newspapers, we are meant not to see them. But it is possible to care about the devastating environmental and health hazards posed by pig feces lagoons while also caring about the individuals trapped inside inundated intensive confinement facilities. Like the pig on the side of the highway, their visible, breathing beings stir up questions about their lives. What are the implications of saving them from drowning if their experience is constituted by relentless violence? How to truly protect them from commodification and consumption? Organizations like the Sierra Club and Greenpeace address the damage caused to the environment by CAFOs, but they ignore the suffering the CAFOs inflict upon non-humans. An abstraction called the “environment” is all that matters; save the fish to save fishing and the pigs for slaughter. From the New York Times to Amy Goodman, media fails to grapple with the environment in all its complexity, including the human-made sites of non-human animal confinement. The geological age we are in is known as the Anthropocene, and is characterized by humans’ domination of the planet. When it comes to other species, and the “nature” which has been modified by human activity, there are more pressing issues than straws and feces. Can we reshape our relationships to animals, especially those in the unnatural locales where we hold them captive?
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond is Associate Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature and Luso-Brazilian Studies at the University of California, San Diego. She is the author of numerous publications on the legacies of African enslavement and critical animal studies. Her forthcoming memoir, “Home Sick,” probes caregiving, dying, the medical-industrial complex, Islamophobia and the commodification of (human and nonhuman) animals.
More articles by:Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond

Friday, September 21, 2018

Making Monsters: New York Times Spins an Election Plot Yarn

New York Times’ fraudulent “election plot” dossier escalates anti-Russia hysteria

by Bill Van Auken - WSWS

21 September 2018

The New York Times published a fraudulent and provocative “special report” Thursday titled “The plot to subvert an election.”

Replete with sinister looking graphics portraying Russian President Vladimir Putin as a villainous cyberage cyclops, the report purports to untangle “the threads of the most effective foreign campaign in history to disrupt and influence an American election.”

The report could serve as a textbook example of CIA-directed misinformation posing as “in-depth” journalism. There is no news, few substantiated facts and no significant analysis presented in the 10,000-word report, which sprawls over 11 ad-free pages of a separate section produced by the Times.

The article begins with an ominous-sounding recounting of two incidents in which banners were hung from bridges in New York City and Washington in October and November of 2016, one bearing the likeness of Putin over a Russian flag with the word “peacemaker,” and the other that of Obama and the slogan “Goodbye Murderer.”

It acknowledges that “police never identified who had hung the banners,” but nonetheless goes on to assert that: “The Kremlin, it appeared, had reached onto United States soil in New York and Washington. The banners may well have been intended as visual victory laps for the most effective foreign interference in an American election in history.”

Why does it “appear” to be the Kremlin? What is the evidence to support this claim? Among the 8.5 million inhabitants of New York City and another 700,000 in Washington, D.C., aren’t there enough people who might despise Obama as much as, if not a good deal more than, Vladimir Putin?

This absurd passage with its “appeared” and “may well have” combined with the speculation about the Kremlin extending its evil grip onto “United States soil” sets the tone for the entire piece, which consists of the regurgitation of unsubstantiated allegations made by the US intelligence agencies, Democratic and Republican capitalist politicians and the Times itself.

The authors, Scott Shane and Mark Mazzetti, complain about a lack of “public comprehension” of the “Trump-Russia” story. Indeed, despite the two-year campaign of anti-Russian hysteria whipped up in Washington and among the affluent sections of the upper-middle class that constitute the target audience of the Times, polls have indicated that the charges of Russian “meddling” in the 2016 presidential election have evoked little popular response among the broad masses of the American population.

The “special report” attempts to remedy this problem by ginning up the meddling allegations, claiming that the Kremlin staged a “stealth cyberage Pearl Harbor” against the United States and succeeded in “hijacking” both “American companies like Facebook and Twitter” and “American citizens’ feelings about immigration and race.”

The reporting is all couched in “maybes” and “appears,” with the claim made that “there is a plausible case that Mr. Putin succeeded in delivering the presidency to his admirer, Mr. Trump, though it cannot be proved or disproved.” In other words, the Times’ reporters cannot substantiate their claims.

Mazzetti and Shane strain to portray the actions of Putin, assuming for the sake of argument that he was the mastermind behind the Facebook postings, as something uniquely horrible in the annals of international relations.

But as is well known, the US spends tens of billions of dollars every year to influence foreign elections, subvert governments viewed as obstacles to US interests and buy politicians, intellectuals and other agents of influence. It has backed coups and waged direct wars to effect regime change. Many of these coups have been supported by the New York Times. Many of its reporters collaborate with US intelligence agencies and dish up the propaganda required to advance the international interests of the United States.

There is not a country in the world whose political system has not been targeted by the United States. This includes Russia and the former Soviet republics, where it has carried out continuous regime-change operations, while extending the NATO military alliance across vast swaths of territory and spheres of influence vacated by the Soviet Union, deploying US-led armed forces right to Russia’s borders, in contravention of agreements reached between Washington and Moscow at the time of the Stalinist bureaucracy’s dissolution of the USSR.

This is passed over lightly by the Times special report, which presents the alleged Russian “meddling” as all a product of Putin’s personal grudges against President Barack Obama and Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

In the context of US global operations, what the Times article alleges, even if it were all true, amounts to less than a hill of beans.

It claims that Russian “trolls, hackers and agents” assigned to influence the 2016 US election “totaled barely 100.” Their task, it states, was “to steer millions of American voters” and “sabotage an election.”

To that end, the article states, Russians allegedly spent $100,000 on Facebook ads, “a trivial sum compared with the tens of millions spent on Facebook by both the Trump and Clinton campaigns.” Far less than trivial compared to the nearly $7 billion spent on all US federal elections in 2016.

The ads, the Times claims, were directed at “sowing division” in the American body politic, as if the US was not already a country torn by the deepest social inequality of any of the so-called advanced capitalist countries, with a population seething with anger over declining living standards for the masses of the working population, while a financial and corporate oligarchy has registered the biggest income gains in history.

The article refers to a handful of demonstrations allegedly promoted by Russian Facebook ads that attracted a few dozen people as evidence that Moscow’s “trolls” could act as “puppet masters for unsuspecting Americans.” One only need compare this to Washington’s spending of what former State Department official Victoria Nuland acknowledged was $5 billion to promote an armed fascist-led coup that toppled a pro-Russian government in Ukraine in 2014.

The most sinister side of the Times report is its indictment of WikiLeaks and its founder and editor Julian Assange for the leaking of emails of the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta. The emails laid bare the DNC’s rigging of the primaries in favor of Clinton against Bernie Sanders and made public the texts of slavish and well-paid speeches given by Clinton to Wall Street audiences, guaranteeing she would defend their interests and making clear her readiness to escalate the war in Syria and bomb Iran.

The Times report complains that Clinton’s self-damning words were “taken out of context” and “subjected to the most damaging interpretation.”

The report paints Assange as either a witting or unwitting agent of the Kremlin at a moment in which the WikiLeaks founder is facing imminent threat of losing his refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London followed by arrest and extradition to the US to stand trial for treason and espionage.

Also resurrected in the report is the neo-McCarthyite vilification of Jill Stein, the Green Party’s presidential candidate in 2016.

“The Russian operation also boosted” her candidacy, the Times claims, in order “to draw votes from Mrs. Clinton.”

The political thrust of the “special report” is clear. It is aimed at criminalizing domestic dissent, delegitimizing and suppressing any opposition to the political monopoly exercised by the capitalist two-party system and outlawing the use of the internet to report any news or express any opinions that have not first been vetted by “authoritative sources” like the CIA-embedded stenographers of the Times .

Mazzetti and Shane are Times national security correspondents. In an accompanying piece posted on the newspaper’s website, they claim that their “special report” was modelled upon two special issues of the Times magazine section published in July 1973 and the following January detailing the background and development of the Watergate scandal that ultimately brought down the Nixon presidency.

While they may be attempting to signal that their reporting could bring down Trump, the comparison is as ludicrous as it is self-serving. The pieces produced by the Times 45 years ago provided cogent political analysis that served to at least partially expose the crimes and conspiracies of the US government. They came just three years after the newspaper had defied the Nixon administration in publishing the Pentagon Papers—leaked to the paper by Daniel Ellsberg—exposing the lies and crimes associated with the US war in Vietnam.

Mazzetti and Shane have produced a poorly written propaganda potboiler, parroting the unsubstantiated allegations of US intelligence agencies and making the case for the criminal prosecution of Julian Assange for exposing similar crimes.

Mazzetti is notorious for his secretly passing to the CIA in 2011—prior to publication—a piece written by Times columnist Maureen Dowd, along with a note reading, “this didn’t come from me … and please delete after you read.”

Shane was the author of a 2012 article titled “The moral case for drones,” which attempted to justify the assassination program being run out of the White House that claimed the lives of thousands in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and elsewhere.

The authors are, to put it bluntly, a pair of broken-down hacks, embedded with the US military and intelligence apparatus and held in contempt by serious journalists.

Their “special report” expresses the thoroughgoing repudiation of any democratic principles by the Times and the rest of the major media, which have adopted the role of guarantors of state secrecy and apologists for war and political repression.

A Pause for Peace: Happy International Peace Day

What Does It Mean to Celebrate International Peace Day? 

by Brad Evans - CounterPunch

September 21, 2018

We know the world continues to be dangerous. We know our cities are continued targets for indiscriminate attacks. We know we continue to sell arms to brutal dictators on the basis that if we don’t others will.

We know we continue to invest heavily in military research and development because that’s just the established order of things. We know there are groups in the world like Islamic State, which revel in the most abhorrent and intimately barbaric acts of killing upon anybody who doesn’t fit into their dystopian visions. We know that unscrupulous leaders wish to develop weapons of mass destruction for their own protections and to blackmail their neighbors – or worse to unleash their potential.

We know we continue to speak about peace yet carry out violence like its business as usual. And we know the more we weaponise the world; the more we increase the chances of driving head on into our shared extinction.

When collecting his Nobel Peace Prize as the only war time President to have been a recipient of the award, Barack Obama, while acknowledging Martin Luther King and Mahatma Gandhi, brought us back to the ultimate question when it comes to thinking about the possibility for lasting peace when confronting our proclivities towards war and violence:

‘As a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone. I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people. For make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world. A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies. Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda’s leaders to lay down their arms. To say that force may sometimes be necessary is not a call to cynicism – it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason’.

Whilst “the Hitler question” as any high-school teacher knows is the surest way to close down any debate, it does nevertheless need to be ultimately addressed for it continues to be the default position adopted by those who continue to argue about the necessity for war in so-called “exceptional” conditions. The problem from the outset is what actually appears to be exceptional looks more like business as usual. War is not the exception; it is the norm of human history as it has been steered in a particular, though not inevitable, direction. So could non-violence have defeated Hitler?

Well certainly between 1939-1945 this question seems ludicrous. Then again the whole of Europe was tearing itself apart in a nihilistic orgy of willful destruction out of which nobody was really a winner. But let’s us not forget here that while the Allies were ferociously bombing German cities, in Denmark and Bulgaria courageous nonviolent movements saved tens of thousands from the concentration camps. But the camps were still there. And they still killed millions. That much cannot be denied. Nor can the fact that psychopaths with weapons armed with devastating potential have and continue to endanger the world. But what matters in respect to this particular issue is when we date our questions. What if for instance the German people had been given a fair and dignified settlement after the Treaty of Versailles instead of condemning them to ritualistic daily humiliations? And what if the international community at the time took seriously the notion that World War One was truly the ‘war to end all wars’ and sought to put as much investment into the demilitarization of the planet instead of insisting upon its scientifically driven accelerations?

Obama raises another important assumption, which needs to be addressed. As he notes, it is the ‘imperfections of man’ and the limits to his ‘reason’, which requires us to defend ourselves and from time to time call upon violence in the name of some collective notion of security. And yet sadly most violence, from the very personal to mass casualty warfare, is not carried out by irrational monsters. It is more often reasoned, rationalized and calculated with brutal effect by the most reasonable men. In fact we can argue that the real poverty of our human thinking begins from the notion that bullets and bombs bring freedom. History continues to teach us otherwise. Despite the fact that violence only seems to produce more violence, continuously, endlessly, we have yet to fully give ourselves over to the possibility of giving as John Lennon might say, peace a chance.

And yet apologists for war would still maintain a need for arms based upon the right to defend oneself, the dependency of jobs, and the most ethically absurd notion that we might as well contribute to the weaponisation of the world, because if we don’t, well, unscrupulous others will to our economic disadvantage. We need to accept, as they would say, the established order of politics and the reality of the world, as it merely exists. Economic arguments provide the surest way to absolve any ethical responsibility concerning technologies, which are ultimately produced to maim, kill and destroy lives. This is not about cultural relativism. On the contrary, it is to condemn violence, authoritarianism, oppression, and the forces of fascism wherever they appear and justify their existence.

So what then of this claim about dealing with the reality of the world? 

We need to recognize that reality is not something that is independent from us. We create the realities in which we live. And it is just that the one we have created is violently fated. But we do have the power to create another image of the world if we so desired. Future war speculators would no doubt come back here and point to impending resource scarcities and predicted environmental catastrophes as a counter variable to our mastery of earthly conditions. There are simply some variables – including humans, which are beyond our control. Recognizing the unpredictability of the world and our inability to master all things possible is not however something that necessarily needs to result in pessimism. The logic put forward here in fact not only extends some rather old ideas about the nature human beings as being violent; it is also deeply racist in its application. Namely that since humans are surviving creatures they will in the end do whatever they need to do in order to survive, including massacre one another – whether that comes from conditions of food scarcity and famine or some devastating natural event, which exacerbates all available resources necessary to sustain human life. And yet would we apply the same reasoning to the educated white middle class around the world? We would expect a dignified and civilized response, whatever the disaster.

The idea that scarcity and endemic poverty causes violence is a dominant myth that needs to be dispelled. As the Nobel Prize winning economist Amartya Sen discovered, there has never been a single famine in history, which has come from a shortage of food. Famine is all about entitlements, so often denied to people as a result of conscious political decisions. Scarcity doesn’t create war; it is war that creates famines. The same applies to the environment. Whilst ecological doomsayers – from intellectual pundits to Hollywood – continue to see a world full of endemic catastrophe and warfare as a result of environmental change, from street level solidarities in New York after 9/11, to Mexico City after its two major earthquakes, onto the break out of peaceful relations between warring Christians and Muslims factions in Indonesia following the Tsunami, it is the experience of catastrophe which often brings humans closer together and reveals the best of the human spirit. If violence does occur it often follows the militarization of disaster zones and the demands by “established powers” to establish “order” upon vulnerable yet defiant local populations.

With enough imagination we can recognize that a different concept of politics is not beyond us. A good start point is to start rethinking a different narrative about the human condition. We continue to be taught that humanity emerges from some natural state of survival and it’s from the moment we learn to protect ourselves we are then capable of thinking about freedom, which in turn means we are capable of loving one another with an empathetic and respectful embrace. But what if walked into a Natural History Museum tomorrow and in the first exhibit we looked upon those same hominids laughing and joking, as we know they did before speaking with racial tongues, painting on walls to show their imagination and loving one another despite the elements worst intentions? Why after-all do we want to make secure any group of people if it’s not for some prior conception of love that doesn’t come after we have learned to tame our fears or indeed because of them? To truly move beyond war – to put war itself on trial – requires more than a simple commitment to non-violence or even the most righteous humanitarian principles. It is to break out of the politics as survival narrative, which continues to threaten our very existence.
Brad Evans is a political philosopher, critical theorist and writer, whose work specialises on the problem of violence. His most recent book is: Violence: Humans in Dark Times.
More articles by:Brad Evans

Help or Hindrance: Is Canada's Military Intervention Treatment of World's Ills, or Malpractice?

First principle of international relations should be ‘do no harm’

by Yves Engler

September 20, 2018

Many progressives call for Canada to “do more” around the world. The assumption is that this country is a force for good, a healer of humankind. But if we claim to be the “doctors without borders” of international relations, shouldn’t Canada swear to “first do no harm” like MDs before beginning practice?

At a minimum shouldn’t the Left judge foreign policy decisions through the lens of the Hippocratic oath?

Libya illustrates the point. That North African nation looks set to miss a United Nations deadline to unify the country. An upsurge of militia violence in Tripoli and political wrangling makes it highly unlikely elections planned for December will take place.

Former Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper
explains Canadian intervention over Libya with 'Operation Mobile'

Seven years after the foreign backed war Libya remains divided between two main political factions and hundreds of militias operate in the country of six million. Thousands have died in fighting since 2011.

The instability is not a surprise to Canadian military and political leaders who orchestrated Canada’s war on that country. Eight days before Canadian fighter jets began dropping bombs on Libya in 2011 military intelligence officers told Ottawa decision makers the country would likely descend into a lengthy civil war if foreign countries assisted rebels opposed to Muammar Gadhafi.

An internal assessment obtained by the Ottawa Citizen noted,

there is the increasing possibility that the situation in Libya will transform into a long-term tribal/civil war… This is particularly probable if opposition forces received military assistance from foreign militaries.”

A year and a half before the war a Canadian intelligence report described eastern Libya as an “epicentre of Islamist extremism” and said “extremist cells” operated in the anti-Gadhafi stronghold. In fact, during the bombing, notes Ottawa Citizen military reporter David Pugliese,Canadian air force members privately joked they were part of “al-Qaida’s air force”. Lo and behold hardline Jihadists were the major beneficiaries of the war, taking control of significant portions of the country.

A Canadian general oversaw NATO’s 2011 war, seven CF-18s participated in bombing runs and two Royal Canadian Navy vessels patrolled Libya’s coast. Ottawa defied the UN Security Council resolution authorizing a no-fly zone to protect Libyan civilians by dispatching ground forces, delivering weaponry to the opposition and bombing in service of regime change. Additionally, Montréal-based private security firm GardaWorld aided the rebels in contravention of UN resolutions 1970 and 1973.

The NATO bombing campaign was justified based on exaggerations and outright lies about the Gaddafi regime’s human rights violations. Western media and politicians repeated the rebels’ outlandish (and racist) claims that sub-Saharan African mercenaries fuelled by Viagra given by Gaddafi, engaged in mass rape. Amnesty International’s senior crisis response adviser Donatella Rovera, who was in Libya for three months after the start of the uprising and Liesel Gerntholtz, head of women’s rights at Human Rights Watch, were unable to find any basis for these claims.

But, seduced by the need to “do something”, the NDP, Stephen Lewis, Walter Dorn and others associated with the Left supported the war on Libya. In my new book Left, Right: Marching to the Beat of Imperial Canada I question the “do more” mantra and borrow from healthcare to offer a simple foreign policy principle: First Do No Harm. As in the medical industry, responsible practitioners of foreign policy should be mindful that the “treatments” offered often include “side effects” that can cause serious harm or even kill.

Leftists should err on the side of caution when aligning with official/dominant media policy, particularly when NATO’s war drums are beating. Just because the politicians and dominant media say we have to “do something” doesn’t make it so. Libya and the Sahel region of Africa would almost certainly be better off had a “first do no harm” policy won over the interventionists in 2011.

While a “do more” ethos spans the political divide, a “first do no harm” foreign policy is rooted in international law. The concept of self-determination is a core principle of the UN Charter and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.Peoples’ inalienable right to shape their own destiny is based on the truism that they are best situated to run their own affairs.

Alongside the right to self-determination, the UN and Organization of American States prohibit interfering in the internal affairs of another state without consent. Article 2 (7) of the UN Charter states that,

nothing should authorize intervention in matters essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state.”

A military intervention without UN approval is the “supreme international crime”. Created by the UN’s International Law Commission after World War II, the Nuremberg Principles describe aggression as the,

supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.” 

In other words, by committing an act of aggression against Libya in 2011 — notably bombing in service of regime change — Ottawa is responsible not only for rights violations it caused directly, but also those that flowed from its role in destabilizing that country and large swaths of Africa’s Sahel region.

If Canada is to truly be the “good doctor” of international relations it will be up to Left foreign policy practitioners to ensure that this country lives up to that part of the Hippocratic oath stating,

“First do no harm.”

Thursday, September 20, 2018

NATO Flying Its False Flags in Salisbury

The Skripal Affair – Another False Flag in NATO Litany to Criminalize Russia

by Finian Cunningham - SCF

September 20, 2018

If we start from a premise which understands that Britain and its NATO allies are capable of mounting false flag events in Syria with chemical weapons, then it is entirely possible that British secret services carried out a similar propaganda stunt in England with regard to former Russian double agent Sergei Skripal.

We also need to bear in mind that British state intelligence agencies are plausibly running a covert assassination program targeting Russian exiles living in Britain – for the purpose of incriminating Moscow.

Over the past two decades, more than a dozen Russian dissidents have met untimely deaths while residing in England, including Alexander Litvinenko and Boris Berezovsky. Their deaths provide propaganda fodder for the British to accuse Moscow of carrying out “revenge killings”.

However, the suspicious circumstances surrounding each death could more conceivably point to the British liquidating the Russian exiles as propaganda assets.

In the case of Sergei Skripal, the disgraced former Russian military intelligence officer was convicted in Russia of being a spy working for Britain’s MI6. He was exiled to England more than a decade ago as part of an espionage swap deal.

When Skripal was apparently poisoned in his resident town of Salisbury in southwest England on March 4, along with his adult daughter, Yulia, the British authorities immediately pointed the finger of blame at Russian President Vladimir Putin for allegedly ordering an assassination. The Kremlin was accused of dispatching agents who supposedly poisoned the Skripals with a deadly nerve agent.

The publication last week by Scotland Yard police of CCTV images showing two Russian men, Alexander Petrov and Ruslan Boshirov, walking the streets of Salisbury on the weekend of the alleged attack was reported in the British media as “proof” of the supposed Kremlin assassination plot. The Skripal affair is conveniently portrayed as “one more” example of Putin’s “Kremlin killing machine”.

But let’s look at the whole affair from a different perspective. The following scenario draws on observations and evidence cited by sources such as former British ambassador Craig Murray, the informed analytical website Moon of Alabama, and US-based political analyst Randy Martin (in personal correspondence).

Let’s ask the following question: was Sergei Skripal’s propaganda usefulness to the British as an exiled spy at some later point seen by the British as being better served as a victim of an apparent poison-assassination. That is, as a victim of a false flag attack that was actually carried out covertly by the British state agents in order to give the Western-led anti-Russia media campaign a significant boost?

Recall the Salisbury incident occurred at the time when Putin won re-election as Russian president, and it was during the build-up to the 2018 World Cup tournament hosted by Russia.

There is evidence that Sergei Skripal may have been a drug addict. His movements on the Sunday of March 4 when he was found incapacitated on a public park bench in Salisbury along with daughter Yulia suggest he may have been fixing a drug habit. That day he and his daughter both reportedly switched off their cell phones as they visited parks in Salisbury and nearby Amesbury.

The latter venue was also a haunt for the two heroin junkies Charlie Rowley and Dawn Sturgess who later became embroiled in the affair when both apparently were also poisoned with the same nerve agent. Sturgess died days later from her ailment in early July.

Was Skripal visiting venues on March 4 known for scoring drugs? The switching off of phones would indicate some kind of illicit behavior. Recall, too, that earlier on that day, Skripal was reportedly acting in a hurry and very agitated while lunching in a restaurant with his daughter, both of them leaving abruptly. Did he have a monkey on his back, pushing him to get his drug fix?

We can be sure that Skripal was being kept under surveillance by Britain’s MI5 and MI6 all during his decade-long exile in Britain. The postulated drug habit would have been known to his “handlers”.

Moving to cash in their espionage asset for propaganda value, it is possible that British state agents surreptitiously spiked Skripal’s drug fix with some incapacitating substance, such as fentanyl. Indeed, the distressed symptoms of the father and daughter later found in a park on the afternoon of March 4 by members of the public were initially reported as signs of drug overdose.

From that point on, it is contended here, the British secret services intervened as they had anticipated to take control of the “Skripal affair”.

While Sergei and Yulia were comatose in a secured hospital wing, it could have possible for their blood samples to be doctored with a chemical weapon, the notorious Novichok, which was subsequently and hastily attributed to Russia. That attribution in the British media is wildly overplayed. The British chemical weapons facility at Porton Down is only a few miles away from Salisbury where the Skripals were hospitalized. Without doubt, Porton Down would have its own supply of organophosphate nerve agents, if not samples of Novichok. It is not a uniquely Russian chemical, as British politicians and media falsely imply.

There are gaping anomalies in the official British narrative of a Kremlin-directed “hit job” on Skripal with a deadly nerve agent, a claim which Moscow has vehemently denied.

For a start, Sergei and his daughter have, according to the British government, recovered from their ordeal. Yet, the British authorities were claiming that the alleged nerve poison, Novichok, was a super lethal toxin, multiple times more deadly than related organophosphate chemical weapons Sarin or Tabun. A single drop of Novichok on the skin would be enough to kill almost instantly, so it is claimed.

The official British narrative claims that the killer chemical was applied to the front door handle at the Skripal home. The two Russian men caught on CCTV and accused last week by the British of being Kremlin assassins were not in Salisbury until just before midday on March 4, according to the published CCTV time data. By that time, the Skripals had left the home and were not seen returning. That means the pair were stricken while away from the home, perhaps, as speculated here, while they were in the public park scoring a drug deal.

Plausibly, they were not assaulted with a chemical weapon, but with a spiked drug sample, which British state agents had arranged for the purpose of incapacitating them. In an incapacitated state, the Skripals could then be used as guinea pigs, whose bodily fluids could be contaminated to frame up Russia with a story of “assassination by Novichok”.

Here are some challenging questions: why have the Skripals seemingly gone into hiding since the alleged poison incident over six months ago?

Why did Yulia make only one public statement to the Reuters news agency – three months after the poison incident and apparently having recovered from her “lethal ordeal” – in which she expressed a desire to return to her native Russia? Yet since that one-off public statement nearly three months ago, Yulia or her father have not been seen since. Would she really express such a wish to go back to Russia if she believed the British claim that Russian state agents had just tried to assassinate her and her father?

Why have all official Russian requests for consular contact with Yulia been repeatedly denied by the British side, in flagrant violation of international law and diplomatic norms?

The implication is that the Skripals are being detained under duress by the British authorities who realize that the official version of a Kremlin assassination plot with Novichok might be fatally contradicted by the Skripals’ version of events. Hence the pair are being denied access to public communication.

What about the junkies Charlie Rowley and the late Dawn Sturgess? It is plausible that they were also set up in a covert poison attack by British intelligence using spiked drugs in order to “refresh” the anti-Russia propaganda stunt. Then the story about a perfume bottle containing Novichok was thrown in to the mix to conjure up a murder weapon discarded by alleged Kremlin assassins.

What about the two Russian men caught on CCTV in Salisbury on the weekend that the Skripals were apparently poisoned? Petrov and Boshirov upset the official British narrative by coming forward last week to give a media interview. They said they were ordinary civilians traveling under their own names, not aliases, as the British claimed. They said they are not Russian military intelligence, that they had no perfume bottle with Novichok nor any other substance on their possession in England, and that they were in Salisbury as weekend tourists.

Salisbury and its world-famous 13th century cathedral – reputed to be the most ornate in England – as well as nearby neolithic-age Stonehenge, attract millions of tourists from around the world each year, including many Russian nationals. It is not a stretch that British authorities scanned through reams of CCTV footage on the weekend of March 4, and got a lucky break to find Petrov and Boshirov walking the streets of Salisbury. The two men say they are caught up in a “fantastical coincidence”. More to the point, it seems, they are caught up in a British false flag to incriminate, demonize and delegitimize Russia.

The Skripal false flag is only one in a whole series of propaganda campaigns conducted by Western governments, their state intelligence and their ever-obliging news media in recent years. The alleged “annexation of Crimea”, the “covert invasion of Ukraine”, shooting down a Malaysian airliner, illicit doping of Olympic athletes, meddling in US and European elections, launching cyberattacks on Western power-grids, supporting “brutal dictator Assad” in Syria, among other malicious memes.

The litany of false flags to demonize Russia as a “pariah state” is itself indicative of relentless media orchestration by NATO governments.

The Skripal affair fits into this phenomenal propaganda effort.

Finian Cunningham is Former editor and writer for major news media organizations. He has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages.

Establishing Turkish Protectorate of Idlib

Gift to the Sultan - Text of Russia-Turkey Agreement of September 17, 2018, Establishing Turkish Protectorate of Idlib

by John Helmer - Dances with Bears

September 20, 2018

Moscow - A copy of the Russian-Turkish agreement, negotiated on Monday in Sochi by President Vladimir Putin and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has appeared. If its authenticity is confirmed, it will mark the first official Russian acknowledgement of partition of Syria, allowing Turkey to resume control of the Ottoman territory in northwestern Syria which was lost following the Turkish defeat in World War I.

According to the published terms, Putin has agreed to Turkey playing the role of “guarantor” of ceasefires throughout Syria.

Putin has also accepted reinforcement and expansion of Turkish military forces in the Idlib governorate according to the formula of “fortification” of Turkish “observation posts”; their number, already twelve, has not been restricted in area or limited in manning and firepower in the new pact.

Putin also agreed to “take all necessary meassures to ensure that military operations and attacks on Idlib will be avoided and the existing status quo will be maintained.” This is Russia’s undertaking to prevent the Syrian Government and its forces from reclaiming Syrian territory and resuming sovereingty lost to the US and NATO-backed forces seeking to take power in Damascus.

The full extent of the new Turkish-ruled territory has been postponed, according to the wording of the Sochi pact. “The delineation of the exact lines of the demilitarised zone will be determined,” Point 4 says, “through further consultations.” This proviso allows Turkish forces to consolidate their territorial control eastward towards Aleppo, under Russian cover, ignoring the Syrian government.

The one-page English-language version of the agreement of September 17 has been published by an English-language website based in Abu Dhabi called The National. The text claims two language versions, Russian and English, have “equal legal force”. No Turkish version has been issued officially. A translation into Turkish has been circulating on the internet; this twitter feed source, taking its Arabic name from a town in the Hama governorate of Syria, appears to be hostile to the Syrian Government. The English version has been reproduced by Al-Jazeera but without authentication.

Official photograph of the exchange of agreement texts in Sochi published by 
the Turkish state news agency Anadolu -- left front, Turkish Defence Minister 
Hulusi Akar; right front, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu. 
Behind them, Presidents Erdogan and Putin.

The text of the Sochi agreement now in circulation is an attachment to a letter from the Russian and Turkish representatives to the United Nations (UN), Vasily Nebenzia and Feridun Sinirlioglu, relaying the agreement to the President of the UN Security Council – currently the US – and the UN Secretary-General. Their letter is dated September 18. Read the letter of relay and the text of the Sochi Agreement in full here.

At the UN in New York, Nebenzia’s office was asked to authenticate his letter and the text of agreement; he refused. Sinirlioglu was also asked for authentication of the documents; he too refused.

Left: Russia’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Vasily Nebenzia; 
right, former Turkish Foreign Minister, now UN Permanent Representative, Feridun Sinirlioglu.

An accompanying note from the UN Security Council (UNSC) President, relaying the documents to the fifteen member states of the Council says: “this letter and its enclosure will be issued as [sic] document of the Security Council under the symbol S/2018/852”. This missing word may be a typo; it may indicate fabrication of the document. When a check for the document S/2018/852 was run through the UN document archive, this is the report:

A panel of six Russian military and security experts in Moscow was asked to review the document and say if they and their sources believe it to be genuine. Five of the experts were unwilling to respond. A sixth said it was up to the Defence Ministry to verify the document. The Defence Ministry’s press office requested the question by email but didn’t reply.

Independent Turkish reporting of the negotiations between Putin and Erdogan on Monday called the outcome “a major diplomatic win for Ankara”.

The Turkish state news agency Anadolu has published a map it claims to illustrate the Sochi agreement, with Turkish territory coloured green on the map, moving eastwards into the Syrian province of Aleppo. The Syrian Government is referred to on the Turkish map as “regime”.


“What Erdoğan did was simply reap the fruits of his own specific foreign policy”, reported one of his media supporters in Istanbul.

“That this result was achieved in the bilateral meeting with Putin and not at the summit attended by the Iranian leader ten days ago is certainly a matter that requires attention.”

The Sochi agreement means Turkish consolidation of Syrian territory and military occupation until the ouster of Bashar al-Assad’s government in Damascus: this is the assessment of the Turkish government media. “The Idlib agreement also protects the gains procured through the Afrin and Euphrates Shield operations,” reported Mehmet Acet, a state television veteran. “The communication of demands between Putin and Erdoğan turned the Damascus regime’s desire to capture the remaining Syrian territory into a mere dream. [Until Assad is removed] it will not be an option for Turkish forces to withdraw from Syria.”

A Turkish military analyst for Al-Monitor commented that the terms of the agreement are favourable to Erdogan, if ambiguous at the moment, perhaps temporary. “The question now is how this comprehensive plan will be implemented in one month. Less than two weeks ago, at a meeting in Tehran, Putin had objected to Erdogan’s call for a cease-fire, saying, ‘Hayat Tahrir al-Sham [HTS] and other radicals aren’t at the [negotiating] table. We cannot give guarantees on their behalf.’ In return for the one month it gained at Sochi, Ankara is giving those guarantees on behalf of radical groups in Idlib. Perhaps Moscow has realized it couldn’t cope with a humanitarian tragedy at Idlib and wants to guarantee the security of its military presence in northern Syria, notably Khmeimim air base, with Ankara’s assurances.”

“Now the most argued critical issue is, how can Ankara assure Moscow that Idlib radicals will agree to a demilitarized zone and removal of their heavy weapons? One likely answer is that Ankara will rely on its military power and its substantial influence on the armed opposition groups to convince them. Ankara primarily reinforced each of its 12 military outposts with 80 to 1,000 mechanized infantry and commando troops (totaling 1,200-1,300) and equipped the outposts with multiple rocket launchers and other protection measures, and seriously buttressed its military presence around Idlib. Ankara also sealed off the border west and north of Idlib [city] with military reinforcements.”
“But Turkey’s increased military preparations in Idlib province are only for defensive action, as its 12 outposts insulate Idlib from pro-Iran militias south of Aleppo and those controlled by Syrian forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad in the southeast. There are also restraints on Ankara’s military capabilities at Idlib, most notably the absence of air superiority. The Sochi summit didn’t refer to air superiority.”

Military observers believe the Israeli air attack on Latakia on Monday, supported by the French Navy, as well as US, Italian and British Air Force aircraft (according to this independent tracker), has sharply curtailed Russian air superiority in Syria. For details of the Latakia operation, read this. On Russian air superiority in Syria since April, click.

In Point 2 of the agreement with Erdogan, Putin agreed to halt Russian air sorties against targets in Idlib, conceding that “all necessary measures to ensure that military operations and attacks on Idlib will be avoided” will now mean that Turkish-occupied Idlib is a no-fly zone for the Russian Air Force.


In Point 7, Putin agreed to patrols of Idlib by Turkish forces and patrols by Russian military police of the demilitarization lines. Russian air operations will be limited to “monitoring with UAVs [Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, drones] along the boundaries of the demilitarised zone.” The Turkish Army has already started sending drones to the south of its southernmost “observation post” towards the Orontes River, in Syrian territory.

What's Wrong With The Picture: The Reporters are Missing

Hold the Front Page: The Reporters are Missing

by John Pilger - Special to Consortium News 

September 19, 2018

So much of mainstream journalism has descended to the level of a cult-like formula of bias, hearsay and omission. Subjectivism is all; slogans and outrage are proof enough. What matters is “perception,” says John Pilger.

The death of Robert Parry earlier this year felt like a farewell to the age of the reporter. Parry was “a trailblazer for independent journalism”, wrote Seymour Hersh, with whom he shared much in common.

Hersh revealed the My Lai massacre in Vietnam and the secret bombing of Cambodia, Parry exposed Iran-Contra, a drugs and gun-running conspiracy that led to the White House.

In 2016, they separately produced compelling evidence that the Assad government in Syria had not used chemical weapons. They were not forgiven.

Driven from the “mainstream”, Hersh must publish his work outside the United States. Parry set up his own independent news website Consortium News, where, in a final piece following a stroke, he referred to journalism’s veneration of “approved opinions” while “unapproved evidence is brushed aside or disparaged regardless of its quality.”

Although journalism was always a loose extension of establishment power, something has changed in recent years. Dissent tolerated when I joined a national newspaper in Britain in the 1960s has regressed to a metaphoric underground as liberal capitalism moves towards a form of corporate dictatorship. This is a seismic shift, with journalists policing the new “groupthink”, as Parry called it, dispensing its myths and distractions, pursuing its enemies.

Witness the witch-hunts against refugees and immigrants, the willful abandonment by the “MeToo” zealots of our oldest freedom, presumption of innocence, the anti-Russia racism and anti-Brexit hysteria, the growing anti-China campaign and the suppression of a warning of world war.

With many if not most independent journalists barred or ejected from the “mainstream”, a corner of the Internet has become a vital source of disclosure and evidence-based analysis: true journalism sites such as,,,,, and are required reading for those trying to make sense of a world in which science and technology advance wondrously while political and economic life in the fearful “democracies” regress behind a media facade of narcissistic spectacle.

Propaganda Blitz

In Britain, just one website offers consistently independent media criticism. This is the remarkable Media Lens — remarkable partly because its founders and editors as well as its only writers, David Edwards and David Cromwell, since 2001 have concentrated their gaze not on the usual suspects, the Tory press, but the paragons of reputable liberal journalism: the BBC, The Guardian, Channel 4 News.

Cromwell and Edwards (The Ghandi Foundation)

Their method is simple.

Meticulous in their research, they are respectful and polite when they ask a journalist why he or she produced such a one-sided report, or failed to disclose essential facts or promoted discredited myths.

The replies they receive are often defensive, at times abusive; some are hysterical, as if they have pushed back a screen on a protected species.

I would say Media Lens has shattered a silence about corporate journalism. Like Noam Chomsky and Edward Herman in Manufacturing Consent, they represent a Fifth Estate that deconstructs and demystifies the media’s power.

What is especially interesting about them is that neither is a journalist. David Edwards is a former teacher, David Cromwell is an oceanographer. Yet, their understanding of the morality of journalism — a term rarely used; let’s call it true objectivity — is a bracing quality of their online Media Lens dispatches.

I think their work is heroic and I would place a copy of their just published book, Propaganda Blitz, in every journalism school that services the corporate system, as they all do.

Take the chapter, Dismantling the National Health Service, in which Edwards and Cromwell describe the critical part played by journalists in the crisis facing Britain’s pioneering health service.

The NHS crisis is the product of a political and media construct known as “austerity”, with its deceitful, weasel language of “efficiency savings” (the BBC term for slashing public expenditure) and “hard choices” (the willful destruction of the premises of civilized life in modern Britain).

“Austerity” is an invention. Britain is a rich country with a debt owed by its crooked banks, not its people. The resources that would comfortably fund the National Health Service have been stolen in broad daylight by the few allowed to avoid and evade billions in taxes.

Using a vocabulary of corporate euphemisms, the publicly-funded Health Service is being deliberately run down by free market fanatics, to justify its selling-off. The Labour Party of Jeremy Corbyn may appear to oppose this, but is it? The answer is very likely no. Little of any of this is alluded to in the media, let alone explained.

Edwards and Cromwell have dissected the 2012 Health and Social Care Act, whose innocuous title belies its dire consequences. Unknown to most of the population, the Act ends the legal obligation of British governments to provide universal free health care: the bedrock on which the NHS was set up following the Second World War. Private companies can now insinuate themselves into the NHS, piece by piece.

Where, asks Edwards and Cromwell, was the BBC while this momentous Bill was making its way through Parliament? With a statutory commitment to “providing a breadth of view” and to properly inform the public of “matters of public policy,” the BBC never spelt out the threat posed to one of the nation’s most cherished institutions. A BBC headline said: “Bill which gives power to GPs passes.” This was pure state propaganda.

Media and Iraq Invasion 

 Blair: Lawless (Office of Tony Blair)

There is a striking similarity with the BBC’s coverage of Prime Minister Tony Blair’s lawless invasion of Iraq in 2003, which left a million dead and many more dispossessed. A study by the University of Wales, Cardiff, found that the BBC reflected the government line “overwhelmingly” while relegating reports of civilian suffering. A Media Tenor study placed the BBC at the bottom of a league of western broadcasters in the time they gave to opponents of the invasion. The corporation’s much-vaunted “principle” of impartiality was never a consideration.

One of the most telling chapters in Propaganda Blitz describes the smear campaigns mounted by journalists against dissenters, political mavericks and whistleblowers. The Guardian’s campaign against the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange is the most disturbing. Assange, whose epic WikiLeaks disclosures brought fame, journalism prizes and largesse to The Guardian, was abandoned when he was no longer useful. He was then subjected to a vituperative – and cowardly — onslaught of a kind I have rarely known.

With not a penny going to WikiLeaks, a hyped Guardian book led to a lucrative Hollywood movie deal. The book’s authors, Luke Harding and David Leigh, gratuitously described Assange as a “damaged personality” and “callous.” They also disclosed the secret password he had given the paper in confidence, which was designed to protect a digital file containing the U.S. embassy cables.

With Assange now trapped in the Ecuadorean embassy, Harding, standing among the police outside, gloated on his blog that “Scotland Yard may get the last laugh.”

The Guardian columnist Suzanne Moore wrote,

“I bet Assange is stuffing himself full of flattened guinea pigs. He really is the most massive turd.”

Moore, who describes herself as a feminist, later complained that, after attacking Assange, she had suffered “vile abuse.”

Edwards and Cromwell wrote to her: “That’s a real shame, sorry to hear that. But how would you describe calling someone ‘the most massive turd’? Vile abuse?”

Moore replied that no, she would not, adding, “I would advise you to stop being so bloody patronizing.” Her former Guardian colleague James Ball wrote, “It’s difficult to imagine what Ecuador’s London embassy smells like more than five and a half years after Julian Assange moved in.”

Such slow-witted viciousness appeared in a newspaper described by its editor, Katharine Viner, as “thoughtful and progressive.” What is the root of this vindictiveness? Is it jealousy, a perverse recognition that Assange has achieved more journalistic firsts than his snipers can claim in a lifetime? Is it that he refuses to be “one of us” and shames those who have long sold out the independence of journalism?

Journalism students should study this to understand that the source of “fake news” is not only trollism, or the likes of Fox News, or Donald Trump, but a journalism self-anointed with a false respectability: a liberal journalism that claims to challenge corrupt state power but, in reality, courts and protects it, and colludes with it. The amorality of the years of Tony Blair, whom The Guardian has failed to rehabilitate, is its echo.

“[It is] an age in which people yearn for new ideas and fresh alternatives,” wrote Katharine Viner. Her political writer Jonathan Freedland dismissed the yearning of young people who supported the modest policies of Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn as “a form of narcissism.”

“How did this man ….,” brayed the Guardian‘s Zoe Williams, “get on the ballot in the first place?” A choir of the paper’s precocious windbags joined in, thereafter queuing to fall on their blunt swords when Corbyn came close to winning the 2017 general election in spite of the media.

Complex stories are reported to a cult-like formula of bias, hearsay and omission: Brexit, Venezuela, Russia, Syria. On Syria, only the investigations of a group of independent journalists have countered this, revealing the network of Anglo-American backing of jihadists in Syria, including those related to ISIS.

 Leni Riefenstahl (r.) 

Supported by a “psyops” campaign funded by the British Foreign Office and the U.S. Agency for International Development, the aim is to hoodwink the Western public and speed the overthrow of the government in Damascus, regardless of the medieval alternative and the risk of war with Russia.

The Syria Campaign, set up by a New York PR agency called Purpose, funds a group known as the White Helmets, who claim falsely to be “Syria Civil Defense” and are seen uncritically on TV news and social media, apparently rescuing the victims of bombing, which they film and edit themselves, though viewers are unlikely to be told this. George Clooney is a fan.

The White Helmets are appendages to the jihadists with whom they share addresses. Their media-smart uniforms and equipment are supplied by their Western paymasters. That their exploits are not questioned by major news organizations is an indication of how deep the influence of state-backed PR now runs in the media. As Robert Fisk noted recently, no “mainstream” reporter reports Syria.

In what is known as a hatchet job, a Guardian reporter based in San Francisco, Olivia Solon, who has never visited Syria, was allowed to smear the substantiated investigative work of journalists Vanessa Beeley and Eva Bartlett on the White Helmets as “propagated online by a network of anti-imperialist activists, conspiracy theorists and trolls with the support of the Russian government.”

This abuse was published without permitting a single correction, let alone a right-of-reply. The Guardian Comment page was blocked, as Edwards and Cromwell document. I saw the list of questions Solon sent to Beeley, which reads like a McCarthyite charge sheet — “Have you ever been invited to North Korea?”

So much of the mainstream has descended to this level. Subjectivism is all; slogans and outrage are proof enough. What matters is the “perception.”

When he was U.S. commander in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus declared what he called “a war of perception… conducted continuously using the news media.” What really mattered was not the facts but the way the story played in the United States. The undeclared enemy was, as always, an informed and critical public at home.

Nothing has changed. In the 1970s, I met Leni Riefenstahl, Hitler’s film-maker, whose propaganda mesmerized the German public.

She told me the “messages” of her films were dependent not on “orders from above”, but on the “submissive void” of an uninformed public.

“Did that include the liberal, educated bourgeoisie?” I asked.

“Everyone,” she said. “Propaganda always wins, if you allow it.”

Propaganda Blitz by David Edwards and David Cromwell is published by Pluto Press.
John Pilger is an Australian-British journalist based in London. Pilger’s Web site is: His latest film, “The Coming War on China,” is available in the U.S. from

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Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Brazil's El Trumpo Leading the Polls

Jair Bolsonaro: Brazil’s Far-Right Version of Trump Leads the Presidential Race


September 18, 2018

We update our profile of Jair Bolsonaro, who is leading in the presidential race in opinion polls, now that Workers Party candidate Lula da Silva was forced out of the race on corruption charges.

He’s been called the Donald Trump of Brazil. He is one of the country’s most controversial political figures, and he’s a shoo-in to make it to the 2nd round of the presidential elections. Michael Fox reports.

Russia Drops Ball on Syria Jet Downing

PUTIN’S FORFEIT – From Strategic Mistake to Strategic Defeat in 24 Hours

by John Helmer - Dances with Bears

September 19, 2018

Moscow - “When people die, especially in such unfortunate circumstances,” President Vladimir Putin said at a Kremlin press conference on Tuesday afternoon, “it is always a tragedy”.

The president was responding to the destruction of a Russian reconnaissance aircraft and the deaths of fifteen crew members during an Israeli Air Force attack on Syria Monday evening. The Israeli operation was coordinated with British and French commands to spoof, confuse and overwhelm Russian and Syrian air defences.

“It is always a tragedy,” Putin went on – “a tragedy for all of us, for the nation and for the families of our people who lost their lives… In this case, it is more a chain of tragic circumstances because an Israeli fighter did not down our aircraft.”

“It goes without saying that we must get to the bottom of this. Our attitude towards this tragedy is set forth in a statement by our Defence Ministry, and has been fully coordinated with me. As for reciprocal action, this will be primarily aimed at ensuring additional security for our military and our facilities in the Syrian Arab Republic. These steps will be seen by everyone.”

What will be seen by everyone has already been registered. According to Turkey, Putin has conceded Turkish military occupation of the Idlib governorate of northwest Syria, allowing Turkish Army reinforcements from the west and north, but preventing Syrian Army operations in defence of Syrian territory.

According to Israel, Putin has accepted the Israel Defence Force’s (IDF) air superiority over central as well as southern Syria and a free-fire zone for any target in Syria which Israel regards as hostile, including Russian military operations. According to the Russian military command, Putin has forfeited his defence of Russian forces in Syria to the combination of Israel, France and the UK, which coordinated the combat against Syria on Monday evening.

Putin began on Monday in Sochi with the Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

By the early evening of Monday, Putin called his Turkish pact a “Memorandum of Understanding on Stabilization of the Situation in Idlib’s De-escalation Zone”. This allows Turkey open western and northern borders through which to reinforce its occupation of the province. Turkish forces and the Turkish campaign to take over deployment, armament and control of opposition Arab groups in Idlib have been accepted by Putin in this formula:

“Russia and Turkey have reaffirmed their commitment to fight terrorism in Syria in all its forms and guises.”


A southern line of restriction, to be patrolled by lightly armed Russian military police, will protect the Turks and Turkish-supported forces from operations by the Syrian Army to recover their sovereignty of the province.

The partition line for Idlib, Putin announced, will be “a demilitarised area 15–20 km deep along the contact line between the armed opposition and [Syrian] government troops, with radical militants to be withdrawn from the area, including al-Nusra. Also by October 10, based on the Turkish President’s proposal, to secure the withdrawal of heavy military equipment, tanks, multiple rocket launchers, cannon and mortars of all opposition groups.”

Southbound, the M5 highway between Aleppo and Hama, and westbound, the M4 route from Aleppo to Latakia, Putin announced, would be reopened by the end of this year “at the suggestion of the Turkish side”.

Putin conceded these terms have not been agreed with the Syrian government in Damascus. That might come later, Putin claimed. “This approach is generally supported by the leadership of the Syrian Arab Republic. We will soon hold additional consultations with the Syrian government.” So far there has been silence from the Syrian Government.

Putin and Erdogan wound up their talks late on Monday afternoon. After dark, the IDF, the French Navy and the British air command in Cyprus began their operation against Latakia.



The red line shows the flight path of the Russian Ilyushin-20 from take-off at the Khmeimim air base at 2031 until, shortly before landing at base, it was hit by a Syrian missile at 2207. The red X marks the location of the downing at sea. The dotted blue line shows the flight path of four Israeli F-16s between 2200 and 2210. The blue vessel is the French Navy frigate Auvergne. The red vessel on the map is the Russian Navy frigate Pitlivy.

Source: BBC. 

Missing from the Russian map and the BBC translation and commentary are the two British Air Force planes reported in Israel to have taken off from the Akrotiri airbase in Cyprus, and to have maintained a holding pattern above the flight path of the Israeli F-16 fighter-bombers as they moved into their firing positions.

Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missiles protect the Khmeimim airbase; their radar and strike ranges are at least 400 kilometres. On Monday evening this meant that Russian air defence crews and the Khmeimim base command tracked the Israeli aircraft from their takeoff positions out into the Mediterranean, and then as they turned north on their attack run. The S-400 crews were also tracking the British aircraft as they took off from Cyprus. When the French frigate Auvergne fired missiles, the S-400 crews at Khmeimim tracked their flight paths. Subsequent Russian press reports and Defence Ministry releases say the timing of the IDF firing at Latakia, the French missile launches, and the destruction of the Il-20 occurred within seconds of one another.

As the four Israeli F-16s approached Latakia, the Russians could have fired in defence except that their orders from Moscow are not to lock and fire on the IDF unless Russian forces are directly under threat. That was precisely the situation for the crew on board the Ilyushin-20, which the S-400 crews were also tracking. But they were required to hold their fire. That is the standing Kremlin order.

The S-400 at Khmeimim airbase. For details of the S-400 system’s capabilities 
for simultaneous tracking and multiple targeting, as well as range, read this

The targets struck by the IDF on Monday night were all within 50 kilometres of Khmeimim. Israeli reporting noted “the attack near Latakia is especially unusual because the port city is located near a Russian military base, the Khmeimim Air Force base”.

When Tuesday began in Moscow, Putin did not call his Security Council into emergency session. Four days before, it had met for its weekly routine session; that was on Friday September 14. There had been time to exchange birthday banter with Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, who turned 53. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was absent in Berlin, meeting German officials; for assessment of his Idlib strategy, read this.

At the Security Council meeting there was an “exchange of views”, according to the Kremlin record, “on the situation around Idlib (Syria). They expressed concern over the high concentration of terrorists in this place together with their destabilising activities.” If Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, the intelligence chiefs and former chief of staff Sergei Ivanov told Putin their views on strategy towards the Turks in Idlib, and what they proposed for Putin’s next meeting with Erdogan, the Kremlin record has erased it publicly.

At 19:35 on Tuesday the Kremlin posted this communiqué of Putin’s telephone call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. “Vladimir Putin noted that operations of this nature by the Israeli Air Force are in violation of Syria’s sovereignty. In this particular case, Russian-Israeli agreements on preventing dangerous incidents had not been observed either, and that resulted in the Russian aircraft coming under Syrian air defence fire. The Russian President called on the Israeli side to prevent such incidents in the future.” The last sentence was the only one the Israelis take seriously. And not very seriously at that.

Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Putin at their last Kremlin meeting, 
July 11, 2018. For details, click.

Israeli officials and military sources told Haaretz:

“The Syrian and Russian air forces and air-defense batteries work together, in joint operation rooms and air-traffic control centers. The Syrians use Russian-made aircraft and missiles. The Ilyushin would have been equipped with IFF (identification, friend or foe) transponders and both militaries will have procedures to prevent ‘friendly fire’ incidents. A Syrian anti-aircraft missile, made in Russia, should not have shot down a friendly Russian aircraft.
The incident could have been caused in part by (intentionally) late notification by Israel – but it certainly was a screw-up between the Russian and Syrian allies. The British aircraft in the area seemed to be prepared to keep out of trouble, so why not the Russians? The speed with which Russia rushed to blame Israel, before a proper operational investigation of Monday night’s events could be held, points to a screw-up of the kind Russia never likes to admit to in public.”
“The Russians know the truth, but in public [they] have to blame someone for their high-profile setback and human tragedy. They can’t blame their Syrian allies. Israel will have to take the rap in public, but if the close relationship between Netanyahu and Putin is anything to go by, they’ll find a way to get over this and Israeli aircraft will again be striking Iranian targets in Syria in the not-too-distant future.”

Two hours before Putin and Netanyahu made their telephone pact about the future, the Russian Foreign Ministry had summoned the Israeli Embassy chargé d’affaires, Karen Cohen-Gat. The words reported in the Russian communiqué of the meeting with Deputy Minister Sergei Vershinin omitted incidents, accidents, tragedy.

Karen Cohen-Gat leaving Foreign Ministry in Moscow with bodyguard. 
Source: Getty

“During the conversation the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation S.V. Vershinin has emphasized that in Moscow [the Foreign Ministry has] regarded as irresponsible and unfriendly the actions of the Air Force of Israel, as a result of which under a strike by the Syrian air defenses the Russian Il-20 plane has been downed, and 15 Russian servicemen have died.
It has been noted that the Russian side will take all necessary measures to stop the threat to life and safety of the Russian military rendering assistance to the Syrian people in the fight against terrorism.”

Five hours earlier, the Russian Defence Ministry statement, which Putin claimed to have been “fully coordinated with me”, was issued at 11 in the morning by Major General Igor Konashenkov (right).

He accused the Israelis of spoofing Syrian air defences and creating an ambush for the Russian aircraft.

“Israel did not warn the command of the Russian troops in Syria about the planned operation. We received a notification via hotline less than a minute before the strike, which did not allow the Russian aircraft to be directed to a safe zone.”

 Konashenkov went on:

“The Israeli jets used the Russian plane as a cover, thus exposing it to Syrian air defence fire. As a result, the Ilyushin-20, its reflective surface being far greater than that of [the Israeli F-16s], was shot down by a missile launched with the S-200 system.
We regard these provocative actions by Israel as hostile. As a result of irresponsible actions by the Israeli military 15 Russian military servicemen were killed. This by no means agrees with the spirit of Russian-Israeli partnership. We reserve the right to a proportionate response.”

An hour later, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu announced:

“The responsibility for the downing of the Russian aircraft and the death of its crew lies solely with Israel. .. we reserve the right to take retaliatory steps.”

At the end of the day Shoigu reiterated his message.

“It’s clear to any specialist the strike was delivered using our Ilyushin-20 as cover, because they [the Israelis] thought the Syrian air defence systems would not act in that direction…
We have informed today our Israeli colleagues, and I have also informed personally the Israeli Defense Minister [Avigdor Lieberman], that such actions will not be left unanswered by us.”

Shoigu was repeating himself after Putin had been asked at his Kremlin press conference “will this complicate our relations with Israel? One cannot help recalling the recent incident with Turkey. What kind of response measures can be expected from Russia?” Putin’s answer was:

“As for your comparison with the downing of our plane by a Turkish fighter, this was a different situation. The Turkish fighter deliberately shot down our aircraft. In this case, it is more a chain of tragic circumstances because an Israeli fighter did not down our aircraft. It goes without saying that we must get to the bottom of this. Our attitude towards this tragedy is set forth in a statement by our Defence Ministry, and has been fully coordinated with me.”

The last four words misrepresented what had been happening in Moscow. Unlike the last fatal aircraft incident at Khmeimim in March of this year, Putin avoided making public his contact with Shoigu, if there was one.

Following the crash of an An-26 Antonov troop transport, the Kremlin record claimed at the time:

“[D]uring a telephone conversation with Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu Vladimir Putin received the latest information on the crash of a Russian An-26 military transport aircraft in the Syrian Arab Republic…
The head of state expressed his deepest condolences to the families of the victims and to the entire staff of the Defence Ministry on the loss of their comrades.” 

In that incident, 39 on board were killed, including a major general. The Defence Ministry investigation concluded that wind shear as the aircraft was landing had accidentally caused the crash. In March Putin publicized his agreement with Shoigu on wind shear; on Tuesday he kept secret his refusal to agree with Shoigu on Israel.

Putin’s answer yesterday is the only one the Israelis accept. Dismissing the Russian General Staff and Defence Minister in the confidence that Putin controls them, Haaretz editorialized:

“In Rush to Blame Israel for Downed Plane Near Latakia, Russia May Be Conducting Face-saving Op… Israel may now have to lay low for a while and let Russian pride recover.”