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At a high-level meeting in Rome this week, it seems Russia reiterated a grave warning to the US – Moscow will not tolerate American military intervention to topple the Venezuelan government with whom it is allied. Meanwhile, back in Washington, President Trump was again bragging the military option was still on the table, in his press conference with Brazilian counterpart Jair Bolsonaro. Trump is bluffing or not yet up to speed with Russia’s red line.
The meeting in the Italian capital between US “special envoy” on Venezuelan affairs Elliot Abrams and Russia’s deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov had an air of urgency in its arrangement.
[US stooge, Wad Guano - Risible Claims
on Venezuelan presidency.]
The US State Department announced the tête-à-tête only three days beforehand. The two officials also reportedly held their two-hour discussions in a Rome hotel, a venue indicating ad hoc arrangement.
Abrams is no ordinary diplomat. He is a regime-change specialist with a criminal record for sponsoring terrorist operations, specifically the infamous Iran-Contra affair to destabilize Nicaragua during the 1980s. His appointment by President Trump to the “Venezuela file” only underscores the serious intent in Washington for regime change in Caracas. Whether it gets away with that intent is another matter.
Moscow’s interlocutor, Sergei Ryabkov, is known to not mince his words, having earlier castigated Washington for seeking global military domination. He calls a spade a spade, and presumably a criminal a criminal.
The encounter in Rome this week was described as “frank” and “serious” – which is diplomatic code for a blazing exchange. The timing comes at a high-stakes moment, after Venezuela having been thrown into chaos last week from civilian power blackouts that many observers, including the Kremlin, blame on American cyber sabotage. The power grid outage followed a failed attempt by Washington to stage a provocation with the Venezuelan military over humanitarian aid deliveries last month from neighboring Colombia.
The fact that Washington’s efforts to overthrow the elected President Nicolas Maduro have so far floundered, might suggest that the Americans are intensifying their campaign to destabilize the country, with the objective of installing US-backed opposition figure Juan Guaido. He declared himself “acting president” in January with Washington’s imprimatur.
Given that the nationwide power blackouts seem to have failed in fomenting a revolt by the civilian population or the military against Maduro, the next option tempting Washington could be the military one.
It seems significant that Washington has recently evacuated its last remaining diplomats from the South American country. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo commented on the evacuation by saying that having US personnel on the ground “was limiting” Washington’s scope for action. Also, American Airlines reportedly cancelled all its services to Venezuela in the past week. Again, suggesting that the US was considering a military intervention, either directly with its troops or covertly by weaponizing local proxies. The latter certainly falls under Abrams’ purview.
After the Rome meeting, Ryabkov said bluntly:
“We assume that Washington treats our priorities seriously, our approach and warnings.”
One of those warnings delivered by Ryabkov is understood to have been that no American military intervention in Venezuela will be tolerated by Moscow.
For his part, Abrams sounded as if he had emerged from the meeting after having been given a severe reprimand.
“No, we did not come to a meeting of minds, but I think the talks were positive in the sense that both sides emerged with a better understanding of the other’s views,” he told reporters.
“A better understanding of the other’s views,” means that the American side was given a red line to back off.
The arrogance of the Americans is staggering. Abrams seems, according to US reporting, to have flown to Rome with the expectation of working out with Ryabkov a “transition” or “compromise” on who gets the “title of president” of Venezuela.
That’s what he no doubt meant when he said after the meeting “there was not a meeting of minds”, but rather he got “a better understanding” of Russia’s position.
Washington’s gambit is a replay of Syria. During the eight-year war in that country, the US continually proffered the demand of a “political transition” which at the end would see President Bashar al Assad standing down. By contrast, Russia’s unflinching position on Syria has always been that it’s not up to any external power to decide Syria’s politics. It is a sovereign matter for the Syrian people to determine independently.
Nearly three years after Russia intervened militarily in Syria to salvage the Arab country from a US-backed covert war for regime change, the American side has manifestly given up on its erstwhile imperious demands for “political transition”. The principle of Syrian sovereignty has prevailed, in large part because of Russia’s trenchant defense of its Arab ally.
Likewise, Washington, in its incorrigible arrogance, is getting another lesson from Russia – this time in its own presumed “back yard” of Latin America.
It’s not a question of Russia being inveigled by Washington’s regime-change schemers about who should be president of Venezuela and “how we can manage a transition”. Moscow has reiterated countless times that the legitimate president of Venezuela is Nicolas Maduro whom the people voted for last year by an overwhelming majority in a free and fair election – albeit boycotted by the US-orchestrated opposition.
The framework Washington is attempting to set up of choosing between their desired “interim president” and incumbent Maduro is an entirely spurious one. It is not even worthy to be discussed because it is a gross violation of Venezuela’s sovereignty. Who is Washington to even dare try to impose its false choice?
On Venezuela, Russia is having to remind the criminal American rulers – again – about international law and respect for national sovereignty, as Moscow earlier did with regard to Syria.
And in case Washington gets into a huff and tries the military option, Moscow this week told regime-change henchman Abrams that that’s a red line. If Washington has any sense of rationale left, it will know from its Syria fiasco that Russia has Venezuela’s back covered.
Political force is out. Military force is out. Respect international law and Venezuela’s sovereignty. That’s Russia’s eminently reasonable ultimatum to Washington.
Now, the desperate Americans could still try more sabotage, cyber or financial. But their options are limited, contrary to what Trump thinks.
How the days of American imperialist swagger are numbered. There was a time when it could rampage all over Latin America. Not any more, evidently. Thanks in part to Russia’s global standing and military power.
Finian Cunningham - Former editor and writer for major news media organizations. He has
written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in
Asked about whether soldiers were capable of carrying out law enforcement duties, General Bruno Le Ray replied:
“Our orders are sufficiently clear that we do not need to be worried at all. The soldiers’ rules of engagement will be fixed very rigorously.”
“They will have different means for action faced with all types of threats,” he continued.
“That can go as far as opening fire.”
Le Ray added that soldiers will have the same rules of engagement for shooting protesters as those for gunning down terrorism suspects inside France:
“They will deliver warnings. This has happened in the past, as in (attacks at) the Louvre or at Orly. They are perfectly able to assess the nature of the threat and to respond proportionally.”
These threats against a protest movement against social inequality that is largely peaceful must be taken as a warning by workers and youth not only in France but internationally. As mass protests and strikes erupting outside the control of the union bureaucracies spread across the world, the military and security agencies of the financial aristocracy are preparing to carry out ruthless repression. Even in countries like France with long bourgeois-democratic traditions, they are rapidly moving towards military-police dictatorship.
Soldiers from Opération Sentinelle on patrol in Strasbourg in 2015
Since the imposition of a state of emergency suspending basic democratic rights after the 2015 Paris attacks, the army’s Operation Sentinel has sent squads of soldiers marching in France’s streets, wearing bulletproof vests and carrying assault rifles. The current crisis vindicates the WSWS’s longstanding warnings. In every country, the ruling class has used the “war on terror” as a pretext to reinforce state repression that is aimed above all at opposition in the working class.
Amid yesterday’s European Union summit in Brussels, French President Emmanuel Macron spoke to downplay the significance of sending the army against the “yellow vests.” The army is “in no way responsible for maintaining order and public order,” he claimed, mocking criticisms of his resort to the army as a “false debate” fueled by “those who play at scaring themselves and others.”
French Defense Minister Florence Parly followed Le Ray onto France Info and also trivialized the decision to send troops to police the protests. Without explicitly contradicting Le Ray’s report on the orders given to Operation Sentinel forces, she said:
“The soldiers of the French army never fire on protesters. … All those who play around with fantasies, who speak about opening fire, are only sowing confusion.”
It is impossible to know in advance whether or how many lives will be lost during army operations against the “yellow vests” today. But the soporific and historically inaccurate statements of Macron and Parly are being openly contradicted by certain soldiers, who are violating military discipline to tell the media about their anger and concern at the orders they are receiving.
“We have no business interfering in this ‘yellow vest’ business,” one soldier anonymously told France Info.
“We do not have the necessary equipment, we just have truncheons and little pepper spray bottles like what girls have in their purses. After that, the next thing we have is our assault rifles. … So, if we go up against too many protesters, unfortunately we will probably see fatalities.”
Another soldier stressed his anger at receiving orders from Macron to target the French people: “It is absurd, it’s arbitrary. We are not prepared for this. In technical terms, we fight military enemies. And the enemy cannot be the entire population, that is not possible. That is the situation they are trying to put soldiers in today.”
General Vincent Desportes, the former head of the War Academy, made clear his skepticism about claims from within the Macron government that riot police will always manage to get between protesters and the soldiers, to ensure that the latter do not fire on the former.
He said, “Until now the security forces have not shown themselves entirely capable of controlling large crowds of protesters. If violent protesters come into contact with the soldiers, there is a serious risk that blood will be spilt. …
“The last time soldiers were used for law enforcement was in Algeria, more than 50 years ago. As you well know, at that point blood was spent, a lot of blood was spent.”
The result of the last intervention of the army against workers on what is currently French soil, in the insurrectionary strikes of 1947-8 against the bourgeois Republic established by the Gaullists and Stalinists after World War II and the fall of European fascism, was a massacre. As 350,000 miners went on strike, the army occupied the mines with an authorization to fire on the strikers. The resulting clashes led to six dead, thousands of wounded, and the firing of 3,000 miners, a decision legally recognized as discriminatory in 2011.
In Algeria, the use of the army to torture and kill Algerians rising up against French colonialism, barely more than a decade after these same methods were used in France itself by the Nazis and the Nazi-collaborationist Vichy regime, left over 300,000 dead in the 1954-1962 war.
These historical events are a warning as to the implications of mobilizing the army against the working class. They vindicate the strategy proposed by the Parti de l’égalité socialiste (PES) amid the “yellow vest” movement. Amid widespread hostility of workers internationally against the union bureaucracies and established political parties, the PES called for building independent committees of action and stressed the necessity of transferring state power in France and across Europe to such organizations of the working class.
This also requires building the PES as the political alternative to the petty bourgeois political parties, rejected by a broad majority of “yellow vests.” These parties try to tie the workers to Macron by proposing to negotiate a democratization of society with him and the trade unions.
Many of these parties—including the French Communist Party, the New Anticapitalist Party, the Greens, Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s Unsubmissive France, and the Independent Democratic Workers Party—came together yesterday to issue a pathetic “united” appeal to Macron.
Criticizing “the government’s authoritarian excesses,” they begged Macron to cease ignoring them and negotiate more with them to try to calm the situation:
“The sidelining of the social, ecological and trade union movements, contempt for those who speak truth to power, is a way of preventing all dialog, all positive outcomes to the crises of our time. …
“The calming of tensions we desire also requires the state power to respond concretely to the aspirations for social justice that are widely expressed in our country.”
But there is nothing to negotiate with Macron. By sending the army against the “yellow vests,” he is sending a clear signal that the financial aristocracy and the state authorities have no intention of realizing the social aspirations of the working class. They want to crush these aspirations, and if necessary to drown them in blood.
The current crisis exposes the utter bankruptcy of their strategy of tying the workers to capitalist politicians and the capitalist state. During the 2017 election, all these parties adapted themselves to the official propaganda presenting Macron as a lesser evil than neo-fascist candidate Marine Le Pen. Now that Macron has declared his admiration for fascist dictator Philippe Pétain and sent the army against the “yellow vests,” this propaganda is exposed as an utter fraud.
Faced with Macron’s historic threat against the workers, the turn is to the construction of independent organizations of the working class and of sections of the International Committee of the Fourth International as their revolutionary vanguard.
If Nietzsche, (left) was right, and what doesn’t kill us only makes us stronger, we can thank the global capitalist ruling classes, the Democratic Party, and the corporate media for four more years of Donald Trump.
The long-awaited Mueller report is due any day now, or so they keep telling us. Once it is delivered, and does not prove that Trump is a Russian intelligence asset, or that he personally conspired with Vladimir Putin to steal the presidency from Hillary Clinton, well, things are liable to get a bit awkward.
Given the amount of goalpost-moving and focus-shifting that has been going on, clearly, this is what everyone’s expecting.
Honestly, I’m a bit surprised. I was sure they were going to go ahead and fabricate some kind of “smoking gun” evidence (like the pee-stained sheets from that Moscow hotel), or coerce one of his sleazy minions into testifying that he personally saw Trump down on his knees “colluding” Putin in the back room of a Russian sauna. After all, if you’re going to accuse a sitting president of being a Russian intelligence asset, you kind of need to be able to prove it, or (a) you defeat the whole purpose of the exercise, (b) you destroy your own credibility, and (c) you present that sitting president with a powerful weapon he can use to bury you.
This is not exactly rocket science. As any seasoned badass will tell you, when you’re resolving a conflict with another seasoned badass, you don’t take out a gun unless you’re going to use it. Taking a gun out, waving it around, and not shooting the other badass with it, is generally not a winning strategy. What often happens, if you’re dumb enough to do that, is that the other badass will take your gun from you and either shoot you or beat you senseless with it.
This is what Trump is about to do with Russiagate. When the Mueller report fails to present any evidence that he “colluded” with Russia to steal the election, Trump is going to reach over, grab that report, roll it up tightly into a makeshift cudgel, and then beat the snot out of his opponents with it. He is going to explain to the American people that the Democrats, the corporate media, Hollywood, the liberal intelligentsia, and elements of the intelligence agencies conspired to try to force him out of office with an unprecedented propaganda campaign and a groundless special investigation. He is going to explain to the American people that Russiagate, from start to finish, was, in his words, a ridiculous “witch hunt,” a childish story based on nothing. Then he’s going to tell them a different story.
That story goes a little something like this …
Back in November of 2016, the American people were so fed up with the neoliberal oligarchy that everyone knows really runs the country that they actually elected Donald Trump president. They did this fully aware that Trump was a repulsive, narcissistic ass clown who bragged about “grabbing women by the pussy” and jabbered about building “a big, beautiful wall” and making the Mexican government pay for it. They did this fully aware of the fact that Donald Trump had zero experience in any political office whatsoever, was a loudmouth bigot, and was possibly out of his gourd on amphetamines half the time. The American people did not care. They were so disgusted with being conned by arrogant, two-faced, establishment stooges like the Clintons, the Bushes, and Barack Obama that they chose to put Donald Trump in office, because, fuck it, what did they have to lose?
The oligarchy that runs the country responded to the American people’s decision by inventing a completely cock-and-bull story about Donald Trump being a Russian agent who the American people were tricked into voting for by nefarious Russian mind-control operatives, getting every organ of the liberal corporate media to disseminate and relentlessly promote this story on a daily basis for nearly three years, and appointing a special prosecutor to conduct an official investigation in order to lend it the appearance of legitimacy. Every component of the ruling establishment (i.e., the government, the media, the intelligence agencies, the liberal intelligentsia, et al.) collaborated in an unprecedented effort to remove an American president from office based on a bunch of made-up horseshit … which kind of amounts to an attempted soft coup.
This is the story Donald Trump is going to tell the American people.
A minority of ideological heretics on what passes for the American Left are going to help him tell this story, not because we support Donald Trump, but because we believe that the mass hysteria and authoritarian fanaticism that has been manufactured over the course of Russiagate represents a danger greater than Trump. It has reached some neo-Riefenstahlian level, this bug-eyed, spittle-flecked, cult-like behavior … worse even than the mass hysteria that gripped most Americans back in 2003, when they cheered on the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and the murder, rape, and torture of hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children based on a bunch of made-up horseshit.
We are going to be vilified, we leftist heretics, for helping Trump tell Americans this story. We are going to be denounced as Trumpenleft traitors, Putin-sympathizers, and Nazi-adjacents (as we were denounced as terrorist-sympathizers and Saddam-loving traitors back in 2003). We are going to be denounced as all these things by liberals, and by other leftists. We are going to be warned that pointing out how the government, the media, and the intelligence agencies all worked together to sell people Russiagate will only get Trump reelected, and, if that happens, it will be the End of Everything.
It will not be the End of Everything.
What might, however, be the End of Everything, or might lead us down the road to the End of Everything, is if otherwise intelligent human beings continue to allow themselves to be whipped into fits of mass hysteria and run around behaving like a mindless herd of propaganda-regurgitating zombies whenever the global capitalist ruling classes tell them that “the Russians are coming!” or that “the Nazis are coming!” or that “the Terrorists are coming!”
The Russo-Nazi Terrorists are not coming. The global capitalist ruling classes are putting down a populist insurgency, delegitimizing any and all forms of dissent from their global capitalist ideology and resistance to the hegemony of global capitalism. In the process, they are conditioning people to completely abandon their critical faculties and behave like twitching Pavlovian idiots who will obediently respond to whatever stimuli or blatantly fabricated propaganda the corporate media bombards them with.
If you want a glimpse of the dystopian future … it isn’t an Orwellian boot in your face. It’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Study the Russiagate believers’ reactions to the Mueller report when it is finally delivered. Observe the bizarre intellectual contortions their minds perform to rationalize their behavior over the last three years. Trust me, it will not be pretty. Cognitive dissonance never is.
Or, who knows, maybe the Russiagate gang will pull a fast one at the eleventh hour, and accuse Robert Mueller of Putinist sympathies (or appearing in that FSB video of Trump’s notorious Moscow pee-party), and appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the special prosecutor. That should get them through to 2020!
DISCLAIMER: The preceding essay is entirely the work of our in-house satirist and self-appointed political pundit, CJ Hopkins, and does not reflect the views and opinions of the Consent Factory, Inc., its staff, or any of its agents, subsidiaries, or assigns. If, for whatever inexplicable reason, you appreciate Mr. Hopkins’ work and would like to support it, please go to his Patreon page (where you can contribute as little $1 per month), or send your contribution to his PayPal account, so that maybe he’ll stop coming around our offices trying to hit our staff up for money. Alternatively, you could purchase his satirical dystopian novel, Zone 23, which we understand is pretty gosh darn funny, or any of his subversive stage plays, which won some awards in Great Britain and Australia. If you do not appreciate Mr. Hopkins’ work and would like to write him an abusive email, please feel free to contact him directly.
In the face of the crisis of science, it is easy to throw our hands
up and watch as the old guard of the scientific establishment circles
the wagons and goes back to business as usual. But there are real
solutions to these problems, and we all—scientists and non-scientists
alike—have a part to play in implementing them.
The Corbett Report explores Solutions: Open Science
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For those interested in audio quality, CLICK HERE for the highest-quality version of this episode (WARNING: very large download).
One cold morning in February 2009, investigators from the Information Commissioner's Office, the UK data watchdog, rapped loudly on the front door of a decrepit building secreted down an alley in Droitwich, Worcestershire. It was opened by a man named Ian Kerr - the ICO team informed him they were armed with a search warrant, and were coming in.
The premises was the headquarters of The Consulting Association. While one would never have guessed from its run-down facade or determinedly anodyne name, it served as the nucleus of a ruthless, monolithic conspiracy between big business and British security agencies to identify and monitor the activities of ‘subversives' and ‘troublemakers' — for instance, manual labourers who raised health and safety concerns on-site and/or engaged in political activism, and trade unionists — and ‘blacklist' them from employment. The connivance was equally insidious and unsophisticated in the extreme.
Kerr would be provided the details of bothersome individuals by a number of sources both within and without the industry, then when people applied for work on a building project the firm(s) in charge would discretely forward their names on to him to determine whether they were blacklisted.
Peter Francis, former undercover Special
Demonstration Squad (SDS) police officer
turned whistleblower speaks to the #Blacklist
Support Group about spying on trade unions.
Admits providing intelligence on over 300 people
Over the course of the Association's 16-year existence, 40 of the
sector's biggest and richest firms had made use of its services at one
time or another.
Once inside the tatty office, where staff still relied on fax machines and typewriters, the team quickly found what they were looking for — card indexes resembling police station intelligence filing systems, and corresponding alphabetised ring-binders of documents on blacklisted workers.
The files contained their National Insurance numbers, home addresses, vehicle registrations, and clippings from pamphlets, underground left-wing publications and newspaper articles mentioning them — in some cases, there was even information about an individual's spouse. Also included were cautionary comments — "strike instigator", "trouble-stirrer", "Communist party member", "wears anti-Nazi League badges", "good worker but very militant", "Irish ex-army, bad egg", "talks like a young Alf Garnett", and "do not touch!" were just a few of the more salacious observations.
David Clancy, Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) chief investigator, said the discovery was "like Christmas" — Kerr's take was rather different. "You realise you're about to destroy a very effective network in the industry?" he despaired. The previous year, he'd conducted around 40,000 checks on individuals at the behest of construction giants.
The raid put a permanent end to the organisation, produced several official investigations into its activities and the wider issue of workplace blacklisting, and resulted in millions being paid out to affected workers. However, many serious questions about the affair linger a decade later — and the practice of blacklisting, and collusion between state security services and major corporations, endures to this day.
For years, rumours had widely circulated among labourers that the construction industry operated some kind of blacklisting structure. A great many skilled workers with extensive resumes, strong references and impressive attendance and/or punctuality records on-site had found themselves abruptly and inexplicably unable to find work literally anywhere. The impact on the psychological well-being, personal lives and finances of those impacted by this unspoken employment embargo was absolutely devastating.
Many were forced to spend their remaining years unemployed and living extremely modestly off state benefits and whatever savings they had, while others either emigrated or retrained at great personal and financial cost — often though, they were unable to secure work in their new-found fields too. Some were driven to suicide.
"It's a form of house arrest…you have nothing, you don't have the means to actually get out and socialise and enjoy yourself and lead a life most people take for granted," blacklisted bricklayer Brian Higgins has lamented.
A number of people who suspected they'd fallen victim to this spectral subterfuge attempted to ascertain the truth by taking their former employers — or companies that had unaccountably rejected them — to employment tribunals, but none were able to prove the structure existed.
That was until 2007, when three electricians won a case for unfair dismissal they'd brought following their unaccountable sacking from a construction project mere weeks after being hired. In its landmark summation, the tribunal concluded a "disgraceful" blacklisting system was in place in the construction industry.
Key to the trio's success was the testimony of industry whistleblower Alan Wainwright. In 1997, while national labour manager at Crown House — a subsidiary of the since-collapsed Carillion — he was told by senior management many major sector players paid Kerr for intelligence on potentially problematic applicants. As Crown House was due to make use of his services, Wainwright was instructed to meet with him and discuss how the relationship would work in practice. It was made clear to Wainwright by both his employers and Kerr not to discuss the system or their arrangement with anyone.
By 2004, he'd become a manager for Haden Young, a subsidiary of Balfour Beatty. There, Wainwright not only found the blacklisting system also in operation, but identified potentially fraudulent activities by other employees — he alerted higher-ups, but in response they merely "shunned" him, making him feel "isolated, lonely and alienated".
He eventually launched a grievance complaint against the company, even though knowing what he knew, he worried he'd end up blacklisted too. He quit in 2006, then launched and lost an employment tribunal claim against the firm — Wainwright's search for a new job was also fruitless, having over 150 applications rejected.
His fears confirmed, he started publishing information about Kerr and The Consulting Association online, in the process naming hundreds of workers he believed had been blacklisted on his blog.
Wainwright's whistleblowing was ignored by the industry and media alike, but eventually caught the attention of affected workers, and he began assisting them in their legal actions, leading to the electricians' watershed victory.
In June 2008, investigative journalist Phil Chamberlain wrote an article about the case for The Guardian — no other mainstream news outlet seemed interested in the story, but it was noticed by an ICO employee, who passed it to David Clancy's desk. Recognising the grave data protection implications, he immediately set about tracking down the individuals named in the piece to get their side of the story in full.
Wainwright's bombshell insight was sufficient for the ICO to secure a search warrant for Haden Young's offices, which were raided in September that year, yielding a trove of compromising information about blacklisting, and the name and fax number of The Consulting Association.
The obvious next step was to raid the Association's offices, but locating them proved problematic — the organisation wasn't registered as a company, charity or other commercial entity and appeared in no official records of any kind. It would take the ICO threatening British Telecom with a court order to learn its address, and Kerr's name — after securing yet another search warrant, the blacklist bust was finally on, eight months after the investigation began.
See No Evil
The operation was hailed as a major coup by the ICO — but if it was a victory, it was pyrrhic in the absolute extreme. For one, as blacklisting wasn't illegal, Kerr could only be charged with breaking the data protection act — in May 2009 he pleaded guilty in absentia, and received a £5,000 fine.
Companies that'd utilised the Association got off even more lightly — none were prosecuted, and the ICO served just 14 of them with enforcement notices, in effect warnings to comply with data protection laws in future. Alan Ritchie, then-general secretary of construction union UCATT, alleged that "some of the worst offenders", which had reaped hundreds of millions of pounds from government contracts, escaped the ICO's flaccid rebuke — including one firm that submitted 13,000 requests to Kerr in 2008 alone.
Moreover, many of the names contained in the files raised major questions about the full extent, and true scope, of The Consulting Association's activities — several individuals with detailed profiles had no professional history in or even connections to the construction industry whatsoever, such as Scottish politician Tommy Sheridan, and noted activist Helen Steel, one of the defendants in the notorious ‘McLibel' trial.
That Kerr's remit extended far beyond construction was all but confirmed in October 2012 when Clancy shockingly revealed to the House of Commons Scottish Affairs Committee his investigators only seized "between 5 and 10 percent" of the documentation stored in the Association's offices.
David Clancy Testifies to the Scottish Affairs Committee
"We didn't search every item within the office because our warrant specifically said ‘the existence of a blacklist'. Once we found that, our search, in theory, should stop because we had found the evidence we were looking for…
"There were lots of other files within the office…filing cabinets full of stuff…What the other 90 or 95 percent was I can't comment on…We just took the information relevant to our inquiry…We didn't go through all the other information.
"We looked and said, ‘we are satisfied that that is the information, that is the blacklist that operates within the construction industry'," he said.
The understandably incredulous and dumbfounded panel of parliamentarians duly interrogated the ICO's Investigations Manager with some intensity. What information did he and his team see but not seize? Why didn't they inspect more material? How did they know there weren't more blacklists? How did they know the other files weren't relevant if they didn't inspect them?
To these extremely obvious queries Clancy had no real answer, but he did provide intriguing insight into what was taken — as a former police officer, he was confident some of the material had been provided to Kerr by law enforcement and/or security services. He based his judgement on both the language contained in certain reports, and the nature of the information held on particular blacklistees — for instance, one file was replete with "in-depth analysis of an individual's home circumstances and what his neighbours thought about him", which Clancy concluded was drawn from an official "intelligence record".
What the remaining 90 — 95 percent of the files contained will literally never be known, for as Kerr told the same Committee the next month, not long after the ICO raid he "burned the whole damned lot, everything", so thoroughly there was "no chance of any of it remaining" — although he acknowledged having maintained files on around 200 environmental activists.
When asked whether he'd ever conducted ‘security clearances' for job applicants — a role which would connect him directly to the security services — Kerr asked if he could answer "in private", and wasn't pressed further.
Again, the precise nature of Kerr's relationship with the security state will forever remain a mystery, as two weeks after his Committee appearance he died from reported heart failure — although before his passing he told The Times he attended a meeting between construction firm directors and a National Extremism Tactical Co-ordination Unit officer in 2008, at which workers of interest to Special Branch were discussed.
Moreover, in March 2018 the Metropolitan Police confirmed its officers had extensively surveilled and infiltrated trade unions — to the extent Special Branch maintained a dedicated ‘Industrial Intelligence Section' — and provided information which ended up in Kerr's files.
In July that year, the 2016 Creedon Report into Operation Reuben, an internal police investigation into blacklisting, was released to lawyers representing the Blacklist Support Group, whose members are ‘core participants' in the ongoing Undercover Policing Inquiry — to mark the 10th anniversary of the Droitwich raid, the Group provided me with a copy. While heavy on redaction and self-exculpation, the document offers many tantalising indications of clandestine collaboration between the British state and big business, and the role undercover operatives played in ruining the lives of so many innocent people.
Creedon Report Excerpt
For one, it's clear blacklists operated in a vast number of professional fields — Special Branch's aforementioned ‘Industrial Intelligence Unit' is said to have "used various methods to report on the whole range of working life, from teaching to the docks", including "collating reports from other units, from uniform officers to SDS, attending conferences and protests personally, and developing well-placed confidential contacts from within the different sectors".
The SDS was the Special Demonstration Squad, a now-notorious and defunct Special Branch division set up in 1968 specifically to penetrate protest groups in the UK. Its operatives — often using identities stolen from dead children — would embed themselves in political movements for years at a time, frequently deceiving women into sexual relationships along the way. At least one SDS officer — Bob Lambert, who later headed the unit — fathered a child with an activist.
A dedicated section of the Report deals with allegations SDS officer Mark Jenner, who as ‘Mark Cassidy' infiltrated left-wing groups — and construction union UCATT — in North London 1995 — 2000 provided information to The Consulting Association.
Creedon Report Excerpt
"A review of the reporting linked to DC Jenner shows during his tenure, he reported on over 300 individuals…by cross-referencing the names with the blacklist, [we] found 16 individuals from the blacklist are mentioned Jenner, some of which entailed detailed reporting," it states.
However, in just one of many examples of contradictory doublespeak littered throughout the document, the author goes on to suggest there's no evidence "any of the intelligence provided by Jenner appeared on the blacklist" or "SDS information was passed to blacklisting organisations directly" — while conceding "it is of course possible some information gathered by the SDS was passed to industry contacts on a personal basis by Special Branch officers from other departments".
"For example, [redacted] claims to have had a reciprocal relationship with Special Branches around the country until [redacted]. However, there is no method for identifying whether this happened," the report continues.
Royston Bentham of the Blacklist Support Group thinks such equivocation laughable.
"It must've came from the top. You don't have this level of collusion without those calling the shots knowing," he tells me.
Whatever the truth of the matter, even if information on just 16 individuals spied on by Jenner ended up in blacklisting files by some means or other, he was one of several SDS officers who collected intelligence on trade unionists, directly or indirectly. Another was Peter Francis, who as ‘Pete Black' infiltrated a variety of groups 1993 — 1997, including the Stephen Lawrence Family Campaign.
He turned whistleblower in 2010, and has confirmed he opened a file on bricklayer Frank Smith, who was involved in both union campaigns for better wages and conditions and anti-fascist activism. Smith was eventually blacklisted, his Association file noting his presence at various protests, and that he was "under constant watch (officially) and seen as politically dangerous". Francis believes he was responsible for this — after all, how else would a construction manager know Smith attended an anti-BNP rally?
Speaking at an event in Parliament 7 March this year, Francis expressed remorse for his actions, and indicated Smith was one of potentially many workers whose careers he effectively ended.
"I did wrong. I will personally will meet anyone I blacklisted or spied on. Many years later I have problems justifying what I did. I must've spied on more than 300 people. I know lives were damaged," he said.
Troublingly, the Creedon Report makes clear police continue to share information on workers with big business today, via the ‘Industrial Liaison Section' of the National Domestic Extremism and Disorder Intelligence Unit (NDEDIU). The Unit's official purview is to "directly combat domestic extremism in society", including "acts of terrorism motivated by extremism" — indicating the British state categorises spying on trade unionists as ‘counter-terrorism'.
How this information is used by its corporate recipients is unclear, but what's certain is blacklisting very much remains in operation today. For instance, in 2017 Unite — the UK's second-largest trade union — exposed compelling evidence of the practice being employed in the state-funded Crossrail project, with emails from the previous year detailing surveillance of workers on the initiative taking part in peaceful protests being circulated between the project's contractors and employee relations department.
A number of protesters were closely monitored, and much sensitive personal data was collected in the process — several found themselves summarily dismissed from Crossrail not long afterwards. A worker who launched a resultant grievance complaint has had hundreds of job applications turned down since.
In December that year, the trade union giant launched new legal action against a host of firms, including Skanska UK, Laing Limited, John Laing Construction, Kier, Balfour Beatty, Crown House and Carillion will be in the dock.
The trial commences at the High Court 4 June, and Unite boasted in February this year it was "closing in" on Cullum McAlpine, a director of Sir Robert McAlpine and one of the "key architects" of The Consulting Association. By Kerr's own admission, the company paid his £5,000 fine as a reward for him taking "the flak for it all…so they wouldn't be drawn into all of this [and] remain hidden".
However, Royston of the Blacklist Support Group — himself blacklisted by Laing O'Rourke in 2015 — tells me there are unanswered questions about the trade union giant's own potential role in the blacklisting of workers.
"We need a full standalone public inquiry into all strands of the scandal, including the ‘spycops' operations, along with how far up this went politically — and legislation to ensure this can never happen again.
"Only a Labour government will do that, and hopefully bring criminal proceedings against the perpetrators of these heinous abuses of our human rights. Compensation can never equate to justice, only prison sentences for those guilty can. Being in pen three at Hillsborough 30 years ago taught me that," he says.
For his part, Alan Wainwright says he's absolutely certain Unite is guilty of both complicity in the practice, and attempting to cover up the scandal. He provided the union — then-named Amicus — with extensive dossiers of evidence relating to blacklisting in January 2006, but despite writing to then-General Secretary Derek Simpson on three occasions subsequently, the information was never acted upon. He claims the documentation was "buried" in order to protect the millions of pounds Amicus received from construction companies at the time.
"Were it not for my persistence, The Consulting Association would most certainly still exist today. I've also publicised evidence of blacklisting involving veteran labour manager David Craggs, documenting how he was creating and sharing blacklists as late as 2013 — some workers have told me he'd threaten people with blacklisting to their faces — to no avail.
He nonetheless remains a Unite member, and has repeatedly raised his various concerns with General Secretary Len McCluskey and Labour Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, but he says both have a strong vested interest in ignoring him.
"McDonnell doesn't want to rock the boat as Unite are the Labour party's main funding stream, and McCluskey doesn't want to get to the bottom of the union's complicity and cover up as it implicates senior officials. The supposed good guys are not really the good guys, and anyone caught in the crossfire just gets trodden all over," he concludes.
Whether Cullum McAlpine will eventually have his day in court is uncertain. In the meantime, his firm — a major donor to the Conservative party — continues its renovation of London's Big Ben, a project that could take until 2021 to complete and will cost the British public at least £61 million. All the while, the internationally renowned landmark will remain enmeshed in unsightly scaffolding, only chiming on New Year's Eve.
The military budget that’s been presented by the Trump administration
and the Pentagon, which raises military spending to a pretty much
unheard of over 760 billion dollars–and that’s actually, in reality,
much more than that because there are certain parts of the defense
structure that don’t show up within the Pentagon budget. Many people
estimate that even before this rise in military budget, the real
military spending was over a trillion dollars. But in any case, this is a
Patrick Shanahan, who’s the acting Secretary of
Defense, has been quoted as telling his staff that when you’re defending
the military budget and the logic behind this budget, you only need
three words, “China, China, and China.”
Acting Secretary of Defense justifies the increase in military spending with three words: China, China, China – Historian Gerald Horne joins Paul Jay.
Similar revelations about other banks and offshore tax-evasion schemes — such as those contained in the Panama Papers — led to global protests and even the resignations of some world leaders.
WASHINGTON — Israel’s three largest banks — Hapoalim Bank, Leumi Bank and Mizrahi Tefahot Bank — have all been ordered to pay record fines, which collectively are set to total over $1 billion, to the U.S. government after the banks were found to have actively colluded with thousands of wealthy Americans in massive tax-evasion schemes.
The scandal, though it has been reported on in Israeli media, has garnered little attention in the United States. The media black-out has been so surprising it was even directly mentioned by the Times of Israel, given that similar revelations about other banks and offshore tax-evasion schemes — such as those contained within the Panama Papers — led to global protests and even the resignations of some world leaders.
The settlements are the end result of a series of Department of Justice (DOJ) probes that were related to the DOJ’s 2007 investigation targeting UBS AG, Switzerland’s largest bank. The focus of the probe turned to Israel a few years later in 2011, when it was determined that the Swiss subsidiaries of several of Israel’s largest banks had actively aided Americans seeking to launder their money.
Photo: Dollars & Shekels
Abed Abed | Flash90
As the probes advanced, the DOJ found that the three banks — Israel’s largest when ranked by net income and total assets — had a history of collaborating with wealthy Americans in tax evasion schemes, not just in their Swiss subsidiaries but in Israel as well. Most of those wealthy Americans were Jewish Americans or dual U.S.-Israeli citizens who hid their U.S. citizenship from the Israeli banks.
A year after the probes into Leumi, Hapoalim and Mizrahi Tefahot were made public, the U.S. State Department notably listed Israel as a,
“major money laundering country… whose financial institutions engage in currency transactions involving significant amounts of proceeds from international narcotics trafficking … or other serious crime.”
Settlements reached and pending
Bank Leumi was the first to admit to wrongdoing and reached a deferred prosecution agreement with the DOJ in 2014 that eventually resulted in the bank paying $400 million in fines to the U.S. government and the State of New York in order to avoid prosecution. According to the DOJ, the agreement marked “the first time an Israeli bank has admitted to such criminal conduct, which spanned over a 10 year period.”
The investigations into the other two banks, Mizrahi Tefahot and Hapoalim, continued until just last Wednesday, when Mizrahi Tefahot agreed to pay $195 million in fines for “conspiring” with U.S. clients to avoid taxes. Like Leumi Bank, Mizrahi Tefahot admitted its guilt.
A settlement with Hapoalim Bank, Israel’s largest bank, has yet to be reached. The bank had set aside $343 million for a potential settlement as of last February, though that figure has since ballooned to $616 million as of this week.
Hapoalim CEO Arik Pinto told reporters on Monday that he “really hopes” that the DOJ probe will be resolved by the end of the year, a sentiment likely motivated by the fact that the probe has weighed on the bank’s profit performance.
Whitney Webb is a MintPress News journalist based in Chile. She has contributed to several independent media outlets including Global Research, EcoWatch, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has made several radio and television appearances and is the 2019 winner of the Serena Shim Award for Uncompromised Integrity in Journalism.
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“I wonder if you are interested in why I am buying this angel today,” I asked the elderly woman checking my purchases at the arts and craft store in New Mexico.
“I’m buying it for a friend who I’ve been traveling with over the past few weeks who is from Gaza.”
She looked interested, so I continued.
“My friend Ahmed is someone who inspired people to nonviolently march to the boundary fence in Gaza,” I explained.
“He is here on a speaking tour in the US. Do you watch Democracy Now!?”
“Yes,” she replied. “I always seek out alternative media. Amy Goodman is great. Sad what is happening between the Palestinians and Israelis.”
“Well, my friend was interviewed by Amy Goodman in New York last week. He shares the story about why thousands of Palestinians in Gaza are marching to the fence each week. One of his stories is about a young medic named Razan al-Najjar. Have you heard her story?”
“No, I haven’t,” the shopkeeper replied. “I actually don’t think I have heard any stories from people in Gaza.”
I explained that Razan was a 21-year old volunteer medic, who helped tend to the wounded who are often shot by Israeli snipers as they protest weekly at the boundary fence.
She was wearing her white medic coat when she was shot. Razan is one of about 260 Palestinians in Gaza who have been killed by the Israeli army over the last year, nearly 200 of them in the context of unarmed protests.
Ahmed talks about Razan when he speaks to audiences in the US. He often refers to her as an angel. “I want to give this angel to Ahmed to take back to Gaza to give to Razan’s mother. Just so she knows that people in the US have heard her daughter’s story,” I said.
The shopkeeper replied: “How come we don’t hear these stories. I mean, I didn’t know that Palestinians have been protesting at the fence for a year. I guess conditions there are so difficult. Can you tell me more?”
I gave her an abbreviated version of the messages Ahmed has shared on his speaking tour: the daily lives in Gaza spent coping without electricity, without access to proper medical care, without clean water, without jobs, without the ability to travel. Palestinians want a life of dignity, Ahmed reminds audiences.
The majority of Palestinians in Gaza are refugees and live just miles from their original homes on the other side of Israel’s boundary fence. They want to return. Their year-long protest called the Great March of Return is a cry from a tiny strip of land that has become a prison for two million people due to 12 years of Israeli blockade.
“It is really a miracle that Ahmed was able to come to the US,” I said. “It took us six months to plan his trip and until he arrived, I really wasn’t sure he would make it. It is so difficult for people to travel to and from Gaza. If one is lucky to leave, it is sometimes difficult to return home. Ahmed has four small children and a wife that he misses daily. But he is committed to reaching Americans with the story of Palestinians from Gaza.”
“My friend Ahmed often talks about birds,” I said as she wrapped up a folk art bird I bought as a goodbye gift for Ahmed. “He is a lover of nature and often looks at how the birds fly freely in Gaza. He asks audiences in the US, why can’t Palestinians in Gaza be free to move like the birds? I can’t look at birds now without thinking about how they are so meaningful to him.”
The shopkeeper got up from behind her desk. “Well, we have lots of birds in this store. Let me give you a few things to give to Ahmed as a gift from me. I want him to know that Americans like me want him to fly free like the birds.”
We then went through the store, collecting trinkets that Ahmed and his children might like: a box of worry dolls, a heart-shaped bell, a bird with the words Te Quiero – I love you – inscribed, and two small clay birds made at a nearby pueblo.
As she wrapped up the small gifts, I told her she could learn more on our website GazaUnlocked.org and to watch Democracy Now! for a chance to see Ahmed’s interview. I thanked her for her generosity and for taking time to hear about Gaza.
“I am so happy you opened the conversation about the angel,” she said. “I will remember this encounter for years to come.”
“I will too,” I replied.
Jennifer Bing is director of the Palestine-Israel program for the American Friends Service Committee in Chicago and co-leader of the No Way to Treat a Child campaign.
Sea Shepherd crew have been on the ground and in boats documenting this year’s Roe Herring Fishery in the Strait of Georgia.
Yesterday’s washing up of a sea lion shot in the head on Hornby Island, leaves no doubt as to the abuse of pinnipeds our crew has been observing on the water. With juvenile fish washing ashore dead (likely victims of test seines) as well as torn gillnets on the beach, our small team was left pondering the parade-like gauntlet of over 200 commercial fishing vessels stringing the entire 6 miles of spawn on the Denman Island Coastline.
Despite DFO’s Brenda Spence’s proclamations, exporting nearly 2 trillion eggs to Japan and grinding the herring into fish farm food rather than letting them grow into healthy wild herring, is not a sustainable fishery. But as DFO is not present during the gillnet component of the fishery and have no fisheries inspectors on the ground to observe, perhaps it does look sustainable, from behind a desk in Nanaimo.
The seine fleet has failed to meet its quotas several years in a row, Sea Shepherd has witnessed test seines pursing juvenile fish, with many floating on the surface belly up once the seine is released.
After over 12,000 years of First Nations fishing herring sustainably, commercial Harvests reached over 200,000 tons in the 1950’s, dwindling to 50,000 tons in the 1970’s. This year’s 27,500 ton quota looks paltry in comparison to the era when one could rake for Herring at Ford Cove from the dock. My Grandfather’s herring rake hangs on the mantlepiece at home and is a good reminder that all is not well on this coast. DFO’s “Healthy levels” mantra is just a PR fabrication.
With the Seine fleet closing at 7178 tons, and the gill net fleet scraping up the leftovers and having trouble after 4 full days of setting nets to reach a quota of 11,300 tons, how can DFO be so certain that this fishery is taking only 20% of the biomass in the Strait of Georgia, where are all the fish? Have they vanished like the DFO inspectors did last Friday? This fishery used to open and close in hours not days.
Yesterday a sea lion with a gunshot wound to the head washed up on Hornby Island during the roe herring fishery.
Fishermen including pseudo-organizations made up of active commercial fishermen, are calling for a cull of sea lions to restore their fishery.
These are the same fishermen calling for the sea lions to “go back to California”, what might be lost on them is that these sea lions have been plying the waters of the West Coast longer than people have lived on this continent, and the current swarm of sea lions during the herring spawn is only a barometer that indicates the ecosystem is out of balance, specifically, it has been over-exploited and overfished for too long, with no respite for stocks to recover.
For the Sea lions, the Strait of Georgia Herring Spawn is one of the last places they can feed. They come from far and wide to find food, who can blame them when the other herring runs are all gone?
Point Grey in Vancouver was once a major spawning ground, along with many former herring spawns it has been rubbed off the list, as DFO revises and adjusts the baselines in keeping with its sustainable management plans.
Shooting pinnipeds will not bring back the salmon, nor the herring. Leaving the spawning herring alone, as well as the marine wildlife that congregates each year during this critical ecological event, will.
At times the best way to manage a problem is to do nothing, and in this case for DFO, rather than continue a failed decades old industry driven management scheme, doing nothing would mean placing a total moratorium on the Strait of Georgia Commercial Roe Herring Fishery.
By protecting spawning grounds to ensure healthy herring populations can thrive, DFO would be lifting the death sentence on iconic and endangered Chinook salmon and calving orcas and improving its track record of overseeing collapsing fisheries.
On the sixteenth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, as the US government threatens punitive action against International Criminal Court investigators for attempting to look into US war crimes, former George W Bush administration Press Secretary Ari Fleischer has decided to publish a Twitter thread claiming that Bush did not lie to the world about Iraq.
[Open-mouthed Fleischer lying to the nation in
2003 White House press conference.]
Here is a transcript of the full thread by Fleischer:
The Iraq war began sixteen years ago tomorrow. There is a myth about the war that I have been meaning to set straight for years. After no WMDs were found, the left claimed “Bush lied. People died.” This accusation itself is a lie. It’s time to put it to rest.
The fact is that President Bush (and I as press secretary) faithfully and accurately reported to the public what the intelligence community concluded. The CIA, along with the intelligence services of Egypt, France, Israel and others concluded that Saddam had WMD. We all turned out to be wrong. That is very different from lying.
After the war, a bipartisan group was created to determine what went wrong, particularly why the intelligence community’s conclusions about Iraq were so different from what was found on the ground after the war. The group of experts was named the Robb-Silberman commission. It’s report was issued in March 2005. It can be found in full here. Its key finding was that that a “major intelligence failure” took place. It also stated that no intelligence service was pressured by the Bush Administration to conclude that Saddam had WMDs.
Here are the key quotes from their report:
“Overall Commission Finding: The Intelligence Community’s performance in assessing Iraq’s pre-war weapons of mass destruction programs was a major intelligence failure.
Nuclear Weapons Summary Finding: The Intelligence Community seriously misjudged the status of Iraq’s alleged nuclear weapons program in the 2002 NIE and other pre-Iraq war intelligence products. This misjudgment stemmed chiefly from the Community’s failure to analyze correctly Iraq’s reasons for attempting to procure high-strength aluminum tubes.
Biological Warfare Summary Finding: The Intelligence Community seriously misjudged the status of Iraq’s biological weapons program in the 2002 NIE and other pre-war intelligence products. The primary reason for this misjudgment was the Intelligence Community’s heavy reliance on a human source–codenamed ‘Curveball’–whose information later proved to be unreliable.
Chemical Warfare Summary Finding: The Intelligence Community erred in its 2002 NIE assessment of Iraq’s alleged chemical warfare program. The Community’s substantial overestimation of Iraq’s chemical warfare program was due chiefly to flaws in analysis and the paucity of quality information collected. In the case of Iraq, collectors of intelligence absorbed the prevailing analytic consensus and tended to reject or ignore contrary information. The result was ‘tunnel vision’ focusing on the Intelligence Community’s existing assumptions. The Intelligence Community did not make or change any analytic judgments in response to political pressure to reach a particular conclusion, but the pervasive conventional wisdom that Saddam retained WMD affected the analytic process. The CIA took too long to admit error in Iraq, and its Weapons Intelligence, Nonproliferation, and Arms Control Center actively discouraged analysts from investigating errors.
Finally, we closely examined the possibility that intelligence analysts were pressured by policymakers to change their judgments about Iraq’s nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons programs. The analysts who worked Iraqi weapons issues universally agreed that in no instance did political pressure cause them to skew or alter any of their analytical judgments.”
That is what the investigators reported, after been given full access to people throughout the intelligence community. Which leads me to conclude that there was a liar and his name was Saddam Hussein. He created an elaborate system of lies to fool western intelligence services and he succeeded. He wanted us to believe he had WMDs.
The allegaton that “Bush lied. People died” is a liberal myth created to politically target President Bush. I understand the anger that was felt after no WMDs were found. But that doesn’t justify calling the President a liar. I can only hope that serious historians and other experts do their homework and resist falling for this myth.
Ari Fleischer is lying.
It is an absolute proven fact that George W Bush and his administration lied extensively about the degree of certainty in intelligence regarding Saddam Hussein possessing weapons of mass destruction, having ties to Al Qaeda, and seeking nuclear weapons, all of which (along with Vice President Cheney’s claim that the US invaders would be “greeted as liberators“) proved false. The Bush administration did not know the things they claimed to know with any degree of certainty, but they claimed that they were certain in order to manufacture support for war. Claiming to know something you do not know is lying, especially when it’s to advance an ulterior motive.
“Evidence from intelligence sources, secret communications and statements by people now in custody reveal that Saddam Hussein aids and protects terrorists, including members of Al Qaeda,” Bush claimed in January 2003.
“Secretly, and without fingerprints, he could provide one of his hidden weapons to terrorists, or help them develop their own.”
“Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction,” Cheney claimed in August 2002. “There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us.”
“The United States knows that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction,” Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said in December 2002. “Any country on the face of the earth with an active intelligence program knows that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction.”
“We are absolutely sure they have continued to develop weapons of mass destruction, and we are sure they have in their possession weapons of mass destruction,” Secretary of State Colin Powell said in December 2002.
“My colleagues, every statement I make today is backed up by sources, solid sources,” Powell told the United Nations Security Council in his infamous Iraq presentation in February 2003.
“These are not assertions. What we’re giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence.”
“People will continue to debate this issue, but there is no doubt in my mind,” Powell said in the same presentation.
“These illicit procurement efforts show that Saddam Hussein is very much focused on putting in place the key missing piece from his nuclear weapons program, the ability to produce fissile material.”
Powell was not nearly as certain as he claimed to be. None of them were. Facts revealed after the invasion prove that for all their public claims of complete and total certainty that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, was aiding and abetting Al Qaida, and was developing nuclear weapons, behind the veil of government secrecy there was nothing like certainty at all.
For starters, Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi, who was cited in Powell’s presentation and who Fleischer refers to by the code name “Curveball” in the above thread, was known to have been lying about bioweapons long before the invasion. Despite the confident assertions made by the Bush administration about Janabi’s claims to the public, no American personnel were present when he made those claims, and he told the Guardian in 2011 that the BND (the German intelligence agency who interrogated him) had known he was lying all along.
“The BND [German intelligence] knew in 2000 that I was lying after they talked to my former boss, Dr Bassil Latif, who told them there were no mobile bioweapons factories,” Janabi said.
“For 18 months after that they left me alone because they knew I was telling lies even though I never admitted it. Believe me, back then, I thought the whole thing was over for me. Then all of a sudden [in the run up to the 2003 invasion] they came back to me and started asking for more details about what I had told them. I still don’t know why the BND then passed on my information to the CIA and it ended up in Powell’s speech.”
Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson was Powell’s chief of staff and helped him prepare his UN presentation on Iraq. When asked on MSNBC if he believed he was lied to about Janabi following the 2011 revelation, Wilkerson told Cenk Uygur that,
“I cannot come to any other conclusion, especially when I have discovered that no US personnel were present when Curveball was interrogated by the BND, the German intelligence service. That we accepted that, that we even had a head of the European division for the CIA, Tyler Drumheller, who at the last minute during Powell’s preparation, during my preparation of the secretary, had told both Tenet and McLaughlin that Curveball might not be reliable. That information was never relayed to the Secretary of State, or to me. I have some serious doubts about it now. I think there was some manipulation of this material, and there was some outright lying.”
When asked by Uygur who he thought lied to him, Wilkerson said one of WINPAC’s two WMD experts at the time may have been answering directly to Dick Cheney’s office.
A declassified report from 2002 titled Iraq: Status of WMD Programs reveals that while the Bush administration was making its claims of absolute certainty regarding the dangers posed by the Iraqi government, behind the scenes it was damn near the opposite. Some choice excerpts:
“Our assessments rely heavily on analytic assumptions and judgment rather than hard evidence. The evidentiary base is particularly sparse for Iraqi nuclear programs.”
“We range from 0% to about 75% knowledge on various aspects of their program.”
“Our knowledge of the Iraqi (nuclear) weapons program is based largely—perhaps 90%—on analysis of imprecise intelligence.”
“We cannot confirm the identity of any Iraqi facilities that produce, test, fill, or store biological weapons.”
“Our knowledge of what biological weapons the Iraqis are able to produce is nearly complete. Our knowledge of how and where they are produced is nearly 90% incomplete.”
“We do not know the status of enrichment capabilities. We do not know with confidence the location of any nuclear-weapon-related facilities.”
“Please take a look at this material as to what we don’t know about WMD. It is big.” (That one was from Rumsfeld.)
“We don’t know with any precision how much we don’t know.”
This is not the language of certainty. Yet certainty was presented to the public to manufacture support for a war which murdered a million Iraqis.
The 2002 Downing Street memo, made public in 2005, reveals a secret meeting between senior officials of the British government, intelligence and defense agencies discussing what they knew about America’s plans for war. The text of the document contains an assertion by the head of MI6 that Bush had already determined that the invasion of Iraq would take place, and it was only a matter of fixing bits of intelligence around a narrative to make the case.
“Military action was now seen as inevitable,” the document reads.
“Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy. The NSC had no patience with the UN route, and no enthusiasm for publishing material on the Iraqi regime’s record. There was little discussion in Washington of the aftermath after military action.”
“It seemed clear that Bush had made up his mind to take military action, even if the timing was not yet decided,” the document quotes Foreign Secretary Jack Straw as saying. “But the case was thin.”
In a 2008 hearing before the House Judiciary Committee, attorney and author Vincent Bugliosi pointed out that the fact that Bush lied about Iraq could be proven by the difference between the classified 2002 National Intelligence Estimate and its declassified white paper which was made available to the public. The classified version contained dissents from the consensus and language which made it clear that the reader was reading assessments and opinions by the CIA and other intelligence agencies, whereas the unclassified version saw these things deleted, presenting the assessments as absolute fact.
“The evidence that he lied about weapons of mass destruction, by the way, which is not the basis for this book, are right in front of me,” Bugliosi said.
“I have it right here. Here is the evidence. This document here is the National Intelligence Estimate. I didn’t name it before. I talked about a classified report. This is it right here. October 1st, 2002, classified NIE report. It is called Iraq’s Continuing Programs of Weapons of Mass Destruction. In this document right here, the CIA and 15 other U.S. intelligence agencies use words like this, ‘we assess that’ or ‘we judge that’ Hussein has weapons of mass destruction. This document here is the white paper that was given to you folks here in Congress and the American people. And the words ‘we assess that’ or ‘we judge that’ were removed, meaning that you folks here heard a fact, and in fact, it was only an opinion.
“Number two, on nuclear weapons, this document right here, the classified report has several important dissents. This document right here, the white paper that you folks were given and the American people, all of those dissents were deleted.”
Over and over and over again we saw the same thing: uncertainty presented as certainty. Guesses presented as fact. Opinions presented as proof. That’s a lie. Bush lied. We know this with as much certainty as his administration was pretending to have in the lead-up to the Iraq invasion. There was a pre-existing agenda to invade Iraq, and justifications were advanced to provide an excuse for that invasion with such extreme aggression that now-National Security Advisor John Bolton literally threatened to murder an international official’s children for making diplomacy work with Saddam.
In October 2002, Bush said that Saddam Hussein had a “massive stockpile” of biological weapons. But as CIA Director George Tenet noted in early 2004, the CIA had informed policymakers it had “no specific information on the types or quantities of weapons agent or stockpiles at Baghdad’s disposal.” The “massive stockpile” was just literally made up.
In December 2002, Bush declared, “We do not know whether or not [Iraq] has a nuclear weapon.” That was not what the National Intelligence Estimate said. As Tenet would later testify, “We said that Saddam did not have a nuclear weapon and probably would have been unable to make one until 2007 to 2009.” Bush did know whether or not Iraq had a nuclear weapon — and lied and said he didn’t know to hype the threat.
On CNN in September 2002, Condoleezza Rice claimed that aluminum tubes purchased by Iraq were “only really suited for nuclear weapons programs.” This was precisely the opposite of what nuclear experts at the Energy Department were saying; they argue that not only was it very possible the tubes were for nonnuclear purposes but that it was very likely they were too. Even more dire assessments about the tubes from other agencies were exaggerated by administration officials — and in any case, the claim that they’re “only really suited” for nuclear weapons is just false.
In August 2002, Dick Cheney declared, “Simply stated, there’s no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction.” But as Corn notes, at that time there was “no confirmed intelligence at this point establishing that Saddam had revived a major WMD operation.” Gen. Anthony Zinni, who had heard the same intelligence and attended Cheney’s speech, would later say in a documentary, “It was a total shock. I couldn’t believe the vice president was saying this, you know? In doing work with the CIA on Iraq WMD, through all the briefings I heard at Langley, I never saw one piece of credible evidence that there was an ongoing program.”
In 2007 General Wesley Clark told Democracy Now that he’d actually been informed of the decision to invade Iraq immediately after 9/11, while the crosshairs were turning on Afghanistan and well before the public narrative was being amped up in demand of an invasion of Iraq. His comments read as follows:
About ten days after 9/11, I went through the Pentagon and I saw Secretary Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz. I went downstairs just to say hello to some of the people on the Joint Staff who used to work for me, and one of the generals called me in.
He said, “Sir, you’ve got to come in and talk to me a second.” I said, “Well, you’re too busy.” He said, “No, no.” He says, “We’ve made the decision we’re going to war with Iraq.” This was on or about the 20th of September. I said, “We’re going to war with Iraq? Why?” He said, “I don’t know.” He said, “I guess they don’t know what else to do.” So I said, “Well, did they find some information connecting Saddam to al-Qaeda?” He said, “No, no.” He says, “There’s nothing new that way. They just made the decision to go to war with Iraq.” He said, “I guess it’s like we don’t know what to do about terrorists, but we’ve got a good military and we can take down governments.” And he said, “I guess if the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem has to look like a nail.”
So I came back to see him a few weeks later, and by that time we were bombing in Afghanistan. I said, “Are we still going to war with Iraq?” And he said, “Oh, it’s worse than that.” He reached over on his desk. He picked up a piece of paper. And he said, “I just got this down from upstairs” — meaning the Secretary of Defense’s office — “today.” And he said, “This is a memo that describes how we’re going to take out seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran.” I said, “Is it classified?” He said, “Yes, sir.” I said, “Well, don’t show it to me.” And I saw him a year or so ago, and I said, “You remember that?” He said, “Sir, I didn’t show you that memo! I didn’t show it to you!”
Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran. If you’ve been following the behaviors of the US war machine, Iraq won’t be the only painfully familiar name on that list.
Ari Fleischer is a liar. He was in the thick of the Bush administration’s campaign to sell the Iraq war to the American public, and to this day he continues trying to sell them on new acts of depraved US interventionism. He’s just as much a warmongering neocon inside as he was when he was behind a podium defending Bush’s wars in the press room, so it’s no wonder he wants to preserve the image of his insatiable death cult. Fleischer wants to preserve his legacy, yes, but he also wants to preserve support for the war machine whose feet he worships at, hence his ham-fisted attempt at narrative manipulation regarding the unforgivable Iraq invasion.
The responses to Fleischer’s Twitter thread have been overwhelmingly negative, though, so it doesn’t look like anyone’s buying it. In our new political landscape, where the image of George W Bush is being continually rehabilitated, that gives me a bit of hope.
These monsters lied to start a war which snuffed out a million human lives and destabilized an entire region, and they did it right in front of our faces. The fact that they’re now trying to lie about the thing we all watched them do is as insulting as it is infuriating. Never let them pull the wool over your eyes, and never forget what they did. Forgiveness is highly overrated.