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[l] at 7/1/22 9:24am
This month, the United Nations’ Commission of Inquiry (COI) on the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Israel found that the ongoing Israeli occupation of Palestine is the root cause of the decades-long conflict in the region. But as the probe gets underway, the Israel lobby’s flagship organization, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), is actively attempting to extinguish it. In response to the inquiry led by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), members of Congress have initiated legislation to abolish the investigation in both the House and the Senate. On June 14, Republican Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina and Nevada Democratic Sen. Jacky Rosen introduced the COI Elimination Act S.4389. The bill is similar but not identical to H.R.7223, also called the COI Elimination Act, introduced by Representatives Gregory Steube, Vincente Gonzalez, and Joe Wilson in March. Both bills seek to abolish the UN inquiry as well as other UN groups in order “to combat systemic anti-Israel bias at the United Nations Human Rights Council and other international fora.” The legislation also calls for restricting U.S. funding to the UNHRC by 25 percent of the amount budgeted. While the Senate bill only has three co-sponsors currently, the House version has nearly 70 signatories made up of mostly Republican representatives. The UN inquiry came as a result of the Israeli attacks on Gaza and occupied East Jerusalem in May 2021, with the purpose of investigating human rights abuses that occurred during that period. The U.S., Israel, and 19 other countries have sharply condemned the inquiry following the release of its first report. “We believe the nature of the COI established last May is further demonstration of long-standing, disproportionate attention given to Israel in the Council and must stop,” U.S. Ambassador to the UNHRC Michèle Taylor said during the 50th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, as the UN inquiry’s first report was being debated. The State Department has also rebuked the UN inquiry, its spokesperson Ned Price remarking, [W]e firmly oppose the open-ended and vaguely defined nature of the UN Human Rights Council’s Commission of Inquiry on the situation in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza, which represents a one-sided, biased approach that does nothing to advance the prospects for peace.” The UNHCR did not respond to press queries on the congressional bills, instead reiterating the COI’s goals and that all member states must abide by its actions. However, a UNHCR spokesperson did tell MintPress News that, The mandate of the Commission of Inquiry was supported by a majority of member states of the Council and the allocation of a budget was then approved by the General Assembly. All members of the Human Rights Council are expected to fully cooperate with its decisions, as reaffirmed in General Assembly resolution 50/251 of 2005.”   ‘AIPAC-driven’ According to Jewish Insider, AIPAC has spent this month lobbying on Capitol Hill for more members of Congress to support the COI Elimination Act as part of its first in-person National Council meeting in Washington, D.C., since the start of the pandemic. Their efforts appear to have succeeded as nearly 40 House Representatives signed onto the bill over the last two weeks. “It’s simply another AIPAC-driven effort to demonize the UN in order to obfuscate the cruel and inhumane realities on the ground in Israel-Palestine and to deny the apartheid nature of the state,” historian Walter L. Hixson told MintPress News. The author of “Israel’s Armor: The Israel Lobby and the First Generation of the Palestine Conflict”, Hixon explained that AIPAC activists don’t have a secret lobbying tactic but rather pressure members of Congress through their financial clout. “Its what they always do,” he said. “They let them know that people who support them can get support from AIPAC and people who oppose them can expect their next campaign opponents to be funded by AIPAC.” “It’s pretty ruthless lobbying that exerts its influence, and unfortunately there are a lot of members of Congress who are very easily swayed, unprincipled, fearful and tow the AIPAC line,” Hixson added. In addition to lobbying members of Congress directly, AIPAC is also encouraging Americans to urge their representatives to support the legislation. Yet they are not the only Israel lobby organization tackling the COI. Richard Goldberg, senior advisor at the Israel lobby group Foundation for Defense of Democracies published an op-ed in the New York Post railing against the COI. Pro-Israel groups B’nai B’rith International, Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, and the National Jewish Advocacy Center have also come out against the COI. AIPAC has also pressured Congress on other issues during their recent Capitol Hill tour, such as continuing military aid to Israel, supporting the Stop Iranian Drones Act, and rejecting a Senate letter urging the U.S. government to investigate the killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. Sent last week, a letter signed by nearly half of the Democrats serving in the Senate calls on President Joe Biden to directly involve the U.S. in probing Akleh’s killing. AIPAC talking points sent to lawmakers ahead of the letter’s publication and seen by Israeli newspaper Haaretz said the circumstances surrounding the death of Ms. Abu Akleh remain unclear despite the hasty conclusions of various media outlets,” whereas the letter implies both Israeli culpability and inability to conduct an objective, thorough investigation of the incident.   AIPAC still king While the COI Elimination Act has received significant backing, the bill’s stated purpose is far-fetched. The U.S. cannot — with a stroke of a pen — unilaterally eradicate a world agency investigation. However, according to Hixson, the country does have considerable control over the UN and by withholding a quarter of funding (as promised within the bill) can prove detrimental to the UN’s efforts. “The UN has always been — from its inception in 1945 — heavily influenced by the United States,” Hixson said, noting how its headquarters are in New York and the U.S. has been a longtime funder of the entity. “They cant dictate to the UN to change a policy, but they can certainly hurt it financially and influence decision-making,” he added. Whether the bill comes to fruition remains to be seen. But Hixson believes it has a chance, especially given that Democrats are signing onto it as well. Currently, nine Democrats have sponsored the House version and Democratic Sen. Richard Blumenthal has signed on to the Senate act. Israel lobby experts have suggested that AIPAC’s influence on Capitol Hill is waning as more Democratic politicians and American Jews become increasingly critical of the Israeli government’s actions. For example, experts have speculated that AIPAC establishing political action committees last year is just a desperate attempt to cement its authority over Washington politics. While Hixson agrees, he also asserts that AIPAC still remains quite influential. And with in-person lobbying again a feature of AIPAC’s work as pandemic restrictions dissipate, the organization may continue to see its influence balloon. “AIPAC is very determined. Theyve increased their funding. Theyve increased their office space. Theyve increased their number of personnel,” he said. “It remains a very powerful lobby, not just for a foreign policy for a foreign country, but period. Its as powerful as any lobby really in Washington, and probably more powerful than the gun lobby.” Nevertheless, public support for Israel has waned substantially in the last decade, mirrored by an increasing sympathy for the Palestinian cause, especially among Democrats. According to a February Gallup poll, sympathy for Israelis has declined from 64% to 55% from 2013 to 2022 and climbed from 12% to 26% for Palestinians. While Israel might be losing the battle for public opinion, in the realm of political influence in Washington, it is still winning the war. Feature photo | Palestinians burn tires during a protest outside the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in Gaza City, on April 25, 2022. Majdi Fathi | NurPhoto via AP Jessica Buxbaum is a Jerusalem-based journalist for MintPress News covering Palestine, Israel, and Syria. Her work has been featured in Middle East Eye, The New Arab and Gulf News. The post How AIPAC Is Leading Efforts to Dismantle the UN Inquiry on Palestine appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Inside Stories, National, News, Top Story, AIPAC, COI Elimination Act, Palestine, Shireen Abu Akleh, United Nations]

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[l] at 7/1/22 8:26am
Conversations with Palestinians both young and old almost always end with them saying to me, “you [a Jewish Israeli] can say these things, but if we were to say them we would be excluded from all spaces and we would be called anti-semitic.” A young Palestinian interning in Washington, D.C. told me she felt that she needed an Israeli beside her to give her legitimacy. Not in her own eyes, but in the eyes of the D.C. establishment. Sadly, she is probably correct; in the anti-Arab, and particularly anti-Palestinian atmosphere in Washington, this is very likely true. About ten years ago my very good friend Bassem Tamimi from Nabi Saleh told me the following story: He was in the United States for a speaking tour and on a certain occasion, an American activist came up and warmly shook his hand. He said to Bassem that since he, Bassem, is a friend of mine, then he too welcomes him. This was the same kind of skewed reality whereby people feel an Israeli is the barometer by which a Palestinian is to be measured. Bassem proceeded to tell the man that although it is true that he and I are friends, and that I slept at his house many times, he does not accept that anyone will judge him on the basis of his friendship with me. That was the end of that conversation and Bassem walked away from this person. Bassem mentioned this story many, many times during our years of friendship, and he continues to do so, particularly when there are people around who may be thinking the way the man in the story does. I told this young Palestinian the story about Bassem and said that had he not had that kind of integrity, he and I could never have become friends.   A Chasm There exists a chasm between the reality in Palestine and the way that reality is perceived by the “establishment” in Washington, D.C. Palestinians’ existence in their own country is tantamount to a living hell. Certainly, there are Palestinians who managed to secure a relatively comfortable life within the parameters set for them by Israel, but that does not mean it is any less of a living hell. The Amnesty International report on Apartheid in Palestine speaks to this issue as well. Just because there are Palestinians who do live well and can survive and work and raise their children somewhat normally within the system of oppression, does not make the system less oppressive or the crime of Apartheid less violent. One example of this violence is Israel’s administrative detention and torture of Palestinians. Amnesty International published a report about child prisoner Ahmed Manasra, stating that, Israel continues to perpetrate widespread as well as systematic human rights violations against Palestinians, including children, against a backdrop of decades of state-sponsored discrimination, segregation and persecution. Had he not been a Palestinian held by Isreal, the entire world would have stood up for Ahmed. Mansara was arrested when he was only 13 years old and was interrogated with no lawyer or parent present. A disturbing video showing his arrest and interrogation went viral. The Amnesty International report states in no uncertain terms that his arrest and the conditions in which he has been held are tantamount to, “a flagrant violation of international law.” Amnesty goes on to say, “There is evidence that the treatment of Ahmed Manasra fits a wider pattern of discrimination against Palestinian children in the Israeli criminal justice system.” Manasra is, “still in prison despite worsening mental health.” Amnesty demanded that the Israeli authorities release Manasra and immediately provide him with the medical and mental health care that he needs. Much of the deterioration of his mental health care is directly related to the manner in which both prison authorities and the Shabak – Israel’s secret police – treated him. These include prolonged periods of solitary confinement. Again, from the Amnesty report: Ahmad Manasra has been held in prolonged solitary confinement since the beginning of November 2021, in violation of the absolute prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment. There is no surprise – much less an outcry – that Israel regularly uses solitary confinement, as does the United States, as a tool for punishing inmates. Amnesty goes on to report that, The Israel Prison Service asked to renew Ahmad’s solitary confinement for a further six months on 17 April 2022. A hearing that was scheduled to be held on 15 June 2022 with regards to his solitary confinement was postponed to a later date. Ahmad Manasra’s mental health worsened during his incarceration to a point where there is a concern for his life. In October 2021, an independent Israeli clinical psychologist working with Physicians for Human Rights diagnosed him with severe psychiatric conditions and stated these had developed since his incarceration.   An absurd reality The vicious crimes perpetrated by Israel against Palestinians are well documented by credible agencies with no affiliation to either Israel or the Palestinians, such as Amnesty and Human Rights Watch. However, when Israel is mentioned in the halls of power in Washington, D.C., there seems to be a sense of awe and admiration. This is also true in many churches and other non-governmental organizations. Palestinians are far less welcome and when they are invited, they need to be sponsored – if not physically accompanied by an organization that includes Israelis or at least the blessing of Israelis. As was mentioned earlier, while many Palestinians reject this reality, others feel they cannot otherwise have their voice heard. Perhaps this is a good time to speak of Palestinian generosity. For nearly a century, Palestinians by and large have been trying to make peace with the fact their country was taken and they have been forced to live as refugees or second-class citizens. Palestine, a country that was widely known had all of a sudden become a footnote to Israel. Israelis who consider themselves “progressives” are willing to “give” Palestinians a small portion of Palestine in order to have their own state. However, the real generosity is that Palestinians (in general) agree to the creation of a single democracy with equal rights in all of historic Palestine. Not to confine the Jewish settler-colonizers in small areas within Palestine, but full equality with the very people who killed and tortured them, stole their homes, and deprived them of their land and their rights. Indeed, it makes more sense that if representatives of Israel are ever welcome anywhere, it should be only when sanctioned by Palestinians. To that end, we must all adopt and demand that sanctions and boycotts be placed on Israel, and without delay. Feature photo | Ahmed Manasra, 13, is brought to a court in Jerusalem, on Nov. 10, 2015. Mahmoud Illean | AP Miko Peled is MintPress News contributing writer, published author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. His latest books areThe Generals Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine, and Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five. The post Ahmad Manasra and the Crime of Existing While Palestinian appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Foreign Affairs, Insights, Ahmad Manasra, amnesty international, apartheid, child prisoners, Israel, Palestine]

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[l] at 7/1/22 8:00am
Dedicated to the memory of Ghassan Kanafani, an iconic Palestinian leader and engaged intellectual who was assassinated by the Israeli Mossad on July 8, 1972. Years before the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, U.S. media introduced many new characters, promoting them as “experts” who helped ratchet up propaganda, ultimately allowing the U.S. government to secure enough popular support for the war. Though enthusiasm for war began dwindling in later years, the invasion began with a relatively strong popular mandate that allowed President George W. Bush to claim the role of liberator of Iraq, the fighter of “terrorism” and the champion of U.S. global interests. According to a CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll published on March 24, 2003 – just a few days after the invasion – 72% of Americans were in favor of the war. Only now are we beginning to fully appreciate the massive edifice of lies, deceit, and forgery involved in shaping the war narrative, and the sinister role played by mainstream media in demonizing Iraq and its people. Future historians will continue with the task of unpacking the war conspiracy for years to come. Consequently, it is also important to acknowledge the role played by Iraq’s own “native informants”, a group that the late professor Edward Said labeled as “willing servant[s] of imperialism”. Thanks to the various American invasions and military interventions, these “informants” have grown in number and usefulness to the extent that, in various Western intellectual and media circles, they define what is erroneously viewed as “facts” concerning most Arab and Muslim countries. From Afghanistan to Iran, Syria, Palestine, Libya, and, of course, Iraq, these “experts” are constantly parroting messages that are tailored to fit Western agendas. These native informants are often depicted as political dissidents. They are recruited – whether officially via government-funded think tanks or otherwise – to provide a convenient depiction of the “realities” in the Middle East and elsewhere as a rational, political or moral justification for war and various other forms of intervention.   Victim intellectuals Though this phenomenon is widely understood – especially as its dangerous consequences became too apparent in the cases of Iraq and Afghanistan – another phenomenon rarely receives the necessary attention. In the second scenario, the “intellectual” is not necessarily an “informant”, but a victim, whose message is entirely shaped by his sense of self-pity and victimhood. In the process of communicating that collective victimhood, this intellectual does their people a disfavor by presenting them as hapless and having no human agency whatsoever. Palestine is a case in point. The Palestine “victim intellectual” is not an intellectual in any classic definition. Said refers to the intellectual as “an individual endowed with a faculty for representing, embodying, articulating a message, a view, an attitude, philosophy or opinion”.  Gramsci argued that intellectuals are those who “sustain, modify and alter modes of thinking and behavior of the masses. They are purveyors of consciousness”. The “victim intellectual” is none of these. In the case of Palestine, this phenomenon was not accidental. Due to the limited spaces available to Palestinian thinkers to speak openly and truly about Israeli crimes and about Palestinian resistance to military occupation and Apartheid, some have strategically chosen to use whatever available margins to communicate any kind of messaging that could be nominally accepted by Western media and audiences. In other words, in order for Palestinian intellectuals to be able to operate within the margins of mainstream western society, or even within the space allocated by certain pro-Palestinian groups, they can only be “allowed to narrate” as “purveyors” of victimhood. Nothing more. Those familiar with the Palestinian intellectual discourse, in general, especially following the first major Israeli war on Gaza in 2008-9, must have noticed how accepted Palestinian narratives regarding the war rarely deviate from the decontextualized and depoliticized Palestinian victim discourse. While understanding the depravity of Israel and the horrondousness of its war crimes is critical, Palestinian voices that are given a stage to address these crimes are frequently denied the chance to present their narratives in the form of strong political or geopolitical analyses, let alone denounce Israel’s Zionist ideology or proudly defend Palestinian resistance. Much has been written about the hypocrisy of the West in handling the aftermath of the Russia-Ukraine war, especially when compared to the decades-long Israeli occupation of Palestine or the genocidal Israeli wars in Gaza. But little has been said about the nature of the Ukrainian messaging as compared to those of Palestinians: the former is demanding and entitled, while the latter mostly passive and bashful. While top Ukrainian officials often tweet statements instructing Western officials to “go f**k yourselves” or similar, their Palestinian equivalents are constantly begging and pleading. The irony is that Ukrainian officials are attacking the very nations that have supplied them with billions of dollars of arms, while Palestinian officials are careful not to offend the same nations that support Israel with the very weapons used to kill Palestinian civilians. One may argue that Palestinians are tailoring their language to accommodate whichever political and media spaces that are available to them. This, however, hardly explains why many Palestinians, even within “friendly” political and academic environments, can only see their people as victims and nothing else.   Not just victims This is hardly a new phenomenon. It goes back to the early years of the Israeli war on the Palestinian people. Leftist Palestinian intellectual Ghassan Kanafani, like others, was aware of this dichotomy. Kanafani contributed to the intellectual awareness among various revolutionary societies in the Global South during a critical era for national liberation struggles worldwide. He was the posthumous recipient of the Afro-Asian Writers’ Conferences Lotus Prize for Literature in 1975, three years after he was assassinated by Israel in Beirut, in July 1972. Like others in his generation, Kanafani was adamant in presenting Palestinian victimization as part and parcel of a complex political reality of Israeli military occupation, Western colonialism and U.S.-led imperialism. A famous story is often told about how he met his wife, Anni in South Lebanon. When Anni, a Danish journalist, arrived in Lebanon in 1961, she asked Kanafani if she could visit the Palestinian refugee camps. “My people are not animals in a zoo,” Kanafani replied, adding, “You must have a good background about them before you go and visit.” The same logic can be applied to Gaza, to Sheikh Jarrah and Jenin. The Palestinian struggle cannot be reduced to a conversation about poverty or the horrors of war, but must be expanded to include wider political contexts that led to the current tragedies in the first place. The role of the Palestinian intellectual cannot stop at conveying the victimization of the people of Palestine, leaving the much more consequential and intellectually demanding role of unpacking historical, political and geopolitical facts to others, some of whom often speak on behalf of Palestinians. It is quite uplifting and rewarding to finally see more Palestinian voices included in the discussion about Palestine. In some cases, Palestinians are even taking center stage in these conversations. However, for the Palestinian narrative to be truly relevant, Palestinians must assume the role of the Gramscian intellectual, as “purveyors of consciousness” and abandon the role of the “victim intellectual” altogether. The Palestinian people are indeed not animals in a zoo, but a nation with political agency, capable of articulating, resisting, and, ultimately, winning their freedom, as part of a much greater fight for justice and liberation throughout the world. Feature photo | A Palestinian refugee stands next to graffiti depicting Palestinian writer Ghassan Kanafani with Arabic that reads his name and I will not renounce before planting my paradise on earth, while marking Nakba or Catastrophe day in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, May 15, 2016. Nasser Nasser | AP Dr. Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of six books. His latest book, co-edited with Ilan Pappé, is “Our Vision for Liberation: Engaged Palestinian Leaders and Intellectuals Speak out”. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA). His website is www.ramzybaroud.net The post Palestinians ‘Are Not Animals in a Zoo’: Redefining the Role of the ‘Victim Intellectual’ appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Foreign Affairs, Insights, Israel, Palestine, Propaganda, United States, War]

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[l] at 7/1/22 7:33am
  The MintPress podcast “The Watchdog,” hosted by British-Iraqi hip hop artist Lowkey, closely examines organizations about which it is in the public interest to know – including intelligence, lobby, and special interest groups influencing policies that infringe on free speech and target dissent. The Watchdog goes against the grain by casting a light on stories largely ignored by the mainstream, corporate media. In a massive blow to its operations, Israeli weapons company Elbit Systems has been forced to abandon its chique London headquarters, thanks to sustained pressure from Palestine Action. The final blow came earlier this month after activists threw red paint over the office and blockaded its entrance. This comes on top of the news that in January, Elbit Systems had decided to sell their arms factory in Oldham, U.K., at a significant loss, after the site was repeatedly occupied by the same group. Today, Lowkey speaks to one of the co-founders of Palestine Action, Huda Amori. Originally from Bolton (around 12 miles from Oldham), Amori is Palestinian-Iraqi. Her father was chased from his home by Israeli soldiers in 1967. “This is a company whose whole business model is based on the destruction of Palestine,” she told Lowkey, adding: Elbit Systems was founded in Israel in 1966. And the main reason they were founded was to aid the dispossession, displacement and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people. Since then, they have continued to develop their weapons on the occupied people of Palestine. These weapons are often built in part or in full here in Britain, in our towns and cities across Britain and then are shipped off across the world to be used by other repressive regimes. Elbit systems manufacture 85% of Israel’s military drone fleet. These drones are constantly used to entrench the Apartheid system over the captive population in Gaza, used to surveil, attack and murder Palestinians.” One of the world’s largest arms manufacturers, Elbit produces much of the Israeli Defense Forces’ machinery and ammunition and markets its products around the world as “battle tested” on Palestinians. Its products are sold globally, notably to the Indian military, helping their efforts to occupy Kashmir, and to British law enforcement, who are using the company’s facial recognition software. “Whenever you see an attack on Palestinians, 99% of the time you can trace that back to Elbit Systems. If they are not producing the whole weapon, they are producing parts of it,” Amori said. Despite the significant material and reputational damage done to Elbit Systems, the company is extremely hesitant to take Palestine Action activists to court. The company finds itself in a lose-lose scenario whereby not prosecuting those practicing direct action against it encourages more of the same but doing so risks a barrage of negative publicity and scrutiny, plus the chance that a jury will side with Palestine Action, as has happened before. As Amori said, We wanted to get Elbit in court. We wanted to expose their crimes. And we knew that whatever happened, we could argue our case and we wanted to turn it around onto Elbit’s crimes because that is the reason we take action. This company shouldn’t be allowed to be here in the first place.” Join us to hear more about this groundbreaking news and what more is coming from Palestine Action. Lowkey is a British-Iraqi hip-hop artist, academic and political campaigner. As a musician, he has collaborated with the Arctic Monkeys, Wretch 32, Immortal Technique and Akala. He is a patron of Stop The War Coalition, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the Racial Justice Network and The Peace and Justice Project, founded by Jeremy Corbyn. He has spoken and performed on platforms from the Oxford Union to the Royal Albert Hall and Glastonbury. His latest album, Soundtrack To The Struggle 2, featured Noam Chomsky and Frankie Boyle and has been streamed millions of times. The post Palestine Action Chase Israels Largest Arms Company out of London appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Foreign Affairs, Podcasts, Top Story, Elbit Systems, Israel, London, Lowkey, Palestine Action]

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[l] at 7/1/22 7:15am
When Ahed Tamimi tried to defend herself and her home from an armed Israeli officer she became an international heroine. Images of her were plastered everywhere and she was named a “Lioness.” As she candidly admits in her soon to be published memoir (co-written with Dena Takruri) she did not want, nor did she seek this fame. She just wanted to go to school and play soccer. What Ahed’s story demonstrates is that we have forsaken the Palestinian people. Even Palestinian children are left alone to defend themselves with their bare hands against a vicious occupation force that sends soldiers and officers who are armed to the teeth to attack Palestinians in their homes and are never held accountable for their crimes.   Who defends Palestinians? The answer is no one. When Palestinians risk their lives as they do regularly in their heroic efforts to stay alive and resist oppression, there is no one that stands between them and the Israeli war machine. Ahed Tamimi was recently targeted again. However, the bullet intended for her hit her cousin, who was standing next to her. The soldiers actually called her by name. Then we saw the same thing in the case of Shireen Abu Akleh, a well-known and respected journalist. Shireen was assassinated in broad daylight. There was no accountability at all, from the shooters to the decision makers who gave the orders. We have come to learn that when Palestinians are targeted we can expect no arrests or serious investigation.   Noted activist Issa Amro is another example. He is thankfully still alive, but there is no certainty that he will be tomorrow. In the city of Hebron where Issa lives and works, soldiers and settlers surround him as he stands in the front line trying to free himself, his city and indeed his country from their brutality. The Old City of Hebron is perhaps one of the most dangerous places to be a Palestinian. Issa is well known for his commitment and dedication to resistance, albeit a dedicatedly unarmed resistance. The soldiers and the settlers recognize him and he is in constant danger. Issa has been detained, arrested, beaten and dragged to military court enough times to fill the pages of a thick memoir. A new escalation in his persecution seems to have begun in the summer of 2022. In a matter of weeks, his house has been raided several times and he was detained and harassed by soldiers who handcuffed and blindfolded him, keeping him like that for hours.   Defending the defenders People often use the term “for no reason,” when speaking about their unjust harassment, detention, arrest and killing by Israeli forces. However, this term is misleading. In the case of Issa Amro, as in the case of Shireen Abu Akleh, Ahed Tamimi and countless others, there is an excellent reason. The motive for the killing of Shireen and the constant brutal assault on people like Issa is that they have a voice that is heard around the world. Israel is terrified and when an armed bully is scared, it reacts with violence. Another aspect of Issa Amro’s case is that he was designated a “human rights defender by the United Nations in 2010. The U.S. State Department followed suit in 2011, as did the European Union in 2013. A 2016 Amnesty International report entitled “Israeli Government Must Cease Intimidation of Human Rights Defenders, Protect Them From Attacks,” lists Issa and several others as human rights defenders and details the ways in which the Israeli government regularly harasses them. Since the report came out, six years have passed and nothing is being done to see to it that these defenders are protected. The question that needs to be answered without delay is, who defends the defenders when they are attacked brutally and with impunity by Israel?   Every bullet has a name How far back do we need to go in order to demonstrate how Israel gets away with murder? From its very founding moment, Israeli forces have been murdering Palestinians with impunity. Raids on homes and arrests and detention of political activists have been part of the daily life of Palestinians from the very beginning of the Apartheid regime in 1948. Israel targets people and then executes its plan whether it is to detain, arrest, or otherwise harass them. In some cases, their targets are shot and killed. When they kill a well-known Palestinian, we hear about it, talk about it and then move on until we hear of another name. Each one of these Palestinians had a bullet with their name on it and it was just a question of time until that bullet found its mark. Unless the supply of bullets to Israel is brought to an end, the killing of Palestinians will continue uninterrupted. International organizations that claim to stand for the rights of the oppressed need to have their feet on the ground. Like soldiers, they must have people there to stand in the midst so that Palestinians are protected. With all due respect, the designation of a human rights defender may help but it does not guarantee the lives or even the safety of those who carry it. Any organization, governmental or non-governmental that claims to have the interests of the oppressed on its agenda needs to stand in front of Israeli soldiers as they harass and endanger the lives of Palestinians.   Not all soldiers wear a uniform Indeed, some soldiers wear suits. In capitals around the world, representatives of the state of Israel walk around in suits. But they are no less violent and racist than the soldiers in uniform in Hebron or the settlers in El-Lyd or the Yoav unit of the Israeli police that operate in the Naqab. They are all equally dedicated to the destruction of Palestine and to the preservation at all costs of the Apartheid regime. The soldiers in suits walk through the halls of governments, the offices of big corporations, and the headquarters of NGOs to ensure that the Apartheid regime’s interests are protected. So far the evidence shows that their work is rewarded and their interests are protected. What is also clear is that the lives of Palestinians, be they unarmed activists or fighters, be they children, women, men, or the elderly, are only worth the price of the bullet that carries their name. And while we will talk and write about the next Palestinian who is killed for a few days, their children will remain orphans for life. Feature photo | Slain Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh is depicted in a poster at right, near murals of George Floyd, left, a Black American killed by police in Minneapolis in 2020, and Palestinian activist Ahed Tamimi, center, on Israels apartheid wall in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, June 19, 2022. Maya Alleruzzo | AP Miko Peled is MintPress News contributing writer, published author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. His latest books areThe Generals Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine, and Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five. The post Every Bullet Has a Name: Impunity for Israeli Crimes Against Palestinian Human Rights Defenders appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Daily Digest, Foreign Affairs, Insights, Activists, Human Rights, Israel, Miko Peled, Palestine]

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[l] at 6/30/22 11:15am
Analysis Earlier this month, Russia banned 29 British journalists, including several from the BBC and The Guardian, on the grounds that they were “associated with the defense complex”. That claim was not, at least in all cases, quite as preposterous as was widely assumed. In part one of this two-part series, we saw how the Guardian’s Luke Harding – one of the journalists banned by Russia – has promoted entirely unsubstantiated smear stories that have hewn closely to the agenda of Western intelligence services. Harding even wrote a prominent Russiagate book and could not defend its basic claims when challenged by independent journalist Aaron Maté. Although Russia’s ban provoked a predictable, self-righteous backlash from the U.K. media – and was adduced as further evidence of Russian president Vladimir Putin’s authoritarian tendencies – Moscow was, in fact, mirroring earlier bans by the British authorities and the European Union on Russian state-sponsored media. None of the British journalists now barred from Russia raised their voices in protest at the banning of the English-language broadcasts and the websites of RT and Sputnik.  In popular imagination, cultivated jointly by Western establishment media and Western intelligence agencies, both outlets are staffed by Russian spooks strong-arming a few impressionable Westerners with Stalinist tendencies. The reality is very different. RT wants to have influence in the West, and the only way to achieve that is by recruiting credible Western journalists who have trenchant criticisms of the Western national-security state and its war industries but cannot – for that very reason – find a platform in the establishment media at home. RT might not be the best place to get a neutral view of what Russia is up to, but it had attracted a growing audience in the West by providing an outlet for disillusioned Western journalists who are ready to paint a realistic picture of the failings of their own states.  One of RT’s journalists, for example, was Chris Hedges, a former foreign correspondent for The New York Times. He has had a long and distinguished journalistic career and has won major journalism awards. Nonetheless, six years of his Emmy-nominated “On Contact” programme for RT America – interviewing major public figures – was erased from Youtube’s channel overnight. In part one, we considered the cases of two celebrated British journalists – Paul Mason and Carole Cadwalladr – who were revealed to be covertly colluding with Western intelligence services. Not only that, but they had used those contacts to try to harm other journalists who have been taking on the British and U.S. security states. They had been effectively recruited – or in Mason’s case, possibly recruited himself – to a covert, and dirty, information war. The paradox is that, while Cadwalladr and Mason have been accusing – without evidence – journalists in the West of colluding with foreign intelligence agencies, they themselves have been colluding with their own intelligence services to smear other reporters. If Russian intelligence needs a troll farm to spread disinformation, Western intelligence can rely, it seems, on compliant celebrity journalists in British mainstream outlets to do the same work.   Circling the wagons Neither Cadwalladr nor Mason is likely to pay a price for their actions. In fact, they can expect to be rewarded – a sign that this kind of covert collusion is desired by establishment media, not least liberal outlets like the Guardian that try to create the misleading impression that they are somehow oppositional to the security state. That should come as no surprise – and not just because these types of collusion work to the joint benefit of the establishment media and the intelligence services. The media outlet gets an exclusive – often one rooted in a smear operation by the state, as with Cadwalladr’s story of Farage meeting Wikileaks founder Julian Assange (documented in part one) – which they do not need to stand up beyond the simple attribution to a “well-placed”, anonymous “source”.  Meanwhile, the intelligence services set the news agenda, including with smears that target those trying to hold them to account, but cannot be scrutinized over such claims because they can shield behind anonymity. In such cases, the so-called Fourth Estate serves as simply a stenographer for the state. It amplifies the state’s self-serving allegations but adds a veneer of legitimacy through its own supposed verification via publication. The media’s collusion, however, is not just servile. With the advent of the internet and social media, the establishment press and the intelligence services have found their interests more in tune than ever before. Independent media of the kind that seeks to hold state power to account – such as, for example, MintPress News or the Grayzone, about which Mason was so keen to spread disinformation (again, documented in part one) – or foreign channels like RT that give a platform to independent Western journalists, are treated as a threat by both the intelligence services and the establishment media. But whereas foreign channels like RT can be easily vilified because of their ties to “enemy” states, and shut down on those grounds alone, it is more difficult to make the case for censoring independent media. It requires first a concerted campaign of Western disinformation and smears to undermine independent journalism – as we shall examine later in this article.  The powerful see such smear campaigns as vitally important. Because it is free to report stories of state crimes the establishment media mostly avoids, independent media exposes the establishment media for what it really is: the public relations arm of the state. It shows the extent to which serious, critical journalism is absent from the mainstream. And as a rival source of news, independent media leaves readers more aware of what the establishment media is choosing not to cover – and hints at why.  Paradoxically, the more effective independent media has become, the more the establishment media has circled the wagons to protect itself from this upstart media, labeling its competitors’ coverage “fake news” and “Russian disinformation”. Meanwhile, the new establishment media monopolies emerging from the digital revolution – Silicon Valley platforms like Facebook/Meta, Google/Youtube and Twitter – have gradually joined this assault, changing their algorithms to make it ever harder for people to read independent media.   Recruited to spy If the suggestion of widespread collusion with the intelligence services by our most celebrated journalists and the establishment outlets they work for sounds improbable, consider this: Jon Snow, who gained national treasure status in the U.K. after serving as Channel 4 News’ front man for many years, revealed in 2015 that the British intelligence services had tried to recruit him 40 years earlier, when he was an up-and-coming broadcast journalist. He was asked to spy on “left-wing” television colleagues, in return for a secret, tax-free salary that would match what he was already being paid by his employer.  Most journalists are not likely to talk of such approaches, either because they have accepted them or because disclosure might harm their careers. Snow left it until very late in his own career before mentioning the incident. But there is no reason to imagine such approaches do not continue to be made on a regular basis.  I have never written of it before – it seemed too self-aggrandising, and until now not particularly pertinent to any piece I was writing – but a decade or so ago, I was quietly “sounded out” by a British diplomat. He wanted to see if I would supply the Foreign Office with off-the-record information on my specialist subject: the Palestinian minority in Israel. I refused, and the official dropped contact. Given that I am a left-wing, freelance journalist far from the center of power, I was left wondering how common it is for better-placed, more mainstream journalists, ones who mix regularly with British officials, to be on the receiving end of such offers. Presumably an initial, low-key approach like the one made to me is intended to see how amenable a journalist might be to becoming more involved with the intelligence services. Mutual trust is gradually built.    On the CIA payroll Back in 1977, Carl Bernstein, who was, alongside Bob Woodward, one of the world’s most famous journalists thanks to their reporting of the Watergate scandal, turned his attention to the extent of collusion between the U.S. media and the CIA. His engagement with this contentious subject likely damaged his career – at least compared to Woodward, who spent his later years continuing to make a name for himself hanging around the Oval Office relaying insider gossip.   Bernstein’s interest in the relationship between the intelligence services and journalists probably derived from his own Watergate experiences. Ultimately, he and Woodward got their scoop – later turned into a book, then a film called “All the President’s Men” – not only through hard graft but because they were used as pawns in a high-level power battle. As would become public knowledge in 2005, Deep Throat, the insider who gave them the leads they needed to bring down President Richard Nixon, was Mark Felt, then the FBI’s associate director and a loyalist of longtime FBI director J. Edgar Hoover. Felt had a score to settle with Nixon after he was passed over for the top job at the bureau when Hoover died. Woodward knew Felt from his navy days, and had cultivated a relationship with his man in the FBI long before Watergate. Those long-term ties had presumably assisted them both: Felt because he could release stories that helped the bureau secretly shape the public narrative, and Woodward because he had access to information that gave him an edge over rival journalists.  Bernstein’s mammoth investigation in 1977 for Rolling Stone exposed the collusion between the CIA and journalists – collusion that had parallels with that between Woodward and Felt. Bernstein found evidence in the agency’s files that at least 400 U.S. journalists had “secretly carried out assignments for the Central Intelligence Agency”.  Bernstein observed:  “Reporters shared their notebooks with the CIA. Editors shared their staffs. Some of the journalists were Pulitzer Prize winners, distinguished reporters who considered themselves ambassadors without‑portfolio for their country. Most were less exalted: foreign correspondents who found that their association with the Agency helped their work; stringers and freelancers who were as interested in the derring‑do of the spy business as in filing articles; and, the smallest category, full‑time CIA employees masquerading as journalists abroad.” CIA documents also showed, as Bernstein reported, that “journalists were engaged to perform tasks for the CIA with the consent of the managements of America’s leading news organizations.” The agency particularly valued its relationship with more liberal U.S. outlets like The New York Times, Time magazine and CBS News, who were seen as more credible as vehicles for its information war. The CIA-recruited journalists signed secrecy agreements, pledging never to divulge their relationship to the agency. But in fact, as Bernstein makes clear, the existence of these CIA-journalists was an open secret in most newsrooms. Bernstein suggests it was easy for the CIA to recruit journalists to carry out its covert work, and get editors to cooperate or turn a blind eye, because of the paranoid political climate produced by the Cold War. Journalists did not feel they were taking a side; they were supposedly involved in an existential fight to defend the right of people to live in freedom. One has to wonder how much has changed in a world where the aggressively promoted threats of Islamist extremism, Russian “imperialism” and a more nebulous “clash of civilizations” obsess the West’s political class. Journalists are as susceptible to those fears as their predecessors were to the Cold War, and doubtless as easily manipulated.    In the shadows Investigative journalist Nick Davies dedicated a chapter of his 2009 book “Flat Earth News” to assess how deeply the Western intelligence services had penetrated the media, at home and abroad. Ultimately, Davies concedes, it is almost impossible to know, given that such collusion necessarily happens in the shadows. Back in the mid-1970s, around the same time as Bernstein’s work, two Congressional committees – led by Senator Frank Church and House Representative Otis Pike – had set out to investigate the matter. This was the period, we should note, when Snow was being incentivised to spy on colleagues in the U.K.  As Bernstein points out, the Church Committee mostly covered up what it found; refused to question any of the journalists involved; accepted highly redacted, or “sanitized”, documents; and was heavily swayed by senior figures from the CIA, such as William Colby and George H. W. Bush. The Pike Committee fared little better, and publication of its findings were suppressed in the U.S. Both Congressional investigations had been triggered by concerns, post-Watergate, about the dangers of presidential abuse of the CIA’s powers and the need for greater Congressional oversight.  Under this pressure, the CIA promised to wind down its activities and banned direct payments to journalists. But the powerlessness of Congress to truly get to grips with what the CIA was up to suggests that the agency likely refashioned the program in new ways.  In any case, the agency’s ability to control media coverage probably grew easier over time with the concentration of media ownership. The handful of giant corporations that now control almost all mainstream media in the U.S. share most of the security establishment’s concerns, just as ordinary journalists did during the Cold War.  A paper in every capital Nonetheless, in his book, Davies pieced together what he could from the available documents. They showed that in the post-war period the CIA had employed at least 800 covert journalist “assets” – reporters, editors, media owners – around the world, pumping out its disinformation. The figures included only those on the agency’s payroll, not those who cooperated with it, shared its aims, or were influenced by its briefings.  These journalists were likely operating as part of a wider CIA covert information war known as “Operation Mockingbird”. The aim was to conceal the agency’s covert or illegal foreign operations, such as its overthrow of democratic governments in Iran in 1953 and Guatemala in 1954, and control the media’s coverage of foreign policy fiascos such as the failed U.S.-directed invasion of Cuba’s Bay of Pigs in 1961. To achieve these deceptions, as one CIA official admitted to the New York Times, the agency had investments in a large number of newspapers and TV stations around the world, and even covertly set up its own media outlets. “We had at least one newspaper in every foreign capital at any given time,” he said.  Operating outlets abroad meant the CIA could manipulate more convincingly the domestic news agenda. Once it had placed a false or skewed local story in an outlet it secretly owned – such as The Tokyo Evening News or Chile’s South Pacific Mail – news agencies like Reuters and Associated Press, as well as major U.S. TV stations and newspapers, could be relied on to pick it up and spread the CIA’s disinformation around the world. The agency could quickly turn the world’s media into its own echo chamber on any major topic. Thus, just as mockingbirds mimic the songs of other birds, so the media came to repeat CIA talking points. In 1983 John Stockwell, a former head of the CIA’s Angola task force, explained on camera the ease with which the CIA channeled its propaganda through witting and unwitting journalists. “I had propagandists all over the world,” he observed. Referring to his involvement in a disinformation campaign against Cuba, he said:  “We pumped dozens of stories about Cuban atrocities, Cuban rapists [to the media]… We ran [faked] photographs that made almost every newspaper in the country… We didn’t know of one single atrocity committed by the Cubans. It was pure, raw, false propaganda to create an illusion of communists eating babies for breakfast.” According to Stockwell, the CIA secretly sponsored the publication of thousands of propaganda books promoting its preferred angles on Vietnam, communism and U.S. foreign policy. Some of the authors, noted Stockwell, “are now distinguished scholars and journalists”. The Pike Committee estimated conservatively from the limited documents it gained access to that almost a third of the CIA’s budget was spent on propaganda operations. It noted that the figure might be much higher. Even so, the sum was more than the combined budgets of the world’s three largest news agencies: Associated Press, UPI and Reuters.  The CIA and its British counterpart, MI6, could boast numerous agents in the foreign bureaux of all three international news agencies. The CIA even created its own news agency, sending stories to 140 newspapers around the globe. CIA agents were also found to have been working in the most prestigious U.S. media outlets. The New York Times employed at least 10 of them. At various times, Newsweek’s editor, foreign editor, Washington bureau chief and a host of reporters were on the CIA’s books. Time magazine, Reader’s Digest and the Christian Science Monitor all cooperated closely with the agency. American television networks routinely allowed the CIA to monitor their newsrooms.  Davies cites a report in the Guardian from 1991 that the CIA was found to have made payments to 90 British journalists. MI6 presumably had a separate, and at least as large, cadre of senior U.K. journalists on the payroll.  During that period, Britain ran its own propaganda unit, the Information Research Department (IRD), which cultivated journalists in similar ways to the CIA. Its task, according to Declassified U.K., was “to discredit human rights figures, undermine political opponents overseas, help overthrow governments, and promote U.K. influence and commercial interests around the world.” The British government also used the IRD to damage anyone perceived to be a domestic opponent. Earlier this month, Declassified U.K. revealed that, in 1971, the Australian government set up its own unit modeled on Britain’s IRD and recruited senior Australian journalists to collaborate with it.   Credulous reporting It would be foolish to imagine that, in this more complex information age, the U.S. and U.K. intelligence services’ influence over journalists has diminished. Both Cadwalladr and Mason’s cases illustrate how intimate those ties still are.  The New York Times “let go” one of its star reporters, Judith Miller, in 2005. Her reports of the threat posed by Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction – coverage that was critical to rationalizing the 2003 invasion of Iraq in violation of international law – were utterly discredited by later developments. There were no WMDs in Iraq. Western inspectors had consistently said this, but their voices were drowned out by pro-war media. Miller, who claimed she was given special Pentagon security clearance, had been fed stories by U.S. intelligence agencies. She had acted as an uncritical conduit for CIA disinformation that was then repeated by other major outlets.  She was far from alone in channeling fake news from intelligence agencies in the lead-up to the Iraq invasion. The New York Times apologized for its mistakes, promising it would learn from the episode. But it has been just as credulous in regurgitating the intelligence services’ claims in recent U.S. proxy wars and regime change attempts – in Libya, Syria, Yemen, Iran, Venezuela and elsewhere. Miller was not sacked because she served as a willing channel for Western disinformation. Rather, real-world events required the New York Times to make someone a sacrificial victim for its all-too-obvious failings over Iraq. She was the ideal scapegoat.  Institutional collusion with the intelligence services has also become all too evident at the Guardian, the New York Times’ U.K. counterpart. Declassified U.K. has documented how the the Guardian has been increasingly co-opted by the British intelligence services after its publication in 2013 of the Edward Snowden leaks. Among other things, those leaks revealed that the U.S. and U.K. were operating secret and illegal mass surveillance programmes.  At that time, the Guardian, unlike other British media outlets, had a well-publicized opposition to taking part in the supposedly voluntary D-notice system, run by the Ministry of Defense, to regulate information that might threaten national security. After the initial Snowden revelations from the Guardian, the D-Notice Committee issued a notice against further publication of information released by Snowden. Most British outlets either ignored the leaks or offered minimal coverage. The Guardian, however, defied the government’s advice. Shortly afterwards, officials from GCHQ, Britain’s equivalent of the National Security Agency, arrived at the paper and ordered it to destroy the laptops containing the Snowden material. The paper complied, with deputy editor Paul Johnson overseeing the destruction. Soon, the D-Notice Committee was able to report that “engagement” with the Guardian was strengthening and there was “regular dialogue” with its staff. The “culmination”, as the committee referred to it, was Paul Johnson’s agreement to sit on the committee itself. When in 2015 the Guardian appointed a new editor, Katharine Viner, whose background was in fashion journalism, the security services appeared to seize the chance to lure the newspaper into greater cooperation. A year later the paper boasted that it secured the “first newspaper interview given by an incumbent MI5 chief in the service’s 107-year history” – MI5 being Britain’s domestic intelligence service. The article was co-written by Johnson and headlined on Russia – what else – as a “growing threat” to the U.K. The Guardian would follow up with exclusive interviews with the heads of MI6 and with the U.K.’s most senior counter-terrorism officer. All were softball interviews in which the British security state was allowed to set the agenda. Under Viner, a host of investigative journalists with experience of covering national security issues departed. A former Guardian journalist told Declassified U.K.,  “Effective scrutiny of the security and intelligence agencies – epitomized by the Snowden scoops but also many other stories – appears to have been abandoned… [It] sometimes seems the Guardian is worried about upsetting the spooks.” Instead, the paper has focused on targeting those who are in the crosshairs of the intelligence services – most obviously Julian Assange, whose publication of leaked official documents in 2010 exposed U.S. and U.K. war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. In recent years, as the U.S. has sought Assange’s extradition so it can lock him out of sight for up to 175 years, the Guardian has run a series of barely credible stories that appear to have been supplied to it by the intelligence services and clearly serve its interests. Those hit-pieces include articles written by Carole Cadwalladr and Luke Harding, and were discussed in part one. As Declassified U.K. noted, the Guardian was also key to injecting credibility into a relentless media campaign to smear the then left-wing leader of Britain’s Labour party, Jeremy Corbyn. He was variously portrayed as a national security threat, a traitor and an antisemite. Again, the fingerprints of the security services were all over these stories. They had begun with an anonymous army general, interviewed by The Sunday Times, warning that the military “would use whatever means possible, fair or foul, to prevent” Corbyn becoming prime minister. The Guardian’s uncritical echoing of evidence-free claims of an antisemitism problem in Labour under Corbyn was particularly damaging because so many of the paper’s readers were traditional Labour voters.   Disappearing neo-Nazis The intelligence services’ cultivation of ties with journalists in an increasingly digital, more defused media environment is likely to be as covert as ever. But there are occasional, brief glimpses of what they may be up to. As mentioned in part one, it emerged in 2018 that national clusters of journalists, along with academics and politicians, were working with the opaque Integrity Initiative, a covert operation supposedly against “Russian disinformation” supported by the British Foreign Office and Defense Ministry. The Initiative’s registered address in Scotland turned out to be an abandoned, semi-derelict mill. Its real offices were eventually tracked down to a plush part of central London.  The Integrity Initiative’s British cluster included some well-known names in British journalism. Its real aim was – once again – to paint independent media and left-wing politicians critical of Western wars as in the pocket of Russia and Vladimir Putin. The Initiative was also found to have been involved in efforts to bring down Corbyn.  The media’s memory-holing of the Snowden revelations and its silence on Assange’s persecution – despite the very obvious threat posed to a free press – are themselves an indication of the degree to which the establishment media share the aims of the security state and are complicit in its narrative manipulations.  Coverage of the West’s recent proxy wars have provided further clues as to the extent of that collusion. It has been hard to ignore the establishment media’s uncritical promotion of narratives in Syria and Ukraine that look suspiciously like they were crafted by Western intelligence agencies. That has involved some stunning about-turns in their coverage that should set alarm bells ringing with observers. In Ukraine, that has been evident in the media’s frantic efforts to obscure its own recent concerns about neo-Nazi groups like the Azov Battalion being integrated into the Ukrainian military, and portray any attempt to remind us of that earlier coverage as Russian disinformation.  Those maneuvers echo similarly desperate moves by the establishment media to obscure the fact that groups allied to al-Qaeda and Islamic State ended up comprising the bulk of the “rebel” forces in Syria. Only a short time earlier, both had been regarded as the West’s most fearsome foes.  Russia was revived as the West’s number one enemy about the time the media – and the intelligence services – found themselves unable to continue fearmongering about Islamist extremists because those groups needed to be transformed into our allies in Syria. In both conflicts, it has been hard not to notice too how easily the establishment media has been swayed not by facts on the ground but by what look more like branding exercises guided by Western marketing firms. Ukraine’s president, Volodomyr Zelensky, reportedly took time out of his schedule last week to brainstorm with “marketing professionals” at Cannes about how to use “creative ingenuity” to keep the war in the spotlight, after earlier opening the film festival. Last week too, he made an appearance on a giant video screen at the popular Glastonbury music festival in the U.K. On each occasion, wore his now-signature designer wartime outfits.   White Helmets ringfenced Similarly, the White Helmets have received unquestioning adulation from the Western media. A hagiographic documentary on their work was even awarded an Oscar. Yet the mysterious emergency rescue outfit appears only to work in areas of Syria controlled by jihadist groups the West has previously opposed for their human rights abuses and mistreatment of women and girls. Liberal media has gone all-out to ringfence the White Helmets – and their jihadist allies – from journalistic and academic scrutiny. Independent journalists brave, or foolish, enough to try to break through this cordon sanitaire have found themselves smeared, and accused of spreading disinformation on Russia’s behalf. Western intelligence agencies have every incentive to malign these critics because the White Helmets are a central pillar upholding claims that Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, assisted by Russia, used chemical weapons against his own people in rebel-held areas.  If the White Helmets are a credible, neutral humanitarian movement – a Syrian version of the Red Cross – then the media might be justified in treating their claims of atrocities by Assad uncritically. But if they are really a partisan rescue service involved in rebranding Islamist extremism to promote the goal of Western-sponsored regime change in Syria, then the media needs to be skeptical and scrutinize their every assertion. The establishment media has adopted the first approach, ignoring any indication that the White Helmets might not be quite what they seem.  That failure has been thrown into especially stark relief by the media’s extraordinary refusal to publicize the testimonies of whistleblowing inspectors at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). Those whistleblowers say their findings at one site of an alleged chemical attack, at Douma in 2018, were rewritten by their own management under threats from the U.S.  The media’s silence is all the more astounding given that Jose Bustani, a former head of the OPCW, and Hans von Sponeck, the U.N.’s former chief weapons inspector in Iraq, have found the whistleblowers’ allegations credible and urged that they be investigated.  The story, if confirmed, has the potential to unravel much of the narrative in Syria jointly promoted by the Western intelligence services and the establishment media. Which is why any effort to examine it more closely is being crushed. If Douma was a staged attack rather than one carried out by Assad’s forces, as the whistleblowing inspectors’ evidence suggests, it would implicate the White Helmets in the deception – and possibly the murder of the civilians alleged to have been gassed in Douma. It could also mean that other chemical attacks assigned to Assad might have been the responsibility of jihadists.  That is why the stakes are so high. It may also explain why there has been an incessant stream of stories in liberal media outlets shoring up the Western narrative by smearing once again as a Russian asset any journalist tackling the subject in a critical manner.  The media’s defamation campaigns have been assisted by various, “expert” bodies, seemingly cut-outs covertly funded by Western governments, such as Bellingcat, the Institute for Strategic Studies (the parent “charity” of the Integrity Initiative) and, most recently, the Institute for Strategic Dialogue. These organizations produce smear-laden reports on which the establishment media builds its hollow case against independent media.  This month, the Guardian ran the latest of its evidence-free smear pieces designed to silence independent journalists and protect the White Helmets. The article accuses independent journalists of being part of a supposedly Russian-backed disinformation “network”. The piece implicitly discredits the OPCW whistleblowers by ignoring their existence and instead attributing their claims to “a core of 28 conspiracy theorists”.  Despite its grand claims, the paper provides no evidence of any collusion between Russia and the named independent journalists, or even between the journalists themselves, that might justify labeling them a network, let alone a Russian-backed one. Nor does the article provide any examples of what disinformation these journalists are supposedly spreading – apart from their questioning of the actions of Western states.  In The Guardian, @TownsendMark calls me the most prolific spreader of disinformation on Syria. His source is a study by the ISD think tank. Mark has failed to: -contact me -offer an example of my alleged disinformation -disclose that ISD is funded by US, UK & allied states pic.twitter.com/qnmN7npYr9 — Aaron Maté (@aaronjmate) June 19, 2022 Aaron Maté, who is named, has been one of the main channels by which the OPCW whistleblowers have been able to make public their concerns about the organization’s tampering with their findings in its final report. And yet the Guardian makes no mention that Maté’s supposed “disinformation” is actually sourced directly from OPCW inspectors themselves. The Guardian article is, in fact, exactly what it accuses independent media of being: pure disinformation (from Western intelligence agencies). The BBC has been ready with the smears too. It ran an extraordinarily lengthy, though flimsy, podcast series trying to shore up the humanitarian credentials of James Le Mesurier, a former U.K. military intelligence officer who founded the White Helmets in 2014. Shortly after he had been accused of embezzling donor money, Le Mesurier fell to his death from an The BBC series, “Mayday”, however, spent an inordinate amount of time trying to deflect attention from these facts. Instead, it sanitized Le Mesurier and the White Helmets’ reputation, implied independent journalists and academics had tipped Le Mesurier into suicide through their criticisms, and, like the Guardian, sought to discredit the OPCW whistleblowers. MI6 could not have done a better job. When Maté posed a series of questions over the programme’s “smears, gaping omissions, leaps of logic, and factual errors”, Mayday’s producers went to the ground. The BBC journalist who fronted Mayday, Chloe Hadjimatheou, repeated the formula last month for BBC Radio 4 with “Ukraine: The Disinformation War”, covering much the same ground and defaming many of the same targets. Once again, Hadjimatheou has failed to respond to criticisms.   Real-world Marvel Universe There are a whole raft of reasons why journalists working for the establishment media end up parroting the narratives of Western intelligence agencies engaged in an information war against critics that very much include independent media.  It would be naïve in the extreme to imagine that the establishment media severed its well-documented connections with the intelligence services back in the 1970s. Some journalists are doubtless still on the payroll and operating covertly, even if that number is probably small. Most, however, don’t need payment. By temperament and circumstance, they are extremely susceptible to the West’s sophisticated influence campaigns.  The tools at the disposal of Western security services, so ready to accuse Russia of using troll farms, grow all the time. The West has its own troll armies, enthusiastically spreading the work of intelligence cut-outs like Bellingcat and the Institute for Strategic Studies. Last year, Newsweek revealed an undercover army of at least 60,000 operatives run by the Pentagon that used “masked identities” to exert influence on the digital world: “The explosion of Pentagon cyber warfare, moreover, has led to thousands of spies who carry out their day-to-day work in various made-up personas, the very type of nefarious operations the United States decries when Russian and Chinese spies do the same.” There are a variety of reasons why journalists working for establishment media outlets so readily follow scripts written for them by Western intelligence agencies. In part, journalists successful in establishment media are products of lengthy selection processes effected through their upbringing, social class and education. Those who reach influential media positions are sympathetic to, and easily swayed by, the kinds of narratives that present Western states as the good guys fighting evil foes and Western crimes as unfortunate mistakes that cannot be compared to the atrocities committed by enemies. Like the public, Western journalists are socialized to interpret events as though we inhabit a real-world Marvel universe where our side is a mix of Captain America and Iron Man. As Noam Chomsky once observed to the BBC’s Andrew Marr during an interview: “I’m not saying you’re self-censoring. I’m sure you believe everything you’re saying. But what I’m saying is that, if you believed something different, you wouldn’t be sitting where you’re sitting.” In any case, Western journalists work inside large media corporations where they will not survive long unless they submit – mostly unconsciously – to the dominant corporate culture. Further proving Chomsky’s point, Marr claimed on another occasion that his “Organs of Opinion were formally removed” when he began working at the BBC. It was an extreme, fundamentalist view that suggested Marr believed he and the BBC – funded by, and accountable to, the British state – were able to divine absolute, eternal truths that they then disinterestedly passed on to viewers.  In fact, as the consolidation of corporate America continues, the situation for critically-minded journalists working in the establishment media grows ever worse. Media corporations have diversified their interests in ways that entrench them even more deeply in a neocolonial ideology that seeks both absolute control over global resources and their exploitation, and profits from the war, surveillance and security industries that enforce that control.  It is no accident that media corporations produce Hollywood fare that encourages the Western public to identify with superheroes and reduces the world to black-and-white struggles. Independent journalists trying to question this simple-minded narrative are easily cast as Thanos. Read More: https://www.mintpressnews.com/pentagon-leaned-hollywood-sell-war-afghanistan/278568/ On top of that, any journalist trying to look into the darkest corners of Western foreign policy can be herded back into the fold through threats – if not from their editors, then from the security services, as the Guardian’s Paul Johnson experienced at first hand. The security state has plenty of tricks up its sleeve. Complicit social media can punish independent-minded reporters through its algorithms, starving them of readers. Complicit online financial services like PayPal can punish independent journalists by starving them of income, as happened to MintPress and Consortium News. And if all that fails, there is always the example of Julian Assange, whose head has been displayed on a pike in London over the past decade – as was once the norm in Medieval times for those who angered the king – initially outside the Ecuadorian embassy and now outside Belmarsh high-security prison. In the circumstances, it is surprising that there are any journalists left who are not simply regurgitating what the intelligence services tell them. The rapid rise of independent media may soon look like a brief, digital aberration in our media landscape – unless we dig in and fight the security state to keep the spirit of critical journalism alive. Jonathan Cook is a MintPress contributor. Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East (Pluto Press) and Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair (Zed Books). His website is www.jonathan-cook.net. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect MintPress News editorial policy. The post How Spooks and Establishment Journalists Are Circling The Wagons appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Foreign Affairs, Top Story, British intelligence, Carl Bernstein, Julian Assange, Paul Mason, RT, US intelligence, Wikileaks]

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[l] at 6/27/22 4:00am
HOUSTON – On Friday, March 11, Texas Rangers and the Harris County District Attorney raided the office of Harrorth an estimated $3.3 billion.s, policy director Wallis Nader and former policy aide Aaron Dunn were indicted on charges of misuse of official information and tampering with a government record. Hidalgo has dismissed the charges as politically motivated, saying that she expects to be indicted too. As I showed in part one of this investigation, despite her image as a political outsider and progressive reformer, Hidalgo is a darling of the Democratic National Committee, spent her formative years training under neoliberal scions in elite institutions, and worked abroad in CIA cutouts before being dispatched by a top Democratic Party strategist to become the most powerful elected official in the fifth largest metropolitan area in the United States. Indicted Hidalgo staff members Aaron Dunn, Alex Triantaphyllis and Wallis Nadler. Source | Fox 26 The indictments were made for their roles in a rigged bid for a $10.9 million contract for community vaccine outreach that Hidalgo awarded to Elevate Strategies, LLC, a firm owned by Felicity Pereyra, who is also tied to the Democratic National Committee. Selected over the higher-scoring University of Texas Health Science Center, Pereyra’s firm had no background in the medical field, no apparent employees, and was operated out of an apartment in Montrose, an affluent neighborhood populated by millennial hipsters. She previously worked for the Hillary Clinton campaign, the Democratic National Committee, and the mayoral campaign of Harris County Commissioner Adrian Garcia, who voted to approve the contract. The address of Elevate Strategies, LLC Mired in controversy, Hidalgo canceled the contract, though not before Elevate received more than $2.3 million. The day after the arrests, Hidalgo tweeted out a statement accusing her opponents of “political dirty tricks.” At the same time, her official website added a page titled “Truth Center,” claiming to debunk the allegations of wrongdoing. Text messages obtained in the unsealed warrant show that Hidalgo’s staff members were assisting Pereyra to tailor her proposal and that Hidalgo herself was aware. Messages from Triantaphyllis to Nader say that he got Hidalgo “to agree with this scope” of the contract, and instructed to “sen[d] it to Felicity so we can see what her thoughts are on $$$.” Another message from Hidalgo says she had “taken a stab” at the scope of the project, and that “What I don’t know is whether these folks will be in charge of the data or whether Felicity can do the disparities data too.” Triantaphyllis texted Nader that “This vaccine outreach thing is getting ridiculous. We need to slam the door shut on UT and move on.” Triantaphyllis also texted Dunn, “Take it away. And don’t let UT get it.” While the scandal is centered on Hidalgo and her staff, little attention has been paid to the involvement of the Texas Policy Lab (TPL). The TPL is an opaque private think tank funded by Arnold Ventures, a for-profit corporation owned by John and Laura Arnold, Houston’s wealthiest couple, whose fortune is worth an estimated $3.3 billion. Housed inside Rice University, a private research institution where Laura Arnold sits as a board trustee, the TPL was founded in September 2018 with a $6.6 million grant from the Arnolds. It is one of several private think tanks that comprise part of the billionaire power couple’s nationwide influence machine. As this investigation will show, it has played a fundamental role in shaping destructive lockdown policies and school closures in cities across the United States during the coronavirus era.   ‘Were not a police state’ On March 24, 2020, County Judge Lina Hidalgo ordered strict lockdowns, forcing most businesses to close and banning private or public gatherings beyond families or roommates. Harris County citizens were immediately forced to stay indoors, with exceptions for last-minute trips for essential needs. Workers in energy, transportation, construction and food service industries  – those deemed “essential workers” – were considered exceptions, regardless of their age or health, the main determinant factors in COVID-19 hospitalization and mortality rates. Hidalgo said the homeless population was “strongly urged to obtain shelter” and remain six feet apart from any other person. Those who violated the order were subject to fines and even jail time. “This is not a ‘pretty please’ anymore,” Hidalgo warned. “But again, were not a police state.” Hidalgo’s sweeping lockdown order was not crafted by a public body, but by the TPL. “I get epidemiology advice from doctors, and from folks at Rice University — the Texas Policy Lab epidemiologists at Rice have been advising us since the very beginning,” Hidalgo told the Houston Chronicle. An April 23, 2020, Rice University statement credited the lab with crafting lockdown policies: TPL is providing support to Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo’s office by drawing upon the expertise of its research scientists, professional staff and Rice faculty. Researchers have already been working around-the-clock for the past several weeks to provide the county the most pertinent, up-to-date scientific information to inform various aspects of its plans to combat COVID-19, including analyses on the effectiveness of the county’s ‘stay at home, work safe’ order. An April 29, 2020, Arnold Ventures’ press release states: For the past month, the county and the Texas Policy Lab have been working around the clock to produce and acquire the best scientific information to inform critical decisions such as the stay-at-home order and how to mitigate transmission in the county’s jails and juvenile detention facilities. A Texas Tribune article states that “Hidalgo said all of her decisions so far have been guided by conversations with a group of Rice University researchers” – an apparent reference to the Texas Policy Lab. TPL even designed Hidalgo’s controversial War On Terror-style COVID threat level system, which codified the parameters of when phases of lockdown restrictions would kick in. Hidalgo’s controversial War On Terror-style COVID threat level system, which codified the parameters of when phases of lockdown restrictions “They helped us develop the threat-level system,” she said. “We laid out, ‘Okay, this is what we do at Red, Orange, Yellow and Green.’” The system’s “Severe Threat” level demanded people stay home unless they are “fully vaccinated,” despite the fact that the vaccines do not prevent contraction or transmission of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. TPL’s website boasts of “informing policy-making at every level of government” and that it “provides the scientific expertise to design, implement and evaluate priority programs, services and policies to help refine current ones and pilot new ideas.” It adds that “We give our agency partners actionable scientific insights to guide decisions on how and where to invest their resources.” The website elaborates that “The TPL has been providing Harris County leadership with scientific expertise, epidemiologic insights, and evidence synthesis relevant to the local COVID-19 public health response efforts and ongoing policy development.” In addition to Lina Hidalgo’s office, the TPL advises the Texas Department of State Health Services, Abilene-Taylor County Public Health, Harris County Public Health and Fort Bend Health and Human Services. While the TPL advises on public health policy, its website does not list any physicians among its staff. Its director is Ekim Cem Muyan, an economist who previously worked at Cornerstone Research, a corporate finance firm, and who researches “decentralization and public spending, campaign spending, and foreign aid networks.” Hidalgo’s ties to the TPL extend beyond the professional realm. Her chief of staff Alex Triantaphyllis is married to TPL Director of Government Partnerships Christina Triantaphyllis. Alex and Christina Triantaphyllis attend the 2018 Children At Risk Accolades Luncheon. Source | Twitter For all of its influence, the TPL is a single node in a gargantuan and highly-sophisticated influence network owned and operated by the Arnolds, with a stated core objective of using “evidence-based solutions that maximize opportunity and minimize injustice.”   “Policy labs” craft policy across the country Arnold Ventures funds private think tanks branded “policy labs” across the United States, spending more than $49 million on 160 “lab projects” to craft policy for governments at all levels. One of these projects is The Lab @ DC, an organization housed inside Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser’s Office of the City Administrator. Created in 2017, it collaborated with the District of Columbia police department to study the effectiveness of police wearing body cameras. Given unfettered access to “untapped data sitting on government computers,” the billionaire-funded outfit was handed the power to develop public policies in what Bowser herself referred to as an “experiment.” Since March 2020, despite having no medical doctors or scientists on its staff, The Lab @ DC project has played a key role in prescribing Bowser’s ‘ReOpenDC’ plan. Announced in May 2020, ReOpenDC recommendations include a semi-permanent regime of restrictions on social activity in public and private, ostensibly to combat COVID-19. The guidebook calls for a “reorientation of public spaces” to “reallocate sidewalks and streets to support physical distancing for residents,” for businesses to hire “social distancing ambassadors,” and to implement virtual schooling. This regime will be in place until an “effective vaccine or cure” for COVID-19 can be developed, at which point the city would reach a “new normal.” Yet Washington D.C.’s official website and literature make no mention of The Lab @ DC’s funding with the billionaire-backed for-profit corporation. An Arnold Ventures commentary explains that, “At the direction of D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, The Lab @ DC, an internal team of data scientists, social scientists, and design-thinkers, has supported the District’s comprehensive response to COVID-19, as well as the plans on how to ReOpen DC.” Source: | ReOpenDC ReOpenDC is headed by former national security advisor turned domestic secretary Susan Rice and former Department of Homeland Security secretary Michael Chertoff. Among its dozens of staff members, few of which are medical doctors or scientists, is former acting chair of the Democratic National Committee Donna Brazile, hedge fund billionaire and Jeffrey Epstein- confidant Glenn Dubin and celebrity chef José Andrés. Source | ReOpenDC Arnold Ventures, alongside the Gates Foundation, funds the Edunomics Lab at Georgetown University, dedicated to what it calls “modeling complex education finance decisions to inform education policy and practice.” Similarly, Arnold Ventures funds: The Colorado Evaluation and Action Lab, housed in the University of Denver, which partnered with the Colorado Departments of Human Services and Education to “develop an integrated sharing system that could provide a 360-degree view of student behavior.” California Policy Lab, which informs state and local governments in California, and is funded by Gates Foundation and Schmidt Futures, the influence operation of former Google CEO and National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence commissioner Eric Schmidt. Brown Policy Lab at Brown University, where they create policy for the Rhode Island government, and the Rhode Island Innovative Policy Lab. In collaboration with the State Department of Health, the Brown Policy lab tests messaging to increase vaccination. Georgia Child and Family Policy Lab, housed in Georgia State University. University of Washington Applied Public Policy Lab. Youth Policy Lab at the University of Michigan in collaboration with Michigan State University. Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab at Massachusetts Institute of Technology   “One of the least-known billionaires in the US” John Arnold began his career as an energy trader at Enron, the Houston-based energy corporation known for the most notorious accounting scandal of all time, stealing billions of dollars and collapsing financial markets in the process. As the house of cards fell, Arnold was booking record profits buying from sales of natural gas contracts, and was handed an $8 million bonus, the largest in Enron history. Despite his star status at Enron, Arnold walked away without facing any accusations of malpractice. In 2002, Arnold leveraged his millions to found his own hedge fund, Centaurus Advisors, hiring his former boss, Greg Whalley, despite investors suing him. By 2007, Arnold became the youngest billionaire in the United States, vaulting him to celebrity status among the small clique of billionaires. “I have never seen such universal adulation of anyone in an industry the way I’ve seen people adulate him,” one executive told Fortune. “CEOs with their own private jets worship him. Grizzled traders act like 12-year old girls around Justin Bieber when he walks into the room.” Arnold married Laura Muñoz, a Puerto Rican-born mergers-and-acquisitions lawyer and an executive at the now-bankrupt petroleum exploration firm Cobalt International Energy. In 2008, the Arnolds founded the Laura and John Arnold Foundation, the basis of their influence network. In 2010, both the Arnolds and Bill Gates were original signatories to The Giving Pledge, a PR initiative launched by Gates and Warren Buffett, calling on the world’s ultra-wealthy to “give away” more than half of their wealth in their lifetimes. “We will devote the majority of our wealth, time and resources to philanthropy in the coming years, and we fully intend to achieve transformative results during our lifetime. There is no more worthwhile work and no greater mission. And there is no reason for delay in making a difference,” the Arnolds said in a released statement. During a January 2020 Davos World Economic Forum event, the Arnolds were the first to sign a “Give While You Live” pledge, promising to donate 5% of their fortune annually. The Arnolds’ ties to Gates are extensive. In 2018, the John and Laura Arnold Foundation hired Michael Deich as Executive Vice President of Policy and Advocacy. Deich was previously a top official in the Obama administration’s and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Arnold and Gates also founded a green energy startup called Breakthrough Energy following the 2015 Paris climate summit. Alongside their non-profit Laura and John Arnold Foundation, the Arnolds created an overtly political arm called Action Now Initiative, funding politicians and political initiatives which strike at workers. John Arnold’’s spending on anti-pension and anti-union initiatives, including a failed campaign to replace Phoenix’s public pension system with a privatized 401(k)-style plan, earned him the ire of government employees. “When people hear of an effort to get rid of pensions,” Bailey Childers of the National Public Pension Coalition said, “the source is almost always John Arnold.” In 2012, Arnold left Centaurus Advisors to be a full time “philanthropist” in the Laura and John Arnold Foundation. Despite the enormity of the Arnold Ventures network, they have maintained a low profile. The scant media coverage they have received often portrays them as benevolent. In one interview, John was described as “The most prolific philanthropist you may not have heard of.” Fortune magazine called him a “wunderkind” and “one of the least-known billionaires in the U.S..” While projecting themselves as an altruistic billionaire couple who want to change the world for the better, the Arnolds have spent huge sums on school privatization and reform of the criminal justice system, even funding the Obama Administration’s “Data-Driven Justice Initiative”. The Arnolds involved themselves in numerous social justice causes, providing themselves with public relations cover. In July 2019, Laura joined the board of REFORM Alliance, founded by rap mogul Jay-Z and Meek Mill. The couple also funded criminal justice advocacy group, the Innocence Project. While on one hand funding progressive causes that sought to reduce unjust prison sentences, the Arnolds also gave $360,00 to the Baltimore Police Department for a secret aerial surveillance program. John Arnold is also overseeing Harris County and Houston’s bid to host the 2026 World Cup, and has appeared at multiple events with Hidalgo.   Hidalgo takes power In January 2019, as Lina Hidalgo took the most powerful office in one of the most populous counties in the country, the Arnolds restructured their nonprofit, the Arnold Foundation, into a for-profit corporation named Arnold Ventures LLC. This move followed a year of what the foundation’s president Kelli Rhee called “internal strategy conversations.” While losing their non-profit tax exemption, converting into an LLC allowed them to spend unlimited amounts with near total anonymity – what one research firm called a “black hole” for public disclosure. The recomposition from a philanthropic foundation to an explicitly for-profit corporation adopted the strategy of several of the most influential billionaires in the world, including Microsoft co-founder and vaccine profiteer Bill Gates, late Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen, eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, Facebook founder Dustin Moskovitz and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. All channel funds to political action and money-making operations from their charitable foundations, networks and initiatives. “The creation of Arnold Ventures is another example of billionaire donors becoming ever more sophisticated about using private wealth to influence public policy—wielding exponentially more power in American life than ordinary citizens of more modest means,” reads a profile on the Arnolds in Inside Philanthropy. “The model behind Arnold Ventures is also a reminder that the lines between different forms of influence spending by the super-wealthy keep blurring. Yet while there are multiple organizations dedicated to limiting one form of such spending—political campaign donations—there is no comparable push to rein in philanthropic giving that often aims to achieve the exact same legislative goals that animate campaign donors.” Through Arnold Ventures and its predecessor, John and Laura Arnold spent more than $1.1 billion between 2011 and 2019 advising federal, state and local government policy. Their influence machine is bipartisan – funding both the Democratic Party and Republican-aligned super PACs, and politicians from both parties including Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns, Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), as well as Republican members of Congress Sen. Ted Cruz, the late Sen. John McCain and Rep. Dan Crenshaw, among others. They have worked directly with the Obama administration on the “police reform” Data-Driven Justice Initiative, collecting data that “collectively represent more than 94 million Americans.” The Arnolds’ carefully crafted image as benevolent philanthropists has been bolstered through funding media outlets like the Houston Chronicle, the largest newspaper in Texas. This has paid off in what amounts to unofficial Arnold Venture’s public relations releases published in the Chronicle declaring that they “use philanthropy to help balance societal inequities.” Arnold Ventures has also funded the Texas Tribune with $1.5 million for an “investigative unit.” Their PR has been shored up through hiring top Houston-area media figures. Three months after Lina Hidalgo took office, Houston Chronicle opinion editor and editorial board member Evan Mintz was hired as Arnold Ventures’ Communications Manager. Former Chronicle editor-in-chief and executive vice president Jeff Cohen joined Arnold Ventures as Executive Vice President of Communications. Cohen’s wife, Kathryn Kase, is Lina Hidalgo’s legal counsel. As the Arnolds converted their influence machine into a for profit corporation, they awarded a $1.1 million grant to PFM Consulting LLC, a Washington DC-based financial management firm notorious for advising “fiscal sustainability” plans that slash pensions and eliminate benefits for public employees. PFM had previously been contracted by the City of Houston and has advised and been contracted by state, county and local governments across the country, including Kentucky, Arkansas, Chattanooga, Tennessee, Lancaster and Scranton, Pennsylvania, Golden, Colorado, Burlington, Vermont, and Santa Rosa County, Florida among others. Within days, Hidalgo awarded a $2.72 million contract to PFM to design a plan to restructure the county government and offices. Paid more than $5 million by Harris County, PFM’s report recommended 220 “action steps designed to put the county on a path to reform.” These steps would begin the process of restructuring Harris County’s economic and political structure according to the diktats of neoliberal finance professionals, similar to the crushing austerity measures imposed on numerous countries around the world following regime change operations. Not only was Lina Hidalgo connected to Arnold Ventures through the Texas Policy Lab and PFM Consulting Group, she also hired former Arnold Ventures staff as advisors. In April 2019, just three months into Hidalgo’s term, she named Erica Brown, former Arnold Ventures Director of Public Health, as a Senior Policy Advisor. Source | Linkedin In March 2021, Hidalgo hired epidemiologist Dr. Katelyn Jetelina, who spent years working for Arnold Ventures, as a senior science advisor.   Hidalgo and Texas Policy Lab crush Houston’s working class Over the months following Hidalgo and the Texas Policy Lab’s lockdows, the pre-existing economic disparities that had plagued Houston’s workers and poor reached unprecedented levels that have yet to recover. The order forced small businesses to close according to criteria developed by the Department of Homeland Security, the security state apparatus created in the wake of the 9/11 attacks that has rolled back civil liberties and surveilled American citizens while becoming the largest federal law enforcement agency in the United States. Ironically, a study co-sponsored by Arnold Ventures provides some of the better data on the economic and social devastation wrought primarily by the lockdowns its beneficiaries in the Texas Policy Lab designed. “A majority of people who live in Harris County say they’ve suffered financial troubles during COVID-19 and almost half say they or someone in their household has lost a job, lost a business, or had their wages or hours reduced,” the study found. However, these results are portrayed as a result of COVID-19, rather than the policy choices that were implemented ostensibly in response to the virus. Another study from Understanding Houston, an NGO funded by Houston’s elite business class and international corporations, describes the most severe economic crash Houston had ever suffered. Between March and April, 2020, the first months of Hidalgo’s lockdowns, Houston’s unemployment rate more than tripled from less than 4% to 14.6%. At the same time, 361,400 jobs were lost  – more than the 226,100 jobs lost in the 1987 oil bust and the 120,500 jobs lost in the 2008 Great Recession combined. Desperation set in for laid off workers as more than 905,000 residents filed for unemployment insurance in Harris County between March 7, 2020 and July 10, 2021. Lower-income workers in the service industry such as in retail, restaurants and bars, and accommodation bore the brunt of the lockdowns, as businesses closed their doors. As Houston’s residents were expunged from the labor force, hunger rates skyrocketed. 15% of households reported “often” or “sometimes” not having enough to eat, rates that increased to 20% among families with children. Despite federal and local efforts to prevent them, Houston’s poor residents have faced unprecedented evictions, forcing families into shelters, their cars and the streets. Between March 1, 2020 and December 31, 2021, 57,000 evictions were filed in Harris County, placing it among the top three areas for evictions in the United States. All the while, Hidalgo continued to look to the Arnold Ventures-funded TPL to craft her policy. “All along, our response to this crisis has been guided by science, research and expertise,” Hidalgo said in a May 1, 2020 statement. “Thousands of lives across Harris County depend on our work to respond to this crisis strategically, and we’re delighted to have the best and brightest minds from the Texas Policy Lab supporting our effort to mitigate the impacts of COVID-19. We’re fortunate for their willingness to partner with us at such a critical time in our history.” As Harris County’s residents were pushed to new levels of poverty, desperation and isolation, Hidalgo sought to extend and strengthen lockdowns at every turn. Hidalgo ordered county parks closed for the 2020 Easter weekend, despite minimal risk of contracting COVID-19 outside. Her maximalist approach was even stricter than that of Houston’s Democratic Mayor Sylvester Turner, who himself had ordered the removal of basketball rims at city parks. “We shouldnt have to tell people not to be in a park thats crowded where you cant engage in social distancing,” Turner said. “Police officers shouldnt have to come and tell you no, but if we must, we must. But I dont think that as a governmental leader, that I should dictate everything you do as if you dont have a mind of your own.” Hidalgo earned praise in establishment media outlets for fighting Governor Greg Abbott’s efforts to end lockdowns. “The Latina Progressive Who Faced Down Texas Republicans,” a headline in Politico read. In October 2020, when Abbott signed an order banning mask and vaccine mandates, Hidalgo lashed out, accusing him of threatening public health. “It’s like as if [sic] the governor were telling me I can’t issue an order to evacuate the coastal areas when a hurricane is barreling toward us,” she said. “This is a crisis. This is not an issue to play politics with.” In November 2020, Hidalgo began another push for lockdowns. “We now know inevitably another pull-back is necessary. Its going to be coming soon, Im sure,” she said.   COVID-19 cash cow While Hidalgo and Arnold Ventures’ lockdowns destroyed small businesses and sunk Houston’s beleaguered residents into even more desperation, the federal government passed the March 2020 Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) on March 27, 2020. The CARES Act slotted $426 million to Harris County, almost all of which was immediately allocated. The largest expenditure was $67,575,040 to COVID-19 Emergency Direct Assistance, which offered 40,000 people a one time payment of $1,500. This fund was bolstered with a $1 million grant from Arnold Ventures. Administration of the program was outsourced to Catholic Charities, an NGO whose executives were paid six-figure salaries. $33,300,000 went to the Small Business Relief Fund and was administered by Liftfund, a non-profit founded by top Texas bankers that has become the country’s largest microlender. Liftfund’s annual report shows it is also funded by billionaire Mackenzie Scott, as well as numerous banks and corporations. The company’s president and CEO Janie Barrera is a former Federal Reserve advisor and was appointed by President Obama to the President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability. Liftfund’s Board of Directors includes Wayne Alexander, former president of SBC bell, a subsidiary of AT&T, and includes bankers from Wells Fargo, Capital One and JP Morgan Chase. In June 2020, as small businesses were destroyed by the pandemic, the TPL published a proposal to implement a new authority with the power to shut down businesses that did not meet its standard of public health. This “scoring system would be designed to rate adherence to specific COVID-19 prevention practices” and demand a “risk-based schedule for inspections.” These rules would be constantly subject to change. “Grading criteria can be revised as information on COVID-19 evolves,” the proposal states. Alternatively, the study proposed businesses that do not pass the constantly shifting grading system would be marked in “a gold star program.” The management of Harris County’s $40 million CARES Act rent relief program was contracted to BakerRipley, the largest charity NGO in Texas. Though the program was ostensibly aimed to provide relief to renters facing eviction, it required landlords to enroll before tenants could access the funds. By December 2020, only $14 million of the allocated $40 million had been paid out. “These millions of dollars left on the table highlight the fact that so many landlords have refused rent relief in favor of eviction,” said Lone Star Legal Aid attorney Dana Karni. Meanwhile, Harris County courts held hundreds of eviction hearings every week, and BakerRipley’s executives were paid six figure salaries. While figures are not available for the year 2020, financial documents from 2019 show BakerRipley’s 16 employees making six figures salaries, with CEO Claudia Aguirre paid $310,115 and $22,531 in other benefits. Between May 2020 and February 2022, the Harris County Commissioner’s Court, with Hidalgo at the helm, paid over $126 million to BakerRipley, with an additional $8.2 million approved on April 26 for eviction services.   Permanent remote learning regime Since their early days in politics, the Arnolds have been major pushers of school privatization, having spent hundreds of millions in California, Missouri and Louisiana. Laura Arnold is a former board member at Teach for America, the organization that placed hastily-trained college graduates in classrooms in poverty-stricken neighborhoods while fueling privatization schemes. They are also involved in virtual learning, having funded a platform called Edx, which had been in development since 2012, funded by Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Lumina Foundation, and military-industrial giant Boeing, and bolstered with $17 million from Arnold Ventures. Across the United States, school closures and virtual learning devastated school age children, subjecting them to increased domestic violence, while social isolation led to upticks in depression, anxiety and suicide. A National Institute of Health study estimated that 5.5 million life years of primary school-aged children were lost because of the school closures. This led the American Academy of Pediatrics and American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry to declare a state of emergency for children and youth mental health. After school closures were lifted, high school students were described as “fifth or sixth graders but in a big body. Even the CDC acknowledged that virtual learning can do more harm than good, stating that it “might present more risks than in-person instruction related to child and parental mental and emotional health and some health-supporting behaviors.” Using the rubric developed by Texas Policy Lab, Hidalgo’s lockdown orders shuttered schools across Harris County, forcing the education system into a virtual learning regime and sending students into a downward spiral. We have over a million more children below grade level relative to what would happen in a normal year in the state of Texas, said Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath, comparing the setback to that of students who moved to Texas after being displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Indeed, testing showed a dramatic setback. “Districts with a higher%age of students learning virtually experienced larger learning declines in all grades and subjects,” the Texas Education Agency found. The number of students failing to meet mathematics standards nearly doubled, from 27.5% in 2019 to 52.3% in 2021. When the 2020-2021 school year began, 10,000 of the previous year’s 210,000 Houston Independent School District (HISD) students did not return. In August 2020, Hidalgo published the Roadmap to Reopening plan, which contained guidelines for schools to reopen. This was an extension of the Harris County COVID tracking system that the Texas Policy Lab had designed. It called for a ban on in-person learning until the Harris County tracker, which Hidalgo controls, dropped below ‘Red Alert’, its highest level. This would only happen when the 14-day rolling average of new daily COVID-19 cases was under 400, the test positivity rate was below 5% and less than 15% of patients in intensive care units and general hospital beds were positive for COVID-19, benchmarks that were still many weeks away. While Hidalgo cited the threat of COVD-19 to children as a reason for maintaining closures, the risk they face is remarkably small. By February 2021, only 134 children in the United States aged 0 to 14 had died from COVID-19 – a tiny fraction of the 28,700 that died from all other causes. Meanwhile, 48 children died in Harris County of child abuse and neglect in 2020, a crisis exacerbated by school closures Hidalgo ordered in the name of protecting children. The TPL called for implementation of “pandemic safeguards” to prevent multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, though did not define the threat to children or what measures they proposed. Hidalgo’s plan was met with stiff resistance as ten superintendents signed a letter in opposition, complaining that the metrics outlined were “not attainable to resume in-person instruction in the foreseeable future.” As school closures upended children’s lives and forced parents to choose between abandoning their children or their incomes, Hidalgo allotted $47,108,426 for 120,000 Wi-Fi access hubs and devices, establishing infrastructure for permanent distance learning, what was billed as “COVID 19 Digital Access for Students.” This represented the second largest expenditure of Harris County’s CARES Act funds, far more than the $1 million designated for court eviction services. $19 million went to Harris County’s distribution of internet-capable devices, branded as “Operation Connectivity.” Another $13 million of the fund was assigned to ‘Project 10 Million,’ a virtual learning program launched by telecom giant T-Mobile. In April 2021, the telecom giant Comcast announced it would install Wi-Fi “Lift Zones” in Harris County and community centers throughout the country, in addition to a billion-dollar effort over the next decade to advance “digital equity” and equip homes with free internet for distance learning. Two months later, Hidalgo authorized an additional $3.2 million in CARES Act funds for Wi-Fi. In May 2021, the TPL released another set of criteria for reopening schools, stressing the importance of vaccinating children. In August 2021, schools began to reopen, Though the re-opening ostensibly eliminated the need for destructive distance learning, Harris County and its corporate partners spent enormous amounts to continue building distance learning infrastructure.   School Board deception Throughout the pandemic, Hidalgo earned praise from liberal institutions. In April 2021, she was given the Kennedy Center New Frontier Award for COVID-19 policies. Past recipients include former McKinsey consultant and current Transportation secretary candidate Pete Buttigieg and New Jersey Senator Cory Booker. “Despite facing significant opposition from the largely Republican county, Hidalgo called for closings and mask mandates early on in the pandemic,” read the award’s description. “Hidalgo was questioned and harassed over her decisions to put the safety of the residents first.” The following month, Hidalgo received another award from the Democratic party linked political action committee EMILY’s List, described by the Texas Tribune as “a designation that brings with it exposure to national donors and other powerful Democratic constituencies.” In July, she received the Maclovio Barraza Award for Leadership from Unidos Dos, and appeared at a conference sponsored by Bank of America, with President Biden delivering a virtual address at the event. In May 2021, Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued an executive order banning government entities, including schools, from issuing mask mandates. Soon after, Hidalgo threw her support behind school mask mandates, spurring a legal battle that has gone to the Texas supreme court. On August 12, 2021, the Houston Independent School District was slated to hold a school board meeting to discuss a possible mask mandate. The largest in Texas, HISD is one of eleven that Houston-area districts Arnold Ventures influences through funding Rice University’s Houston Education Research Consortium. While promising to “solve longstanding problems inside the education system,” the school closures advised by Arnold Ventures’ Texas Policy Lab led to a dramatic surge in dropouts. Hours before the school board meeting, the Texas Tribune, a media outlet heavily funded by Arnold Ventures and the Gates Foundation, published an alarming report saying that 5,800 hospitalized children in Texas had COVID-19, though not specifying what conditions they were hospitalized for or if they had contracted COVID-19 while hospitalized. Shortly before the meeting commenced, the Texas Tribune quietly issued an enormous correction on its article, admitting that 783 children, not 5,800, had been hospitalized in the past several weeks, though still not clarifying the reason they were hospitalized. But at 5:33 p.m. CST, as parents were discussing their rejection of mask mandates, KHOU 11 published Hidalgo’s pre-recorded announcement that the mandate would immediately go into effect. “We are seeing the highest number of children in our hospitals than we’ve seen in the entire pandemic,” she declared – echoing the false claim from the Tribune. “We have no choice,” she wrote on Twitter. Having deceived the parents of the Houston Independent School District in violation of Texas law, Hidalgo called mask mandates “necessary civil resistance.” With all of the CARES Act funds allocated immediately, American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) would provide the next federal funding source for Hidalgo to pillage. Passed in March 2021, ARPA was billed as one of “the most progressive pieces of legislation in history”, and one that would reverse the economic devastation Americans had suffered throughout the pandemic. With another $914 million from the federal government, Hidalgo’s March 2021 County Commision agenda letter called to “identify and prioritize investment opportunities, leveraging related research, strategic plans, and outside experts” – a reference to the army of corporate consultants that had advised every major decision she made since announcing her candidacy. With a 3-2 majority on the commissioner’s court and power consolidated under County Administrator Dave Berry, there was little oversight and Hidalgo’s opponents were all but powerless to stop her and Arnold Ventures’ agenda. While Hidalgo boasted about her leadership of the county’s efforts to revive the local economy, the entirety of the Small Business Fund would amount to the same cost of a single measure that failed to provide any benefit. In April 2020, Hidalgo authorized the construction of a makeshift medical tent, contracted to a private firm called Garner Environmental Services for a $60 million price tag, justifying the site as a contingency plan in case hospitals were overloaded. However, this scenario never happened. Having already spent $17 million, the site was closed without having served a single patient, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency promised to reimburse 75% of those costs. As the first surge predicted by Hidalgo never materialized and the medical tent was deconstructed, she opened a new medical facility inside Houston’s NRG arena in anticipation of what she called a second wave of COVID overflow. This, she said, would cost $200,000 per month to maintain readiness. If activated, the cost would increase to $1.5 million per month. “It really doesn’t make a lot of sense at this point. When I hear people talk about ‘in case there’s a second surge,’ last time I checked, we didn’t have the first surge,” said Ed Emmett, who Hidalgo had replaced as county judge. Yet again, the COVID-19 wave did not materialize. Instead, the NRG medical facility was used as a mass vaccination site, before it was finally shut down in August 2021. This was not an isolated incident as emergency medical facilities were constructed around the country for surges that never came.   ‘Pawns in Hidalgo’s game’ The very day that Hidalgo’s makeshift hospital tent was shut down, she issued a decree applicable to anyone 10 years old and above, ordering that masks be worn at all times in all outdoor public places, strict adherence to CDC social distancing guidelines, residents wash their hands before leaving home and upon their return and to avoid touching their noses and faces after leaving home. Hidalgo’s order made these criminal violations, with offenders subject to a $1,000 fine, with few exceptions. The Texas Government Code policy that Hidalgo’s decree relied on also stipulated that jail sentences of up to 180 days would be legal. Effectively, Hidalgo’s orders made it a criminal offense for a child to step onto a public sidewalk with their mask momentarily slipped off of their nose. “This is not a police state,” Hidalgo said at a press conference. “This is about laying down the marker for what we’re doing…We have to make clear, it’s not a recommendation.” Hidalgo’s order was met with swift and widespread outrage from police officials that would be tasked with enforcing the mandate. “We do not have time to be pawns in Hidalgo’s game of attempting to control the actions of law abiding, tax paying individuals of our community,” Houston Police Officers’ Union President Joe Gamaldi remarked, adding that police were already dealing with a 35% increase in murders and a 30% increase in burglaries. “The citizens of Harris County are working hard together through this pandemic and do not need the added stress and fear of being fined or arrested for failing to wear a mask/face covering they may not have,” said Harris County Deputies Organization’s president David Cuevas. “Her abuse of the use of executive orders is the ultimate government overreach. These kind of confused government policies fuel public anger – and rightfully so,” said Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick. After widespread outrage, the order was amended to be a recommendation and the fine was removed.   Closing hospitals and blaming the unvaccinated In May 2021, as COVID vaccines became available, Hidalgo portrayed them as a divine intervention that would end the pandemic and return Harris county to normalcy. “The good news is, it’s beginning to be over. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel. I just had my second Moderna shot about a week ago, and it was such a relief. I finally felt the full weight of the blessing that is having vaccines. It’s like we’ve been given this gift, and all we have to do is accept it,” Hidalgo boasted, echoing op-eds published by Arnold Ventures executives. At the NRG press conference, Hidalgo unveiled an initiative paying people $100 to sign a waiver and take the vaccine. Notably, the public announcement did not include any requirement for identification, leaving the program open to repeat customers. At a July press conference, she warned of “misinformation,” urging vaccination and accusing the unvaccinated of killing their fellow citizens. “We need individuals to recognize that they’re moving from a point of hesitancy to a point of enabling this virus, enabling these hospitalizations and enabling these deaths. And so we have got to draw a line there,” she said. Alongside Hidalgo was Dr. Peter Hotez, the Baylor College of Medicine pediatrician and MSNBC favorite who has called to criminalize “antiscience aggression.” Hotez has received more than $9.5 million from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which is headed Dr. Antony Fauci, and his institution has taken at least $8 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Hotez too lashed out at the unvaccinated. “Anybody who is hospitalized or is in an ICU from COVID right now is there by choice,” he said, “because they didn’t make the effort to get vaccinated, and that’s what we need to fix”. “Anyone who’s unvaccinated and has been lucky enough to escape COVID, your luck is about to run out.” A week later, the CDC published data confirming that the vaccines do not stop transmission of the virus. CDC director Rochelle Walensky admitted as much on CNN, saying “What they can’t do anymore is prevent transmission,” contradicting her statement two months earlier that “vaccinated people do not carry the virus.” Despite the official admission and 180-degree reversal, Hidalgo stuck with the old story in contradiction to the CDC. In a press conference outside NRG Stadium, the second overflow site she ordered constructed, she continued to promote vaccination as a method for defeating the virus while lambasting the unvaccinated. “The ticket out of the pandemic is the vaccine,” she complained. “Enough is enough, look at what you’re doing to our hospitals by not getting the vaccine.” While Hidalgo accused the unvaccinated of overwhelming hospitals, she was silent as landlords abruptly forced a Houston hospital to shut down and sent police to prevent doctors from obtaining medical equipment to treat patients in the parking lot. With Hidalgo mired in scandal and facing stiff competition in the upcoming November 7 election, her future remains unknown; she could win another term as county judge, or find herself behind bars. Feature photo | Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, right, asks a question during a tour inside the intensive care unit of the new Harris County Non-Congregate Medical Shelter at NRG Park, April 11, 2020, in Houston. David J. Phillip | AP Dan Cohen is the Washington DC correspondent for Behind The Headlines. He has produced widely distributed video reports and print dispatches from across Israel-Palestine. He tweets at @DanCohen3000. The post Lina Hidalgo and the Arnolds: Billionaire Influence Network Crafts Lockdowns Across US appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Inside Stories, National, Top Story, COVID-19, John Arnold, Laura Arnold, Lina Hidalgo, lockdowns]

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[l] at 6/23/22 12:22pm
Have you noticed how every major foreign policy crisis since the U.S. and U.K.’s invasion of Iraq in 2003 has peeled off another layer of the left into joining the pro-NATO, pro-war camp? It is now hard to remember that many millions marched in the U.S. and Europe against the attack on Iraq. It sometimes feels like there is no one left who is not cheerleading the next wave of profits for the West’s military-industrial complex (usually referred to as the “defense industry” by those very same profiteers). Washington learned a hard lesson from the unpopularity of its 2003 attack on Iraq aimed at controlling more of the Middle East’s oil reserves. Ordinary people do not like seeing the public coffers ransacked or suffering years of austerity, simply to line the pockets of Blackwater, Halliburton and Raytheon. And all the more so when such a war is sold to them on the basis of a huge deception. So since then, the U.S. has been repackaging its neocolonialism via proxy wars that are a much easier sell. There have been a succession of them: Libya, Syria, Yemen, Iran, Venezuela and now Ukraine. Each time, a few more leftists are lured into the camp of the war hawks by the West’s selfless, humanitarian instincts – promoted, of course, through the barrel of a Western-supplied arsenal. That process has reached its nadir with Ukraine. Greenwald on the interests of the wests military-industrial complex: Right at the moment when the market for these weapons disappeared, when the US finally got out of Iraq and Afghanistan, lo and behold theres this new market in Ukraine https://t.co/s3wVNbkOJN — Jonathan Cook (@Jonathan_K_Cook) June 6, 2022   Nuclear face-off I recently wrote about the paranoid ravings of celebrity “left-wing” journalist Paul Mason, who now sees the Kremlin’s hand behind any dissension from a full-throttle charge towards a nuclear face-off with Russia. Behind the scenes, he has been sounding out Western intelligence agencies in a bid to covertly deplatform and demonetize any independent journalists who still dare to wonder whether arming Ukraine to the hilt or recruiting it into NATO – even though it shares a border that Russia views as existentially important – might not be an entirely wise use of taxpayers’ money. It is not hard to imagine that Mason is representative of the wider thinking of establishment journalists, even those who claim to be on the left. But I want to take on here a more serious proponent of this kind of ideology than the increasingly preposterous Mason. Because swelling kneejerk support for U.S. imperial wars – as long, of course, as Washington’s role is thinly disguised – is becoming ever more common among leftwing academics too. Absolutely withering, must-read stuff from mighty @Jonathan_K_Cook on the willing prostration of Carole Cadwalladr and Paul Mason to intelligence services, and abetting of power in targeting independent anti-war journalists Cant wait for part two. https://t.co/XSmcexwChx — Kit Klarenberg (@KitKlarenberg) June 21, 2022 The latest cheerleader for the military-industrial complex is Slavoj Zizek, the famed Slovenian philosopher and public intellectual whose work has gained him international prominence. His latest piece – published where else but The Guardian – is a morass of sloppy thinking, moral evasion and double speak. Which is why I think it is worth deconstructing. It encapsulates all the worst geostrategic misconceptions of Western intellectuals at the moment. Zizek, who is supposedly an expert on ideology and propaganda, and has even written and starred in a couple of documentaries on the subject, seems now to be utterly blind to his own susceptibility to propaganda.   Cod psychology He starts, naturally enough, with a straw man: that those opposed to the West’s focus on arming Ukraine rather than using its considerable muscle to force Kyiv and Moscow to the negotiating table are in the wrong. Those opposed to dragging out the war for as long as possible, however many Ukrainians and Russians die, with the aim of “weakening Russia”, as U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin wants; and those opposed to leaving millions of people in poorer parts of the world to be plunged deeper into poverty or to starve, Zizek equates, to “pacifism”. Playing games with the lives of Ukrainians and risking nuclear war simply to weaken Russia is, Chomsky notes, morally horrendous. And the people who are standing on a high horse about how we’re upholding principle are moral imbeciles when you think about what’s involved — Jonathan Cook (@Jonathan_K_Cook) June 17, 2022 “Those who cling to pacifism in the face of the Russian attack on Ukraine remain caught in their own version of [John Lennon’s song] ‘Imagine’,” writes Zizek. But the only one dwelling in the world of the imaginary is Zizek and those who think like him. The left’s mantra of “Stop the war!” can’t be reduced to kneejerk pacifism. It derives from a political and moral worldview. It opposes the militarism of competitive, resource-hungry nation-states. It opposes the war industries that not only destroy whole countries but risk global nuclear annihilation in advancing their interests. It opposes the profit motive for a war that has incentivised a global elite to continue investing in planet-wide rape and pillage rather than addressing a looming ecological catastrophe. All of that context is ignored in Zizek’s lengthy essay. Instead, he prefers to take a detour into cod psychology, telling us that Russian president Vladimir Putin sees himself as Peter the Great. Putin will not be satisfied simply with regaining the parts of Ukraine that historically belonged to Russia and have always provided its navy with its only access to the Black Sea. No, the Russian president is hell-bent on global conquest. And Europe is next – or so Zizek argues. Even if we naively take the rhetoric of embattled leaders at face value (remember those weapons of mass destruction Iraq’s Saddam Hussein supposedly had?), it is still a major stretch for Zizek to cite one speech by Putin as proof that the Russian leader wants his own version of the Third Reich. Not least, we must address the glaring cognitive dissonance at the heart of the Western, NATO-inspired discourse on Ukraine, something Zizek refuses to do. How can Russia be so weak it has managed only to subdue small parts of Ukraine at great military cost, while it is at the same time a military superpower poised to take over the whole of Europe? The US war lobby is so massively bloated that it would be simply astonishing if it didnt have a (usually covert) finger prised into every major conflict zone on the planet – and a strong vested interest in perpetuating those conflicts too pic.twitter.com/XOVCkqx78x — Jonathan Cook (@Jonathan_K_Cook) June 4, 2022   Zizek is horrified by Putin’s conceptual division of the world into those states that are sovereign and those that are colonized. Or as he quotes Putin observing: “Any country, any people, any ethnic group should ensure their sovereignty. Because there is no in-between, no intermediate state: either a country is sovereign, or it is a colony, no matter what the colonies are called.”   Sovereign or colonized? The famed philosopher reads this as proof that Russia wants as its colonies: “Bosnia and Herzegovina, Kosovo, Finland, the Baltic states … and ultimately Europe itself”. But if he weren’t so blinded by NATO ideology, he might read Putin’s words in a quite different way. Isn’t Putin simply restating Washington realpolitik? The U.S., through NATO, is the real sovereign in Europe and is pushing its sovereignty ever closer to Russia’s borders. US military bases around the world. pic.twitter.com/9xHzhIjZEJ — BRISL (@BRI_SL) August 4, 2019 Putin’s concern about Ukraine being colonized by the U.S. military-industrial complex is essentially the same as U.S. concerns in the 1960s about the Soviet Union filling Cuba with its nuclear missiles. Washington’s concern justified a confrontation that moved the world possibly the closest it has ever come to nuclear annihilation. Both Russia and the U.S. are wedded to the idea of their own “spheres of influence”. It is just that the U.S. sphere now encircles the globe through many hundreds of overseas military bases. By contrast, the West cries to the heavens when Russia secures a single military base in Crimea. The US has 800 military bases around the world. The rest of the world has 30 outside of its own borders. pic.twitter.com/edhxKXRMp8 — Vox (@voxdotcom) August 5, 2018 We may not like the sentiments Putin is espousing, but they are not especially his. They are the reality of the framework of modern military power the West was intimately involved in creating. It was our centuries of colonialism – our greed and theft – that divided the world into the sovereign and the colonized. Putin is simply stating that Russia needs to act in ways that ensure it remains sovereign, rather than joining the colonized. We may disagree with Putin’s perception of the threat posed by NATO, and the need to annex eastern Ukraine, but to pretend his speech means that he aims for world domination is nothing more than the regurgitation of a CIA talking point. Zizek, of course, intersperses this silliness with more valid observations, like this one: “To insist on full sovereignty in the face of global warming is sheer madness since our very survival hinges on tight global cooperation.” Of course, it is madness. But why is this relevant to Putin and his supposed “imperial ambition”? Is there any major state on the planet – those in Europe, the United States, China, Brazil, Australia – that has avoided this madness, that is seeking genuine “tight global cooperation” to end the threat of climate breakdown. No, our world is in the grip of terminal delusion, propelled ever closer to the precipice by capitalism’s requirement of endless economic growth on a finite planet. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is causing great ecological damage, but so are lots of other things – including NATO’s rationalization of ever-expanding military budgets. Its disturbing how many people are peddling the idea that Nato is a defensive alliance. It *claims* to be defensive. Actually, Nato is a central pillar of the highly lucrative war industries. This may help clarify: https://t.co/SL2MA1ASMh — Jonathan Cook (@Jonathan_K_Cook) February 26, 2022   Ukrainian heroism But Zizek has the bit between his teeth. He now singles out Russia because it is maneuvering to exploit the consequences of global warming, such as new trade routes opened up by a thawing Arctic. “Russia’s strategic plan is to profit from global warming: control the world’s main transport route, plus develop Siberia and control Ukraine,” he writes. “In this way, Russia will dominate so much food production that it will be able to blackmail the whole world.” But what does he imagine? As we transform the world’s climate and its trade routes, as new parts of the world turn into deserts, as whole populations are forced to make migrations to different regions, does he think only Putin and Russia are jostling to avoid sinking below the rising sea waters. Does he presume the policy hawks in Washington, or their satraps in Europe, have missed all this and are simply putting their feet up? In reality, maneuvering on the international stage – what I have called elsewhere a brutal nation-state version of the children’s party game musical chairs – has been going on for decades. Ukraine is the latest front in a long-running war for resource control on a dying planet. It is another battleground in the renewed great power game that the U.S. revived by expanding NATO across Eastern Europe in one pincer movement and then bolstered it with its wars and proxy wars across the Middle East. Where was the urge for “tight global cooperation” then? To perceive Ukraine as simply the victim of Putin’s “imperialism” requires turning a blind eye to everything that has occurred since the fall of the Soviet Union three decades ago. My latest: Western media and politicians want us focusing exclusively on Russias role in Ukraine so we overlook our own responsibility for making sacrificial victims of the Ukrainian people https://t.co/V0ZpwFFB9A — Jonathan Cook (@Jonathan_K_Cook) March 10, 2022 Zizek gets to the heart of what should matter in his next, throw-away line: Those who advocate less support for Ukraine and more pressure on it to negotiate, inclusive of accepting painful territorial renunciations, like to repeat that Ukraine simply cannot win the war against Russia. True, but I see exactly in this the greatness of Ukrainian resistance.” Zizek briefly recognises the reality of Ukraine’s situation – that it cannot win, that Russia has a bigger, better-equipped army – but then deflects to the “greatness” of Ukraine’s defiance. Yes, it is glorious that Ukrainians are ready to die to defend their country’s sovereignty. But that is not the issue we in the West need to consider when Kyiv demands we arm its resistance. The question of whether Ukrainians can win, or whether they will be slaughtered, is highly pertinent to deciding whether we in the West should help drag out the war, using Ukrainians as cannon fodder, to no purpose other than our being able to marvel as spectators at their heroism. Whether Ukrainians can win is also pertinent to the matter of how urgent it is to draw the war to a close so that millions don’t starve in Africa because of the loss of crops, the fall in exports and rocketing fuel prices. And arming a futile, if valiant, Ukrainian struggle against Russia to weaken Moscow must be judged in the context that we risk backing Russia into a geostrategic corner – as we have been doing for more than two decades – from which, we may surmise, Moscow could ultimately decide to extricate itself by resorting to nuclear weapons.   Intellectual cul de sac Having propelled himself into an intellectual cul de sac, Zizek switches tack. He suddenly changes the terms of the debate entirely. Having completely ignored the U.S. role in bringing us to this point, he now observes: Not just Ukraine, Europe itself is becoming the place of the proxy war between [the] U.S. and Russia, which may well end up by a compromise between the two at Europe’s expense. There are only two ways for Europe to step out of this place: to play the game of neutrality – a short-cut to catastrophe – or to become an autonomous agent.” So, we are in a U.S. proxy war – one played out under the bogus auspices of NATO and its “defensive” expansion – but the solution to this problem for Europe is to gain its “autonomy” by … Well, from everything Zizek has previously asserted in the piece, it seems such autonomy must be expressed by silently agreeing to the U.S. pumping Ukraine full of weapons to fight Russia in a proxy war that is really about weakening Russia rather than saving Ukraine. Only a world-renowned philosopher could bring us to such an intellectually and morally barren place. The biggest problem for Zizek, it seems, isn’t the U.S. proxy war or Russian “imperialism”, it is the left’s disillusionment with the military industrial complex: “Their true message to Ukraine is: OK, you are victims of a brutal aggression, but do not rely on our arms because in this way you play into the hands of the industrial-military complex,” he writes. But the concern here is not that Ukraine is playing into the arms of the war industries. It is that Western populations are being played by their leaders – and intellectuals like Zizek – so that they can be delivered, once again, into the arms of the military-industrial complex. The West’s war industries have precisely no interest in negotiations, which is why they are not taking place. It is also the reason why events over three decades have led us to a Russian invasion of Ukraine that most of Washington’s policy makers warned would happen if the U.S. continued to encroach on Russia’s “sphere of influence”. Most fascinating thing about the Ukraine war is the sheer number of top strategic thinkers who warned for years that it was coming if we continued down the same path. No-one listened to them and here we are. Small compilation of these warnings, from Kissinger to Mearsheimer. — Arnaud Bertrand (@RnaudBertrand) March 1, 2022 The left’s message is that we are being conned yet again and that it is long past the time to start a debate. Those debates should have taken place when the U.S. broke its promise not to expand “one inch” beyond Germany. Or when NATO flirted with offering Ukraine membership 14 years ago. Or when the U.S. meddled in the ousting of the elected government of Ukraine in 2014. Or when Kyiv integrated neo-Nazi groups into the Ukrainian army and engaged in a civil war against the Russian parts of its own populace. Or when the U.S. and NATO allowed Kyiv – on the best interpretation – to ignore its obligations under the Minsk agreements with Russia. None of those debates happened. Which is why a debate in the West is still needed now, at this terribly late stage. Only then might there be a hope that genuine negotiations can take place – before Ukraine is obliterated.   Cannon fodder Having exhausted all his hollow preliminary arguments, we get to Zizek’s main beef. With the world polarizing around a sole military superpower, the U.S., and a sole economic superpower, China, Europe and Russia may be forced into each other’s arms in a “Eurasian” block that would swamp European values. For Zizek, that would lead to “fascism”. He writes: “At that point, the European legacy will be lost, and Europe will be de facto divided between an American and a Russian sphere of influence. In short, Europe itself will become the place of a war that seems to have no end.” Let us set aside whether Europe – all of it, parts of it? – is really a bulwark against fascism, as Zizek assumes. How exactly is Europe to find its power, its sovereignty, in this battle between superpowers? What vehicle is Zizek proposing to guarantee Europe’s autonomy, and how does it differ from the NATO one that is – even Zizek now seems to be conceding – actually just a vassal of the U.S., there to enforce Washington’s global-spanning “sphere of influence” against Russia and China. Faced with this problem, Zizek quickly retreats into mindless sloganeering: “One cannot be a leftist if one does not unequivocally stand behind Ukraine.” This Bushism – “You are either with us or with the terrorists” – really is as foolish as it sounds. What does “unequivocal” mean here? Must we “unequivocally stand behind” all of Ukraine’s actions – even should, say, neo-Nazi elements of the Ukrainian military like the Azov Brigade carry out pogroms against the ethnic Russian communities living in Ukraine? But even more seriously, what does it mean for Europeans to stand “unequivocally” behind Ukraine? Must we approve the supply of U.S. weapons, even though, as Zizek also concedes, Ukraine cannot win the war and is serving primarily as a proxy battleground? Would “unequivocal support” not require us to pretend that Europe, rather than the U.S., is in charge of NATO policy? Would it not require too that we pretend NATO’s actions are defensive rather intimately tied to advancing the U.S. “sphere of influence” designed to weaken Russia? And how can our participation in the U.S. ambition to weaken Russia not provoke greater fear in Russia for its future, greater militarism in Moscow, and ensure Europe becomes more of a battleground rather than less of one? What does “unequivocal” support for Ukraine mean given that Zizek has agreed that the U.S. and Russia are fighting a proxy war, and that Europe is caught in the middle of it? Zizek’s answer is no answer at all. It is nothing more than evasion. It is the rationalization of unprincipled European inaction, of acting as a spectator while the U.S. continues to use Ukrainians as cannon fodder.   Muddying the waters After thoroughly muddying the waters on Ukraine, Zizek briefly seeks safer territory as he winds down his argument. He points out, two decades on, that George W. Bush was similarly a war criminal in invading Iraq, and notes the irony that Julian Assange is being extradited to the U.S. because Wikileaks helped expose those war crimes. To even things up, he makes a counter-demand on “those who oppose Russian invasion” that they fight for Assange’s release – and in doing so implicitly accuses the anti-war movement of supporting Russia’s invasion. He then plunges straight back into sloganeering in his concluding paragraph: “Ukraine fights for global freedom, inclusive of the freedom of Russians themselves. That’s why the heart of every true Russian patriot beats for Ukraine.” Maybe he should try telling that to the thousands of ethnic Russian families mourning their loved ones killed by the civil war that began raging in eastern Ukraine long before Putin launched his invasion and supposedly initiated his campaign for world domination. Those kinds of Ukrainians may beg to differ, as may Russians worried about the safety and future of their ethnic kin in Ukraine. As with most things in life, there are no easy answers for Ukraine. But Zizek’s warmongering dressed up as European enlightenment and humanitarianism is a particularly wretched example of the current climate of intellectual and moral vacuity. What we need from public thinkers like Zizek is a clear-sighted roadmap for how we move back from the precipice we are rushing, lemming-like, towards. Instead he is urging us on. A lemming leading the lemmings. Feature photo | Graphic by MintPress News Jonathan Cook is a MintPress contributor. Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East (Pluto Press) and Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair (Zed Books). His website is www.jonathan-cook.net. The post A Lemming Leading the Lemmings: Slavoj Zizek and the Terminal Collapse of the Anti-War Left appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Insights, Top Story, anti war, left, Propaganda, Russia, Slavoj Zizek, Ukraine, War]

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[l] at 6/23/22 9:16am
They were shooting directly at the journalists: New evidence suggests Shireen Abu Akleh was killed in targeted attack by Israeli forces”. Thus read a CNN headline on May 26, 2022, for an article describing what may have been a “targeted killing,” – that is, assassination – of Al Jazeera journalist Shirleen Abu Akleh, a 51-year-old highly esteemed Palestinian-American journalist who had covered Israeli repression of the Palestinian population for about 25 years before she was killed. With this killing and its aftermath, one knows that it is all hands on deck for an Israeli government cognitive campaign in the perpetual cognitive war Israel wages against the world, as will be explained below. According to the CNN article, Abu Akleh was killed by a bullet to the head at around 6:30 a.m. on May 11, while standing with a group of journalists near the entrance of Jenin refugee camp as they covered an Israeli raid. We stood in front of the Israeli military vehicles for about five to ten minutes before we made moves to ensure they saw us. And this is a habit of ours as journalists; we move as a group and we stand in front of them so they know we are journalists, and then we start moving, a Palestinian reporter, Shatha Hanaysha, told CNN, describing their cautious approach toward the Israeli army convoy before the gunfire began. Video recordings of the surrounding area showed the killing shots could have come only from the Israeli soldiers in specially designed “sniper” vehicles that were in direct line-of-fire positions to Abu Akleh that morning. Eyewitnesses told CNN that they “believed Israeli forces on the same street fired deliberately on the reporters in a targeted attack. All of the journalists were wearing protective blue vests that identified them as members of the news media.”     “Lawful targets” in a “Cognitive War” The “blue vests” might have been what ensured the journalists would be targeted by Israeli forces, if Israeli forces see journalists as “lawful targets” in the war they continue to wage against the Palestinians, in what is in fact a continuation of the 1967 War. That is, an unrelenting military occupation in violation of international law, which constitutes a continuation of the “war.” And the evidence shows Israeli military/intel forces do see journalists as “lawful targets,” as part of the “Cognitive War” they wage against the Palestinians, but more particularly against the global population in an attempt to legitimize their military oppression of the Palestinians in their ongoing effort of “population expulsion” of the Palestinians from Palestinian territory. As Benjamin Netanyahu’s father, Benzion, proclaimed shortly before he died, this is the objective of Israel Zionists like him. In fact, while Abu Akleh was the only journalist killed that day by Israeli forces, she wasn’t the only Palestinian journalist shot. A group of four Palestinian reporters was fired upon as well, with one also injured in the gunfire. That was not because Israeli forces had an obstructed view; footage showed a direct line of sight between the reporters and the Israeli convoy. That only one of the four was hit, besides Abu Akleh, is probably taken by military superiors as a sign that their marksmanship must be improved. A firearms expert told CNN: “The relatively tight grouping of the rounds indicate Shireen was intentionally targeted with aimed shots and not the victim of random or stray fire. But an indication of how the Israeli military sees journalists, other than “reliable” Israeli press, was revealed on the day of the shooting by an Israeli military spokesperson, Ran Kochav. Kochav told Army Radio that Abu Akleh had been filming and working for a media outlet amidst armed Palestinians. Theyre armed with cameras, if youll permit me to say so. And if they are “armed,” they are “lawful targets” in “war.” In fact, the killing of journalists has been openly called for in the flagship publication of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, The Journal of International Security Affairs, by retired U.S. Army Officer Ralph Peters. The odious 2009 article – potentially a war crime in itself – stated: Although it seems unthinkable now, future wars may require censorship, news blackouts, and, ultimately, military attacks on the partisan media.”   The power of “Cognitive Warfare” The Israeli military said it was conducting an investigation into the killing of Abu Akleh, and added, assertions regarding the source of the fire that killed Ms. Abu Akleh must be carefully made and backed by hard evidence. This is what the IDF is striving to achieve. In fact, obfuscating that is what the IDF and its Cognitive Warfare component must be seen as “striving to achieve” – at least if Israeli Cognitive War theorists, one of whom is quoted at length below, are to be believed. Leaving it to those few journalists who report honestly to provide more facts on this assassination – as Abu Akleh would have, giving motive to Israeli forces to particularly target her with lethal fire – “Cognitive Warfare” should be explained further. The best source for understanding the concept is Israel’s own doctrinal statements about the “cognitive domain” of warfare. A clue to that was presented when an Israeli lawyer filed a lawsuit alleging that “Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs [is] carrying out a global propaganda campaign on behalf of the Israeli government that violates human rights and is acting without authority to do so… Attorney Schachar Ben Meir’s petition demands that the High Court of Justice order a halt to the activities carried out by the Ministry of Strategic Affairs, headed by Gilad Erdan.” The substance of the claim was that the Israeli government had approved the payment of NIS 128 million ($38 million) to a private organization called Kela-Shlomo to carry out “mass consciousness activities” within the framework of what the Ministry of Strategic Affairs calls “extra-governmental discourse.” That is, publication of government propaganda on social networks and newspapers often carried out through private businesses and non-profit organizations operating in Israel and abroad. But to determine the correct “messages to promote or counter requires “surveilling citizens and conducting illegal operations intended to influence and manipulate public opinion.” That is what constitutes “mass consciousness activities” – a fascist type of governmental activity if there ever was one, but “updated” to utilize “private contractors to conduct operations, in addition to governmental military/intel assets. This explains the proliferation of “private Israeli intelligence/influence” firms.   The musings of a Cognitive Warfare theorist The current Minister of Diaspora Affairs, Nachman Shai, who in the past was a spokesperson for the Israeli military, explained and promoted the higher level to which cognitive warfare has been taken from its origins as mere “propaganda” or “hasbara,” in his book “Hearts and Minds: Israel and the Battle for Public Opinion.” He explained that, in the expected 21st-century wars of Israel and the United States, the “principal effort will be the battle for consciousness.” He explained further: [There] are various terms to describe the battle for consciousness. In Britain, it is called the fight for hearts and minds. The U.S. military uses the expressions psychological warfare, perception management, influence management, and information operation. The idea speaks about consciousness: the strategy of limited conflict is to win a decision of consciousness in the society with the help of military means. The battle is for the societys consciousness and for national resilience. Furthermore, according to Shai: “Consciousness is not a natural and inherent concept but rather a structured process, continually shaped by interested parties and by those who wield wealth and power.” How this is done in its current terminology is described in a publication of the Israeli “Institute for National Security Studies” entitled: “The Cognitive Campaign: Strategic and Intelligence Perspectives.” Its Preface states: It is important to distinguish between cognition and the cognitive campaign. Cognition is the set of insights that an individual or individuals have regarding the surrounding reality and the way they want to shape it, derived from the set of the values and beliefs through which they examine and interpret their environment and work to confront its inherent challenges, and even to change it. In contrast, the cognitive campaign involves the actions and tools that entities that are part of a certain campaign framework use to influence the cognition of target audiences or to prevent influence on them. The purpose of  the cognitive campaign is to cause target audiences to adopt the perception of reality held by the side wielding the effort, so that it can more easily advance the strategic and/or operational objectives that it sees as critical. The cognitive campaign can be negative, that is, prevent the development of undesirable cognitive states, or positive, with an attempt to produce the desired cognition. That the “cognitive campaign can be negative, that is, prevent the development of undesirable cognitive states,” is why Julian Assange has been imprisoned for years now, with no likelihood he will ever be freed by the U.S. government and why Edward Snowden was forced to take refuge in a foreign country to avoid the same fate. The U.S. must silence them and other dissidents, lest an “undesirable cognitive state” develops in the U.S. population – as one eventually developed over the Vietnam War, and eventually forced the U.S. out of Vietnam. Thus it is reasonable to believe that is why Israel has targeted so many journalists over the last couple of decades – as has the U.S. It would be foolish and/or naïve not to believe that when retired military officers openly call for “targeted killings” of journalists, that they aren’t already being targeted!   Making our own reality When Karl Rove was alleged to have said how the United States is now “an empire, we make our own reality,” he was not just making a hubristic statement. Rather, it can be seen as an indication that he was aware of how powerful a “cognitive campaign” is. In fact, such campaigns were always how the CIA conducted post-World War II coups, and it can be speculated that “cognitive campaigns” were introduced into U.S. political campaigns by Arthur Finkelstein and his “Six-Party Theory” in the 1972 Nixon campaign, down to the 2016 Trump campaign, based upon cognitive warfare principles drawn from CIA coups and the Israeli military occupation. The authors of “The Cognitive Campaign: Strategic and Intelligence Perspectives” wrote: The cognitive campaign is not new, and it is an inseparable aspect of every strategic and military conflict. In recent years, this struggle has played a much more important role than in past conflicts; at times it takes place without a direct military context and is not even led by military bodies. The cognitive campaign is a continuous campaign; thus, its prominence is greater in the period between wars (as a part of the “campaign between wars). In fact, as these authors know, there is no such thing as “between wars” in Israel or the United States, with both countries in “Perpetual War” regardless of the level of aggressive kinetic war they are waging at any given moment. Carl von Clausewitz wrote in “On War” that two different motives make men fight one another: hostile feelings and hostile intentions. Inciting those “feelings” is done by both Israel and the U.S. continuously, by multifarious networks to “condition” their populations with “hostile feelings and hostile intentions.” As has been done in the U.S. to incite hatred of Russia, China, Iran, et al., so that a war with either one, or all, can explode at any moment. Israel does the same against Iran and the Palestinians. Mission Accomplished! Feature photo  | Carlos Latuff for MintPress News Todd E. Pierce, MAJ, JA, USA (ret.) served in the U.S. military as a Judge Advocate defense attorney representing Guantanamo prisoners. Before that, he was trained as a Sr. PsyOps NCO, and initially trained as a U.S. Marine Corps Rifleman.  The post Cognitive Warfare: Israel Targets Journalists Who Threaten Its Reality-Creation Tactics appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Foreign Affairs, Inside Stories, Top Story, cognitive warfare, Israel, journalists, kinetic war, psyops, Shireen Abu Akleh, United States]

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[l] at 6/22/22 7:20pm
LYD, OCCUPIED PALESTINE – It is becoming increasingly difficult for Israel and the agencies that promote Zionism around the world to portray Zionism in rosy colors. This is primarily because there is a history of close to 100 years of Zionism; and the actions of the Zionist State, Israel, have a history of seven and a half decades of violence and racism. To add to that, in February, Amnesty International came out with a damning report demonstrating in no uncertain terms that Israel is engaged in the crime of apartheid and has been since the day it was established. The Amnesty report is fewer than 300 pages long and can, and indeed must, be read by everyone. It is detailed, well-written and can provide the tools and information needed when confronting Israel and its allies in the various spheres in which they operate: in the academic world when confronting representatives of Israeli academic institutions; in the world of international sports, when demanding that FIFA and the International Olympic committee expel Israel; and in the corporate world and in the political-diplomatic spheres. In short, the Amnesty report is an invaluable tool.   Crimes against humanity Article 1 of The International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid states: The States Parties to the present Convention declare that apartheid is a crime against humanity and that inhuman acts resulting from the policies and practices of apartheid and similar policies and practices of racial segregation and discrimination, as defined in article II of the Convention, are crimes violating the principles of international law. According to Article II.a of the Convention, the crime of apartheid includes the following elements: Denial to a member or members of a racial group or groups of the right to life and liberty of person: (i) By murder of members of a racial group or groups; (ii) By the infliction upon the members of a racial group or groups of serious bodily or mental harm, by the infringement of their freedom or dignity, or by subjecting them to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; (iii) By arbitrary arrest and illegal imprisonment of the members of a racial group or groups; (b) Deliberate imposition on a racial group or groups of living conditions calculated to cause its or their physical destruction in whole or in part… The significance of this clause cannot be overstated, particularly when speaking about the State of Israel, a state that was established only three years after the end of World War II and the Holocaust. According to the Amnesty report, the crime of apartheid began in 1948 when the state of Israel was established.   Operation Danny A piece titled “We Need to Discuss Lyd,” published on the Israeli alternative media platform, Haokets, relays the events of July 1948 when the Palestinian city of El-Lyd was taken by the Israeli military in what was known as “Operation Danny.” El-Lyd was subjected to an aerial attack on the night between the 10th and 11th of July 1948. Then a battalion led by Moshe Dayan, the famous eyepatch-wearing Israeli general, drove through the city, spraying it with gunfire. Witnesses who were part of this attack said that Dayan ordered them to “wash the city with gunfire,” a command they took to mean shooting indiscriminately in every direction. The city was taken in 47 minutes during which, according to this piece, the Israeli military utilized nine armored personnel carriers, 20 jeeps, and 10 armored vehicles equipped with machine guns. The Palestinians had no forces apart from a few men with rifles. Various witnesses mentioned hundreds of bullet-strewn bodies on the streets. The dead were eventually buried in unmarked mass graves. On July 12, clashes between some of the local fighters and the Israeli invading forces were reported. In these clashes an additional 250 Palestinians were killed, some of whom were prisoners held by the Israelis. Later that day, a soldier by the name of Yerahmiel Kahanovich shot a missile into the Dahmash Mosque where over 100 Palestinians had taken refuge. One anti-tank Fiat missile killed an estimated 120 civilians who posed no danger to anyone. The exact number of those killed is unknown. This is because the impact of the blast was so severe that no bodies were left intact. “The bodies were all over the walls and ceiling,” one Israeli soldier said. So the Mosque was kept shut for two weeks. After two weeks, Palestinian prisoners were sent to clean up the mosque and bury the remains of those inside. Then, according to the testimony of Israelis themselves, many of those who carried out the burial were shot, killed and then buried as well. Not only was no one ever prosecuted, not only did Moshe Dayan go on to command the Israeli army and then become minister of defense and of foreign affairs, but, in a move that is perhaps more cynical than any, the plaza outside the mosque was named “Palmach Plaza,” Palmach being the brigade that had committed the massacre in the city and particularly at the mosque. Once the city was occupied, soldiers sent the Palestinian residents on their way to march eastward toward the newly established Kingdom of Jordan in the heat of summer without food or water. “Yalla to Abdullah,” the Israeli soldiers shouted as men, women, children and the elderly were forced into a death march that would result in the demise of countless Palestinians.   What constitutes courageous leadership? In a piece in the Israeli army publication Maarachot, Moshe Dayan’s command of the battalion that took El-Lyd is described as “courageous,” and possessing “an ability to withstand the pressures of battle.” Dayan is described as endowed with a “determination to complete the mission,” “professionalism,” and “leadership.” In this piece, the massacre of El-Lyd is described as “a difficult battle,” in which the leadership skills of the battalion commander, Dayan saved the day and led to victory. The article was written by Brigadier General Shay Kelper while he was still a Lt. Colonel and a battalion commander himself. His article received an award from the IDF Chief of Staff. The fight to end the apartheid regime in Palestine takes place in every arena, in every field and on every continent. Israel and its allies are determined to hold their ground because they know that for them this is a fight for their lives. People who care for justice and for the lives of Palestinians need to remember that every day that goes by while Israel is permitted to continue its crimes against humanity is another day of death to Palestinians. Feature photo | The minaret of the Al-Omari mosque and St. George Greek Orthodox church are reflected in the broken windshield of a vehicle in Lyd. Miko Peled is MintPress News contributing writer, published author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. His latest books areThe Generals Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine, and Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five. The post The Paradoxical Seeds of The Holocaust: Oppression and Death Live On in the Apartheid State appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Daily Digest, Foreign Affairs, Insights, apartheid, holocaust, Israel, Lyd, Miko Peled]

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[l] at 6/22/22 10:07am
  The MintPress podcast “The Watchdog,” hosted by British-Iraqi hip hop artist Lowkey, closely examines organizations about which it is in the public interest to know – including intelligence, lobby, and special interest groups influencing policies that infringe on free speech and target dissent. The Watchdog goes against the grain by casting a light on stories largely ignored by the mainstream, corporate media. The Israel-Palestine conflict is not just being fought in the streets of Hebron or Gaza; it is also being fought in the classrooms of America. Leading this struggle for the Israeli side is a group called the Institute for Curriculum Services (ICS). Jerusalem-based journalist Jessica Buxbaum has been investigating the ICS and scrutinizing their role in shifting the public debate in the U.S. Jessica joins Lowkey to discuss her recent MintPress News investigation, “Institute for Curriculum Services: How an Israel Lobby Group Infiltrated US Education. In recent years, progressive activism has forced the United States to begin to deal with the reality of its racist part. These anti-racist movements have attempted to correct what they see as a whitewashing of racist violence from history textbooks. The ICS has attempted to position itself in this post-Black Lives Matter milieu, claiming that their organization exists to give a more accurate picture of Jewish history in textbooks and clear up lingering misconceptions and stereotypes. “But really,” Buxbaum told Lowkey today, “they are just a front for the Israeli lobby.” Jessica Buxbaum is an investigative journalist specializing in Middle Eastern politics and current affairs. Aside from MintPress News, her work can also be found in Middle East Eye, The New Arab, and Gulf News. Buxbaum sent Freedom of Information requests to the education boards of all 50 states and found that the ICS was involved in a pressure campaign to monitor and change the wording and framing of school textbooks across the country in order to present a one-sided, pro-Israel narrative to children. Examples included requests to delete all references to “Palestine,” “Palestinian territories,” or the “West Bank”; removing information about Palestinian culture and heritage; and even demands to amend maps, so that areas such as East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights appear not as illegally annexed but as territorially part of Israel. “A lot of it is about erasing Palestine, anything that references the natives of Palestine, Palestinians as an indigenous people, that Palestinians have inhabited the land for thousands of years. All those things, they want to have deleted,” Buxbaum told Lowkey. Another key prong in the ICS attack on the truth is to present Palestinian leadership as violent and the Israeli state as a noble, peace-loving democracy. The word “settlers,” the ICS requested, should be replaced by “communities.” “Wall” with “security fence,” “militant” with “terrorist,” and so on. References to Israel capturing the West Bank in 1967 should be removed and depictions of Palestinian President Yasser Arafat should include that he “direct[ed] countless terrorist attacks against Israelis.” It should also, the ICS suggests, be made clear that Israel is the “only democracy in the Middle East.” The ICS has hosted dozens of training seminars with thousands of schoolteachers across the United States, presenting the issue in a framework conducive to the outlook of the Israeli government. The organization has also recommended that American students be discouraged from finding their own sources of information on the internet, and instead be instructed to use resources from the Anti-Defamation League or the Jewish Virtual Library. However, attempts to propagandize children with a pro-Israeli government narrative are not limited to the United States. Lowkey also shares his research into how a similar phenomenon is happening in the United Kingdom. Lowkey is a British-Iraqi hip-hop artist, academic and political campaigner. As a musician, he has collaborated with the Arctic Monkeys, Wretch 32, Immortal Technique and Akala. He is a patron of Stop The War Coalition, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the Racial Justice Network and The Peace and Justice Project, founded by Jeremy Corbyn. He has spoken and performed on platforms from the Oxford Union to the Royal Albert Hall and Glastonbury. His latest album, Soundtrack To The Struggle 2, featured Noam Chomsky and Frankie Boyle and has been streamed millions of times. The post Institute For Curriculum Studies: The “Educational” Dep’t of the Israel Lobby, With Jessica Buxbaum appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: National, Podcasts, Top Story, Department of Education, Institute For Curriculum Studies, Israel Lobby, Jessica Buxbaum, Lowkey]

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[l] at 6/22/22 9:50am
ATLANTA — Presenting itself as empowering the Black community, a new political action committee (PAC) with corporate and pro-Israel ties hopes to spend millions to defeat progressives. In announcing its launch late last month, the Urban Empowerment Action (UEA) PAC endorsed five Black Democrats with Israel-lobby-friendly positions: Georgia Rep. Nikema Williams, California state Sen. Sydney Kamlager, Florida state Sen. Randolph Bracy, Nykea Pippion-McGriff in Illinois, and Janice Winfrey in Michigan. The Super PAC’s key race is against Democratic Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib. The group said it aims to spend $1 million in advertising to bolster her opponent, Winfrey, emphasizing Winfrey’s campaign to “support the Biden-Harris agenda.” “Outside Super PAC ads do not win elections; direct voter contact does,” Denzel McCampbell, a spokesperson for Tlaib’s reelection campaign, told Politico, adding: “If our opponent truly does care about our democracy, I hope that she will immediately disavow and condemn this type of Big Money attack on our democracy that only seeks to mislead voters and distort reality.” Tlaib has been a fervent critic of President Joe Biden. She voted “no” on his infrastructure bill and has lambasted Biden for his lack of climate protection legislation. She has also spoken out against Israel’s occupation of Palestine. The only Palestinian-American in Congress, Tlaib has denounced Israel’s possible inclusion in the United States’ Visa Waiver Program and recently introduced legislation recognizing the Nakba – meaning “catastrophe” in Arabic – and referencing the Zionist ethnic cleansing of Palestine before and during Israel’s establishment. “With Islamophobia on the rise, it is disgraceful to single out the only Palestinian member of Congress, who is a civil rights lawyer and represents one of the most Arab-American districts,” Waleed Shahid, the spokesperson for Justice Democrats, a PAC focused on electing progressive Democrats, said in a tweet. In an interview with Politico, television pundit and former Democratic politician Bakari Sellers, who has endorsed and is fundraising for the UEA PAC, said Tlaib’s comments on Israel are not the PAC’s “primary focus” but “[i]t’s definitely high up on the list.” Sellers did not respond to MintPress News’ request for an interview. Tlaib has called out Israel as “an apartheid regime” multiple times — on the House floor and on social media.   UEA’s political agenda Tlaib responded to the PAC’s exorbitant spending on Twitter, noting its strong Wall Street backing. “Yet another Wall Street billionaire-funded Super PAC running interference in local races, spending millions to peddle lies and distortions, pushing a pro-corporate agenda on a district that has consistently stood against the corporate greed hurting our families,” she said in a tweet. UEA PAC says its “supporters include a broad coalition of Black and Jewish business, political and civic leaders” and its mission is to “ultimately help eliminate the wealth, income and opportunity gap between Black and white Americans by electing solutions-oriented leaders to Congress.” But the group’s disclosed donor list appears contradictory to its objectives. UEA PAC has raised a little over $152,000, with the highest amount — $76,355.60 — coming from New York-based hedge fund Third Point LLC, which was founded by multi-billionaire investor Daniel S. Loeb, who regularly conducts business in Israel. The PAC has also received $15,000 from a Google executive and a Google attorney. Striving for a Better New York – a PAC established by Rev. Alfred Cockfield II, whose goal is to elect moderate candidates in state elections – gave UEA PAC $10,000. Striving for a Better New York’s filings reveal significant backing from Republicans, business owners, and supporters of Donald Trump. UEA PAC did not respond to requests for an interview. According to campaign data tracker OpenSecrets, the PAC’s main contributor, Loeb, has donated to mostly Republican candidates and committees, including Republican Congress members Mike Garcia, Kevin McCarthy and Burgess Owens, all of whom voted to overturn the 2020 election results. Loeb, who is Jewish, has also given $125,000 to the pro-Israel PAC Democratic Majority for Israel (DMFI), and backed the New York Solidarity Network, a political action group supporting pro-Israel candidates in state and local elections. His foundation has made grants to several pro-Israel groups, including the Anti-Defamation League, Birthright Israel Foundation, Passages America Israel, Friends of Israel Defense Forces, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and Friends of Ir David, which supports the Israeli settler organization Elad. Sellers, as well, is deeply allied with the Israel lobby. He has attended several conferences hosted by the lobby’s flagship group, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), and was friends with late American billionaire Sheldon Adelson, who was known for his pro-Israel donations. He also describes himself as a Zionist. During his work as a state representative, Sellers was integral in passing the so-called Standing with Israel resolution in South Carolina in 2011. The legislation certifies the Zionist claim that the land of Palestine was “God-given” to the Jewish people and “recogniz[es] that Israel is neither an attacking force nor an occupier of the lands of others.”   Stifling support for Palestine? UEA PAC’s launch statement doesn’t mention Israel but media analysts have postulated that the group is another Israel lobby affiliate set on squashing support for Palestinian rights among the Black community. UEA PAC’s endorsed candidates hold positions aligned with those of Israel’s advocates. As an example, in a position paper sent to the Jewish Insider, Winfrey outlined her support for Israel, writing, “America’s support to Israel should be unwavering.” Winfrey advocates for the U.S. to continue providing military aid to Israel and condemns the United Nations, International Criminal Court and the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions movement as terrorist organizations, writing: [T]heir efforts are intended to weaken and delegitimize the Jewish State. The United States has an obligation to continue to cut off funding and support for these terrorist organizations and ensure that the world continues to recognize them as terrorist organizations. Other candidates share similar views. Williams traveled to Israel in 2018 on an AIPAC-affiliated tour. Sen. Kamlager told Jewish Insider that she would vote to continue funding Israel’s Iron Dome missile-defense system and that she rejects the BDS movement. And Sen. Bracy received an endorsement from pro-Israel PAC DMFI in January. Bracy thanked the organization on Twitter, writing: “The U.S.-Israel relationship is more important than ever. I look forward to going to Congress to work to strengthen the partnership between the U.S. and Israel.” Solidarity between Palestinians and Black Americans has a long history that has waxed and waned over the decades. The Black community first championed Zionism and the creation of the Israeli state, seeing these events as an oppressed minority finally acquiring self-determination after near extermination. American Jewish involvement in the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s deepend Black Americans’ validation of Zionism. This changed, however, after Israel occupied East Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza in 1967. With this development, many Black activists empathized with Palestinians. This grassroots solidarity softened by the 1980s, as the revolutionary spirit of the previous decade dwindled. Today, there’s a renewed sense of solidarity between the two peoples with the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement. This reenergized connection between Black and Palestinian liberation could be what groups like UEA PAC are intent on suppressing.   The Israel lobby in this year’s midterms Israel has always been a key talking point in American elections — sometimes without even uttering the state’s name. The upcoming congressional midterm elections stand as an example of this campaign tactic, with AIPAC’s new super-PAC, the United Democracy Project, spending millions on attack ads without referencing Israel. As with the UEA PAC, Israel isn’t, as Sellers said, “the primary focus.” Front-facing, Israel is wiped from the campaign trail because — as previously reported by MintPress News — it just isn’t popular. Israel lobby experts surmise human rights organizations’ recent labeling of Israel as an apartheid state has made it even less favorable in the limelight. So with this criticism of Israel increasing in the Democratic Party, the Israel lobby is finding new ways to stay relevant. With the emergence of pro-Israel PACs like DMFI, AIPAC’s entities, and now UEA, Israel nationalists in the U.S. are countering the pushback simply by pumping money into elections. Only November will reveal whether Wall Street-bankrolled campaigns are enough to change public opinion. Feature photo | MintPress News | Associated Press Jessica Buxbaum is a Jerusalem-based journalist for MintPress News covering Palestine, Israel, and Syria. Her work has been featured in Middle East Eye, The New Arab and Gulf News. The post Meet UEA PAC, the New Wall-Street Backed SuperPac Funding Pro-Israel Black Democrats appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Inside Stories, National, Top Story, Israel, rashida tlaib, SuperPac, UEA PAC, Urban Empowerment Action]

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[l] at 6/21/22 7:46am
LONDON – Events of the past few days suggest British journalism – the so-called Fourth Estate – is not what it purports to be: a watchdog monitoring the centers of state power. It is quite the opposite. The pretensions of the establishment media took a severe battering this month as the defamation trial of Guardian columnist Carole Cadwalladr reached its conclusion and the hacked emails of Paul Mason, a long-time stalwart of the BBC, Channel 4 and the Guardian, were published online. Both of these celebrated journalists have found themselves outed as recruits – in their differing ways – to a covert information war being waged by Western intelligence agencies. Had they been honest about it, that collusion might not matter so much. After all, few journalists are as neutral or as dispassionate as the profession likes to pretend. But as have many of their colleagues, Cadwalladr and Mason have broken what should be a core principle of journalism: transparency. The role of serious journalists is to bring matters of import into the public space for debate and scrutiny. Journalists thinking critically aspire to hold those who wield power – primarily state agencies – to account on the principle that, without scrutiny, power quickly corrupts. The purpose of real journalism – as opposed to the gossip, entertainment and national-security stenography that usually passes for journalism – is to hit up, not down. And yet, each of these journalists, we now know, was actively colluding, or seeking to collude, with state actors who prefer to operate in the shadows, out of sight. Both journalists were coopted to advance the aims of the intelligence services. And worse, each of them either sought to become a conduit for, or actively assist in, covert smear campaigns run by Western intelligence services against other journalists. What they were doing – along with so many other establishment journalists – is the very antithesis of journalism. They were helping to conceal the operation of power to make it harder to scrutinize. And not only that. In the process, they were trying to weaken already marginalized journalists fighting to hold state power to account.   Russian collusion? Cadwalladr’s cooperation with the intelligence services has been highlighted only because of a court case. She was sued for defamation by Arron Banks, a businessman and major donor to the successful Brexit campaign for Britain to leave the European Union. In a kind of transatlantic extension of the Russiagate hysteria in the United States following Donald Trump’s election as president in 2016, Cadwalladr accused Banks of lying about his ties to the Russian state. According to the court, she also suggested he broke election funding laws by receiving Russian money in the run-up to the Brexit vote, also in 2016. That year serves as a kind of ground zero for liberals fearful about the future of “Western democracy” – supposedly under threat from modern “barbarians at the gate,” such as Russia and China – and the ability of Western states to defend their primacy through neo-colonial wars of aggression around the globe. The implication is Russia masterminded a double subversion in 2016: on one side of the Atlantic, Trump was elected U.S. president; and, on the other, Britons were gulled into shooting themselves in the foot – and undermining Europe – by voting to leave the EU. Faced with the court case, Cadwalladr could not support her allegations against Banks as true. Nonetheless, the judge ruled against Banks’ libel action – on the basis that the claims had not sufficiently harmed his reputation. The judge also decided, perversely in a British defamation action, that Cadwalladr had “reasonable grounds” to publish claims that Banks received “sweetheart deals” from Russia, even though “she had seen no evidence he had entered into any such deals.” An investigation by the National Crime Agency ultimately found no evidence either. So given those circumstances, what was the basis for her accusations against Banks? Cadwalladr’s journalistic modus operandi, in her long-running efforts to suggest widespread Russian meddling in British politics, is highlighted in her witness statement to the court. In it, she refers to another of her Russiagate-style stories: one from 2017 that tried to connect the Kremlin with Nigel Farage, a former pro-Brexit politician with the UKIP Party and close associate of Banks, and WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has been a political prisoner in the U.K. for more than a decade. At that time, Assange was confined to a single room in the Ecuadorian Embassy after its government offered him political asylum. He had sought sanctuary there, fearing he would be extradited to the U.S. following publication by WikiLeaks of revelations that the U.S. and U.K. had committed war crimes in Iraq and Afghanistan. WikiLeaks had also deeply embarrassed the CIA by following up with the publication of leaked documents, known as Vault 7, exposing the agency’s own crimes. Last week the U.K.’s Home Secretary, Priti Patel, approved the very extradition to the U.S. that Assange feared and that drove him into the Ecuadorian embassy. Once in the U.S., he faces up to 175 years in complete isolation in a supermax jail.   Assassination plot We now know, courtesy of a Yahoo News investigation, that through 2017 the CIA hatched various schemes to either assassinate Assange or kidnap him in one of its illegal “extraordinary rendition” operations, so he could be permanently locked up in the U.S., out of public view. We can surmise that the CIA also believed it needed to prepare the ground for such a rogue operation by bringing the public on board. According to Yahoo’s investigation, the CIA believed Assange’s seizure might require a gun battle on the streets of London. It was at this point, it seems, that Cadwalladr and the Guardian were encouraged to add their own weight to the cause of further turning public opinion against Assange. According to her witness statement, “a confidential source in [the] U.S.” suggested – at the very time the CIA was mulling over these various plots – that she write about a supposed visit by Farage to Assange in the embassy. The story ran in the Guardian under the headline “When Nigel Farage met Julian Assange.” In the article, Cadwalladr offers a strong hint as to who had been treating her as a confidant: the one source mentioned in the piece is “a highly placed contact with links to U.S. intelligence.” In other words, the CIA almost certainly fed her the agency’s angle on the story. In the piece, Cadwalladr threads together her and the CIA’s claims of “a political alignment between WikiLeaks’ ideology, UKIP’s ideology and Trump’s ideology.” Behind the scenes, she suggests, was the hidden hand of the Kremlin, guiding them all in a malign plot to fatally undermine British democracy. She quotes her “highly placed contact” claiming that Farage and Assange’s alleged face-to-face meeting was necessary to pass information of their nefarious plot “in ways and places that cannot be monitored.” Except of course, as her “highly placed contact” knew – and as we now know, thanks to exposes by the Grayzone website – that was a lie. In tandem with its plot to kill or kidnap Assange, the CIA illegally installed cameras inside, as well as outside, the embassy. His every move in the embassy was monitored – even in the toilet block. The reality was that the CIA was bugging and videoing Assange’s every conversation in the embassy, even the face-to-face ones. If the CIA actually had a recording of Assange and Farage meeting and discussing a Kremlin-inspired plot, it would have found a way to make it public by now. Far more plausible is what Farage and WikiLeaks say: that such a meeting never happened. Farage visited the embassy to try to interview Assange for his LBC radio show but was denied access. That can be easily confirmed because by then the Ecuadorian embassy was allying with the U.S. and refusing Assange any contact with visitors apart from his lawyers. Nonetheless, Cadwalladr concludes: “In the perfect storm of fake news, disinformation and social media in which we now live, WikiLeaks is, in many ways, the swirling vortex at the centre of everything.”   ‘Swirling vortex’ The Farage-Assange meeting story shows how the CIA and Cadwalladr’s agendas perfectly coincided in their very own “swirling vortex” of fake news and disinformation. She wanted to tie the Brexit campaign to Russia and suggest that anyone who wished to challenge the liberal pieties that provide cover for the crimes committed by Western states must necessarily belong to a network of conspirators, on the left and the right, masterminded from Moscow. The CIA and other Western intelligence agencies, meanwhile, wanted to deepen the public’s impression that Assange was a Kremlin agent – and that WikiLeaks’ exposure of the crimes committed by those same agencies was not in the public interest but actually an assault on Western democracy. Assange’s character assassination had already been largely achieved with the American public in the Russiagate campaign in the U.S. The intelligence services, along with the Democratic Party leadership, had crafted a narrative designed to obscure WikiLeaks’ revelations of election-fixing by Hillary Clinton’s camp in 2016 to prevent Bernie Sanders from winning the party’s presidential nomination. Instead they refocused the public’s attention on evidence-free claims that Russia had “hacked” the emails. For Cadwalladr and the CIA, the fake-news story of Farage meeting Assange could be spun as further proof that both the “far left” and “far right” were colluding with Russia. Their message was clear: only centrists – and the national security state – could be trusted to defend democracy.   Fabricated story Cadwalladr’s smear of Assange is entirely of a piece with the vilification campaign of WikiLeaks led by liberal media outlets to which she belongs. Her paper, the Guardian, has had Assange in its sights since its falling out with him over their joint publication of the Iraq and Afghanistan war logs in 2010. A year after Cadwalladr’s smear piece, the Guardian would continue its cooperation with the intelligence services’ demonization of Assange by running an equally fabricated story – this time about a senior aide of Trump’s, Paul Manafort, and various unidentified “Russians” secretly meeting Assange in the embassy. The story was so improbable it was ridiculed even at the time of publication. Again, the CIA’s illegal spying operation inside and outside the embassy meant there was no way Manafort or any “Russians” could have secretly visited Assange without those meetings being recorded. Nonetheless, the Guardian has never retracted the smear. One of the authors of the article, Luke Harding, has been at the forefront of both the Guardian’s Russiagate claims and its efforts to defame Assange. In doing so, he appears to have relied heavily on Western intelligence services for his stories and has proven incapable of defending them when challenged. Harding, like the Guardian, has an added investment in discrediting Assange. He and a Guardian colleague, David Leigh, published a Guardian-imprint book that included a secret password to a WikiLeaks’ cache of leaked documents, thereby providing security services around the world with access to the material. The CIA’s claim that the release of those documents endangered its informants – a claim that even U.S. officials have been forced to concede is not true – has been laid at Assange’s door to vilify him and justify his imprisonment. But if anyone is to blame, it is not Assange but Harding, Leigh and the Guardian.   Effort to deplatform The case of Paul Mason, who worked for many years as a senior BBC journalist, is even more revealing. Emails passed to the Grayzone website show the veteran, self-described “left-wing” journalist secretly conspiring with figures aligned with British intelligence services to build a network of journalists and academics to smear and censor independent media outlets that challenge the narratives of the Western intelligence agencies. Mason’s concerns about left-wing influence on public opinion have intensified the more he has faced criticism from the left over his demands for fervent, uncritical support of NATO and as he has lobbied for greater Western interference in Ukraine. Both are aims he shares with Western intelligence services. Along with the establishment media, Mason has called for sending advanced weaponry to Kyiv, likely to raise the death toll on both sides of the war and risk a nuclear confrontation between the West and Russia. In the published emails, Mason suggests the harming and “relentless deplatforming” of independent investigative media sites – such as the Grayzone, Consortium News and Mint Press – that host non-establishment journalists. He and his correspondents also debate whether to include Declassified UK and OpenDemocracy. One of his co-conspirators suggests a “full nuclear legal to squeeze them financially.” Mason himself proposes starving these websites of income by secretly pressuring Paypal to stop readers from being able to make donations to support their work. It should be noted that, in the wake of Mason’s correspondence,  PayPal did indeed launch just such a crackdown, including against Consortium News and MintPress, after earlier targeting WikiLeaks. Mason’s email correspondents include two figures intimately tied to British intelligence: Amil Khan is described by the Grayzone as “a shadowy intelligence contractor” with ties to the U.K.’s National Security Council. He founded Valent Projects, establishing his credentials in a dirty propaganda war in support of head-chopping jihadist groups trying to bring down the Russian-supported Syrian government.   Clandestine ‘clusters’ The other intelligence operative is someone Mason refers to as a “friend”: Andy Pryce, the head of the Foreign Office’s shadowy Counter Disinformation and Media Development (CDMD) unit, founded in 2016 to “counter-strike against Russian propaganda.” Mason and Pryce spend much of their correspondence discussing when to meet up in London pubs for a drink, according to the Grayzone. The Foreign Office managed to keep the CDMD unit’s existence secret for two years. The U.K. government has refused to disclose basic information about the CDMD on grounds of national security, although it is now known that it is overseen by the National Security Council. The CDMD’s existence came to light because of leaks about another covert information warfare operation, the Integrity Initiative. Notably, the Integrity Initiative was run on the basis of clandestine “clusters,” in North America and Europe, of journalists, academics, politicians and security officials advancing narratives shared with Western intelligence agencies to discredit Russia, China, Julian Assange, and Jeremy Corbyn, the former, left-wing leader of the Labor Party. Cadwalladr was named in the British cluster, along with other prominent journalists: David Aaronovitch and Dominic Kennedy of the Times; the Guardian’s Natalie Nougayrede and Paul Canning; Jonathan Marcus of the BBC; the Financial Times’ Neil Buckley; the Economist’s Edward Lucas; and Sky News’ Deborah Haynes. In his emails, Mason appears to want to renew this type of work but to direct its energies more specifically at damaging independent, dissident media – with his number one target the Grayzone, which played a critical role in exposing the Integrity Initiative. Mason’s “friend” – the CDMD’s head, Andy Pryce – “featured prominently” in documents relating to the Integrity Initiative, the Grayzone observes. This background is not lost on Mason. He notes in his correspondence the danger that his plot to “deplatform” independent media could “end up with the same problem as Statecraft” – a reference to the Institute of Statecraft, the Integrity Initiative’s parent charity, which the Grayzone and others exposed. He cautions: “The opposition are not stupid, they can spot an info op – so the more this is designed to be organic the better.” Pryce and Mason discuss creating an astroturf civil-society organization that would lead their “information war” as part of an operation they brand the “International Information Brigade”. Mason suggests the suspension of the libel laws for what he calls “foreign agents” – presumably meaning that the Information Brigade would be able to defame independent journalists as Russian agents, echoing the establishment media’s treatment of Assange, without fear of legal action that would show these were evidence-free smears.   ‘Putin infosphere’ Another correspondent, Emma Briant, an academic who claims to specialize in Russian disinformation, offers an insight into how she defines the presumed enemy within: those “close to WikiLeaks,” anyone “trolling Carole [Cadwalladr],” and outlets “discouraging people from reading the Guardian.” Mason himself produces an eye-popping, self-drawn, spider’s web chart of the supposedly “pro-Putin infosphere” in the U.K., embracing much of the left, including Corbyn, the Stop the War movement, as well as the Black and Muslim communities. Several media sites are mentioned, including Mint Press and Novara Media, an independent British website sympathetic to Corbyn. Khan and Mason consider how they can help trigger a British government investigation of independent outlets so that they can be labeled as “Russian-state affiliated media” to further remove them from visibility on social media. Mason states that the goal is to prevent the emergence of a “left anti-imperialist identity,” which, he fears, “will be attractive because liberalism doesn’t know how to counter it” – a telling admission that he believes genuine left-wing critiques of Western foreign policy cannot be dealt with through public refutation but only through secret disinformation campaigns. He urges efforts to crack down not only on independent media and “rogue” academics but on left-wing political activism. He identifies as a particular threat Corbyn, who was earlier harmed through a series of disinformation campaigns, including entirely evidence-free claims that the Labour Party during his tenure became a hotbed of antisemitism. Mason fears Corbyn might set up a new, independent left-wing party. It is important, Mason notes, to “quarantine” and “stigmatize” any such ideology. In short, rather than use journalism to win the argument and the battle for public opinion, Mason wishes to use the dark arts of the security state to damage independent media, as well as dissident academics and left-wing political activism. He wants no influences on the public that are not tightly aligned with the core foreign policy goals of the national security state. Mason’s correspondence hints at the reality behind Cadwalladr’s claim that Assange was the “swirling vortex at the centre of everything.” Assange symbolizes that “swirling vortex” to intelligence-aligned establishment journalists only because WikiLeaks has published plenty of insider information that exposes Western claims to global moral leadership as a complete charade – and the journalists who amplify those claims as utter charlatans. In part two, we will examine why journalists like Mason and Cadwalladr prosper in the establishment media; the long history of collusion between Western intelligence agencies and the establishment media; and how that mutually beneficial collusion is becoming ever more important to each of them. Feature photo | Graphic by MintPress News Jonathan Cook is a MintPress contributor. Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East (Pluto Press) and Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair (Zed Books). His website is www.jonathan-cook.net. The post British “Watchdog” Journalists Unmasked as Lap Dogs for the Security State appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Foreign Affairs, Insights, Top Story, Britain, Carol Cadwalladr, emails, intelligence services, Julian Assange, Libel, Paul Mason]

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[l] at 6/21/22 7:11am
LOS ANGELES – Earlier this month, there were two summits in Los Angeles: the Summit of the Americas, hosted by the U.S. State Department; and the Peoples Summit hosted by U.S. and international activist organizations. The two summits were held in the same city at the same time but could not otherwise be more different.   Summit of Some of the Americas Begun in 1994, in the heyday of U.S. international dominance, the Summit of the Americas is officially a function of the Organization of American States. It is meant to coordinate and consolidate U.S. economic, political and cultural interests. The first summit, held in Miami, served this goal well. The Soviet Union had broken up, severely hurting allies such as Cuba. Neoliberalism was on the march, even in countries such as Nicaragua, where the Sandinistas had been voted out of power. The U.S. had recently invaded Panama, making a murderous example of any country or leader that defied U.S. dictates. Since 1994, there have been Summits of the Americas every three or four years. The summits in Canada (2001) and Argentina (2005) featured large protests against capitalist globalization. In Panama in 2015, Cuba was invited to the summit for the first time after a group of countries threatened a boycott if Cuba were again excluded. President Barack Obama met and shook hands with Cuban President Raul Castro. There was widespread agreement and pleasure at the U.S. beginning to normalize relations with Cuba. In 2018, the U.S. hostility to Cuba resumed under President Donald Trump. The White House administration referred to Cuba, Nicaragua, and Venezuela as a “troika of tyranny.” The policy of exclusion continues under the Biden administration, and this became a major feature of the just-concluded Summit of the Americas. Despite threats to boycott the gathering by many Latin American and Caribbean presidents, the U.S. chose to exclude Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela. This resulted in seven countries’ presidents choosing not to attend: Mexico, Bolivia, Honduras, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Antigua, Guatemala, and El Salvador. Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) said simply: “There cannot be a summit of the Americas if all the countries of the American continent do not participate. Or there can be, but …. it is just a continuation of the old policy of interventionism or disrespect of nations and their peoples.” As it turned out, the absence of the three excluded and seven allied leaders became a predominant feature of the meeting. The ghost of the ten hung over all events. The summit accomplished little, with the lack of preparation being compared to a “privileged but lazy student” who does not study for a test. The Atlantic analyzed the situation: “The Summit of the Americas, hosted this year by Joe Biden, offers a measure of how far the U.S. has fallen.” The attendance was small and resolutions were filled with platitudes with little substance. Criticisms of the U.S.’ exclusion of countries were openly aired. The New York Times described the summit by quoting a former Mexican ambassador, who said many countries are “challenging U.S. influence because U.S. influence has been diminishing in the continent.” At the Summit of the Americas, Secretary of State Antony Blinken and OAS leader Luis Almagro spoke at a panel about journalistic freedom.” Journalist Walter Smolarek exposed the farce as he boldly confronted Almagro because of his complicity in the 2019 Bolivian coup and more. There was a plea from many countries to get beyond conflict and the Cold War, to genuinely work together to address the looming and already dangerous results of climate change. The summit was also expensive; Los Angeles police security alone cost over $15 million.   Peoples Summit 2022 Two miles away from the Summit of the Americas, the People’s Summit was held at the Los Angeles Technical Trade College. The Peoples Summit included an art and poster pavilion, a huge hall for panel discussions and speeches, and an outdoor pavilion featuring dozens of activist organizations and craftspeople. There was live music and dancing later at night. Over a thousand people attended and spirits were high. The complex affair was organized by at least 10 convening organizations. These included the Answer Coalition, International People’s Assembly, CodePink, and unions SEIU 721 and AFT 1521. There were over a hundred individuals providing support and organization for the event. Many activists flew or drove to Los Angeles from across the U.S. In contrast with the Summit of the Americas, the People’s Summit operated on a shoestring budget and relied on the work of volunteers. A wide array of domestic and international issues were addressed at the People’s Summit. They included health as a human right, gender violence, food sovereignty and climate justice, cultural resistance, youth organizing strategies, justice for the Temporary Protected Status and undocumented communities, lessons from below, organizing unhoused communities, and many more. In 2020, Los Angeles counted over 66,000 homeless people in the city. The latest survey, from January this year, is going to be released on June 22. These and other issues were explored by activists at the Peoples Summit. A major component of the Peoples Summit was international affairs and the connection to struggles at home. While the U.S. spends well over $800 billion annually on the military, there are virtually no homes being built by the U.S. government. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development offers rental assistance and advice. In contrast, Venezuela has constructed 4 million homes for Venezuelan families. U.S. censorship and attacks on media critics were further revealed at the People’s Summit, where Julian Assange’s father and brother talked about the world’s most famous imprisoned journalist and publisher. The WikiLeaks founder has been imprisoned for 10 years, including over three years at Belmarsh maximum-security prison. He is now threatened with extradition to the U.S., a kangaroo court, and life imprisonment. His only “crime” has been to reveal the real crimes of the U.S. military and government. There was an outstanding lineup of speakers each of the three days of the Peoples Summit. These included local activists and indigenous leaders, as well as noted international leaders such as Honduran Bertha Zuniga Caceres and Puerto Rican Oscar Lopez Rivera. The presidents of Cuba and Venezuela, along with Evo Morales, the former president of Bolivia, sent eloquent messages of support to the Peoples Summit. On Friday, June 10 there was a mass march and rally from the People’s Summit at the community college to the street in front of the Summit of the Americas. The streets of downtown Los Angeles echoed with calls, chats and songs as the march proceeded.   Conclusions There is growing criticism of U.S. presumptions of supremacy and U.S. foreign policy promoting division and conflict. This was expressed by leaders who stayed away from the Summit of Americas and also by many leaders who attended. The Prime Minister of Barbados, Mia Amor Mottley, said frankly:  It’s wrong that Cuba and Venezuela and Nicaragua are not here, because as you heard from [the] Bahamas, we need to speak with those with whom we disagree… There’s too much narrow-casting instead of broadcasting. There’s too much talking at, instead of talking with… And the simple priority must be people, not ideology. U.S. exceptionalism and the exclusion of countries is increasingly being challenged. This matches the global criticisms of U.S. unilateral sanctions. At the last UN General Assembly, the vote was 184-2 in denouncing the U.S. embargo on Cuba. Seventy percent of world nations believe U.S. sanctions violate international law. The Summit of the Americas showed the U.S. attempting and failing to impose its will on the hemisphere. The People’s Summit showed a different vision that is in accord with the wishes of most countries and people. Feature photo | Peoples Summit 2022 via Twitter Rick Sterling is an independent journalist based in the SF Bay Area. He can be reached at rsterling1@gmail.com The post The People’s Summit: What the Summit of the Americas Might Have Been if America Was Not “Exceptional” appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Foreign Affairs, Insights, People's Summit, Rick Sterling, Summit of the Americas]

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[l] at 6/21/22 6:56am
SAN FRANCISCO – Twitter has been on a recruitment drive of late, hiring a host of former feds and spies. Studying a number of employment and recruitment websites, MintPress has ascertained that the social media giant has, in recent years, recruited dozens of individuals from the national security state to work in the fields of security, trust, safety and content. Chief amongst these is the Federal Bureau of Investigations. The FBI is generally known as a domestic security and intelligence force. However, it has recently expanded its remit into cyberspace. “The FBI’s investigative authority is the broadest of all federal law enforcement agencies,” the “About” section of its website informs readers. “The FBI has divided its investigations into a number of programs, such as domestic and international terrorism, foreign counterintelligence [and] cyber crime,” it adds. For example, in 2019, Dawn Burton (the former director of Washington operations for Lockheed Martin) was poached from her job as senior innovation advisor to the director at the FBI to become senior director of strategy and operations for legal, public policy, trust and safety at Twitter. The following year, Karen Walsh went straight from 21 years at the bureau to become director of corporate resilience at the silicon valley giant. Twitter’s deputy general counsel and vice president of legal, Jim Baker, also spent four years at the FBI between 2014 and 2018, where his resumé notes he rose to the role of senior strategic advisor. Meanwhile, Mark Jaroszewski ended his 21-year posting as a supervisory special agent in the Bay Area to take up a position at Twitter, rising to become director of corporate security and risk. And Douglas Turner spent 14 years as a senior special agent and SWAT Team leader before being recruited to serve in Twitter’s corporate and executive security services. Previously, Turner had also spent seven years as a secret service special agent with the Department of Homeland Security. When asked to comment by MintPress, former FBI agent and whistleblower Coleen Rowley said that she was “not surprised at all” to see FBI agents now working for the very tech companies the agency polices, stating that there now exists a “revolving door” between the FBI and the areas they are trying to regulate. This created a serious conflict of interests in her mind, as many agents have one eye on post-retirement jobs. “The truth is that at the FBI 50% of all the normal conversations that people had were about how you were going to make money after retirement,” she said. Many former FBI officials hold influential roles within Twitter. For instance, in 2020, Matthew W. left a 15-year career as an intelligence program manager at the FBI to take up the post of senior director of product trust at Twitter. Patrick G., a 23-year FBI supervisory special agent, is now head of corporate security. And Twitter’s director of insider risk and security investigations, Bruce A., was headhunted from his role as a supervisory special agent at the bureau. His resumé notes that at the FBI he held “[v]arious intelligence and law enforcement roles in the US, Africa, Europe, and the Middle East” and was a “human intelligence and counterintelligence regional specialist.” (On employment sites such as LinkedIn, many users choose not to reveal their full names.) Meanwhile, between 2007 and 2021 Jeff Carlton built up a distinguished career in the United States Marine Corps, rising to become a senior intelligence analyst. Between 2014 and 2017, his LinkedIn profile notes, he worked for both the CIA and FBI, authored dozens of official reports, some of which were read by President Barack Obama. Carlton describes his role as a “problem-solver” and claims to have worked in many “dynamic, high-pressure environments” such as Iraq and Korea. In May 2021, he left official service to become a senior program manager at Twitter, responsible for dealing with the company’s “highest-profile trust and safety escalations.” Other former FBI staff are employed by Twitter, such as Cherrelle Y. as a policy domain specialist and Laura D. as a senior analyst in global risk intelligence. Many of those listed above were active in the FBI’s public outreach programs, a practice sold as a community trust-building initiative. According to Rowley, however, these also function as “ways for officials to meet the important people that would give them jobs after retirement.” “It basically inserts a huge conflict of interest,” she told MintPress. “It warps and perverts the criminal investigative work that agents do when they are still working as agents because they anticipate getting lucrative jobs after retiring or leaving the FBI.” Rowley – who in 2002 was named, along with two other whistleblowers, as Time magazine’s Person of the Year – was skeptical that there was anything seriously nefarious about the hiring of so many FBI agents, suggesting that Twitter could be using them as sources of information and intelligence. She stated: Retired agents often maintained good relationships and networks with current agents. So they can call up their old buddy and find out stuff There were certainly instances of retired agents for example trying to find out if there was an investigation of so and so. And if you are working for a company, that company is going to like that influence. Rowley also suggested that hiring people from various three-letter agencies gave them a credibility boost. “These [tech] companies are using the mythical aura of the FBI. They can point to somebody and say ‘oh, you can trust us; our CEO or CFO is FBI,’” she explained. Twitter certainly has endorsed the FBI as a credible actor, allowing the organization to play a part in regulating the global dissemination of information on its platform. In September 2020, it put out a statement thanking the federal agency. “We wish to express our gratitude to the FBI’s Foreign Influence Task Force for their close collaboration and continued support of our work to protect the public conversation at this critical time,” the statement read. One month later, the company announced that the FBI was feeding it intelligence and that it was complying with their requests for deletion of accounts. “Based on intel provided by the FBI, last night we removed approximately 130 accounts that appeared to originate in Iran. They were attempting to disrupt the public conversation during the first 2020 U.S. Presidential Debate,” Twitter’s safety team wrote. Yet the evidence they supplied of this supposed threat to American democracy was notably weak. All four of the messages from this Iranian operation that Twitter itself shared showed that none of them garnered any likes or retweets whatsoever, meaning that essentially nobody saw them. This was, in other words, a completely routine cleanup operation of insignificant troll accounts. Yet the announcement allowed Twitter to present the FBI as on the side of democracy and place the idea into the public psyche that the election was under threat from foreign actors. Iran has been a favorite Twitter target in the past. In 2009, at the behest of the U.S. government, it postponed routine maintenance of the site, which would have required taking it offline. This was because an anti-government protest movement in Tehran was using the app to communicate and the U.S. did not want the demonstrations’ regime-change potential to be stymied.   A carnival of spooks The FBI is far from the only state security agency filling Twitter’s ranks. Shortly after leaving a 10-year career as a CIA analyst, Michael Scott Robinson was hired to become a senior policy manager for site integrity, trust and safety. The California-based app has also recruited heavily from the Atlantic Council, a NATO cutout organization that serves as the military alliance’s think tank. The council is sponsored by NATO, led by senior NATO generals and regularly plays out regime-change scenarios in enemy states, such as China. The Atlantic Council has been associated with many of the most egregious fake news plants of the last few years. It published a series of lurid reports alleging that virtually every political group in Europe challenging the status quo – from the Labour Party under Jeremy Corbyn and UKIP in Great Britain to PODEMOS and Vox in Spain and Syriza and Golden Dawn in Greece – were all secretly “the Kremlin’s Trojan Horses.” Atlantic Council employee Michael Weiss was also very likely the creator of the shadowy organization PropOrNot, a group that anonymously published a list of fake-news websites that regularly peddled Kremlin disinformation. Included in this list was virtually every anti-war alternative media outlet one could think of – from MintPress to Truthout, TruthDig and The Black Agenda Report. Also included were pro-Trump websites like The Drudge Report, and liberatarian ventures like Antiwar.com and The Ron Paul Institute. PropOrNot’s list was immediately heralded in the corporate press, and was the basis for a wholescale algorithm shift at Google and other big tech platforms, a shift that saw traffic to alternative media sites crash overnight, never to recover. Thus, the allegation of a huge (Russian) state-sponsored attempt to influence the media was itself an intelligence op by the U.S. national security state. In 2020, Kanishk Karan left his job as a research associate at the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensics Research (DFR) Lab to join Twitter as information integrity and safety specialist – essentially helping to control what Twitter sees as legitimate information and nefarious disinformation. Another DFR Lab graduate turned Twitter employee is Daniel Weimert, who is now a senior public policy associate for Russia – a key target of the Atlantic Council. Meanwhile, Sarah Oh is simultaneously an Atlantic Council DFR Lab non-resident senior fellow and a Twitter advisor, her social media bio noting she works on “high risk trust and safety issues.” In 2019, Twitter also hired Greg Andersen straight from NATO to work on cybercrime policy. There is sparse information on what Andersen did at NATO, but, alarmingly, his own LinkedIn profile stated simply that he worked on “psychological operations” for the military alliance. After MintPress highlighted this fact in an article in April, he removed all mention of “psychological operations” from his profile, claiming now to have merely worked as a NATO “researcher.” Andersen left Twitter in the summer of last year to work as a product policy manager for the popular video platform TikTok. Twitter also directly employs active army officers. In 2019, Gordon Macmillan, the head of editorial for the entire Europe, Middle East and Africa region was revealed to be an officer in the British Army’s notorious 77th Brigade – a unit dedicated to online warfare and psychological operations. This bombshell news was steadfastly ignored across the media.   Positions of power and control With nearly 400 million global users, there is no doubt that Twitter has grown to become a platform large and influential enough to necessitate extensive security measures, as actors of all stripes attempt to use the service to influence public opinion and political actions. There is also no doubt that there is a limited pool of people qualified in these sorts of fields. But recruiting largely from the U.S. national security state fundamentally undermines claims Twitter makes about its neutrality. The U.S. government is the source of some of the largest and most extensive influence operations in the world. As far back as 2011, The Guardian reported on the existence of a massive, worldwide U.S. military online influence campaign in which it had designed software that allowed its personnel to “secretly manipulate social media sites by using fake online personas to influence internet conversations and spread pro-American propaganda.” The program boasts that the background of these personas is so convincing that psychological operations soldiers can be sure to work “without fear of being discovered by sophisticated adversaries.” Yet Twitter appears to be recruiting from the source of the problem. These former national security state officials are not being employed in politically neutral departments such as sales or customer service, but in security, trust and content, meaning that some hold considerable sway over what messages and information are promoted, and what is suppressed, demoted or deleted. It could be said that poachers-turned-gamekeepers often play a crucial role in safety and protection, as they know how bad actors think and operate. But there exists little evidence that any of these national security state operatives have changed their stances. Twitter is not hiring whistleblowers or dissidents. It appears, then, that some of these people are essentially doing the same job they were doing before, but now in the private sector. And few are even acknowledging that there is anything wrong with moving from big government to big tech, as if the U.S. national security state and the fourth estate are allies, rather than adversaries. That Twitter is already working so closely with the FBI and other agencies makes it easy for them to recruit from the federal pool. As Rowley said, “over a period of time these people will be totally in sync with the mindset of Twitter and other social media platforms. So from the company’s standpoint, they are not hiring somebody new. They already know this person. They know where they stand on things.”   Is there a problem? Some might ask “What is the problem with Twitter actively recruiting from the FBI, CIA and other three-letter agencies?” They, after all, are experts in studying online disinformation and propaganda. One is optical. If a Russian-owned social media app’s trust, security and content moderation was run by former KGB or FSB agents and still insisted it was a politically neutral platform, the entire world would laugh. But apart from this, the huge influx of security state personnel into Twitter’s decision-making ranks means that the company will start to view every problem in the same manner as the U.S. government does – and act accordingly. “In terms of their outlooks on the world and on the question of misinformation and internet security, you couldn’t get a better field of professionals who are almost inherently going to be more in tune with the government’s perspective,” Rowley said. Thus, when policing the platform for disinformation and influence campaigns, the former FBI and CIA agents and Atlantic Council fellows only ever seem to find them emanating from enemy states and never from the U.S. government itself. This is because their backgrounds and outlooks condition them to consider Washington to be a unique force for good. This one-sided view of disinformation can be seen by studying the reports Twitter has published on state-linked information operations. The entire list of countries it has identified as engaging in these campaigns are as follows: Russia (in 7 reports), Iran (in 5 reports), China (4 reports), Saudi Arabia (4 reports), Venezuela (3 reports), Egypt (2 reports), Cuba, Serbia, Bangladesh, the UAE, Ecuador, Ghana, Nigeria, Honduras, Indonesia, Turkey, Thailand, Armenia, Spain, Tanzania, Mexico and Uganda. One cannot help noticing that this list correlates quite closely to a hit list of U.S. government adversaries. All countries carry out disinfo campaigns to a certain extent. But these “former” spooks and feds are unlikely to point the finger at their former colleagues or sister organizations or investigate their operations.   The Cold (cyber)war Twitter has mirrored U.S. hostility towards states like Russia, China, Iran and Cuba, attempting to suppress the reach and influence of their state media by adding warning messages to the tweets of journalists and accounts affiliated with those governments. “State-affiliated media is defined as outlets where the state exercises control over editorial content through financial resources, direct or indirect political pressures, and/or control over production and distribution,” it noted. In a rather bizarre addendum, it explained that it would not be doing the same to state-affiliated media or personalities from other countries, least of all the U.S. “State-financed media organizations with editorial independence, like the BBC in the U.K. or NPR in the U.S. for example, are not defined as state-affiliated media for the purposes of this policy,” it wrote. It did not explain how it decided that Cuban, Russian, Chinese or Iranian journalists did not have editorial independence, but British and American ones did – this was taken for granted. The effect of the action has been a throttling of ideas and narratives from enemy states and an amplification of those coming from Western state media. As the U.S. ramps up tensions with Beijing, so too has Twitter aggressively shut down pro-China voices on its platform. In 2020, it banned 170,000 accounts it said were “spreading geopolitical narratives favorable to the Communist Party of China,” such as praising its handling of the Covid-19 pandemic or expressing opposition to the Hong Kong protests, both of which are majority views in China. Importantly, the Silicon Valley company did not claim that these accounts were controlled by the government; merely sharing these opinions was grounds enough for deletion. The group behind Twitter’s decision to ban those Chinese accounts was the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI), a deeply controversial think tank funded by the Pentagon, the State Department and a host of weapons manufacturers. ASPI has constantly peddled conspiracy theories about China and called for ramping up tensions with the Asian nation. Perhaps most notable, however, was Twitter’s announcement last year that it was deleting dozens of accounts for the new violation of “undermining faith in the NATO alliance.” The statement was widely ridiculed online by users. But few noted that the decision was based upon a partnership with the Stanford Internet Observatory, a counter-disinformation think tank filled with former spooks and state officials and headed by an individual who is on the advisory board of NATO’s Collective Cybersecurity Center of Excellence. That Twitter is working so closely with organizations that are clearly intelligence industry catspaws should concern all users.   Not just Twitter While some might be alarmed that Twitter is cultivating such an intimate relationship with the FBI and other groups belonging to the secret state, it is perhaps unfair to single it out, as many social media platforms are doing the same. Facebook, for example, has entered into a formal partnership with the Atlantic Council’s Digital Forensics Research Lab, whereby the latter holds significant influence over 2.9 billion users’ news feeds, helping to decide what content to promote and what content to suppress. The NATO cutout organization now serves as Facebook’s “eyes and ears,” according to a Facebook press release. Anti-war and anti-establishment voices across the world have reported massive drops in traffic on the platform. The social media giant also hired former NATO Press Secretary Ben Nimmo to be its head of intelligence. Nimmo subsequently used his power to attempt to swing the election in Nicaragua away from the leftist Sandinista Party and towards the far-right, pro-U.S. candidate, deleting hundreds of left-wing voices in the week of the election, claiming they were engaging in “inauthentic behavior.” When these individuals (including some well-known personalities) poured onto Twitter, recording video messages proving they were not bots, Twitter deleted those accounts too, in what one commentator called a Silicon Valley “double tap strike.” An April MintPress study revealed how TikTok, too, has been filling its organization with alumni of the Atlantic Council, NATO, the CIA and the State Department. As with Twitter, these new TikTok employees largely work in highly politically sensitive fields such as trust, safety, security and content moderation, meaning these state operatives hold influence over the direction of the company and what content is promoted and what is demoted. Likewise, in 2017, content aggregation site Reddit plucked Jessica Ashooh from the Atlantic Council’s Middle East Strategy Task Force to become its new director of policy, despite the fact that she had few relevant qualifications or experience in the field. In corporate media too, we have seen a widespread infiltration of former security officials into the upper echelons of news organizations. So normalized is the penetration of the national security state into the media that is supposed to be holding it to account, that few reacted in 2015 when Dawn Scalici left her job as national intelligence manager for the Western hemisphere at the Director of National Intelligence to become the global business director of international news conglomerate Thomson Reuters. Scalici, a 33-year CIA veteran who had worked her way up to become a director in the organization, was open about what her role was. In a blog post on the Reuters website, she wrote that she was there to “meet the disparate needs of the U.S. Government” – a statement that is at odds with even the most basic journalistic concepts of impartiality and holding the powerful to account. Meanwhile, cable news outlets routinely employ a wide range of “former” agents and mandarins as trusted personalities and experts. These include former CIA Directors John Brennan (NBC, MSNBC) and Michael Hayden (CNN), ex-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper (CNN), and former Homeland Security Advisor Frances Townsend (CBS). And news for so many Americans comes delivered through ex-CIA interns like Anderson Cooper (CNN), CIA-applicants like Tucker Carlson (Fox), or by Mika Brzezinski (MSNBC), the daughter of a powerful national security advisor. The FBI has its own former agents on TV as well, with talking heads such as James Gagliano (Fox), Asha Rangappa (CNN) and Frank Figliuzzi (NBC, MSNBC) becoming household names. In short, then, the national security state once used to infiltrate the media. Today, however, the national security state is the media. Social media holds enormous influence in today’s society. While this article is not alleging that anyone mentioned is a bad actor or does not genuinely care about the spread of disinformation, it is highlighting a glaring conflict of interest. Through its agencies, the U.S. government regularly plants fake news and false information. Therefore, social media hiring individuals straight from the FBI, CIA, NATO and other groups to work on regulating disinformation is a fundamentally flawed practice. One of media’s primary functions is to serve as a fourth estate; a force that works to hold the government and its agencies to account. Yet instead of doing that, increasingly it is collaborating with them. Such are these increasing interlocking connections that it is becoming increasingly difficult to see where big government ends and big media begins. Feature photo | This July 9, 2019 file photo shows a sign outside of the Twitter office building in San Francisco. Jeff Chiu | AP Alan MacLeod is Senior Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent, as well as a number of academic articles. He has also contributed to FAIR.org, The Guardian, Salon, The Grayzone, Jacobin Magazine, and Common Dreams. The post The Federal Bureau of Tweets: Twitter Is Hiring an Alarming Number of FBI Agents appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Inside Stories, National, News, Top Story, disinformation, FBI, influence campaigns, misinformation, Twitter]

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[l] at 6/20/22 9:39am
It is hard to be sanguine about the future. The breakdown of the ecosystem is well documented. So is the refusal of the global ruling elite to pursue measures that might mitigate the devastation. We accelerate the extraction of fossil fuels, wallow in profligate consumption, including our consumption of livestock, and make new wars as if we are gripped by a Freudian death wish. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse – Conquest, War, Famine and Death – gallop into the 21st century. Those who rule, servants of corporations and the global billionaire class, accompany the suicidal folly by cementing into place corporate tyranny. The plan is not to reform. It is to perpetuate the corporate pillage. This pillage, more and more onerous for the global population, necessitates a new totalitarianism, one where the billionaire class lives in opulence, workers are serfs, rights such as privacy and due process are abolished, Big Brother watches us all the time, war is the chief business of the state, dissent is criminalized and those displaced by conflicts and climate breakdown are barred entry into the climate fortresses in the global north. Portions of the human species, the most privileged, will, in theory, hold out a little longer before they succumb to the great die off. The persecuted and the abandoned, now in the tens of millions, know the future. For them, the future has already arrived. Julian Assange, the most important publisher of our generation, whose extradition to the US was approved on Friday by the British Home Secretary Priti Patel, is an example of what will befall all publishers and journalists that expose the inner workings of power. His imprisonment for revealing the war crimes, mendacity, cynicism, and corruption of the ruling class, including the Democratic Party, heralds a new era. Investigations into the centers of power, the life blood of journalism, will be a criminal offense.   It does not matter that Assange, who suffered a stroke and is in poor physical and psychological health, is not a U.S. citizen or that WikiLeaks is not a US-based publication. It does not matter that all of Assange’s meetings with his attorneys were recorded by UC Global, the Spanish security firm at the Ecuadorian Embassy where Assange lived for seven years, and turned over to the US, obliterating attorney-client privilege. The campaign against Assange, and I have sat in on hearings in London, is a Dickensian farce, the persecution of an innocent and heroic man, far more reminiscent of the Lubyanka than the best of British jurisprudence. He is being used to send a message — if you expose what we do we will destroy you. Workers, whether in the vast sweatshops in China or the decayed ruins of the rust belt, struggle on subsistence wages without job protection or unions. They are cursed by trade deals, deindustrialization, austerity, rising interest rates and rising prices. They, too, know the future. The decision to raise interest rates by three-quarters of a percentage point, with new rate hikes on the way, will further depress wages, which have stagnated for decades, increase unemployment and personal debt and make food and other basic necessities more expensive. Raising interest rates usually induces a recession. But the oligarchs are more than willing to extract blood from the working class. Inflation reduces investment returns. It disrupts leveraged financial strategies. Prices are not rising because of wages. They are rising because of supply shortages and price gouging by corporations and oil conglomerates. US corporations posted their biggest profit growth in decades by raising prices during the pandemic. Corporate pretax profits rose last year by 25 percent to $2.81 trillion, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. That’s the largest annual increase since 1976, according to the Federal Reserve. When taxes are included, last year’s corporate profit rose to 37 percent, more than any other time since the Fed began tracking profits in 1948. Antitrust laws and breaking up monopolies would ease the strain of inflation and lower prices. Rationing would break inflation. So would a wage-price freeze. Nationalization, reversing the capture of public utilities, the health care system, banking, and other services by corporations, would also blunt price rises. But the billionaire class is not about to impose measures that diminish their profits. They will keep their monopolies. They will keep their grip on what were once public assets. The message from the billionaire class is this: the economy is run for our benefit, not yours. Ukrainians, enduring a war of attrition with the infusion of tens of billions of dollars of weapons from the US and Europe, know the future. War is the chief business of the state. It enriches the arms industry. It expands the military budget. The US now sends $130 million a day in military aid and assistance to Ukraine, part of the $55 billion in aid promised by Washington. The US, struggling with societal breakdown and an ailing economy, sees its military as the only mechanism left to destroy global competitors, especially Russia and China. Russia, hemmed in by an expanding NATO in Central and Eastern Europe, and China harassed by a succession of carrier groups in the South China Sea, which Washington has called a “national interest,” have been united as US adversaries. China sees the waterways of Asia and the Pacific as part of its sphere of influence, as Russia sees Ukraine and other neighboring states. The aggressive military posturing of the US on the borders of China and Russia has provoked an unnecessary cold war, one many Washington policy makers nonchalantly expect may evolve into a hot war amongst nuclear armed nations that would potentially obliterate life on the planet. There is an intensifying scramble for control, with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and China’s building of air bases from Japan to Australia along the Asian littoral, giving it the ability to attack warships, including aircraft carriers, in the western Pacific. The refusal of the U.S. to accommodate itself to a multipolar world and to chase the chimera of unrivaled global hegemony has seen Russia and China solidify an alliance, an alliance cold warriors worked hard to prevent. The hostilities, a self-fulfilling prophecy by U.S. warmongers, delights the Washington establishment whose goal is to perpetuate endless war. You know you are in trouble when Henry Kissinger, who has called for Ukraine to cede territory to Russia and open negotiations with Moscow “in the next two months before it creates upheavals and tensions that will not be easily overcome,” is a voice of sanity. Despotic governments need an enemy to justify the repression of dissidents, the reduction and cancellation of social programs and the iron control of information. Wars justify the unjustifiable — black sites, kidnapping, torture, targeted assassinations, censorship, and arbitrary detention — off-the-book war crimes. War induces a state of perpetual paranoia and fear. It demands mass obedience. “The war is not meant to be won, it is meant to be continuous,” George Orwell writes in 1984. “Hierarchical society is only possible on the basis of poverty and ignorance. This new version is the past and no different past can ever have existed. In principle the war effort is always planned to keep society on the brink of starvation. The war is waged by the ruling group against its own subjects and its object is not the victory over either Eurasia or East Asia, but to keep the very structure of society intact.” The message of endless war is – if you defy the ruling class, the militarists and the government, you are a traitor. The 140 million people across the globe suffering from acute hunger, a result of the pandemic, the climate crisis and the war in Ukraine, know the future, along with the families of the 15 million people who died from the pandemic, hundreds of thousands of whom with proper prevention and medical care could have been saved. The refugees fleeing failed states and climate disasters – there could be 1.2 billion climate refugees by 2050 – in the global south know the future. The message imparted to the poor, the vulnerable, the sick and the weak is this: your lives and the lives of your children do not matter. The oligarchs in the Democratic Party and the establishment wing of the Republican Party are aware they are in political trouble. Is it due to Russian meddling? Is it due to Donald Trump and his proto-fascist minions? Is it caused by journalists and publishers like Assange who give them a bad name? Is it a failure of messaging? Is it a lack of rigorous censorship of the far-right and leftist critics? The Democratic Party, now united with the establishment Republican Party, is flailing around for a solution. They are bankrolling far right candidates in the Republican primaries , a tactic that backfired on Hillary Clinton when her campaign worked during the primaries to promote Donald Trump as the Republican nominee. Retrograde Republicans, de facto members of the Democratic Party because they voted to impeach Trump, are being lionized as true patriots, as if they can lure people away from Trump and Trump-like clones. Robert Reich, along with other Democratic leaders, argues that Rep. Cheney – who voted for Trump policies 93 percent of the time as a member of the House but now looks set to lose her bid for reelection in Wyoming – has “demonstrated more courage and integrity than any other politician in America” and might just be “the best president of the United States for the perilous time we’re entering.” Jonathan V. Last, in an article headlined “Mike Pence is an American Hero” in The Atlantic, writes that Pence “did more to protect democracy — both on January 6 and since — than any other person inside the Trump administration.”  Perhaps the expected Supreme Court ruling that will overturn Roe v. Wade will work in their favor. Perhaps the televised hearings on the January 6th assault on the Capitol, an extended campaign commercial, will convince voters to support them. Perhaps the promise of more stringent gun laws will excite the electorate. What can we expect from a party leadership that believed Michael Bloomberg, who has switched allegiance between the Democratic and Republican parties several times, would save them from progressives such as Bernie Sanders? What can we expect from a party leadership that anointed Joe Biden, who spent his political career dispossessing working men and women, building the world’s largest prison system, militarizing police, destroying the welfare system and funding military fiascos in the Middle East, as president? The Biden administration is defined by failed expectations, from its stymied Build Back Better Plan to its refusal to raise the minimum wage. It is running on fumes, using gimmicks, empty rhetoric, spectacle and fear to intimidate the electorate. The descent is pathetic to watch, reminiscent of the moment Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceaușescu tried desperately to placate an unruly crowd from the Balcony of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Romania building by offering to raise pension and family allowance by $2 a month. He and his wife were executed four days later. The discredited East German Communist Party, which like the Romanian revolution I also covered as a reporter, made similar empty gestures, promising to open its closed party headquarters to the public long after anyone cared. The billionaire class, or at least many of them, would prefer to loot and pillage under the cover of the old political decorum and rhetoric. They like the fiction of paying homage to an emasculated democracy. It gives them the veneer of respectability. But this is not to be. The rage of the betrayed is articulated by imbecilic demagogues vomited up from the social and political swamp. Corporations and the billionaire class will continue to exploit, but under a cruder and crueler authoritarianism. The social, political, economic, and environmental breakdown will accelerate. Reality, increasingly unpalatable, will cease to exist in public discourse. It will be replaced by Millenarian cults, such as the Christian fascists, and bizarre conspiracy theories, a retreat into magical thinking where evil is embodied in demonized individuals and groups that must be eradicated. Truth and lies will be indistinguishable. The vulnerable will be cast aside, blamed for their own misery, as well as ours. Those who resist will be criminals. Mass death will sweep across the planet. This is the world our children will inherit unless those who control us are wrenched from power. Feature photo | Original illustration by Mr. Fish Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who was a foreign correspondent for fifteen years for The New York Times, where he served as the Middle East Bureau Chief and Balkan Bureau Chief for the paper. He previously worked overseas for The Dallas Morning News, The Christian Science Monitor, and NPR. He is the host of show The Chris Hedges Report. The post Chris Hedges: The Triumph of Death appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Insights, National, Top Story, capitalism, Chris Hedges, climate crisis, Collapse, Democratic Party]

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[l] at 6/16/22 10:25am
While it is true that Zionism is a modern political ideology that has exploited religion to achieve specific colonial objectives in Palestine, prophecies continue to be a critical component of Israel’s perception of itself, and of the state’s relationship to other groups, especially Christian messianic groups in the United States and worldwide. The subject of religious prophecies and their centrality to Israel’s political thought was once more highlighted following remarks by former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, in a recent interview with the Hebrew-language newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth. Barak, perceived to be a ‘progressive’ politician, who was once the leader of Israel’s Labor Party, expressed fears that Israel will “disintegrate” before the 80th anniversary of its 1948 establishment. “Throughout the Jewish history, the Jews did not rule for more than eighty years, except in the two kingdoms of David and the Hasmonean dynasty and, in both periods, their disintegration began in the eighth decade,” Barak said. Based on pseudo-historical analysis, Barak’s prophecy seemed to conflate historical facts with typical messianic Israeli thinking, reminiscent of statements made by Israel’s former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in 2017. Like Barak, Netanyahu’s comments were expressed in the form of fear over the future of Israel, and the looming ‘existential threat’, the cornerstone of Israeli hasbara throughout the years. At a Bible study session in his house in Jerusalem, Netanyahu had then warned that the Hasmonean kingdom also known as the Maccabees had merely survived for 80 years before it was conquered by the Romans in 63 B.C.E. The “Hasmonean state lasted only 80 years, and we needed to exceed this,” Netanyahu was quoted by one of the attendees as saying, the Israeli Haaretz newspaper reported. But, even according to Netanyahu’s purported determination to exceed that number, he had reportedly vowed to ensure Israel will surpass the Maccabees’ 80 years, and survive for 100 years. That is merely 20 years more. The difference between Barak and Netanyahu’s statements is quite negligible: the former’s views are supposedly ‘historical’ and the latter’s are biblical. Worth noting, however, is that both leaders, though they subscribe to two different political schools, have converged on similar meeting points: Israel’s survival is at stake; the existential threat is real and the end of Israel is only a matter of time. But the pessimism in Israel is hardly confined to political leaders, who are known to exaggerate and manipulate facts to instill fear and to rile up their political camps, especially Israel’s powerful messianic constituencies. Although this is true, predictions regarding Israel’s grim future are not confined to the country’s political elites. In an interview with Haaretz in 2019, one of Israel’s most respected mainstream historians, Benny Morris, had much to say about the future of his country. Unlike Barak and Netanyahu, Morris was not sending warning signals but stating what, to him, seemed an unavoidable outcome of the country’s political and demographic evolution. “I don’t see how we get out of it,” Morris said, adding: “Already, today there are more Arabs than Jews between the (Mediterranean) Sea and the Jordan (River). The whole territory is unavoidably becoming one state with an Arab majority. Israel still calls itself a Jewish state, but a situation in which we rule an occupied people that has no rights cannot persist in the 21st century.” Morris’ predictions, while remaining committed to the racial fantasy of a Jewish majority, were far more articulate and also realistic if compared to those of Barak, Netanyahu and others. The man who once regretted that Israel’s founder, David Ben Gurion, did not expel all of Palestine’s native population in 1947-48, spoke with resignation that, in a matter of a generation, Israel will cease to exist in its current form. Particularly notable about his comments is the accurate perception that “the Palestinians look at everything from a broad, long-term perspective,” and that the Palestinians will continue to “demand the return of the refugees.” But who were the “Palestinians” Morris was referring to? Certainly not the Palestinian Authority, whose leaders have already marginalized the Right of Return for Palestinian refugees, and most certainly have no “broad, long-term perspective”. Morris’ ‘Palestinians’ are, of course, the Palestinian people themselves, generations of whom have served, and continue to serve, as the vanguards of Palestinian rights despite all of the setbacks, defeats and political ‘compromises’. Actually, prophecies regarding Palestine and Israel are not a new phenomenon. Palestine was colonized by Zionists with the help of Britain, also based on biblical frames of reference. It was populated by Zionist settlers based on biblical references dedicated to the restoration of ancient kingdoms and the ‘return’ of ancient peoples to their supposedly rightful ‘promised land’. Though Israel took on many different meanings throughout the years perceived to be a ‘socialist’ utopia at times, a liberal, democratic haven at others it was always preoccupied with religious meanings, spiritual visions and inundated with prophecies. The most sinister expression of this truth is the fact that the current support of Israel by millions of Christian fundamentalists in the West is largely driven by messianic, end-of-the-world prophecies. The latest predictions about Israel’s uncertain future are based on a different logic. Since Israel has always defined itself as a Jewish State, its future is mostly linked to its ability to maintain a Jewish majority in historic Palestine. By the admission of Morris and others, this pipedream is now crumbling as the ‘demographic war’ is clearly and quickly being lost. Of course, co-existence in a single democratic state will always be a possibility. Alas, for Israel’s Zionist ideologues, such a state will hardly meet the minimum expectations of the country’s founders, since it would no longer exist in the form of a Jewish, Zionist state. For co-existence to take place, the Zionist ideology would have to be scrapped altogether. Barak, Netanyahu and Morris are all right: Israel will not exist as a ‘Jewish state’ for much longer. Speaking strictly in terms of demographics, Israel is no longer a Jewish-majority state. History has taught us that Muslims, Christians and Jews can peacefully coexist and collectively thrive, as they have done throughout the Middle East and the Iberian Peninsula for millennia. Indeed, this is a prediction, even a prophecy, that is worth striving for. Feature photo | A Palestinian boy faces an Israeli tank on the outskirts of Gaza City, Oct. 29, 2000. Laurent Rebours | AP Dr. Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of six books. His latest book, co-edited with Ilan Pappé, is “Our Vision for Liberation: Engaged Palestinian Leaders and Intellectuals Speak out”. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA). His website is www.ramzybaroud.net The post Palestinians Are Bound to Win: Why Israelis Are Prophesying the End of Their State appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: News, Top Story, Christains, end-times prophecy, Israel, Jewish State, Palestine, prophecy]

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[l] at 6/14/22 10:15am
KIEV, UKRAINE (THE GRAYZONE) — Craig Lang, a US Army veteran accused by US authorities of carrying out murders on American soil as well as torture and other war crimes in Ukraine, allegedly joined a band of insurgents armed by the Colombian police to overthrow the Venezuelan government. An FBI affidavit against Lang states that he was in Colombia with an Army pal when the country’s national police provided him with weapons to attack Venezuela. Lang’s history tracks closely with that of Paul Gray, a fellow US military veteran and white nationalist also fighting in Ukraine. According to new revelations by a former compatriot of US-backed Venezuelan coup leader Juan Guaidó, Gray was also involved in a scheme to attack Venezuela from Colombian territory. The startling disclosure by Guaidó’s former associate was prompted by a May 31, 2022 report by The Grayzone which exposed Lang and Gray’s exploits in Ukraine, and identified Lang as having participated in a failed mission to destabilize Venezuela’s government from Colombian territory. But before Lang arrived on the Colombian-Venezuelan border, at the site of a regime change operation managed by top-level US and Colombian officials, he helped execute a heinous robbery and murder in Florida to finance his trip.   SOURCE: Wanted murderer “able to obtain firearms from law enforcement in Bogota” for Venezuela regime change plot Back in 2016, Lang met a fellow army veteran named Alex Zweiefelhofer who shared his hunger for combat and international adventurism. They were in Ukraine at the time, fighting in the ultra-nationalist Right Sector battalion, which was integrated into the Ukrainian military to do battle with pro-Russian separatists. As the low-intensity war dragged on, Lang and Zweiefelhofer grew restless. In a search for action, they tried and failed to insert themselves into the US-backed Somalian army’s fight against Al-Shabaab insurgents, but were deported upon arrival. It was then that they decided to head south in hopes of killing “communists” in Venezuela. On April 9, 2018, according to the FBI affidavit, Zweiefelhofer said Lang murdered a couple in Florida and robbed them of $3000 to finance their trip to the Colombian border with Venezuela. But Zweiefelhofer was arrested before he could leave the US and indicted for murder, for which he pled not guilty. A year later, another associate of Lang – a former army buddy identified only as “M.S.M.” in the FBI criminal complaint – came forward to law enforcement with details of their exploits together on the Colombian-Venezuelan border. According to the FBI affidavit, “Lang told M.S.M. that Lang was going to join combat forces opposed to the Venezuelan government. M.S.M. advised that Lang was going to join a Venezuelan resistance group.” In his interview with the FBI, M.S.M. claimed he hesitated on the mission because he “did not want to kill people.” He said Lang left alone to the border town of Cucuta, where he linked up with right-wing insurgents. According to the FBI’s timeline, which was informed by Homeland Security Investigations, Lang arrived in Bogota on September 25, 2018 and “thereafter departed from Colombia on November 23, 2018.” The affidavit pegged the Colombian government as a key supplier of the regime change mission against Venezuela: “M.S.M. told detectives the resistance group Lang joined was able to obtain firearms from law enforcement in Bogota. M.S.M. advised that the resistance group had a safe house in the mountains of Cucuta, Colombia. The group planned to cross into Venezuela and fight the Venezuelan government.” Lang’s alleged arming by Colombian authorities adds a new layer to Bogota’s well-documented role in US-directed destabilization operations against the Venezuelan government. In fact, the foreign fighter’s brief adventure in Colombia began one month after Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro survived an assassination attempt in which commercial drones were strapped with explosives and hovered over his head during a military parade. Following the failed attack on Maduro, the Venezuelan president immediately blamed Colombian authorities, while US media regurgitated Colombia’s denials. Then-National Security Advisor John Bolton suggested the whole televised incident was a false flag orchestrated by Maduro. Several participants in the assassination plot were soon arrested, and some were later exchanged for prisoners held by Colombia. One of the ringleaders, Juan Requesens, a leader of the US-funded, Venezuelan Primero Justicia party, confessed to collaborating with a Colombian immigration official to kill Maduro. In a CNN interview with a perpetrator of the attack “somewhere in Colombia,” one of the attackers admitted to three meetings with American officials following the failed assassination plot. (CNN did not disclose the location where the interview was conducted or where the explosives were made). In a stroke of absurdity, the FBI affidavit against Lang flatly states: “The United States is at peace with the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.”   Guaidó defector claims Paul Gray was involved in Operation Gideon plot against Venezuela One day after The Grayzone’s report on the exploits of wanted murderer Craig Lang and white nationalist Paul Gray in Ukraine, an unnamed former associate of Venezuelan coup leader Juan Guaidó came forward with a major revelation. In an interview with the Venezuelan public TV network TeleSUR, the former Guaidó associate stated that he recognized Paul Gray from planning meetings held for Operation Gideon, a disastrously failed invasion of Venezuela conducted by 60 anti-government insurgents led by US mercenaries. DHS is concerned over Nazis returning after fighting in Ukraine. I examine two Americans now fighting Russia, one a veteran of various street brawls against leftists and the other a lunatic that murdered a couple in Florida & tortured women in Donbas https://t.co/3zkGHAznhN The source told TeleSUR correspondent Madelein Garcia that like Craig Lang, Gray was in Cucuta as a member of a “group of around 10 or 12 American mercenaries” planning Operation Gideon in February 2019. That same month, the United States Agency for International Development staged an invasion of Venezuelan territory under cover of a caravan of trucks filled with supposed aid. Complimented by a Live Aid concert organized by British billionaire Richard Branson in Cucuta, the stunt ended in ignominy, as hooligans associated with the US-backed Venezuelan opposition torched USAID’s aid deliveries and attempted to blame their destruction on Maduro. USAID later admitted the entire operation was little more than a regime change ploy. Like the drone attack and the supposed aid caravan, Operation Gideon was a disaster for everyone involved. According to one key member of the insurgent team, Yacsy Álvarez, the operation was backed by the US with a major assist from Colombian intelligence. Some 60 Venezuelan insurgents and private mercenaries with the now-disgraced Silvercorp USA company attempted to enter Venezuela by boat, overtake an airport, and eventually capture President Maduro. But government officials had embedded within the group and easily wrapped up what has since been dubbed “The Bay of Piglets.” The former Guaidó insider told Telesur that he first encountered Paul Gray, the US white nationalist, at a farm belonging to Don Pedro Barrigas, a Colombian businessman, accused paramilitary leader, and ally of Álvaro Uribe Vélez. Barrigas’ brother also happens to be a senator. According to the source, Gray went by the name “Snake” during the Gideon planning meetings. “Paul Gray was sitting there, three seats from me,” the Guaidó defector asserted. The involvement of an infamous activist who has belonged to four US-based neo-Nazi groups, served in the Georgian National Legion in Ukraine, which is led by a US asset welcomed by members of Congress, and the new revelations of his alleged involvement in Operation Gideon raise serious questions about whether he and Lang are just ideologically-motivated war tourists or whether they are, in fact, imperial shock troops traversing a US intelligence ratline from one operation to the next. Feature photo | MintPress News Alexander Rubinstein is a former staff writer for MintPress News based in Washington, DC. He writes about police, prisons, and protests in the United States. He previously reported for RT and Sputnik News. The post FBI: Ukraine Fighter and US Fugitive Craig Lang Armed by Colombia To Overthrow Venezuela Gov’t appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Foreign Affairs, Colombia, Craig Lang, Juan Guaido, Ukraine, Venezuela]

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[l] at 6/13/22 2:31pm
BEVERLY HILLS, CALIF – “Top Gun: Maverick” is a box-office smash, a massive hit with both critics and the public alike. Navy and Air Force units across the country have set up recruitment stalls inside movie halls, hoping to sign up individuals buzzed after watching the high-paced aviation action. But documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that the movie was made only after an agreement was signed between Hollywood and the Pentagon, with the Navy insisting on “weav[ing] in” their “key talking points” in exchange for granting the production company extensive access to military hardware. Investigative journalist Tom Secker, author of “National Security Cinema: The Shocking New Evidence of Government Control in Hollywood,” was one of those who obtained the documents. Secker explained that “Top Gun: Maverick” was made with an explicit agenda behind it, telling MintPress: Its about rehabilitation of the militarys image in the wake of numerous failed wars. The film also helps foreground human pilots flying an actual combat mission – something very rare in these days of high-altitude airstrikes and drone warfare. It helps distract from all the drone pilots whove spoken out about the misery and horror inherent in that job.” The sequel to the hit 1980s movie “Top Gun,” the new film follows the story of Pete “Maverick” Mitchell over 30 years later, as the renegade pilot who does not play by the rules is brought in to train the Navy’s best young pilots for a secret mission to blow up a uranium enrichment facility [a site implied to be in Iran]. Maverick instead shows that he is still the best pilot and is selected for the mission himself. The production agreement between the Department of Defense (DoD) and Paramount Pictures is an explicit quid pro quo. In exchange for all manner of technical support and access to military equipment and personnel, the Pentagon was allowed to “[a]ssign a senior staff, post-command Officer to review with public affairs the script’s thematics and weave in key talking points relevant to the aviation community.”   What these key talking points are, Secker felt, is not too difficult to work out. Throughout the movie, the phrase “it’s not the plane; it’s the pilot” is used. This comes at a time when the military is facing a pressing shortage of pilots – something that is completely incongruous if the glamorous image of hard drinking, woman-chasing daredevils living the high-octane life is anything like accurate. In essence, then, the movie functions as a two-hour 11 minute-long recruitment ad for the military. As one recruiter told Fox News, “We want to take advantage of the opportunity to connect not just the movie and the idea of a military service, but the fact that we’ve got jobs and we’ve got recruiters waiting for them.” Roger Stahl, professor of communications at the University of Georgia, told MintPress that movies play a key role in improving the military’s image at home and abroad, stating: Foreign policy planners famously nicknamed the publics reticence to authorize military intervention in the 80s the “Vietnam Syndrome.” The original “Top Gun’” arrived just in time to clean up this image and clear the way for a more palatable high-tech vision of imperialism and ultimately the Persian Gulf War. “Top Gun: Maverick” arrives at a similar moment in the shadow of Iraq and Afghanistan. And we will likely see a similar rebooting of the U.S. military machine.” Stahl and Secker are co-producers of the new film “Theaters of War: How the Pentagon and CIA took Hollywood.”   A mountain of military hardware In over 100 pages of contracts, the military agreed to allow Paramount access to a mountain of their most expensive hardware in exchange for what amounts to significant editorial control over the content and tone of the movie – an arrangement that is remarkably common in today’s environment. “Top Gun: Maverick” was filmed at a number of military locations across the United States. This included air bases filled with the latest fighter jets and aboard two nuclear-powered aircraft carriers, the USS Theodore Roosevelt and the USS Abraham Lincoln. The production company was also allowed to borrow an F-14 Tomcat jet and to use a number of helicopters. The F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet, however, is the star of the show, with actors playing pilots being put through an extensive and rigorous training program, and the production company was given permission to attach cameras all over the inside and outside of the aircraft. In addition, the Navy agreed to “[s]upport flying scenes with Naval aircraft and Naval aviators and “[a]llow active-duty personnel in a duty status to appear in the film.” This included pilots, ground crew and sailors aboard Navy ships. Sweetening the deal, the Navy’s Blue Angel flight demonstration squad was instructed to perform a flyover for the production company. Paramount was also given permission to purchase military uniforms. However, the Department of Defense effectively held a veto over any actor who appeared in the movie. As the agreement states, The Production Company will cast actors, extras, doubles. and stunt personnel portraying Service members who conform to individual Military Service regulations governing age, height and weight, uniform, grooming, appearance, and conduct standards. DoD reserves the right to suspend support in the event that disagreement regarding the military aspects of these portrayals cannot be resolved in negotiation between the Production Company and DoD within the 72-hour cure period. The DoD Project Officer will provide written guidance specific to each Military Service being portrayed. This is not a mere technicality. The DoD is intensely protective of its image in the media, going so far as to threaten to completely shut down the movie “12 Strong” (2018) merely because the production company intended to portray some U.S. soldiers with beards and/or tattoos. This is far from the most onerous condition attached to the agreement, however. Clause 8 of the document, for instance, notes that the DoD approved a draft script of “Top Gun: Maverick” and that henceforth: The Production Company must obtain, in advance, DoD concurrence for any subsequent substantial changes proposed to the military depictions made to either the Picture or the sound portions of the production before it is exhibited to the public. Not only that, but Paramount must “involve the DoD Project Officer in these changes, including those that may be made during post-production.” As a final check, clause 19 stipulates that the production company must provide to the military a final cut of the movie and allow the DoD to “confirm that the tone of the military sequences substantially conforms to the agreed script” and “[s]hould the Department of Defense determine that material in the production compromises any of the preceding concerns, the Department of Defense will alert the Production Company of the material, and the Production Company will remove the material from the production.” In other words, the Department of Defense is both co-writer and co-producer of the movie. Should Paramount break this agreement, the terms were clear. The contract states that the military will permanently revoke the use of any images including its personnel or equipment, rendering the movie dead on arrival. Furthermore, the DoD notes that “Requests for future support…may also be denied.” To put it bluntly, anyone not producing a movie where every shot from every scene is not as the military wants it is blacklisted. Despite effectively co-writing and co-producing the movie, the contract also demands that the extent of the military’s involvement must be downplayed. Clause 21a states that the military will be mentioned merely with the phrase “Special Thanks to the United States Department of Defense” in the end credits. No doubt the Pentagon is aware that the propaganda value of “Top Gun: Maverick” would be greatly diminished if moviegoers realized that this was an hours-long propaganda film produced by the military itself. “Special Thanks” is a common phrase the DoD uses to hide its true role in Hollywood. Phil Strub, the Pentagon’s Hollywood liaison between 1988 and 2018, was possibly the most influential man in the entertainment industry. From the “Iron Man,, “James Bond,” “Jurassic Park” and “Transformers” franchises, to smash hits like “Apollo 13,” “Godzilla,” “Black Hawk Down” and “I Am Legend,” Strub’s resume is positively Spielbergian. Yet he is rarely credited with anything else but “special thanks,” despite the fact that documents show he wrote and rewrote movie scripts to suit the Pentagon’s agenda.   A grim reality When pressed on its involvement in Hollywood, the Pentagon insists it is there merely to ensure that the military is presented as realistically as possible. Indeed, the “Top Gun: Maverick” production agreement states that its liaisons were there “to provide on-set dialogue and depict action scenes accurately.” Cruise, who played Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, is on the same page, stating that he demanded the movie “had to be as real as possible.” Yet the entire premise of the movie – that Iran is developing a nuclear weapon and that the U.S. military would have to scramble together a plan to bomb the country in a matter of days – is absurd in itself. Maverick himself often egregiously breaks Navy rules, disobeying senior officers and stealing a plane – something that would never be tolerated. Furthermore, there are a number of crazy acrobatic stunts that are supposedly part of Maverick’s training program, including one where he flies directly between two of his students at a perpendicular angle, inches from destroying all three planes and ending their lives. This would be too dangerous even for choreographed routines from the Blue Angels, let alone for pilot training. “‘Top Gun: Maverick’ most assuredly is not accurate,” Secker told MintPress, adding: The entire premise of the film – just like in the first movie – is not true to life. But then, saying the entertainment liaison offices are there to help Hollywood present truthfulness or reality is like saying celebrities hire PR/crisis management firms because they sincerely want the public to be well-informed. Before his death, “Top Gun” director Tony Scott felt guilty about making a movie that glamorizes military life, lamenting: All these kids must hate me, because they all signed on thinking they’re gonna be fighter pilots pulling broads all over the world, and they all ended up eleven stories down on some shitty old aircraft carrier stuck in the Indian Ocean. Yet the reality of the profession is not just more boring, but far more grizzly. PTSD and suicide are exceptionally common in the profession, as pilots struggle to come to terms with the staggering amount of destruction they are required to carry out. A US Navy sailor poses for photos with young moviegoers outside of a Top Gun: Maverick showing. Photo | DVIDS Testimonies from a series of whistleblowers paint aerial war in a far less glorified and arguably much more realistic fashion. USAF Airman Daniel Hale leaked documents showing the Obama administration compiled detailed kill lists and that over 90% of the victims of the U.S. drone program, by even its own figures, were civilians. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimates that U.S. drone pilots have killed between 4,126 and 10,076 people in Afghanistan alone. “When I fired my first shot and killed people, that was heartbreaking for me, because I didn’t think that I would ever be in a position that I would have to take someone else’s life,” said USAF sensor operator Brandon Bryant. “I felt like it destroyed my soul… It has isolated me. I stopped sleeping because I started dreaming about my job and couldn’t escape it at all,” he added. Perhaps the most infamous leak revealing the realities of pilot life, however, is the Collateral Murder video. In it, U.S. Apache helicopter pilots are seen ruthlessly opening fire on a crowd of people in Baghdad, killing at least 12, including two Reuters journalists. As the attack continues, the pilots even laugh and shoot at civilians medically assisting the victims. While the leaker and publisher responsible for the world seeing those images went to prison, those presenting the sanitized, glorified version of military life are hot favorites to receive Academy Awards this year. Thus, just as there are no scenes in “Top Gun: Maverick” of screaming Iranian children picking through the remains of their dead family, any “Top Gun 3” is unlikely to revolve around Tom Cruise struggling with PTSD caused by the unimaginable violence in which he has participated.   Hollywood: the military’s wingman “Top Gun: Maverick” has been produced at a time when the United States is currently throttling Iran with illegal and deadly sanctions. In early 2020, the Trump administration assassinated top Iranian general and statesman Qassem Soleimani, and influential figures in the United States have called for an unprovoked nuclear attack on the country. Yet none of this context is mentioned, leaving the legality of the depicted attack unquestioned. As Stahl told MintPress, the basic assumption is that “the U.S. has the right to violate international law and strike any country for any reason.” “Imagine if this film came out of Iran and was about striking an Israeli or U.S. nuclear facility,” he said. “Heads would explode with accusations of hard-line propaganda.” Therefore, “Top Gun: Maverick” falls in line in promoting a remarkably militaristic society; one that spends almost as much on war as every other nation on Earth combined. Celebrations of militarism are everywhere in the United States, from sporting events to cinemas, feeding into an overwhelming cult of troop worship. The military works exceptionally hard to maintain a positive image and has found a willing collaborator in the entertainment industry. Stahl and Secker’s investigations have found that the Pentagon and CIA have exercised direct control over more than 2,500 films and television shows. These include not only military-based blockbusters like “American Sniper,” “Pearl Harbor” and “A Few Good Men,” but also a host of light entertainment shows like “The Price is Right,” “Teen Idol” and “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.” A decent rule of thumb is that if the title you are watching includes the military or security services, then those institutions will likely be co-producing the work, meaning they themselves decide how they are depicted. US Navy brass pose for a photo with Tom Cruise at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island. Photo | DVIDS The military opens its doors to directors and producers across the country, offering them free or special access to its arsenal of machines that would be impossible to obtain otherwise, access to military bases for filming, and use of active-duty personnel as extras, as well as a host of other benefits that would be impractically expensive otherwise. But he who pays the piper calls the tune, and the Pentagon exacts a considerable political cost, insisting that the creative direction and outlook of the film or TV show is as relentlessly pro-military as it is possible to get. Anti-war productions need not apply and therefore are rejected out of hand by the majority of production companies, who do not want to lose such a powerful ally. In this sense, then, film and television in America have slowly turned into a military-entertainment complex in which hundreds of millions of Americans are fed a steady diet of Pentagon-sponsored pro-war propaganda. And they are not even aware of it. At one time, Cruise felt a good deal of remorse for becoming part of the war machine, telling Playboy magazine: Some people felt that “Top Gun’”was a right-wing film to promote the Navy. And a lot of kids loved it. But I want the kids to know that that’s not the way war is – that “Top Gun” was just an amusement park ride, a fun film with a PG-13 rating that was not supposed to be reality. That’s why I didn’t go on and make Top Gun II and III and IV and V. That would have been irresponsible. Irresponsible it may be, but judging by the fact that Cruise will receive a significant cut of the global box office figures ($747 million and counting), at least he will be financially compensated for it. In the same Playboy interview, Cruise also lamented that he could be “totally responsible for World War Three.” Given the United States’ constantly aggressive actions towards Iran, he might one day be proven correct. Feature photo | Tom Cruise poses for the media during the Top Gun Maverick UK premiere at a central London cinema, May 19, 2022. Alberto Pezzali | AP Alan MacLeod is Senior Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent, as well as a number of academic articles. He has also contributed to FAIR.org, The Guardian, Salon, The Grayzone, Jacobin Magazine, and Common Dreams. The post Top Gun: Maverick is Military Propaganda. Official Documents Prove It appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Inside Stories, National, Top Story, Deparment of Defense, g, Propaganda, recruitment, Tom Secker, Top Gun: Maverick]

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[l] at 6/13/22 11:34am
PRINCETON, NEW JERSEY (Scheerpost) — The Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol, whose first of six televised hearings began last Thursday, is spectacle replacing politics. There is nothing substantially new in the accusations. The committee lacks prosecutorial power. No charges have been filed by Attorney General Merrick Garland against former President Donald Trump and none are expected. The choreographed hearings, like the two impeachment trials of Trump, will have no effect on Trump voters, other than to make them feel persecuted, especially with more than 860 people already charged (including 306 guilty pleas) for their role in storming the Capitol. The committee echoes back to Trump opponents what they already believe. It is designed to present inaction as action and substitute role-playing for politics. It perpetuates, as Guy Debord writes, our “empire of modern passivity.” The committee, which most Republicans boycotted, hired James Goldston, a documentary producer and former president of ABC News, to turn the hearings into engaging television with slick packaging and an array of pithy sound bites. The result is, and was meant to be, politics as reality television, a media diversion that will change nothing in the dismal American landscape. What should have been a serious bipartisan inquiry into an array of constitutional violations by the Trump administration has been turned into a prime-time campaign commercial for a Democratic Party running on fumes. The epistemology of television is complete. So is its artifice. The two established wings of the oligarchy, the old Republican Party represented by politicians such as Liz Cheney, one of two Republicans on the committee, and the Bush family, are now united with the Democratic Party elite into one ruling political entity. The ruling parties were already in lock step for decades on the major issues, including: war, trade deals, austerity, the militarization of police, prisons, government surveillance and assaults on civil liberties. They worked in tandem to pervert and destroy democratic institutions on behalf of the rich and corporations. They desperately work together now to stave off the revolt by enraged and betrayed white working men and women who support Donald Trump and the far right. Committee members cloyingly seek to sanctify themselves and their hearings by holding up the Constitution, democracy, the Founding Fathers, due process, the consent of the governed and the electoral process. Bennie Thompson, chairman of the committee, talked about “domestic enemies of the Constitution who stormed the Capitol and occupied the Capitol, who sought to thwart the will of the people, to stop the transfer of power.” Liz Cheney called the Capitol “a sacred space in our constitutional republic.” There was no acknowledgement by committee members that the “will of the people” has been subverted by the three branches of government to serve the dictates of the billionaire class. No one brought up the armies of lobbyists who are daily permitted to storm the Capitol to fund the legalized bribery of our elections and write the pro-corporate legislation that it passes. No one spoke about the loss of constitutional rights, including the right to privacy, because of wholesale government surveillance. No one mentioned the disastrous trade deals that have deindustrialized the country and impoverished the working class. No one spoke of the military fiascos in the Middle East that cost taxpayers over $8 trillion, the for-profit health care system that gouges the public and prevents a rational response to the pandemic, already resulting in over a million deaths, or the privatization of institutions of government, including schools, prisons, water treatment, trash collection, parking meters, utilities and even intelligence gathering, to enrich the billionaire class at our expense. The gaping hole between the reality of what we have become, and the fiction of who we are supposed to be, is why spectacle is all the ruling class has left.  Spectacle takes the place of politics. It is a tacit admission that all social programs, whether the Build Back Better Plan, a ban on assault weapons, raising the minimum wage, ameliorating the ravages of inflation or instituting environmental reforms to stave off the climate emergency, will never be implemented. Those who occupy the “sacred space” of “our constitutional republic” are capable only of pouring money into war, allocating $54 billion to Ukraine, and passing ever higher military budgets to enrich the arms industry. The wider the gap becomes between the ideal and the real, the more the proto fascists, who look set to take back the Congress in the fall, will be empowered. If the rational, factual world does not work, why not try one of the many conspiracy theories? If this is what democracy means, why support democracy? The right-wing also communicates through spectacle. What were the four years of the Trump presidency but one vast spectacle? Spectacle versus spectacle. The aesthetic of spectacle, as in the dying days of the Roman Empire or Tsarist Russia, is all that is left. “Our politics, religion, news, athletics, education and commerce have been transformed into congenial adjuncts of show business,” Neil Postman writes in Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business. The current ruling class, blinded by their hubris and pomposity, however, is not very good at it. The far right, which believes vaccines cause autism, angels exist, a cabal of satanic, cannibalistic sexual abusers of children that run a global child sex trafficking ring are trying to destroy Trump, and the inerrancy of the Bible, is far more entertaining, even as it accelerates the solidification of corporate tyranny. If the republic is dead, do you want to watch Joe Biden mumble his way through another press conference or the burlesque of Rand Paul chain-sawing the tax code in half and Ted Cruz accusing Barack Obama of trying to provide “expanded Medicaid” to ISIS? Do you want to wake up to the newest rhetorical outrage by Trump, who when he campaigned for president accused Obama of founding ISIS, suggested Ted Cruz’s father was involved in the assassination of John F. Kennedy, argued that noise from windmills cause cancer and recommended ingesting disinfectant to fight Covid, or pay homage to a set of values long ago discarded by the ruling class for lies, corruption and greed? In short, since the system has betrayed and fleeced you, why not take it down with the vulgarity and crudity it deserves? Why not be entertained by political arsonists? Why engage in the polite civility and political decorum demanded by those who destroyed our communities, wrecked the nation, looted the US Treasury, oversaw a series of costly military debacles and took away our ability to make an adequate living, as well as our childrens’ future? In 1924, the government of Weimar Germany decided to get rid of Adolf Hitler and the National Socialist German Workers’ Party, or Nazis, by trying Hitler for high treason in the People’s Court. Hitler was clearly guilty. He had tried to overthrow the elected government in the botched 1923 “Beer Hall Putsch,” which, like the January 6 riot, was as much farce as insurrection. It was an open and shut case. The trial, however, backfired, turning Hitler into a national martyr and boosting the political fortunes of the Nazis. The reason should have been apparent. Germany, convulsed by widespread unemployment, food riots, street violence and hyperinflation, was a mess. The ruling elites, like our own, had no credibility. The appeal to the rule of law and democratic values was a joke. There was a revealing moment in the hearings when Capitol police officer Caroline Edwards, who suffered a concussion during the storming of the Capitol, related an exchange she had with Joseph Biggs, a leader of The Proud Boys who was indicted, along with four other Proud Boy leaders, for seditious conspiracy in connection with the storming of the Capitol. “The tables started turning, once the — what is now that — the Arizona group — that’s what you said — the crowd with orange hats, they came up chanting “F-U-C-K antifa!” Edwards told the committee. “And they joined that group. And once they joined that group, Joseph Biggs’ rhetoric turned to the Capitol Police. He started asking us questions like, “You’ve — you didn’t miss a paycheck during the pandemic,” mentioning stuff about — our pay scale was mentioned, and, you know, started turning the tables on us.” The brief exchange highlighted the yawning gap between the haves and the have nots, which, if not addressed, will turn Trump, his supporters, Biggs, the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers into martyrs. Congress is a cesspool. Corrupt politicians whore for the rich and get rich in return. This reality, which the hearings ignore, is apparent to most of the nation, which is why the hearings will not bolster the flagging fortunes of the ruling political class, desperate to prevent displacement. The old ruling class is slated for extinction, not that what follows will be better. It won’t. But the game of pillage and corruption in the name of sacred democratic values no longer works. A new game is taking its place, one where narcissistic buffoons, who stoke the fires of hate and only know how to destroy, entertain us to death. Feature photo | Original illustration by Mr. Fish Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who was a foreign correspondent for fifteen years for The New York Times, where he served as the Middle East Bureau Chief and Balkan Bureau Chief for the paper. He previously worked overseas for The Dallas Morning News, The Christian Science Monitor, and NPR. He is the host of show The Chris Hedges Report. The post Chris Hedges: Society of Spectacle appeared first on MintPress News.

[Category: Insights, National, Top Story, Chris Hedges, Donald Trump, Insurrection, January 6, Merrick Garland, Select Committee to Investigate]

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[l] at 6/10/22 2:37pm
Nothing should better qualify me to write about world affairs at the moment – and Western meddling in Ukraine – than the fact that I have intimately followed the twists and turns of Israeli politics for two decades. We will turn to the wider picture in a moment. But before that, let us consider developments in Israel, as its “historic,” year-old government – which included for the very first time a party representing a section of Israel’s minority of Palestinian citizens – teeters on the brink of collapse. Crisis struck, as everyone knew it would sooner or later, because the Israeli parliament had to vote on a major issue relating to the occupation: renewing a temporary law that for decades has regularly extended Israel’s legal system outside its territory, applying it to Jewish settlers living on stolen Palestinian land in the West Bank. That law lies at the heart of an Israeli political system that the world’s leading human rights groups, both in Israel and abroad, now belatedly admit has always constituted apartheid. The law ensures that Jewish settlers living in the West Bank in violation of international law receive rights different from, and far superior to, those of the Palestinians that are ruled over by Israel’s occupying military authorities. The law enshrines the principle of Jim Crow-style inequality, creating two different systems of law in the West Bank: one for Jewish settlers and another for Palestinians. But it does more. Those superior rights, and their enforcement by Israel’s army, have for decades allowed Jewish settlers to rampage against Palestinian rural communities with absolute impunity and steal their land – to the point that Palestinians are now confined to tiny, choked slivers of their own homeland. In international law, that process is called “forcible transfer,” or what we would think of as ethnic cleansing. It’s a major reason that the settlements are a war crime – a fact that the International Criminal Court in the Hague is finding it very hard to ignore. Israel’s leading politicians and generals would all be tried for war crimes if we lived in a fair, and sane, world. So what happened when this law came before the parliament for a vote on its renewal? The “historic” government, supposedly a rainbow coalition of leftwing and rightwing Jewish parties joined by a religiously conservative Palestinian party, split on entirely predictable ethnic lines. Members of the Palestinian party either voted against the law or absented themselves from the vote. All the Jewish parties in the government voted for it. The law failed – and the government is now in trouble – because the rightwing Likud Party of former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu joined the Palestinian parties in voting against the law, in the hope of bringing the government down, even though his legislators are completely committed to the apartheid system it upholds.   Upholding apartheid What is most significant about the vote is that it has revealed something far uglier about Israel’s Jewish tribalism than most Westerners appreciate. It shows that all of Israel’s Jewish parties – even the “nice ones that are termed leftwing or liberal – are in essence racist. Most Westerners understand Zionism to be split into two broad camps: the right, including the far-right, and the liberal-left camp. Today this so-called liberal-left camp is tiny and represented by the Israeli Labour and Meretz parties. Israel’s Labour Party is considered so respectable that Britain’s Labour leader, Sir Keir Starmer, publicly celebrated the recent restoration of ties after the Israeli party severed connections during the term of Starmer’s predecessor, Jeremy Corbyn. But note this. Not only have the Labour and Meretz parties been sitting for a year in a government led by Naftali Bennett, whose party represents the illegal settlements, they have just voted for the very apartheid law that ensures the settlers get superior rights over Palestinians, including the right to ethnically cleanse Palestinians from their land. In the case of the Israeli Labour Party, that is hardly surprising. Labour founded the first settlements and, apart from a brief period in the late 1990s when it paid lip service to a peace process, always backed to the hilt the apartheid system that enabled the settlements to expand. None of that ever troubled Britain’s Labour Party, apart from when it was led by Corbyn, a genuinely dedicated anti-racist. But by contrast to Labour, Meretz is an avowedly anti-occupation party. That was the very reason it was founded in the early 1990s. Opposition to the occupation and the settlements is supposedly hardwired into its DNA. So how did it vote for the very apartheid law underpinning the settlements?   Utter hypocrisy The naïve, or mischievous, will tell you Meretz had no choice because the alternative was Bennett’s government losing the vote – which in fact happened anyway – and reviving the chances of Netanyahu returning to power. Meretz’s hands were supposedly tied. This argument – of pragmatic necessity – is one we often hear when groups professing to believe one thing act in ways that damage the very thing they say they hold dear. But Israeli commentator Gideon Levy makes a very telling point that applies far beyond this particular Israeli case. He notes that Meretz would never have been seen to vote for the apartheid law – whatever the consequences – if the issue had been about transgressing the rights of Israel’s LGBTQ community rather than transgressing Palestinian rights. Meretz, whose leader is gay, has LGBTQ rights at the top of its agenda. Levy writes: “Two justice systems in the same territory, one for straight people and another for gay people? Is there any circumstance in which this would happen? A single political constellation that could bring it about?” The same could be said of Labour, even if we believe, as Starmer apparently does, that it is a leftwing party. Its leader, Merav Michaeli, is an ardent feminist. Would Labour, Levy writes, “ever raise its hand for apartheid laws against [Israeli] women in the West Bank? Two separate legal systems, one for men and another for women? Never. Absolutely not.” Levy’s point is that even for the so-called Zionist left, Palestinians are inherently inferior by virtue of the fact that they are Palestinian. The Palestinian gay community and Palestinian women are just as affected by the Israel’s apartheid law favoring Jewish settlers as Palestinian men are. So in voting for it, Meretz and Labour showed that they do not care about the rights of Palestinian women or members of the Palestinian LGBTQ community. Their support for women and the gay community is dependent on the ethnicity of those belonging to these groups. It should not need highlighting how close such a distinction on racial grounds is to the views espoused by the traditional supporters of Jim Crow in the U.S. or apartheid’s supporters in South Africa. So what makes Meretz and Labour legislators capable of not just utter hypocrisy but such flagrant racism? The answer is Zionism. Zionism is a form of ideological tribalism that prioritizes Jewish privilege in the legal, military and political realms. However leftwing you consider yourself, if you subscribe to Zionism you regard your ethnic tribalism as supremely important – and for that reason alone, you are racist. You may not be conscious of your racism, you may not wish to be racist, but by default you are. Ultimately, when push comes to shove, when you perceive your own Jewish tribalism to be under threat from another tribalism, you will revert to type. Your racism will come to fore, just as surely as Meretz’s just did.   Deceptive solidarity But of course, there is nothing exceptional about most Israeli Jews or Israel’s Zionist supporters abroad, whether Jewish or not. Tribalism is endemic to the way most of us view the world, and rapidly comes to the surface whenever we perceive our tribe to be in danger. Most of us can quickly become extreme tribalists. When tribalism relates to more trivial matters, such as supporting a sports team, it mostly manifests in less dangerous forms, such as boorish or aggressive behavior. But if it relates to an ethnic or national group, it encourages a host of more dangerous behaviors: jingoism, racism, discrimination, segregation and warmongering. As sensitive as Meretz is to its own tribal identities, whether the Jewish one or a solidarity with the LGBTQ community, its sensitivity to the tribal concerns of others can quickly dissolve when that other identity is presented as threatening. Which is why Meretz, in prioritizing its Jewish identity, lacks any meaningful solidarity with Palestinians or even the Palestinian LGBTQ community. Instead, Meretz’s opposition to the occupation and the settlements often appears more rooted in the sentiment that they are bad for Israel and its relations with the West than that they are a crime against Palestinians. This inconsistency means we can easily be fooled about who our real allies are. Just because we share a commitment to one thing, such as ending the occupation, it doesn’t necessarily mean we do so for the same reasons – or we attach the same importance to our commitment. It is easy, for example, for less experienced Palestinian solidarity activists to assume when they hear Meretz politicians that the party will help advance the Palestinian cause. But failing to understand Meretz’s tribal priorities is a recipe for constant disappointment – and futile activism on behalf of Palestinians. The Oslo “peace” process remained credible in the West for so long only because Westerners misunderstood how it fitted with the tribal priorities of Israelis. Most were ready to back peace in the abstract so long as it did not entail any practical loss of their tribal privileges. Yitzhak Rabin, the West’s Israeli partner in the Oslo process, showed what such tribalism entailed in the wake of a gun rampage by a settler, Baruch Goldstein, in 1994 that killed and wounded more than 100 Palestinians at worship in the Palestinian city of Hebron. Rather than using the murder spree as the justification to implement his commitment to remove the small colonies of extreme settlers from Hebron, Rabin put Hebron’s Palestinians under curfew for many months. Those restrictions have never been fully lifted for many of Hebron’s Palestinians and have allowed Jewish settlers to expand their colonies ever since.   Hierarchy of tribalisms There is a further point that needs underscoring, and that the Israel-Palestine case illustrates well. Not all tribalisms are equal, or equally dangerous. Palestinians are quite capable of being tribal too. Just look at the self-righteous posturing of some Hamas leaders, for example. But whatever delusions Zionists subscribe to, Palestinian tribalism is clearly far less dangerous to Israel than Jewish tribalism is to Palestinians. Israel, the state representing Jewish tribalists, has the support of all Western governments and major media outlets, as well as most Arab governments, and at the very least the complicity of global institutions. Israel has an army, navy and air force, all of which can rely on the latest, most powerful weaponry, itself heavily subsidized by the U.S. Israel also enjoys special trading status with the West, which has made its economy one of the strongest on the planet. The idea that Israeli Jews have a greater reason to fear the Palestinians (or in a further delusion, the Arab world) than Palestinians have to fear Israel is easily refuted. Simply consider how many Israeli Jews would wish to exchange places with a Palestinian – whether in Gaza, the West Bank, East Jerusalem or from the minority living inside Israel. The lesson is that there is a hierarchy of tribalisms, and that a tribalism is more dangerous if it enjoys more power. Empowered tribalisms have the ability to cause much greater harm than disempowered tribalisms. Not all tribalisms are equally destructive. But there is a more significant point. An empowered tribalism necessarily provokes, accentuates and deepens a disempowered tribalism. Zionists often claim that Palestinians are a made-up or imaginary people because they did not identify as Palestinians until after the state of Israel was created. Former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir famously suggested the Palestinians were an invented people. This was, of course, self-serving nonsense. But it has a kernel of truth that makes it sound plausible. Palestinian identity clarified and intensified as a result of the threat posed by Jewish immigrants arriving from Europe, claiming the Palestinian homeland as their own. As the saying goes, you don’t always fully appreciate what you have until you face losing it. Palestinians had to sharpen their national identity, and their national ambitions, faced with the threat that someone else was claiming what they had always assumed belonged to them.   Superior values So how does all this help us understand our own tribalism in the West? Not least, whatever the anxieties being encouraged in the West over the supposed threat posed by Russia and China, the reality is that the West’s tribalism – sometimes termed “Western civilization,” or “the rules-based order,” or “the democratic world,” or, even more ludicrously, “the international community” – is by far the most powerful of all tribalisms on the planet. And so also the most dangerous. Israel’s tribal power, for example, derives almost exclusively from the West’s tribal power. It is an adjunct, an extension, of Western tribal power. But we need to be a little more specific in our thinking. You and I subscribe to Western tribalism – either consciously or less so, depending on whether we see ourselves as on the right or the left of the political spectrum – because it has been cultivated in us over a lifetime through parenting, schools and the corporate media. We think West is best. None of us would want to be Russian or Chinese, any more than Israeli Jews would choose to be Palestinian. We implicitly understand that we have privileges over other tribes. And because we are tribal, we assume those privileges are justified in some way. They either derive from our own inherent superiority (a view often associated with the far right) or from a superior culture or traditions (a view usually embracing the moderate right, liberals and parts of the left). Again, this echoes Zionist views. Israeli Jews on the right tend to believe that they have inherently superior qualities to Palestinians and Arabs, who are seen as primitive, backward or barbarian-terrorists. Overlapping with these assumptions, religious-Zionist Jews tend to imagine that they are superior because they have the one true God on their side. By contrast, most secular Jews on the left, like the liberals of Meretz, believe that their superiority derives from some vague conception of Western “culture” or civilization that has fostered in them a greater ability to show tolerance and compassion, and act rationally, than do most Palestinians. Meretz would like to extend that culture to Palestinians to help them benefit from the same civilizing influences. But until that can happen, they, like the Zionist right, view Palestinians primarily as a threat. Seen in simple terms, Meretz believes they cannot easily empower the Palestinian LGBTQ community, much as they would like to, without also empowering Hamas. And they do not wish to do that because an empowered Hamas, they fear, would not only threaten the Palestinian LGBTQ community but the Israeli one too. So liberating Palestinians from decades of Israeli military occupation and ethnic cleansing will just have to wait for a more opportune moment – however long that may take, and however many Palestinians must suffer in the meantime.   New Hitlers The parallels with our own, Western worldview should not be hard to perceive. We understand that our tribalism, our prioritizing of our own privileges in the West, entails suffering for others. But either we assume we are more deserving than other tribes, or we assume others – to become deserving – must first be brought up to our level through education and other civilizing influences. They will just have to suffer in the meantime. When we read about the “white man’s burden” worldview in history books, we understand – with the benefit of distance from those times – how ugly Western colonialism was. When it is suggested that we might still harbor this kind of tribalism, we get irritated or, more likely, indignant. “Racist – me? Ridiculous!” Further, our blindness to our own super-empowered Western tribalism makes us oblivious too to the effect our tribalism has on less empowered tribalisms. We imagine ourselves under constant threat from any other tribal group that asserts its own tribalism in the face of our more empowered tribalism. Some of those threats can be more ideological and amorphous, particularly in recent years: like the supposed “clash of civilisations” against the Islamist extremism of al-Qaeda and Islamic State. But our preferred enemies have a face, and all too readily can be presented as an improbable stand-in for our template of the bogeyman: Adolf Hitler. Those new Hitlers pop up one after another, like a whack-a-mole game we can never quite win. Iraq’s Saddam Hussein – supposedly ready to fire the WMD he didn’t actually have in our direction in less than 45 minutes. The mad ayatollahs of Iran and their politician-puppets – seeking to build a nuclear bomb to destroy our forward outpost of Israel before presumably turning their warheads on Europe and the U.S. And then there is the biggest, baddest monster of them all: Vladimir Putin. The mastermind threatening our way of life, our values, or civilization with his mind games, disinformation and control of social media through an army of bots.   Existential threats Because we are as blind to our own tribalism as Meretz is to its racism towards Palestinians, we cannot understand why anyone else might fear us more than we fear them. Our “superior” civilization has cultivated in us a solipsism, a narcissism, that refuses to acknowledge our threatening presence in the world. The Russians could never be responding to a threat – real or imagined – that we might pose by expanding our military presence right up to Russia’s borders. The Russians could never see our NATO military alliance as primarily aggressive rather than defensive, as we claim, even though somewhere in a small, dark mental recess where things that make us uncomfortable are shoved we know that Western armies have launched a series of direct wars of aggression against countries like Iraq and Afghanistan, and via proxies in Syria, Yemen, Iran and Venezuela. The Russians could never genuinely fear neo-Nazi groups in Ukraine – groups that until recently Western media worried were growing in power – even after those neo-Nazis were integrated into the Ukrainian military and led what amounts to a civil war against ethnic Russian communities in the country’s east. In our view, when Putin spoke of the need to de-Nazify Ukraine, he was not amplifying Russians’ justifiable fears of Nazism on their doorstep, given their history, or the threat those groups genuinely pose to ethnic Russian communities nearby. No, he was simply proving that he and the likely majority of Russians who think like he does are insane. More than that, his hyperbole gave us permission to bring our covert arming of these neo-Nazis groups out into the light. Now we embrace these neo-Nazis, as we do the rest of Ukraine, and send them advanced weaponry – many billions of dollars worth of advanced weaponry. And while we do this, we self-righteously berate Putin for being a madman and for his disinformation. He is demented or a liar for viewing us as a existential threat to Russia, while we are entirely justified in viewing him as an existential threat to Western civilization. And so we keep feeding the chimerical devil we fear. And however often our fears are exposed as self-rationalizing, we never learn. Saddam Hussein posed an earlier existential threat. His non-existent WMDs were going to be placed in his non-existent long-range missiles to destroy us. So we had every right to destroy Iraq first, preemptively. But when those WMDs turned out not to exist, whose fault was it? Not ours, of course. It was Saddam Hussein’s. He didn’t tell us he did not have WMDs. How could we have known? In our view, Iraq ended up being destroyed because Saddam was a strongman who believed his own propaganda, a primitive Arab hoisted by his own petard. If we paused for a moment and stood outside our own tribalism, we might realize how dangerously narcissistic – quite how mad – we sound. Saddam Hussein did not tell us he had no WMDs, that he had secretly destroyed them many years earlier, because he feared us and our uncontrollable urge to dominate the globe. He feared that, if we knew he lacked those weapons, we might have more of an incentive to attack him and Iraq, either directly or through proxies. It was we who trapped him in his own lie. And then there is Iran. Our endless fury with the mad ayatollahs – our economic sanctions, our and Israel’s executions of Iran’s scientists, our constant chatter of invasion – are intended to stop Tehran from ever acquiring a nuclear weapon that might finally level the Middle East’s playing field with Israel, whom we helped to develop a large nuclear arsenal decades ago. Iran must be stopped so it cannot destroy Israel and then us. Our fears of the Iranian nuclear threat are paramount. We must strike, directly or through proxies, against its allies in Lebanon, Yemen, Syria and Gaza. Our entire Middle East policy must be fashioned around the effort to prevent Iran from ever gaining the bomb. In our madness, we cannot imagine the fears of Iranians, their realistic sense that we pose a much graver threat to them than they could ever pose to us. In the circumstances, to Iranians, a nuclear weapon might surely look like a very wise insurance policy – a deterrence – against our boundless self-righteousness.   Vicious cycle Because we are the strongest tribe on the planet, we are also the most deluded, the most propagandized, as well as the most dangerous. We create the reality we think we oppose. We spawn the devils we fear. We force our rivals into the role of bogeyman that makes us feel good about ourselves. In Israel, Meretz imagines it opposes the occupation. And yet it keeps conspiring in actions – supposedly to aid Israel’s security, like the apartheid law – that justifiably make Palestinians fear for their existence and believe they have no Jewish allies in Israel. Backed into a corner, Palestinians resist, either in an organized fashion, as during their intifada uprisings, or through ineffectual “lone-wolf” attacks by individuals. But the Zionist tribalism of Meretz – as liberal, humane and caring as they are – means they can perceive only their own existential anxieties; they cannot see themselves as a threat to others or grasp the fears that they and other Zionists provoke in Palestinians. So the Palestinians must be dismissed as religious maniacs, or primitive, or barbarian-terrorists. This kind of tribalism produces a vicious cycle – for us, as for Israel. Our behaviors based on the assumption of superiority – our greed and aggression – mean we inevitably deepen the tribalisms of others and provoke their resistance. Which in turn rationalizes our assumption that we must act even more tribally, even more greedily, even more aggressively.   Cheerleading war We each have more than one tribal identity, of course. We are not only British, French, American, Brazilian. We are Black, Asian, Hispanic, white. We are straight, gay, trans, or something even more complex. We are conservative, liberal, left. We may support a team, or have a faith. These tribal identities can conflict and interact in complex ways. As Meretz shows, one identity may come to the fore, and recede into the background, depending on circumstances and the perception of threat. But perhaps most important of all, some tribalisms can be harnessed and manipulated by other, narrower, more covert tribal identities. Remember, not all tribalisms are equal. Western elites – our politicians, corporate leaders, billionaires – have their own narrow tribalism. They prioritize their own tribe and its interests: making money and retaining power on the world stage. But given how ugly, selfish and destructive this tribe would look were it to stand before us nakedly pursuing power for its own benefit, it promotes its tribal interests in the name of the wider tribe and its “cultural” values. This elite tribe wages its endless wars for resource control, it oppresses others, it imposes austerity, it wrecks the planet, all in the name of Western civilization. When we cheerlead the West’s wars; when we reluctantly concede that other societies must be smashed; when we accept that poverty and food banks are an unfortunate byproduct of supposed economic realities, as is the toxifying of the planet, we conspire in advancing not our own tribal interests but someone else’s. When we send tens of billions of dollars of weapons to Ukraine, we imagine we are being selfless, helping those in trouble, stopping an evil madman, upholding international law, listening to Ukrainians. But our understanding of why events are unfolding as they are in Ukraine, more so than how they are unfolding, has been imposed on us, just as it has on ordinary Ukrainians and ordinary Russians. We believe we can end the war through more muscle. We assume we can terrorize Russia into withdrawal. Or even more dangerously, we fantasize that we can defeat a nuclear-armed Russia and remove its “madman” president. We cannot imagine that we are only stoking the very fears that drove Russia to invade Ukraine in the first place, the very fears that brought a strongman like Putin to power and sustain him there. We make the situation worse in assuming we are making it better. So why do we do it? Because our thoughts are not our own. We are dancing to a tune composed by others whose motives and interests we barely comprehend. An endless war is not in our interests, nor in those of Ukrainians or Russians. But it might just be in the interests of Western elites that need to “weaken the enemy” to expand their dominance; that need pretexts to hoover up our money for wars that profit them alone; that need to create enemies to shore up the tribalism of Western publics so that we do not start to see things from the point of view of others or wonder whether our own tribalism really serves our interests or those of an elite. The truth is we are being constantly manipulated, duped, propagandized to advance “values” that are not inherent in our “superior” culture but manufactured for us by the elites’ public-relations arm, the corporate media. We are made into willing co-conspirators in behavior that actually harms us, others, and the planet. In Ukraine, our very compassion to help is being weaponized in ways that will kill Ukrainians and destroy their communities, just as Meretz’s caring liberalism has spent decades rationalizing the oppression of Palestinians in the name of ending it. We cannot liberate Ukraine or Russia. But what we can do may, in the long term, prove far more significant: We can start liberating our minds. Feature photo | MintPress News Jonathan Cook is a MintPress contributor. Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East (Pluto Press) and Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair (Zed Books). His website is www.jonathan-cook.net. The post Forget Liberating Ukraine – We First Need To Liberate Our Minds  appeared first on MintPress News.

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