Russia ‘Novichok’ Hysteria Proves Politicians and Media Haven’t Learned The Lessons of Iraq

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If there’s one thing to be gleaned from the current atmosphere of anti Russian hysteria in the West, it’s that the US-led sustained propaganda campaign is starting to pay dividends. It’s not only the hopeless political classes and media miscreants who believe that Russia is hacking, meddling, and poisoning our progressive democratic utopia – with many pinning their political careers to this by now that’s it’s too late for them to turn back. As it was with Iraq in 2003, these dubious public figures require a degree of public support for their policies, and unfortunately many people do believe in the grand Russian conspiracy, having been sufficiently brow-beaten into submission by around-the-clock fear mongering and official fake news disseminated by government and the mainstream media.

What makes this latest carnival of warmongering more frightening is that it proves that the political and media classes never actually learned or internalized the basic lessons of Iraq, namely that the cessation of diplomacy and the declarations of sanctions (a prelude to war) against another sovereign state should not be based on half-baked intelligence and mainstream fake news. But that’s exactly what is happening with this latest Russian "Novichok" plot.

Admittedly, the stakes are much higher this time around. The worst case scenario is unthinkable, whereby the bad graces of men like John Bolton and other military zealots, there may just be a thin enough mandate to short-sell another military conflagration or proxy war – this time against another nuclear power and UN Security Council member.

Enter stage right, where US President Donald Trump announced this week that the US is moving closer to war footing with Russia. It’s not the first time Trump has made such a hasty move in the absence any forensic evidence of a crime. Nowadays, hearsay, conjecture, and social media postings are enough to declare war. Remember last April with the alleged “Sarin Attack” in Khan Sheikhoun, when the embattled President squeezed off 59 Tomahawk Cruise missiles against Syria – a decision, which as far as anyone can tell, was based solely on a few YouTube videos uploaded by the illustrious White Helmets. Back then Trump learned how an act of war against an existential enemy could take the heat off at home and translate into a bounce in the polls. Even La Résistance at CNN were giddy with excitement and threw their support behind Trump, with some pundits describing his decision to act as “Presidential.”

As with past high-profile western-led WMD allegations against governments in Syria and Iraq (the US and UK are patently unconcerned with multiple allegations of "rebel" terrorists in Syria caught using chemical weapons), an identical progression of events appears to be unfolding following the alleged "Novichok" chemical weapon poisoning of retired British-Russian double agent Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia in Salisbury, Wiltshire on March 4th.

Despite a lack of evidence presented to the public other than the surreptitious “highly likely” assessments of British Prime Minister Theresa May and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, President Trump once again has caved into pressure from Official Washington’s anti-Russian party line and ordered the expulsion of 60 Russian diplomats – which he accused of being spies. Trump also ordered the closure of the Russian Consulate in Seattle, citing speculative fears that Russia might be spying on a nearby Boeing submarine development base. It was the second round of US expulsions of Russian officials, with the first one ordered by the outgoing President Obama in December 2016, kicking out 35 Russian diplomats and their families (including their head chef) and closing the Russian Consulate in San Francisco, with some calling it “a den of spies.”

Trump’s move followed an earlier UK action on March 14th, which expelled 23 Russian diplomats also accused of being spies. This was in retaliation for the alleged poisoning of a retired former Russian-British double agent in Salisbury, England.

The ‘Collective’ Concern

It’s important to understand how this week’s brash move by Washington was coordinated in advance. The US and the UK are relying on their other NATO partners, including Germany, Poland, Italy, Canada, the Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Estonia and Lithuania – to create the image of a united front against perceived "Russian aggression." As with multilateral military operations, multilateral diplomatic measures like this are not carried out on a whim.

Aside from this, there are two seriously worrying aspects of this latest US-led multilateral move against Russia. Firstly, this diplomatic offensive against Russia mirrors a NATO collective defense action, and by doing so, it tacitly signals towards an invocation of Article 5. According to AP, one German spokesperson called it a matter of "solidarity" with the UK. Statements from the White House are no less encouraging:
'The United States takes this action in conjunction with our NATO allies, and partners around the world in response with Russia’s use of a military grade chemical weapon on the soil of the United Kingdom — the latest in its ongoing pattern of destabilizing activities around the world,' the White House said.

'Today’s actions make the United States safer by reducing Russia’s ability to spy on Americans, and to conduct covert operations that threaten America’s national security.' 
What this statement indicates is that any Russian foreign official or overseas worker in the West should be regarded as possible agents of espionage. In other words, the Cold War is now officially back on.

Then came this statement:
With these steps, the United States and our allies and partners make clear to Russia that its actions have consequences.
In an era of power politics, this language is anything but harmless. And while US and UK politicians and media pundits seem to be treating it all as a school yard game at times, we should all be reminded that his is how wars start.

The second issue with the Trump’s diplomatic move against Russia is that it extends beyond the territorial US – and into what should be regarded at the neutral zone of the United Nations. As part of the group of 60 expulsions, the US has expelled 12 Russian diplomats from the United Nations in New York City. While this may mean nothing to jumped-up political appointees like Nikki Haley who routinely threaten the UN when a UNGA vote doesn’t go her way, this is an extremely dangerous precedent because it means that the US has now created a diplomatic trap door where legitimate international relations duties are being carelessly rebranded as espionage – done on a whim and based on no actual evidence. By using this tactic, the US is casting aside decades of international resolutions, treaties and laws. Such a move directly threatens to undermine a fundamental principle of the United Nations which is its diplomatic mission and the right for every sovereign nation to have diplomatic representation. Without it, there is no UN forum and countries cannot talk through their differences and negotiate peaceful settlements. This is why the UN was founded in the first place. Someone might want to remind Nikki Haley of that.

On top of this, flippant US and UK officials are already crowing that Russia should be kicked off the UN Security Council. In effect, Washington is trying to cut the legs out from a fellow UN Security Council member and a nuclear power. This UNSC exclusion campaign been gradually building up since 2014, where US officials have been repeatedly blocked by Russia over incidents in Syria and the Ukraine. Hence, Washington and its partners are frustrated with the UN framework, and that’s probably why they are so actively undermining it.

Those boisterous calls, as irrational and ill-informed as they might be, should be taken seriously because as history shows, these signs are a prelude to war.

Also, consider the fact that both the US and Russia have military assets deployed in Syria. How much of the Skripal case and the subsequent fall-out has to do with the fact that US Coalition and Gulf state proxy terrorists have lost their hold over key areas in Syria? The truly dangerous part of this equation is that the illegal military occupation by the US and its NATO ally Turkey of northeastern Syria is in open violation of international law, and so Washington and its media arms would like nothing more than to be history’s actor and bury its past indiscretions under a new layer of US-Russia tension in the Middle East.

Another WMD Debacle?

Is it really possible to push East-West relations over the edge on the basis of anecdotal evidence?

Former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray, highlighted the recent British High Court judgement which states in writing that the government’s own chemical weapons experts from the Porton Down research facility could not categorically confirm that a Russian "Novichok" nerve agent was actually used in the Salisbury incident. Based on this, Murray believes that both British Prime Minster Theresa May and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, and Britain’s deputy UN representative Jonathan Allen – have all lied to the public and the world when making their public statements that the Russians had in fact launched a deadly chemical weapons attack on UK soil. Murray states elaborates on this key point:
This sworn Court evidence direct from Porton Down is utterly incompatible with what Boris Johnson has been saying. The truth is that Porton Down have not even positively identified this as a ‘Novichok’, as opposed to 'a closely related agent.' Even if it were a ‘Novichok’ that would not prove manufacture in Russia, and a ‘closely related agent’ could be manufactured by literally scores of state and non-state actors.

This constitutes irrefutable evidence that the government have been straight out lying – to Parliament, to the EU, to NATO, to the United Nations, and above all to the people – about their degree of certainty of the origin of the attack. It might well be an attack originating in Russia, but there are indeed other possibilities and investigation is needed. As the government has sought to whip up jingoistic hysteria in advance of forthcoming local elections, the scale of the lie has daily increased.
Murray has been roundly admonished by the UK establishment for his views, but he is still correct to ask the question: how could UK government leaders have known "who did it" in advance of any criminal forensic investigation or substantive testing by Porton Down or an independent forensic investigation by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW)?

One would hope we could all agree that it’s this sort of question which should have been given more prominence in the run-up to the Iraq War. In matters of justice and jurisprudence, that’s a fundamental question and yet, once again – it has been completely bypassed.

Murray is not alone. A number of scientists and journalists have openly questioned the UK’s hyperbolic claims that Russia had ordered a "chemical attack" on British soil. In her recent report  for the New Scientist, author Debora MacKenzie reiterates the fact that several countries could have manufactured a "Novichok" class nerve agent and used it in the chemical attack on Russians Sergei and Yulia Skripal in Salisbury.
British Prime Minister Theresa May says that because it was Russia that developed Novichok agents, it is ‘highly likely’ that Russia either attacked the Skripals itself, or lost control of its Novichok to someone else who did. But other countries legally created Novichok for testing purposes after its existence was revealed in 1992, and a production method has even been published.
The New Scientist also quotes Ralf Trapp, a chemical weapons consultant formerly with the OPCW, who also reiterates a point worth reminding readers of – that inspectors are only able to tell where molecules sampled in Salisbury have come from if they have reference samples for the ingredients used.

“I doubt they have reference chemicals for forensic analysis related to Russian CW agents,” says Trapp. “But if Russia has nothing to hide they may let inspectors in.”

Even if they can identify it as Novichok, they cannot say that it came from Russia, or was ordered by the Russian government, not least of all because the deadly recipe is available on Amazon for only $28.45.

It should be noted that a substantial amount of evidence points to only two countries who are the most active in producing and testing biological and chemical weapons WMD – the United States and Great Britain. Their programs also include massive "live testing" on both humans and animals with most of this work undertaken at the Porton Down research facility located only minutes away from the scene of this alleged "chemical attack" in Salisbury, England.

Problems with the Official Story

If we put aside for the moment any official UK government theory, which is based on speculation backed-up by a series of hyperbolic statements and proclamations of Russian guilt, there are still many fundamental problems with the official story  – maybe too many to list here, but I will address what I believe are a few key items of interest.

The UK police have now released a statement claiming that the alleged "Novichok" nerve agent was somehow administered at the front door of Sergie Skripal’s home in Wiltshire. This latest official claim effectively negates the previous official story because it means that the Skripals would have been exposed a home at the latest around 13:00 GMT on March 4th, and then drove into town, parking their car at Sainsbury’s car park, then having a leisurely walk to have drinks at The Mill Pub, before for ordering and eating lunch at Zizzis restaurant, and then finally leaving the Zizzis and walking before finally retiring on a park bench – where emergency services were apparently called at 16:15 GMT to report an incident. Soon after, local Police arrived on the scene to find the Skripals on the bench in an “extremely serious condition”. Based on this story, the Skripals would have been going about their business for 3 hours before finally falling prey to the deadly WMD "Novichok." From this, one would safely conclude that whatever has poisoned the pair was neither lethal nor could it have been a military grade WMD. Even by subtracting the home doorway exposure leg of this story, the government’s claim hardly adds up – as even a minor amount of any real lethal military grade WMD would have effected many more people along this timeline of events. Based on what we know so far, it seems much more plausible that the pair would have been poisoned (or drugged) at Zizzis restaurant, and not with a military grade nerve agent.

When this story initially broke, we were also told that the attending police officer who first arrived on the scene of this incident, Wiltshire Police Detective Sgt. Nick Bailey – was “fighting for his life” after being exposed to the supposed "deadly Russian nerve agent." As it turned out, officer Bailey was treated in hospital and then discharged on March 22, 2018. To our knowledge, no information or photos of Bailey’s time in care are available to the public so we cannot know the trajectory of his health, or if he was even exposed to the said “Novichok" nerve agent as the government and media have repeatedly said.

In the immediate aftermath, the public were also told initially that approximately 40 people were taken into medical care because of “poison exposure.” This bogus claim was promulgated by some mainstream media outlets, like Rupert Murdoch’s Times newspaper. In reality, no one showed signed of “chemical weapons” exposure, meaning that this story was just another example of mainstream corporate media fake news designed to stoke tension and fear in the public. We exposed this at the time on the UK Column News here.

To further complicate matters, this week we were told that Yulia Skripal has now turned the corner and is in recovery, and is speaking to police from her hospital bed. If this is true, then it further proves that whatever the alleged poison agent was which the Skripals were exposed to – it was not a lethal, military grade nerve agent. If it had been, then most likely the Skripals and many others would not be alive right now.

Unfortunately, in this new age of state secrecy, we can expect that most of the key information relating to this case may be sealed indefinitely under a national security letter. In the case of Porton Down scientist David Kelly, the key information is sealed (hidden) for another 60+ years (if we’re lucky, we might get to see it in the year 2080). This means that we just have to take their word for it, or to borrow the words of the newly crowed UK Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson – any one asking questions, “should just go away and shut up.”  Such is the lack of decorum and transparency in this uncomfortably Orwellian atmosphere.

While Britain insists that it has "irrefutable proof" that Russia launched a deadly nerve-gas attack to murder the Skripals, the facts simply do not match-up to the rhetoric.

The Litvinenko Conspiracy


It’s important to note that as far as public perceptions are concerned, the official Skripal narrative has been build directly on top of the Litvinenko case.

In order to try and reinforce the government’s speculative arguments, the UK establishment has resurrected the trial-by-media case of another Russian defector, former FSB officer Alexander Litvinenko, who is said to have died after being poisoned with radioactive polonium-210 in his tea at a restaurant in London’s Mayfair district in late 2006.

Despite not having any actual evidence as to who committed the crime, the British authorities and the mainstream media have upheld an almost religious belief that the Russian FSB (formerly KGB), under the command of Vladimir Putin, had ordered the alleged radioactive poisoning of Litvinenko.

The media mythos was reinforced in 2016, when a British Public Inquiry headed by Sir Robert Owen accused senior Russian officials of "probably having motives to approve the murder" of Litvinenko. Again, this level of guesswork and speculation would never meet the standard of an actual forensic investigation worthy of a real criminal court of law, but so far as apportioning blame to another nation or head of state is concerned – it seems fair enough for British authorities.

Following the completion of the inquiry, Sir Robert had this to say:
Taking full account of all the evidence and analysis available to me, I find that the FSB operation to kill Litvinenko was probably approved by Mr Patrushev and also by President Putin.
Contrary to consensus reality (popular belief), Owen’s inquiry was not at all definitive. Quite the opposite in fact, and in many ways it mirrors how the Skripal case has been presented to the public. Despite offering no evidence of any criminal guilt, Owen’s star chamber maintained that Vladimir Putin “probably” approved the operation to assassinate Litvinenko. Is “probably” really enough to assign guilt in a major international crime? When it comes to high crimes of state, the answer seems to be yes.

According to Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Marina Zakharova, that UK inquiry was “neither transparent nor public” and was “conducted mostly behind doors, with classified documents and unnamed witnesses contributing to the result…”

Zakharova highlighted the fact that two key witnesses in the case – Litvinenko’s chief patron, a UK-based anti-Putin defector billionaire oligarch named Boris Berezovsky, and the owner of Itsu restaurant in London’s Mayfair where the incident is said to have taken place, had both suddenly died under dubious circumstances. The British authorities went on to accuse two Russian men in the Litvineko murder – businessman Andrey Lugovoy and Dmitry Kovtun. Both have denied the accusations. Despite the lack of any real evidence, the United States Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control blacklisted both Lugovoi and Kovtun, as well as Russian persons Stanislav Gordievsky, Gennady Plaksin and Aleksandr I. Bastrykin – under the Magnitsky Act, which freezes their assets held in American financial institutions, and bans them from conducting any transactions or traveling to the United States.

Notice the familiar pattern: even if the case is inconclusive, or collapses due to a lack of evidence, the policies remain in place.

Despite all the pomp and circumstance however, Owen’s official conspiracy theory failed to sway even Litvinenko’s own close family members. While Litvinenko’s widow Marina maintains that it was definitely the Russian government who killed her husband, Alexsander’s younger brother Maksim Litvinenko, based in Rimini, Italy, believes the British report “ridiculous” to blame the Kremlin for the murder of his brother, stating that he believes British security services had more of a motive to carry out the assassination.

“My father and I are sure that the Russian authorities are not involved. It’s all a set-up to put pressure on the Russian government,” said Maksim to the Mirror newspaper, and that such reasoning can explain why the UK waited almost 10 years to launch the inquiry his brother’s death.

Maxim also said that Britain had more reason to kill his brother than the Russians, and believes that blaming Putin for the murder was part of a wider effort to smear Russia.

Following the police investigation, Alexander’s father Walter Litvinenko, also said that he had regretted blaming Putin and the Russian government for his son’s death and did so under intense pressure at the time.

For anyone skeptical of the official proclamations of the British state and the mainstream media on the Litvinenko case, it’s worth reading the work of British journalist Will Dunkerly here.

With so many questions hanging over the actually validity of the British state’s accusations against Russia, it’s somewhat puzzling that British police would say they are still "looking for similarities" between the Skripal and Litvinenko cases in order to pinpoint a modus operandi.

The admission by the British law enforcement that their investigation may take months before any conclusion can be drawn also begs the question: how could May have been so certain so quick? The answer should be clear by now: she could not have known it was a "Novichok" agent, no more than she could know the "Russia did it."

A Plastic Cold War

Historically speaking, in the absence of any real mandate or moral authority, governments suffering from an identity crisis, or a crisis of legitimacy will often try and define themselves not based on what they stand for, but rather what (or who) they are in opposition to. This profile suits both the US and UK perfectly at the moment. Both governments are limping along with barely a mandate, and have orchestrated two of the worst and most hypocritical debacles in history with their illegal wars in both Syria and Yemen. With their moral high-ground a thing of the past, these two countries require a common existential enemy in order to give their international order legitimacy. The cheapest, easiest option is to reinvigorate a framework which was already there, which is the Cold War framework. Reds under the bed. The Russian are coming etc. It’s cheap and it’s easy because it has already been seeded with 70 years of Cold War propaganda and institutionalized racism in the West directed against Russians. If you don’t believe me, just go look at some of the posters, watch the TV propaganda in the US, or read about the horrific McCarthyist blacklists and political witch hunts. I remember growing up in America and being taught “never again” and “we’re past all of that now, those days of irrational paranoia are behind us, we’re better than that now.” But that madness of the past was not a fringe affair – it was a mainstream madness, and one which was actively promoted by government and mainstream media.

You would have to be at the pinnacle of ignorance to deny that this is exactly what we are seeing today, albeit a more plastic version, but just as immoral and dangerous. Neocons love it, and now Liberals love it too.

Dutifully fanning the flames of war, Theresa May has issued her approval of the NATO members diplomatic retaliation this week exclaiming, “We welcome today’s actions by our allies, which clearly demonstrate that we all stand shoulder to shoulder in sending the strongest signal to Russia that it cannot continue to flout international law.”

But from an international law perspective, can May’s "highly likely" assurances really be enough to position the west on war footing with Russia? When Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn asked these same fundamental questions on March 14th, he was shouted down by the Tory bench, and also by the hawkish Blairites sitting behind him.

Afterwards, the British mainstream press launched yet another defamation campaign against Corbyn, this time with the UK’s Daily Mail calling the opposition leader a “Kremlin Stooge”, followed by British state broadcaster the BBC who went through the effort of creating a mock-up graphic of Corbyn in front of the Kremlin apparently wearing a Russian hat, as if to say he was a Russian agent. It was a new low point in UK politics and media.

Considering the mainstream media’s Corbyn smear alongside the recent insults hurled at Julian Assange by Tory MP Sir Alan Duncan who stood up in front of Parliament and called the Wikileaks founder a “miserable worm,” what this really says is that anyone who dares defy the official state narrative will be beaten down and publicly humiliated. In other words, dissent in the political ranks will not be tolerated. It’s almost as if we are approaching a one party state.

Would a UN Security Council member and nuclear power really be so brazen as to declare de facto war on another country without presenting any actual evidence or completing a genuine forensic investigation?

So why the apparent rush to war? Haven’t we been here before, in 2003? Will the people of the West allow it to happen again?

As with Tony Blair’s WMD’s in 2003, the British public are meant to take it on faith and never question the official government line. And just like in 2003, the UK has opened the first door on the garden path, with the US and its "coalition" following safely behind, shoulder to shoulder. In this latest version of the story, Tony Blair is being played by Theresa May, and Jack Straw is being played by Boris Johnson. On the other side of the pond, a hapless Bush is hapless Trump. Both Blair and Straw, along with the court propagandist Alastair Campbell – are all proven to have been liars of the highest order, and if there were any real accountability or justice, these men and their collaborators in government should be in prison right now. The fact they aren’t is why the door has been left wide open for the exact same scam to be repeated again, and again.

Iraq should have taught us all to be skeptical about official claims of chemical weapons evidence, and to face the ugly truth about how most major wars throughout history have waged by the deception – and by western governments. What does it tell us about today’s society if people still cannot see this?

That’s why it was wrong to let Blair, Bush and others off the hook for war crimes. By doing so, both the British and Americans are inviting a dark phase of history to repeat itself again, and again.

It’s high time that we break the cycle.

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Author Patrick Henningsen is a global affairs analyst and founder of independent news and analysis site 21st Century Wire, and host of the SUNDAY WIRE weekly radio show broadcast globally over the Alternate Current Radio Network (ACR).

Reprinted with permission form 21st Century Wire.

How the Guardian became the West’s Pravada

Here is a good example of pure, unadulterated western propaganda from the Guardian, written by one of their most senior journalists, Julian Borger. This could be straight out of of the old Soviet mouth-piece Pravda.

According to the Guardian:

China and Russia are leading a stealthy and increasingly successful effort at the United Nations to weaken UN efforts to protect human rights around the world, according to diplomats and activists.

The article continues in similar vein, blaming the two official enemies of the west for the increasingly degraded status of human rights at the UN.

As far I can tell, none of the facts in the Guardian’s story is untrue. But that does not stop it from being a blatant lie. Providing only a partial account – one serving western interests – of what is happening to human rights at the UN is not only a distortion of the truth but outright propaganda.

The only allusion to the truth – possibly inadvertent – is to be found in this quote from Louis Charbonneau, the UN director for Human Rights Watch:

The fifth committee [the UN budget panel] has become a battleground for human rights. Russia and China and others have launched a war on things that have human rights in their name.

Yes, did you spot it? You have to be quick. It was there in that word “others”. Easy to miss.

Reading between the lines of this article, one can understand that Russia is causing problems to western interests at the UN because it has an agenda – in supporting the Syrian government of Bashar Assad – that conflicts with Washington and Israel’s agenda of breaking apart the central authority holding Syria together.

Both sides are dressing up their own, self-interested agendas in the language of human rights. A real journalist should be wary of taking either side’s word at face value on this matter.

But the failure of this article as journalism goes way beyond this kind of one-sidedness.

How can a supposedly serious journalist in a supposedly serious liberal newspaper write about current threats to the protection of human rights at the UN and refer only to Russia and China? It is possible only if Borger sees his job not to act as a watchdog on power but as a promoter of a western diplomatic agenda intended to stoke anti-Russian and anti-Chinese sentiment.

Right now, the United States is defunding a vital UN institution, the refugee agency UNRWA caring for millions of Palestinian refugees. Their rights are being trampled underfoot by Israel and the US.

The Trump administration is also threatening to quit and defund the UN Human Rights Council, one of the most important international bodies monitoring human rights abuses. It is targeting the UNHRC because it regularly highlights Israel’s abuses of Palestinians under belligerent occupation.

This is the start of a report in Israel’s liberal Haaretz newspaper this week over the decision of the US yet again to threaten the Human Rights Council after it passed a resolution on Israel’s illegal settlements, which steal land and water from Palestinians and whose inhabitants regularly attack Palestinian men, women and children:

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley slammed the UN Human Rights Council on Friday, saying that “the United States would continue to examine our membership” in the organization following a series of decisions the council took against Israel’s policy in the occupied territories.

Sources in Brussels told Haaretz that most European countries supported decisions only after their wording was softened so as not to evoke immediate practical significance.

In short, spineless European diplomats are toning down the UN’s monitoring of Israel for its human rights abuses in an effort to stop the US from pulling down the whole edifice of the Human Rights Council.

None of this is secret information. The Trump administration has been throwing temper tantrums against the UN over its human rights work out in the open.

So was this information and context not vitally relevant to a report considering threats to the status of human rights at the UN? Or do Borger and his editors think his job is only to parrot what western officials tell him is important?

Privacy Denied: Students May Bring Only Clear Backpacks to School

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KERA radio in Dallas, Texas aired a news report this week relating that the Ennis school district in North Texas, starting in the fall semester, will allow students at district schools from prekindergarten through high school to bring only “clear, PVC backpacks to school.” The school district also is implementing right away mandatory backpack searches on middle and high school students. Plus, police dogs will be on campuses more often.

Making a typical excuse for the new anti-privacy school district policies, Ennis Police Chief John Erisman said in a report on the Dallas NBC television station that “anything that’s gonna keep our kids safe, our students safe — if we have to deal with a mild inconvenience in order for our kids to be safer, I am all for that.”

In announcing the clear backpack requirement, the school district is following in the footsteps of Broward County school district in Florida that, Dakin Andone reported earlier this month at CNN, imposed on students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School a clear backpacks mandate in the name of enhanced security after a mass murder occurred earlier this year at the school.

These privacy-invading actions are just the beginning. Both school districts are adopting further requirements including that students wear IDs on campuses. Also, KERA reports that the Ennis school district will install security gates at its schools, while the CNN story relates that metal detectors and metal detector wands may be used at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Each morning students can be welcomed to school by being herded through a security checkpoint. Hopefully, there will be a lower level of harassment at the schools than is imposed by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) at airports and elsewhere.

There would be plenty of reason for students and parents to object to the establishing of such policies by a private school as well. Yet, parents and students in such a situation have the alternative, upon hearing of the policy changes, to bolt and move their tuition dollars to another school that better respects students’ privacy. At the Texas and Florida schools, the situation is worse because these are government schools that are paid for with tax dollars extracted via threat of force and are populated with students with the help of truancy laws ultimately enforced by armed government agents.

The situation with government schools’ oppressive policies justified as “security” is grim. And, as Rutherford Institute President John W. Whitehead suggested in a recent editorial, the situation has bad implications for the future in America:
Instead of raising up a generation of freedom fighters—which one would hope would be the objective of the schools—government officials seem determined to churn out newly minted citizens of the American police state who are being taught the hard way what it means to comply, fear and march in lockstep with the government’s dictates.
Here is something students, their parents, and the people whose tax money is extracted to fund government schools can do to resist the dictates and fight for freedom: Tell the government and its schools that it is none of their business what is in students’ backpacks and pockets.

Faking it and Fakery: Najib and Censorship

Fake news has not merely become a business but a designation.  It is a way of silencing dissent, and questioning accounts. For the authoritarian, this is not merely a delight, but a necessity.  News accounts are deemed the stuff and dreams of the inventive, and those inventors deserve punishment.

Denial becomes a state of mind, and a very convinced one at that.  President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey can say with confidence that the casualties of any military action against the Kurds have been exaggerated.  US accounts of the bloody surge in Afrin in February made him seethe.  “You don’t feel the tiniest discomfort of the massacre of hundreds of children, women and civilians every day in East Ghouta but you express your annoyance at our fight against terrorists.  You are spreading fake news.”

In the era of Donald J. Trump, fake news has become the flipside of reality television, its evil nourishing twin.  The more real things are, the less tangibly verifiable they are.  Before the camera, and as it floats through the news cycle, all accounts shall be mistrusted.  Only the powerful shall have meaning.

It has also become a school of inspiration for such figures as Prime Minister Najib Razak of Malaysia.  Knowing that his electoral survival might be in the balance, Najib has decided to influence the course of history.

Malaysia’s electoral boundaries have been redrawn along more amenable racial lines to counter the opposition threat.  The number of seats featuring opposition tendencies has also been reduced.  Wong Chin-Huat of the Penang Institute sees such division of constituencies as significant and more importantly, decisive.  “Assuming the voters go back to voting the same way (they did in the last polls), then [Barisan Nasional] would win eight more seats this time around.”

Najib has also become a convert to the Fake News Doctrine. But he has gone further than Trump, a man he visited with some cheer.  On his September visit, the Washington Post found that another authoritarian had won the US president’s sympathy.  (Easily forgotten here is Najib’s own political courtship and flattery of predecessor Barack Obama.)

Not only is Mr. Najib known for imprisoning peaceful opponents, silencing critical media and reversing Malaysia’s progress toward democracy. He also is a subject of the largest foreign kleptocracy investigation ever launched by the US Justice Department.

Najib’s exploits, along with those of his associates, are said to be the stuff of unbelievable proportion.  The charges from DOJ investigators centre on the diversion of $4.5 billion from a Malaysian government investment fund, 1Malaysia Development Berhad, for personal purposes.  (Ever there lies confusion between public monies and government ownership)  A tidy sum of $730 million is said to have ended up in the prime minister’s own accounts.

In the United States alone, investigators have pursued a range of assets, from a Picasso painting given to the actor Leonardo DiCaprio, a necklace belonging to Najib’s wife valued at $27.3 million, and the rights to a few Hollywood movies.  To this can be added real estate. Truly, a beast with tentacles.

Given such a state of affairs, the censors were bound to get busy.  Najib’s cabinet has been particularly preoccupied with a proposed law that would criminalise the peddling of fake news.  This stands to reason, as those who use that accusation prefer to shout down opponents rather than convince them.  In Najib’s case the cause is more sinister, the move of the censor who determines, accordingly, what is authentic and what is not.

Serious consequences duly follow: the imposition of 10-year jail terms for creating, offering, circulating, printing or publishing fake news, and punishment for the publishing outlets.  A fine of $128 million is also thrown in for good measure.

As for the definition, it is tinged with an autocrat’s idiosyncrasies.  Fake news would be “any news, information, data and reports which are wholly or partly false, whether in the form of features, visuals or audio recordings or in any other form capable of suggesting words or ideas.”  As news must, at any point in time, be necessarily prone to adjustment and alteration (is anything ever totally authentic?) the forces of anti-bogus conviction will be busy.

Examples proffered by the Anti Fake News Bill show an unmistakable slant.  One speaks of the fabrication of “information by stating in an article published in his blog that Z, a well-known businessman has obtained a business contract by offering bribes.”  In that case, the person “is guilty of an offence under this section.”

This is merely one part of the complex puzzle.  Najib is facing a veteran of the Malaysian political system, the cunning, seemingly indestructible Mahathir Bin Mohamad, a figure who served as Prime Minister for 21 years before stepping down in 2003.  It is also worth noting that the crafty Mahathir was not a creature of placid calm, being himself prone to acts of swift monstrosity when required. His role behind jailing his potential successor and rival Anwar Ibrahim remains one of the more sordid tales in recent Malaysian history.

Well before the creature of Fake News attained choate form, government prosecutors would trip and muddle their away through a brief against Anwar to baffling degrees.  A belief in the powers of bilocation would have helped, and the accusation against Anwar in the late 1990s for sodomy seemed to allege superhuman tendencies. But because Mahathir has never been entirely devoid of humour, he has agreed to seek a royal pardon for his old rival in a bid to oust Najib. The two shall ride together again.

The consequence of Najib’s squalid manoeuvres against both the electoral system and that of keeping the press shackled may well bring some immediate rewards.  But whether it be constituents within Malaysia keen for a decent rinse of politics, or DOJ investigators keen on getting their man, Najib is finding matters in politics a touch tight.

Open Letter to Mr Alexander Yakovenko, Russian Ambassador to the UK

Dear Mr Yakovenko,

I would just like to express my sincere dismay at the way my government reacted to the alleged recent poisoning of two people in Salisbury.

I recall very well the events that occurred fifteen years ago, when the British parliament was lied to about alleged weapons of mass destruction, supposedly held by Iraq, and which supposedly could strike at Britain within forty minutes. These allegations went almost completely unchallenged by the mainstream media, and our country was subsequently tricked into supporting an illegal war in Iraq. Although many people never believed the propaganda – as evidenced by the million or so protesters who marched through the streets of London at the time resisting the drive to war – the lie prevailed.

At this moment in time we have seen no verifiable evidence for the events that allegedly took place in Salisbury a couple of weeks ago. Until that evidence is forthcoming, and remembering well the deceit my own government has used in the past for its own very questionable ends, I refuse to believe that Russia had anything to do with it, and want to assure you that in this, as in many other areas of government policy, my government does not speak for me.

Neither am I impressed by the unbelievable actions of so many other countries in their expulsion of Russian diplomats from their embassies. Given the fact that there appears to be no verifiable evidence for the Salisbury incident, these actions by other countries defy logic, and strongly suggest some dark conspiracy that’s unfolding. The total abdication of responsibility of the mainstream media in their supposedly first duty of “holding government to account”, by refusing to question and challenge their actions, is yet further proof of the media’s culpability in these events – just as they were similarly culpable for the Iraq debacle of 2003.

I find the behaviour of my government in this matter completely inexcusable, and the public statements of certain of its representatives highly offensive and shameful. At this moment in time, none of them speak for me, and I do not trust a single word our mainstream media has to say on the matter.

Yours sincerely,

John Andrews
March 31, 2018

Russia’s questions to France regarding the Skripal case fabricated against Russia by the United Kingdom

On March 31, the Embassy of the Russian Federation in Paris delivered to the French Foreign Ministry a note with a list of questions to the French side regarding the Skripal case fabricated against Russia: 1. On what grounds did France become involved in the technical side of the United Kingdom's investigation of the incident in Salisbury? 2. Has France officially notified the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) of its involvement in the technical side of the (...)

Russia’s questions to the United Kingdom regarding the Skripal case fabricated against Russia

On March 31, the Embassy of the Russian Federation in London delivered to the British Foreign Ministry a note with a list of questions to the British side regarding the Skripal case fabricated against Russia: 1. Why has Russia been denied consular access to two Russian citizens who were injured in the UK? 2. Which specific antidotes and in what form were the victims administered? How did the British doctors at the scene of the incident happen to have such antidotes in their possession? (...)

Russian Exodus from the West

By now the West – the US, Canada, Australia and the super-puppets of Europe, overall more than 25 countries – has expelled more than 130 Russian diplomats. All as punishment for Russia’s alleged nerve gas poisoning of a former Russian/MI6 double-agent, Sergei Skripal (66) and his daughter Yulia (33), who was visiting her father from Moscow. Sergei Skripal lived in the UK for the last seven years, ever since President Putin lifted his prison sentence in 2010 in a spy swap with the UK. The pair, father and daughter, was allegedly discovered on 4 March slumped on a park bench in Salisbury, England, not far from Sergei’s home. Apparently traces of the same nerve agent were found at the Skripal home’s door.

Russia in the meantime has started in a tit-for-tat move expelling western diplomats – in a first round 60, plus closing the US Consulate in St. Petersburg. According to Mr. Lavrov, more will most likely follow.  There will be an exodus and a counter-exodus of diplomats, west-east and east-west. It looks like a Kindergarten at play but is, of course, a blatant provocation by the west on Russia and a continuation of the vilification of President Putin, especially after he has just been reelected with an overwhelming majority of over 76%. It’s a provocation with zero substance, to further justify an escalating NATO aggression against Russia. The war-bells are ringing for a lie, an abject farce, visible to a child. Only the blind, those puppets, because out of fear or out of stupidity, who do not want to see are supporting this new US-instigated, UK-executed drive against Russia.

The nerve gas, called Novichok, had been produced by the Soviet Union in the 1970s, but was subsequently banned and destroyed under international supervision. The ‘inventor’ of Novichok lives apparently in the US. Mr. Putin said, if the military-grade Novichok would have been used, the only form the USSR ever produced, there would have been no survivors.

What hardly anybody talks about is that the secretive UK Defense (War) Ministry’s laboratory of Porton Down is but 13 km away from where father and daughter were allegedly found unconscious on a park bench. Porton Down is a highly sophisticated chemical and biological weapons lab that entertains contracts with the Pentagon of more than US$ 70 million for carrying out “experiments”, including on humans and animals. Porton Down has the capacity to produce Novichok. See the full story on Porton Down, by Bulgarian investigative journalist, Dilyana Gaytandzhieva – reported – that Sergei and Yulia Skripal were found on that dubious park bench. There are no civil witnesses. The UK government does not disclose where the two are treated, what their current health status is. Only on the repeated insistence of Mr. Lavrov that according to an agreement between the UK and Russia (the USSR) in the 1960s, both countries have the right to inquire and investigate about the well being of their respective citizens, an official statement on 29 March from the UK said that Yulia is doing better and is on her way to recovery, while her father is still in critical but stable conditions (The Guardian, 29 March 2018). Is it true?  What if one or both recover and have enough memory of the events to go public?

What if the two have indeed been poisoned at Sergei’s home, or abducted and brought to the Porton Down laboratory to be infected with the nerve gas and then later dumped to the park bench? Why does the UK not disclose any ‘evidence’ they apparently have against Russia?  No details of where the two are being treated?  No visits allowed. Russia’s offer to collaborate in the investigation is laughed off and refused. Is this a well-orchestrated MI6/CIA false flag, followed by outrageous lambasting by the UK’s highest leadership against Russia and her newly re-elected President Putin?

This criminal propaganda event is so full of lies, false accusations and deceit, pulling along more than 25 (so far) western nations to condemn and sanction Russia in unison for something Russia has with absolute certainty not committed. Just apply logic – a tough challenge, I know, these days for the dumb-folded west – but logic would tell a child that there is no sense, absolutely no sense, for Russia to carry out such an evil act. So, the usual question is: cui bono – who benefits?  And the answer is also crystal clear: Profiting from this sham are the war-mongering US/NATO and their miserable vassal-allies – spineless for years – following lies, their governments are fully aware of the lies, of the untruth Russia is accused of.

Adding injury to insult is Ecuador’s new President, Lenin Moreno, who a few days ago has shut up Julian Assange, Wikileaks editor, who is in political asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since July 2012. Under Moreno’s gag-order, Assange is no longer allowed to communicate with anybody in any form and shape and cannot receive visitors. The official reason for Moreno – who has clearly become a traitor on his people – is that Assange tweeted a protest against the arrest in Germany of Catalonian ex-leader, Carles Puigdemont. Moreno has condemned Assange to a sort of isolation prison in the Ecuadorian Embassy. Who gave Moreno orders to do so?  Well, I leave the guessing up to you. In any case Moreno has become a prostitute as are most of the western world “leaders”.

The real reason is most likely Assange’s strong critique of the UK government, especially PM Teresa May and her Foreign and Defense Ministers, for their vitriolic and unjustified accusations and slandering of Russia and particularly of President Putin in the Skripal poison case. Assange cannot leave the embassy for fear of being arrested and extradited to the US, where he may face torture and worse, possibly the death penalty.

Let’s take this a step further. Diplomatic relations between the west and Russia have totally fallen apart. The doors are closed. Russia doesn’t need the west. But the west, especially Europe, badly needs and will every day more need Russia, a close ally and trading partner for hundreds of years. The west, eventually abandoned and every day more enslaved by Washington with weaponized refugees, with false flag terror attacks, leading to increased militarization, to oppression and censorship, privatization of public goods and infrastructure – Greece is but an example – and strangulation by Wall Street private banking and troika (IMF, European Central Bank, European Commission) imposed debt, the west will beg Russia to open her doors and show them her kindness – the kindness and openness Russia has been demonstrating to the west over the past almost 20 years, despite flagrant western abuse and demonization no end.

The western Anglo-Zionist-led empire will collapse. It’s a mere question of time but collapse it will. Today, not only a few, but all western “leaders” (sic) know that they are committing suicide by teaming up with destructive Washington – and this against the will of the majority of the European people. Yet, they push along this path of auto-destruction. Why?  Have they been personally threatened, or else lavishly rewarded if they follow the dictate of deep state-led White House and Pentagon?

The day may come when the west will knock desperately at Russia’s door – please talk to us, we need you. But this may happen only if they have not let themselves be pulled into the abyss of annihilation by Washington. Their stupidity may just do that – another few lies, accusing Russia of crimes against humanity she didn’t commit and prompting a war, an all-destructive nuclear war. The pretext could be another false flag Syrian sarin attack on “her own people”, wrongly blaming Bashar al-Assad; or a missile landing in Israel, blaming Iran with the same no-proof propaganda fervor applied by the UK in the Sergei and Yulia Skripal case; or North Korea – in the course of negotiations between Trump and Kim Jong-un next month (April), the US/west launches a false flag missile, for example, from Guam, that lands in Japan, destroying infrastructure and killing people, blaming it immediately on DPRK, without any evidence whatsoever, but with a rigorous campaign UK-style, to the point that nobody dares to contradict the obvious lie.

What if the current UK virulent and violent Russia slandering campaign is but a dry-run for much worse to come?  By now the mental state of western society is at the level of Hitler’s Propaganda Minister, Goebbels’, statement: “Let me control the media, and I will turn any Nation into a herd of Pigs”. Yes, that’s what the west has become, a herd of pigs.

A Blueprint for Resistance: Jesus Christ vs. the Police State

“In that dramatic scene on Calvary’s hill three men were crucified. We must never forget that all three were crucified for the same crime — the crime of extremism. Two were extremists for immorality, and thus fell below their environment. The other, Jesus Christ, was an extremist for love, truth and goodness, and thereby rose above his environment. Perhaps …the nation and the world are in dire need of creative extremists.”

— Martin Luther King Jr.

Just as police states have arisen throughout history, there have also been individuals or groups of individuals who have risen up to challenge the injustices of their age.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer risked his life to undermine the tyranny at the heart of Nazi Germany.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn challenged the soul-destroying gulags of the Soviet Union.

Martin Luther King Jr. called America on the carpet for its color-coded system of racial segregation and warmongering.

And then there was Jesus Christ, an itinerant preacher and revolutionary activist, who not only died challenging the police state of his day—namely, the Roman Empire—but provided a blueprint for standing up to tyranny that would be followed by those, religious and otherwise, who came after him.

A radical nonconformist who challenged authority at every turn, Jesus was a far cry from the watered-down, corporatized, simplified, gentrified, sissified vision of a meek creature holding a lamb that most modern churches peddle. In fact, he spent his adult life speaking truth to power, challenging the status quo of his day, and pushing back against the abuses of the Roman Empire.

Those living through this present age of militarized police, SWAT team raids, police shootings of unarmed citizens, roadside strip searches, and invasive surveillance might feel as if these events are unprecedented, the characteristics of a police state and its reasons for being are no different today than they were in Jesus’ lifetime: control, power and money.

Much like the American Empire today, the Roman Empire of Jesus’ day was characterized by secrecy, surveillance, a widespread police presence, a citizenry treated like suspects with little recourse against the police state, perpetual wars, a military empire, martial law, and political retribution against those who dared to challenge the power of the state.

As I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, a police state extends far beyond the actions of law enforcement.  In fact, a police state “is characterized by bureaucracy, secrecy, perpetual wars, a nation of suspects, militarization, surveillance, widespread police presence, and a citizenry with little recourse against police actions.”

Indeed, the police state in which Jesus lived and its striking similarities to modern-day America are beyond troubling.

Secrecy, surveillance and rule by the elite. As the chasm between the wealthy and poor grew wider in the Roman Empire, the ruling class and the wealthy class became synonymous, while the lower classes, increasingly deprived of their political freedoms, grew disinterested in the government and easily distracted by “bread and circuses.” Much like America today, with its lack of government transparency, overt domestic surveillance, and rule by the rich, the inner workings of the Roman Empire were shrouded in secrecy, while its leaders were constantly on the watch for any potential threats to its power. The resulting state-wide surveillance was primarily carried out by the military, which acted as investigators, enforcers, torturers, policemen, executioners and jailers. Today that role is fulfilled by the NSA, the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security and the increasingly militarized police forces across the country.

Widespread police presence. The Roman Empire used its military forces to maintain the “peace,” thereby establishing a police state that reached into all aspects of a citizen’s life. In this way, these military officers, used to address a broad range of routine problems and conflicts, enforced the will of the state. Today SWAT teams, comprised of local police and federal agents, are employed to carry out routine search warrants for minor crimes such as marijuana possession and credit card fraud.

Citizenry with little recourse against the police state. As the Roman Empire expanded, personal freedom and independence nearly vanished, as did any real sense of local governance and national consciousness. Similarly, in America today, citizens largely feel powerless, voiceless and unrepresented in the face of a power-hungry federal government. As states and localities are brought under direct control by federal agencies and regulations, a sense of learned helplessness grips the nation.

Perpetual wars and a military empire. Much like America today with its practice of policing the world, war and an over-arching militarist ethos provided the framework for the Roman Empire, which extended from the Italian peninsula to all over Southern, Western, and Eastern Europe, extending into North Africa and Western Asia as well. In addition to significant foreign threats, wars were waged against inchoate, unstructured and socially inferior foes.

Martial law. Eventually, Rome established a permanent military dictatorship that left the citizens at the mercy of an unreachable and oppressive totalitarian regime. In the absence of resources to establish civic police forces, the Romans relied increasingly on the military to intervene in all matters of conflict or upheaval in provinces, from small-scale scuffles to large-scale revolts. Not unlike police forces today, with their martial law training drills on American soil, militarized weapons and “shoot first, ask questions later” mindset, the Roman soldier had “the exercise of lethal force at his fingertips” with the potential of wreaking havoc on normal citizens’ lives.

A nation of suspects. Just as the American Empire looks upon its citizens as suspects to be tracked, surveilled and controlled, the Roman Empire looked upon all potential insubordinates, from the common thief to a full-fledged insurrectionist, as threats to its power. The insurrectionist was seen as directly challenging the Emperor.  A “bandit,” or revolutionist, was seen as capable of overturning the empire, was always considered guilty and deserving of the most savage penalties, including capital punishment. Bandits were usually punished publicly and cruelly as a means of deterring others from challenging the power of the state.  Jesus’ execution was one such public punishment.

Acts of civil disobedience by insurrectionists. Starting with his act of civil disobedience at the Jewish temple, the site of the administrative headquarters of the Sanhedrin, the supreme Jewish council, Jesus branded himself a political revolutionary. When Jesus “with the help of his disciples, blocks the entrance to the courtyard” and forbids “anyone carrying goods for sale or trade from entering the Temple,” he committed a blatantly criminal and seditious act, an act “that undoubtedly precipitated his arrest and execution.” Because the commercial events were sponsored by the religious hierarchy, which in turn was operated by consent of the Roman government, Jesus’ attack on the money chargers and traders can be seen as an attack on Rome itself, an unmistakable declaration of political and social independence from the Roman oppression.

Military-style arrests in the dead of night. Jesus’ arrest account testifies to the fact that the Romans perceived Him as a revolutionary. Eerily similar to today’s SWAT team raids, Jesus was arrested in the middle of the night, in secret, by a large, heavily armed fleet of soldiers.  Rather than merely asking for Jesus when they came to arrest him, his pursuers collaborated beforehand with Judas. Acting as a government informant, Judas concocted a kiss as a secret identification marker, hinting that a level of deception and trickery must be used to obtain this seemingly “dangerous revolutionist’s” cooperation.

Torture and capital punishment. In Jesus’ day, religious preachers, self-proclaimed prophets and nonviolent protesters were not summarily arrested and executed. Indeed, the high priests and Roman governors normally allowed a protest, particularly a small-scale one, to run its course. However, government authorities were quick to dispose of leaders and movements that appeared to threaten the Roman Empire. The charges leveled against Jesus—that he was a threat to the stability of the nation, opposed paying Roman taxes and claimed to be the rightful King—were purely political, not religious. To the Romans, any one of these charges was enough to merit death by crucifixion, which was usually reserved for slaves, non-Romans, radicals, revolutionaries and the worst criminals.

Jesus was presented to Pontius Pilate “as a disturber of the political peace,” a leader of a rebellion, a political threat, and most gravely—a claimant to kingship, a “king of the revolutionary type.” After Jesus is formally condemned by Pilate, he is sentenced to death by crucifixion, “the Roman means of executing criminals convicted of high treason.”  The purpose of crucifixion was not so much to kill the criminal, as it was an immensely public statement intended to visually warn all those who would challenge the power of the Roman Empire. Hence, it was reserved solely for the most extreme political crimes: treason, rebellion, sedition, and banditry. After being ruthlessly whipped and mocked, Jesus was nailed to a cross.

As Professor Mark Lewis Taylor observed:

The cross within Roman politics and culture was a marker of shame, of being a criminal. If you were put to the cross, you were marked as shameful, as criminal, but especially as subversive. And there were thousands of people put to the cross. The cross was actually positioned at many crossroads, and, as New Testament scholar Paula Fredricksen has reminded us, it served as kind of a public service announcement that said, “Act like this person did, and this is how you will end up.”

Jesus—the revolutionary, the political dissident, and the nonviolent activist—lived and died in a police state. Any reflection on Jesus’ life and death within a police state must take into account several factors: Jesus spoke out strongly against such things as empires, controlling people, state violence and power politics. Jesus challenged the political and religious belief systems of his day. And worldly powers feared Jesus, not because he challenged them for control of thrones or government but because he undercut their claims of supremacy, and he dared to speak truth to power in a time when doing so could—and often did—cost a person his life.

Unfortunately, the radical Jesus, the political dissident who took aim at injustice and oppression, has been largely forgotten today, replaced by a congenial, smiling Jesus trotted out for religious holidays but otherwise rendered mute when it comes to matters of war, power and politics.

Yet for those who truly study the life and teachings of Jesus, the resounding theme is one of outright resistance to war, materialism and empire.

What a marked contrast to the advice being given to Americans by church leaders to “submit to your leaders and those in authority”—which in the American police state translates to complying, conforming, submitting, obeying orders, deferring to authority and generally doing whatever a government official tells you to do.

Telling Americans to march in lockstep and blindly obey the government—or put their faith in politics and vote for a political savior—flies in the face of everything for which Jesus lived and died.

Ultimately, this is the contradiction that must be resolved if the radical Jesus—the one who stood up to the Roman Empire and was crucified as a warning to others not to challenge the powers-that-be—is to be an example for our modern age.

We must decide whether we will follow the path of least resistance—willing to turn a blind eye to what Martin Luther King Jr. referred to as the “evils of segregation and the crippling effects of discrimination, to the moral degeneracy of religious bigotry and the corroding effects of narrow sectarianism, to economic conditions that deprive men of work and food, and to the insanities of militarism and the self-defeating effects of physical violence”—or whether we will be transformed nonconformists “dedicated to justice, peace, and brotherhood.”

As King explained in a powerful sermon delivered in 1954:

This command not to conform comes … [from] Jesus Christ, the world’s most dedicated nonconformist, whose ethical nonconformity still challenges the conscience of mankind.

We need to recapture the gospel glow of the early Christians, who were nonconformists in the truest sense of the word and refused to shape their witness according to the mundane patterns of the world.  Willingly they sacrificed fame, fortune, and life itself in behalf of a cause they knew to be right.  Quantitatively small, they were qualitatively giants.  Their powerful gospel put an end to such barbaric evils as infanticide and bloody gladiatorial contests.  Finally, they captured the Roman Empire for Jesus Christ… The hope of a secure and livable world lies with disciplined nonconformists, who are dedicated to justice, peace, and brotherhood.  The trailblazers in human, academic, scientific, and religious freedom have always been nonconformists.  In any cause that concerns the progress of mankind, put your faith in the nonconformist!

…Honesty impels me to admit that transformed nonconformity, which is always costly and never altogether comfortable, may mean walking through the valley of the shadow of suffering, losing a job, or having a six-year-old daughter ask, “Daddy, why do you have to go to jail so much?”  But we are gravely mistaken to think that Christianity protects us from the pain and agony of mortal existence.  Christianity has always insisted that the cross we bear precedes the crown we wear.  To be a Christian, one must take up his cross, with all of its difficulties and agonizing and tragedy-packed content, and carry it until that very cross leaves its marks upon us and redeems us to that more excellent way that comes only through suffering.

In these days of worldwide confusion, there is a dire need for men and women who will courageously do battle for truth.  We must make a choice. Will we continue to march to the drumbeat of conformity and respectability, or will we, listening to the beat of a more distant drum, move to its echoing sounds?  Will we march only to the music of time, or will we, risking criticism and abuse, march to the soul saving music of eternity?