Category Archives: Media Censorship

Abuses Show Assange Case was Never About Law

It is astonishing how often one still hears well-informed, otherwise reasonable people say about Julian Assange: “But he ran away from Swedish rape charges by hiding in Ecuador’s embassy in London.”

That short sentence includes at least three factual errors. In fact, to repeat it, as so many people do, you would need to have been hiding under a rock for the past decade – or, amounting to much the same thing, been relying on the corporate media for your information about Assange, including from supposedly liberal outlets such as the Guardian and the BBC.

At the weekend, a Guardian editorial – the paper’s official voice and probably the segment most scrutinised by senior staff – made just such a false claim:

Then there is the rape charge that Mr Assange faced in Sweden and which led him to seek refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in the first place.

The fact that the Guardian, supposedly the British media’s chief defender of liberal values, can make this error-strewn statement after nearly a decade of Assange-related coverage is simply astounding. And that it can make such a statement days after the US finally admitted that it wants to lock up Assange for 175 years on bogus “espionage” charges – a hand anyone who wasn’t being wilfully blind always knew the US was preparing to play – is still more shocking.

Assange faces no charges in Sweden yet, let alone “rape charges”. As former UK ambassador Craig Murray recently explained, the Guardian has been misleading readers by falsely claiming that an attempt by a Swedish prosecutor to extradite Assange – even though the move has not received the Swedish judiciary’s approval – is the same as his arrest on rape charges. It isn’t.

Also, Assange did not seek sanctuary in the embassay to evade the Swedish investigation. No state in the world gives a non-citizen political asylum to avoid a rape trial. The asylum was granted on political grounds. Ecuador rightly accepted Assange’s concerns that the US would seek his extradition and lock him out of sight for the rest of his life.

Assange, of course, has been proven – yet again – decisively right by recent developments.

Trapped in herd-think

The fact that so many ordinary people keep making these basic errors has a very obvious explanation. It is because the corporate media keep making these errors.

These are is not the kind of mistakes that can be explained away as an example of what one journalist has termed the problem of “churnalism”: the fact that journalists, chasing breaking news in offices depleted of staff by budget cuts, are too overworked to cover stories properly.

British journalists have had many years to get the facts straight. In an era of social media, journalists at the Guardian and the BBC have been bombarded by readers and activists with messages telling them how they are getting basic facts wrong in the Assange case. But the journalists keep doing it anyway. They are trapped in a herd-think entirely divorced from reality.

Rather than listen to experts, or common sense, these “journalists” keep regurgitating the talking points of the British security state, which are as good as identical to the talking points of the US security state.

What is so striking in the Assange coverage is the sheer number of legal anomalies in his case – and these have been accumulating relentlessly from the very start. Almost nothing in his case has gone according to the normal rules of legal procedure. And yet that very revealing fact is never noticed or commented on by the corporate media. You need to have a blind spot the size of Langley, Virginia, not to notice it.

If Assange wasn’t the head of Wikileaks, if he hadn’t embarrassed the most important western states and their leaders by divulging their secrets and crimes, if he hadn’t created a platform that allows whistleblowers to reveal the outrages committed by the western power establishment, if he hadn’t undermined that establishment’s control over information dissemination, none of the last 10 years would have followed the course it did.

If Assange had not provided us with an information revolution that undermines the narrative matrix created to serve the US security state, two Swedish women – unhappy with Assange’s sexual etiquette – would have gotten exactly what they said in their witness statements they wanted: pressure from the Swedish authorities to make him take an HIV test to give them peace of mind.

He would have been allowed back to the UK (as he, in fact, was allowed to do by the Swedish prosecutor) and would have gotten on with developing and refining the Wikileaks project. That would have helped all of us to become more critically aware of how we are being manipulated – not only by our security services but also by the corporate media that so often act as their mouthpiece.

Which is precisely why that did not happen and why Assange has been under some form of detention since 2010. Since then, his ability to perform his role as exposer of serial high-level state crimes has been ever more impeded – to the point now that he may never be able to oversee and direct Wikileaks ever again.

His current situation – locked up in Belmarsh high-security prison, in solitary confinement and deprived of access to a computer and all meaningful contact with the outside world – is so far based solely on the fact that he committed a minor infraction, breaching his police bail. Such a violation, committed by anyone else, almost never incurs prosecution, let alone a lengthy jail sentence.

So here is a far from complete list – aided by the research of John Pilger, Craig Murray and Caitlin Johnstone, and the original investigative work of Italian journalist Stefania Maurizi – of some of the most glaring anomalies in Assange’s legal troubles. There are 17 of them below. Each might conceivably have been possible in isolation. But taken together they are overwhelming evidence that this was never about enforcing the law. From the start, Assange faced political persecution.

No judicial authority

* In late summer 2010, neither of the two Swedish women alleged Assange had raped them when they made police statements. They went together to the police station after finding out that Assange had slept with them both only a matter of days apart and wanted him to be forced to take an HIV test. One of the women, SW, refused to sign the police statement when she understood the police were seeking an indictment for rape. The investigation relating to the second woman, AA, was for a sexual assault specific to Sweden. A condom produced by AA that she says Assange tore during sex was found to have neither her nor Assange’s DNA on it, undermining her credibility.

* Sweden’s strict laws protecting suspects during preliminary investigations were violated by the Swedish media to smear Assange as a rapist. In response, the Stockholm chief prosecutor, Eva Finne, took charge and quickly cancelled the investigation: “I don’t believe there is any reason to suspect that he has committed rape.” She later concluded: “There is no suspicion of any crime whatsoever.”

* The case was revived by another prosecutor, Marianne Ny, although she never questioned Assange. He spent more than a month in Sweden waiting for developments in the case, but was then told by prosecutors he was free to leave for the UK, suggesting that suspicions against him were not considered serious enough to detain him in Sweden. Nonetheless, shortly afterwards, Interpol issued a Red Notice for Assange, usually reserved for terrorists and dangerous criminals.

* The UK supreme court approved an extradition to Sweden based on a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) in 2010, despite the fact that it was not signed by a “judicial authority”, only by the Swedish prosecutor. The terms of the EAW agreement were amended by the UK government shortly after the Assange ruling to make sure such an abuse of legal procedure never occurred again.

* The UK supreme court also approved Assange’s extradition even though Swedish authorities refused to offer an assurance that he would not be extradited onwards to the US, where a grand jury was already formulating draconian charges in secret against him under the Espionage Act. The US similarly refused to give an assurance they would not seek his extradition.

* In these circumstances, Assange fled to Ecuador’s embassy in London in summer 2012, seeking political asylum. That was after the Swedish prosecutor, Marianne Ny, blocked Assange’s chance to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

* Australia not only refused Assange, a citizen, any help during his long ordeal, but prime minister Julia Gillard even threatened to strip Assange of his citizenship, until it was pointed out that it would be illegal for Australia to do so.

* Britain, meanwhile, not only surrounded the embassy with a large police force at great public expense, but William Hague, the foreign secretary, threatened to tear up the Vienna Convention, violating Ecuador’s diplomatic territory by sending UK police into the embassy to arrest Assange.

Six years of heel-dragging

* Although Assange was still formally under investigation, Ny refused to come to London to interview him, despite similar interviews having been conducted by Swedish prosecutors 44 times in the UK in the period Assange was denied that right.

* In 2016, international legal experts in the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which adjudicates on whether governments have complied with human rights obligations, ruled that Assange was being detained unlawfully by Britain and Sweden. Although both countries participated in the UN investigation, and had given the tribunal vocal support when other countries were found guilty of human rights violations, they steadfastly ignored its ruling in favour of Assange. UK Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond flat-out lied in claiming the UN panel was “made up of lay people and not lawyers”. The tribunal comprises leading experts in international law, as is clear from their CVs. Nonetheless, the lie became Britain’s official response to the UN ruling. The British media performed no better. A Guardian editorial dismissed the verdict as nothing more than a “publicity stunt”.

* Ny finally relented on Assange being interviewed in November 2016, with a Swedish prosecutor sent to London after six years of heel-dragging. However, Assange’s Swedish lawyer was barred from being present. Ny was due to be questioned about the interview by a Stockholm judge in May 2017 but closed the investigation against Assange the very same day.

* In fact, correspondence that was later revealed under a Freedom of Information request – pursued by Italian investigative journalist Stefania Maurizi – shows that the British prosecution service, the CPS, pressured the Swedish prosecutor not to come to the London to interview Assange through 2010 and 2011, thereby creating the embassy standoff.

* Also, the CPS destroyed most of the incriminating correspondence to circumvent the FoI requests. The emails that surfaced did so only because some copies were accidentally overlooked in the destruction spree. Those emails were bad enough. They show that in 2013 Sweden had wanted to drop the case against Assange but had come under strong British pressure to continue the pretence of seeking his extradition. There are emails from the CPS stating, “Don’t you dare” drop the case, and most revealing of all: “Please do not think this case is being dealt with as just another extradition.”

* It also emerged that Marianne Ny had deleted an email she received from the FBI.

* Despite his interview with a Swedish prosecutor taking place in late 2016, Assange was not subseqently charged in absentia – an option Sweden could have pursued if it had thought the evidence was strong enough.

* After Sweden dropped the investigation against Assange, his lawyers sought last year to get the British arrest warrant for his bail breach dropped. They had good grounds, both because the allegations over which he’d been bailed had been dropped by Sweden and because he had justifiable cause to seek asylum given the apparent US interest in extraditing him and locking him up for life for political crimes. His lawyers could also argue convincingly that the time he had spent in confinement, first under house arrest and then in the embassy, was more than equivalent to time, if any, that needed to be served for the bail infringement. However, the judge, Emma Arbuthnot, rejected the Assange team’s strong legal arguments. She was hardly a dispassionate observer. In fact, in a properly ordered world she should have recused herself, given that she is the wife of a government whip, who was also a business partner of a former head of MI6, Britain’s version of the CIA.

* Assange’s legal rights were again flagrantly violated last week, with the collusion of Ecuador and the UK, when US prosecutors were allowed to seize Assange’s personal items from the embassy while his lawyers and UN officials were denied the right to be present.

Information dark ages

Even now, as the US prepares its case to lock Assange away for the rest of his life, most are still refusing to join the dots. Chelsea Manning has been repeatedly jailed, and is now facing ruinous fines for every day she refuses to testify against Assange as the US desperately seeks to prop up its bogus espionage claims. In Medieval times, the authorities were more honest: they simply put people on the rack.

Back in 2017, when the rest of the media were still pretending this was all about Assange fleeing Swedish “justice”, John Pilger noted:

In 2008, a secret Pentagon document prepared by the “Cyber Counterintelligence Assessments Branch” foretold a detailed plan to discredit WikiLeaks and smear Assange personally. The “mission” was to destroy the “trust” that was WikiLeaks’ “centre of gravity”. This would be achieved with threats of “exposure [and] criminal prosecution”. Silencing and criminalising such an unpredictable source of truth-telling was the aim.” …

According to Australian diplomatic cables, Washington’s bid to get Assange is “unprecedented in scale and nature”. …

The US Justice Department has contrived charges of “espionage”, “conspiracy to commit espionage”, “conversion” (theft of government property), “computer fraud and abuse” (computer hacking) and general “conspiracy”. The favoured Espionage Act, which was meant to deter pacifists and conscientious objectors during World War One, has provisions for life imprisonment and the death penalty. …

In 2015, a federal court in Washington blocked the release of all information about the “national security” investigation against WikiLeaks, because it was “active and ongoing” and would harm the “pending prosecution” of Assange. The judge, Barbara J. Rothstein, said it was necessary to show “appropriate deference to the executive in matters of national security”. This is a kangaroo court.

All of this information was available to any journalist or newspaper  that cared to search it out and wished to publicise it. And yet not one corporate media outlet – apart from Stefania Maurizi – has done so over the past nine years. Instead they have shored up a series of preposterous US and UK state narratives designed to keep Assange behind bars and propel the rest of us back into the information dark ages.

Kushner as a Colonial Administrator

In a TV interview on June 2, on the news docuseries “Axios” on the HBO channel, Jared Kushner opened up regarding many issues, in which his ‘Deal of the Century’ was a prime focus.

The major revelation made by Kushner, President Donald Trump’s adviser and son-in-law, was least surprising. Kushner believes that Palestinians are not capable of governing themselves.

Not surprising, because Kushner thinks he is capable of arranging the future of the Palestinian people without the inclusion of the Palestinian leadership. He has been pushing his so-called ‘Deal of the Century’ relentlessly, while including in his various meets and conferences countries such as Poland, Brazil and Croatia, but not Palestine.

Indeed, this is what transpired at the Warsaw conference on ‘peace and security’ in the Middle East. The same charade, also led by Kushner, is expected to be rebooted in Bahrain on June 25.

Much has been said about the subtle racism in Kushner’s words, reeking with the stench of old colonial discourses where the natives were seen as lesser, incapable of rational thinking beings who needed the civilized ‘whites’ of the western hemisphere to help them cope with their backwardness and inherent incompetence.

Kushner, whose credentials are merely based on his familial connections to Trump and family friendship with Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, is now poised to be the colonial administrator of old, making and enforcing the law while the hapless natives have no other option but to either accommodate or receive their due punishment.

This is not an exaggeration. In fact, according to leaked information concerning Kushner’s ‘Deal of the Century,’ and published in the Israeli daily newspaper, Israel Hayom, if Palestinian groups refuse to accept the US-Israeli diktats, “the US will cancel all financial support to the Palestinians and ensure that no country transfers funds to them.”

In the HBO interview, Kushner offered the Palestinians a lifeline. They could be considered capable of governing themselves should they manage to achieve the following: “a fair judicial system … freedom of the press, freedom of expression, tolerance for all religions.”

The fact that Palestine is an occupied country, subject in every possible way to Israel’s military law, and that Israel has never been held accountable for its 52-year occupation seems to be of no relevance whatsoever, as far as Kushner is concerned.

On the contrary, the subtext in all of what Kushner has said in the interview is that Israel is the antithesis to the unquestionable Palestinian failure. Unlike Palestine, Israel needs to do little to demonstrate its ability to be a worthy peace partner.

While the term ‘US bias towards Israel’ is as old as the state of Israel itself, what is hardly discussed are the specifics of that bias, the decidedly condescending, patronizing and, often, racist view that US political classes have of Palestinians – and all Arabs and Muslims, for that matter; and the utter infatuation with Israel, which is often cited as a model for democracy, judicial transparency and successful ‘anti-terror’ tactics.

According to Kushner a ‘fair judicial system’ is a conditio sine qua non to determine a country’s ability to govern itself. But is the Israeli judicial system “fair” and “democratic”?

Israel does not have a single judicial system, but two. This duality has, in fact, defined Israeli courts from the very inception of Israel in 1948. This de facto apartheid system openly differentiates between Jews and Arabs, a fact that is true in both civil and criminal law.

“Criminal law is applied separately and unequally in the West Bank, based on nationality alone (Israeli versus Palestinian), inventively weaving its way around the contours of international law in order to preserve and develop its ‘(illegal Jewish) settlement enterprise’,” Israeli scholar, Emily Omer-Man, explained in her essay ‘Separate and Unequal’.

In practice, Palestinians and Israelis who commit the exact same crime will be judged according to two different systems, with two different procedures: “The settler will be processed according to the Israeli Penal Code (while) the Palestinian will be processed according to military order.”

This unfairness is constituent of a massively unjust judicial apparatus that has defined the Israeli legal system from the onset. Take the measure of administrative detention as an example. Palestinians can be held without trial and without any stated legal justification. Tens of thousands of Palestinians have been subjected to this undemocratic ‘law’ and hundreds of them are currently held in Israeli jails.

It is ironic that Kushner raised the issue of freedom of the press, in particular, as Israel is being derided for its dismal record in that regard. Israel has reportedly committed 811 violations against Palestinian journalists since the start of the ‘March of Return’ in Gaza in March 2018. Two journalists – Yaser Murtaja and Ahmed Abu Hussein – were killed and 155 were wounded by Israeli snipers.

Like the imbalanced Israeli judicial system, targeting the press is also a part of a protracted pattern. According to a press release issued by the Palestinian Journalists Union last May, Israel has killed 102 Palestinian journalists since 1972.

The fact that Palestinian intellectuals, poets and activists have been imprisoned for Facebook and other social media posts should tell us volumes about the limits of Israel’s freedom of press and expression.

It is also worth mentioning that in June 2018, the Israeli Knesset voted for a bill that prohibits the filming of Israeli soldiers as a way to mask their crimes and shelter them from any future legal accountability.

As for freedom of religion, despite its many shortcomings, the Palestinian Authority hardly discriminates against religious minorities. The same cannot be said about Israel.

Although discrimination against non-Jews in Israel has been the raison d’être of the very idea of Israel, the Nation-State Law of July 2018 further cemented the superiority of the Jews and inferior status of everyone else.

According to the new Basic Law, Israel is “the national home of the Jewish people” only and “the right to exercise national self-determination is unique to the Jewish people.”

Palestinians do not need to be lectured on how to meet Israeli and American expectations, nor should they ever aspire to imitate the undemocratic Israeli model. What they urgently need, instead, is international solidarity to help them win the fight against Israeli occupation, racism and apartheid.

Warring Against Sources: The Australian National Security State, Journalism and the Public Interest

What’s gone on this morning sends clear and dangerous signals to journalists and newsrooms across Australia.  This will chill public interest reporting.

— News Corp Australia spokesperson, The West Australian, June 4, 2019

These are dark times for journalists and publishers.  It did not seem coincidental that Annika Smethurst, a News Corp journalist and political affairs editor, would be a target of an Australian Federal Police warrant.  Chelsea Manning, courtesy of a ruling by Judge Anthony Trenga, remains in federal custody in the United States.  Julian Assange is facing decline in the maximum security abode that is Belmarsh prison in the United Kingdom.

The story supposedly linked to the AFP warrant had been published by Smethurst on April 29, 2018. More than a year had elapsed, with little in the way of public murmurings.  Australians have, for the most part, fallen under the anaesthetist’s spell regarding intrusive, unnecessary and dangerous national security laws.  Another set of them would hardly matter.

But since the story, titled “Let Us Spy on Aussies” broke last year, the security wallahs have been attempting to root out the source, mobilising the AFP in the process.  The account detailed information on discussions between the Home Affairs and Defence departments on the possibility of granting the Australian Signals Directorate powers to monitor the emails, bank records and text messages of Australian citizens.  Letters between Secretary of Home Affairs Mike Pezzullo and Defence Secretary Greg Moriarty featured.

When the archaic official secrets provisions of the Crimes Act 1914 (Cth) were repealed in June 29 2018, leaving way for new regulations dealing with national security information, those dealing with publishing such material felt slight relief.  A public interest defence, lodged in the National Security Legislation Amendment (Espionage and Foreign) Interference Act 2018, had been introduced, protecting those “engaged in the business of reporting news, presenting current affairs or expressing editorial or other content in news media”.

The content in question might cover what the Act designates to be “inherently harmful information”: security classified information; information obtained by, or made by or on behalf of, a domestic intelligence agency or a foreign intelligence agency in connection with the agency’s functions; or information on “the operations, capabilities or technologies of, or methods or sources used by, a domestic or foreign law enforcement agency.”

It always pays, when reading such sections, to consider the exceptions.  Conduct deemed a contravention of provisions regarding intelligence sources (the publication of names or identity of staff, for instance), does not satisfy the test, nor conduct deemed to assist, directly or indirectly, “a foreign intelligence agency or a foreign military organisation.”  Logical, you might say.

The ineffectual nature of those provisions is borne out by how narrow the protection is. The Law Council’s efforts to convince the federal government to extend the public interest defence to suppliers of the information was rejected, leaving the way open for such cases as Smethurst’s: spare the journalist but attack the source.  According to Law Council president Arthur Moses, the protection is shabby, a mere “mirage because it does not cover a journalist’s source.”

The other unspoken and unscripted assumption is how anaemic public interest defences work in Australian law.  Its operation starts from a reverse premise from US analogues, privileging the necessity of ignorance against the dangers of revelation.  The government keeps you ignorant for your own good; material published might be inimical to the public interest, but that “interest” is always that of the state, not the general citizenry.

So we come to the morning of June 4, with Smethurst readying to leave for work, only to witness Australian Federal Police bearing down heavily with a warrant.  A statement from the AFP subsequently confirmed that it had “executed a search warrant at a residence in the ACT suburb of Kingston today (4 June 2019)” on a matter relating “to an investigation into the alleged unauthorised disclosure of national security information that was referred to the AFP.”  The AFP “will allege the unauthorised disclosure of these specific documents undermines Australia’s security.”

The gravity of the allegations was affirmed in an update: “This warrant relates to the alleged publishing of information classified as an official secret, which is an extremely serious matter with the potential to undermine Australia’s national security.”

The incident in Canberra proved catching.  Hours after the AFP’s move on Smethurst, radio 2GB Drive presenter and Sky News contributor Ben Fordham revealed that he had also been the subject of an investigation after discussing the attempt of six asylum seeker boats to reach Australia.  The story piqued the interest of a Department of Home Affairs official, who proceeded to scold Fordham’s producer for discussing “highly confidential” material.  “In other words,” explained the broadcaster bluntly, “we weren’t supposed to know about it.”

In the course of Wednesday morning, with no settling of dust in order, a second raid by the AFP was executed against the Sydney offices of the national broadcaster, the ABC. Those named in the warrant – investigative journalists Dan Oakes and Sam Clark, along with ABC director of news Gaven Morris – were linked to The Afghan Files, a set of ghoulish stories in 2017 revealing allegations of unlawful killings by Australian special forces in Afghanistan.  Australia’s national security state has gotten very busy indeed.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, when pressed about Smethurst’s case, was untroubled.  Having played the role of fatherly minder of the Australian nation, he was not going to let any alleged breach of security go by.  Currently on a visit to the United Kingdom, he expressed little concern about the morning raid on a journalist’s home: “it never troubles me that our laws are being upheld.”

While News Corp has its demonic familiars (Rupert Murdoch’s influence hangs heavily), it was hard to disagree with the premise advanced by a spokesperson.  “This raid demonstrates a dangerous act of intimidation towards those committed to telling uncomfortable truths.  The raid was outrageous and heavy handed.”

The Federal Parliamentary Press Gallery, voicing agreement, considered the police raid “an outrageous move that should concern all Australians who value their freedom in an open society.”  With confidence, the statement asserted that it was “in the public interest for us to know of any plan for greater powers to monitor our messages.”

Chris Merritt, legal affairs editor of The Australian, saw the raid as an ominous signal to all investigative scribblers.  “Welcome to modern Australia – a nation where police raid journalists in order to track down and punish the exposure of leaks inside the federal government”.  But such an Australia was also chugging along merrily before the raid on Smethurst’s home.  (Like the unsuspecting priest living in a dystopian surveillance state, the police finally came for them.)

Should Assange ever make a return to the country of his birth, he is unlikely to find peace in this US satellite state, with its flimsy public disclosure and whistleblowing laws, its mirage-like protections.  Hunting publishers, journalists and their sources is de rigueur down under.

The UN Torture Report On Assange Is An Indictment Of Our Entire Society

On the eighth of April, shortly before London police forcibly carried WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange out of the Ecuadorian embassy, a doctor named Sondra S Crosby wrote a letter to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights requesting that the office look into Assange’s case. Today, following a scorching rebuke of multiple governments by UN Special Rapporteur on torture Nils Melzer, mass media outlets around the world are reporting that Julian Assange has been found to be the victim of brutal psychological torture.

Melzer, who by his own admission began his investigation as someone who had “been affected by the same misguided smear campaign as everybody else” regarding Assange, speaks of Assange’s plight with the fresh-eyed ferocity of a man who has not been immersed in a soul-corroding career in establishment politics or mass media. A man has not been indoctrinated into accepting as normal the relentless, malicious character assassinations of the western political/media class against a publisher of inconvenient facts about the powerful. A man who, when looking deeply and objectively into the facts with uncorrupted vision, was able to see clearly just how unforgivably abusive Assange’s treatment has been.

“In 20 years of work with victims of war, violence and political persecution I have never seen a group of democratic States ganging up to deliberately isolate, demonise and abuse a single individual for such a long time and with so little regard for human dignity and the rule of law,” Melzer said. “The collective persecution of Julian Assange must end here and now!”

Melzer condemned attempts to extradite Assange to the US under the Espionage Act, as well as what he called “a relentless and unrestrained campaign of public mobbing, intimidation and defamation against Mr. Assange, not only in the United States, but also in the United Kingdom, Sweden and, more recently, Ecuador.”

“According to the expert, this included an endless stream of humiliating, debasing and threatening statements in the press and on social media, but also by senior political figures, and even by judicial magistrates involved in proceedings against Assange,” the OHCHR statement reads.

“In the course of the past nine years, Mr. Assange has been exposed to persistent, progressively severe abuse ranging from systematic judicial persecution and arbitrary confinement in the Ecuadorian embassy, to his oppressive isolation, harassment and surveillance inside the embassy, and from deliberate collective ridicule, insults and humiliation, to open instigation of violence and even repeated calls for his assassination,” Melzer said.

“It was obvious that Mr. Assange’s health has been seriously affected by the extremely hostile and arbitrary environment he has been exposed to for many years,” said Melzer. “Most importantly, in addition to physical ailments, Mr. Assange showed all symptoms typical for prolonged exposure to psychological torture, including extreme stress, chronic anxiety and intense psychological trauma.”

“The evidence is overwhelming and clear,” Melzer said. “Mr. Assange has been deliberately exposed, for a period of several years, to progressively severe forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, the cumulative effects of which can only be described as psychological torture.”

“I condemn, in the strongest terms, the deliberate, concerted and sustained nature of the abuse inflicted on Mr. Assange and seriously deplore the consistent failure of all involved governments to take measures for the protection of his most fundamental human rights and dignity,” Melzer added.

It is hugely significant that a UN expert has included the massive anti-Assange smear campaign in his assessment of psychological abuse. For far too long this devastating psychological weapon of the powerful has gone fully normalized and unacknowledged for the damage and suffering it causes, and now an authoritative voice has pointed it out and called it into public consciousness for the depraved manipulation that it is. It’s a very interesting development to see western governments and their media stenographers condemned in this way for their participation in such savagery.

Responses to Melzer’s findings have been explosive. Virtually every major media outlet in the English-speaking world has been carrying headlines about this story, from the New York Times to the Washington Post to Fox News to CNN to the Guardian to the BBC to the Herald Sun. An attempt to regain control of the narrative by the accused governments, therefore, was, of course, quick to follow.

“This is wrong,” tweeted Britain’s Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt in response to the story. “Assange chose to hide in the embassy and was always free to leave and face justice. The UN Special Rapporteur should allow British courts to make their judgements without his interference or inflammatory accusations.”

Abusers always demand the right to conduct their abuse in private.

Hunt, who’d just returned from hanging out with the Trump administration’s warmongering psychopath John Bolton, received a direct response from Melzer himself.

“With all due respect, Sir: Mr Assange was about as ‘free to leave’ as a someone sitting on a rubber boat in a shark pool,” Melzer tweeted. “As detailed in my formal letter to you, so far, UK courts have not shown the impartiality and objectivity required by the rule of law.”

We reject any suggestion by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture that the Australian Government is complicit in psychological torture or has shown a lack of consular support for Mr Assange,” reads a statement by Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. “The Special Rapporteur has not been in contact with the Australian Government to raise these concerns directly. The Australian Government is a staunch defender of human rights and a strong advocate for humane treatment in the course of judicial processes. We are confident that Mr Assange is being treated appropriately in Belmarsh Prison.

Assange has, in fact, grown so ill in Belmarsh Prison that he is reportedly unable to carry out a lucid conversation, and has been losing a drastic amount of weight. His failing health has been an established fact for a year and a half, with doctors warning at the beginning of last year that conditions in the Ecuadorian embassy are placing his physical well being in serious danger, and has the entire time been pathetically ignored by the government of Assange’s home country.

Menzer’s report is an indictment on our entire society. It’s an indictment of the US-centralized western power alliance. It’s an indictment of the politicians, opaque government agencies and plutocrats who lead that alliance. It’s an indictment of the mass media who regurgitate whatever their government tells them to into the minds of a credulous populace. It’s an indictment of everyone who has ever helped spread the smear campaign against Assange, wherever they may have spread it; every remark, every social media comment, every share and retweet. The entire abusive construct has been outed as exactly what it is, from top to bottom.

So things have been severely shaken up. A massive smear campaign spanning all western nations across all political sectors has been pulled into the spotlight of public consciousness, mass media outlets who’ve devoted huge amounts of resources to assassinating Assange’s character have been forced to report a major revelation coming directly from the United Nations, Assange supporters can now officially say with full authority that his persecutors have literally tortured him, and establishment narrative managers are fighting on the back foot.

And right now all I can feel is gratitude. Gratitude toward Dr Crosby for writing to the UN after examining Assange, gratitude toward Nils Melzer for going to visit him in Belmarsh with an open mind and a compassionate heart, and, most importantly, gratitude toward Julian Assange. Gratitude to him for never giving up this fight.

I mean, think about it. Imagine if Assange had just gone to Sweden when he was told to? He would have surely been extradited to the United States years ago, wrongfully prosecuted in an Eastern District of Virginia court proceeding impossibly rigged against him, and by now the world would have all but forgotten him. He could have laid down, he could have given up, he could have died in that embassy in any number of ways. He had so many off-ramps he could have taken from the psychological torture that he has been subjected to since exposing US war crimes in 2010, but he chose to stand and fight instead. He decided that if they wanted his head, they were going to have to work for it.

Because of that decision, because Julian Assange decided to stand his ground and trade blows toe-to-toe with the most powerful empire in the history of human civilization, he forced them to expose themselves. He forced the oppression machine to reveal its true face, by coordinating across national borders to drag him bodily out of the embassy, locking him in a cage, waging a war upon the free press with outrageous espionage charges, and finally being found guilty of torturing a journalist for publishing factual documents about the powerful.

We have all that information now. It can’t be unseen. Because Assange chose to fight, we now have that evidence and we can use it to help wake people up to the true face behind the smiling mask of “liberal democracy” we’ve all been told to believe in since grade school. Even while imprisoned, sick, and barely even able to speak, Julian Assange is still exposing these bastards for what they are.

Don’t let his example go to waste.

• First published at Caitlin Johnstone.com

Robert Stuart vs the BBC

It’s a David vs Goliath story. A former local newspaper reporter, Robert Stuart, is taking on the British Broadcasting Corporation. Stuart believes that a sensational video story about an alleged atrocity in Syria “was largely, if not entirely, staged.”  The BBC would like it all to just go away. But like David, Stuart will not back down or let it go.  It has been proposed that the BBC could settle the issue by releasing the raw footage from the event, but they refuse to do this. Why?

The Controversial Video

The video report in controversy is ‘Saving Syria’s Children‘. Scenes from it were first broadcast as a BBC news report on August 29, 2013 and again as a BBC Panorama special in September. ‘Saving Syria’s Children’ was produced by BBC reporter Ian Pannell with Darren Conway as camera operator and director.

The news report footage was taken in a town north of Aleppo city in a region controlled by the armed opposition. It purports to show the aftermath of a Syrian aerial attack using incendiary weapons, perhaps napalm, killing and burning dozens of youth.  The video shows the youth arriving and being treated at a nearby hospital where the BBC film team was coincidentally filming two British medical volunteers from a British medical relief organization.

The video had a strong impact. The incident was on August 26. The video was shown on the BBC three days later as the British Parliament was debating whether to support military action by the US against Syria.  As it turned out, British parliament voted against supporting military action. But the video was effective in demonizing the Syrian government. After all, what kind of government attacks school children with napalm-like bombs?

The Context

‘Saving Syria’s Children’ was produced at a critical moment in the Syrian conflict. Just days before, on August 21,  there had been an alleged sarin gas attack against an opposition held area on the outskirts of Damascus. Western media was inundated with videos showing dead Syrian children amidst accusations the Syrian government had attacked civilians, killing up to 1400.  The Syrian government was assumed to be responsible and the attack said to be a clear violation of President Obama’s “red line” against chemical weapons.

This incident had the effect of increasing pressure for Western states or NATO to attack Syria. It would be for humanitarian reasons, rationalized by the “responsibility to protect”.

The assumption that ‘the regime’ did it has been challenged. Highly regarded American  journalists including the late Robert Parry and Seymour Hersh investigated and contradicted the mainstream media. They pointed to the crimes being committed by the armed opposition for political goals.  A report by two experts including a UN weapons inspector and Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity also came to the conclusion that the Syrian government was not responsible and the attack was actually by an armed opposition group with the goal of forcing NATO intervention.

Why the Controversial Video is Suspicious

After seeing skeptical comments about ‘Saving Syria’s Children’ on an online discussion board, Robert Stuart looked at the video for himself. Like others, he thought the hospital sequences looked artificial, almost like scenes from a badly acted horror movie.

But unlike others, he decided to find out. Thus began his quest to ascertain the truth. Was the video real or was it staged?  Was it authentic or contrived propaganda?

Over almost six years his research has revealed many curious elements about the video including:

* Youth in the hospital video appear to act on cue.

* There is a six hour discrepancy in reports about when the incident occurred.

* One of the supposed victims, shown writhing in pain on a stretcher, is seen earlier walking unaided into the ambulance.

* The incident happened in an area controlled by a terror group associated with ISIS.

* One of the British medics is a former UK soldier involved in simulated injury training.

* The other British medic is daughter of a prominent figure in the Syrian opposition.

* In 2016 a local rebel commander testified that the alleged attack never happened.

Support for Robert Stuart

Robert Stuart’s formal complaints to the BBC have been rebuffed. His challenges to those involved in the production have been ignored or stifled.  Yet his quest has won support from some major journalistic and political figures.

Former Guardian columnist Jonathan Cook has written several articles on the story. He says:

Stuart’s sustained research and questioning of the BBC, and the state broadcaster’s increasing evasions, have given rise to ever greater concerns about the footage. It looks suspiciously like one scene in particular, of people with horrific burns, was staged.

Former UK Ambassador Craig Murray has compared scenes in ‘Saving Syria’s Children’ with his own harrowing experience with burn victims. He says:

The alleged footage of burn victims in hospital following a napalm attack bears no resemblance whatsoever to how victims, doctors and relatives actually behave in these circumstances.

Film-maker Victor Lewis-Smith has done numerous projects for the BBC. When learning about Stuart’s research he asked for some explanations and suggested they could resolve the issue by releasing the raw video footage of the events. When they refused to do this, he publicly tore up his BBC contract.

Why it Matters

The BBC has a reputation for objectivity. If BBC management was deceived by the video, along with the public, they should have a strong interest in uncovering and correcting this.  If there was an error, they should want to clarify, correct and ensure it is not repeated.

The BBC could go a long way toward resolving this issue by releasing raw footage of the scenes in ‘Saving Syria’s Children’.  Why have they refused to do this? In addition, they have actively removed YouTube copies of ‘Saving Syria’s Children’. If they are proud of that production, why are they removing public copies of it?

Has the BBC produced and broadcast contrived or fake video reports in support of British government foreign policy of aggression against Syria? It is important that this question be answered to either restore public trust (if the videos are authentic) or to expose and correct misdeeds (if the videos are largely or entirely staged).

The issue at stake is not only the BBC; it is the manipulation of media to deceive the public into supporting elite-driven foreign policy. ‘Saving Syria’s Children’ is an important case study.

The Future

Robert Stuart is not quitting.  He hopes the next step will be a documentary film dramatically showing what he has discovered and further investigating important yet unexplored angles.

The highly experienced film producer Victor Lewis-Smith, who tore up his BBC contract, has stepped forward to help make this happen.

But to produce a high quality documentary including some travel takes funding. After devoting almost six years to this effort, Robert Stuart’s resources are exhausted. The project needs support from concerned members of the public.

If you support Robert Stuart’s efforts, go to this crowdfunding website.  There you can learn more and contribute to this important effort to reveal whether the BBC video ‘Saving Syria’s Children’ showed true or staged events. Was the alleged “napalm” attack real or was it staged propaganda?  The project needs a large number of small donors and a few substantial ones to meet the June 7 deadline.

As actor and producer Keith Allen says,” Please help us to reach the target so that we can discover the facts, examine the evidence, and present the truth about ‘Saving Syria’s Children’. I think it’s really important.”

Abuses show Assange Case was Never About Law

It is astonishing how often one still hears well-informed, otherwise reasonable people say about Julian Assange: “But he ran away from Swedish rape charges by hiding in Ecuador’s embassy in London.”

That short sentence includes at least three factual errors. In fact, to repeat it, as so many people do, you would need to have been hiding under a rock for the past decade – or, amounting to much the same thing, been relying on the corporate media for your information about Assange, including from supposedly liberal outlets such as the Guardian and the BBC.

At the weekend, a Guardian editorial – the paper’s official voice and probably the segment most scrutinised by senior staff – made just such a false claim:

Then there is the rape charge that Mr Assange faced in Sweden and which led him to seek refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in the first place.

The fact that the Guardian, supposedly the British media’s chief defender of liberal values, can make this error-strewn statement after nearly a decade of Assange-related coverage is simply astounding. And that it can make such a statement days after the US finally admitted that it wants to lock up Assange for 175 years on bogus “espionage” charges – a hand anyone who wasn’t being wilfully blind already knew the US was preparing to play – is still more shocking.

Assange faces no charges in Sweden yet, let alone “rape charges”. As former UK ambassador Craig Murray recently explained, the Guardian has been misleading readers by falsely claiming that an attempt by a Swedish prosecutor to extradite Assange – even though the move has not received the Swedish judiciary’s approval – is the same as his arrest on rape charges. It isn’t.

Also, Assange did not seek sanctuary in the embassay to evade the Swedish investigation. No state in the world gives a non-citizen political asylum to avoid a rape trial. The asylum was granted on political grounds. Ecuador rightly accepted Assange’s concerns that the US would seek his extradition and lock him out of sight for the rest of his life.

Assange, of course, has been proven – yet again – decisively right by recent developments.

Trapped in herd-think

The fact that so many ordinary people keep making these basic errors has a very obvious explanation. It is because the corporate media keep making these errors.

These are not the kind of mistakes that can be explained away as an example of what one journalist has termed the problem of “churnalism”: the fact that journalists, chasing breaking news in offices depleted of staff by budget cuts, are too overworked to cover stories properly.

British journalists have had many years to get the facts straight. In an era of social media, journalists at the Guardian and the BBC have been bombarded by readers and activists with messages telling them how they are getting basic facts wrong in the Assange case. But the journalists keep doing it anyway. They are trapped in a herd-think entirely divorced from reality.

Rather than listen to experts, or common sense, these “journalists” keep regurgitating the talking points of the British security state, which are as good as identical to the talking points of the US security state.

What is so striking in the Assange coverage is the sheer number of legal anomalies in his case – and these have been accumulating relentlessly from the very start. Almost nothing in his case has gone according to the normal rules of legal procedure. And yet that very revealing fact is never noticed or commented on by the corporate media. You need to have a blind spot the size of Langley, Virginia, not to notice it.

If Assange wasn’t the head of Wikileaks, if he hadn’t embarrassed the most important western states and their leaders by divulging their secrets and crimes, if he hadn’t created a platform that allows whistleblowers to reveal the outrages committed by the western power establishment, if he hadn’t undermined that establishment’s control over information dissemination, none of the last 10 years would have followed the course it did.

If Assange had not provided us with an information revolution that undermines the narrative matrix created to serve the US security state, two Swedish women – unhappy with Assange’s sexual etiquette – would have gotten exactly what they said in their witness statements they wanted: pressure from the Swedish authorities to make him take an HIV test to give them peace of mind.

He would have been allowed back to the UK (as he, in fact, was allowed to do by the Swedish prosecutor) and would have gotten back to developing and refining the Wikileaks project. That would have helped all of us to become more critically aware of how we are being manipulated – not only by our security services but also by the corporate media that so often act as their mouthpiece.

Which is precisely why that did not happen and why Assange has been under some form of detention since 2010. Since then, his ability to perform his role as exposer of serial high-level state crimes has been ever more impeded – to the point now that he may never be able to oversee and direct Wikileaks ever again.

His current situation – locked up in Belmarsh high-security prison, in solitary confinement and deprived of access to a computer and all meaningful contact with the outside world – is so far based solely on the fact that he committed a minor infraction, breaching his police bail. Such a violation, committed by anyone else, almost never incurs prosecution, let alone a lengthy jail sentence.

So here is a far from complete list – aided by the research of John Pilger, Craig Murray and Caitlin Johnstone – of some of the most glaring anomalies in Assange’s legal troubles. There are 17 of them below. Each might conceivably have been possible in isolation. But taken together they are overwhelming evidence that this was never about enforcing the law. From the start, Assange faced political persecution.

No judicial authority

* In late summer 2010, neither of the two Swedish women alleged Assange had raped them when they made police statements. They went together to the police station after finding out that Assange had slept with them both only a matter of days apart and wanted him to be forced to take an HIV test. One of the women, SW, refused to sign the police statement when she understood the police were seeking an indictment for rape. The investigation relating to the second woman, AA, was for a sexual assault specific to Sweden. A condom produced by AA that she says Assange tore during sex was found to have neither her nor Assange’s DNA on it, undermining her credibility.

* Sweden’s strict laws protecting suspects during preliminary investigations were violated by the Swedish media to smear Assange as a rapist. In response, the Stockholm chief prosecutor, Eva Finne, took charge and quickly cancelled the investigation: “I don’t believe there is any reason to suspect that he has committed rape.” She later concluded: “There is no suspicion of any crime whatsoever.”

* The case was revived by another prosecutor, Marianne Ny, during which time Assange was questioned and spent more than a month in Sweden waiting for developments in the case. He was then told by prosecutors that he was free to leave for the UK, suggesting that any offence they believed he had committed was not considered serious enough to detain him in Sweden. Nonetheless, shortly afterwards, Interpol issued a Red Notice for Assange, usually reserved for terrorists and dangerous criminals.

* The UK supreme court approved an extradition to Sweden based on a European Arrest Warrant (EAW) in 2010, despite the fact that it was not signed by a “judicial authority”, only by the Swedish prosecutor. The terms of the EAW agreement were amended by the UK government shortly after the Assange ruling to make sure such an abuse of legal procedure never occurred again.

* The UK supreme court also approved Assange’s extradition even though Swedish authorities refused to offer an assurance that he would not be extradited onwards to the US, where a grand jury was already formulating draconian charges in secret against him under the Espionage Act. The US similarly refused to give an assurance they would not seek his extradition.

* In these circumstances, Assange fled to Ecuador’s embassy in London in summer 2012, seeking political asylum. That was after the Swedish prosecutor, Marianne Ny, blocked Assange’s chance to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

* Australia not only refused Assange, a citizen, any help during his long ordeal, but prime minister Julia Gillard even threatened to strip Assange of his citizenship, until it was pointed out that it would be illegal for Australia to do so.

* Britain, meanwhile, not only surrounded the embassy with a large police force at great public expense, but William Hague, the foreign secretary, threatened to tear up the Vienna Convention, violating Ecuador’s diplomatic territory by sending UK police into the embassy to arrest Assange.

Six years of heel-dragging

* Although Assange was still formally under investigation, Ny refused to come to London to interview him, despite similar interviews having been conducted by Swedish prosecutors 44 times in the UK in the period Assange was denied that right.

* In 2016, international legal experts in the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, which adjudicates on whether governments have complied with human rights obligations, ruled that Assange was being detained unlawfully by Britain and Sweden. Although both countries participated in the UN investigation, and had given the tribunal vocal support when other countries were found guilty of human rights violations, they steadfastly ignored its ruling in favour of Assange. UK Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond, flat-out lied in claiming the UN panel was “made up of lay people and not lawyers”. The tribunal comprises leading experts in international law, as is clear from their CVs. Nonetheless, the lie became Britain’s official response to the UN ruling. The British media performed no better. A Guardian editorial dismissed the verdict as nothing more than a “publicity stunt”.

* Ny finally relented on interviewing Assange in November 2016, coming to London after six years of heel-dragging. However, she barred Assange’s lawyer from being present. That was a gross irregularity that Ny was due to be questioned about in May 2017 by a Stockholm judge. Apparently rather than face those questions, Ny decided to close the investigation against Assange the very same day.

* In fact, correspondence that was later revealed under a Freedom of Information request shows that the British prosecution service, the CPS, pressured the Swedish prosecutor not to come to the London to interview Assange through 2010 and 2011, thereby creating the embassy standoff.

* Also, the CPS destroyed most of the incriminating correspondence to circumvent the FoI requests. The emails that surfaced did so only because some copies were accidentally overlooked in the destruction spree. Those emails were bad enough. They show that in 2013 Sweden had wanted to drop the case against Assange but had come under strong British pressure to continue the pretence of seeking his extradition. There are emails from the CPS stating, “Don’t you dare” drop the case, and most revealing of all: “Please do not think this case is being dealt with as just another extradition.”

* It also emerged that Marianne Ny had deleted an email she received from the FBI.

* Despite his interview with Ny taking place in late 2016, Assange was not subsequently charged in absentia – an option Sweden could have pursued if it had thought the evidence was strong enough.

* After Sweden dropped the investigation against Assange, his lawyers sought last year to get the British arrest warrant for his bail breach dropped. They had good grounds, both because the allegations over which he’d been bailed had been dropped by Sweden and because he had justifiable cause to seek asylum given the apparent US interest in extraditing him and locking him up for life for political crimes. His lawyers could also argue convincingly that the time he had spent in confinement, first under house arrest and then in the embassy, was more than equivalent to time, if any, that needed to be served for the bail infringement. However, the judge, Emma Arbuthnot, rejected the Assange team’s strong legal arguments. She was hardly a dispassionate observer. In fact, in a properly ordered world she should have recused herself, given that she is the wife of a government whip, who was also a business partner of a former head of MI6, Britain’s version of the CIA.

* Assange’s legal rights were again flagrantly violated last week, with the collusion of Ecuador and the UK, when US prosecutors were allowed to seize Assange’s personal items from the embassy while his lawyers and UN officials were denied the right to be present.

Information dark ages

Even now, as the US prepares its case to lock Assange away for the rest of his life, most are still refusing to join the dots. Chelsea Manning has been repeatedly jailed, and is now facing ruinous fines for every day she refuses to testify against Assange as the US desperately seeks to prop up its bogus espionage claims. In Medieval times, the authorities were more honest: they simply put people on the rack.

Back in 2017, when the rest of the media were still pretending this was all about Assange fleeing Swedish “justice”, John Pilger noted:

In 2008, a secret Pentagon document prepared by the “Cyber Counterintelligence Assessments Branch” foretold a detailed plan to discredit WikiLeaks and smear Assange personally. The “mission” was to destroy the “trust” that was WikiLeaks’ “centre of gravity”. This would be achieved with threats of “exposure [and] criminal prosecution”. Silencing and criminalising such an unpredictable source of truth-telling was the aim.” …

According to Australian diplomatic cables, Washington’s bid to get Assange is “unprecedented in scale and nature”. …

The US Justice Department has contrived charges of “espionage”, “conspiracy to commit espionage”, “conversion” (theft of government property), “computer fraud and abuse” (computer hacking) and general “conspiracy”. The favoured Espionage Act, which was meant to deter pacifists and conscientious objectors during World War One, has provisions for life imprisonment and the death penalty. …

In 2015, a federal court in Washington blocked the release of all information about the “national security” investigation against WikiLeaks, because it was “active and ongoing” and would harm the “pending prosecution” of Assange. The judge, Barbara J. Rothstein, said it was necessary to show “appropriate deference to the executive in matters of national security”. This is a kangaroo court.

All of this information was available to any journalist or newspaper that cared to search it out and wished to publicise it. And yet not one corporate media outlet has done so over the past nine years. Instead they have shored up a series of preposterous US and UK state narratives designed to keep Assange behind bars and propel the rest of us back into the information dark ages.

Protection Of Venezuelan Embassy Continues, Opposition To US Coup Builds

While the final four inside members of the Embassy Protection Collective were arrested on May 16, 2019 (and released the next day), the Collective’s efforts to protect the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, DC and to end the US coup continue.

From left to right: Kevin Zeese, Margaret Flowers, David Paul and Adrienne Pine at windows of the Venezuelan Embassy. Signs below them call for a mutual Protecting Power Agreement.

A Mutual Protecting Power Agreement Still Needed For US and Venezuelan Embassies

Tell the State Department to recognize Turkey as the Venezuelan Embassy’s Protecting Power in Washington, DC.

We have consistently sought a mutual Protecting Power Agreement between the US and Venezuela so the US Embassy in Caracas, Venezuela can be protected by Switzerland and the Venezuelan Embassy in DC can be protected by Turkey. This is still the legal pathway to end the embassy crisis.

Protecting Power Agreements have existed since the time of Genghis Khan and have been embedded in international law since the 1870s. Currently they are enshrined in Article 45 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961. They are used when diplomatic relations have been broken in order to protect foreign embassies. Twenty-nine Protecting Power Agreements are currently in place around the world.

When the United States government illegally invaded the Venezuelan Embassy to arrest and evict us, it violated the Vienna Convention and put all embassies around the world at risk. Federal agents assaulted the embassy with a battering ram and more than 100 officers, many armed with para-military gear even though we said we would not resist arrest or barricade ourselves in the embassy. This was after the US had illegally turned off electricity and water to the embassy and allowed a mob of coup supporters to assault the embassy and Embassy Protectors.

The violation of the Vienna Convention, a precedent set by the Trump administration, puts US embassy personnel and embassies at risk around the world. The Trump administration added to that violation of international law on May 24 when it allowed the fictional ambassador, Carlos Vecchio, of a failed US coup, to enter the embassy. This complicates negotiations for a mutual Protecting Power Agreement as the members of the coup will have to be removed from the embassy, but we still must urge the US to follow international law rather than be a rogue state.

Activists used light projection on the embassy to tell the truth about Vecchio as a fake ambassador who cannot do anything official such as issuing visas or passports but who will use the embassy as a coup-plotting center, further escalating US violations of international law.

Alex Rubinstein

✔ @RealAlexRubi

Anti-coup protesters @JasonRCharter and @backboneprog project messages onto the former Venezuelan embassy which was illegally seized by US authorities.

“D.C.’s newest coup plotting center

This is not an embassy

Vecchio can’t issue visas”@carlosvecchio

Take Action Now: Join us in telling the State Department to recognize Turkey as the Venezuelan Embassy Protecting Power

The Venezuelan Embassy with signs on it urging peace with Venezuela, end of the US coup and an end to sanctions.

Court Proceedings Against Protectors Continue While The Movement Organizes Against US Coups And Militarism

The Embassy Protectors arrested inside and outside will continue to defend themselves in court. The next hearing of the four inside Embassy Protectors has been moved to this Friday, May 31 at 9:30 am before the chief judge of the US District Court in Washington, DC, Judge Beryl A. Howell.  Ironically, as we were serving as interim embassy protectors with the permission of the democratically-elected Venezuelan government, the four were charged with violation of 18 U.S. Code §”118. “Interference with certain protective functions.” Anyone who followed the activities during the Embassy Protection Collective’s actions can see the State Department was failing to protect the embassy as it allowed pro-coup advocates to break windows and doors, break and enter into the building, deface the building and assault people outside the building while threatening those inside the building.

Other Embassy Protectors arrested outside for trying to get food and supplies into the embassy are also facing charges, including “hurling missiles at a building” (bread and cucumbers) and assault, even though they were the ones assaulted. There are currently four outside Embassy Protectors facing charges. One, an older man bringing toothbrushes, has already had the charges dropped.

In addition to these actions, we are escalating our efforts to stop the US coup and protect the embassy. We are working with other peace and justice advocates to organized national and international days of action to protect the embassies, stop the US coup attempt and end the illegal unilateral coercive measures (misnamed sanctions) and threats of military attacks on Venezuela. If you live in a country that recognizes the coup leader, Juan Guaido, we urge you to take action to protect the Venezuelan Embassy in your country and to pressure your government to recognize the democratically-elected President Nicolas Maduro.

We will be posting these actions called by Popular Resistance and other organizations on our website. Sign up for our daily digest (on the front page of PopularResisance.org) to be sure to receive the information quickly.

Popular Resistance and other organizers will tie the US actions against Venezuela to the threats of war and ongoing unilateral coercive measures against Iran and other countries as well as the never-ending war in Afghanistan and the Middle East and threats to countries like Nicaragua and Cuba. In the next decade, as US empire crumbles, this coup attempt against Venezuela and the actions of US citizens against the US coup will be seen as one of the events that led to the demise of US military domination.

We along with numerous other organizations are organizing toward a national mass mobilization in New York City on September 21 when the United Nations General Assembly is meeting. We are calling it “The People’s Mobilization to Stop the US War Machine.” It will bring tens of thousands of people together to call for the end of the US coup against Venezuela and stop regime change operations anywhere in the world. It will also oppose unilateral coercive mentions (sanctions), which the US is using against many countries and that violate the UN Charter and other international laws.

Alex Rubinstein

✔ @RealAlexRubi

Embassy protectors @KBZeese and @MFlowers8 talk about organizing a “national mass mobilization in New York City on September 21st when the United Nations General Assembly is meeting.”

They’re calling it “The People’s Mobilization to Stop the US War Machine.”

224 people are talking about this

Mark your calendar now for the national mass mobilization in New York City on September 21, the International Day of Peace, when the United Nations General Assembly is meeting.

The mass mobilization is challenging the “US War Machine” because the machine is more than just war and regime change, it has escalated militarism at home creating violence and death in black and brown communities at the hands of militarized police. US militarism is also a major cause of the climate crisis as the Pentagon is a major source for climate gases and fights wars for oil when we need to break our addiction to oil. And the war machine robs the United States of necessary funds for health, education, housing, and other necessities of the people as well as the funds needed to put in place an eco-socialist Green New Deal that confronts the climate crisis with a rapid transition to 100% clean, renewable energy within the next decade. Challenging the US war machine links many issues and causes.

If people are organized and mobilized, we can make these issues central to the political narrative in the United States and ensure that in the upcoming election cycle no legitimate candidate can support the US coup in Venezuela and must put forward plans to end US militarism.

The Western Media is Key to Syria Deception

By any reckoning, the claim made this week by al-Qaeda-linked fighters that they were targeted with chemical weapons by the Syrian government in Idlib province – their final holdout in Syria – should have been treated by the western media with a high degree of scepticism.

That the US and other western governments enthusiastically picked up those claims should not have made them any more credible.

Scepticism was all the more warranted from the media given that no physical evidence has yet been produced to corroborate the jihadists’ claims. And the media should have been warier still given that the Syrian government was already poised to defeat these al-Qaeda groups without resort to chemical weapons – and without provoking the predictable ire (yet again) of the west.

But most of all scepticism was required because these latest claims arrive just as we have learnt that the last supposed major chemical attack – which took place in April 2018 and was, as ever, blamed by all western sources on Syria’s president, Bashar Assad – was very possibly staged, a false-flag operation by those very al-Qaeda groups now claiming the Syrian government has attacked them once again.

Addicted to incompetence

Most astounding in this week’s coverage of the claims made by al-Qaeda groups is the fact that the western media continues to refuse to learn any lessons, develop any critical distance from the sources it relies on, even as those sources are shown to have repeatedly deceived it.

This was true after the failure to find WMD in Iraq, and it is now even more true after the the international community’s monitoring body on chemical weapons, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW), was exposed this month as deeply dishonest.

It is bad enough that our governments and our expert institutions deceive and lie to us. But it is even worse that we have a corporate media addicted – at the most charitable interpretation – to its own incompetence. The evidence demonstrating that grows stronger by the day.

Unprovoked attack

In March the OPCW produced a report into a chemical weapons attack the Syrian government allegedly carried out in Douma in April last year. Several dozen civilians, many of them children, died apparently as a result of that attack.

The OPCW report concluded that there were “reasonable grounds” for believing a toxic form of chlorine had been used as a chemical weapon in Douma, and that the most likely method of delivery were two cylinders dropped from the air.

This as good as confirmed claims made by al-Qaeda groups, backed by western states, that the cylinders had been dropped by the Syrian military. Using dry technical language, the OPCW joined the US and Europe in pointing the finger squarely at Assad.

It was vitally important that the OPCW reached that conclusion not only because of the west’s overarching regime-change ambitions in Syria.

In response to the alleged Douma attack a year ago, the US fired a volley of Cruise missiles at Syrian army and government positions before there had been any investigation of who was responsible.

Those missiles were already a war crime – an unprovoked attack on another sovereign country. But without the OPCW’s implicit blessing, the US would have been deprived of even its flimsy, humanitarian pretext for launching the missiles.

Leaked document

Undoubtedly the OPCW was under huge political pressure to arrive at the “right” conclusion. But as a scientific body carrying out a forensic investigation surely it would not simply doctor the data.

Nonetheless, it seems that may well be precisely what it did. This month the Working Group on Syria, Propaganda and Media – a group of academics who have grown increasingly sceptical of the western narratives told about Syria – published an internal, leaked OPCW document.

A few days later the OPCW reluctantly confirmed that the document was genuine, and that it would identify and deal with those responsible for the leak.

The document was an assessment overseen by Ian Henderson, a senior OPCW expert, of the engineering data gathered by the OPCW’s fact-finding mission that attended the scene of the Douma attack. Its findings fly in the face of the OPCW’s published report.

Erased from the record

The leaked document is deeply troubling for two reasons.

First, the assessment, based on the available technical data, contradicts the conclusion of the final OPCW report that the two chemical cylinders were dropped from the air and crashed through building roofs. It argues instead that the cylinders were more likely placed at the locations they were found.

If that is right, the most probable explanation is that the cylinders were put there by al-Qaeda groups – presumably in a last desperate effort to persuade the west to intervene and to prevent the jihadists being driven out of Douma.

But even more shocking is the fact that the expert assessment based on the data collected by the OPCW team is entirely unaddressed in the OPCW’s final report.

It is not that the final report discounts or rebuts the findings of its own experts. It simply ignores those findings; it pretends they don’t exist. The report blacks them out, erases them from the official record. In short, it perpetrates a massive deception.

Experts ignored

All of this would be headline news if we had a responsible media that cared about the truth and about keeping its readers informed.

We now know both that the US attacked Syria on entirely bogus grounds, and that the OPCW – one of the international community’s most respected and authoritative bodies – has been caught redhanded in an outrageous deception with grave geopolitical implications. (In fact, it is not the first time the OPCW has been caught doing this, as I have previously explained here.)

The fact that the OPCW ignored its own expert and its own team’s technical findings when they proved politically indigestible casts a dark shadow over all the OPCW’s work in Syria, and beyond. If it was prepared to perpetrate a deception on this occasion, why should we assume it did not do so on other occasions when it proved politically expedient?

Active combatants

The OPCW’s reports into other possible chemical attacks – assisting western efforts to implicate Assad – are now equally tainted. That is especially so given that in those other cases the OPCW violated its own procedures by drawing prejudicial conclusions without its experts being on the ground, at the site of the alleged attacks. Instead it received samples and photos via al-Qaeda groups, who could easily have tampered with the evidence.

And yet there has been not a peep from the corporate media about this exposure of the OPCW’s dishonesty, apart from commentary pieces from the only two maverick mainstream journalists in the UK – Peter Hitchens, a conservative but independent-minded columnist for the Mail on Sunday, and veteran war correspondent Robert Fisk, of the little-read Independent newspaper (more on his special involvement in Douma in a moment).

Just as the OPCW blanked the findings of its technical experts to avoid political discomfort, the media have chosen to stay silent on this new, politically sensitive information.

They have preferred to prop up the discredited narrative that our governments have been acting to protect the human rights of ordinary Syrians rather than the reality that they have been active combatants in the war, helping to destabilise a country in ways that have caused huge suffering and death in Syria.

Systematic failure

This isn’t a one-off failure. It’s part of a series of failures by the corporate media in its coverage of Douma.

They ignored very obvious grounds for caution at the time of the alleged attack. Award-winning reporter Robert Fisk was among the first journalists to enter Douma shortly after those events. He and a few independent reporters communicated eye-witness testimony that flatly contradicted the joint narrative promoted by al-Qaeda groups and western governments that Assad had bombed Douma with chemical weapons.

The corporate media also mocked a subsequent press conference at which many of the supposed victims of that alleged chemical attack made appearances to show that they were unharmed and spoke of how they had been coerced into play-acting their roles.

And now the western media has compounded that failure – revealing its systematic nature – by ignoring the leaked OPCW document too.

But it gets worse, far worse.

Al-Qaeda propaganda

This week the same al-Qaeda groups that were present in Douma – and may have staged that lethal attack – claimed that the Syrian government had again launched chemical weapons against them, this time on their final holdout in Idlib.

A responsible media, a media interested in the facts, in evidence, in truth-telling, in holding the powerful to account, would be duty bound to frame this latest, unsubstantiated claim in the context of the new doubts raised about the OPCW report into last year’s chemical attack blamed on Assad.

Given that the technical data suggest that al-Qaeda groups, and the White Helmets who work closely with them, were responsible for staging the attack – even possibly of murdering civilians to make the attack look more persuasive – the corporate media had a professional and moral obligation to raise the matter of the leaked document.

It is vital context as anyone tries to weigh up whether the latest al-Qaeda claims are likely to be true. To deprive readers of this information, this essential context would be to take a side, to propagandise on behalf not only of western governments but of al-Qaeda too.

And that is exactly what the corporate media have just done. All of them.

Media worthy of Stalin

It is clear how grave their dereliction of the most basic journalistic duty is if we consider the Guardian’s uncritical coverage of jihadist claims about the latest alleged chemical attack.

Like most other media, the Guardian article included two strange allusions – one by France, the other by the US – to the deception perpetrated by the OPCW in its recent Douma report. The Guardian reported these allusions even though it has never before uttered a word anywhere in its pages about that deception.

In other words, the corporate media are so committed to propagandising on behalf of the western powers that they have reported the denials of official wrongdoing even though they have never reported the actual wrongdoing. It is hard to imagine the Soviet media under Stalin behaving in such a craven and dishonest fashion.

The corporate media have given France and the US a platform to reject accusations against the OPCW that the media themselves have never publicly raised.

Doubts about OPCW

The following is a brief statement (unintelligible without the forgoing context) from France, reported by the Guardian in relation to the latest claim that Assad’s forces used chemical weapons this week: “We have full confidence in the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.”

But no one, except bloggers and academics ignored by the media and state authorities, has ever raised doubts about the OPCW. Why would the Guardian think these French comments worthy of reporting unless there were reasons to doubt the OPCW? And if there are such reasons for doubt, why has the Guardian not thought to make them public, to report them to its readers?

The US state department similarly came to the aid of the OPCW. In the same Guardian report, a US official was quoted saying that the OPCW was facing “a continuing disinformation campaign” from Syria and Russia, and that the campaign was designed “to create the false narrative that others [rather than Assad] are to blame for chemical weapons attacks”.

So Washington too was rejecting accusations against the OPCW that have never been reported by the state-corporate media.

Interestingly, in the case of US officials, they claim that Syria and Russia are behind the “disinformation campaign” against the OPCW, even though the OPCW has admitted that the leaked document discrediting its work is genuine and written by one of its experts.

The OPCW is discredited, of course, only because it sought to conceal evidence contained in the leaked document that might have exonerated Assad of last year’s chemical attack. It is hard to see how Syria or Russia can be blamed for this.

Colluding in deception

But more astounding still, while US and French officials have at least acknowledged that there are doubts about the OPCW’s role in Syria, even if they unjustifiably reject such doubts, the corporate media have simply ignored those doubts as though they don’t exist.

The continuing media blackout on the leaked OPCW document cannot be viewed as accidental. It has been systematic across the media.

That blackout has remained resolutely in place even after the OPCW admitted the leaked document discrediting it was genuine and even after western countries began alluding to the leaked document themselves.

The corporate media is actively colluding both in the original deception perpetrated by al-Qaeda groups and the western powers, and in the subsequent dishonesty of the OPCW. They have worked together to deceive western publics.

The question is, why are the media so obviously incompetent? Why are they so eager to keep themselves and their readers in the dark? Why are they so willing to advance credulous narratives on behalf of western governments that have been repeatedly shown to have lied to them?

Iran the real target

The reason is that the corporate media are not what they claim. They are not a watchdog on power, or a fourth estate.

The media are actually the public relations wing of a handful of giant corporations – and states – that are pursuing two key goals in the Middle East.

First, they want to control its oil. Helping al-Qaeda in Syria – including in its propaganda war – against the Assad government serves a broader western agenda. The US and NATO bloc are ultimately gunning for the leadership of Iran, the one major oil producer in the region not under the US imperial thumb.

Powerful Shia groups in the region – Assad in Syria, Hezbullah in Lebanon, and Iraqi leaders elevated by our invasion of that country in 2003 – are allies or potential allies of Iran. If they are in play, the US empire’s room for manoeuvre in taking on Iran is limited. Remove these smaller players and Iran stands isolated and vulnerable.

That is why Russia stepped in several years ago to save Assad, in a bid to stop the dominoes falling and the US engineering a third world war centred on the Middle East.

Second, with the Middle East awash with oil money, western corporations have a chance to sell more of the lucrative weapons that get used in overt and covert wars like the one raging in Syria for the past eight years.

What better profit-generator for these corporations than wasteful and pointless wars against manufactured bogeymen like Assad?

Like a death cult

From the outside, this looks and sounds like a conspiracy. But actually it is something worse – and far more difficult to overcome.

The corporations that run our media and our governments have simply conflated in their own minds – and ours – the idea that their narrow corporate interests are synonymous with “western interests”.

The false narratives they generate are there to serve a system of power, as I have explained in previous blogs. That system’s worldview and values are enforced by a charmed circle that includes politicians, military generals, scientists, journalists and others operating as if brainwashed by some kind of death cult. They see the world through a single prism: the system’s need to hold on to power. Everything else – truth, evidence, justice, human rights, love, compassion – must take a back seat.

It is this same system that paradoxically is determined to preserve itself even if it means destroying the planet, ravaging our economies, and starting and maintaining endlessly destructive wars. It is a system that will drag us all into the abyss, unless we stop it.

Forevergate: The Pernicious Persistence of the Russian Collusion Delusion

The official investigation into Russian collusion is over, after three harrowing, nerve-wracking years. I kid, of course. After endless news cycles, and various non-stories and wild-goose chases disseminated by mainstream media, one would think the country could move on. Yet this hasn’t been the case. It seems pretty straightforward: delusions about Russia continue because they serve empire.

Most serious people who have not had their brains parasitized by the ridiculous hand-wringing and caterwauling of mainstream media pundits understood Russiagate for what it was: a bunch of half-baked allegations against obviously corrupt yet incompetent stooges of the Trump campaign and administration, cobbled together to appear as some sinister, shadowy plot against America. That does not mean that Donald Trump is not a repugnant, amoral, serial liar who would do anything within his power to engage in damage control in regards to the behavior of his corrupt and incompetent lackeys, as well as himself. It simply means, in regards to collusion, there is no there, there.

Examine nearly any foundational element of the alleged Trump-Putin collusion fairy tale and it falls apart immediately. When Donald Trump acts illegally, as he has in the past with various real estate scams, he does it out in the open, in full view. He does not seem to have the mental capacities to collude and conspire, he is simply a billionaire: he gives orders, even if often he does not have to state them openly, as Michael Cohen told us, and he gets what he wants. Partially this is why liberals vilify him so much, obviously: he has removed the curtains of empire to show how things are really run, how white supremacy and unchecked greed and corruption has always been at the core of US hegemony.

Moreover, I do not see anyone even in alternative media circles asking about Russia’s side of the equation. Would Vladimir Putin look at the pro-con, cost-benefit analysis of conspiring with a clown such as Trump and determine, let’s do this? I would say probably not. What would the endgame be? Would Trump pull out of NATO, would Trump give his tacit approval of the transfer of Crimea, or even attempt to thaw relations concerning Ukraine? Hell, no. These are liberal fantasies: demented, fevered nightmares of the national security state falling apart at the hands of an ignoramus. US imperial rule does not allow for any significant aberrations in foreign policy, regardless of who is president.

To some degree, US imperial policy is on rails, and who is in charge simply doesn’t matter. Presidents are puppets, figureheads. Putin must understand this on some level. Although to an extent post-Soviet Russia has been seeking approval from the West, and forming tacit alignments with such basket cases as Orban’s Hungary, as well as becoming more engaged with other xenophobic nationalist-populists in Europe, the Kremlin simply does not vitally need US approval. It may, however, broach certain topics in specific policy areas where overlapping interests are well-established.

The costs of Russia getting caught by actually concretely, materially, and intellectually conspiring with any incoming US administration (by setting the entire US on wild Neo-McCarthyite witch-hunts and restarting a New Cold War, which is essentially what has happened anyways without any collusion) would vastly outweigh the benefits.

I mean, come on, the Steele document, Wikileaks being pawns of the Russians, a handful of Facebook ads having any significant effect on election results? It’s frankly ridiculous that these fabricated fairy tales could send any rational group of people into an investigative furor. It’s even more absurd considering, frankly, that probably lots of corporate leaders, Democratic “elite” consultants, spooks at Langley, national security “experts”, and political operatives were taking a look at this 3rd-rate paperback fiction before any investigation was launched, and deciding, yes, let’s go with this.

What it does seem to mean, and what hardly anyone wants to admit, is that this steaming pile of horseshit was, in fact, concocted by our intelligence agencies (and possibly at the behest of the Clintons’ networks within the national security state to avert eyes from the Clinton Foundation scandal) to help  to distract, divide, and hypnotize the public. This is what is called a disinformation campaign/psychological operation, a “psy-op”.

Every media story devoted to the Russiagate hoax takes away from any and all of the failed policies and spinelessness of the Democrats. It also benefits conservatives and elite corporate interests as well, because there is less time to cover things like global warming, militarism, increasing income inequality, Trump’s deregulations which have gutted federal agencies, etc.

The hypocrisy is astounding, and the analysis is completely ahistorical, considering the nefarious meddling, subterfuge, coups, and death the US has doled out for decades by interfering in overseas elections. Not to mention the assassinations, funding death squads, the massacres and genocides committed in the wake of US covert foreign policy. There is no existent US democracy to interfere in.

If you’re biting on the “Russian hackers” and “Russian spies” nonsense, well, there’s not much hope for you either. It is well within the possibilities of many intelligence agencies to fake an attack or make digital signatures appear to be coming from other countries. As for whether any of these so-called Russian “agents” actually has any significant influence in the Kremlin hierarchy, it is pure speculation. From an examination of the Mueller report, which is all we can do with all the redacted evidence, it appears many of these shadowy Russian figures are marginal figures, and/or are simply sponges and spivs vying for a wee bit of influence in Moscow, rather than member of some deep-cover GRU operation.

The vast majority of citizens understand that Hillary Clinton lost because of her hubris, her frigid personality, and, most obviously, her stupidity as she failed to campaign in key battleground states.

Further, if we are asking questions as to what countries influence our elections, the obvious answers would have to be NATO allies and Israel. Even Bill Clinton faced charges of election subterfuge due to his supposed backing from Chinese money.

Hands down, you can pretty much guarantee that Cambridge Analytica, Facebook’s and Youtube’s own algorithms which favor sensationalist and hateful content, and probably a host of other unknown shady corporations influenced the election far more than Russia could have. I can guarantee that Russiagate has been the biggest boon for cybersecurity, surveillance, and counter-terror corporations since 9/11.

Another point is the issue of “back-channels” from the Trump campaign and transition teams to the Putin administration. As if nearly every leader of a sovereign nation does not establish back-channels with other allies and enemies (see: Nixon to China, among many examples), simply because national leaders have enemies within their own government who will leak or sabotage any efforts at dialogue, whether they are corrupt or not.

How naïve does one have to be to recoil in shock at the notion that the most powerful governments in the world establish diplomatic back-channels with shady, corrupt officials and spies?

If you want to open the book on political corruption, you will probably find every member of Congress, every high-level member in State and Defense, every Cabinet member and their top-tier underlings, every senior financial person at Treasury and the Fed have conflicts of interests if they are not openly taking bribes, stock buybacks, or whizzing in and out of corporate positions (the “revolving door” phenomenon) to deregulate and consult for the industries which stand to benefit from the wanton dismemberment of our regulatory agencies.

The elites are not honest in public, but I’d assume most of them are self-aware enough to realize what they are doing occurs in a legal gray area, if not being outright criminal. The liberal and some “never Trump” and “principled” conservative media, however, cannot even be bothered to reflect on whose interests are being served by pandering to the national security state. These mainstream journalists have managed to rehabilitate the image of our abhorrent domestic and foreign security and intelligence agencies.

When your beliefs align with those who support US Empire, you might want to critically question them. There was absolutely no “objective” reporting (an abstract fantasy these hacks hang their hats on) regarding alleged election interference in mainstream sources. What almost certainly happened was that key figures in DC, whether politicians, technocrats, or intelligence assets or agents fed running lies to their puppet mouthpieces such as The New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, etc.

Elite interests threw chum in the water and watched as the mainstream journalist feeding frenzy ensued. Not only did they take the bait hook, line, and sinker; there were no internal checks among news agencies about the origins of the hogwash theories they disseminated.

If one hazards to take a best guess as to where this all originated, it’s as simple as three letters: C-I-A. US intelligence involvement in concocting the collusion yarn is conspicuously absent in media analysis, a telling omission.

The psychology of this nonsense is interesting insofar as it reveals deep-rooted liberal tendencies: rather than engaging in self-reflection as to the reasons of Clinton’s loss, Trump’s victory can only be an aberration. In this dream-world impeachment is always on the horizon, and America can undergo a return to normalcy by replacing Trump with a “rational”, neoliberal democratic centrist.

The denialism of mainstream liberals knows no bounds and we should not be hesitant to laugh at the ridiculousness of allegations of Russian hacking and collusion. What might also be helpful is to remind the chattering classes that their thoughts are not their own. By examining the historical and material forces at play, one is forced to confront the facts that only very elite interests in the military-industrial complex could be responsible for stringing along our compliant media for so long.

Again, every multinational corporation, every authoritarian government agency, every arms dealer, fossil fuel emitter, financial speculator, agribusiness corporation, medical and insurance company, as well as the FBI, CIA, and our vast imperial apparatus stood to benefit as mainstream media devoted so much time, energy, and bandwidth towards such a ridiculous, divisive, and painfully obvious intelligence disinformation ploy.

That, in fact, may have been the point, and the initial culprits in the US security state may never be found. Nor does the Russiagate hoax require any specific people directing the media. The deviousness of our system is that it does not need individual conspirators. To paraphrase Gore Vidal: “There is no need for the elite to conspire. They all think the same.” The system vomits forth new idiotic post-truth narratives on both liberal and conservative sides to sooth frayed nerves by offering palliatives to those frightened by resurgent racist and nationalist tendencies, and to satiate a public beholden to spectacle. Rather than trying to untangle the contradictions and travesties inherent to capitalism and empire, any fairy tale will do. No one can seem to figure out who is responsible for our nation’s slow collapse, and there can’t be a public reckoning for whoever was disseminating this collusion nonsense either, because the national security state is cowardly and faceless. Empire and capitalism cannot bear to have their true faces unmasked.

The faceless people behind the scenes are not heroic American spy-warriors or clever, righteous assassins we see portrayed in popular TV, movies, video games, etc. Nor does any real power reside in the “Russian hacker”, a classic case of US projection (Stuxnet anyone?). What the stereotype does play into is a racist and absurd caricature of seedy Slavic programmers deviously plotting to destroy democracy in America from troll-farms in St. Petersburg.

The real faceless people of today are khaki-wearing doofuses overseeing server farms in Northern Virginia, the uniformed killers wandering the corridors of the Pentagon E-ring whose schemes lead to genocide abroad, free market-worshipping chauvinist tech-bros in Silicon Valley constructing our ever-surveilled digital hellscape who mine the need for human connection and community for profit, diplomat dilettantes plotting coups in US embassies which increasingly resemble bunkers, the stuffed-suit lawyers and financial parasites who plunder whole continents and construct tax havens for the super-rich, and the anonymous shareholders, CEOs, and owners of nesting-doll conglomerates which oversee trillions of dollars stolen from workers and direct trillions more from public treasuries.

Russiagate will continue on to provide cover for ruling class criminality. It functions in US political discourse to evade the examination of capital’s true nature, to lead down blind alleyways in the long tradition of America’s “paranoid style”. As the climate crisis intensifies, as the rising tides of authoritarianism destroy lives and sap energy from ordinary workers and citizens, the simulation of democracy must be maintained at all costs. What better way than for the elites to distract and confuse the public, remain in the shadows, and feign responsibility for their crimes against the planet and humanity than to foment unrest between the two leading nuclear powers, simultaneously enrage and anesthetize the public with a feel-good story about a former FBI director taking down a President, and shift away public attention from the imperial paroxysms of violence erupting all over the globe?

Is Leaked Document Trump’s “Deal of the Century”?

A report published this week by the Israel Hayom newspaper apparently leaking details of Donald Trump’s “deal of the century” reads like the kind of peace plan that might be put together by an estate agent or car salesman.

But while the authenticity of the document is unproven and indeed contested, there are serious grounds for believing it paves the direction of any future declaration by the Trump administration.

Not least, it is a synthesis of most of the Israeli right’s ambitions for the creation of a Greater Israel, with a few sops to the Palestinians – most of them related to partially relieving Israel’s economic strangulation of the Palestinian economy.

This is exactly what Jared Kushner told us the “deal of the century” would look like in his preview last month.

Also significant is the outlet that published the leak: Israel Hayom. The Israeli newspaper is owned by Sheldon Adelson, a US casino billionaire who is one of the Republican party’s chief donors and was a major contributor to Trump’s presidential election campaign funds.

Adelson is also a stalwart ally of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. His newspaper has served as little more than a mouthpiece for Netanyahu’s ultra-nationalist governments over the past decade.

Netanyahu behind leak?

Adelson and Israel Hayom have ready access to key figures in both the US and Israeli administrations. And it has been widely reported that little of significance gets into print there unless it has first been approved by Netanyahu or its overseas owner.

The newspaper questioned the authenticity and credibility of the document, which has spread across social media platforms, even suggesting “it is quite possible the document is fake” and that the Israeli foriegn ministry was looking into it.

The White House had already indicated that, after long delays, it intended to finally unveil the “deal of the century” next month, after the holy Muslim month of Ramadan finishes.

An unnamed White House official told the paper the leak was “speculative” and “inaccurate” – the kind of lacklustre denial that might equally mean the report is, in fact, largely accurate.

If the document is genuine, Netanyahu looks to be the most likely culprit behind the leak. He has overseen the foreign ministry for years and Israel Hayom is widely referred to by Israelis as “Bibiton”, or Bibi’s newspaper, employing the prime minister’s nickname.

Testing the waters

The alleged document, as published in Israel Hayom, would be catastrophically bad for the Palestinians. Assuming Netanyahu approved the document’s leaking, his motives might not be too difficult to discern.

On one view, leaking it might be an effective way for Netanyahu and the Trump administration to test the waters, to fly a trial balloon to see whether they dare publish the document as it is, or need to make modifications.

But another possibility is that Netanyahu may have concluded that there could be an unwelcome price in publicly achieving most of what he is already gaining by stealth – a price he may prefer to avoid for the time being.

Is the leak designed to foment pre-emptive opposition to the plan, both from within Israel and from the Palestinians and the Arab world, in the hope of stymieing its release?

The hope may be that the leak, and the reaction it elicits, forces Trump’s Middle East team to postpone yet again the plan’s publication, or even foils its release entirely.

Nonetheless, whether or not the “deal of the century” is unveiled soon, the leaked document – if true – offers a plausible glimpse into the Trump administration’s thinking.

Given that Trump’s Middle East team appear to have begun implementing the plan over the past 18 months even without its publication – from moving the US embassy to Jerusalem to the recognition of Israel’s illegal annexation of the Syrian Golan Heights – the leak helps to shed light on how a US-Israeli “resolution” of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is likely to unfold.

Annexing the West Bank

The proposed Palestinian entity would be named “New Palestine” – apparently taking a page out of the playbook of Tony Blair, a Britain’s former prime minister who became the international community’s Middle East envoy from 2007 to 2015.

Back in the 1990s, Blair filleted his own political party, Labour, of its socialist heritage and then rebranded the resulting corporation-friendly party, a pale shadow of its former self, as “New Labour”.

The name “New Palestine” helpfully obscures the fact that this demilitarised entity would lack the features and powers normally associated with a state. According to the leak, New Palestine would exist on only a tiny fraction of historic Palestine.

All illegal settlements in the West Bank would be annexed to Israel – satisfying a pledge Netanyahu made shortly before last month’s general election. If the territory annexed includes most of Area C, the 62 per cent of the West Bank Israel was given temporary control over under the Oslo accords, and which the Israeli right urgently wants to annex, that would leave New Palestine nominally in charge of about 12 percent of historic Palestine.

Or put another way, the Trump administration appears to be ready to give its blessing to a Greater Israel comprising 88 per cent of the land stolen from Palestinians over the past seven decades.

But it is far worse than that. New Palestine would exist as a series of discrete cantons, or Bantustans, surrounded by a sea of Israeli settlements – now to be declared part of Israel. The entity would be chopped and diced in a way that is true of no other state in the world.

New Palestine would have no army, just a lightly armed police force. It would be able to act only as a series of disconnected municipalities.

In fact, it is hard to imagine how “New Palestine” would fundamentally change the current, dismal reality for Palestinians. They would be able to move between these cantons only using lengthy detours, bypass roads and tunnels. Much like now.

Glorified municipalities

The only silver lining offered in the alleged document is a proposed bribe from the US, Europe, and other developed states, though mostly financed by the oil-rich Gulf states, to salve their consciences for defrauding the Palestinians of their land and sovereignty.

These states will provide $30bn over five years to help New Palestine set up and run its glorified municipalities. If that sounds like a lot of money, remember it is $8bn less than the decade-long aid the US is currently giving Israel to buy arms and fighter jets.

What happens to New Palestine after that five-year period is unclear in the document. But given that the 12 percent of historic Palestine awarded to the Palestinians is the region’s most resource-poor territory – stripped by Israel of water sources, economic coherence, and key exploitable resources like the West Bank’s quarries – it is hard not to see the entity sinking rather swimming after the initial influx of money dries up.

Even if the international community agrees to stump up more money, New Palestine would be entirely aid dependent in perpetuity.

The US and others would be able to turn on and off the spigot based on the Palestinians’ “good behaviour” – just as occurs now. Palestinians would live permanently in fear of the repercussions for criticising their prison warders.

In keeping with his vow to make Mexico pay for the wall to be built along the southern US border, Trump apparently wants the Palestinian entity to pay Israel to provide it with military security. In other words, much of that $30bn in aid to the Palestinians would probably end up in the Israeli military’s pockets.

Interestingly, the leaked report argues that oil-producing states, not the Palestinians, would be the “main beneficiaries” of the agreement. This hints at how the Trump deal is being sold to the Gulf states: as an opportunity for them to fully embrace Israel, its technology and military prowess, so that the Middle East can follow in the footsteps of Asia’s “tiger economies”.

Ethnic cleansing in Jerusalem

Jerusalem is described as a “shared capital”, but the small print reads rather differently. Jerusalem would not be divided into a Palestinian east and an Israeli west, as most had envisaged. Instead, the city will be run by a unified Israeli-run municipality. Just as happens now.

The only meaningful concession to the Palestinians would be that Israelis would not be allowed to buy Palestinian homes, preventing – in theory, at least – a further takeover of East Jerusalem by Jewish settlers.

But given that in return Palestinians would not be allowed to buy Israeli homes, and that the Palestinian population in East Jerusalem already suffers massive housing shortages and that an Israeli municipality would have the power to decide where homes are built and for whom, it is easy to imagine that the current situation – of Israel exploiting planning controls to drive Palestinians out of Jerusalem – would simply continue.

Also, given that Palestinians in Jerusalem would be citizens of New Palestine, not Israel, those unable to find a home in Israeli-ruled Jerusalem would have no choice but to emigrate into the West Bank. That would be exactly the same form of bureaucratic ethnic cleansing that Palestinians in Jerusalem experience now.

Gaza open to Sinai

Echoing recent comments from Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and Middle East adviser, the plan’s benefits for Palestinians all relate to potential economic dividends, not political ones.

Palestinians will be allowed to labour in Israel, as was the norm before Oslo – and presumably, as before, only in the most poorly paid and precarious jobs, on building sites and agricultural land.

A land corridor, doubtlessly overseen by Israeli military contractors the Palestinians must pay for, is supposed to connect Gaza to the West Bank. Confirming earlier reports of the Trump administration’s plans, Gaza would be opened up to the world, and an industrial zone and airport created in the neighbouring territory of Sinai.

The land – its extent to be decided in negotiations – would be leased from Egypt.

Helpfully for Israel, as Middle East Eye has previously pointed out, such a move risks gradually encouraging Palestinians to view Sinai as the centre of their lives rather than Gaza – another way to slowly ethnically cleanse them.

Meanwhile, the West Bank would be connected to Jordan by two border crossings – probably via land corridors through the Jordan Valley, which itself is to be annexed to Israel. Again, with Palestinians squeezed into disconnected cantons surrounded by Israeli territory, the assumption must be that over time many would seek a new life in Jordan.

Palestinian political prisoners would be released from Israeli jails to the authority of New Palestine over three years. But the plan says nothing about a right of return for millions of Palestinian refugees – descended from those who were expelled from their homes in the 1948 and 1967 wars.

Gun to their heads

Don Corleone-style, the Trump administrations appears ready to hold a gun to the head of the Palestinian leaderships to force them to sign up to the deal.

The US, the leaked report states, would cut off all money transfers to the Palestinians if they dissent, in an attempt to batter them into submission.

The alleged plan would demand that Hamas and Islamic Jihad disarm, handing their weapons over to Egypt. Should they reject the deal, the report says the US would authorise Israel to “personally harm” the leadership – through extrajudicial assassinations that have long been a mainstay of Israeli policy towards the two groups.

Rather less credibly, the alleged document suggests that the White House is prepared to get tough with Israel too, cutting off US aid if Israel fails to abide by the terms of the agreement.

Given that Israel has regularly broken the Oslo accords – and international law – without paying any serious penalty for doing so, it is easy to imagine that in practice the US would find work-arounds to ensure Israel was not harmed for any violations of the deal.

US imprimatur

The alleged document has all the hallmarks of being the Trump plan, or at least a recent draft of it, because it sets out in black and white the reality Israel has been crafting for Palestinians over the past two decades.

It simply gives Israel’s mass theft of land and cantonisation of the Palestinians an official US imprimatur.

So, if it offers the Israeli right most of what it wants, what interest would Israel Hayom – Netanyahu’s mouthpiece – have in jeopardising its success by leaking it?

A couple of reasons suggest themselves.

Israel is already achieving all these goals – stealing land, annexing the settlements, cementing its exclusive control over Jerusalem, putting pressure on the Palestinians to move off their land and into neighbouring states – without formally declaring that this is its game plan.

It has been making great progress in all its aims without having to admit publicly that statehood for the Palestinians is an illusion. For Netanyahu, the question must be why go public with Israel’s over-arching vision when it can be achieved by stealth.

Fearful of backlash

But even worse for Israel, once the Palestinians and the watching world understand that the current, catastrophic reality for Palestinians is as good as it is going to get, there is likely to be a backlash.

The Palestinian Authority could collapse, the Palestinian populace launch a new uprising, the so-called “Arab street” may be far less accepting of the plan than their rulers or Trump might hope, and solidarity activists in the West, including the boycott movement, would get a massive shot in the arm for their cause.

Equally, it would be impossible for Israel’s apologists to continue denying that Israel is carrying out what the late Israeli academic Baruch Kimmerling called “politicide” – the destruction of the Palestinians’ future, their right to self-determination and their integrity as a single people.

If this is Trump’s version of Middle East peace, he is playing a game of Russian roulette – and Netanyahu may be reluctant to let him pull the trigger.

First published in Middle East Eye