Category Archives: Media

Israeli Politics is Being Dragged into the Grubby Realm of Reality TV

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu commandeered the country’s airwaves last week in what many assumed would prove a moment of profound national import. They could not have been more wrong.

The context was his decision last month to move forward the general election to April, widely seen as a desperate effort to turn the vote into a referendum on his innocence as long-standing corruption investigations close in.

The police have recommended that he be charged over three separate allegations of bribery. By calling the election, Netanyahu has forced the attorney-general, Avichai Mendelblit, onto unfamiliar – and constitutionally tricky – terrain.

Mendelblit, an appointee of Netanyahu’s, has indicated that he will make a decision on whether to issue an indictment before the ballot, so that voters have the facts to make an informed choice.

But Netanyahu has said he won’t drop out or resign, even if indicted, and there is no decisive precedent to suggest he must.

Instead, he would prefer to bully the attorney-general into delaying a decision until after voters have spoken. That was the purpose of his unexpected live national TV address.

His supporters have already set the stage, claiming that an indictment mid-campaign would influence the outcome and usurp the will of the people.

Either way, Netanyahu hopes to benefit. If an indictment is served before the vote, it will rile up his base and bolster a carefully crafted narrative that he faces a campaign of persecution from state authorities.

If Mendelblit delays, Netanyahu will aim to exploit any electoral success to face down prosecutors, accusing them of seeking to reverse his popular mandate.

Netanyahu’s strategy was on full show last week when he took to the main TV channels. He used this moment of enforced national attention for nothing more serious than a self-serving gripe.

The investigators, led by a far-right police commander he personally approved, had supposedly joined a leftist plot to oust him. The proof was that they had denied him a chance to confront in person his accusers – former aides turned state witness – and challenge their testimony.

Claiming that he had been stripped of his legal rights, Netanyahu demanded a showdown be broadcast live – effectively trailblazing a new type of reality TV show for suspects in high-profile criminal cases.

Of course, Netanyahu understands only too well that such confrontations with witnesses are decided by the police, not the accused, and used only when evidence needs to be tested.

The police believe they already have the evidence required for a conviction, and hope to test it in a court of law, not in the type of TV spectacle in which Netanyahu excels.

Netanyahu’s move was intended to reinforce his claim that the “system” – one that has kept him and the ultra-nationalist right in uninterrupted power for a decade – is rigged against him.

There was a striking parallel with events last week in the United States, where President Donald Trump similarly addressed the nation to corner his opponents in Congress.

In his case, Trump sought to rally his base by fearmongering about a supposed “invasion” of immigrants, suggesting that the Democrats were subverting his efforts to block their entry with an Israeli-style wall.

But whereas many have described Netanyahu’s latest intervention as “Trumpian”, in truth the Israeli leader is as well-practiced as his American counterpart in the dark arts of media manipulation.

Two of the three bribery cases he faces relate directly to allegations that he offered favours – in one case captured on tape – to Israeli media moguls in return for better coverage in their publications.

Netanyahu has long demonstrated an obsession with controlling his image, and has proved an arch-manipulator of passions to mobilise support for his hawkish agenda.

It was at the last general election, in 2015, that he turned the tables on his right-wing rivals at the last moment. He rallied voters by claiming that Israel’s Palestinian citizens – a fifth of the population – were turning out in “droves” at polling booths. Only a vote for Netanyahu, he suggested, would save the Jewish state.

Not only did he imply that voting by Palestinian citizens was illegitimate, he claimed that the Israeli left was “bussing” them to the polls, citing this falsehood as proof of the left’s treachery.

Now Netanyahu is again deploying the “leftist” slur, this time to discredit the police and prosecution service.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Netanyahu’s Likud party is the only faction opposed to a plan by the Central Elections Committee to bar online propaganda in the campaign’s final two months.

Underscoring the way TV has increasingly become a tool in Israel not for clarifying issues but for inflaming emotions, the US TV comedian Roseanne Barr has been invited to address the Israeli parliament at the end of the month.

She will use the opportunity to denounce as Jew haters activists in the international boycott movement who stand in solidarity with Palestinians. Only in Israel’s current degraded public discourse would Barr, who has a history of making offensive comments variously about Jews, Muslims and black people, be taken seriously as an arbiter of racism.

Analysts widely expect this election campaign to be the dirtiest in Israel’s history. But, although they worry about Netanyahu’s demagoguery, they still overlook its grubbiest aspect.

Palestinians under occupation have been effectively disappeared from the campaign. They will have no voice in choosing the Israeli politicians who have determined their fate for the past five decades.

In fact, not one of the Israeli Jewish parties is highlighting Palestinian rights or putting the occupation at the centre of its platform. The vast majority of Israeli politicians want to entrench the occupation, not end it.

Israeli commentators noted that Mr Netanyahu had another pressing reason – apart from legal threats – to bring forward the election. He feared that otherwise Trump might unveil his long-promised peace plan.

However bad that plan will be for Palestinians, Netanyahu does not want his unwillingness to make concessions exposed.

But Netanyahu is far from the gravest threat to Israel’s “democracy”. The most dangerous thing of all is the widespread refusal in Israel to recognise that the Palestinians are human beings too – and that they should be able to determine their own fate, just like Israelis.

Why Are the Media So Eager to Declare Trump’s Syria Withdrawal Dead?

Virtually from the moment Donald Trump announced that he would be removing U.S. troops from Syria, corporate media have converged around a narrative that the president has been forced to walk back his decision. But while a withdrawal will undoubtedly prove more challenging than the president originally anticipated, this verdict simply does not reflect the facts on the ground.

When John Bolton spoke in Jerusalem earlier this month, leading news outlets reported that Trump’s national security adviser had declared that withdrawal would not be completed unless and until specific conditions had been met or objectives achieved. The New York Times announced that “Bolton Puts Conditions on Syria Withdrawal, Suggesting a Delay of Months or Years,” claiming that he “told reporters that American forces would remain in Syria until the last remnants of the Islamic State were defeated and Turkey provided guarantees that it would not strike Kurdish forces allied with the United States.”

The Associated Press story, which was picked up by the Washington Post, proved similarly categorical. “U.S. troops will not leave northeastern Syria until Islamic State militants are defeated and American-allied Kurdish fighters are protected,” a top White House aide is quoted as saying. The article also notes that Bolton was “signaling a pause to a withdrawal abruptly announced last month and initially expected to be completed within weeks.”

Those stories were written on the assumption that Bolton was enunciating yet another policy on Syria withdrawal. There is now good reason to believe that no such new policy decision has been made. The Wall Street Journal has quoted a defense official as saying, “Nothing has changed. We don’t take orders from Bolton.”

The Times and AP failed to provide the actual text of Bolton’s statement, much less any analysis of it in context of his statements.

Bolton’s statement was extraordinarily indirect and didn’t necessarily mean what it appeared to mean at first glance. As quoted in the Wall Street Journal, one of the few places where the text could be found, Bolton said, “Timetables or the timing of the withdrawal occurs as a result of the fulfillment of the conditions and the establishment of the circumstances that we want to see. It’s not the establishment of an arbitrary point for the withdrawal to take place as President Obama did in the Afghan situation … the timetable flows from the policy decisions that we need to implement.”

On closer examination, it seems more likely that Bolton was attempting to differentiate Trump’s withdrawal policy from that of President Obama in Iraq. Such an interpretation is reinforced by a statement from an unidentified “senior official” traveling with Bolton, who has indicated that the administration believes that the remaining pockets of ISIS control can be neutralized within a matter of weeks.

This, in turn, suggests that the Trump administration is planning to define the defeat of ISIS in conventional military terms—not as the elimination either of its presence in Syria or the possibility of its future revival in the region, both of which Secretary of Defense James Mattis had sought unsuccessfully.

The Pompeo Interview the Media Ignored

That leaves the question of how Trump’s plan will deal with other policy objectives, including the protection of our Kurdish allies and the United States’ demands for the withdrawal of Iranian and Iran-backed forces from Syria. But there is evidence the administration plans to pursue these objectives both during and after the withdrawal.

“Our troops are coming out,” Secretary of State Pompeo told Newsmax more than a week ago. “The President also made it clear that we need to continue the counter-ISIS campaign, and we needed to continue to create stability throughout the Middle East. The counter-Iran campaign continues. We’ll do all these things.”

Pompeo also indicated the president’s recommendation on Syria includes “not only the withdrawal but all the other elements that the President laid out: the importance of ensuring the Turks don’t slaughter the Kurds; the protection of religious minorities in Syria. All those things are still part of the American mission set.”

Pompeo thus gave away the premise that Bolton managed to obscure: “We will simply do it at a time when the American forces have departed Syria.” Had the secretary of state intended to describe a “conditions-based withdrawal” policy—a term used consistently by the U.S. military and employed by Obama in both Iraq and Afghanistan—he could very easily have made that clear. Instead, he said the actions required to advance the administration’s policy objectives would be taken “when the American forces have departed Syria.” In other words, they would have to continue well beyond the withdrawal.

The Danger of a Bolton-Israeli Scheme

Even though there is reason to believe that Trump still plans to remove all troops from Syria in a matter of months rather than years, there are certainly potential pitfalls ahead. One of them is Bolton’s greater involvement in the withdrawal process. After all, it was Bolton who declared last September that the Trump administration policy was to keep troops in Syria until all Iranian troops had gone home.

What authority Bolton had obtained to make such a pronouncement remains unclear, but Trump rejected that position decisively in December.

Because the president has a well-known aversion to detailed policy papers, and because Bolton has successfully limited Trump’s exposure to them, the national security adviser has gained unusual latitude in representing administration policy. And Bolton is well known to be a master at bureaucratic maneuvering to advance an agenda that doesn’t necessarily reflect that of the president he’s serving. To date, however, there is no indication that Bolton aims to undercut Trump’s plan to withdraw the 2,000 or more U.S. troops working in conjunction with Kurdish forces in northeast Syria.

But the base at Al-Tanf in the south near the Syrian border with both Jordan and Iraq is another story. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu would like the U.S. to keep its few hundred Special Forces at Al-Tanf, and Bolton may be hoping to exempt it from the withdrawal. That base, which sits astride the main highway between Baghdad and Damascus, has long been touted by those seeking to justify U.S. and Israeli military intervention in the region as a key to blocking successful transport from Iran through Iraq and Syria to Lebanon.

Israel has argued that it needs to prevent Hezbollah from obtaining modern, highly accurate weaponry via that route, but Hezbollah had already secured such weapons long before the U.S. established its base in 2016. The Israelis ultimately recognize that those several hundred U.S. troops serve no real tactical purpose. Instead, they believe their presence could be used to justify further intervention in the future.

So during Bolton’s visit to Jerusalem, “a senior administration official” in his party told reporters that Bolton planned to discuss with Israeli officials possible continued stationing of some U.S. forces at Al-Tanf for an indeterminate period. The same official said the U.S. would decide how important the base is and whether it would have to stay in its current location after talks with the Israelis and Jordanians.

The official in question, who was almost certainly Bolton himself, may have been merely stating a theoretical possibility for the sake of completing the necessary consultations with Israel and Turkey in connection with the withdrawal. But Bolton is also capable of scheming with the Israelis to create a new excuse for keeping U.S. troops at that location.

The Trump administration is still committed to the aim of getting all Iranian personnel out of Syria, and it should not be forgotten that during the George W. Bush administration Bolton worked closely with the Israelis on creating the political preconditions for the U.S. use of force against Iran. By comparison, a scheme hatched jointly with the Israelis for reducing Trump’s freedom of action on that issue would be relatively easy for Bolton.

  • First published at Truthdig.
  • Multifaceted Attack Against Venezuela on Eve of Maduro Inauguration

    Venezuelan President Nicholás Maduro’s inauguration for his second term on January 10 is targeted by the US, the allied Lima Group, and the hardline Venezuelan opposition.  They have demanded that Maduro refuse inauguration. A multifaceted attack aimed at regime change is underway using sanctions, military threats, and a campaign of delegitimization to replace the democratically elected president.

    Since President Hugo Chávez began his first term as president in 1999, the Bolivarian Republic has promoted regional integration and independence, resisted neoliberalism, opposed “free trade” agreements that would compromise national autonomy, and supported the emergence of a multipolar world. On account of these policies, Chávez (1999-2013) and now Maduro, have faced relentless attacks by the colossus to the north. Today the Maduro administration faces the challenges of defending national sovereignty from imperial domination and overcoming crippling US sanctions that have exacerbated a severe economic crisis.

    The US has brazenly announced its consideration of a “military option” against Caracas and has assembled a coalition of the willing in Colombia and Brazil to prepare for an eventual “humanitarian” intervention. Most alarming is that the US seems indifferent to the consequences of such an invasion, which could easily become a regional and global conflagration involving Colombia, Brazil, and even Russia and China.

    What the US finds particularly infuriating is that Maduro had the temerity to run for re-election in May 2018 after the US demanded he resign. The US State Department had issued warnings four months prior to the election that the process “will be illegitimate” and the results “will not be recognized.” US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley insisted that Maduro abdicate and presidential elections be postponed.

    The Venezuelan National Electoral Commission rejected this diktat from Washington. On May 20, 2018, the Venezuelan electorate had the audacity to re-elect Maduro by a 67.84% majority with a participation rate of 46.07% (representing 9,389,056 voters). Two opposition candidates ran for office, Henri Falcón and Javier Bertucci, despite a boycott orchestrated by opposition hardliners and the US.

    New Phase in the Campaign Against Venezuela

    The campaign to bring about regime change enters a new phase with the inauguration of President Maduro for a second term. With no legal standing or representation inside Venezuela, the Lima Group has now become a major protagonist of  a soft coup in Venezuela.

    Just five days before the inauguration, at a meeting held in the capital of Peru, 13 out of 14 members of the Lima Group issued a declaration urging Maduro “not to assume the presidency on January 10… and to temporarily transfer the executive power to the National Assembly until a new, democratic presidential poll is held.”

    The following day, Andres Pastrana, former president of Colombia, a member nation of the Lima Group, tweeted that the new president of Venezuela’s National Assembly, Juan Guaidó, should “now assume the presidency of the government of transition as established in the constitution beginning the 10th of January and as requested by the Lima Group.”

    In a speech delivered before the Venezuelan National Assembly on January 5, Guaidó stopped short of claiming executive power, but declared that starting January 10, Maduro ought to be considered an “usurper” and “dictator.” Guaidó also urged convening a transitional government that would hold new elections and “authorize” intervention from abroad.

    Although the US is not a formal member of the Lima Group, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, participated in the meeting by teleconference. Pompeo had returned earlier in the week from a visit to Brazil and Colombia, during which, according to a senior State Department official, Maduro’s inauguration was on the agenda:

    There’s a very important date that is coming up, which is the 10th of January, where Maduro will hand over power to himself based on an election that many governments in the region and globally have condemned, including the United States, . . . as illegitimate. So we will be discussing, I’m sure, our joint efforts with Colombia and with the region to address this new era beginning on the 10th of January in Venezuela.

    The US Imperial Project

    US policy towards Venezuela has three strategic objectives: privileged access to Venezuela’s natural resources (e.g., the world’s largest petroleum reserves and second largest gold deposits), restoration of a neoliberal regime obedient to Washington, and limitation of any movement towards regional independence.

    These US objectives are conditioned by a continuing adherence to the Monroe Doctrine for Latin America and the Caribbean, the so-called “backyard” of the US empire. The contemporary mutation of the 1823 imperial doctrine entails a new Cold War against Russia and China and hostility to any regional integration independent of US hegemony.

    Back in the 1980s-90s during Venezuela’s Fourth Republic, local elites afforded Washington preferential access to Venezuela’s rich natural resources and dutifully imposed a neoliberal economic model on the country. Currently, US policy appears aimed at re-establishing such a client state.

    However, to bring about such a return, the US imperial project would have to change not only the Venezuelan leadership but dismantle the institutions and even the symbols of the Bolivarian revolution. The devastating US economic sanctions are designed to increase economic hardship in order to ultimately break the will of the chavista base and fracture the Venezuelan military as well as the civic-military alliance. This breakdown would presumably pave the way for installation of a provisional government.

    It is time once again to give peace a chance. But Washington has opted for the collision course set by the Lima Group as well as the Secretary General of the Washington-based Organization of American States (OAS) over efforts of the Vatican and former prime minister of Spain, Luis Zapatero, to broker dialogue between the government and the opposition. The imperial project is abetted by the conservative restoration in Brazil and Argentina and the electoral victory of uribistas in Colombia.

    Multifaceted War Against Venezuela and the Bolivarian Response

    Washington is engaging in a multifaceted war against Venezuela by deploying economic sanctions, backing a campaign to install a transitional government, and preparing proxy military and paramilitary forces for an eventual intervention.

    On August 4, 2018, a failed assassination attempt against President Maduro did not draw condemnation from either Washington or the Lima Group. On November 4, according to Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino, three Bolivarian National Guard were killed and ten wounded in an attack by Colombian paramilitary forces in the frontier region of Amazonas. On December 5, the Brazilian vice president-elect Hamilton Mourão declared: “there will be a coup in Venezuela . . . And the United Nations will have to intervene through a peace force . . . and there is Brazil’s role: to lead this peace force.”

    On December 12, 2018, President Maduro reported that “734 members of a paramilitary  group called G8 was training [in the city of Tona, Colombia] for attacks against military units in the frontier states of Zulia, Tachira, Apure and Amazonas.” This report ought to be taken seriously given the presence of eight US military bases in Colombia,  the recent association of Bogotá with NATO, Colombia’s rejection of direct communication with Venezuelan authorities, and its participation in US-led military exercises over the past two years. Last week, US Secretary of State Pompeo visited Colombia and Brazil to shore up joint efforts to “restore of democracy” in Venezuela.

    In response, Venezuela has been fortifying the civic-military alliance built up over the past two decades. The National Guard, military, and militias (now over 1,600,000 strong) have been able so far to fend off several terrorist attacks against public institutions and government leaders as well as an assassination attempt against President Maduro in August.

    Caracas has also been developing close military cooperation with Russia and consolidating ties with China. With the recent visit of a pair of its TU 160 heavy bombers to Venezuela, Russia has demonstrated its ability to transport armaments more than 10,000 kilometers at supersonic speeds should the Caribbean nation come under attack by a foreign power.  China has entered into agreements for massive economic cooperation with Venezuela, partially offsetting the punishing US sanctions. Also, the visit of a Chinese navy hospital ship in September subtly signaled Chinese military support of Venezuela.

    Shifting Geopolitical Environment

    Although the Lima Group now backs a soft coup in Venezuela, with the inauguration of Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) as President of Mexico in December, the group has lost the support of one of its key members. Mexico declined to sign on to the latest Lima Group declaration and warned against “measures that obstruct a dialogue to face the crisis in Venezuela.” Maximiliano Reyes, Mexico’s deputy foreign minister, said: “We call for reflection in the Lima Group about the consequences for Venezuelans of measures that seek to interfere in [their] internal affairs.”

    The extreme partisanship of Secretary General of the OAS Luis Almagro against Venezuela has undermined his standing. In September 2018, Uruguayan President Tabaré Vázquez declared that Uruguay would not support Almagro for a second term as Secretary General of the OAS.  Almagro was finally expelled from his own political party in Uruguay, the Frente Amplio, in December 2018, largely for his statements in Colombia about the need to retain a military option against Venezuela.

    In December 2018, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America  (ALBA-TCP) held its 16th meeting in Cuba, declaring its “concern for the aggression and actions against regional peace and security, especially the threats of the use of force against the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.” ALBA was founded by Venezuela and Cuba and is now comprised of ten nations.

    No Other Choice but Resistance

    The Venezuelan people have a long history of resistance to foreign domination and are not likely to view a US-backed “humanitarian intervention” as a liberating force. Nor are the popular sectors likely to support an unelected “transitional government” with a self-appointed Supreme Court in exile which is currently based in Bogotá, Colombia. And if the coalition of the willing includes Colombian paramilitary forces who are notorious for their role in the murder of community activists inside Colombia, their deployment in the event of a “humanitarian” mission would be abhorrent inside Venezuela.

    The 1973 US-backed coup in Chile, followed by a lethal cleansing of that nation of leftists, is a cautionary lesson. Add to this the historic memory of the political repression during Venezuela’s discredited Fourth Republic and the Caracazo of 1989, in which the most marginalized and poor were the main victims, and it would be no surprise should the popular sectors have only one thing to offer a provisional government bent on inviting imperial intervention: resistance.

    • Note: All translations from the Spanish to English are unofficial.

    Multifaceted Attack Against Venezuela on Eve of Maduro Inauguration

    Venezuelan President Nicholás Maduro’s inauguration for his second term on January 10 is targeted by the US, the allied Lima Group, and the hardline Venezuelan opposition.  They have demanded that Maduro refuse inauguration. A multifaceted attack aimed at regime change is underway using sanctions, military threats, and a campaign of delegitimization to replace the democratically elected president.

    Since President Hugo Chávez began his first term as president in 1999, the Bolivarian Republic has promoted regional integration and independence, resisted neoliberalism, opposed “free trade” agreements that would compromise national autonomy, and supported the emergence of a multipolar world. On account of these policies, Chávez (1999-2013) and now Maduro, have faced relentless attacks by the colossus to the north. Today the Maduro administration faces the challenges of defending national sovereignty from imperial domination and overcoming crippling US sanctions that have exacerbated a severe economic crisis.

    The US has brazenly announced its consideration of a “military option” against Caracas and has assembled a coalition of the willing in Colombia and Brazil to prepare for an eventual “humanitarian” intervention. Most alarming is that the US seems indifferent to the consequences of such an invasion, which could easily become a regional and global conflagration involving Colombia, Brazil, and even Russia and China.

    What the US finds particularly infuriating is that Maduro had the temerity to run for re-election in May 2018 after the US demanded he resign. The US State Department had issued warnings four months prior to the election that the process “will be illegitimate” and the results “will not be recognized.” US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley insisted that Maduro abdicate and presidential elections be postponed.

    The Venezuelan National Electoral Commission rejected this diktat from Washington. On May 20, 2018, the Venezuelan electorate had the audacity to re-elect Maduro by a 67.84% majority with a participation rate of 46.07% (representing 9,389,056 voters). Two opposition candidates ran for office, Henri Falcón and Javier Bertucci, despite a boycott orchestrated by opposition hardliners and the US.

    New Phase in the Campaign Against Venezuela

    The campaign to bring about regime change enters a new phase with the inauguration of President Maduro for a second term. With no legal standing or representation inside Venezuela, the Lima Group has now become a major protagonist of  a soft coup in Venezuela.

    Just five days before the inauguration, at a meeting held in the capital of Peru, 13 out of 14 members of the Lima Group issued a declaration urging Maduro “not to assume the presidency on January 10… and to temporarily transfer the executive power to the National Assembly until a new, democratic presidential poll is held.”

    The following day, Andres Pastrana, former president of Colombia, a member nation of the Lima Group, tweeted that the new president of Venezuela’s National Assembly, Juan Guaidó, should “now assume the presidency of the government of transition as established in the constitution beginning the 10th of January and as requested by the Lima Group.”

    In a speech delivered before the Venezuelan National Assembly on January 5, Guaidó stopped short of claiming executive power, but declared that starting January 10, Maduro ought to be considered an “usurper” and “dictator.” Guaidó also urged convening a transitional government that would hold new elections and “authorize” intervention from abroad.

    Although the US is not a formal member of the Lima Group, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, participated in the meeting by teleconference. Pompeo had returned earlier in the week from a visit to Brazil and Colombia, during which, according to a senior State Department official, Maduro’s inauguration was on the agenda:

    There’s a very important date that is coming up, which is the 10th of January, where Maduro will hand over power to himself based on an election that many governments in the region and globally have condemned, including the United States, . . . as illegitimate. So we will be discussing, I’m sure, our joint efforts with Colombia and with the region to address this new era beginning on the 10th of January in Venezuela.

    The US Imperial Project

    US policy towards Venezuela has three strategic objectives: privileged access to Venezuela’s natural resources (e.g., the world’s largest petroleum reserves and second largest gold deposits), restoration of a neoliberal regime obedient to Washington, and limitation of any movement towards regional independence.

    These US objectives are conditioned by a continuing adherence to the Monroe Doctrine for Latin America and the Caribbean, the so-called “backyard” of the US empire. The contemporary mutation of the 1823 imperial doctrine entails a new Cold War against Russia and China and hostility to any regional integration independent of US hegemony.

    Back in the 1980s-90s during Venezuela’s Fourth Republic, local elites afforded Washington preferential access to Venezuela’s rich natural resources and dutifully imposed a neoliberal economic model on the country. Currently, US policy appears aimed at re-establishing such a client state.

    However, to bring about such a return, the US imperial project would have to change not only the Venezuelan leadership but dismantle the institutions and even the symbols of the Bolivarian revolution. The devastating US economic sanctions are designed to increase economic hardship in order to ultimately break the will of the chavista base and fracture the Venezuelan military as well as the civic-military alliance. This breakdown would presumably pave the way for installation of a provisional government.

    It is time once again to give peace a chance. But Washington has opted for the collision course set by the Lima Group as well as the Secretary General of the Washington-based Organization of American States (OAS) over efforts of the Vatican and former prime minister of Spain, Luis Zapatero, to broker dialogue between the government and the opposition. The imperial project is abetted by the conservative restoration in Brazil and Argentina and the electoral victory of uribistas in Colombia.

    Multifaceted War Against Venezuela and the Bolivarian Response

    Washington is engaging in a multifaceted war against Venezuela by deploying economic sanctions, backing a campaign to install a transitional government, and preparing proxy military and paramilitary forces for an eventual intervention.

    On August 4, 2018, a failed assassination attempt against President Maduro did not draw condemnation from either Washington or the Lima Group. On November 4, according to Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino, three Bolivarian National Guard were killed and ten wounded in an attack by Colombian paramilitary forces in the frontier region of Amazonas. On December 5, the Brazilian vice president-elect Hamilton Mourão declared: “there will be a coup in Venezuela . . . And the United Nations will have to intervene through a peace force . . . and there is Brazil’s role: to lead this peace force.”

    On December 12, 2018, President Maduro reported that “734 members of a paramilitary  group called G8 was training [in the city of Tona, Colombia] for attacks against military units in the frontier states of Zulia, Tachira, Apure and Amazonas.” This report ought to be taken seriously given the presence of eight US military bases in Colombia,  the recent association of Bogotá with NATO, Colombia’s rejection of direct communication with Venezuelan authorities, and its participation in US-led military exercises over the past two years. Last week, US Secretary of State Pompeo visited Colombia and Brazil to shore up joint efforts to “restore of democracy” in Venezuela.

    In response, Venezuela has been fortifying the civic-military alliance built up over the past two decades. The National Guard, military, and militias (now over 1,600,000 strong) have been able so far to fend off several terrorist attacks against public institutions and government leaders as well as an assassination attempt against President Maduro in August.

    Caracas has also been developing close military cooperation with Russia and consolidating ties with China. With the recent visit of a pair of its TU 160 heavy bombers to Venezuela, Russia has demonstrated its ability to transport armaments more than 10,000 kilometers at supersonic speeds should the Caribbean nation come under attack by a foreign power.  China has entered into agreements for massive economic cooperation with Venezuela, partially offsetting the punishing US sanctions. Also, the visit of a Chinese navy hospital ship in September subtly signaled Chinese military support of Venezuela.

    Shifting Geopolitical Environment

    Although the Lima Group now backs a soft coup in Venezuela, with the inauguration of Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) as President of Mexico in December, the group has lost the support of one of its key members. Mexico declined to sign on to the latest Lima Group declaration and warned against “measures that obstruct a dialogue to face the crisis in Venezuela.” Maximiliano Reyes, Mexico’s deputy foreign minister, said: “We call for reflection in the Lima Group about the consequences for Venezuelans of measures that seek to interfere in [their] internal affairs.”

    The extreme partisanship of Secretary General of the OAS Luis Almagro against Venezuela has undermined his standing. In September 2018, Uruguayan President Tabaré Vázquez declared that Uruguay would not support Almagro for a second term as Secretary General of the OAS.  Almagro was finally expelled from his own political party in Uruguay, the Frente Amplio, in December 2018, largely for his statements in Colombia about the need to retain a military option against Venezuela.

    In December 2018, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America  (ALBA-TCP) held its 16th meeting in Cuba, declaring its “concern for the aggression and actions against regional peace and security, especially the threats of the use of force against the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.” ALBA was founded by Venezuela and Cuba and is now comprised of ten nations.

    No Other Choice but Resistance

    The Venezuelan people have a long history of resistance to foreign domination and are not likely to view a US-backed “humanitarian intervention” as a liberating force. Nor are the popular sectors likely to support an unelected “transitional government” with a self-appointed Supreme Court in exile which is currently based in Bogotá, Colombia. And if the coalition of the willing includes Colombian paramilitary forces who are notorious for their role in the murder of community activists inside Colombia, their deployment in the event of a “humanitarian” mission would be abhorrent inside Venezuela.

    The 1973 US-backed coup in Chile, followed by a lethal cleansing of that nation of leftists, is a cautionary lesson. Add to this the historic memory of the political repression during Venezuela’s discredited Fourth Republic and the Caracazo of 1989, in which the most marginalized and poor were the main victims, and it would be no surprise should the popular sectors have only one thing to offer a provisional government bent on inviting imperial intervention: resistance.

    • Note: All translations from the Spanish to English are unofficial.

    Need for Hard Evidence: Why RT is Gaining Popularity in the Middle East?

    Since the beginning of the Arab Spring, the population of Northern Africa and the Middle East found out about the events based on the news transmitted by the Western corporate media only. Exactly these outlets set the tone for the information flow and the local magnates like Al Jazeera and Al Arabiya which spread talking points given by CNN and BBC.

    The Arab population has felt the need for an alternative point of view as the Western giants repeatedly have been caught for spreading fake news and disinformation. An obvious example is a chemical attack in Eastern Ghouta in 2013 that actually was a provocation orchestrated by the West and the Persian Gulf monarchies.

    However, when Russia, a longtime Syrian ally, entered the conflict in 2015 the situation both in information and political field has started to change. RT Arabic and Sputnik have become popular and reliable information resources. This fact is evidenced by the research of the Jordanian analysts Jassar Al-Tahat, conducted in 2015. At the request of the British project Integrity Initiative, Al-Tahat released a series of reports on RT media campaigns, where he studied the reasons for its success in the information space of the Middle East.

    Notably, Integrity Initiative organized studies within the frameworks of targeted information counteraction against the Russian media. Most likely, the Al-Tahat reports were required for the British side to study the methods of countering RT.

    According to the Jordanian analyst, RT is currently seen as the most trusted source giving “the other side of the story” in the Arab world. The author of the report also admits that RT has a degree of confidence that the Western resources do not possess.

    Al-Tahat notes that RT as a new voice which provides a new perspective on issues which concern them. There is a sense of fashion, a trend that gives RT a margin of acceptance and tolerance of its professional shortcomings.

    Jordanian analyst backs up his opinions with figures. The RT article on the Brussels 22/03/2016 terror attacks was posted only 10 minutes after the first explosion attained over 21,000 comments. Its closest competing article – by the BBC – posted more than 30 minutes later attained less than 2000 comments – less than 1/10th of the RT article.

    There is a tendency of declining trust among the population of Arab countries to the Western media whose purpose is to impose a unipolar world and Western-style democracy. At the same time, the increased demand for credibility, and respect for the alternative point of view is the reason for RT success in the Middle East. Perhaps, the defeat in the information war was one of the reasons that made Donald Trump make a decision to withdraw American troops from Syria.

    Updating Some Canadian Political Prisoners January 2019

    Disproportionate numbers of First Peoples are in Canadian prisons. Society arranges this fact to not seem that extraordinary. It could be argued that aboriginal peoples are political prisoners in North America, in or out of prison. Or that this is true for all minorities. Or that as the war on terror proceeds all Canadians may find themselves in a political prison.

    Privilege and prejudice are clarified when we note that aboriginal men and women damaged in government (police) custody are not often plaintiffs in trials for damages. And properly, this account would run to several thousand pages listing the individual cases of First Peoples’ imprisonment, rising out of a society which feels compelled to treat the education of, the medical care of, the social services for, the nourishment of, the housing of, the remuneration for, First Peoples unjustly.

    Unlike the U.S., Canada hasn’t used extreme long term incarceration of Indigenous leaders to discourage Indigenous movements’ protest actions. In the U.S. Leonard Peltier was sentenced to two life imprisonment terms for a crime he likely didn’t commit. Non-Indigenous U.S. leaders of the people such as the Kennedy’s, Dr. King and Malcolm X, were simply shot, and Canada’s historical icon of revolt Louis Riel was simply hanged. The many indigenous leaders in Canada maintain relatively low profiles and are more diffusely represented in these vast spaces of the land.

    Currently, the only group of Canadian political prisoners which approaches the length of sentences given U.S. political prisoners is Canadians who are Muslim.1 They have been treated poorly in domestic prisons or left to the dogs in the custody of foreign agencies. In some cases Canada’s security agencies seemed to be outsourcing torture for information. Of Canadian Muslims damaged in custody, Maher Arar was awarded 11.5 million dollars in an out of court settlement concerning the Canadian government’s responsibility for his torture in Syria.

    Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad El Maati and Muayyed Nureddin settled for about half of what each asked, 31.25 million apiece because of Canada’s assistance to the Syrian government in having them falsely arrested and tortured.

    Omar Khadr was to receive 10.5 million for Canada’s cooperation with the U.S. on Khadr’s incarceration and torture in  Guantanamo while a minor.

    One lawsuit filed by Abousfian Abdelrazik, whom the Canadian government left in the hands of Syrian torturers, was settled out of court in 2017.

    In 2015 the Canadian government settled out of court a suit by Benamar Benatta whom it had turned over to the FBI as a terrorist suspect: he was imprisoned 5 years before they decided he wasn’t a terrorist.

    Daniel Ameziane, who sought political asylum in Canada from Algeria, is suing Canada for 40 million dollars2, after his torture in U.S. Guantanamo which he alleges was reliant on Canadian supplied information. and yielded the Canadians in turn information obtained by his torture (Ameziane, denied asylum in Canada, was subsequently arrested in Pakistan by a bounty hunter and sent to Guantanamo). The five Muslim men detained (arrested without charge) for varying lengths of time in extreme conditions, under the mechanism of Canadian Security Certificates, were not found guilty of any crime and have not, to my knowledge, initiated suits to compensate them for their arbitrary loss of rights, their suffering and the government’s attempts to ruin their lives.

    What is unusual about the Canadian persecution of Canadian Muslims is that they have some chance for redress in Canadian courts for severe violations of their human rights. Here I’ll try to update several cases Night’s Lantern has encountered in the past, and these of Muslims, targeted under the U.S./ NATO programs of the wars on terror and Muslim countries. The cases suggest a domestic application of an aggressive foreign policy which has the intention of corporate resource acquisition by force.

    Entirely ignored by the media is the case of Said Namouh who was arrested in 2007 and is serving a sentence of life imprisonment with parole possible after ten years (yet facing deportation if paroled). The charges against him were for participating in terrorist activities. But he committed no crime of violence against anyone.3 There was no evidence linking him to alleged bomb-making or making real the prosecution’s suppositions of active terrorism. The star witness against him was an Israeli CEO of a U.S. defense industry intelligence provider who analyzed Namouh’s computer hard drive. Namouh’s “crimes” were primarily of internet communication, personal declarations, extremist associations, in other words – his beliefs, convictions. This case puzzles innocents because it is entirely legal to have beliefs and convictions and it is legal to share them. In 2018 Namouh was denied his first application for parole; the parole board noted his record in prison wasn’t exemplary, and it wasn’t, but he didn’t try to kill anyone and he didn’t steal anyone’s dessert. The parole board (“La Commission des libérations conditionnelles”) isn’t likely to hear his case again until 2023. Yet there is a forfeit of the prisoner’s human rights and civil rights here, not because Namouh’s beliefs are unwise, unsafe, in some instances illegal, or against Canadian security interests, but because the punishment is the same as a mass murderer’s. He was in no way proven guilty of mass murder or any act of violence. His was a propaganda trial with a propaganda punishment.

    Another level of shame is reached in the more obvious injustices of Canadian Security Certificates. One recognizes Stasi or Gestapo tactics which aren’t Canadian practices, and the government has restrained itself from using the certificates since early in the new millennium. All five of the Muslim men arrested under Canadian Security Certificates back in 2000 to 2003 have been released from prison through the efforts of their lawyers in one trial after another. Despite government challenges Canada’s judicial system has safeguarded some of humanity’s progress since the dark ages. The government’s attempts to justify in court application of Canadian Security Certificates has cost Canadian taxpayers millions of dollars.

    Mohamed Harkat, former Canadian Security Certificate detainee, imprisoned without a charge against him in 2002, now lives at home protected from prison by judicial decisions, with his Quebec born Canadian wife of nearly twenty years. Their lives are under threat every day with complete disruption by the government’s continuing intention to deport him to Algeria, where it’s believed he is in danger of torture or death.((“Justice for Mohamed Harkat: stop his deportation to torture.)) Aside from the label of suspected terrorist assigned him by Canada’s security agencies, any refugee returned to Algeria is known to be at risk. In June 2018 Al-Jazeera reported 13,000 migrants left by Algeria in the Sahara desert within the last 14 months, subject to forced marches without water and food.4

    The ordeal of Mohamed Harkat’s arrest without charges or public evidence against him has lasted year after year, placing him in prison, in solitary, on hunger strike, in house arrest with court ordered regimens, has subjected his wife to suffering and police abuse, subjected the family to legal expenses, debts, and charity without compensation. (Summary). If one wanted to inflict the conditions of a lasting torture on a family, either to obtain information or as one more threat to encourage the Muslim community to cooperate with government policies bordering on genocide in several Muslim countries, one might imagine inflicting on them the lives of Mohamed and Sophie Harkat.

    In a report to the UN Human Rights Council last Spring, Nils Melzer (the UN Special Rapporteur on torture) noted: “Whenever States failed to exercise due diligence to protect migrants, punish perpetrators or provide remedies, they risk to become complicit in torture or ill-treatment.”5

    The injustices inherent in the government’s prosecution of a group branded the “Toronto 18” in 2006 by the press are less clearly defined and are difficult to explain. People are afraid to ask obvious questions about the group of minors and young men who were quite possibly guided into a horrible conspiracy by the several police agents among them to plan and organize a series of terrorist acts beyond the abilities of any in the group who weren’t police agents, to execute.

    As soon as early reporting of the arrests entered court, the judge placed a gag order on reporting details of the trial or revealing the defendants’ names. Portions of the ban protecting minors seem to remain in force. The mechanism has also provided a means to keep out of public scrutiny any low-profile informants and the role they played in a “conspiracy” which some of the defendants were unwilling to recognize. The alleged crimes the “conspiracy” was charged with were horrific and frightening, particularly to a population with misgivings about U.S. and Canadian wars against Islamic countries, crimes against international law, guilt from Canada’s role in “Operation Desert Storm,” the initial US and Coalition bombing of Iraq, the destruction of Iraq’s civilian infrastructure, depriving the country’s children of a future. By the time the US and its coalition invaded Iraq in 2003 Canada refused full participation. Canada’s commitment to fighting in Afghanistan may also be considered complicity in a war of aggression and a number of the “Toronto 18” expressed anger at Canada’s involvement in Afghanistan. So the script for the “Toronto 18” was noticeably muzzy, vague except in the allegations of dastardly plots and plans, and the curiousness that young Canadian citizens who were in other respects bright students and entrepreneurs could be manipulated into over-expressing their imaginations and feelings about injustice.

    In court eleven Canadian citizens accused were sentenced to prison. Charges against others were dropped or withdrawn. Of the accused, most just pleaded guilty. Four claimed their innocence but were convicted. Interestingly each case was different which one would not expect of a conspiracy. Charges relied heavily on the actions and testimony of a police informant (one is featured in official narratives) considered by some to have been a causative agent. The convicted did not have the knowledge or means to execute the terrorist actions they were found guilty of, and their actions required the professional help of the police informant(s). This troubled my own understanding of the case as it was revealed in the press, and the presence of this basic injustice may explain why post sentencing information about members of the “Toronto 18” remains scarce.

    The justice of their trials in 2009-2010 may be further questioned after a recent ruling in Vancouver BC which found the RCMP basically responsible for the terrorist acts committed by John Nuttall and Amanda Korody.6 The couple were recent converts to Islam and recovering drug addicts, guided into a terrorist plot and supplied the knowledge and materials to commit terrorist crimes by RCMP undercover. A three judge appeals court affirmed the decision of the lower court that the RCMP had basically entrapped the defendants, who were then freed. The RCMP’s case was found to be “a travesty of justice.”.

    To begin to gather then this disparate group of the “Toronto 18” I mention eight of the eleven who were found guilty and sentenced:

    Arrested when he was 18, Saad Gaya pleaded guilty in court in 2010 and was sentenced to 12 years in prison with pre-sentencing imprisonment of 3.5 years credited double. Gaya was to serve a remaining 4.5 years but was parole eligible in 18 months. However, the Crown was able to increase his sentence to 18 years. In 2016 the National Post reported he was granted day parole to attend graduate school.7

    Mohamed Dirie convicted for weapons smuggling in the “Toronto 18” plot was sentenced to seven years including pre-sentencing time served. He was released in 2011, and is reported to have died fighting for “an extremist group” in Syria, 2013.8 Unconfirmed.

    Zakaria Amara9 pleaded guilty in 2009 to charges in the “camp plot” conspiracy and to charges in the “bomb plot” conspiracy. In 2010 he was sentenced to 21 months in addition to time served for the first, and for the second, life imprisonment. He was incarcerated in Quebec and eligible for parole in ten years. In 2013 the Supreme Court of Canada refused to review his sentence.

    Fahim Ahmad, sentenced to 16 years with double credit for pre-sentencing time served, was previously denied parole but will have completed his sentence and should be freed in 2018, according to The Toronto Star, and released early in 2018 according to the National Post. By 2019, I’ve found no notice of his release.10

    Shareef Abdelhaleem who maintained that he “had no intention of causing injury or bodily harm” and asked the judge to sentence him as the judge would a white Catholic…, was sentenced to life in prison, and with pre-sentencing time included, was parole eligible in ten years. His father was an engineer with Atomic Energy of Canada who had posted bail for Mohammad Mahjoub, the Security Certificate detainee. The father’s implication in the “conspiracy” was attempted. Of his son, the prisoner, Wikipedia quotes him: “I am the last person to be a threat…this whole thing was staged to impress the public, to give them fear.”11

    Steven Vikash Chand, a former Canadian forces reservist and new convert to Islam, was found guilty of participation and advising a financial fraud to assist a terrorist group. He was sentenced to 10 years including time served, yielding a release in 2011.

    Despite a recognized lack of serious involvement with the conspiracy group, Asad Ansari was sentenced in 2010 to six years five months for participating/contributing to a terrorist group, which amounted to time served. Like several others in the “Toronto 18” group, the government’s threat to withdraw his Canadian citizenship was canceled under a change in government and Royal Assent granted to Bill C-6 June 19, 2017.

    Saad Khalid pled guilty in 2009 to intending to cause an explosion and was sentenced to 14 years in prison including 7 years served. He was said to be radicalized in prison and the Crown increased his sentence from 14 to 20 years.

    These are long sentences in mens’ lives. This listing leaves three of the accused and found guilty prisoners uncounted, as well as the seven of those arrested and one way or another released. We can guess that most of those found guilty have by now served their time or reaching their parole date were quietly released. No one asks why children and young adults who were so normal in other respects leading the lives of innocents, imagined such horrific responses to their country’s crimes against innocent men women and children abroad.

    1. Canada and the politics of Islamophobia,” J. B. Gerald, February 5, 2017, nightslantern.ca.
    2. “Guantanamo: Ex-inmate sues Canada for alleged torture,” Jillian Kestler-D’Amours,” November 10, 2017, Al-Jazeera.
    3. “Pas de libération conditionnelle pour Saïd Namouh,” Louis Cloutier, February 7, 2018, TVA Nouvelles / MédiaQMI.
    4. “Deported by Algeria, migrants abandoned in the Sahara Desert,” Victoria Gatenby, June 25, 2018, Al-Jazeera.
    5. “Migration policies can amount to ill-treatment and torture, UN rights expert warns,” UN Human Rights Council, March 1, 2018, Reliefweb.
    6. “B.C. Court of Appeal: Couple convicted in Victoria terror case entrapped by RCMP,” Amy Smart, Canadian Press, December 19, 2018, Vancouver Sun.
    7. “Toronto 18″ convict granted day parole so he can go to graduate school,” January 1, 2016, National Post.
    8. “Man convicted as part of Toronto 18 plot reportedly killed in Syria,” The Canadian Press September 26, 2013, Macleans.
    9. “Bomb plotter sentenced to 12 years,” Michael Friscolanti, January 18, 2010, Macleans.
    10. “Toronto 18 plotter reflects on a decade in prison,” Michelle Shephard, May 29, 2016, Toronto Star.
    11. “Toronto 18″ member released on day parole in middle of 18-year sentence,” The Canadian Press, January 2, 2016, CBC.

    Organ Theft, Staged Attacks: UN Panel Details White Helmets’ Criminal Activities

    Members of the ‘White Helmets’ at a Roman ruin site in Daraa, Syria, December 23, 2017 © Reuters / Alaa al-Faqir

    Utter silence. That is the sound of Western corporate media days after a more than one-hour-long panel on the White Helmets at the United Nations on December 20.

    Journalists were present, so the silence isn’t due to lack of access. And in any case it was live streamed on the UNTV channel, and remains available on Youtube for keen observers to watch.

    More likely, the silence is due to the irrefutable documentation presented on the faux-rescue group’s involvement in criminal activities, which include organ theft, working with terrorists — including as snipers — staging fake rescues, thieving from civilians, and other non-rescuer behaviour.

    On the panel was one of corporate media’s favourite targets to smear, British journalist Vanessa Beeley, who gave a fact-based lecture on her years of research into the founding, funding and nefarious activities of the White Helmets, research which includes numerous visits to White Helmets centers, countless testimonies from Syrian civilians, and even an interview with a White Helmets leader in Dara’a al-Balad, Syria.

    Maxim Grigoriev, the director of the Foundation for the Study of Democracy (a member of the UN’s Global Counter-Terrorism Research Network) spoke at length, detailing some of the over 100 eyewitnesses his foundation has conducted interviews with.

    These include over 40 White Helmets members, 15 former terrorists, 50 people from areas where terrorists and WH operated, with another over 500 interviewed by survey in Aleppo and Daraa.

     
    Among testimonies presented by Grigoriev were numerous accounts of the White Helmets’ involvement in organ theft.

    A head of nursing in Aleppo is cited as seeing the body of his neighbour who had been taken by the White Helmets to Turkey for “treatment”. “I lifted the sheet and saw a large wound cut from the throat to the stomach… I touched him with my hand and understood there were clearly no organs left.”

    Another interviewee said: “A person receives a minor injury, is rescued… and then brought back with their stomach cut open and with their internal organs missing.”

    The interviews with civilians, White Helmets and terrorist members themselves put to rest NATO’s and their lapdog media’s explanations that in the White Helmets there are a few bad apples but in general these are humanitarian rescuers.

    For example, a Syrian civilian, Omar al-Mustafa, is cited as stating:

    “Almost all people who worked in nearby White Helmets centers were al-Nusra fighter or were linked to them. I tried to join the White Helmets myself, but I was told that if I was not from al-Nusra, they could not employ me.”

    Still more testimonies detail staged fake rescues and staged chemical attacks. Omar al-Mustafa was cited as stating:

    “I saw them (White Helmets) bring children who were alive, put them on the floor as if they had died in a chemical attack.”

     
    The testimonies incriminate not only the White Helmets organization, but also the doctors who, in 2016, Western corporate media fawned over.

    According to one interviewee, Mohamed Bashir Biram, his attempt to take his father to a White Helmets affiliated al-Bayan hospital, failed. He said: “Since my father was not a fighter, the doctors in the hospital refused to help him and he died.”

    But in 2016, the Western media was praising the same valiant doctors, in their crescendo of war propaganda around Aleppo.

    Many other independent journalists have corroborated aspects of what the panelists — also comprising Syrian journalist Rafiq Lotef, and Russian and Syrian Representatives to the UN, Ambassadors Vassily Nebenzia and Bashar al-Ja’afari — described in detail.

    In my own visits to eastern Ghouta towns last April and May, residents likewise spoke of organ theft, staged rescues, the White Helmets working with Jaysh al-Islam, while an Aleppo man likewise described them as thieves who steal from civilians, not rescuers.

    Copy-paste corporate media silence

    Journalists present at the panel were not interested in asking follow-up questions on organ theft, staged rescues, or any of the content presented, unsurprisingly, instead asking questions about other Syrian issues.

    A CBS journalist didn’t have a single question about what had just been presented, although CBS has previously repeatedly reported on the White Helmets. But their reporting, like most in corporate media, spun the transparent propaganda that is corporate media coverage of the group.

    Four days after the UN panel, to my knowledge, not a single corporate media outlet has covered the event and its critical contents.

    This is in spite of the fact that the Western corporate media has been happy to propagandize about the White Helmets for years, and to attack those of us who dare to present testimonies and evidence from on the ground in Syria which contradicts the official narrative.

     
    Russian, Syrian, and Lebanese media did report on the panel, and of course if Western corporate journalists ever do bother to mention it, they will ignore the incriminating evidence presented by panellists and instead accuse Russia of bullying the White Helmets.

    Prior to the panel, a number of publications came out with articles echoing one another, and in fact echoing claims already repeatedly uttered about a “Russian disinformation campaign against the White Helmets.

    That’s right, that’s the best they’ve got.

    ‘Big bad Russia’ tarnishing the pristine image of the White Helmets, a theme rerun ad nauseum over the last year or two, and one which I addressed in early January 2018 when I was under attack for questioning the White Helmets.

    In my rebuttal to a mid-December 2017 Guardian smear, I pointed out that it was not Russia which began looking into the White Helmets’ affiliations, funding, and role in the propaganda war, but two independent North American researchers.

    Canadian journalist Cory Morningstar in September 2014 exposed the role of the New York based PR firm, Purpose Inc, in marketing campaigns for the White Helmets.

    And as I wrote, “In April 2015, American independent journalist revealed that the White Helmets had been founded by Western powers and managed by a British ex-soldier, and noted the ‘rescuers’ role in calling for Western intervention—a No Fly Zone on Syria.”

    These, and the subsequent numerous investigations by Vanessa Beeley, including on the ground in Syria, taking countless testimonies of Syrian civilians on the matter of the White Helmets, far precede any Russian media reporting on the group.

    That Russian media and bodies have since done their own investigations does not equate to a “disinformation campaign”, but rather doing the job corporate media are clearly incapable of, and unwilling to do.

    Damaged buildings in the Syrian city of Raqa. ©
Delil souleiman / AFP
    Absurdities of Syrian war propaganda

     
    Why haven’t the media written about the panel, or as per the corporate media norm, issued yet more smears against panellists?

    They haven’t because they are cornered, and while they can always try their standard juvenile character smears and libel, they cannot refute the facts, the countless testimonies which corroborate yet still more testimonies taken by independent journalists over the years.

    Or as Ambassador Nebenzia said:

    “We understand why #WhiteHelmets are being defended by #Western capitals. They do not hide that they provided substantial financial support to this organization and instrumentalized it to pursue political goals under humanitarian cover. It’s logical to protect your asset.”

    Last week, it came out that German reporter for Der Spiegel, Claas Relotius, winner of the German Reporter Award 2018, had falsified a number of his articles. One article on the fakery noted Relotius had, “confessed to have fabricated at least 14 of 55 articles,” including a “story about a Syrian boy who believed he triggered the civil war in the country with his graffiti, an article that won the German Reporter Prize just three weeks ago but which was made up.”

    Former German journalist, Udo Ulfkotte, in 2014 reached his tipping point and admitted to having for years lied for Western, anti-Russia interests, admitting to making propaganda against Russia after having been bribed by billionaires, and by the Americans, to “not to report exactly the truth.”

    As 2018, a year of staggering corporate media fake news, draws to a close, so do the last vestiges of credibility of media lauding the White Helmets.

    Given the scandalous depth of their lies, it is unlikely corporate journalists will have an Ulfkotte moment and admit to their manifold deceptions.

    But it doesn’t really matter, because more and more, Western corporate media, and the propaganda construct known as the White Helmets they support, are becoming irrelevant.

  • First published at RT.
  • The Implications of Macron Implosion

    The “Gilets Jaunes” will not let go. Not even – or especially not – after Macron‘s half-hearted, rather cynical and grandstanding concessions of “too little and too late” which, when analyzed, constitute a new lie, especially regarding the increase of the minimum wage. It was clear from his face, these concessions, of a President who campaigned on the basis of “never make any concessions”, were fake, as fake as his fake attitude of an apologist could be. Even without listening to his words, his body language of arrogance gives him away.

    This past weekend, on Saturday, 15 December, another more than 100,000 Yellow Vests were marching on Paris; countrywide some 200,000. The police to oppress them, as officially reported, was about the same as the weekend before, 8,000 in Paris, close to 90,000 throughout France. Military assistance was not missing. Besides, in a state of emergency, who distinguished between police and military?

    Interestingly, the international press – the MSM – is taking it seriously. Why? They fear that this relentless movement may spread to other countries, even countries beyond Europe like “Trump Land”, the United States of America. And why not? The same malaise of capital being shifted upwards to the detriment of the poor and middle class exists everywhere, may even be most pronounced in the US, but nobody talks about it and pays attention to it, lest the people would have awakened to the growing disparity long ago and taken to the streets massively within the inner circles of the Washington Belt Way.

    Chapeau to the French. Though their forefathers were among the most viscous and miserable exploiters, thieves, killers and committers of rape, in human history – when they ravaged for hundreds of years West Africa – and the elite still does, unbeknown even to (most) of the Yellow Vets. Is this movement going to change the future, the future of Europe, the future of the values of the western world, that has been so adamant in propagating neofascist ideas that they have become the new normal; in most people’s brains? There is a saying: “When fascism comes again, it will not come saying I’m the new Fascism; it will come saying, I’m the Anti-Fascism”.

    Isn’t that already true when you look at today’s Europe, what is called the EU – The European (non) Union (as I call it)?  And it includes even those countries Switzerland and Norway not EU members, but which are ever faster moving to the neoliberal right. Let alone those (still) 28 EU countries, like, Italy, Spain, Portugal, Ireland, Germany, Holland, where political parties have been divided, splintered to pieces, so that the oddest combinations of ‘coalition’ governments have to govern, mostly in an ungovernable fashion. It’s a success for the over-arching elite, call it the world’s dark and deep state that is behind it with priceless media lies and propaganda, social media, Cambridge Analytica and the like. Anybody with common sense has no saying, simply because the money is on the other side.

    And that money is endless, as it still stems from the FED, or better even from private banks that produces it at random.  With every loan they make, new cash is created. There is enough liquidity, as needed for their purpose; i.e., the propaganda war machine. Though, not much longer. The dollar hegemony is on its last stretch. Yes, we have been saying this for a while but what is a “while” in geopolitics and in geo-time spans?  A few years are a few seconds. The alternative – the Eastern Block, SCO (Shanghai Cooperation Organization), the Eurasian Economic Union, the newly created Caspian Sea Association of the five Caspian riparian nations (Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Russia and Turkmenistan). This association just signed an important deal under which they are sharing the tremendous wealth under the sea — 50 billion barrels of oil and just under 300 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

    Read more here.

    The Eastern Block allies are working on getting their solid act together, mostly based on the little mentioned (in the west) China’s President Xi’s initiative, the New Silk Road, or the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) – a China-sponsored economic program that will encircle the globe with infrastructure, research, transport lines, industrial development, cultural exchange, education and friendly trade. But no offensive, war-like industries.  BRI advances are fast and solid. They are unstoppable. Once they are well established and many western countries are highly eager to join the initiative, the western economy will sing its Swan Song.

    Seeing Macron from this perspective, he is just a little boy and a little full of himself, having been implanted by the foremost western banking clan, the Rothschild family, to help salvage what can be salvaged; i.e., milk to the bones the French and by association, the European Social system, what’s left of it. Greece was a test case. And look at Greece – the Elite is still so greed-driven that they‘d rather salvage their billions stashed away in Swiss banks, instead of showing some integrity and out of solidarity tell the EU and its fake currency, the Euro, to go to hell. No, they won’t. Greece could have been an example for the rest of Europe.

    Greece on her own, with their local currency the Drachma, local public banks for the development of the country, would today be on the way to prosperity, with jobs for most people, with an economy that could feed everybody and with a health care and education system that would bring up a new generation of Greek politicians – Greek politicians, who like after WWII displayed a solidarity that made them exemplary for many European countries.

    With all the lying, miserably lying European statistics that Greece is now recovering and improving and that Greece is becoming autonomous and can borrow directly from the capital markets again – people are still dying from lack of medication, of medical care, of famine, of lack of shelter, especially in the winter, and of ever-increasing suicide rates. That’s Greece, the Troika’s (EU / EC; ECB, IMF) example of ‘salvation’.

    Will France, under Macron – Implosion 2 – become a candidate for exiting the EU thanks to the Yellow Vests? Last Saturday, what looked like an endless crowd of ‘gilets jaunes’ was marching down Champs Elysees, in the front with a huge French flag. Stamped on the left on the blue strip of the flag was “1789”, in the middle white strip was “1968” and in the red strip to the right, was inscribed “2018”. An interesting and indeed ambitious and bold allegation to the legendary 1789 storm of the Bastille, that changed world history. The current set-up of the EU certainly does not belong to anything called a “revolution”. It rather must be dismantled under a revolution.

    These days simultaneous protests take place in Victor Orbán’s Hungary; in Belgium, with the Prime Minister, Charles Michel, having just resigned, leaving again a country without a government. In Germany, Merkel is slowly fading away – but who will follow? In Italy, Deputy, PM Salvini, of the junior partner of the popular (not the derogatory ‘populist’) coalition, the extreme right-wing Lega Norte, is calling the shots, and they are clearly as anti-EU as can be. At issue is foremost Brussels unilateral meddling in Italy’s budget, while other countries, like France, who have been running budget deficits for years, are getting away with a soft call to attention (Macron naturally is Brussels Holy Child). Will Italy succeed in bringing an end to this unholy non-Union?

    Then there is BREXIT, leaving Theresa May hanging on a cliff of, say, no-return? She may not survive. Who will follow her. The madman Johnson? The pressure of his rightwing supporters may be such that he has no choice than calling another referendum. And we can only guess with the propaganda of the Washington apologists and Atlantists how that will end. Would a new no-Brexit vote, reversing the past two years of negotiating to zilch, cause an internal revolution? An internal collapse that could no longer stand up to the demands of Brussels, even with a manipulated “stay” vote?

    The likely truth is that the Yellow Vests will mean the end of the very short-lived arrogant Macron era – and – who will replace him?  There is nobody prepared for it. The left-wing Mélenchon, good ideas, but conveys bitterness, has no charisma – and the right-wing Le Pen – is, though joining the left in extremis, aiming at getting out of the EU and of the Euro, but other than that, it’s outright fascism, ready for an alliance with Kiev. Who else?  Chaos in the making, a good basis for a revolution, a revolution that may bring about more than meets the eye – a Europe-wide upheaval that brings back local sovereign states (whether Greece wants it or not!) with local money and local public banks that work for the public and for the local economy rather than for international profit and greed minded shareholders.

    Wouldn’t that be a real revolution? It would open the gate to Russia, Eurasia, China – the New Silk Road, a gate to a “New Deal” of the 21st Century, a New Deal of Inclusion from Europe throughout Asia and Africa. Think about it – the map surely shows a super Continent that hardly needs transatlantic relations, especially not those that the masters in Washington propagate – their rules, their guns, their dictate, their monetary hegemony. No thank you, West. And good riddens, Macron.

    Wake From The Nightmare Or Eternal Sleep For Humanity

    The tradition of the dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the minds of the living.

    — Karl Marx

    Marx offered a thought for all seasons but one that might especially ring true during what is supposed to be a season of peace, joy and humanity. Contradicted by the ever more insanely harsh reality of marketing mass murder under the guise of creating freedom, much of our race, though still too few to radically transform the totality of our reality, has begun to rise in defense of all against a system that profits only a few. France’s recent experience was part of a hopeful trend in that segments of a public which has been bought, sold and rented into near poverty showed they are tired and demanded social justice over becoming what capital sees as a loss of its private profits. Their awakening from humanity’s nightmare, however brief it may seem, is inspiring as well as overdue. The actions of a predominately working class group of citizens demonstrating with enough fervor to force the French government to at least renege on some issues is in stark contrast to Americans trooping off to the polls to “resist” a personality while their system – the same one the French are up in arms about – disintegrates all around them. If we have anything to be happy about during the annual shopping frenzy of an alleged spiritual time for humanity, in a small way it’s a few changes in our congress, but in a greater way it’s the sign of awakening we see in France which will hopefully spread to more places in the New Year.

    The social democratic salvation capital arranged after the depression of the twenties and thirties has collapsed and become a renewal of the worst forms of fascist capital that preceded and soon followed that brief cosmetic safety for some made possible only by the reduction to disfigured ugliness of others. The rise in status of a new middle class for millions in the western world was only possible with the misery of greater multitudes in what was called the third, or undeveloped world, but also the poverty class in that same west. There were people sleeping on the streets of America before, during, and after the last breakdown of capital given the brand name “the great depression”. This latest collapse that began in 2008 and is very possibly the last one that will wake up more than the French is only different in that it is worse and the numbers in the street have grown so much only the intellectually and morally blind cannot see them.

    The wealth accumulation of the return to market fundamentalist roots was and continues to be shared by a shrinking minority while growing majorities have seen the facade of humanity brought about by social democratic capitalism dissolve in the reality of a take-no-prisoners brand of marketing. This Artificially Intelligent farce not only prides itself on the creation of poverty and warfare but dulls the sense of many of its innocent subjects by filling heads with propaganda that passes for news, entertainment to distract consciousness further, and the combination of the two that marketers call “infotainment”.

    Thus we have a perverse form of capital therapy that herds us into near frenzied lynch mobs of genuinely frustrated and set upon souls directing energy at everything but the cause of most if not all the things that plague us. Rich individuals approaching deity status with economic powers beyond those of past royal despots are relatively invisible while some of their employees in government attract enough attention to be replaced by other of their employees who appeal to one or another interest or identity group affording pleasure to some, pain to most and continued ruling power to the incredibly rich minority at the top of the modern pyramid of capital.

    Preposterous stories blaming Russia, China, Iran and possibly the Tooth Fairy for every sign of failure in what passes for a language perversion called the “free world” confuse and convince enough among the well fed and supposedly educated classes for the moment. When hardship eventually hits them in a material, rather than mental way, they will hopefully leave their identity groups and join the human race in the work necessary to transform global society.

    Until the public good comes before private profit, things will get worse for all of us and any focus that continues separation of humans from potential majorities into smaller identity groups is simply the age old divide and conquer strategies always employed by minority rulers. This helps lead people with individual moral codes that find poverty and injustice intolerable to not only tolerate but to practice the most dreadful social policies imaginable. Privately, we Americans are as good, kind, compassionate, decent, and humane as any people on earth. Socially, however, we spend trillions on war, billions on pets, leave millions to live in poverty and hundreds of thousands to live on the street, and thus collectively become among the most degenerate moral perverts on the planet.

    The skin tone, ethnicity, religion, sex or sexual preference of those serving capital while eating meals and flushing toilets at the white house or in slightly lesser roles in congress makes no difference to their victims reduced to cleaning the debris of death and destruction in the places where they oversee the bombing and looting. After their homes and nations are ruined we welcome some of them as migrants offering us cheap labor and a balm for our souls to maintain holiday spirit until the next slaughter we conduct. Food, clothing and shelter are basic human needs, not separate identity practices. They become so under private profit first economics that assure only some of the public will experience good, and that group is shrinking. The only way to assure a better life for all is for the ruling power to come from people who put the public good first, before any private gain is considered. Everyone has to be assured of food, clothing and shelter before anyone can aspire and work for even more by achieving private profit at the market. There is only one way to achieve that change and end society’s nightmare: the democratic forces of humanity must replace the market forces of capital. Happy New Year.

    Orbán’s Latest Dance

    Viktor Orbán of Hungary is not to be hectored to.  Arching with fury at the EU’s September motion to sanction Hungary for bad behaviour under the Article 7 process, he was resolved to ratchet things up.  The motion, while getting 448 votes concerned about judicial independence, corruption, freedom of expression, academic freedom, the rights and migrants, amongst others did have 197 opponents. (48 abstained.) Spot, as it were, the east-west European divide.

    There was a time when Hungary was known as the “merriest barracks in the socialist camp” dominated by more tempered form of “goulash communism”.  The merriment, not to mention any gastronomic softness, has long soured, substituted by a more patriotic, state-centred sludge.  Protesters are now being given the treatment that would not have been unseemly in the times of the Cold War.

    A week-and-a-half of protests against the overtime law passed by the Fidesz majority yielded the police forces fifty arrests.  Orbán’s ruling party could not see what the fuss was all about.  The law in question increases the number of overtime hours employees can be made to work from 250 to 400, a calculation to be made after three years.  Pity for those workers, given the exodus of Hungarian employees to western Europe.

    Opposition members of Parliament keen to get more coverage from the state media on the protests have also been frogmarched out of the broadcaster’s headquarters.  In future, they can expect even less in the way of discussion, given the decree of December 5 exempting the Central European Press and Media Foundation from regulatory oversight.  That particular conglomerate is the result of a merger of some 480 pro-government media outlets.

    All strong men need hearty, well-rounded enemies, and the Viktator’s latest efforts also feature a final decision on the subject of the Central European University.  The university’s presence in Budapest offers Orbán a target of lightning rod value, given its link to the wily financier George Soros and US-accredited courses run at the university that has his backing.

    In April 2017, a bill was passed imposing a requirement on foreign-funded universities to have a home country campus, and in the capital.  But negotiations between the CEU and the government stuttered and stalled, prompting a move to Vienna effective from September 2019.  “CEU has been forced out,” lamented the university’s president and rector Michael Ignatieff.  “This is unprecedented.  A US institution has been driven out of a country that is a NATO ally.  A European institution has been ousted from a member state of the EU.”

    The CEU-Orbán tussle illustrates the convoluted nature of central European politics and its association with US and European political forces.  Fine for Ignatieff to complain about NATO and EU ties being ignored, but the Hungarian leader is a creature of confusing plumage happy to make the necessary, if costly, sacrifices.

    The confusion was given added succour with the remark made by Hungarian State Secretary Zoltán Kovács that, “The Soros university is leaving but staying.  It’s common knowledge that a significant number of its courses will still be held in Budapest.”  The CEU’s warnings were “nothing more than a Soros-style political bluff, which does not merit the attention of the government.”

    While he speaks of a common heritage to be defended against the door banging barbarians from the east, Orbán is also very much the self-proclaimed leader of its protection, something that gives him bullyboy status in such matters as immigration.

    Eyeing the Trump administration across the pond on how it would respond to the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, the Hungarian government followed suit and demonstrated cold indifference when the final draft was approved by all UN member states in July 2018.  (In so doing, it also kept company with Israel, Austria, Poland, and Australia, all similarly reluctant to subscribe to its spirit.)

    It says much that the GCM could cause such agitation, notwithstanding its non-binding nature.  Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó went so far as to insist that, in exiting the adoption process related to the GCM, “the Global Compact is not binding with relation to Hungary.”  Migration, he suggested, should not be organised but stopped.  “Assistance must be taken to where the trouble is, and people in need must be given support to enable them to remain as close as possible to their homes, and return home at the earliest opportunity.”

    It is convenient, more than anything, to assume that the Hungary that emerged from the Cold War thaw was somehow more liberal, hopeful for a caring state of mind open to consultation and deliberation.  Authoritarianism was in retreat; the democrats could finally come out.  More on all fours with reality, it always retained an authoritarian default position, one that makes an Orbán figure less incongruous than imagined.

    The first post-communist government was more than accommodating to communists; subsequent political arrangements fed a more nationalist orientation.  Orbán sold himself as the appropriate central force to deal with the lingering ailments of socialism while also curing the problems arising from the post-1989 transition.  Now, he is proving what a certain type of European can do to that oft-misguided notion of “shared values”.  Shared, yes, but by whom?