Category Archives: US Media

The Integrity Requirement

As our political and governmental systems deepen their dysfunctionality, as corporations act ever more brazenly in their greed, as our planet suffers from the horrors of a broken culture, we clearly recognize that these systems fail miserably when it comes to integrity. When we look at our local and statewide political institutions, we see a similar pattern of corruption, with policies and attitudes that favor the folks with lots of money.

And when we see two horrendous mass shootings only hours apart, one a mere 50 miles from me, we know we are descending into chaos due to corruption.

President Trump is not the cause of our deep seated problems, though he certainly typifies the policies and attitudes that are so destructive to human health and happiness — and that of our planet.

You see, Donald Trump was never taught the value of integrity. Just like so many of the ruling class, greed, power and control far outweigh any thoughts about ‘doing the right thing’. This pattern has been endemic for so long that rich folks like Trump cannot even empathize with those of a ‘lesser station in Life’, much less hold integrity in their hearts and minds.

So why is integrity important, or even required as I suggest in the title? It’s obvious in most areas of our lives. If our home doesn’t have integrity it falls down. If all the hardware and software of the Interweb lacked integrity our phones and computers would be worthless.

Looking toward nature, the integrity of ecosystems is truly a marvel. Patterns of beginning, growth, stability and ending are common to all Life. Without something as simple as the integrity of cell walls we would not exist. The implicit integrity of water or of an ancient forest calls us to reverence. There is a simple elegance to integrity. It is what it is. It requires no bullshit for its justification. Indeed, integrity is a requirement for functionality.

Now let me get personal for a moment. Without our personal integrity we cannot know peace and love. If you are not honest, it leaves a mark, as we are out of alignment with nature and with truth. As children of the Source of Integrity, we require integrity to be happy. We’ve all had failures of integrity, and know the rotten feeling in our gut for exploiting or lying or cheating on another. Again, there is no peace without integrity.

A culture without integrity is doomed to fail, even as ours is failing now before our eyes. How many shootings will it take? How many destroyed lives from war, pollution, climate chaos and inequality will it take? How much can our planet take until it becomes uninhabitable for us?

For too long we have accepted stories because the story teller is ‘important’ or a presumed expert. Growing up in the 1960s there was blind acceptance of what we read in the paper or saw on the TV. And both were more honest back then.

We’re now learning that our culture was hacked by our corporate overloads. It was in the 1980s and 1990s that great waves of media consolidation took place, and the new bosses didn’t want any unfavorable stories. So they put a stop to them. We continue to be hacked by corporate media. Sinclair Corporation, owning nearly 200 TV stations, continues to force local newspeople to spew their biased stories. It’s the reason Rob Braun and Cammy Dierking are leaving Local 12 here in Cincinnati. And in that hacking, the first thing media conglomerates left behind was integrity.

And that’s just in media. In healthcare, finance and Wall Street, food and energy corporations, we find the same patterns. There is no integrity when the only rule is to make money. It’s time we remedy that monumental failure.

Trump and Supporters: Paranoiacs Following Lee Atwater’s Racist Strategy

He has been glorified as a hero and obeyed as a ruler, but fundamentally he is always the same. His most fantastic triumphs have taken place in our own time, among people who set great store by the idea of humanity. He is not yet extinct, nor will he ever be until we have the strength to see him clearly, whatever disguise he assumes and whatever his halo of glory. The survivor is mankind’s worst evil, its curse and perhaps its doom. Is it possible to escape him, even now at this last moment?

— Elias Canetti, Crowds and Power, April 1 1984

[White] America’s conscience is bankrupt. She lost all conscience a long time ago. Uncle Sam has no conscience. They don’t know what morals are. They don’t try and eliminate an evil because it’s evil, or because it’s illegal, or because it’s immoral; they eliminate it only when it threatens their existence. So you’re wasting your time appealing to the moral conscience of a bankrupt man like Uncle Sam. If he had a conscience, he’d straighten this thing out with no more pressure being put upon him…And in my opinion, the young generation of whites, blacks, browns, whatever else there is, you’re living at a time of extremism, a time of revolution, a time when there’s got to be a change. People in power have misused it, and now there has to be a change and a better world has to be built, and the only way it’s going to be built—is with extreme methods. And I, for one, will join in with anyone—I don’t care what color you are—as long as you want to change this miserable condition that exists on this earth.”

— Malcolm X, Oxford Union Debate, 1964

Canettii argues in his book that the most dangerous individual holding power is someone who views him/herself as a Survivor, or someone who can survive at the expense of others. Canetti notes that the Survivor, with access to nuclear weapons, can obliterate a hefty chunk of mankind. The President of the United States, as Commander in Chief, has the option to use those weapons presumably only under the most dire of circumstances. President Donald Trump’s proximity to the nuclear weapons trigger has been noted with trepidation by non-military observers from the beginning of his presidency and that matter is always lurking in the background, particularly as the US modernizes its Nuclear Triad. But the checks and balances in the use of the Nuclear Triad can’t be discounted as it is likely that military commanders would refuse to carry out Trump’s orders to use nukes even in spite of revised doctrine appearing to make it easier to do so.

The bigger problem, according to Canetti, is this:

Today, the survivor is himself afraid. He has always been afraid, but with his vast new potentialities his fear has grown too, until it is almost unendurable…The most unquestioned and therefore the most dangerous thing he does is to give commands.

Trump’s world is a paranoid one. His apologists and supporters are loons. How else to describe those that refuse to condemn, even approve, racist presidential behavior. Trump and his disciples act as if they have survived some horrific mentally debilitating event; or indeed, expect one in the form of a color shift in America’s complexion.

They fear the majority of the popular American electorate, they fear immigrants, they fear people of color, they fear LGBT’s, they fear government funded social programs, they fear the questioning of their beliefs, and they fear non-Christians—and that’s just for starters.

Didn’t evolution weed these viruses out decades ago?

Trump and his disciples view themselves as a persecuted minority and that’s dangerous because they really believe they are. The statistics, the demographics, show that Whites make up the largest chunk of the American population with Hispanics second at 18.3 percent and Blacks at 13.4 percent. Trump’s people are horrified at the prospect that America will turn a light tinge of brown, which it inevitably will, by the 2050s and beyond.

Making Amends with Corporation and the Financial Sector

Trump is Canetti’s Survivor, a hustler. He managed to gaming the legal and financial system to stay afloat, always getting rescued/supported by “his kind” for boneheaded business decisions and now for slashing US federal spending and regulations that protect the American public turning the US federal government into a bigger playground for corporations, businesses and interest groups (something corporations welcome with glee).

The Washington Post reported in 2016 that Trump declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy six times; four in the 1990s and two in the 2000s. In 2004, Trump’s Hotel and Casinos Resorts was $1.8 billion in debt and couldn’t meet its obligations.

So why do the corporate powerhouses of America stick with Trump even though he is a real estate swindler, racist and psychopath?

That’s simple.  He is a repaying the corporate/financial world back for robbing them of billions years ago by giving them trillions now. He, and his Republican/Democrat apologists in the US Congress, slashed corporate/business tax rates, and they are now pillaging federal programs like the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) for budget cuts or elimination, ostensibly to save American taxpayers some money. Trump wants to drop 3.1 million people from SNAP.

It is the same story at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). According to the publication Mother Jones:

On Wednesday [July 18], the United States Environmental Protection Agency doubled down on one of the most controversial environmental deregulation moves of the Trump presidency…the EPA reaffirmed its 2017 decision to reject a proposal from the agency’s own scientists to ban an insecticide called chlorpyrifos that farmers use on a wide variety of crops, including corn, soybeans, fruit and nut trees, Brussels sprouts, cranberries, broccoli, and cauliflower.

And why would Trump be interested in chlorpyrifos that has been shown to be detrimental to children’s brain development? “Dow AgroSciences’ parent company, Dow Chemical, has also been buttering up Trump. The company contributed $1 million to the president’s inaugural committee…the administration has approved the Dow-Dupont merger, and named several former Dow execs to high posts within the US Department of Agriculture,” Mother Jones reported.

Just so.

Trump’s Supporters: Theory of Evolution Apologizes Profusely

Trump lands uppercuts and left hooks to the American body politic and culture by ignorant Tweets that stoke racial tensions and non-partisanship.

Just how does a racist grifter, who tells four democratic congresswomen—Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-NY, Ilhan Omar, D-MN, Ayanna Pressley, D-MA,  and Rashida Tlaib, D-MI, to go back to their “totally broken and crime infested places from which they came” manage to win the support of millions of Americans and bump up Trump’s poll numbers? Or why did 187 US House members vote not to condemn Trump’s beliefs?

According to Pew Research, polling results for the 2016 election indicate that “Among the much larger group of white voters who had not completed college (44% of all voters), Trump won by more than two-to-one (64% to 28%)…Trump had an advantage among 50-to 64-year-old voters (51% to 45%) and those 65 and older (53% to 44%).”

And it is not just those who have not completed college or even attended college who are party of Trump’s looney bin. Wealthy “smart” Republicans are part of the evolutionary mishap, as well.  Republican CEOs side with Trump because he is helping them increase profit margins, shareholder dividends, and stock buybacks. What’s all the fuss about a President of the United States who is both a racist and pro-business? It is, after all, just another write-off for the books.

According to a paper titled The Politics of CEO’s:

We use Federal Election Commission (FEC) records to put together a comprehensive database of the political contributions made by over 3,500 individuals who served as CEOs of S&P 1500 companies during the period 2000-2017.We find that these political contributions display substantial partisan preferences in support of Republican candidates.To highlight the significance of CEO’s partisan preferences for some corporate decisions, we show that public companies led by Republican CEOs tend to be less transparent to investors with respect to their political spending.

Senate and House Republicans, morally bankrupt to the core, are marching to the beat of a racist drummer.

Democrats: Remember Your Ugly History

The Democrats don’t get a pass on racial issues. There’s a lot for them to answer for as well.

Writing in The Hill, Burgess Owens notes that:

As a party with a history of pro-slavery, pro-secession, pro-segregation and pro-socialism, the Democratic Party has also been the party that has politically controlled urban black America for over 60 years. Predominantly black communities in many cities today are mired in poverty, unemployment, illiteracy, crime and hopelessness. The Democratic Party has never apologized for its past, nor has it attempted to atone for its present failures.

Instead, it has skillfully used the art of bait-and-switch. Millions of Americans are convinced that somehow in the 1960s there was a wholesale transition of the Democratic Party’s two-centuries-old hatred of black people to the policies of the anti-slavery, anti-secession, anti-segregation and pro-God Republican Party. Only in a vacuum void of common sense, critical-thinking skills and true American history could such logic survive.

Former Republican National Committee Chairman Lee Atwater, known for his brutal, but successful, campaigning for Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, commented on flipping the Southern United States from racist Dixiecrats (Democrats) to, well, racist Republicans. Gone were the days of vulgar racist comments by Whites, and in came the days of using coded terms for racist policies.

In an interview with Atwater for a book on Southern party politics in 1981, while employed by the Reagan Administration,  Atwater was asked this:

But the fact is, isn’t it, that Reagan does get to the [George] Wallace voter and to the racist side of the Wallace voter by doing away with legal services, by cutting down on food stamps?

Atwater responded:

Y’all don’t quote me on this. You start out in 1954 by saying…By 1968 you can’t say…that hurts you. Backfires.  You say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites. And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I’m not saying that. But I’m saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me—because obviously sitting around saying, “We want to cut this”, is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than… So, any way you look at it, race is coming on the backbone.

And the beat goes on 38 years later.

Not All Whites

Many Whites have stood on the ramparts with people of color and other minorities to fight for equal rights and liberties. White judges and politicians have rendered decisions or passed legislation to turn the tide against racism in the USA. I’m not guilty of my Whiteness as I argued in (Dissident Voice, 2015).

I know of no one, young or old, that likes to be pigeon-holed no matter their color, immigrant status, or their ethnic background. No one wins this type of blame game except the racists in Trump’s camp who fan the flames of fear or those who mock the individuality of each human being.

So why are there racists out there in the open, in the White House, Congress, corporations and the voting public? What can be done about it?

I posed that question in 2015.  I mean, should I attribute the sins of the world to Whiteness? Or should I conclude that the Species itself and the dominant economic and ruling methodology of Capitalism combine to make the “demon” that Ta-Nehisi Coates refers to and the “system” that Malcolm X wants us all to change: That American system, born largely of the British, Roman and Greek Systems, that relies on absurd contradictions and irony. A system that makes those from NWA and Straight Out of Compton, with all the female bashing lyrics, now part of the One Percent elite of corporate America; or the principals of the George W. Bush Administration clearly guilty of war crimes still cashing in on public office; or the poor and largely Black people that can’t make $500 bail and waste away in jail; or the White miners in West Virginia killed because the mining company ignored safety rules and is found not guilty of negligence on a legal technicality; or the citizens of Detroit City denied, by a lone judge, the right to clean drinking water.

And what should I make of an American society that does not care about corporate surveillance (for profit) and government monitoring of all forms of communication (to maintain security and stability for the corporations to make profits)? Where were the White Rockers, Black Rappers, and Country Music stars when the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan raged on or the beach head for the corporate and government’s invasion of privacy was the home?

They, all of them, were co-opted by a political, economic and cultural system we deny every day but in which we also live, procreate, operate and profit. With all of our complaints, we don’t have a functional alternative to offer. The ballot-box provides no remedy. Presidential and Congressional elections are polluted by money and interests, foreign and domestic, over which voters have no control. Politicians are bought and sold like horses prior to a race.

I don’t think I’m White.  I think I am a human being.  I don’t know what it is like to be rich and in the top 20 percent of money makers in the USA.  I know that I’m color-labeled as White and class-labeled as Middle by the identity and false consciousness hunters that roam the American landscape.

I know I agree with Dave Chappelle, famed comedian with $10 million in the bank, who is labeled as Black and Wealthy. But I’m not a smart guy and I think that he is a human being and really funny guy with great observations of the human condition. I think that way of George Carlin, Chris Rock and the late Robin Williams. According to Chappelle “I support anyone’s right to be who they want to be. My question is: To what extent do I have to participate in your self-image?”

I don’t want to participate in the self-image, the evolutionary mishap, that is President Donald Trump, his apologists and his supporters. I also don’t want to deal with duplicitous Democrats who always seem ready to enable Trump’s foolishness.

It seems to me there is no vocal, turbulent opposition to the madness that permeates the United States of America these days. Who inspires any longer? Who can compromise?

Who will fight?

U.S. 2020 Presidential Election: A Watershed Moment for Humankind and the Planet

The 2020 presidential election in the United States may be the most critical political event in human history. At no time in the history of global civilization have human beings faced existential crises on a global scale. Regional crises of the past 10,000 years reveal that economic regimes have often outstripped local and regional resources, but these crises remained regional in scope. Today, however, the excesses of global capitalism have driven all of humanity to the brink of ecological and civilizational collapse.

Our addiction to fossil fuels has significantly warmed the global atmosphere and accelerated the loss of polar ice caps faster than predicted. Capitalism has fueled industrial activities that have ravaged large portions of the planet, destroying habitats and endangering innumerable animal, plant and insect species worldwide, according to a recent UN report on global biodiversity. Our oceans are contaminated with heavy metals and plastics. Global population pressure, inefficient and wasteful industrial practices combined with climate change have placed enormous pressure on fresh water sources.  Destructive superstorms, wildfires and persistent drought will likely bring profound economic instability and declining food production in coming decades.

Global capitalism has also generated vast disparities in wealth distribution, destabilizing social systems as well as ecosystems. As global and national wealth concentration grows rapidly, the poverty of billions and declining living standards for millions more strain social relations throughout the world. These injustices give rise to disillusionment, desperation, terrorism and mass migration, to epidemics and resistant bacteria and fungi. Armed conflict is endemic in many of the world’s poor regions and wars have brought invasions of poor countries by wealthy countries to stem perceived terrorists’ threats and protect geopolitical interests.

In less than a year and one-half the 2020 U.S. presidential election will occur and the candidate and policies the majority of Americans embrace will help lead the world in one direction or another.  American voters will decide whether the most powerful leader in the world will aggressively tackle the world’s unprecedented and unfolding environmental and social crises or will exacerbate these crises by facilitating unrestrained capitalist exploitation and accumulation. Working Americans are primed for an alternative to global economic system, having recently lost millions of jobs and much of their modest wealth during the Great Recession. Universal healthcare and child care, a higher minimum wage and equal pay, student debt relief, tuition-free higher education, climate change and a green economy as well as a truly progressive tax policy to fund social and environmental initiatives are on the minds of ordinary Americans, if not the majority of them. This is an opportunity for progressive voices across the nation to demonstrate that unregulated capitalism threatens American families and the lives of their children and grandchildren.

Certainly, ingrained capitalist ideology and vested institutions present formidable political obstacles leading to the 2020 presidential elections. Donald Trump and the Republican Party actively resist reform of capitalism, rejecting the Paris Accords and enacting severe cuts in domestic regulations restricting corporate activity and protecting the environment. Conservative strategists are clearly framing the 2020 election to protect the advantages in wealth and political power conservatives have gained in the global economy. Trump’s abject disregard for global warming and the failure of Republicans to address it is a clear threat to the future of the planet. His nuclear war-mongering, with the tacit endorsement of the Republican Party, has flirted with planetary annihilation. For these reasons renowned linguist and ferocious political critic Noam Chomsky has stunningly and aptly dubbed the Republican Party “the most dangerous organization in human history”.

While it will likely take decades and even generations to rein in and reform our global economy enough to achieve some practical level of global sustainability, the magnitude and urgency of the challenges we and the world face make the 2020 U.S. presidential elections an extraordinary watershed moment. This is no time for a program of tepid, incrementalist reforms.  If the Democratic Party fails to embrace an agenda of far-reaching regulation of global capitalism that focuses on climate change and wealth disparity, it risks losing the presidency. Should a moderate Democratic candidate lacking the necessary vision and resolve be elected president in 2020, it may prove to be a kind of hollow victory.

The fundamental questions before American citizens could not be more crucial to the future of our nation and the world: Can we afford to ignore the ravages of climate change and the deleterious impact of our unsustainable production and consumption on the planet’s health? Can we fail to confront the concentration of wealth in fewer hands while poverty, lack of opportunity, ill health and violence driven by these realities rob generations of their potential as human beings? Should we discount, or even underplay, the fact that environmental degradation and wealth disparities on a global scale are exacerbated by inadequately regulated global economic regime?

The Ongoing Dread in Gaza: So Many Names, So Many Lives

I felt shaky and uneasy all day, preparing for this talk.

— Jehad Abusalim, a Palestinian from the territory of Gaza

Jehad Abusalim, a Palestinian now living in the United States, grew up Gaza. In Chicago last week, addressing activists committed to breaking the siege of Gaza,  he held up a stack of 31 papers. On each page were names of 1,254 Palestinians living in Gaza who had been killed in just one month of Israel’s “Operation Protective Edge” attacks five years ago.

“I felt shaky and uneasy all day preparing for this talk,” he told the group. He described his dismay when, looking through the list of names, he recognized one of a young man from his small town.

“He was always friendly to me,” Abusalim said. “I remember how he would greet me on the way to the mosque. His family and friends loved him, respected him.”

Abusalim recalled the intensity of losing loved ones and homes; of seeing livelihoods and infrastructure destroyed by aerial attacks; of being unable to protect the most vulnerable. He said it often takes ten years or more before Palestinian families traumatized by Israeli attacks can begin talking about what happened. Noting Israel’s major aerial attacks in 2009, 2013, and 2014, along with more recent attacks killing participants in the “Great March of Return,” he spoke of ongoing dread about what might befall Gaza’s children the next time an attack happens.

Eighty people gathered to hear Abusalim and Retired Colonel Ann Wright, of US Boat to Gaza, as they helped launch the “Free Gaza Chicago River Flotilla,” three days of action culminating on July 20 with a spirited demonstration by “kayactivists” and boaters, along with onshore protesters, calling for an end to the siege of Gaza. Wright resigned from her post as a U.S. diplomat when the United States launched the 2003 Shock and Awe bombing of Iraq. Having participated in four previous internationals flotillas aiming to defy Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza’s shoreline, Wright is devoting her energies preparing for a fifth in 2020.

Another organizer and member of US Boat to Gaza, Elizabeth Murray, who like Wright formerly worked for the U.S. government, recalled being in a seminar sponsored by a prestigious think tank in Washington, D.C., when a panel member compared Israeli attacks against Palestinians with routine efforts to “mow the lawn.” She recounted hearing a light tittering as the D.C. audience members expressed amusement. But, Murray said, “Not a single person objected to the panelist’s remark.” This was in 2010, following Israel’s 2009 Operation Cast Lead, which killed 1,383 Palestinians, 333 of whom were children.

Abusalim’s colleague at the American Friends Service Committee, Jennifer Bing, had cautioned Chicago flotilla planners to carefully consider the tone of their actions. A colorful and lively event during a busy weekend morning along Chicago’s popular riverfront could be exciting and, yes, fun.

But Palestinians in Gaza cope with constant tension, she noted. Denied freedom of movement, they live in the world’s largest open-air prison, under conditions the United Nations has predicted will render their land uninhabitable by 2020. Households get four to six hours of electricity per day. According to UNICEF, “sewage treatment plants can’t operate fully and the equivalent of forty-three Olympic-sized swimming pools of raw or partly treated sewage is pumped into the sea every day.”

Facing cruel human rights violations on a daily basis, the organizers urge solidarity in the form of boycotts, divestment, and sanctions. U.S. residents bear particular responsibility for Israel’s military attacks against civilians, they note, as the United States has supplied Israel with billions of dollars for military buildup.

U.S. companies profit hugely from selling weapons to Israel. For example, Boeing, with headquarters in Chicago, sells Israel Apache helicopters, Hellfire and Harpoon missiles, JDAM guiding systems and Small Diameter Bombs that deliver Dense Inert Metal Explosive munitions. All of these weapons have been used repeatedly in Israeli attacks on densely populated civilian areas.

During the 2009 Operation Cast Lead, I was in Rafah, Gaza, listening to children explaining the difference between explosions caused by F-16 fighter jets dropping 500-pound bombs and Apache helicopters firing Hellfire missiles.

Israel continues using those weapons, and Israeli purchases fatten Boeing’s financial portfolios.

At Boeing Company, Names of people killed in Israel’s Operation Protective Edge are read aloud; Elizabeth Murray sounds a gong after each name.  (Photo credit: Barbara Briggs Letson)

On July 19, young Palestinians outside of the Israeli consulate read aloud the names of people who had, five years ago, been killed in Gaza. We listened solemnly and then proceeded to Boeing’s Chicago headquarters, again listening as youngsters read more names, punctuated by a solemn gong after each victim was remembered. Ultimately, 2,104 Palestinians, more than two-thirds of whom were civilians, including 495 children, were killed during the seven-week attack on the Gaza Strip in 2014.

Banner dropping over a bridge crossing the Chicago River: Israel, Stop Killing Palestinians (Photo Credit: Barbara Briggs Letson)

During the Free Gaza Chicago River flotilla on July 20, Husam Marajda, from the Arab American Action Network, sat in a small boat next to his grandfather, who was visiting from Palestine. His chant, “From Palestine to Mexico, all the walls have got to go!” echoed from the water to the shore. Banners were dropped from bridges above, the largest reading, “Israel, Stop Killing Palestinians.”

Kayakers on the Chicago River display Free Gaza sign (Photo Credit: Barbara Briggs Letson)

Kayakers wore red T-shirts announcing the “Gaza Unlocked” campaign and managed to display flags, connected by string, spelling out “Free Gaza.” Passengers on other boats flashed encouraging peace signs and thumbs up signals. Those processing along the shore line, carrying banners and signs, walked the entirety of our planned route before a sergeant from the Chicago Police Department arrived to say we needed a permit.

We can’t permit ourselves to remain silent. Following the energetic flotilla activity, I sat with several friends in a quiet spot. “So many names,” said one friend, thinking of the list Abusalim had held up. “So many lives,” said another.

• A version of this article was published July 23rd, 2019 at The Progressive

WikiLeaks, Julian Assange and Decoding the National Security Commentariat

The Fourth Estate, that historical unelected grouping of society’s scrutineers, has become something of a rabble, and, as a confederacy of strewn dunces and the ongoing compromised, is ripe for analysis.  An essential premise in the work of WikiLeaks was demonstrating, to a good, stone-throwing degree, how media figures and practitioners had been bought by the state or the corporate sector, unwittingly or otherwise.  At the very least, the traditionalists had swallowed their reservations and preferred to proclaim, rather unconvincingly, that they were operating with freedom to scrutinise and question, facing down the rebels from the WikiLeaks set.

The Fourth Estate has, however, been placed on poor gruel and life support.  Gone are the days when Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein ferreted their way through sources and obtaining the material – leaks from confidential sources, no less – that would make them famous and lay the way for the demise of a US President.  Such energy is frowned upon these days; the investigative journalist is being treated more as an irritating remnant, a costly undusted fossil.  The way for what Nozomi Hayase calls the “Global Fourth Estate” is being well and truly paved as a result.

The corporate factor in this process is undeniable.  The Australian media tycoon and ageing tyrant Rupert Murdoch has proven to be the kiss of death to much decent journalism, though he is by no means the only contributor.  As a man who takes pride in directly intervening in the policies and directions of his newspapers, identifying the credible view from the crafty slant is a hard thing.  Political and business interests tend to converge in such an empire.  Balanced reporting is for the bleeding hearts.

Meshed in this compromised journalism is a particular type of commentator, the holder of opinions with an open channel to the national security establishment.  They are the Deep Throats turned into media judges and avengers.  They might be flatteringly called the national security fraternity, a club of the military and espionage clubbables, the sort who find it inconceivable that someone from the public might throw open the larder of government secrets to expose a state’s misdeeds.  It went without saying that such individuals would see, in WikiLeaks, the incarnation of a pseudo-intelligence service, or at the very least, its tailor for one.

The national security fraternity is typified by the revolving door.  It whirs around, not merely in oil companies, the US State Department and merchant banks, but the issue of the media stable.  The state demands its permanent loyalties; those who have served in advisory roles in the state will keep paying once they leave.  Security-trained and watered thoroughbreds are bound to see outliers and vigilantes as challengers who need to be put down.

Samantha Vinograd supplies a nice example.  The crossover into journalism from the National Security State (NSS) is made from experience as advisor to the National Security Council as the Director for Iraq.  (That could hardly have gone that well.)  Her teeth well cut on security matters and advice, her journalism is bound to be tinged and flavoured by the apparatus of the state.  Julian Assange, she argues, is “the self-anointed director of his own intel service.”

The evidence she assesses on whether Assange requires punishment is deemed self-evident; the evidence comes from a source that need not be questioned.  Vinograd exudes the confidence of one clutching to the inside of the establishment, and one with lapels suggesting patriot and defender of state.  An Assange-like figure is bound to not merely be poison making its way to the vestal virgins; it is a figure to be extirpated.

In casting her own eye over the list of expanded charges against Assange, she has taken the allegations against him of espionage to be factual. But she does so by attempting to repudiate his credentials as a publisher and journalist.  “If anyone is making the [sic] Assange is a free speech champion, read paragraph 36,” she intones.  “He knowingly endangered the lives of journalists, religious leaders, human rights advocates, and political dissidents and did incredible harm to all our security.”  This devious interpretation on the part of the drafters has the purpose of demonising Assange – self-interested, maniacal, even sociopathic, they imply – while tagging, at the end, the only issue that concerns the US security apparatus: the fictional endangering of US national security. Absent here are observations and studies by the Pentagon which claimed on several occasions that there was little in way of evidence that lives had been compromised in the leak.

The same goes for former FBI types who see the accumulating dossier against Assange as an incriminating tissue of evidence.  The issue here was pre-determined; it is shut and done.  There is no broader philosophical point, because the only point that matters is realpolitik and the beating heart of the secretly minded patriot. Curiously enough, the distinction between liberal and conservative, Democrat and Republican, ceases to exist in such circles.  We are left with the operating rationale of the big bad NSS, decked out in all its nasty, modern tinsel.

Asha Rangappa, former FBI “special agent” and editor at Just Security, is one of the NSS’s glorified commentators, even if much of her strategy lies in cringeworthy self-advertising.  She was drooling with a certain social media imbecility at the news that an 18-count superseding indictment against Assange had been issued by the Department of Justice.  “Awwwww yeah,” came her remark on Twitter.  Don the gloves; go into action: Team America needs you.

Rangappa is a wonderful illustration of a corrupted type of journalist cum commentator, one conscious of a cop culture that is celebrated rather than questioned, paraded rather than critiqued. She is even featured in Elle Magazine, with a slush-filled gooey tribute from Sylvie McNamara.  “I’m at Asha Rangappa’s dinner table because, for the past few years, her commentary on CNN and Twitter has helped hundreds of thousands of people understand the news.”

If a certain type of blinkered understanding is what you are out for, then she is your glamorous source.  She was keen on putting away “bad guys”; she “rooted for the United States to beat the Soviet Union in the Olympics”; she acknowledges who “we had to fight for our values”.  McNamara is won over, and hardly one to question. “Rangappa knows from previous experience how the FBI handles Russian spies and disinformation; add to the mix her professional skill at explaining complex ideas, and she is ideally positioned to break down the bewildering political events in recent years.”  If you consciously avoid or fail to spot the inauthenticity in any of that, then you are well on the way to joining the National Security Club.

Embargoes and Other Acts of War

The war between the United States and Japan began with a US-enforced oil embargo against the Japanese Empire.

Right now, in the United States, huge detention camps are being constructed for the increasingly criminalized refugee and migrant population, a campaign of government-sponsored domestic terror run by a supposedly temporary, “acting” head of the department created by the ever-Orwellian 9/11-era Bush administration, Homeland Security.

Abroad, an oil embargo is being enforced by the US and British Navies against Iranian ships worldwide, strangling the Iranian economy, immiserating millions, with many unpredictable, destabilizing effects on the horizon.  These policies are being spearheaded by another sort of “acting” head, the infamously empire-loving sadist, John Bolton.

You can be sure, however, that if there is any sort of retaliatory action taken against these policies, this is where the mainstream narrative will start.  “Iran’s unprovoked, sneak attack,” or some variation thereof, will be the headline.  They’ll tell us about how much these totalitarian Iranians hate our freedom and democracy.  That the entire story between Iran and the west began with British and US support for a dictatorship, and a US- and UK-led overthrow of a thriving democracy will be facts relegated to the obscurity of the history books read by specialists in the region.  That the current oil embargo is an effort to strangle the Iranian economy and provoke a military response will rarely be mentioned, especially once the military response happens, if indeed it does, whether it’s in a form recognized as such by what they call “the international community” or not, whether it’s a response fabricated by John Bolton, that actually only exists in his warped brain, or if it’s a real one.

There are crippling embargoes the US has enforced on other countries for extremely long periods of time, without eliciting a military response.  But as economically damaging as it has been, the US never ratcheted up the blockade against Cuba to the extent that it is enforcing this blockade against Iranian trade — at least, to my knowledge, not since 1962 or so, when what we now call the Cuban Missile Crisis almost brought the world to nuclear holocaust.  (Prevented only by a very clear-thinking, cautious submarine commander named Vasili Arkhipov, incidentally.)

What has already been relegated to the dustbin of historical obscurity, of interest mainly to military historians and few others, as far as I can tell, is the fact that it was an oil embargo against Japan that was unequivocally and directly the provocation for the Japanese Empire’s bombing of the Pearl Harbor naval base in Hawaii.  The bombing raid was retaliation against the embargo that had been preventing Japan from importing oil.  First the US stopped selling oil or anything else to Japan.  This is not what provoked Japanese retaliation, however.  It was after the US Navy imposed a blockade between Indonesia and Japan, preventing Japan from importing oil from anywhere else, that the Japanese Empire was put into a position where they could either surrender or fight back.  After the US imposed its embargo, the more militarist among the Japanese leadership rose to the top, and retaliation was ensured.  Hopefully we all know what came next — four years of massive bloodshed and destruction, ending with all of the islands of Japan in smoking ruins, including two cities and hundreds of thousands of children and senior citizens annihilated by the world’s first use of atomic weapons.

Although no two countries have the same histories, there are historically dynamics between powers like the US and the UK and other countries these governments and their corporations interact with, that tend to produce a lot of similar patterns.  While I may be just another voice shouting in the wilderness here, there are many reasons why the history of modern Japan is more than a little worth recalling — especially certain salient aspects of it.

Prior to its encounters with the western colonial powers (a group which has long included among its ranks the United States, contrary to popular mythology), Japan was, relative to Europe, a prosperous country with a strong and well-organized government, that had been at peace within its borders and with its neighbors for centuries.  This period was known as the Edo Era.

The Edo Era ended when Edo, what we now know as Tokyo, was bombarded by the US Navy in 1856.  In our history books we call this the “opening” of the “isolationist” nation of Japan.  Japan did not need to be “opened,” and it wasn’t “isolationist” either.  But if you don’t want to trade with the US, that apparently makes you isolationist, and in need of a thorough bombing.  In short, it is the US Navy that set Japan on its course of rapid industrialization and militarization, which culminated in the Japanese Empire’s desperate effort to beat back the United States and maintain its own brutal empire in East Asia.  The Japanese leadership that took power in the period after the US attack in 1856 believed that if Japan didn’t become a regional power capable of defending itself against the greatest military powers of the world, it would become a colony, like China had been.  The Japanese leadership looked across the sea at the opium-addicted, impoverished nation of China, and knew exactly the fate they wanted to avoid.  Britain and the US, among other colonial powers, had used their military might to force the Chinese Emperor to allow the import of the deadly drug, though the Emperor had repeatedly tried to ban the trade — clearly “isolationist” behavior that required severe punishment in the forms of a “trade war” that ended the lives of tens of thousands of Chinese people, and destroyed two cities, in two different military campaigns that took place both before and after Admiral Perry’s bombardment of Japan.

Pearl Harbor was not unexpected, nor was it a “sneak attack.”  The only reason some in the Roosevelt administration believed it wouldn’t happen was because they thought it would be an irrational move on the part of the Japanese Empire, when the US had just made sure that it was their only option besides surrender.  Historical differences aside, this is exactly, precisely the situation the Trump administration and its imperial British allies are putting Iran in, right now.  Retaliate or surrender.  Either way, the outcome will be immeasurable human suffering.  And probably the only ones who could potentially prevent this outcome would be an activated US population, organized into a massive, militant social movement that finally puts an end to the imperial madness that has characterized US foreign policy since long before the revolution of 1776, through both Republican and Democratic governments, up until the present moment, the current precipice we are all standing on now.

It is not the Non-existent Iranian Bomb; it is the Other Existing Bombs

United States (US) demands that Iran promise to halt pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missile developments distract from the real intent of the US actions. Knowing that the Islamic Republic is not pursuing nuclear weapons and will react aggressively to sanctions, the US ploy deters other nations from establishing more friendly relations with Iran and from changing their perspectives on the causes of the Middle East crises.

Adherence by all nations to the The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) had potential to stimulate extensive political, economic, and social engagements of the international community with Iran, Investments leading to long lasting attachments, friendships, and alliances would initiate a revitalized, prosperous, and stronger Iran. A new perspective of Iran could yield a revised perspective of a violent, unstable, and disturbed Middle East. Israel and Saudi Arabia would finally receive attention as participants in bringing chaos to the Arab region. Economies committed to Iran’s progress and allied with its interests could bring pressure on Israel and Saudi Arabia to change their destructive behaviors.

Because the demands on Iran can be approached in a less provocative and insinuating manner, the demands are meant to provoke and insinuate. Assuredly, the US wants Iran to eschew nuclear and ballistic weapons, but the provocative approach indicates other purposes — completely alienate Iran, destroy its military capability, and bring Tehran to collapse and submission. Accomplishing the far-reaching goals will not affect the average American, lessen US defense needs, or diminish the continuous battering of the helpless faces of the Middle East. The strategy mostly pleases Israel and Saudi Arabia, who have engineered it, share major responsibillty for the Middle East turmoil, and are using mighty America to subdue the princpal antagonist to their malicious activities. During the 2016 presidential campaign, contender Donald Trump said, Many nations, including allies, ripped off the US.” President Donald Trump has verified that statement.

Noting the history of US promises to leaders of other nations – give up your aggressive attitudes and you will benefit ─ the US promises make the Ayatollah skeptical. The US reneged on the JPOAC, sent Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic to the World Court and eventual death (although his compromises allowed the Dayton Accords that ended the Yugoslavian conflict), directly assisted NATO in the overthrow of subdued Libyan leader, Moammar Gadhafi, pulverized Iraq after sanctions could not drive that nation to total ruin, rejected Iranian pledge of  $560 million worth of assistance to Afghanistan at the Tokyo donors’ conference in January 2002, and, according to the U.S. envoy to Afghanistan, Richard Dobbins, disregarded Iran’s “decisive role in persuading the Northern Alliance delegation to compromise its demands of wanting 60 percent of the portfolios in an interim government.”

Tehran senses it is in a lose-lose situation.  Regardless of its decisions and directions,the centuries old Persian lands will be pulverized.

If the US honestly wants to have Iran promise never to pursue nuclear and ballistic missile weapons, it would approach the issues with a question, “What will it take for you (Iran) never to pursue these weapons?” Assuredly, the response would include provisions that require the US to no longer assist the despotic Saudi Kingdom in its oppression of minorities and opposition, in its export of terrorists, and in its slaughter of the Houthis, and the response would propose that the US eliminate financial, military and cooperative support to Israel’s theft of Palestinian lands, oppressive conditions imposed on Palestinians, and daily killings of Palestinian people, and combat Israel’s expansionist plans.

The correct question soliciting a formative response and leading to decisive US actions resolves two situations and benefits the US — fear of Iran developing weapons of mass destruction is relieved and the Middle East is pointed in a direction that achieves justice, peace, and stability for its peoples.

Despite the August 2018 report from the U.S. Department of State’s Iran Action group, which “chronicle  iran’s destructive activities,” and consists of everything from most minor to most major, from unsubstantiated to retaliatory, from the present time to before the discovery of dirt, (July 22, 1980 – Bethesda, MD, United States: An Iranian operative assassinated a former Iranian diplomat-in-exile, Ali Akbar Tabatabai, a vocal critic of then-Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.) Iranians will not rebel in sufficient numbers against their own repressive state until they note the end of hypocritical support by western powers of other repressive states. Halting international terrorism, ameliorating the Middle East violence, and preventing any one nation from establishing hegemony in the Arab world starts with President Trump sending Secretary Pompeo to confront Israel and Saudi Arabia, two nations whose records of injustice, aggression, oppression, and violation of human rights exceed that of the oppressive Iran regime.

Otherwise, it will occur on a Sunday morning; always occurs in the early hours on the day of rest. It will come with a roar greater than the sum of all shrieks and screams ever uttered by humankind, rip across fields and cities and burn through the flesh of a part of the world’s population.

An Honorable Course in Iran: End Sanctions, Resume Dialogue

Last week, Elham Pourtaher, an Iranian graduate student at the State University of New York in Albany, wrote about how U.S. policies cause suffering and trauma far beyond U.S. borders. Her diabetic father, for example, is in danger of losing access to medicines because sanctions against Iranian banks make it nearly impossible to pay for imported goods, including medicine and food. Shortages could lead to thousands of deaths. Pourtaher described “the collective sense of fear caused by the increased sanctions.”

President Trump expressed concern that 150 people could be killed if U.S. airstrikes against Iran had been carried out last week. We must ask how many people could die because of economic warfare against Iran.

The economic war cripples Iran’s economy and afflicts the most vulnerable Iranian people—the sick, the poor, the elderly and the children.

In more than seventy visits to Iraq from 1991 to 2003, Voices in the Wilderness, a team of peace activists I was part of, reported on deteriorating conditions as people struggled to find desperately needed goods, including medicines and medical relief supplies. By 1996, U.N. officials reported that the economic sanctions directly contributed to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of children.

Wasting away from curable diseases, thousands of children who entered pediatrics wards never left. In Baghdad, Mosul, Babylon, Amara, Nasiriyah, and Basra, we visited wards that became death row for infants. Those children were by no means criminal. They couldn’t possibly have been held accountable for the actions of Saddam Hussein and the ruthless dictatorship ruling Iraq. Their plight seldom appeared in U.S. news reports about Iraq. But they were brutally and lethally punished, ostensibly because Iraq might possess weapons of mass destruction.

By the end of 2002, most Iraqis I knew dreaded a new round of military attacks and invasion. People I’d regarded as having nerves of steel said, “Believe me, Kathy, I am so scared,” or asked, “How can I possibly protect my children?”

On February 5, 2003, colleagues and I huddled over a shortwave radio on the balcony of Baghdad’s Al-Fanar hotel, straining to hear Colin Powell as he presented evidence that he said proved beyond a doubt that Iraq harbored weapons of mass destruction. After the 2003 bombing and invasion, evidence of Colin Powell’s allegations simply couldn’t be found. Now, Iraq is a broken, battered, and traumatized country.

Why should the United States now be punishing Iran?

In its last quarterly report, issued May 31, the International Atomic Energy Agency again verified Iran’s compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the so-called nuke deal, even though the United States has reneged on it. Noted analyst Professor Juan Cole emphasizes that Iran’s theocratic government adheres to Islamic teachings, which forbid stockpiling or use of weapons that afflict mass casualties on civilian populations. This surely includes nuclear weapons.

The greatest outlier in terms of possessing nuclear weapons is the United States which, in an alarming new development, has granted seven permits for the transfer of sensitive nuclear information by U.S. businesses to the Saudi government. So far, the Saudi government has not shown readiness to abide by safeguards which would prevent it from diverting or misusing nuclear materials to assemble nuclear weapons. Saudi Arabia already has sophisticated ballistic missile delivery systems. Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman stated on national TV that if Iran acquires a nuclear weapon, so will Saudi Arabia.

In 2016, the United States signed a Memorandum of Understanding to provide Israel with $38 billion in military assistance over a ten-year period. Even though the official Israeli position is neither to confirm nor deny the existence of its nuclear weapons program, it is now estimated that Israel has a nuclear arsenal of at least eighty warheads. However, Israel still is not a state party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The double standards in foreign policy maintained by the United States—one standard for U.S allies Israel and Saudi Arabia and a different standard for Iran—undermine any progress in ending wars and the potential for new wars in the Middle East.

Rather than punish Iran, the United States should immediately return to the Iran nuclear agreement and support proposals regularly advanced at the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty conferences for a Nuclear Weapon Free Zone in the Middle East.

The U.S. government claims it is threatened by Iran. Yet, according to David Stockman writing in Antiwar.com, the United States surrounds Iran with forty-five U.S. bases, and Iran’s defense budget of less than $15 billion amounts to just seven days of money spent by the Pentagon.

The United States, which claims Iran is supporting terrorism, continues to enable Saudi Arabia’s aerial terrorism as it regularly bombs civilians in Yemen. On June 24th, a ship bound for Saudi Arabia departed from Wilmington, North Carolina carrying bombs, grenades, cartridges and defense-related aircraft.  The United States also supplies weapons to Bahrain, the UAE, Sudan and other countries which actively participate in the Saudi-led Coalition making war against Yemen. The Saudi government directly supports the military government in Sudan, which recently killed at least 100 peaceful protesters who were part of Sudan’s Democratic Uprising.

Rather than planning cyber attacks and new means of aggression, the United States should heed calls for dialogue and negotiation, relying on Albert Camus’s conclusion to his profound anti-war essay following World War II: “The only honorable course will be to stake everything on the formidable gamble, that words are more powerful than munitions.”

A version of this article first appeared in The Progressive at www.progressive.org

The Shaving Kit: Manufacturing The Julian Assange Witch-Hunt

Last week, UK Home Secretary Sajid Javid signed the US extradition request to hand over Julian Assange, who is charged with 18 counts of violating the US Espionage Act. Assange’s immediate fate now lies in the hands of the British justice system.

Javid ‘consistently voted for use of UK military forces in combat operations overseas’, including war on Afghanistan, Syria and the catastrophic 2011 assault on Libya. In other words, he is a key figure in precisely the US-UK Republican-Democratic-Conservative-Labour war machine exposed by WikiLeaks.

John Pilger described Assange’s extradition hearing last week to The Real News Network:

I don’t think these initial extradition hearings will be fair at all, no… He’s not allowed to defend himself. He’s not given access to a computer so that he can access the documents and files that he needs.

I think where it will change is if the lower court – the magistrate’s court that is dealing with it now and will deal with it over the next almost nine, ten months – if they decide to extradite Julian Assange, his lawyers will appeal. And it will go up to the High Court. And I think it’s there in the High Court where he may well – I say “may” – get justice. That’s a cautiously optimistic view. But I think he’s most likely to get it there. He certainly won’t get it the United States. There’s no indication of that.

As we noted in a media alert last week, the groundwork for the persecution of Assange has been laid by a demonising state-corporate propaganda campaign. Nils Melzer, the UN special rapporteur on torture, who is also Professor of International Law at the University of Glasgow, has turned the accepted ‘mainstream’ view of Assange completely on its head:

First of all, we have to realize that we have all been deliberately misled about Mr Assange. The predominant image of the shady “hacker”, “sex offender” and selfish “narcissist” has been carefully constructed, disseminated and recycled in order to divert attention from the extremely powerful truths he exposed, including serious crimes and corruption on the part of multiple governments and corporations.

By making Mr Assange “unlikeable” and ridiculous in public opinion, an environment was created in which no one would feel empathy with him, very similar to the historic witch-hunts, or to modern situations of mobbing at the workplace or in school. (Our emphasis)

These are very significant, credible comments and, as we will discuss below, Melzer recently provided a stunning example on Twitter of how this ‘carefully constructed, disseminated and recycled’ image of Assange has been faked.

Melzer’s revelation concerns Assange’s long, dishevelled beard, which was a source of much ‘mainstream’ hilarity when Assange was arrested and dragged from the Ecuadorian embassy on April 11. First, let’s remind ourselves of some of the grim highlights of this media coverage. In the Daily Mail, Amanda Platell wrote:

How humiliating that as the alleged sexual predator Julian Assange emerged from Ecuador’s embassy, flourishing a wild beard, Australian scientists revealed a primordial link between “flamboyant accoutrements such as beards” and titchy testicles.

In the New Statesman, the Guardian‘s Suzanne Moore celebrated:

O frabjous day! We are all bored out of our minds with Brexit when a demented looking gnome is pulled out of the Ecuadorian embassy by the secret police of the deep state. Or “the met” as normal people call them.

In the Evening Standard, William Moore commented:

Julian Assange… looked like a sort of mad Lord of the Rings extra as he was hauled away from the Ecuadorian embassy last week.

Charlotte Edwardes wrote in the Evening Standard:

Julian Assange’s removal from the Ecuadorian embassy brought his straggly beard into the light. The Beard Liberation Front gets in touch to say he will not be considered for its annual shortlist of the best facial hair. “It is impossible to unequivocally state that his beard presents a positive public image,” it says.1

David Aaronovitch of The Times tweeted:

I see Tolstoy has just been arrested in central London.

Like so many journalists, Derek Momodu, the Daily Mirror‘s Associate Picture Editor, made a joke about a bearded character from the BBC comedy series ‘Only Fools And Horses’:

Unconfirmed reports that Wikileaks boss Julian Assange tried to pass as Uncle Albert to avoid arrest – but no-one was fooled.

The Daily Star devoted an entire article to the mockery:

Bearded Julian Assange compared to Uncle Albert as Twitter reacts to arrest

Pamela Anderson’s favourite fella has got a surprising new look.

Embedded in the piece was a Daily Star reader survey that attracted 234 votes:

Would you describe Julian Assange as…

A hero [36%]

A weirdo’ [64%]

Unsurprising results, given the context and the wider political-media campaign.

The Daily Express also devoted an article to comedy takes of this kind:

Hilarious Julian Assange memes have swept Twitter in the wake of the Wikileaks founder’s arrest including one he tried to pass himself off as Uncle Albert from Only Fools and Horses – here are the best ones.

In The Times, Ben Macintyre wrote a piece titled, ‘Julian Assange belongs with crackpots and despots’, observing that Assange had been ‘hauled out of the Ecuadorian embassy, wearing the same beard and outraged expression as Saddam Hussein on removal from his foxhole’. The caption accompanying the photos said it all:

Julian Assange revelled in holding court at the Ecuadorian embassy in London. Right, the Panamanian [dictator] General Manuel Noriega took refuge in the Vatican embassy in 1989

There are clear Stalinist and Big Brother echoes when one of the most important political dissidents of our time generates this headline (subsequently edited) in the Daily Mail:

A soaring ego. Vile personal habits. And after years in his squalid den, hardly a friend left: DOWNFALL OF A NARCISSIST

The title of a Guardian press review also headlined completely fake, Ecuadorian government claims that Assange had smeared the walls of the embassy with his own excrement as highlighted in The Sun:

“Whiffyleaks”: what the papers say about Julian Assange’s arrest

The assumption behind all these comments, of course, was that Assange’s beard was further confirmation that he was ‘a definite creep, a probable rapist, a conspiracist whackjob’, as ‘leftist’ media favourite Ash Sarkar of Novara Media tweeted. Or, as the Guardian‘s George Monbiot wrote in opposing Assange’s extradition:

Whether or not you like Assange’s politics (I don’t), or his character (ditto)…

As discussed, Nils Melzer argues that Assange has become ‘”unlikeable” and ridiculous in public opinion’, not because of who he is, but because of a state-sponsored propaganda campaign – the journalists listed above are either complicit or dupes. This media charade was exposed with great clarity by Melzer’s revelation on Twitter:

How public humiliation works: On 11 April, Julian Assange was mocked for his beard throughout the world. During my visit, he explained to us that his shaving kit had been deliberately taken away three months earlier.

It had simply never occurred to the great herd of journalists – which understood that Assange was someone to be smeared, mocked and abused – that his appearance might have something to do with Ecuador’s brutal treatment cutting off his communications, his visitors and even his medical care. Fidel Narvaez, former consul at the Ecuadorian embassy from the first day Assange arrived, on 19 June 2012, until 15 July 2018, said the Ecuadorian regime under president Lenin Moreno had tried to make life ‘unbearable’ for Assange.

As part of a Swedish project in support of Assange, a message containing an offer from Melzer to be interviewed was emailed to around 500 individuals, primarily Swedish journalists. Recipients were able to reply with a single click on an embedded link in the message. Not a single journalist did so. In an email copied to Media Lens, Melzer commented:

My impression is that, after my initial press release, most of the mainstream media have gone into something like a shock paralysis leaving them unable to process the enormous contradiction between their own misguided portraits of Assange and the terrifying truth of what has been going on in reality. The problem, of course, is that mainstream media bear a significant share of the responsibility for enabling this disgraceful witch-hunt and now have to muster up the strength to face their tragic failure to objectively inform and empower the people in this case.

One of my own nationalities being Swedish, I am quite familiar with what a certain obsession with political correctness can do to one’s capacity for critical thinking. But the fact that, of more than 500 solicited Swedish journalists, not a single one was interested in an in-depth interview with a Swiss-Swedish UN expert publicly accusing Sweden of judicial persecution and psychological torture, speaks to a level of denial and self-censorship that can hardly be reconciled with objective and informative reporting.2

It is indeed a dramatic example of denial and self-censorship. But, alas, there is no ‘shock paralysis’, for corporate media have been treating the best-informed, most courageous and most honest truth-tellers this way for years and decades.

When Denis Halliday, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, resigned in protest in September 1998, describing the UN sanctions regime he had set up and run as ‘genocidal’, his comments were mentioned in passing then forgotten. The same treatment was afforded his successor as UN Humanitarian Coordinator, Hans von Sponeck, who resigned in protest at the sanctions in February 2000. Since its publication in 2006, von Sponeck’s forensic, deeply rational and deeply damning account of his experiences, A Different Kind Of War – The UN Sanctions Regime In Iraq, (Berghahn Books, 2006), has been mentioned once across the entire US-UK press, in a single paragraph of 139 words in an article by Robert Fisk in the Independent, and never reviewed.3

At a time of maximum global media coverage of Iraq, Halliday was mentioned in 2 of the 12,366 Guardian and Observer articles mentioning Iraq in 2003; von Sponeck was mentioned 5 times. Halliday was mentioned in 2 of the 8,827 articles mentioning Iraq in 2004; von Sponeck was mentioned 5 times.

In 2002, Scott Ritter, former UN chief weapons inspector in Iraq from 1991-1998 declared that Iraq had been ‘fundamentally disarmed’ of 90-95% of its weapons of mass destruction by December 1998, signifying that the case for war was an audacious fraud.4  In the 12,366 articles mentioning Iraq in 2003, the Guardian and Observer mentioned Ritter a total of 17 times.

In February, we described how Alfred de Zayas, the first UN rapporteur to visit Venezuela for 21 years, had commented that US sanctions were illegal and could amount to ‘crimes against humanity’ under international law. Our ProQuest UK media database search for the last six months for corporate newspaper articles containing:

‘de Zayas’ and ‘Venezuela’ = 2 hits

One of these, bitterly critical, in The Times, was titled:

Radical Chic – The UN’s system of human rights reporting is a politicised travesty

There have been a couple of other mentions in the Independent online, but, once again, we find ourselves reaching for the same comment from Noam Chomsky that sums it up so well:

The basic principle, rarely violated, is that what conflicts with the requirements of power and privilege does not exist.5

  1. Edwardes, ‘Julian Assange’s removal’, Evening Standard, 12 April 2019.
  2. Melzer, email, 13 June 2019.
  3. Fisk, ‘Fear climate change, not our enemies’, The Independent, 20 Jan 2007.
  4. Ritter and William Rivers Pitt, War On Iraq, Profile Books, 2002, p. 23.
  5. Chomsky, ‘Deterring Democracy’, Hill and Wang, 1992, p. 79.

Provoking the Bear and the Dragon and Hoping for the Best?

Peter Koenig, PressTV Interview Transcript
19 June 2019

Background

Moscow, June 18, 2019 (AFP)

Russia on Tuesday called for restraint to avoid escalation in the Middle East after the US said it was deploying additional troops due to heightened tensions with Iran.

“We are urging all the sides to show restraint,” President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists in response to a question on the deployment. “We would prefer not to see any steps that could introduce additional tensions in the already unstable region.”

The United States said Monday it has approved the deployment of 1,000 additional troops to the Middle East. Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said the troops were being sent “for defensive purposes” as the US has blamed Iran for last week’s attacks on two tankers in the Gulf of Oman.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Tuesday that US plans to increase its troop presence in the Middle East were aimed at provoking armed conflict. Such actions “cannot be seen otherwise than as a deliberate course to provoke war,” Ryabkov told journalists, quoted by RIA Novosti news agency. He said that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo while visiting in Russia last month had stated that US troops were in the region not to start war but prevent it.

Pompeo said at a news conference with Russian foreign minister Sergei Lavrov in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on May 14 that “we fundamentally do not seek a war with Iran.”

“If that’s the case, the US should refrain from further reinforcement of its presence and from other steps, including dragging and pushing its allies in various parts of the world into stepping up pressure on Iran,” Ryabkov said. Tensions between Tehran and Washington have escalated since the US last year quit a multi-nation nuclear deal with Iran, a close ally of Russia.

Peskov said Tuesday that “our starting point is still that Iran will remain within the framework of the nuclear deal and will maintain adherence to its obligations.”

PressTV: Could you please comment on this?

Peter Koeing: What Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Tuesday that US plans to increase its troop presence in the Middle East were aimed at provoking armed conflict – is very true; and is very important to take note of.

To me it looks like the commando behind Trump has decided to put Venezuela on the backburner, that, for now, Iran is more important.

Controlling Iran, means basically controlling not only the entire Middle East with all its riches, but it’s also contributing to the Chosen People’s – Israel, the Zionists’ – overall goal to exert hegemony over the world’s finances – controlling the globe’s economy.

Domination of people by military power and domination of the economy by financial power, go hand in hand.

Let’s face it, to engage in war – or provoke war – were also the two ‘false flag’ attacks on the Norwegian and Japanese oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman. Only an absolute moron, or someone who has never lived on planet earth, would not understand that these were two flagrant “false flags”; and Pompeo’s immediate accusations without a shred of proof, were the usual “Pompeoisms” – lying, deceiving, stealing, – or as he said literally what they did at the CIA, “We lied, we cheated, we stole”. Well, these people do not change.

By engaging Iran in a war, Washington knows they would also engage Russia and China – and that’s what they want. The two super powers are their last stronghold to conquer.

And people who are narcissistic and full of themselves, as are the characteristics of neoliberals and neofascists, who want to run the show, they do not see their own limits – they see only their own power with impunity.

It’s like a drug for them. They act under addiction… addiction for power and dominance. They are even ready to destroy themselves for power and dominance.

If we analyze one particular incident on this globe, like the announcement to deploy a 1000 more troops to the Middle East – have they said where? – not that I know – then we always have to see the entire picture.

It’s part of a Chess game – a Chess game they – the US and the international handlers behind them – only are allowed to win. That’s why they never give up an objective. They may put it on the backburner for a while, like what they are likely doing with Venezuela, but in the long run, as the they see the Big Picture only, Full Spectrum Dominance, they will continue – until their collapse.

And why is the collapse the logical outcome? – Because such a war cannot be won. By nobody.