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Camilo Mejia Analyzes the Soft Coup Attempt in Nicaragua

TeleSUR

August 28, 2018

By Rick Sterling

At the Oakland event, Camilo showed a torture video which demonstrates opposition violence. | Photo: Reuters

Camilo Mejía wrote an open letter condemning the Amnesty report for being biased and actually contributing to the chaos and violence.

Western media have described the unrest and violence in Nicaragua as a ‘campaign of terror’ by government police and paramilitary. This has also been asserted by large non-governmental organizations (NGOs). In May, for example, Amnesty International issued a report titled ‘Shoot to Kill: Nicaragua’s Strategy to Repress Protest.’

A Miami Herald op-ed summarized: “It’s not like there’s any confusion over who’s to blame for the recent killings amid Nicaragua’s political violence. Virtually all human rights groups agree that Ortega’s police-backed paramilitary goons are the culprits.”

Much less publicized, other analysts have challenged these assertions. They claim the situation is being distorted and the reality is very different. For example, Camilo Mejía wrote an open letter condemning the Amnesty report for being biased and actually contributing to the chaos and violence.

To learn more about the situation, Task Force on the Americas (TFA) invited Camilo Mejía to speak in the San Francisco Bay Area. TFA has a long history of work in Central and South America educating the public, lobbying around U.S. foreign policy and leading delegations to see the reality in Central and South America.

Veterans for Peace (VFP) quickly agreed to co-sponsor events with Camilo in San Francisco and Oakland. Veterans for Peace also has a long history with Nicaragua, having been founded partially in response to U.S. aggression in Central America. VFP members protested against U.S. shipments to the Nicaraguan Contras. VFP member Brian Willson had both legs cut off when a train carrying weapons destined for Central America ran over him. The current VFP president, Gerry Condon, was at that protest and helped stop the blood gushing from Willson’s severed legs. Brian Willson lives in Nicaragua today.

Camilo Mejía

Camilo Mejía was born in Nicaragua, the son of famous musician Carlos Mejía Godoy. His mother was a staunch Sandinista activist but separated from the father soon after his birth. She brought Camilo to the United States as a single mother in 1994, four years after the Sandinista electoral defeat. Living in Florida, Camilo struggled to make ends meet and joined the U.S. Army to pay for college. Just a few months before completing his service, Camilo was ordered into the 2003 invasion of Iraq. After serving one tour of war duty, he refused to return and was imprisoned for nine months.

Camilo was honored as a ‘Prisoner of Conscience’ by Amnesty International. Thus Camilo’s criticism of the Amnesty report on Nicaragua has special significance. Camilo is Nicaraguan, a member of Veterans for Peace, and a hero to both VFP and Amnesty. He is also the author of the compelling autobiography, ‘Road From Ar Ramadi.’

As news of Camilo’s upcoming visit to San Francisco spread, we started to feel a reaction. There is a large and diverse Nicaraguan exile community in San Francisco. While some support the Sandinista government, others are adamantly opposed and some even supported the Contras decades ago. Anti-Ortega Nicaraguan exiles in San Francisco began organizing a protest.

Camilo’s visit to speak on Nicaragua also prompted a reaction from some Americans who had once supported the Sandinistas but now support the opposition. They campaigned to have their viewpoint presented at our events. TFA and VFP organizers thought there was no need to include the opposition voice, because their characterization of the conflict is widespread. However, Camilo wanted to be transparent and not exclude the opposition. He thought that if we allowed an opposition supporter to speak briefly, they were more likely to listen to his analysis and he could directly address their concerns.

At the San Francisco event, protesters arrived early in front of the War Memorial Veterans Building. When the event started, protesters flooded into the venue. As promised, an opposition supporter was invited to speak briefly.The audience of about 120 was split between those who wanted to hear Camilo and those who came to protest. Camilo’s talk was repeatedly interrupted and police arrived to prevent violence. Camilo asked what kind of “democracy” was this they claimed to want for Nicaragua when they would not listen or allow him to speak here in San Francisco?

Camilo showed two short video clips. The first video showed opposition activists torturing a Sandinista supporter under the oversight of a Catholic priest and the remains of a Sandinista burned alive.

A second video showed a statement from an American who has lived in Nicaragua for many years. He described how gangs had invaded his town, set up road blocks, intimidated and abused local civilians. He described the joy of the community when the roadblocks were removed and masked ‘protesters’ departed.

The audience got increasingly disruptive during the question period. A prominent Nicaraguan opposition supporter came forward, offering to quiet the disrupters. After receiving the microphone from Camilo, she did the opposite.The disruptions escalated and the event had to be ended early. The protesters had completed their mission: they had prevented Camilo from being able to present his perspective.

Organizers from TFA and Veterans for Peace decided the event in Oakland needed to be handled differently. Members of Veterans for Peace, including Chapter President Paul Cox and others, prevented the protesters from entering. Ultimately the venue was packed with interested listeners. The anti-Ortega crowd protested on the sidewalk and street but were not able to disrupt the event.

With the loud opposition outside, Camilo was introduced by VFP President Gerry Condon. He gave a clear and concise history of key events in Nicaraguan political history, including:

* Nicaragua was connected to the gold rush in California in the mid-1800s. That is when the idea of a trans-oceanic passage through Nicaragua was born.

* When Cesar Sandino launched guerrilla war in the 1920s and ’30s, there were two priorities: advancing the working class and anti-imperialism.

* The Frente Sandinista which carried out the 1979 revolution had nine commanders: three from each of three factions.

* After the Sandinistas lost the 1990 election, splits emerged and ultimately Sergio Ramirez formed the Movimiento Renovador Sandinista (MRS). The more affluent members plus intellectuals, writers and musicians gravitated toward it. But though they were well connected to Western solidarity activists, they had no popular platform nor base. They did poorly in elections and moved toward neoliberal policies and the NGO world.

* Since taking power in 2007, Daniel Ortega and Sandinistas have improved living conditions for the poor with free healthcare, free education and better economic policies. Nicaragua now supplies 80 to 90 percent of its own food.

* Up until April, Nicaragua was vastly safer than neighboring countries. Their ‘community policing’ is considered a model.

* Support for Ortega and the Frente Sandinista has steadily increased. In 2006, they won 38 percent of the vote; in 2011, it increased to 62 percent; in 2016 support increased to 72 percent, with 68 percent turnout.

* There has been much misinformation about the proposed changes in social security which sparked the protests in April. To stabilize the social security funding, the IMF wanted to implement an austerity plan which would have doubled the work requirements and raised the qualification age from 60 to 65. The Sandinista proposal was much more progressive, requiring wealthy individuals and businesses to pay much more with minor changes for others.

* The death count has been manipulated. Some deaths are counted twice; people who were said to be dead have turned up alive; dead Sandinista supporters have been counted as protesters. The first deaths on April 19 were one student, one police officer and one bystander killed by sniper fire. Camilo asks: Was this done by the government or by outside forces?

* The National Endowment for Democracy and other U.S. agencies have trained students and others in using social media, video and symbols to stir up dissent and destabilize Nicaragua.

Goal Accomplished

At the Oakland event, Camilo showed a torture video which demonstrates opposition violence. He also showed video of the huge July 19 celebration of the Sandinista revolution anniversary. His talk was followed by many questions, including from opposition supporters.

At times during the event, there was tension and concern about violence from the protesters outside. Some Nicaraguan families were afraid for their safety. After the event, they had to be escorted with protection to their cars. The car of one Nicaraguan family was besieged by the anti-Ortega crowd. Camilo and his young daughter had to be quickly taken away amid shouts and waving placards.

Ultimately, Camilo’s visit accomplished the goal. Media interviews in Spanish and English reached many thousands. In these and the public presentations, he brought information and analysis which has been largely censored or ignored in coverage of Nicaragua.

Camilo believes Nicaragua has temporarily defeated a ‘soft coup’ attempt but the danger is not over. The opposition forces internally and internationally are still there.

 

[Rick Sterling is an investigative journalist and current board president of Task Force on the Americas.]

Purpose Goes to Latin America [Part II]

Purpose Goes to Latin America [Part II]

August 26, 2018

By Cory Morningstar with Forrest Palmer 

 

This is part II of  Purpose Goes to Latin America. [ Part I, published August 8, 2018]

 

Foreword:

In part one of our report Purpose Goes to Latin America ( August 8, 2018) we demonstrated how global powers orchestrate destabilization, war, economic and imperial domination via the facilitation of NGOs that comprise the non-profit industrial complex. Specifically, we looked at how this successful strategy is unveiling itself in Latin America. We explored “New Power” as a new instrument of hegemony, whereby New Power exponents when mobilized, can be successfully manipulated to serve neoliberal forces in ways never before achievable.

We disclosed the fact that Purpose (the for-profit PR arm of Avaaz) has set up in Latin America with campaigns and projects underway in Brazil and Columbia. This is not a coincidence. In the ongoing destabilization effort being waged against Venezuela, Columbia is being used as a base to launch further aggression. [August 9, 2018: Colombia Can Not Lend Itself to a Foreign Intervention against Venezuela] Consider Purpose “movements” are not decrying the more than 300 assassinations of Colombian leaders over the last two years [Source], rather they are organizing Concordia Summits to facilitate an advancing privatization in Columbia (and the world at large), as they court right wing politicians  and oligarchs.  This can best be described as “power in white face”.

“In the presence of the so-called White Helmets on the border with the brother country, the first-class treatment given by the Colombian government to conspirators and provocateurs… While we condemn and denounce these grotesque maneuvers, we alert our people, the progressive and democratic peoples and governments of Latin America, the Caribbean and the world, not to allow more interference with sovereign Venezuela… Colombia can not lend itself to a foreign intervention against Venezuela. Our continent is a zone of peace and we must not allow ourselves to be deprived of that right.” — August 9, 2018:  Colombia Can Not Lend Itself to a Foreign Intervention against Venezuela [Emphasis added]

 

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Part II

Mobiles Coupled with Social Media Equal the Capture of Momentum by New Power

Source: GSMA Intelligence

This is where the lines between NGOs, internet and militarism begin to overlap and blur. In part one of this report, we discussed New Power at length as the new tool for expanding global hegemony. By the conclusion of this report, we will have explored the machinations of our new digital world, and how neoliberal and Imperial forces are using it to further colonization and drive economic growth – all under the guise of freedom, democracy and human rights. At this time, in the year 2018, we have come full circle to the inception of this blueprint, charted in 2007.

“This paper suggests that the rapid spread of information and communications technology (ICT) in the global south offers possibilities for democratic and social change unmatched since decolonization.” — Prospects for e-Advocacy in the Global South – A Res Publica Report for the Gates Foundation, 2007

In 2007, Res Publica completed a research and advisory project for the Gates Foundation titled Prospects for e-Advocacy in the Global South – A Res Publica Report for the Gates Foundation. (From the report: E-advocacy is the strategic use of ICT by individuals or movements to press for policy change.”) The Project Leader for the project was Res Publica and Avaaz co-founder Ricken Patel.

“Moreover, penetration of these technologies can revolutionize advocacy long before they reach substantial percentages of the population. The President of the Philippines was deposed in 2001 in an SMS-organized mobilization he called a “coup de text” when just 15% of Filipinos had mobile phones.Prospects for e-Advocacy in the Global South – A Res Publica Report for the Gates Foundation, 2007

 

However, there are formidable barriers to the realization of this opportunity. The digital divide is felt most acutely in sub-Saharan and South/Central Africa. While mobile phone penetration is growing rapidly even in this region, the promise of the internet and other ICTs is dimmed by regressive telecommunications policies and poor infrastructure. Across the global south, censorship and intimidation have shut off the internet as a source for social change in nations most in need of reform.” — Prospects for e-Advocacy in the Global South – A Res Publica Report for the Gates Foundation, 2007

The lead researcher for the project was Mary Joyce who worked for the Gates Foundation and the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard. [Source]

“The study of e-advocacy in the global south is a new field and as such this report is based on the synthesis of different fields of expertise rather than the summarizing of existing research… e-Advocacy is the future of social change.” — Prospects for e-Advocacy in the Global South – A Res Publica Report for the Gates Foundation, 2007

Katrin Verclas, Executive Director of Nonprofit Technology Enterprise Network, was one of two expert advisors to the project. In 2018 Verlas, named one of the Most Influential Women in Technology by Fast Company in 2011, was indicted by the U.S. Justice Department for fraud. [March 29, 2018: German Citizen Indicted For Major Fraud In Connection With A State Department Grant, March 29, 2018]

The second expert advisor, digital political strategist Alan Rosenblatt “built the Center for American Progress’s* social media program (2007-13) and trained nearly 20,000 people across the world in digital/social media strategy, including civil society leaders across the Arab world in 2009; executives at leading advocacy groups and news media outlets; Members of Congress and their staff; as well as a couple future kings.” [Source: LinkedIn] [*Founded/directed by John Podesta. After losing his congressional seat (D-VA), Res Publica/Avaaz co-founder Tom Perriello, served as President and CEO of the Center for American Progress.]

“Network-centric mobile activism is seductively simple. Massive events can be created with little or no effort or cost.” — Prospects for e-Advocacy in the Global South – A Res Publica Report for the Gates Foundation, 2007

 

“If possible, fund the fringe, but if this is perceived as too high a risk then invite them to the table by including them in conferences and convenings.” — Prospects for e-Advocacy in the Global South – A Res Publica Report for the Gates Foundation, 2007

Case study authors included Rishi Chawla (Global Internet Policy Initiative), Atieno Ndomo (Bretton Woods, Unicef, WFP, UN),  and Priscila Néri (Researcher/Res Publica: “Wrote the case study on Brazil for the report “Prospects for e-Advocacy in the Global South”, commissioned by the Gates Foundation and published in 2007. The report paved the way for the launch of Avaaz.org, an international network focused on promoting global activism on a wide range of issues.” Source: LinkedIn. Néri is now with Witness). Gbenga Sesan (Harvard, Paradigm Initiative, Africa), and Idris Sulaiman (Research consultant for World Bank, now with WBCSD) were also authors.

Those in charge of reviewing the paper included Rob Faris, Research Director for the Internet and Society of Harvard and OpenNet Initiative (which is mentioned further in this report), and Janet Haven of the Open Society Institute. [1]

June 2017: Number of unique mobile subscribers worldwide hits 5 billion:

Source: GSMA Intelligence

Excerpts from the Gates project report under the heading “The Cellular Savior”:

“The mobile phone is changing the way the global south communicates. Even as the number of landlines grows slowly, the growth of mobile phones is sky-rocketing, changing the connectivity potential for the planet…. What these figures indicate is that mobile phones are a great opportunity for e-advocates who want to reach a mass audience, and the applications are endless. [p. 18]

 

“… After the successful implementation of SMS [short message service/text messages] campaigns at the national level, the Gates Foundation might decide to fund an international SMS campaign*. Unlike the local SCO partners of the pilot programs, an international campaign would partner with international advocacy organizations with strong technology programs like Greenpeace, Oxfam, and the new international e-advocacy organization Avaaz.” [p. 41] [*Highlighted text in original document]

 

“The Gates Foundation has the unique ability to lead this new front of social change. The foundation’s distinctive experience in providing access to technology and challenging inequality in the global south, combined with resources that rival many nations, make it an ideal trailblazer in the global promotion of e-advocacy. We the researchers, writers, advisors, and reviewers of this report urge the Gates Foundation to take on this historic role. [p. 5]

Here we can pause for a moment to reflect. Avaaz, et al were not working toward a goal of ensuring every person on Earth would have access to clean drinking water. Rather, they were united in a global undertaking to ensure everyone on Earth would have access to a mobile phone. There is a quote attributed to Vladimir Lenin, in which variations are known to most in the Western world: “The Capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them.” Perhaps in the 21st century we should update it to “The Capitalists will sell us the mobiles with which we will hang ourselves.”

There is little doubt that if society had chosen not to purchase cell phones, our corporate overlords and oligarchs would have put them in cereal boxes for free. But of course, we lined up and paid for our own enslavement, just as Aldous Huxley so aptly prophesied in 1931.

“The goal of this funding strategy is to create a structure in which access to ICTs leads to a cyclical process of innovation and dissemination in e-advocacy which leads to social change. The final result of the implementation of ever improving e-advocacy methods is social change, achieved bit by bit through thousands of e-advocacy campaigns worldwide. E-advocacy is a powerful means for social change in the global south and the Gates Foundations has the unique ability to make that potential a reality.” — Prospects for e-Advocacy in the Global South – A Res Publica Report for the Gates Foundation, 2007

The Igarapé Institute

The Igarapé Institute was formed in 2011 as a “think and do tank” in Brazil. The stated purpose of the institute is “raising attention to the challenges of violence and insecurity across Brazil and Latin America.” It works with international organizations such as the United Nations and the Inter-American Development Bank toward changes in government policy. The institute is headquartered in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, with staff in São Paulo, Brasília, Bogota and Mexico City.

Canadian Robert Muggah is the co-founder of the Igarapé Institute, SecDev Group, and SecDev Foundation.

The Igarapé Institute “supports a range of alliances, including with the CivCap group, UN, World Bank, World Economic Forum, World We Want and many others in civil society.” [Source] Key partners include Crisis Action and a wealth of United Nation divisions. A “shortlist” of its key partners that operate under the auspices of “peace and security” inclusive of Crisis Action, and the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect is extensive. Funders include Open Society Foundations, SecDev Foundation, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and Virgin Unite. Honorary Igarapé board members include Fernando Henrique Cardoso, former president of Brazil, and Cesar Gaviria, former president of Colombia, both having served as key early architects of neoliberal reform.

Notable is the fact that the International Peace Institute (IPI) is cited as both a key partner and funder. Here we will divert, if only to once again demonstrate the nefarious interlocking directorate amongst the elite institutions which serve as the halls of power for empire and the advancement of colonial global domination. IPI is the discreet and upper level arm of the United Nations specializing in “multilateral approaches to peace and security issues”, working closely with the UN Secretariat and membership which has specific regional programs in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. The IPI convenes “high-level panels” that focus on international affairs and armed conflicts in the international peace and security genre.

The IPI Vienna Seminar on Peacemaking and Peacekeeping is an annual event, held in Vienna, Austria since 1970. Notable documents from the 39th seminar (June 14-16, 2009) are the foreword, and preface for the paper “The UN Security Council and the Responsibility to Protect: Policy, Process, and Practice”.

March 1, 2011:

“The International Peace Institute (IPI) and the Diplomatic Academy Vienna have put together the first comprehensive analysis of the role of the UN Security Council in the ongoing process of implementing the responsibility to protect (RtoP).”

Authors of the paper include Susan E. Rice, former U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations and Gareth Evans, President Emeritus of the Brussels-based International Crisis Group and co-chair of the International Advisory Board of the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect.[Full bio].

International lawyer Rita Hauser chaired IPI for 23 years, stepping down in 2016. Hauser’s background is extensive. On December 23, 2009, former US President Barack Obama appointed Hauser to the President’s Intelligence Advisory Board while in 2001 Hauser was appointed by President George W. Bush to the President’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. Hauser is Chair of the Advisory Board of the International Crisis Group. In 2007, Hauser was elected to the Board of the Global Humanitarian Forum in Geneva, Switzerland, which was chaired by Kofi Annan. She has served as a director of many organizations including the RAND Corporation and the International Institute for Strategic Studies (London), as well as a former member of the Board of Advisers of the Middle East Institute. Hauser and her husband established The Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations at Harvard University, and she is Co-Chair of the Dean’s Advisory Board at Harvard Law School. She received the Award of the Women’s Leadership Summit at Harvard Law School in October 2008.[Full bio].

The modus operandi employed by “humanitarian NGOs” advocating for peace, security and “democracy”, falls somewhere between George Orwell’s euphemisms laid out in the 1949 publication 1984. Today we bear witness as “war is peace” dovetails with the term doublethink (“the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them.”) If we add in Jeremy Heiman’s New Power methods (see part 1), what we have is a world based more on fiction than reality. Aldous Huxley’s prophetic Brave New World written in 1931, almost pales in comparison to today’s blind servitude among the conditioned masses.

“Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again in new shapes of your own choosing.” —George  Orwell, 1984, published 1949

The following excerpt is from the IPI website. Published August 10, 2018, following the western-led failed coup attempt against Nicaragua:

“At the vanguard of Nicaragua’s uprising are the thousands of young protesters who have and continue to risk their lives. To them belongs the laurel for having exposed the path to dictatorship that, under a democratic veil, has been advancing in Nicaragua. The young protesters behind Nicaragua’s uprising do not belong to a political party, nor do they subscribe to any of the main political ideologies.”[Source]

It is important to highlight the very end of that statement: “[N]or do they subscribe to any of the main political ideologies.” Finally, a semblance of truth. The targeted youth, the 21st century sacrificial lambs for empire, are being socially engineered by entities such as Purpose and CANVAS (discussed further in this section) to organize not only against their own best interests, but in the interests of the ruling elites and global corporatocracy to which they will be further subjugated.

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The co-founder and executive director of Igarapé Institute is Ilona Szabó de Carvalho.  Carvalho’s bio is extensive. Since 2007 she has consulted with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the Development Assistance Committee (DAC), the UNDP, the EU, and several international non-governmental organizations (INGOs), conducting assessments across Latin America.

Co-founder Robert Muggah (Research Director and Program Coordinator for Citizen Security) has an extensive background consulting with the mainstream economic structures that impose financial dictates on the Global South, which are done in the best interests of profitability for multinational corporations and banks. “In 2010 he also co-founded the SecDev Foundation and Group – organizations devoted to cybersecurity and the digital economy, especially in the Middle East and Eurasia, and South Asia regions. He consults with governments, the UN, World Bank and firms ranging from Google to McKinsey” and “serves as a senior adviser to the Inter-American Development Bank, UN agencies, and the World Bank.” [Source] [Bio] [Emphasis added]

“In 2017, Igarapé’s research, analysis and commentary were featured in 7,647 news stories published in 107 countries and territories, effectively doubling the number from 2016 (3,206). Igarapé researchers produced 130 op-eds, published or reproduced in 275 media outlets around the globe. More than 1,500 stories appeared in the Brazilian media and nearly 2,500 stories were published in international news outlets… It also expanded its domestic and international profile through participation in 135 events, which included conferences, panels and lectures in 18 countries.” [Source: 2017 Igarapé Institute Activities Report]

To further illustrate the intermingling of the NGO network with these powerful entitites that comprise the global capitalist infrastructure, the  Igarapé Institute has given multiple keynote lectures at high-profile venues such as the World Economic Forum’s annual meeting in Davos and Dubai, TED and TED Global, and the UN General Assembly. The Igarapé’s research was featured in flagship publications of The Economist’s Intelligence Unit, the Organization for Economic Cooperation, the United Nations office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), and the World Bank. [Source: 2017 Igarapé Institute Activities Report]

The Igarapé Institute has an operating income of $BRL6,352,059.00 ($USD1,547,486.45). [Source] This “operating income” is a direct result of the influx of funding from Open Society Institute and USAID. Additional financial support comes from IPI and Jigsaw (Google). [Source: 2017 Igarapé Institute Activities Report]

The number of Igarapé partners is extensive and includes the Purpose project Movilizatorio, Open Society Foundations, the Brazilian Ministry of Defence, Inclusive Security, United States, and Amnesty International Brazil. [Full list]

The following observation is of critical importance. From the book Enabling Openness: The Future of the Information Society in Latin America and the Caribbean by  International Development Research Centre, Canada, it is observed:

“Through the research conducted by Instituto Igarapé we have analysed many examples that reflect a significant move towards this new form of policy making. Through the Open Empowerment Initiative (OEI) –a joint research project with the SecDev Foundation of Canada, aimed at understanding the effects of “cyber empowerment” on the reconfiguration of the social, political and economic spheres in Latin America– we have observed an ever bigger role played by the democratising potential of new technologies. These have allowed civil society actors to make their voices heard and to become involved in areas of public interest that were once the exclusive domain of the state, such as public security….

 

These types of websites include: change.org, gopetition.com, petition24.com and peticiones24.com, thepetitionsite.com, signon.org, elquintopoder.cl, avaaz.org, sumofus.org, causes.com, getup.org.au and twitition.com.” [Section 3, Smart data, digital inclusion and interactive democracy: Reflections on the use of ICTs to enhance citizen security in Latin America by Gustavo Macedo Diniz][Emphasis added]

Of interest and perhaps unknown to the author is that the bulk of these “social change” websites have been created by the same and select group of individuals that inhabit elite circles. Audience and spheres of influence are of paramount importance here since it is the foundation of whose interests is ultimately at stake. With this in mind, we can note that many of the websites  are exclusively  written in the English language (as opposed to Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, etc.) Yet this doesn’t appear to be a barrier to the desired changes sought by the think tanks. Ultimately, this begs the question of who the target audience truly is. However, this is changing as international NGOs now shift their focus to developing countries to spread their message among the indigenous youth residing in critical hot spots in the Global South, which mirrors the online “clitcktivism” rampant in the Western world and its indoctrinated youth.

To further explore this line of questioning, we can delve into the Operations Newsletter compiled by Mr. Jeff Harley US Army Space and Missile Defense Command Army Forces Strategic Command G39, Information Operations Division. [Vol. 12, no. 04, February 2012] The compilation includes an article describing the  December launch (2012) of the State Department’s “virtual embassy” for Tehran, essentially a standard U.S. embassy website without a physical embassy standing behind it – which could be duplicated for Syria and any other potential geopolitical targets in the future. Also highlighted is Muggah’s SecDev in Syria:

“It’s difficult to measure how much effect sites like the virtual embassy have, Anderson said, but ideally they can present a clearer vision of U.S. society, culture and policy than what’s portrayed in Iranian state media.

 

“It’s basically the hearts and minds things,” he said.

 

The Damascus embassy’s website could easily be transitioned into something like the Tehran website, Anderson said, but would be stymied by a lower level of tech savvy in Syria.

 

About 20 percent of Syrians are online compared with about 30 percent of Iranians, according to the OpenNet Initiative, a joint project by Harvard, the University of Toronto and the SecDev Group, a Canadian security and development company. Syrian Internet is significantly less developed and more regulated, though, according to ONI.

 

A more important diplomatic tool than maintaining the website, Anderson said, will be maintaining a U.S. presence in social media. Ambassador Ford’s Facebook chats, for instance, could be done just as easily from Washington as from Damascus and would reach a wider audience.” [Emphasis added]

On March 12 , 2018 a lecture titled The Rise of Citizen Security in the Americas by Robert Muggah was to be presented by the University of Calgary Latin America Research Centre (later cancelled). In the event description along with Muhggah’s extensive background, it reads:

“Latin American and Caribbean societies are among the most violent on earth. With some exceptions, the problem appears to be worsening. Why? There is not one, but several explanations that account for the steady increase in violent crime across the region. In addition to widespread impunity and jarring inequality, a major part of the problem is connected to repressive and punitive approaches to tackling criminality.” [Emphasis added]

This is a glaring representation of the obvious modern paternalistic aspects of the relationship between North America and South America. Latin American and Caribbean societies are not among the most violent on earth. Rather, they are among the most exploited. Exploited by the hands that feed the non-profit industrial complex and institutions that hide the cold hard fact that US imperialism and the capitalist economic system are both founded and dependent on violence.

Examples of Muggah’s extensive collection of hit pieces written to disparage the governments of Nicaragua and Venezuela that continue fight back against foreign interference include:

  • It’s really hard to say which city is the world’s most murderous [in Venezuela], February 27, 2016, published by Agence France-Presse
  • Venezuela is on the brink of civil war. Here’s how its neighbors could stop it, August 2, 2017, published by PRI
  • Nicaragua was one of Latin America’s least violent countries. Now it’s in a tailspin, July 19, 2018, published by LA Times
  • The only way out of Nicaragua’s violent crisis rests in Ortega’s hands, July 19, 2018, published by the Globe & Mail
  • My Turn: Robert Muggah: Ortega cracks down on his people, July 24, 2018, published by Providence Journal

 

SecDev

Joining SecDev co-founder Robert Muggah is SecDev CEO Rafal Rohozinski. Rohozinski is a founder and principal investigator of SecDev and OpenNet. He serves on the advisory Board of the Canadian Association for Defence and Security Industries (CADSI), and, the Canadian International Council (Canada’s foreign relations council). He is a senior fellow for cyber security and future conflict at the British think-tank International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS). IISS was rated as the tenth-best think tank worldwide and the second best Defense and National Security think tank globally in 2017 Global Go To Think Tank Index. IISS works with governments, defence ministries and global organisations including NATO and the European Union.

“New Frontier in Defense”, February 2, 2017, “Rafal Rohozinski speaks with NCAFP member Edythe Holbrook after the program”.The National Committee on American Foreign Policy, Inc. (NCAFP) was founded in 1974 … It is a nonprofit policy organization dedicated to the resolution of conflicts that threaten U.S. interests. Toward that end, the NCAFP identifies, articulates, and helps advance American foreign policy interests from a nonpartisan perspective within the framework of political realism”. [Source] [Emphasis added]

In January 25, 2018, the French philosopher and author, Dr. Lucien Cerise  observed the blurred lines between digital “phishing” and behavioural change achieved via social engineering in the paper The Social Engineering of Identitarian Conflict:

“According to the famous computer hacker Kevin Mitnick, social engineering is the art of deception; it is essentially about playing on the credulity of others to modify their behavior, which is also what “phishing” is all about. The fact that the apex is perceived with trust or indifference allows it to be seen, but not as the architect of conflict. It is a matter of “hiding in plain sight”, a “royal art” and technique used by prestidigitators, illusionists, esoteric societies, and secret services.”

This is exactly what think tanks in collaboration with NGOs, global institutions and media are now being able to achieve with increasing precision. It is doubtful that such engineering, global in scale, could be achieved outside the digital age.

Like Dixon of Purpose, Muggah created a Syrian based anti-Assad #AmennySyria through The SalamaTech project, an initiative of The SecDev Foundation:

“The 8-week campaign was launched on July 1, 2014 by SalamaTech in conjunction with several partner organisations.

The campaign has already reached more than 480,000 people on Facebook alone.

 

Digital safety matters in Syria. Syrian netizens are being captured, tortured and killed because of their online activities. This threat comes not just from the Assad regime. Armed groups like Jabhat al-Nusra and Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are also capturing and torturing people to access their online accounts. When a Syrian human rights defender (HRD) is captured, his or her entire network including friends and family, are exposed.”

The SalamaTech partners in its #AmennySyria “movement”, include Cyber Arabs ( a project of the Institute for War and Peace Reporting), Technicians for Freedom (now seemingly defunct), The Syrian Revolution Technical Guide (now seemingly defunct), The Office for Security Counseling of the Syrian Revolution (now largely inactive), and Orient News.[Source]

Another notable creation of SecDev is the digital awareness campaign, Salmatech Project which produced the Syrian project A Tale of Two Cities targeting the Canadian youth audience: “All Canadian participants in the Tale of Two Cities project will be required to undertake public speaking engagements within their schools or community groups, to share their new understandings… We are seeking Canadian partners – teachers, educators, donors – who would like to support the Tale of Two Cities effort.” [Source]

As the American left is besieged with the most intense Facebook censorship crackdown to date, consider the opposite set of rules for SalamaTech in the August 2014 “Special Report, A ‘Kingdom of Silence No More’: Facebook & the Syrian Revoltion”:

“Facebook has redefined community in Syria, both online and off. The communities that have emerged through social media provide a glimpse of what a post-Assad Syria might look like: diverse, divided and chaotic; but also empowered and connected – connected like never before, including across the sectarian and geographic barriers being increasingly erected by the war.”[Emphasis added]

Diverse, divided and chaotic; but also empowered and connected”… like Libya? From the most prosperous nation in Africa to an absolute failed state? It’s nothing less than tragic that the NATO-led invasion of Libya did not teach the West a thing about Western-backed regime change under the guise of “humanitarian intervention”.

“From the earliest days of the revolution, Facebook and YouTube served as indispensable platforms for Syrian non-violent activists to call for change and to organize. As Dlshad Othman states: “The internet has been central to the revolution in Syria. It brought us together. It taught us about our rights. It gave us freedom.” [p. 2][Emphasis added]

Here it is not only wise to ask the question as to who Dlshad Othman really is, in this modern day of NGO warfare, doing so is imperative. In 2012, Dlshad was chosen an Internet Freedom Fellow (one of six), a program funded by the U.S. State Department. Of interest is the fact that another chosen Internet Freedom Fellow, Andres Azpurua of Venezuela, was a RightsCon (Access Now) speaker in May of 2018 (“Information Controls in Latin America: Censorship in Different Layers and Nuances“)(information on RightsCon/Access Now follows.)

In a testament to the intermingling of modern day social media for neocolonial purposes of propaganda, the Twitter accounts utilized by SecDev foundation and SecDev Group follow affiliated organizations such as Citizen Lab, Global Voices, OpenNet Initiative, Freedom House, NED, US Embassy Syria, Rising Voices (Global Voices), Brookings, Rand, Global Citizen, Chatham House, Carnegie Endowment, Crisis Group, Igarapé Institute, the White Helmets, Omidyar Network, Skoll Foundatiom and Amnesty International Tech.

NGO Rebranding Exercises

As the Syrian Army (and her people) continues to defeat the seven-year long destabilization effort carried out by the most powerful military forces on Earth, The Syria Campaign (Purpose) saw fit to launch a new initiative (May 17, 2018) with a new branding strategy: Idlib Lives: The Untold Story of Heroes. Partnering with Peace Direct, the new PR campaign, peddled by the Guardian, included a new website, a new hashtag (#IdlibLives) and a new report bearing the same title.

Peace Direct US Board members includes Michael Ryder, former head of the UK’s Foreign Office’s Security Policy department, dealing with international defence and security, and Carolyn Makinson, former Executive Director of the International Rescue Committee. Staff are comprised of those affiliated with USAID, digital strategy and marketing firms, United Nations, etc. The UK division includes Eleanor Harrison, Chief Executive of GlobalGiving UK and patrons Scilla Elworthy. Elworthy assisted in the creation of The Elders Initiative (co-founded by Richard Branson) and acted as an advisor to Nelson Mandela, Desmond Tutu and Richard Branson. In 2002 she co-founded Peace Direct alongside Carolyn Hayman OBE. Other alliances include Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, HRH Prince El Hassan bin Talal of Jordan, and Dame Emma Kirkby. [Source]

May 26, 2018, The Guardian: Amid Syria’s horror, a new force emerges: the women of Idlib:

“Assad’s position was boosted last week when he finally achieved control of all areas around Damascus. The almost daily aerial bombardment of Idlib by Syrian and Russian forces is expected to be stepped up.

 

The regime has repeatedly used chemical weapons in Idlib. Despite this attrition, a new report, Idlib Lives – The Untold Story of Heroes, by the independent advocacy group the Syria Campaign and the international anti-war organisation Peace Direct [6]  paints an extraordinary picture of creative resilience and innovation in the teeth of appalling adversity – and at a time when the UN says international assistance and aid has fallen to critically low levels.”

The executive summary of the Idlib Lives report features extensive writings by Raed Fares, the Syrian face for the new campaign:

Raed Fares is the Syrian face for the new Purpose campaign

On November 6, 2015, Fares made an appearance at The Atlantic Council (a Washington think tank), where he was introduced by Ambassador Frederic Hof – former special advisor for transition in Syria to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the U.S. Department of State. [Source] A week prior to the Atlantic Council appearance, Fares met with US Congressman Ed Royce, Chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee.

Fares was a 2017 speaker for the Oslo Speaker Forum as was Srdja Popovic (CANVAS, Harvard, Otpor). He is the founder of “Radio Fresh”(the Kafranbel Media Center) which received funding from international groups including the Human Rights Foundation, and the U.S. State Department. [Source] Fares is also a speaker at the Arab Conference at Harvard (the largest pan-Arab conference in North America).

“In late 2011, Fares produced one that challenged Obama’s inaction and suggested the world would be better if George W. Bush were still president. ‘Obama’s procrastination kills us; we miss Bush’s audacity,'” — January 31, 2014, Raed Fares, Huffington Post

In the Dec 4, 2014 New York Time article Radio-free Syria, the reporter describes her interview with Fares in the back seat of an automobile with incredible candor, disclosing Fares dalliances with those directly aligned with the U.S. State Department:

“The two Americans in the front seat laughed. One, a 57-year-old named Jim Hake, is the founder and chief executive of Spirit of America, a nongovernmental organization with the explicit mission to support U.S. military and diplomatic efforts… The driver, Isaac Eagan, 33, is a U.S. Army veteran who works for Hake. Earlier that week, Fares had slipped over the Turkish-Syrian border to meet Hake and Eagan and collect 500 solar-powered and hand-crank radios that Spirit of America, working with the State Department, was giving to his radio station, Radio Fresh.”

Also undergoing a major re-branding exercise is the Purpose Syria Deeply which has been transformed into Peacebuilding Deeply.

Hacking Conflict

In 2015 a #HackingConflict #Diplohack Challenge was co-organized by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the NetherlandsThe SecDev Foundation (Canada) and the Canadian International Council. It was promoted in the following way: “The event will emphasize the political like-mindedness of Canada and the Netherlands in international affairs, and the vast potential for creative, political cooperation to solve difficult global challenges… Specific resources relevant to the conflicts in Syria and Ukraine – such as social media data streams – will be available for teams that choose to use them…. Please note that the #HackingConflict #DiploHack challenge will be by invitation only.” [Source] [Emphasis added]

The particpating groups that comprised the “Hacking Conflict Teams” submitted proposals, that included Disrupt the Chain: End Barrel Bombs in Syria and Chorus : Joining voices to combat sexual violence in Syria.

Under the banner Flash Notes from Syria, SecDev Foundation produces publications such as  Facebook Prison: Testimonies from Syria , A “Kingdom of Silence” No more: Facebook & The Syrian Revolution and A Risky Business: The Internet, Circumvention and Iran’s Digital Generation.

Cyber Dialogue

 “The [2014] Cyber Dialogue conference, presented by the Canada Centre for Global Security Studies at the Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto, convened an influential mix of global leaders from government, civil society, academia and private enterprise to participate in a series of facilitated public plenary conversations and working groups around cyberspace security and governance.” [Source]

Significant attendees among the cabal of participants from the 2011 Cyber Dialogue conference were Brett Soloman, [2] former campaign director for Avaaz and Purpose Action Board of Directors and co-founder of Access Now, as well as Ron Deibert and  Rafal Rohozinski from SecDev:

“Ron Deibert (PhD, University of British Columbia) is Associate Professor of Political Science, and Director of the Canada Centre for Global Security Studies and the Citizen Lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto. The Citizen Lab is an interdisciplinary research and development hothouse working at the intersection of the Internet, global security, and human rights. He is a co-founder and a principal investigator of the OpenNet Initiative and Information Warfare Monitor projects. Deibert was one of the founders and (former) VP of global policy and outreach for Psiphon Inc. and a founder of SecDev.cyber.” [Source] [Emphasis added]

 

“Rafal Rohozinski is one of Canada’s thought leaders in the field of cybersecurity. He is the founder and CEO of The SecDev Group and Psiphon Inc., and his work in information security spans two decades and 37 countries, including conflict zones in the CIS, the Middle East and Africa. In 2005-2006, Rafal served as an embedded Chief Technical Advisor to the Palestinian Authority. He is a senior scholar at the Canada Centre for Global Security Studies, Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto and previously served as director of the Advanced Network Research Group, Cambridge Security Program, University of Cambridge. He is a senior research advisor to the Citizen Lab, and together with Ronald Deibert, a founder and principal investigator of the Information Warfare Monitor and the OpenNet Initiative.” [Source] [Emphasis added]

Other 2011 participants included Rex Hughes, a cyber defence advisor to NATO, James P. Farwell,  consultant to the U.S. Department of Defense, Carl Gershman, President of the National Endowment for Democracy, and scores of representatives with military, state and “cyber defence” backgrounds. In addition, the far-reaching list of think tanks, NGOs and institutions included Open Society, USAID, Access Now, Freedom House, and National Defence Canada. [Full list of 2011 participants]

To illustrate the fact that this is an ongoing process of domination, we can look at a similar conference that took place in 2015. The RightsConocation conference took place in Asia (Manila) which is detailed in the following excerpt: “Hosted by Access Now, RightsCon is where the world’s business leaders, technologists, engineers, investors, activists, human rights experts, and government representatives come together to build partnerships, shape global norms, showcase new technologies, and confront the most challenging issues at the intersection of human rights and technology. More than an event, RightsCon is a global community with thousands of leading voices across stakeholder lines.” [Source]

Avaaz and the SecDev Foundation were key participants in a massive cast of those that today shape the world – and infiltrate our “hearts and minds”.

According to Avaaz’s Brett Solomon, Executive Director of Access who hosted the event:

“The conference is taking place at a time when governments, companies, technologists, and human rights activists are dealing with a range of pressing issues in the Southeast Asia region.  From Singapore to Malaysia, Myanmar to Hong Kong, Southeast Asia’s 600 million people are coming online rapidly, and its businesses and consumers are making innovative use of technologies to develop their economies and to expand activities online. This explosive growth has huge ramifications for human rights.”[Source]

The 2018 RightsCon event took place in Toronto, Canada with a speaker list so extensive, it is six pages long.

“Born out of the aftermath of the 2009 Iranian election, Access uses cutting edge technologies to help people living behind the firewall, provides thought leadership on the new frontier of digital rights and mobilizes a global citizens’ movement of 300,000 people in over 100 countries.” — Cyber Dialogue 2012 participant webpage

Open Empowerment Initiative: Latin America

The Open Empowerment Initiative (OEI) is a partnership between Muggah’s SecDev Foundation (Canada) and the Igarapé Institute (Brazil), which not coincidentally was also co-founded by Muggah. Its said mission is to “investigate how cyberspace is shaping citizen action and state-society relations in LatinAmerica. The third partner in this modern day NGO “axis of evil” is the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), a Canadian Crown corporation established by an act of Parliament in 1970 to help developing countries find solutions to their problems. Most of IDRC’s funding comes from annual appropriations from Canada’s Parliament. IDRC also receives funds from other sources, such as foundations and other Canadian and international organizations. [Source]

From the SecDev website, Open Empowerment Initiative: Latin America:

“The past twenty years have seen the greatest expansion of information in the history of humanity. We now create more information in two days than we did from the dawn of civilization. Two-thirds of humanity are now connected to the internet. There are more cell phones than people on the planet. Computing power doubles every 18 months. The cost of communication continues to fall.

 

We live in revolutionary times…

 

Institutions are under stress as digital natives — those born into a 24×7 online world — flex their political muscles. Empowerment in the wired world is not constrained by borders or convention.  Street protests in Brazil and the regional narco-economy share commonalities. They are made possible by friction free communication that enables coordination without hierarchy and lowers the barriers of entry into the global marketplace.” [Source] [Emphasis added]

As we have barely scratched the surface upon the matrix of allied NGOs, cyber firms, military institutions, think tanks, institutions, states and media, working  in tandem to remake the world in the image of the West, the following excerpt from the paper The Moment of Truth – A Portrait of the Fight For Hard Net Neutrality Regulation by Save the Internet and Other Internet Activists by Strand Consult, July 2016, sheds much needed light on the barren, manufactured “movements” of the 21st century:

“Activist causes could not be achieved without a significant investment in digital tools and technologies. This includes a database of users and associated marketing and communications technologies to engage the user bases. Activists organizations and political parties have been honing these tools over the last decade with regard to net neutrality. A 2006 article describes net neutrality as “the brainchild of the likes of Google and Amazon.com, which want to offer consumers things like high-speed movie downloads, but don’t want to pay the network operators a fee to ensure what in the industry is called “quality of service”– i.e. , ensuring the consumer gets what he pays for quickly and reliably.”  The article describes the founding of a “Data Warehouse” by Hillary Clinton political adviser Harold Ickes, a fundraising list service and data mining operation. The $11.5 million investment was supported primarily by Soros, Google and Amazon. Former Democratic National Committee Director of Engineering Nick Gaw explains in a video how the data warehousing function runs on Amazon Web Services to enable Democratic party members to be elected at local and national level and to mine the information of its voters. Gaw is now the Senior Technology Advisor for Avaaz.org, an online platform to conduct online activist campaigns including European campaigns against Brexit, Donald Trump, and Monsanto’s Glyphosate. The website notes some 44 million members. Avaaz was founded by Brett Solomon [3], now Executive Director of Access, a net neutrality advocacy…

 

With well-funded, globally coordinated, digitally sophisticated campaigns, SavetheInternet and related Internet activists have succeeded to deliver hard net neutrality regulations in some 50 countries. Internet activism is an industry; “digital prostitutes” who will lend their support to corporate-inspired causes are available for hire; and net neutrality activism has received hundreds of millions of dollars of support from corporate and foundation funders intent on protecting their financial portfolios and business models. US-based net neutrality activists franchise and broker their activism models and concepts to a variety of activist entrepreneurs around the world.” [Emphasis added]

[Also see the June 20, 2016 Disruptive Views review titled Moment of Truth – the fight for hard net neutrality regulation]

OpenNet Initiative was created as a collaborative partnership of the Citizen Lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Toronto, the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, and the SecDev Group in Ottawa. [Source]

Responsibility to Protect

From 2008 to 2015, More In Common (a Purpose project) co-founder Gemma Mortensen served as executive director of Crisis Action. The Deputy Executive Director for Crisis Action, Nicola Reindorp has contributed extensively to the Responsibility to Protect doctrine: “There, she led Oxfam’s global campaigning on conflict and humanitarian crises, working alongside allies in government and civil society to achieve the historic agreement by world leaders that they have a responsibility to protect populations from genocide and crimes against humanity, at the 2005 UN World Summit. From Oxfam, Nicola moved to set up the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect.” Prior to this, Reindorp was an advisor for Avaaz. [Source]

Nicola Reindorp of Avaaz, Jonathan Hutson of Enough, 2011: “The bishop presented an Avaaz petition to the Security Council with nearly half a million signatures, calling for Security Council members to take urgent action to halt ongoing human rights violations in South Kordofan and other parts of Sudan.”  [Source]

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[Crisis Action Who We Work With – Our Network, Crisis Action Who We Work With – Core Partners, Crisis Action Who We Work With – Campaign PartnersCrisis Action Who We Work With – Funders

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Prior to founding Avaaz, all co-founders of this organization share a vital common They all share a background working in one capacity or another for the United Nations. Over the decades they have only strengthened and utilized this relationship to serve the elite classes and empire as a whole.  A prime example of this relationship is Avaaz co-founder Tom Perriello, who worked as a legal adviser to the UN and related bodies in Sierra Leone, Darfur and Afghanistan and later became a US congressman helped into power by former US president Barack Obama. Another person of prominence is Avaaz co-founder Andrea Woodhouse, who formerly worked for both United Nations and the World Bank (where she continues today).

The following excerpt is from the journal article, Power of the iMob authored by Andrew Marshall, a media consultant and former journalist  who worked for Avaaz as a paid consultant in 2009.[Source: The World Today, Vol. 68, No. 3, April & May 2012 published by the Royal Institute of International Affairs]:

“Avaaz, ultimately the largest and most global of the dot-orgs, also came out of MoveOn and its alumni. Individual co-founders included Ricken Patel (Avaaz’s Canadian executive director); Tom Pravda, a former British diplomat; Tom Perriello, who had worked as a legal adviser to the UN and related bodies in Sierra Leone, Darfur and Afghanistan and later became a US congressman; Pariser, formerly of MoveOn; Andrea Woodhouse, formerly of the United Nations and the World Bank; and Australians Madden and Heimans. 38Degrees, the next in the family, was launched in May 2009 as a British parallel to GetUp! Founders included Ben Brandzel, formerly of MoveOn; Gemma Mortensen of Crisis Action; Paul Hilder, also of Avaaz; and Benedict Southworth of the World Development Movement. Most of these people had worked with government or international organisations abroad. Madden had served as an army officer, and worked for the World Bank in East Timor and the UN in Indonesia. Heimans had worked for McKinsey. Others had been with NGOs. Patel, for example, had been with International Crisis Group in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Sudan and Afghanistan. Several had been at elite academic institutions…

 

The dot-orgs are also growing up and moving beyond an online-only presence: indeed they would say that online was never the point. In Syria, Avaaz provided cameras and satellite communication gear to help the opposition to get its story out. This isn’t coincidence. Patel’s movement may for many people symbolise technology and geekdom, but Patel is much more interested in what technology can actually achieve. The organisation has for some years experimented with the use of new technologies to help activists communicate, broadcast, witness and report atrocities and bring in intervention” [Source]

This is most revelatory since this sentiment is not expressed by an outsider, but someone who has been immersed in the Non-Profit Industrial Complex.

The background into both Avaaz and Purpose has been documented extensively. Further reading of the 2012 investigative series is required reading for legitimate activists and movements in the global south.

Higher Learning : The Center for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies (Otpor)

Harvard’s Pied Piper: On Friday, April 13, Srdja Popovic officially became the 53rd Rector of the Scotland’s first university. (via St Andrews).

Part 4 of the 2017 investigative series on Avaaz analyses the role of Harvard University in global destabilization campaigns via the churching out of “activists”, “thought-leaders”, think tanks and doctrines at large. Of particular interest is Srdja Popovic, cofounder of Otpor, now rebranded as Center for Applied Nonviolent Action and Strategies (CANVAS) and his position at Harvard Kennedy School as Lead Instructor for the Harvard “executive education” program, Leading Nonviolent Movements for Social Progress.  Popovic leads the course with Otpor co-founder Slobodan Djinovic.

Djinovic established one of the first internet companies in Serbia (MediaWorks) which since merged with two other providers to form Orion Telekom where Djinovic serves as the CEO. [Source] Djinovic  is a counselor of the World Bank and a co-founder of the ICT Hub (information and communications technology, closed in 2008). According to the Financial Times: “Djinovic is a good-looking former basketball player with an MA in international relations from The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy in the US, and has a self-possessed, confident air. He founded Serbia’s first wireless internet provider and could be a Silicon Valley mogul if he wanted to, but instead he gives half of what he earns to keep Canvas afloat. (The other half comes from various NGOs and the UN.)”

OTPOR! Is the organization credited with the overthrow of  Serbian president Slobodan Milosevic in 2000 and has since played a leading and pivotal role in Western backed “coloured revolutions“.

“CANVAS  has welcomed interns from Harvard University since 2013.”— CANVAS website

Harvard is not alone. Popovic and his regime change squadron now engage with some of the world’s most prestigious universities, including  the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Johns Hopkins, Columbia University, Rutgers (NJ), Colorado College, University of Essex, Northeastern University, Grinnell College, Georgetown University, United States Air Force Academy, Belgrade University, Rutgers University, George Washington University, Syracuse University, University of Alabama, University of Virginia, University College London, Arcadia University, George Mason University, Bayerischer Rundfunk, University of Notre Dame, Yale University, St. Michael’s College, Loyola University, Watson University, Stanford University, University of California, Berkeley, Freie Universität Berlin, Universität Heidelberg, and University of Colorado Boulder. CANVAS courses and intern programs with many of the aforementioned universities are  ongoing.

“Akin to the Central London Hatchery and Conditioning Centre in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, today’s so-called environmental leaders and human rights activists are not (yet) genetically engineered, rather they are socially engineered experiments decanted from Harvard, Yale, Rockwood Leadership Institute and other institutions of indoctrination that serve and expand the global hegemony. One could theorize that today’s 21st century activism is a new process of mimesis – the millennial having assimilated into spectacle – far removed from both nature and reality.” — The Pygmalion Virus in Three Acts [2017 AVAAZ SERIES | PART II]

Amongst CANVAS’s partners are the Albert Einstein Institution, the Article 20 Network, New Tactics, Humanity in Action, Partners Global, the International Research & Exchanges Board (IREX), and Project Shield. Otpor/CANVAS funders/affiliates include National Endowment for Democracy (NED), Freedom House, US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the International Republican Institute (IRI).

On February 27th, 2012, WikiLeaks began publishing The Global Intelligence Files which consisted of over five million e-mails from the Texas headquartered “global intelligence” company Stratfor. Disclosed emails revealed that Popovic had an extremely close relationship with Stratfor. [Dec 3, 2013: Globally Renowned Activist Collaborated with Stratfor]

Twitter accounts followed by CANVAS (only 267 as of this writing, accessed August 25, 2018)  include the Avaaz NGO and Avaaz co-founder Ricken Patel (8th and 9th follows), Avaaz’s Emma Ruby-Sachs and Luis Morago, Purpose, Purpose Europe co-founder Tim Dixon, 350.org, and numerous Occupy accounts.

Srdja Popovic of CANVAS

Six-figure salaries and the ties that bind: Riga, Latvia, 2014: “Before Biko, Peter [Gabriel] brought onstage some special people working for human rights: Yvette Alberdingk-Thijm of Withness, Leif Coorllim of CNN Freedom Project, Jennifer Morgan of World Resources Institute, Emma Ruby Sachs [Deputy Director] of avaaz.org, Ellie Feinglass of  Namati Mozambique, and Srdja Popovic of CANVAS Serbia.” Peter Gabriel Back to the Front Tour [Source: TONY LEVIN’S WEBSITE AND ROAD DIARY]

Following in the footsteps of Avaaz co-founders Jeremy Heimans and Ricken Patel, in 2014 Popovic was listed as a “Young Global Leader” by the World Economic Forum in Davos. In 2011, Foreign Policy Magazine listed Popovic as one of the “top 100 Global Thinkers”(joining Avaaz co-founder Ricken Patel in 2012) for “inspiring the Arab Spring protesters”.

CANVAS: “Where We’ve Been”

On the CANVAS website, the “educational institution” documents governments being crushed by foreign/Western interference and ongoing destabilization efforts against targeted states such as the recent failed coup attempt against Nicaragua:

“#SOSNicaragua – Is the Ortega Murillo Dynasty Crumbling ? -The protests may have started in response to a social security system reform. What follows, however, will be determined by the population, fueled by repression, discontent, and poverty. A people that hasn’t been this fearless for 30 years. And as fake metal trees are falling to the ground, a population armed with social media is on the rise.” [Source]

VIDEO: New Power: How the West is Orchestrating Social Media to Capture Latin America. In this excerpt from an exclusive interview with Max Blumenthal (the Gray Zone), President Daniel Ortega describes the impact of the social media campaigns unleashed against the Sandinista Government in an attempted coup. [July 30, 2018]

 

“… but these retirees were barely out on the street when suddenly a hashtag came out called OCUPA INSS* which is the social security Institute building and that went viral internationally and suddenly we found ourselves confronted by this sort of embryo of a force through the social networks that was really quite powerful actually. And when the situation… because then the people came, you know people, young people who had been hearing this on the, through social media came down to the Social Security Institute building and they went into the building and many of these were really the supporters of the very same parties and governments that had been in power in the 17 years when the retirees were not getting any money if they hadn’t filled their entire quotas, and that was also the first time that the leaders of the Catholic Church, it got involved in a conflict of this nature…” —  President Daniel Ortega, Nicaragua 

[The @OccupaInss twitter account contains what could be said, the key architects of the destabilization movement (396 following, 15k followers, with 52, 274 “likes”on Facebook. Accessed August 24, 2018). The account follows three international NGOs. Two being Avaaz and Amnesty International (as well as Amnesty International Press – @Amnestypress ). Also followed is the US Treasury Department, the Organization of American States (OAS) (a colonial thorn in the side of Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua), the U.S. Department of State Spanish twitter account. The third international NGO followed is Bianca Jagger, President and Chief Executive of the Bianca Jagger of the Human Rights Foundation under the twitter account Bianca Jagger Nicaraguense por gracia de Dios with 69.5k followers.]

[For an accurate assessment on Nicaragua, one can read the TeleSUR article Nicaragua’s Sandinista Achievements Baffle World Bank, IMF, August 31, 2017]

CANVAS publishes weekly reports (the first published June 12, 2017) highlighting political hot zones and states targeted for regime change including Syria, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Myanmar, Maldives, and Cambodia.

Srdja Popovic twitter account

Commencing in 2018, states featured in the CANVAS spotlight include Cuba, Bolivia and Nicaragua (which has received highlighted weekly coverage since April 20, 2018). As this article is focused on the influx of NGOs in Latin America to meet Imperial objectives, it is critical to note that Cuba, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Venezuela represent the primary targets for destabilization in Latin America at this time. [See the CANVAS analysis on  Bolivia, Brazil and Venezuela.]

“On the level of a bottom-up approach, opposition leaders like María Corina Machado have advocated for popular protest and resistance as the best way to topple the Maduro government. This would require more than just street protests and would need to be an all-encompassing effort from all sectors of society.” — p. 35, CANVAS, Analysis on situation in Venezuela, August 2016

CANVAS states that regarding the Venezuela “uprising”, “the student movement was the primary group involved in the 2014 anti-government protests”. CANVAS acknowledges the protests contained “virtually no representation of the majority class in Venezuela”:

“However, although the opposition has used grassroots campaigning to gain the support of the poor in the past, they seem to be losing their sense of what the poor majority wants. This was evidenced most visibly in the 2014 protests, where the largely student-based middle class population marched, with virtually no representation of the majority class in Venezuela, the poor. This was because the opposition has chosen to advocate for changes unfamiliar and of less concern to the poor than more pressing issues like supply shortages, unemployment and rampant violent crime. However, the structure of the opposition and methodology is well developed, and would be instrumental in disrupting the regime, especially if they were to realign their goals with the poor in mind.” — p. 34, CANVAS, Analysis on situation in Venezuela, August 2016 [Emphasis added]

CANVAS is incorrect in its conclusions that the absence of the majority “was because the opposition has chosen to advocate for changes unfamiliar and of less concern to the poor than more pressing issues like supply shortages, unemployment and rampant violent crime.” The truth is that the Venezuelan majority, under attack for decades by the West, has developed a deep understanding of colonialism, imperialism and Western interventionism. A knowledge lost on most all Western society. The “pressing issues like supply shortages, unemployment and rampant violent crime” are recognized across Venezuelan society as the direct and deliberate destabilization efforts orchestrated by foreign interests.

Simultaneously, the Venezuelan youth targeted by CANVAS are those belonging to the middle/upper classes, who, indoctrinated by the false illusion of the American Dream, have a deep desire to be assimilated into the Western culture. The truth is that the majority of Venezuelans support the Maduro government, demonstrating remarkable, strength, courage and endurance to the relentless destabilization efforts orchestrated by the west, that continue to this day.

Video: Licking the Imperial Boot: The Ongoing Destabilization of Venezuela with Srdja Popovic:

 

Regarding Bolivia, CANVAS appears even more desperate.  The CANVAS analysis on Bolivia utilizes reports from Freedom House, Human Rights Watch, US Department of State and Amnesty international (all instruments of empire), to present its misleading arguments. As an example, the report states “…racism is rife in the country according to Freedom House, especially against indigenous groups” and yet in reality, almost the entire population in Bolivia is indigenous, including President Evo Morales himself.

Incredibly CANVAS tries to diminish this fact and frame it as a psyop against the Bolivian people, by lauding Andrés de Santa Cruz as the first true Indigenous president of Bolivia:

“The protest movement then also paved the way for Evo Morales’ Presidency. After losing his first Presidential race against De Lozado in 2001, Morales was elected President of Bolivia in late 2005, “on a wave of a popular and indigenous rebellion against neoliberal privatizations and for popular (Bolivian and indigenous) sovereignty”. He thus became what the country believed to be its first head of state of indigenous origin. This idea is, however, part of the very well managed propaganda created by the government around Morales’ image. He was not the first indigenous president of Bolivia; that title belongs to former president Andrés de Santa Cruz Calahumana. The political propaganda created to legitimize Morales’ image has taken advantage of Bolivia’s poor education system to repeat this lie enough times that it has become an accepted fact by the general public, and the few historians that have dared to challenge this idea have been silenced by state media.” — CANVAS, Bolivia, Country Anylsis, p 3

Santa Cruz, the president of Bolivia from 1829 – 1839, was born into a family of the colonial nobility. His Spaniard father, José Santa Cruz y Villavicencio, married Juana Basilia Calahumana, a heiress of a rich mestiza family said to be a descendant of the Incas. At the time of birth, Andres de Santa Cruz was classified in his baptismal certificate as Spanish, a term used in the colonies to refer to the white race. This is not to say that Santa Cruz did not play an integral part for Bolivia’s independence. It is only to say that the fact CANVAS highlights this historical background, which is a historical inaccuracy at best and a lie at worst, is a simple imperialist tactic to marginalize Morales’ achievements (not to mention the deliberate negating of ethnicity and class divisions).

Morales “image” as CANVAS calls it, is simply a reflection of the man with most humble origins. Born to an Aymara family of subsistence farmers, Morales was raised in the small rural village of Isallawi in Orinoca Canton. One of seven children, only he and two siblings, survived past childhood. [Source: The Extraordinary Rise of the First Indigenous President of Bolivia]

On January 10, 2018, CANVAS published the article Crumbling Democracy and Protest Movements in Evo Morales’ Bolivia:

“In the last week of 2017, CANVAS wrote about the rising tension in Honduras, after the November 2017 elections turned into a true stand-off. A little further south, in Bolivia, citizens also face an increasingly authoritarian government. As President Evo Morales tries to sideline the country’s constitution to assure himself of another term in office, Bolivian citizens are rising up to restore democracy in their Andean country, using nonviolence as one of their main weapons…

 

Finally, the nature of the protest-movement opposing the Morales-administration has also fundamentally changed. In the past, movements have backed particular individuals and their battle to facilitate Morales’ fall from the throne. But the Bolivian population has turned its eyes to younger generations looking for new leaders, with new developments mainly concentrated in the city of Santa Cruz. Currently, citizen platforms are organizing themselves in a singular, horizontal group of socially coordinated movements, which seek to “empower not any one individual but the message of struggle for democracy itself,” according to Vaca Daza.

 

In line with this new strategic direction, over 15 platforms and independent activists united themselves with a manifesto on December 29th. A broad coalition of student unions, female civic resistance groups, health workers, environmental groups and democracy activists pledged to build on the active and interventionist tactics of nonviolent resistance to “resist the tyranny” and called on fellow citizens to join them in making their voice heard. CANVAS will be following the developments in Bolivia closely!”[Emphasis added]

Note that CANVAS inadvertently points to the new hub of “activism” as being “mainly concentrated in the city of Santa Cruz.” CANVAS omits the fact that 1) Santa Cruz, has long been known as home to the powerful economic elite, right-wing political organizations, and 2) the racism Otpor utilizes for its own unjust cause, stems from the “light-skinned” Santa Cruz populace: “Racism is not admissible in the world in the 21st century, but it must be known that it is being promoted in Bolivia by sectors of the population which are economically powerful. These groups, today settled in the region of Santa Cruz, many of them offspring of immigrants from Europe, Asia and the Middle East have appropriated the indigenous identity of Santa Cruz, known as “camba” and this is being used to show racial supremacy over the “colla” and “chapaco” (indigenous people of the West and South of Bolivia)… This discourse, which is being used to paint both the President and the process of political change as a force for ill, has created an atmosphere which is intended to breed conditions for social and racial violence towards Bolivia’s indigenous and working classes.” [Source]

This type of tactic is what we have previously witnessed in various regions when it comes to Western NGOs and media forces. They exploit existing societal fractures in order to provoke violent conflict for various political and economic gains. Where fractures don’t exist, they are created. If ever there is evidence of what it looks like – to seize and utilize existing hate, racism and divisions within the confines of a state – for geopolitical gain, a key methodology that CANVAS is exploiting to its fullest, one needs to look no further than the 2014 coup in Ukraine: “Ukraine on Fire by Igor Lopatonok (Executive producer Oliver Stone) provides a historical perspective for the deep divisions in the region which led to the 2004 Orange Revolution, 2014 uprisings, and the violent overthrow of democratically elected Yanukovych. Covered by Western media as a people’s revolution, it was in fact a coup d’état scripted and staged by nationalist groups and the U.S. State Department. Investigative journalist Robert Parry reveals how U.S.-funded political NGOs and media companies have emerged since the 80s replacing the CIA in promoting America’s geopolitical agenda abroad.”

 

In 2014 CANVAS was listed as a terrorist organization by the United Arab Emirates: “Reasons for the inclusion of Serbian non-profit CANVAS is widely understood around the region. Last December, the Kuwaiti National Security Agency released a social media video explaining the role of CANVAS in promoting dissent in the state. Furthermore, security agencies in the region are closely monitoring members and affiliates of the group, however no official stance has been taken until now.” [Source]

Yet, as old as Otpor may be, rebranded and repackaged under the sophisticated pretext of academia, CANVAS  is just getting started. CANVAS has launched BUILD A MOVEMENT (BAM):

“(BAM) is a non-profit, non-governmental organization dedicated to researching and spreading knowledge on the methods of nonviolent, grassroots activism to promote democracy, human rights and social change.

 

On the ground with activists, on university campuses, with policy-makers or in the media, Build A Movement aims to strengthen the capacity of people-power movements and civil society around the world, not only to challenge authoritarianism and injustice, but to ensure durable transitions to democracy…

Over the past decade, BAM staff and trainers have worked in dozens of countries, including Venezuela, Syria, Ukraine, Cambodia, Burma, Zimbabwe, and Egypt, and trained thousands of activists fighting for democracy, transparency, accountability, human rights, women’s rights, LGBT rights, environmental protection, racial justice and social justice. BAM instructors have also taught courses at U.S. universities such as the Harvard Kennedy School and New York University.

 

Beyond training, BAM supports front line activists by developing educational material on movement building and technological tools to evade surveillance, censorship and harassment.” [Source]

+++

When a Western society collectively celebrates an African leader beloved by his people (including Nelson Mandela)being sodomized and murdered, only to then mourn the death of a war criminal, the society is not only grounded in ignorance, it is collectively, ethically and morally bankrupt. All the so-called “higher education” in the world will not make this fact any less so. Our so called “environmental NGOs” purport to “fight for the climate” and “save the bees” all while playing key roles in the annihilation of whole countries, complete with all the biology and life they formerly encompassed. Simultaneously “human rights NGOs”, sitting at the table with the world’s most imperial institutions, create the acquiescence needed to bomb countries to smithereens, inclusive of the women and children that live in them, while Yemenis, Palestinians, Congolese and Haitians are ignored with not a trace of outcry to be found. The fact that Purpose and The Rules co-founder Tim Dixon, enjoys reading Ronald Reagan biographies in his spare time, yet is upheld as a radical leader of social movements, reveals more about the left and it’s “movements” than can ever be articulated in this report. Welcome to the 21st century non-profit industrial spectacle.

+++

And finally, we come full circle, back to the technology that will further serve Western interventionism: enter the Whistler cell phone app.

The CANVAS WHISTLER Mobile Application

“BAM is now expanding in the digital realm, providing digital security training and developing Whistler, a mobile application designed to enhance the digital and physical safety of activists.” — Tech Nonprofit Directory

In partnership with PartnersGlobal (“Together For Democratic Change”), Jigsaw (Syria Defection Tracker), Wickr Foundation, Build a Movement (CANVAS) and National Democratic Institute, CANVAS has launched the “Whistler” app for “activism”.

Jigsaw is the relatively new name of Google Ideas (rebranded in 2016) which came under scrutiny for its links with the US State Department and its regime change activities. It is a tech incubator created by Google, and currently operated as a subsidiary of Alphabet which was created in 2015 to serve as the parent company of Google.

Jared Cohen is the founder and CEO of Jigsaw (as well as the former founder and director of Google Ideas). Cohen is firmly established in the crème de la crème of the upper echelon having served on the Policy Planning Committee at the US State Department for both the Obama and Bush administrations (“state department innovator”), as well as an advisor to both Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton. He is also recognized as an Adjunct Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. [Source] Cohen is also the co-founder of Movements.org. (the Alliance for Youth Movements rebranded in 2011) – an NGO “created to help online organization of groups and individuals to move democracy in stubborn nations”. Movements.org is funded through  public-private partnerships with the US State Department as the organization’s public sponsor.” [Source]

“This is the beauty of the new media. There is no way to control it.”— Srdja Popovic

Popovic states there is no way to control the “new media” (another take on New Power). What this really means, is that the non-submissive governments targeted for destabilization have no way of controlling what Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega described this past month in the failed coup attempt as an “embryo of a force”. CANVAS et al instigate the momentum, then capture it, effectively orchestrating the uprisings out of both mind and sight. The momentum of the people, manipulated by the elite forces, become the agents of their own cataclysmic decent into the neoliberal noose of imperial servitude.

In 2013 Google Ideas hosted the “Conflict in a Connected World Roundtable Series”, in partnership with the Council on Foreign Relations’ Center of Preventative Action. One can see from the summary report that the main focus of the series is the role of social media in destabilization campaigns:

“Regardless of any changes to future sanctions regimes, the importance of social media in the conflict is already enormous. In particular, the Syrian civil war has been understood by foreigners almost exclusively through the lens of social media. With limited ability for journalists to enter the country, the world has watched the evolution of the conflict on sites like Facebook and YouTube, where literally hundreds of thousands of amateur videos have been uploaded since the war began.” [Source]

People’s Intelligence

Whistler is not alone in its quest to dominate technologies’ relatively new foray into “activism”.

“USAID, Humanity United and OpenIDEO have partnered to pursue ways to prevent mass atrocities – that is, deliberate mass violence against civilians.” — The challenge, OpenIDEO website

OpenIDEO informs that “[t]oday, 1.5 billion people are living in countries affected by violent conflict. And since 1945, 67% of mass atrocities have occurred within the context of armed conflict, which makes these areas difficult to access.” What it omits is the fact that almost all large scale violence to humans on this Earth is caused by imperialism, colonialism and the capitalist industrial economy. Foreign interference ensures all three are kept alive and thriving.

Answering this challenge, apparently inspired by Avaaz, is People’s Intelligence.

“People’s Intelligence is an “Alert” winner of Tech Challenge for Atrocity Prevention sponsored by Humanity United and USAID.”

In September 2013, with the authorization of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, the non-profit foundation Stichting People’s Intelligence was established to develop and implement the People’s Intelligence mobile application. The application “automates the collection of relevant human rights and humanitarian information from hard to access areas using crowdsourcing and “dumb” mobile phones.”

The application is in its demo stage and can be found here.

“We welcome your hard earned currencies as well as your time and skills. In the first phases of the project you can help us design and develop PI version 1.0 to be deployed in countries where human rights need defending and humanitarian crises unfold.” — PI website

The founder of People’s Intelligence is Christophe Billen who began his career as an intern for the UN in Haiti during the crisis which removed Aristide from power in 2004. Billen has a lengthy background in security having worked as a Political Affairs officer for the United Nations in many field offices in areas of conflict (i.e foreign interference) for the United Nations MONUC (Ituri, Mahagi, Kwandroma and then Aru). He was  also “appointed to head the Lord’s Resistance Army coordination cell which monitored LRA’s activities and coordinated the responses of the UN peacekeeping mission in the Sudan and the D.R. Congo.” Billet worked as a consultant for Open Society Foundations where his work informed the design for the “People’s Intelligence” concept. [Source: LinkedIn] He now works as analyst for the International Criminal Court where he oversaw a unit “which monitored and analysed occurrences of crimes across several countries including Afghanistan, Colombia, Cote d’Ivoire, Georgia, LRA affected areas, D.R. Congo and Libya.”

 “The main beneficiaries will be the victims and witnesses who will have their voices heard and receive actionable information in return for quality information as well as partnering organizations who will become better informed and equipped to decide where to allocate resources and coordinate their efforts.”PI website [Emphasis added]

People’s Intelligence has partnered with Amnesty International, the Liberia Peacekeeping Office, Universiteit Leiden, Participatory Systems and Free Press Unlimited. It is funded by HIF, elrha and USAID. [Source] The advisory board includes United Nations, Human Rights Watch, Open Society Justice Initiative, Amnesty International and the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative. [Full list]

Amnesty International has signed a letter of intent that “once PI reaches operational maturity and conforms to Amnesty’s needs and requirements to make use of it in pursuit of their mandate.” [Source]

+++

As the Earth’s final remaining resources continue to be depleted at an accelerated rate, as Imperial powers fight to exercise global domination, those living in geopolitical hot zones, can expect the West and it’s bourgeoisie army of  “young leaders” to orchestrate the installation of “democracy” forcefully and strategically driven in to the very fabric of their sovereign nations. In-between Ted Talks, high level meetings at the UN, university lectures, and Starbuck lattes, the Harvard hit squad will carry out their marching orders dressed in Armani suits.

The options for outmaneuvering the tried and true methods of subjugation are limited. You can 1) run for your life  2) target those who bank on your naïveté and have sold you down the river with no systemic change 3) do nothing and be crushed by imperial forces and 4) organize like your life depended on it. Number one is not a good option since there is nowhere to run. Number two is affirmative action without freedom and self-determination. Number three means certain oppression. Number four is the only salvation.

It is not for those of us in the West to decide what options or measures are taken, this must only be afforded to those who will bear the consequences of each and every action – that is the citizens that comprise the homeland of the targeted state. What we are speaking of is self-determination. A simple moral code that colonial agents of empire are unable to grasp, and unwilling to accept.

+++

As we reach the conclusion of this report, it is vital to make clear that this analysis is not in any way suggesting “that nonviolent resistance should not have a central role in any revolutionary struggles for social change, only that the twisted imperial-friendly narrative of nonviolence promoted by such individuals should be treated with extreme caution by all activists who wish to avoid being oppressed by US backed dictatorships or their latest equally toxic  manifestation, US managed ‘democracies.” [CANVAS[ing] For The Nonviolent Propaganda Offensive: Propaganda In The Service Of Imperial Projects, March 26, 2011]

+++

Che Guevara, First Latin American Youth Congress, July 28, 1960:

“There are government leaders here in Latin America who still advise us to lick the hand that wants to hit us, and spit on the one that wants to help us. [Applause] We answer these government leaders who, in the middle of the twentieth century, recommend bowing our heads. We say, first of all, that Cuba does not bow down before anyone…

“We, who belong to the Cuban Revolution-who are the entire people of Cuba-call our friends friends, and our enemies enemies. We don’t allow halfway terms: someone’s either a friend or an enemy. [Applause] We, the people of Cuba, don’t tell any nation on earth what they should do with the International Monetary Fund,for example. But we will not tolerate them coming to tell us what to do. We know what has to be done. If they want to do what we’d do good; if not, that’s up to them. But we will not tolerate anyone telling us what to do. Because we were here on our own up to the last moment, awaiting the direct aggression of the mightiest power in the capitalist world, and we did not ask help from anyone. We were prepared, together with our people, to resist up to the final consequences of our rebel spirit.”

 

Endnotes:

[1] Other reviewers included Helen King ( Shuttleworth Foundation), Paul Maassen (Hivos), Sascha Meinrath (IndyMedia, founder of Open Technology Institute), and Russell Southwood (CEO of Balancing Act Africa).

[2] Brett Solomon is the cofounder and Executive Director of Access—a non-profit human rights organization focused on digital freedom (formerly Access Now). Access’ mission is to ensure open global internet access and an uncensored and secure digital sphere by working to create a world where citizens can be active participants in their future by freely seeking, receiving and imparting information digitally. Prior to Access, he was the Campaign Director at Avaaz.org, and before that, the first Executive Director of GetUp!. He holds a Bachelors of Law at the University of Sydney and a Masters in International Law at the University of NSW. He founded the International Youth Parliament and has worked for both Oxfam Australia and Amnesty International Australia.” [Source]

[3] According to our research Brett Solomon was the campaign director for Avaaz from 2008 -2009.

 

[Cory Morningstar is an independent investigative journalist, writer and environmental activist, focusing on global ecological collapse and political analysis of the non-profit industrial complex. She resides in Canada. Her recent writings can be found on Wrong Kind of GreenThe Art of Annihilation, and Counterpunch. Her writing has also been published by Bolivia Rising and Cambio, the official newspaper of the Plurinational State of Bolivia. You can follow her on twitter @elleprovocateur]

[Forrest Palmer is an electrical engineer residing in Texas.  He is a part-time blogger and writer and can be found on Facebook. You may reach him at forrest_palmer@yahoo.com.]

LISTEN: Trade Union Leader Exposes What the Media Won’t About the Latest US-backed Coup Attempt in Latin America

The Canary

August 10, 2018

 

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Ahigh-level trade union leader has spoken out exclusively to The Canary, saying what the mainstream media won’t about the latest US-backed coup attempt in Latin America.

Fighting back against media bias over the “coup attempt” in Nicaragua

Nicaragua has been in the news recently because of what the country’s president has described as a “coup attempt” backed by Washington. But most international coverage of events has consistently failed to tell the whole story, showing heavy bias against the current Nicaraguan government. A number of academics, journalists and activists recently accused the Guardian, for example, of “wildly inaccurate coverage”.

International organisations with strong links to Washington, meanwhile, have even boasted of “laying the groundwork for insurrection” against Nicaragua’s left-of-centre government. And they stand accused of manipulating the country’s recent death toll to justify a push for regime change and sanctions. The aim has apparently been to create a misleading image of an authoritarian government mowing down peaceful protesters. The truth is much more complex – with similar casualties reported among both pro-government and anti-government ranks, and the latter being egged on by the US hard right.

In this context, The Canary reached out to José Antonio Zepeda – the leader of the main teachers’ union in Nicaragua (CGTEN-ANDEN) and vice-coordinator of Nicaragua’s union federation (FNT). And he gave us a perspective that people in the English-speaking world are unlikely to get from mainstream media outlets. In particular, he slammed international organisations, media outlets, and politicians for taking sides in Nicaragua’s recent conflict, and insisted:

We’ve lived through foreign intervention in the past. That’s not the solution. The solution is for us to understand each other, communicate, and make peace – a lasting peace based on development and justice.

You can read the full interview below.

Why do trade unions back the current government?

As well as being a union leader, Zepeda is a member of Nicaragua’s national assembly for the governing Sandinista Front (FSLN). And he explained:

The most important thing for us is that the government gives a space to different sectors. And that’s why you find teachers, agricultural workers, health workers, and self-employed people in the national assembly. Unions, women, farmers, and cooperatives have all assumed the responsibility of working for their country’s economic, social, and political development.

 

For us, this is our government. We defend it because we believe in free, public, quality education and healthcare for all. There’s also a policy of rural development – financing and support, like with education and healthcare, to help produce more food. As workers and sectors, we have determined that the government’s policies have one key purpose – to end poverty.

 

In the government, we have representation. We see the politics we’ve been advocating for a long time. We have seen the opportunities that consensus, dialogue, and alliances provide. And we believe fundamentally that the government has shown its willingness to listen. That’s very important – so that the different sectors can all raise our voices and have them heard. Full union freedom is another important element.

 

We will continue to support the government and the revolution in order to keep building alternatives to escape the poverty that previous neoliberal policies forced upon us and in which workers had no alternatives. Today, we have options – we have alternatives – and we have the space to build them.

Media coverage of violence in Nicaragua

Regarding biased coverage from the international media of the recent violence, Zepeda spoke of a “media war” against Nicaragua. And he said:

Social media and national establishment media have been preparing conditions for a coup for a long time. The opposition created virtual realities, which didn’t exist on the ground. And the national and international media – with their vested interests – reproduced these images. They created the image of an ungovernable country.

 

And it’s not the first time. It’s not just Nicaragua. Remember when the media reported that Iraq had WMDs and it had to be invaded, but no WMDs turned up? Then Israel murders Palestinian kids, and nothing happens. And they try to justify it.

One independent study in Nicaragua accuses partisan local groups of conflating all deaths since April (including accidents and the murder of government supporters) with killings by pro-government forces. And international media and political elites have been quick to take advantage of this misleading impression. In reality, the independent report claims, 60 pro-government citizens and 59 anti-government citizens died between 19 April and 25 June.

Whose human rights?

International human rights groups – from Human Rights Watch to Amnesty International – have been critical of the Nicaraguan government’s actions in recent months. But it appears that there’s been little mention of casualties among pro-government ranks. And this is a topic Zepeda spoke about passionately:

Human rights are important. But the problem comes when people manipulate the term to cover up perverse actions against governments that are trying to bring progress.

 

When we talk about rights, we should ask: ‘which rights?’ In Nicaragua, the product of this coup is that private businesses have fired more than 50,000 workers. So I ask you – are workers’ rights not human rights? Who criticises businesses for threatening to fire over 250,000 workers if the government doesn’t do what they want?

 

And what about the coup plotters who have been using a strategy of terror, kidnapping, and murder against Sandinistas, police officers, and ordinary citizens who don’t think the same way as them? The opposition killed three of our teachers. Who defends the families, the children, of those teachers – murdered by people who are supposedly ‘peaceful’? They also kidnapped 14 other teachers. Who defends the right to education, the right of peace for children, respect for life?

 

There’s been a media campaign to say that all the deaths here have been at the hands of the government – including the ones the opposition murdered, burned, and humiliated. I think this is the hypocrisy of all these organisations committed only to private interests or those of the imperialist master.

Resolving Nicaragua’s conflict

Zepeda clarified:

I’m not trying to say ‘an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth’. What I’m trying to say is that these organisations talking about human rights are speaking in a biased way. They’re clearly not trying to deepen and promote respect. Instead, they take sides, they decide, they judge, they accuse, and they pass down sentences. That’s why we find it difficult to see objectivity in their approach.

 

We have insisted on respect for institutions, laws, procedures, dialogue, consensus – they’re the mechanism for resolving the conflict. There are always differences and problems in societies. We need to know how to understand each other to solve them. And we can only do that through dialogue and communication.

 

There’s a sector of the business community and political community which is allied with and financed by sinister forces and politicians in the US, who have a view of us as their backyard. But we’ve lived through foreign intervention in the past. That’s not the solution. The solution is for us to understand each other, communicate, and make peace – a lasting peace based on development and justice.

 

Reconciliation isn’t tolerance. It’s about understanding that we’re in the same country, that we can have different points of view, but that in the end we all have the common strategic aim of making Nicaragua grow. The people who still have resentment in their hearts will have to open up. They’ll have to understand that Sandinistas and non-Sandinistas share this country, live together, and have to build our homeland up together. People are free to go elsewhere if they don’t like it here, but that’s not the answer. The fundamental thing is to understand that everyone plays an important role in this society.

Solidarity and respect

Zepeda also insisted on the importance of international solidarity and respect:

We aspire to and dream of peace. We’re going to make it possible for Nicaragua to get back on track. And we hope the international community learns to respect us. We may not be a big, developed country with a large economy or a powerful army, but there’s no reason to humiliate us. We’re the same as you – the small countries and the big countries. We have the right to be treated with respect – as equals. The international community should not be driven by powerful vested interests.

 

The important thing is solidarity. When you most need support is when the presence of friendship is most important. This can also make you reflect and question where you can improve – but in a supportive fashion. Because solidarity isn’t about interfering in the affairs of a sovereign nation. It’s about expressing support in both good and bad moments. And in recent weeks and months, friends have been asking for information, explanations and clarifications. That’s very important. International solidarity has played a key role in fighting back against the disinformation and the media war against us.

Question everything you hear. Because there’s always an agenda.

Pro-government and anti-government forces both inside and outside of Nicaragua have very different takes on recent events. But you won’t see Zepeda’s words in the international media any time soon – because the press establishment has clearly sided with Nicaragua’s opposition. And this has made life a lot easier for powerful forces in the US and elsewhere that are looking to get rid of governments (like Nicaragua’s) which assert their independence and take a stand against neoliberalism.

Across Latin America, and the world, there are serious human rights issues. In Colombia and Mexico, for example, there are long-running humanitarian crises in which hundreds of thousands of people have died. But because the governments of these countries have not asserted economic and political independence from the US, there have been no high-profile international campaigns to overthrow their governments. Whenever governments have challenged the economic and political status quo, however, governments have been overthrown – almost always with US support. Washington has long used covert CIA operations to exert its influence abroad, supporting numerous coups and brutal right-wing dictatorships. And in recent years, this agenda has played out in ParaguayHondurasBrazil, and (so far unsuccessfully) Venezuela.

No government is perfect. And no country is perfect. But by failing to give objective coverage of crises in countries targeted for intervention by the US, the international media is (intentionally or not) playing into this regime-change agenda. By doing so, they don’t only do their readers a disservice – they also fail to serve the innocent civilians who get caught in the middle every time imperialism rears its ugly head.

To fight back, we must always ask for both sides of the story. And we must always question the agenda of the people providing us with information.

We deserve better. So we must demand better.

 

 

[Ed Sykes (pseudonym) is Global Editor and Sub-Editor at The Canary.]

Nicaragua Defeats The Not-So-Soft Coup

Tortilla Con Sal 

July 17, 2018

***A timeline of the attempted destabilization of Nicaragua follows this article.***

A massive rally on July 19th celebrated of the coup’s defeat and a categorical vindication of President Daniel Ortega’s Sandinista government’s efforts for peace in Nicaragua.

Nicaraguans celebrate 39th Anniversary of the 1979 Nicaraguan Revolution in Managua, July 2018.
Source Redvolution.

“Nicaragua’s president calls Catholic Church ‘allies of coup mongers’. Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega arrives at the Juan Pablo II plaza to celebrate the 39th anniversary of the Sandinista revolution, in Managua, Nicaragua, Thursday, July 19, 2018. (Credit: Alfredo Zuniga/AP.)” [Source: Crux]

Video with aerial views of the July 19th celebration in Managua.

July 17, 2018:

On July 19, hundreds of thousands of people from across Nicaragua will converge on the capital Managua to celebrate the 39th anniversary of their historic 1979 defeat of the Somoza dictatorship. The event takes place as the authorities continue to liberate communities blockaded by roadblocks operated by armed opposition activists whose not-so-soft coup attempt against the Sandinista government, begun on April 18, has failed. Ever since April 21, when President Daniel Ortega called for a process of National Dialogue to peacefully resolve opposition demands, Nicaragua’s political opposition and their allies have worked to sabotage talks for a negotiated solution. They have regularly staged extremely violent provocations falsely seeking to portray the government as being wholly responsible for the crisis and demanding President Ortega’s resignation.

Early in July, the opposition reneged on an agreement to dismantle the roadblocks their armed supporters have used since late April to try to destroy the country’s economy and intimidate the general population. On July 9, the government declared it would no longer permit the opposition to abuse the population’s basic rights to peace and security, stating: “Faced with the daily suffering imposed on Nicaragua’s families, who since April 18 have suffered violence from terrorists who have murdered, tortured and kidnapped hundreds of citizens, the same terrorists that have burned and destroyed hundreds of families’ homes, public buildings, small- and medium-sized businesses, such that the state is bound to act in accordance with the law to guarantee the right of its citizens to live in peace, with security and respect for the human rights enshrined in our political constitution, in the charters of international organizations and in human rights conventions.”

July 20, 2018 interview With Human Rights Lawyer Dan Kovalik in Nicaragua:

 

Opposition Violence

Subsequently, Nicaragua’s national police have worked with local communities around the country to clear the opposition roadblocks. In Jinotepe, they set free hundreds of trucks and their drivers held hostage by opposition gangs for over a month. In many places, it has been possible to negotiate agreements to remove the roadblocks peacefully. Elsewhere, the process has involved violence and casualties provoked by very well-armed activists and associated paid criminals resisting the authorities’ efforts to restore freedom of movement. On July 13 in Managua, two opposition activists were killed during the clearance of blockades in and around the National Autonomous University.

Elsewhere, on July 12, opposition activists from roadblocks operated by Francisca Ramirez and Medardo Mairena’s anti-Canal movement infiltrated an opposition peace march in the town of Morrito, on the eastern shore of Lake Nicaragua, on the highway to the Rio San Juan. They attacked a police post and the local municipal office, murdering four police officers and a primary school teacher, wounding four municipal workers and kidnapping nine police officers. Subsequently, that evening the police officers were set free, six of them with injuries.

Tortured & Murdered

In Masaya, opposition activists tortured, murdered and burned police officer Gabriel Vado Ruiz and would have done the same to another police officer, Rodrigo Barrios Flores, had he not escaped from his captors after enduring two days of torture and abuse. Although the extreme violence of the armed opposition activists has been responsible directly and indirectly for almost all the loss of life and injuries during the crisis, international news media and human rights organizations continue to falsely blame the government for virtually all the deaths and people injured. Amnesty International and fellow coup apologists such as Bianca Jagger and SOS Nicaragua, along with their allies in corporate media such as the Guardian, Telegraph, Washington Post, New York Times, Al Jazeera, CNN,  BBC, all cover up very serious human rights violations by the opposition activists during the failed attempted coup against Nicaragua’s legitimate government.

However, abundant audiovisual and photographic material exists providing irrefutable evidence of systematic human rights violations practiced by Nicaragua’s political opposition. From the the start, on April 18, the armed opposition offensive has manipulated legitimate peaceful protest so as to give cover to a very deliberate campaign of violence and deceit, promoting a climate of fear and casting blame on the government so as to create a psychosis of hatred, polarizing Nicaraguan society. The campaign’s objective is to make impossible a negotiated solution to the crisis provoked by the political opposition. Over the weekend of July 13-15, events in Nicaragua showed how refined the techniques of psychological warfare have become.

Misrepresenting & Exaggerating

The political opposition have used social media to misrepresent and exaggerate events, create incidents that never happened and obliterate their own criminal terrorist attacks. For example, the crisis in Nicaragua began with a fake ‘student massacre’ that never took place. Now Nicaragua’s opposition have faked attacks on a church in Managua, exaggerated casualties during the clearance of opposition thugs from the national university and covered up their own deliberate murders of police in Morrito and Masaya, as well as their gratuitous attacks on peaceful Sandinista demonstrators. In the national university, the opposition gangs also set fire to a classroom module and destroyed a preschool facility on the university campus.

Right from the start of the crisis, the opposition have expertly staged phony scenes of students taking cover from gunfire and used those images to justify their own savage attacks, like those in which they burned down pro-government Nuevo Radio Ya and CARUNA, the rural cooperatives’ savings and loan institution. Photographs show opposition journalists and photographers filming opposition activists pretending to be attacked, but despite the obvious fakery, those false stories get published uncritically in international corporate and alternative media. Nicaragua provides a textbook case study bearing out the work of analysts such as Cuba’s Randy Falcon, who has emphasized how new technologies exponentially multiply the digital reproduction of longstanding conventional propaganda motifs.

Propaganda Ploys

In Nicaragua, the government has in several cases negotiated agreements to clear armed opposition roadblocks, only to find that the opposition refuse to honor the agreements. The extremist political opposition are desperate to keep up their violence so as to sabotage efforts at National Dialogue and project the false image of a repressive government without popular support. Large demonstrations across the country supporting the government’s efforts for peace show exactly the reverse is true. Majority national opinion in Nicaragua is well aware of the opposition’s propaganda ploys and false claims.

Within Nicaragua, the opposition hardly bother to conceal their invention and artifice because their false political theater is staged almost entirely to impress overseas opinion. Their sinister cynical theater aims to set the scene for the Organization of American States to change its previously moderate position on Nicaragua and give the U.S. government an institutional pretext on which to intensify sanctions against Nicaragua’s government and its people. Even so, despite probable opposition attempts to sabotage it, July 19 will be a massive celebration of the coup’s defeat and a categorical vindication of President Daniel Ortega’s Sandinista government’s efforts for peace in Nicaragua.

 

***TIMELINE OF THE ATTEMPTED DESTABILIZATION ON NICARAGUA***

September 22, 2016: Suppressing Democracy: Western Journalism and Its Acolytes

October 1, 2016: Here We Go Again: Washington’s War on Democracy in Nicaragua

January 9, 2017: Fake News in a Multipolar World

January 22, 2017: The Anti-Democratic, Anti-Intellectual West

June 4, 2017: Class War, Allegiance and Progressive Western Media

July 16, 2017: Nicaragua Highlights Failures of Globalization

July 23, 2017: Latin American Left Regroups, Shows Strength in Nicaragua

July 31, 2017: Legitimacy and False Witness According to the U.S

August 13, 2017: Amnesty International: Weaponizing Hypocrisy for the U.S., NATO

August 31, 2017: Nicaragua’s Sandinista Achievements Baffle World Bank, IMF

November 12, 2017: A Big Win for Nicaragua’s Democracy

January 3, 2018: 2018: Increasing Regional Instability

January 11, 2018: US ups the stakes against Nicaragua

January 12, 2018: US Raises the Stakes Against Nicaragua

March 11, 2018: From the End of History to the End of Truth

April 12, 2018: The Guardian Falsely Smears Nicaragua Yet Again

April 21, 2018: Nicaragua: Next in Line for Regime Change?

April 26, 2018: Nicaragua: Destabilization “Made in the USA” [Spanish] [English: Link]

April 26, 2018: Nicaragua: Report from Estelí

April 26, 2018: Nicaragua: Communiqué from the Sandinista Front [Spanish] [English: Link]

April 28, 2018: Nicaragua Regains its Balance

April 29, 2018: The Empire Turns Its Sights on Nicaragua – Again!

May 2, 2018: Nicaragua: Parade of the Hypocrites

May 8, 2018: Nicaragua: Sunday in Masaya

May 9, 2018: Western super-revolutionaries – hopelessly wrong on Nicaragua

May 10, 2018: Is the U.S. Meddling in Nicaragua?

May 10, 2018: Western ‘Super-Revolutionaries’ Hopelessly Wrong on Nicaragua

May 12, 2018: Dialogue in Nicaragua: An Inauspicious Start

May 14, 2018: Nicaragua’s Protestors: “Peaceful Students” or Enemy Combatants?

May 17, 2018: Nicaragua and the Left: Between Pride and Ignorance

[Spanish] [English: Link]

May 17, 2018: Nicaragua: An Urgent Call for Solidarity from the ATC

May 20, 2018: Nicaragua: Extortion, Dialogue And A Longing for Peace

May 26, 2018: Nicaragua,Venezuela: One Enemy, One Fight For Democracy

May 26, 2018: “Ortega y Somoza son la misma cosa”: Foreign PSYOP Disinformation Campaign [Spanish] [English: Link]

May 31, 2018: To Keep its Stranglehold on Latin America, the US Fights Nicaragua’s Success

May 31, 2018: Rebellion or Counter-Revolution? Made in USA or Nicaragua?

June 1, 2018: Facts About What is Happening in Nicaragua and a Challenge to “Left Intellectuals” [Spanish] [English: Link]

June 6, 2018: Nicaragua: Religion, Dialogue and Non-Violence

June 7, 2018: Nicaragua: Religion, Dialogue and Non-violence

June 12, 2018: Nicaragua: Defeating the Attempted Coup

June 13, 2018: Former Prisoner of Conscience Condemns Amnesty International

June 13, 2018: Nicaragua: Imperialist Snakes in Holy Vestments

June 13, 2018: Offering to the Pachamama for Peace in Nicaragua

[Spanish] [English: Link]

June 15, 2018: The US & Nicaragua: a Case Study in Historical Amnesia & Blindness

July 16, 2018: The Counterinsurgency War: Nicaragua in the Spotlight

[Spanish] [ English: Link]

June 17, 2018: Nicaragua’s Crisis: The Latest Stage in a Permanent War

July 17, 2018: São Paulo Forum Resolution on the Situation in Nicaragua

[Spanish] [English: Link]

June 18, 2018: Venezuela Condemns Opposition Violence in Nicaragua

June 20, 2018: Nicaragua: Open Letter to Amnesty International

June 29, 2018: Nicaragua: Unraveling the US Plot

June 20, 2018: NED Boasts of ‘Laying the Groundwork for Insurrection’ in Nicaragua

June 22, 2018: Nicaragua’s Statement at the Extraordinary Session of the Permanent Council of the OAS, June 22nd 2018

June 24, 2018: Nicaragua: Breaking Out of the “Soft Coup” Psychosis

June 30, 2018: Armed Violence in Nicaragua: An Imported Product

[Spanish] [English: Link]

June 30, 2018: Enthusiastic Walks for Peace and Love in Nicaragua

July 3, 2018: Nicaragua: Violent Opposition Torture the Poor and Sandinista Supporters

July 4, 2018: Nicaragua: Legitimacy And Human Right

July 14, 2018: Nicaragua Demands OAS Condemn Resurgence of Terrorist Actions

July 15, 2018: With cynical theater Nicaragua’s opposition erase their crimes to facilitate US intervention

July 17, 2018 [PODCAST]: WHAT’S REALLY HAPPENING IN NICARAGUA; AN INTERVIEW WITH STEPHEN SEFTON

July 17, 2018: São Paulo Forum Resolution on the Situation in Nicaragua

July 19, 2018: In Nicaragua the Month of July Is Sandinista

July 20, 2018:  Lorena Martínez: ‘They want to carry out a coup d’état in Nicaragua’ [Spanish][English: Link]

July 20, 2018: USAID anuncia 1.5 millones de dólares para apoyar la democracia y derechos humanos en Nicaragua

July 21, 2018: Nicaraguan People Participate in a Walk Demanding Justice for Victims of Terrorism

July 22, 2018: In Nicaragua, is Operation “Contra 2” Failing?

July 23, 2018: El Salvador President Salvador Sanchez Rejects Intervention in Nicaragua, Pleads for Dialogue

July 23, 2018: Reality vs. mainstream news in Nicaragua

Amnesty International: Trumpeting for War… Again

Counterpunch

March 23, 2018

By Paul De Rooij

 

One must marvel at the first few paragraphs of Amnesty International’s recent press release:

“The international community’s catastrophic failure to take concrete action to protect the people of Syria has allowed parties to the conflict, most notably the Syrian government, to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity with complete impunity, often with assistance of outside powers, particularly Russia. Every year we think it is just not possible for parties to the conflict to inflict more suffering on civilians, and yet, every year, they prove us wrong…

 

Right now, in Eastern Ghouta 400,000 men, women and children, who have been living under an unlawful government siege for six years, are being starved and indiscriminately bombed by the Syrian government with the backing of Russia. […] The international community had said ‘never again’ after the government devastated Eastern Aleppo with similar unlawful tactics. But here we are again. Armed opposition groups have retaliated by indiscriminately shelling two villages in Idleb, which they have also besieged since 2014.” [1]

This is an unambiguous call and a justification for war; it seems that AI is calling for a NATO bombing campaign similar to the one staged in Libya in 2011.  There is also no ambiguity as to who AI deems to be culpable and ought to be at the receiving end of a “humanitarian bombing” campaign.  Before cheering yet another US/NATO war, it is useful to analyse Amnesty International’s record in assisting propaganda campaigns on the eve of wars.  It is also worthwhile reviewing AI’s reporting on Syria, and how it compares with that on other countries in the area.

A sorry record

It is not the first time that Amnesty International has played a role in a propaganda campaign in the lead up to a war.  A few examples:

Before the US invasion to ouster the Iraqis from Kuwait, president George Bush Sr. appeared on TV holding an Amnesty International report claiming that Iraqi soldiers had dumped babies out of incubators. That was Amnesty International’s willing participation in spreading a hoax — a hoax fabricated by a major American PR company.

 

In the months prior to the US-NATO attack on Serbia, Amnesty-USA put two Croatian women on a ten city-speaking-tour to project their account of their “rape-camp” ordeal — in reality one of them was a top Croatian propaganda official, a close advisor to president Tudjman, who was also known for her acting abilities.[2] Again, this hoax was pushed by a major American PR company.

 

AI’s coverage/non-coverage of Israeli mass crimes also deserves to be analysed.[3] In this case, Amnesty plays a role in adulterating and reducing criticism after wars or the misery caused by its continuous occupation and abuse of the Palestinians (discussed below).  Amnesty International-Israel served as a propaganda front busy manipulating “human rights” reports to suit Israel’s interests.[4]  AI-London has not commented on the manipulation by its Israeli siblings.

 

In 2012, Amnesty erected advertising posters in the US applauding NATO’s actions in Afghanistan — “Keep the progress going”, purportedly doing something for women’s rights. This was merely crass pro-NATO pro-interventionist propaganda. [5]

 

Amnesty-France was instrumental in propagating anti-Libyan propaganda prior to the NATO bombing of the country in 2011.[6]

Alas, Amnesty’s sorry record is much longer than these few examples indicate.

Not anti-war

One would expect a human rights organisation to be intrinsically opposed to war, but AI is a cheerleader of so-called humanitarian intervention, and even “humanitarian bombing”.[7]  In the past, when queried about its equivocal and lame statements about wars, an AI official stated that “Amnesty International is not anti-war”.  Even with this predisposition AI was honoured with the Nobel Peace Prize – yet another undeserving recipient for a prize meant to be given only to those actively opposed to wars. In Syria’s case, AI has given up this phoney “not anti-war” stance for one that is actively advocating war.  Notice that it uses a rather dubious argument about “never again” about standing by in the face of mass crimes; in reality this is an appeal to holocaust memes meant to favour this war.

Syria today…

The Syrian government is presently rolling back the jihadis who had managed to establish themselves in an area next to Damascus.  No government would tolerate to have a section of their capital city under jihadi control, an area from which the rest of the city is mortared, and an area vital to control the water supply of the city.  What would happen if jihadis took over Arlington, VA, and used it to bomb the center of Washington DC? The response would be self-evident.  For some reason AI doesn’t bestow this right of self-defence to the Syrian government, but instead refers to an “unlawful government siege [of Ghouta] for six years”.  This is laughable.

It is remarkable to find that in none of the latest press releases or reports does AI discuss the nature of the armed groups fighting in Syria.  Even those referred to as “moderates” by Washington are a rather unsavoury bunch.  Most of them are foreign jihadis; a good portion of them are Saudis. (NB: Saudis offered political and criminal prisoners a way out of jail on condition of going to fight in Syria.) And they are armed/trained/financed by the US/UK/Saudi/Emirates/Turkey/Qatar… to the tune of at least $12 billion.  The former US ambassador to Syria stated that the US contribution was at least $12bn [8]; this figure excludes the funds provided by the Saudis and other regimes in the area.  Gareth Porter reports that the quantities of weapons supplied to the jihadis were enough to equip an army. [9]  Yet, this armed gang of jihadis is barely mentioned in Amnesty’s assessment of the situation in Syria.  In Ghouta, the jihadis belong to the Nusra front (or one of its rebranded versions), that is, a group with an extreme ideology; they are an Al-Qaeda offshoot.  AI’s press release doesn’t mention this salient fact.

Amnesty portrays the Syrian government as at war against its own people — and Aleppo, Ghouta, etc., under siege; and not allowing the population to escape.  Although AI similarly condemned the liberation of Aleppo, it didn’t interview these victims after the fact.  If it interviews someone — invariably anonymous — it intones sinister fears of the government.  For all its faults, the government has popular backing, and it stands in the way of a jihadi project to carve up Syria and ethnically cleanse it.

And there is a double standard

When it comes to Israeli mass crimes AI is rather cautious in the language used and in its recommendations. It is rather coy in mentioning “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity”, and reference to the latter is virtually non-existent or couched in exculpatory language (favourite cushioning words: “alleged”, “could be construed as”).  While it sparingly uses these accusations against Israel, it levels the same accusations against Palestinians — it applies a notion that there are crimes “on both sides”.  AI’s harshest admonishment is that Israeli actions are not “proportionate”.  There are no appeals to the “international community” which should not stand by, “never again…” One wonders what Amnesty has to say about the Israeli siege of Gaza, where the population has been put “on a diet” causing a dire situation for about 1.8 million people today.  In this case, there are no reports, no calls to the “international community” to do anything, no accusations of “crimes against humanity”… AI uses another script altogether.

In the current press release, AI unambiguously states that both Syria and Russia are committing war crimes and crimes against humanity.  And if this is the case, there is an obligation for other states to act, to intervene.  AI is not requesting an investigation, it is urging intervention.

While in the Israeli case AI states that crimes are committed on both sides, when it comes to Syria it is only the Syrian government that is deemed culpable.  It is difficult to remove entrenched well armed jihadis who use residents as human shields.  Jihadis dig themselves in and around hospitals and schools [10], and when action is taken against them there, the likes of Amnesty utter their clucking sounds.

In its latest statement AI states: “It must also send a strong message that those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity will be held accountable, by referring the situation to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.”  Fair enough.  In 2002, Donatella Rovera, an AI researcher on the Middle East, was queried about why AI didn’t make a similar demand to hold Israel accountable at the ICC or ICJ, and she stated that AI didn’t make such demands.[11]  Another standard applies.

An issue about sources…

Amnesty reports several statements made by residents of Ghouta, all giving harrowing accounts of the conditions on the ground.  But all the statements blame the government for their predicament.  “Like many Syrians, the humanitarian worker expressed deep distrust of the government.” Or “We hear rumours of reconciliation but that can never happen. The government hates us…”  And other such unverifiable statements.  And who exactly is reporting this?  Does AI have a direct line to the “White Helmets”?  All Amnesty has to do is compare the statements made before the liberation of Aleppo and the opinion of the residents now.  If the residents are pleased with their condition without the jihadis around, then this should be sufficient to question the dubious statements originating from anonymous sources in Ghouta today.

Other examples

Amnesty International doesn’t want you to respect the Syrian government.  Reviewing its press releases about Syria, it is all one-sided; the jihadis hardly merit a meaningful rebuke.  But no report was as distorted as its multimedia presentation of the purported abuses in the Saydnaya Prison.  Here Amnesty’s methodology was on show: accept hearsay, magnify it melodramatically, extrapolate and exaggerate [12].  This is not human rights reportage, it is crass propaganda.  The timing of all these so-called reports is also dubious.  On the eve of major reconciliation talks or negotiations, Amnesty publishes a report portraying the Syrian government as beyond the pale.  Would anyone want to negotiate with such a party?  The timing of several other AI reports coincide with attempts to resolve the conflict via negotiations.  The timing of its latest press release coincides with a major Syrian government offensive into Ghouta — and portraying it as criminal in nature.

Human rights are not neutral

Harvey Weinstein, the sexual predator, made Amnesty International USA possible — he provided the funds necessary to establish the organisation. [13]  Weinstein didn’t put up the funds because he fancied AI’s lovely researchers.  People put up funds for such organisations to shape the way abuses and crimes are reported.  In Weinstein’s case, his ardent devotion to Israel might explain his financial contribution to Amnesty USA.  Amnesty is also a conduit to push propaganda desired by those who foster such organisations.  The very nature of “human rights”, its very flexible nature, lends itself to prime manipulation.

A Syrian furniture salesman based in Coventry, a small city in the UK, runs the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR).  Sitting in his living room, he produces reports about the latest atrocities, chemical attacks, and every other sordid detail to tarnish the Syrian government’s image.  He reaches his mysterious sources by phone, invariably someone hostile to the Syrian government.  The output of this one-man-band is then used by the BBC, CNN, The Independent, The Wall Street Journal,… and major media outlets to report on the situation in Syria.  It is expensive for news organisations to have correspondents on the ground, it is dangerous; so what is better than “human rights” reports obtained for free!  And does Amnesty International rely on SOHR?  At least they should footnote their reports.

The main playbook

The US and some of its sidekicks have for decades been engaged in regime change in the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Latin America…  The usual formula for this is to create civic organisations, e.g., Journalists’ union, Lawyer and Jurist guilds, select Labour unions… and human rights organisations.  These people are then trained to exercise political power effectively by staging mass demonstrations, manipulating the media, spreading rumours, disrupting the government — all the way to the take over of parliaments.  These are the so-called “colour revolutions”.  They tried this in Syria, but opted primarily to arm and organise jihadis.  The jihadis are backed by a propaganda machinery, and the US is conducting the largest disinformation/propaganda campaign in Syria today [14].   The essence of the campaign is to tarnish the image of the Syrian government, robbing it of its international legitimacy and support.  Human rights reportage is essential to this campaign.  By analysing Amnesty International reportage, it is evident that it is part of this campaign; it has weaponised human rights.

Currently there is a major buildup of US warships in the Mediterranean; and the Russian general staff fear that Syria will be the target of a major cruise missile attack.[15]  Possibly, Russian forces will also be targeted.  Couple this with the unprecedented black propaganda campaign against Russia in the US and the UK, and it seems very likely that a major shooting war is in the offing.  Given that AI has lent itself in previous propaganda campaigns on the eve of wars, one finds that the latest Amnesty International report is merely a leading indicator for such a war.  Amnesty International is embedded in a propaganda campaign — it will be cheerleading with blue and white pompons when the humanitarian bombs fall.

 

 

Endnotes

[1] AI, “Syria: Seven years of catastrophic failure by the international community”, 15 March 2018.

[2] Diana Johnstone, Fools Crusade, 20 Sep 2002.  Johnstone documents the curious case of Jadranka Cijel.  NB: AI was alerted to the fact that the accounts by the two women were questionable; it proceeded with the tour anyway.

[3]  I have written quite a few articles about Amnesty for Counterpunch.  The latest: Amnesty International: Whitewashing Another Massacre, CounterPunch, 8 May 2015.

[4]  Uri Blau, Documents reveal how Israel made Amnesty’s local branch a front for the Foreign Ministry in the 70s, Haaretz, 18 March 2017.  Neve Gordon, Nicola Perugini, Israel’s human rights spies: Manipulating the discourse, Al-Jazeera Online, 22 March 2017.

[5] Ann Wright and Coleen Rowley, Amnesty’s Shilling for US Wars, ConsortiumNews, 18 June 2012.

[6] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6RnxJ6TvFZ0&feature=youtu.be  Also: Tim Anderson, The Dirty War on Syria, Global Research, 2016.

[7] Alexander Cockburn reports that Amnesty was present during a US State Department briefing seeking to justify “humanitarian bombing”.  How the US State Dept. Recruited Human Rights Groups to Cheer On the Bombing Raids: Those Incubator Babies, Once More?  CounterPunch, April 1999.

[8] Ben Norton , US Ambassador Confirms Billions Spent On Regime Change in Syria, Debunking ‘Obama Did Nothing’ Myth, RealNews.com, 9 February 2018.

[9] Gareth Porter, How America Armed Terrorists in Syria, The American Conservative, 22 June 2017.

[10]  Robert Fisk has reported on this fact in several of his articles.  In “the Syrian hospital siege that turned into a massacre”, The Independent, 5 June 2015 there is a reference to tunnels under a hospital.  In another article, the same, but at a school.

[11] Israel hasn’t joined the ICC, and thus ICC cannot bring any action against Israel.  ICC is only meant to harass African tinpot dictators.

[12]  John Wight, The Problems With the Amnesty International Report, Sputnik News, 15 February 2017.  Important discussion with Peter Ford, the former British ambassador to Syria.   Also, Tony Cartalucci, Amnesty International admits Syria’s ‘torture prison’ report fabricated entirely in UK, Sign of the Times, 9 February 2017.  And, Rick Sterling, Amnesty International Stokes Syrian War, ConsortiumNews, 11 February 2017.

[13]  Thomas Frank, Hypocrite at the good cause parties, Le Monde Diplomatique, February 2018

[14] Tim Anderson, The Dirty War on Syria, Global Research, 2016.

[15]  TASS, US preparing strikes on Syria, carrier strike groups set up in Mediterranean, 17 March 2018

 

[PAUL de ROOIJ is a writer living in London. He can be reached at proox@hotmail.com (NB: all emails with attachments will be automatically deleted.)]

From the End of History to the End of Truth

TeleSUR

March 11, 2018

By Tortilla Con Sal

 

 

Ken Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. | Photo: Reuters

Non governmental organizations play a role in the Western elites’ offensive against resistance to them.

Making nonsense of Fukuyama’s premature triumphalist screed, it is commonplace now to note that the United States corporate elites and their European and Pacific country counterparts are increasingly losing power and influence around the world. Equally common is the observation that these Western elites and the politicians who front for them have acted over the last twenty years to reassert their control in their respective areas of neocolonial influence. The European Union powers have done so in Eastern Europe and Africa, most obviously but not only, in Ukraine, Libya, Ivory Coast, Mali and the Central African Republic. Likewise, the United States has acted to reassert its influence in Latin America and the Caribbean, effectively declaring war on Venezuela, maintaining its economic and psychological warfare against Cuba and intervening elsewhere with varying degrees of openness.

Before they died, among the main Western media bogeymen were Fidel Castro, Hugo Chavez and Muammar al Gaddhafi. Now Vladimir Putin and Bashar al Assad have been joined by Xi Jinping and Nicolas Maduro. Along with these and other world leaders, Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega has also constantly been the object of endlessly repetitive Western media hate campaigns. This longstanding, plain-as-day media strategy, regularly and blatantly prepares mass opinion to facilitate Western government aggression against the latest target government. No one following these processes with any attention will have failed to notice the leading role played by non governmental organizations in the Western elites’ offensive against resistance to them by political leaders and movements around the world.

In almost every case of recent Western provoked interventions, from Venezuela in 2002, through Haiti in 2004, Bolivia in 2008, Honduras in 2009, Ecuador in 2010, Ivory Coast, Libya and Syria in 2011, Ukraine in 2014, Western media have used deliberately misleading and downright deceitful reports from Western NGOs to support their own false misreporting of events. In Nicaragua’s case, the usual untrustworthy NGO suspects like Amnesty International, Transparency International and Global Witness constantly publish misleading reports and statements attacking or undermining President Daniel Ortega and his government. In general, their reporting is grossly biased and disproportionate given the regional context of incomparably horrific events and deplorable conditions elsewhere in Latin America, but, as often as not, it is also downright untrue.

In a recent example, Global Witness stated that Nicaragua’s proposed interoceanic canal “wasn’t preceded by any environmental impact reports, nor any consultation with local people”. Both those assertions are completely untrue. But this Big Lie repetition is the modus operandi of the Western elites who fund outfits like Global Witness, Amnesty International, and other influential NGOs like International Crisis Group and Transparency Intenational. For example, Amnesty International claims “We are independent of any government, political ideology, economic interest or religion”. But it bears constant repetition that many of Amnesty International’s board and most of its senior staff responsible for the organization’s reports are deeply ideologically committed with links to corporate dominated NGO’s like PurposeOpen Society InstituteHuman Rights Watch, and many others.

Also worth repeating is that Global Witness in 2016 received millions of dollars from the George Soros Open Society Foundation, Pierre Omidyar’s Omidyar Network, the Ford Foundation and NATO governments. The boards and advisory boards of these NGOs are all made up overwhelmingly of people from the Western elite neocolonial non governmental sector. Many have a strong corporate business background as well. All move easily from one highly paid Western NGO job to the next, serving NATO country foreign policy goals. Cory Morningstar has exposed the pro-NATO global political agenda of organizations like US based Avaaz and Purpose, noting “the key purpose of the non-profit industrial complex is and has always been to protect this very system it purports to oppose”.

Back in 2017 it was already a truism to note that Western NGOS “operate as the soft, extramural arm of NATO country governments’ foreign policy psychological warfare offensives, targeting liberal and progressive audiences to ensure their acquiescence in overseas aggression and intimidation against governments and movements targeted by NATO. To that end, they deceitfully exploit liberal and progressive susceptibilities in relation to environmental, humanitarian and human rights issues.” What is now becoming even more clear in the current context is that these Western NGOs and their media accomplices are confident enough to publish downright lies because reporting the facts no longer matters. Western public discourse has become so debased, incoherent and fragmentary that the truth is almost completely irrelevant. All that matters is the power to impose a version of events no matter how false and untruthful it may be.

This sinister media reality is intimately related to the politicization of legal and administrative processes in the national life of countries across Latin America. The spurious legal processes against Dilma Rousseff and Lula da Silva in Brazil, against Milagro Sala and Cristina Fernandez in Argentina, against Jorge Glas and, no doubt very soon, Rafael Correa in Ecuador are all based on the same faithless virtual association and complete disregard for factual evidence as Western media and NGO propaganda reports attacking Venezuela, Bolivia, Cuba and Nicaragua. It is imperative to overcome the ridiculous liberal presupposition that the region’s elites, with the advantage of designing and controlling their countries’ legal systems and communications media for over 200 years, are somehow going to respect high falutin’ avowals about “separation of powers”.

Note: this article borrows from previous articles here and here.

 

 

[Tortilla con Sal is an anti-imperialist collective based in Nicaragua producing information in various media on national, regional and international affairs. In Nicaragua, we work closely with grass roots community organizations and cooperatives. We strongly support the policies of sovereign national development and regional integration based on peace and solidarity promoted by the member countries of ALBA.”]

How the Mainstream Media Whitewashed Al-Qaeda & the White Helmets in Syria

How the Mainstream Media Whitewashed Al-Qaeda & the White Helmets in Syria

In Gaza

January 6, 2018

By Eva Bartlett

 

neil clark tweet

*Neil Clark’s tweet

 

On December 18, 2017, the Guardian issued a shoddily-penned hatchet piece against British journalist Vanessa Beeley, Patrick Henningsen and his independent website 21st Century Wire, Australian professor and writer Tim Anderson, and myself.

Many insightful writers have since deconstructed the lies and omissions of the article, which I will link to at the bottom of my own.

Judging by the scathing comments on the Guardian’s Facebook post, the general public didn’t buy it either. The Guardian, like Channel 4 News and Snopes, whitewashes terrorism in Syria, employs non-sequitur arguments, promotes war propaganda, and simply gets the facts wrong.

+++

As the purported theme of the The Guardian‘s story was the issue of rescuers in Syria, I’ll begin by talking about actual rescuers I know and worked with, in hellish circumstances in Gaza.

In 2008/9, I volunteered with Palestinian medics under 22 days of relentless, indiscriminate, Israeli war plane and Apache helicopter bombings, shelling from the sea and tanks, and drone strikes. The loss of life and casualties were immense, with over 1,400 Palestinians murdered, and thousands more maimed, the vast majority civilians. Using run-down, bare-bones equipment (as actual rescuers in Syria do), Palestinian medics worked tirelessly day and night to rescue civilians.

There was not a single occasion in which I ever heard the medics (in Sunni Gaza) shout takbeer or Allahu Akbar upon rescuing civilians, much less intentionally stood on dead bodies, posed in staged videos, or any of the other revolting acts that the White Helmets have been filmed doing in Syria. They were too damn busy rescuing or evacuating the areas before another Israeli strike, and usually maintained a focused silence as they worked, communicating only the necessities. The only occasion I recall of screaming while with the medics, were the screams of civilians we collected and in particular the anguished shrieks of a husband helping to put the body parts of his dismembered wife onto a stretcher to be taken to the morgue. The medics I knew in Gaza were true heroes. The White Helmets, not a chance. They are gross caricatures of rescuers.

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A White Helmets member. “Unnarmed and neutral”?

Reply to The Guardian 

In October, a San Francisco-based tech (and sometimes fashion) writer named Olivia Solon (visibly with no understanding of Middle East geopolitics) emailed myself and Beeley with nearly identical questions filled with implicit assumptions for a “story” we were to be imminently featured in. My own correspondence with Solon is as follows:

In brief, I’ll address Solon’s emails, including some of her most loaded questions:

-Who is the “we”, Solon mentions? Her mention of “we” indicates this story isn’t her own bright idea, nor independently researched and penned. Parts of the article—including the title and elements I’ll outline later in my article—seem to be lifted from others’ previous articles, but that’s copy-paste journalism for you.

-It isn’t just that I believe the mainstream media narrative about the White Helmets is wrong; this narrative has been redundantly-exposed over the years. In September 2014, Canadian independent journalist Cory Morningstar investigated hidden hands behind flashy PR around the White Helmets. In April 2015, American independent journalist Rick Sterling 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. (more on these articles below). This was months before Russian media began to write about the White Helmets.

Since then, Vanessa Beeley has done the vast amount of research in greater detail, doing on-the-ground investigations in Syria, including: taking the testimonies of Syrian civilians who had (often brutal) experiences with the White Helmets; establishing that the Syrian Civil Defense exists and has existed since 1953, but are not the White Helmets—which has misappropriated this name; establishing that the international body, the International Civil Defence organisation in Geneva, does not recognize the White Helmets as the Syrian Civil Defence; establishing that men now White Helmets members looted vehicles and equipment from the Syrian Civil Defence in Aleppo—and belongings from civilians; and establishing that White Helmets shared a building in Bab Al Nairab, eastern Aleppo with al-Qaeda and were present as al-Qaeda tortured civilians, among other points.

It is hard to believe that in the span of the two months between her contacting Beeley and myself that Solon, in her certainly deep investigations, has not seen this video, clearly showing uniformed White Helmets members with supporters of Saudi terrorist, Abdullah Muhaysini. Not quite “neutral” rescuers. But then, perhaps she did. She was willing to write off the presence of White Helmets members at execution scenes, standing on dead Syrian soldiers, and holding weapons, as a few bad apples sort of thing.

-As to Solon’s interest in my “relationship” to the Syrian government: No, I have not received payment, gifts or other from any government. To the contrary, I’ve poured my own money into going to Syria (and have fund-raised, and also routinely received Paypal donations or support on Patreon by individuals who appreciate my work). See my article on this matter.

As to how my visits to Syria and North Korea came about, this is another transparent attempt to imply that I am on the payroll of/receive other benefits from one or more of the governments in question.

-One of The Guardian’s questions was regarding my following: “That you attract a large online audience, amplified by high-profile right-wing personalities and appearances on Russian state TV.”

What following I do have began exactly one year ago, after I requested to speak in a panel at the United Nations, as the US Peace Council had done in August 2016. It is as a result of a short interaction between myself and a Norwegian journalist, which went viral, that my online audience grew. In fact, I deeply regret that what went viral was not the important content of the three other panelists and my own over twenty minutes report on conditions in Aleppo which was then still under daily bombardments and snipings by what the West deems “moderates”.

However, given that so many people responded positively regarding the interaction—which dealt with lies of the corporate media and lack of sources—it seems that the public already had a sense that something was not right with corporate media’s renditions on Syria.

The first person to cut and share the video clip in question (on December 10, one day following the panel) was Twitter profile @Walid970721. As I have since met him personally, I can attest he is neither Russian nor funded by the Kremlin, nor any government, and that he shared that clip out of his own belief that it was of interest. Otherwise, on December 10, before any major Russian media had, HispanTV also shared my words. Further, India-based internet media Scoop Whoop’s December 15 share garnered the most views (nearly 10.5 million by now). That Russian media later shared the clip and reported on the incident is neither my doing nor a bad thing: thank you Russian media for doing what Western corporate media always fail to do.

-Regarding The Guardian Solon’s question: “That you think that Assad is being demonized by the US as a means to drive regime change.” Of course I do, as do most analysts and writers not blinded by or obliged to the NATO narrative. As Rick Sterling wrote in September 2016:

“This disinformation and propaganda on Syria takes three distinct forms. The first is the demonization of the Syrian leadership. The second is the romanticization of the opposition. The third form involves attacking anyone questioning the preceding characterizations.”

Boston Globe contributor, award-winning foreign correspondent and author, Stephen Kinzer wrote in February 2016:

“Astonishingly brave correspondents in the war zone, including Americans, seek to counteract Washington-based reporting. At great risk to their own safety, these reporters are pushing to find the truth about the Syrian war. Their reporting often illuminates the darkness of groupthink. Yet for many consumers of news, their voices are lost in the cacophony. Reporting from the ground is often overwhelmed by the Washington consensus.”

Countering corporate media’s demonization campaigns, I’ve written on many occasions—notably including the words of Syrians within Syria—about the vast amount of support the Syrian president enjoys inside of Syria and outside.

In my March 7, 2016 article, I cited meeting with internal, unarmed, opposition members, including Kurdish representative, Berwine Brahim, who stated,

We want you to convey that conspiracy, terrorism and interference from Western countries has united supporters of the government and the opposition, to support President Bashar al-Assad.”

In that same article, I wrote:

“Wherever I’ve gone in Syria (as well as many months in various parts of Lebanon, where I’ve met Syrians from all over Syria) I’ve seen wide evidence of broad support for President al-Assad. The pride I’ve seen in a majority of Syrians in their President surfaces in the posters in homes and shops, in patriotic songs and Syrian flags at celebrations and in discussions with average Syrians of all faiths. Most Syrians request that I tell exactly what I have seen and to transmit the message that it is for Syrians to decide their future, that they support their president and army and that the only way to stop the bloodshed is for Western and Gulf nations to stop sending terrorists to Syria, for Turkey to stop warring on Syria, for the West to stop their nonsense talk about ‘freedom‘ and ‘democracy’ and leave Syrians to decide their own future.”

In my May 2014 article from Lebanon, having independently observed the first of two days of Syrians streaming to their embassy to vote in presidential elections, I cited some of the many Syrians there with whom I spoke (in Arabic):

“’We love him. I’m Sunni, not Alawi,’ Walid, from Raqqa, noted. ‘They’re afraid our voices will be heard,’ he said….’I’m from Deir Ezzor,’ said a voter. ‘ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) is in our area. We want Bashar al-Assad. The guy walks straight,’ he said, with a gesture of his hand.”

No one escorted me in a Syrian government vehicle to that embassy, by the way. I took a bus, and then walked the remaining many kilometres (the road was so clogged with vehicles going to the embassy) with Syrians en route to vote.

In June 2014, a week after the elections within Syria, I traveled by public bus to Homs (once dubbed the “capital of the revolution”), where I saw Syrians celebrating the results of the election, one week after the fact, and spoke with Syrians beginning to clean up and patch up homes damaged from the terrorist occupation of their district.

When I returned to Homs in December 2015, shops and restaurants had re-opened where a year and a half prior they were destroyed. People were preparing to celebrate Christmas as they could not do when terrorists ruled. In Damascus, attending a choral concert I overheard people asking one another excitedly whether “he” was here. The day prior, President Assad and the First Lady had dropped in on the pracitising choir, to their surprise and delight. And although the church was within hitting distance of mortars fired by the west’s “moderates” (and indeed that area had been repeatedly hit by mortars), the people faced that prospect in hopes of a re-visit by the President.

These are just some of many examples of the support Syria’s president sees and the attempts to vilify he and other Syrian leadership. Even Fox News acknowledged his support, referring to the 2014 elections:

…it underscored the considerable support that President Bashar Assad still enjoys from the population, including many in the majority Sunni Muslim community. …Without Sunni support, however, Assad’s rule would have collapsed long ago.”

Regarding war crimes, Syria is fighting a war against terrorism, but corporate media continues fabricating claims, and repeating those fabricated, not-investigated, accusations. For example, the repeated claim of the Syrian government starving civilians. In my on the ground investigations, I’ve revealed the truth behind starvation (and hospitals destroyed, and “last doctors”) in Aleppo, in Madaya, in al-Waer, in Old Homs (2014). In all instances, starvation and lack of medical care was solely due to terrorists—including al-Qaeda—hoarding food (and medical supplies). Vanessa Beeley has in greater depth exposed those corporate media lies regarding eastern Aleppo.

Even Reuters later reported on finding stockpiles of food in a “rebel” held building, citing civilians saying specifically that the Army of Islam “rebels”,  “kept all these items, here and there. They did not allow us to eat even a piece of bread. We died out of hunger.”

Regarding chemical weapons accusations, those have long been negated by the investigations of Seymour Hersh (on Ghouta 2013; on Khan Sheikhoun 2017) and the UN’s own Carla Del Ponte who said:

“…there are strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof of the use of sarin gas, from the way the victims were treated. This was use on the part of the opposition, the rebels, not by the government authorities.”

Regarding convoys allegedly bombed, see my own article on one such claim, as well as award-winning investigative journalist, Gareth Porter’s article.

Regarding whether the White Helmets have done any good work rescuing civilians: they are working solely in areas occupied by al-Qaeda and affiliated terrorists, so no one can prove whether they have actual done any rescue work of civilians. However, we have numerous on the ground witness testimonies to the contrary, that the White Helmets denied medical care to civilians not affiliated with terrorist groups.

In September 2017, Murad Gazdiev (instrumental in his honest reporting from Aleppo during much of 2016) documented how the White Helmets headquarters in Bustan al-Qasr, Aleppo, was filled with Hell Canons (used to fire gas canister bombs on Aleppo’s civilians and infrastructure) and remnants of a bomb-making factory. The headquarters was in a school.

Gazdiev’s reporting on the headquarters was preceded by French citizen Pierre Le Corf, living in Aleppo for over the past year, who visited the White Helmets headquarters in March 2017 (and again in April), documenting the al-Qaeda and ISIS linked flags, logos, and paraphernalia found inside the White Helmets headquarters, and that the White Helmets’ headquarters was next to a central al-Qaeda (Jabhat al-Nusra) headquarters. Le Corf also wrote about his encounters with civilians from Aleppo’s east, and their take on the White Helmets:

“…the last two families I met told me that they helped the injured terrorists first and sometimes left the civilians in the rubble. When the camera was spinning everyone was agitated, as soon as the camera extinguished, the lives of the people under rubble took less importance…. all the videos you’ve seen in the media come from one or the other. Civilians couldn’t afford cameras or 3G internet package when it was already difficult to buy bread, only armed and partisan groups.”

Vanessa Beeley took testimonies she took from civilians from eastern, al-Qaeda-occupied Aleppo, in December 2016 when the city was liberated. Beeley later wrote:

“When I asked them if they knew of the “civil defence”, they all nodded furiously and said, “yes, yes – Nusra Front civil defence”. Most of them elaborated and told me that the Nusra Front civil defence never helped civilians, they only worked for the armed groups.”

Beeley also wrote of the White Helmets’ complicity in the massacre of civilians (including 116 children) from Foua and Kafraya in April 2017.

Credentials, Please: What Is Journalism?

Regarding Solon’s question on my competency as a journalist, I note the following:

I began reporting from on the ground in Palestine in 2007, first blogging and later publishing in various online media.

In 2007, I spent 8 months in the occupied West Bank in occupied Palestine, in some of the most dangerous areas where Palestinians are routinely abused, attacked, abducted and killed by both the Israeli army and the illegal Jewish colonists. There, I began blogging, documenting the crimes in print with witness testimonies, first person interviews, my own eye-witness experiences, photos and videos.

After being deported from Palestine by Israeli authorities in December 2007, in 2008 I  sailed to Gaza from Cyprus and documented not only the daily Israeli assaults on unarmed male, female, elderly and child farmers and fishers, but also the effects of the brutal Israeli full siege on Gaza, Israel’s sporadic bombings and land invasions, and of course two major massacres (Dec 2008/ Jan 2009 and Nov 2012).

In the 2008/2009 war against Palestinian civilians, I was on the ground in northern Gaza with rescuers—actual rescuers, no acting, no staging—under the bombings, and under heavy sniper fire. I was also on an upper floor of a media building in Gaza City that was bombed while I was in it. And otherwise, I remained in Gaza after the slaughter had ended, taking horrific testimonies, documenting Israel’s war crimes, including Israel’s: assassinations of children, widespread use of White Phosphorous on civilians; holding civilians as human shields; and targeting (and killing) of medics.

See this link for a more detailed description of this documentation, with many examples, and my further documentation during the November 2012 Israeli massacre of Palestinians, as well as detailed accounts of my reporting from seven trips, on the ground, around Syria.

While questioning my credentials as an investigative reporter in the Middle East, The Guardian casually assigned the story to a San Fransisco based writer specializing in fluff piecesfashion and Russophobic analysis, who visibly has little to no understanding of what is happening on the ground in Syria.

Addressing “the propaganda that is so often disguised as journalism,”award-winning journalist and film maker, John Pilger, said (emphasis added):

Edward Bernays, the so-called father of public relations, wrote about an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. He was referring to journalism, the media. That was almost 80 years ago, not long after corporate journalism was invented. It’s a history few journalists talk about or know about, and it began with the arrival of corporate advertising.

 

As the new corporations began taking over the press, something called ‘professional journalism’ was invented. To attract big advertisers, the new corporate press had to appear respectable, pillars of the establishment, objective, impartial, balanced. The first schools of journalism were set up, and a mythology of liberal neutrality was spun around the professional journalists. The right to freedom of expression was associated with the new media.

 

The whole thing was entirely bogus. For what the public didn’t know, was that in order to be professional, journalists had to ensure that news and opinion were dominated by official sources. And that hasn’t changed. Go through the New York Times on any day, and check the sources of the main political stories, domestic and foreign, and you’ll find that they’re dominated by governments and other establishment interests. That’s the essence of professional journalism.

On a publicly-shared Facebook post, journalist Stephen Kinzer wrote:

“I happen to agree with Eva’s take on Syria, but from a journalist’s perspective, the true importance of what she does goes beyond reporting from any single country. She challenges the accepted narrative–and that is the essence of journalism. Everything else is stenography. Budding foreign correspondents take note!!”

In The Guardian’s smear piece, it is interesting that Solon employed a tactic used to denigrate the credibility of a writer by dubbing he/she merely a “blogger”. In her story, Solon used “blogger” four times, three times in reference to Vanessa Beeley (who contributes in depth articles to a variety of online media).

In the latter case, she quoted executive director of the Purpose Inc-operated “Syria Campaign” PR project, James Sadri saying:

“A blogger for a 9/11 truther website who only visited Syria for the first time last year should not be taken seriously as an impartial expert on the conflict.”

Remind me when either Sadri or Solon was last there? Seems to be 2008 for Sadri, and never for Solon. But they are “credible” and someone like Beeley who has since her first 2016 visit to Syria has returned numerous occasions, in the country at pivotal times—like during the liberation of Aleppo, speaking with Syrian civilians from eastern areas formerly occupied by al-Qaeda and co-extremists—is not?

As for bloggers, there are many insightful writers and researchers self-publishing on blogs (for example,  this blog). However, that aside, it is amusing to note that Solon on her LinkedIn profile list her first skill as blogging. Is she a mere blogger?

oli blogging

Regarding Solon’s use of the “truthers” theme, did she recycle this from an article on Wired peddled eight months ago? Her use of “truthers” is clearly to paint anyone who investigates the White Helmets as Alex Jones-esque. Is she capable of originality?

castello

Nov 4, 2016: Less than 100 metres away, the second of two mortars fired by terrorist factions less than 1 km from Castello Road on Nov. 4. The road and humanitarian corridor were targeted at least seven times that day by terrorist factions. Many of those in corporate media had retired to the bus, and donned helmets and flak jackets. I was on the road without such luxuries. Read about it here.

Guardian Uses CIA “Conspiracy Theory” Tactic

In addition to using denigrating terms, The Guardian threw in the loaded CIA term “conspiracy theorists”.

As Mark Crispin Miller, Professor of Media Studies and author, noted in a June 2017 panel (emphasis added):

“Conspiracy theory was not much used by journalist for the decades prior to 1967, when suddenly it’s used all the time, and increasingly ever since.

And the reason for this is that the CIA at that time sent a memo to its station chiefs world wide, urging them to use their propaganda assets and friends in the media, to discredit the work of Mark Lane… books attacking the Warren Commission Report. Mark Lane’s was a best seller, so the CIA’s response was to send out this memo urging a counter-attack, so that hacks responsive to the agency would write reviews attacking these authors as ‘conspiracy theorists’ and using one or more of five specific arguments listed in the memo.”

Guess Solon got the memo.

Professor James Tracy elaborated:

“Conspiracy theory” is a term that at once strikes fear and anxiety in the hearts of most every public figure, particularly journalists and academics. Since the 1960s the label has become a disciplinary device that has been overwhelmingly effective in defining certain events off limits to inquiry or debate. Especially in the United States raising legitimate questions about dubious official narratives destined to inform public opinion (and thereby public policy) is a major thought crime that must be cauterized from the public psyche at all costs.”

Researcher and writer Kevin Ryan noted (emphasis added):

“In the 45 years before the CIA memo came out, the phrase ‘conspiracy theory’ appeared in the Washington Post and New York Times only 50 times, or about once per year. In the 45 years after the CIA memo, the phrase appeared 2,630 times, or about once per week.

 

“…Of course, in these uses the phrase is always delivered in a context in which ‘conspiracy theorists’ were made to seem less intelligent and less rationale than people who uncritically accept official explanations for major events. President George W. Bush and his colleagues often used the phrase conspiracy theory in attempts to deter questioning about their activities.”

In her piece for the Guardian, Solon threw in the Russia is behind everything clause.

Scott Lucas (who Solon quotes in her own article) in August 2017 wrote (emphasis added):

“Russian State outlets have pursued a campaign — especially since Moscow’s military intervention in September 2015.”

Solon’s article? (emphasis added):

“The campaign to discredit the White Helmets started at the same time as Russia staged a military intervention in Syria in September 2015…”

But I’m sure this is a mere coincidence.

Initial Investigations Into The White Helmets Precede Russia’s

As mentioned earlier in this article, in 2014 and early 2015, long before any Russian media took notice, Cory Morningstar and Rick Sterling were already countering the official story of the White Helmets.

Morningstar on September 17, 2014, wrote:

“The New York public relations firm Purpose has created at least four anti-Assad NGOs/campaigns: The White Helmets, Free Syrian Voices [3], The Syria Campaign [4] and March Campaign #withSyria. …The message is clear. Purpose wants the green light for military intervention in Syria, well-cloaked under the guise of humanitarianism – an oxymoron if there ever was one.”

This is where the White Helmets step in.

Rick Sterling’s April 9, 2015, article looked at the White Helmets as a PR project for western intervention in Syria. He wrote (emphasis added):

“White Helmets is the newly minted name for “Syrian Civil Defence”. Despite the name, Syria Civil Defence was not created by Syrians nor does it serve Syria. Rather it was created by the UK and USA in 2013. Civilians from rebel controlled territory were paid to go to Turkey to receive some training in rescue operations. The program was managed by James Le Mesurier, a former British soldier and private contractor whose company is based in Dubai.

Since her initial scrutiny into the White Helmets in September 2015, by October revealing their ties to executioners in Syria, Vanessa Beeley has relentlessly pursued the organization, and the lies and propaganda around it, their funding of at least over $150 million, far more than needed for medical supplies and high-tech camera equipment.

As 21st Century Wire pointed out (emphasis added):

“Note that The Guardian and Olivia Solon also claim that the White Helmets are only “volunteers” – a foundational misrepresentation designed to generate sympathy for their employees. One could call this a gross lie when you consider the fact the White Helmets are paid a regular salary (which the Guardian deceptively call a ‘stipend’) which is in fact much higher than the national average salary in Syria – a fact conveniently left out in the Guardian’s apparent foreign office-led propaganda piece:

 

Guardian informationists like Solon would never dare mention that the White Helmet’s ‘monthly stipend’ is far in excess of the standard salary for a Syrian Army soldier who is lucky to take home $60 -$70 per month.”

The Guardian Whitewashes the White Helmets

What are some things The Guardian could have investigated, had Solon’s story not been predetermined and had she approached with an honest intent to investigate the White Helmets?

  • Solon very misguidedly chose to highlight the White Helmets’ “mannequin challenge” video, writing that the video was “stripped of its context”. What was the context? That the White Helmets, supposedly frantically, full-time rescuing civilians under the bombs, took time to make a video simulating a heroic rescue scene? The video reveals the patently obvious point that the White Helmets can clearly stage a very convincing “rescue” video. But Solon ignores this point, it doesn’t fit her factless, Russophobic story. Further, I cannot imagine any of the Palestinian rescuers I worked with wasting a moment of precious time for such an absurd video.
  • That in spite of the White Helmets’ professed motto, “To save a life is to save all of humanity” they willingly participated in executions of civilians. But Solon wrote those extremist-affiliated White Helmets who hold weapons or stand on dead bodies or chant with al-Qaeda off as “isolated” and “rogue” actors, in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Best part? It wasn’t Russia which photographed them, it was from their own social media accounts, where they proudly displayed their allegiance to terrorists.

 

In her attempt to defend the “rogue” assertion, Solon brings in White Helmets leader, Raed Saleh, who she doesn’t mention was denied entry to the US in April 2016, and deemed by the State Department’s Mark Toner to have ties to extremists.

Here’s one poignant example of a rogue actor who was dealt with by White Helmets’ leadership:

“Muawiya Hassan Agha was present at Rashideen, and he later became infamous for his involvement in the execution of two prisoners of war in Aleppo. For this rogue bad appleness he was supposedly fired from the White Helmets, although he was later photographed still with them. He has also been photographed celebrating ‘victory’ with Nusra Front in Idlib.”

  • The soldiers which Solon calls “pro-Assad fighters” are actually members of Syria’s national army. Lexicon is important, and by denigrating members of the national army, Solon is playing a very old, and once again lacking in originality, lexicon card worthy of some UN member states who violate UN protocol and in the UN call the Syrian government a “regime” (as Solon also does…) instead of government. In the UN, governments must be called by their official names. The Syrian Arab Republic, or the government of Syria.
  • That it is not the entire UNSC which believes that Syria has committed the crimes Solon repeats, it is some members with an admitted vested interest in toppling the Syrian government.

 

The Chemical Card

In her attempt to validate the White Helmets, and delegitimize those who question them, The Guardian article presented as fact claims that the Syrian government used chemical weapons against its people in Khan Sheikhoun in April 2017, that the White Helmets provided valuable documentation to the fact, and stated that Beeley and myself were some of the “most vocal sceptics” of the official narrative.

But so was the British and US media:

“The following Mail Online article was published and subsequently removed.

Note the contradictory discourse: “Obama issued warning to Syrian president Bashar al Assad”, “White House gave green light to chemical weapons attack”.

Screen-Shot-2017-04-06-at-21.01.09-768x725

From the horse’s mouth: CNN

Screen-Shot-2017-04-06-at-19.12.35-768x144

Sources: U.S. helping underwrite Syrian rebel training on securing chemical weapons

Amusingly, according to the article (by the Qatari-owned channel, Al Jazeera) which The Guardian provided to back up their assertion of the Syrian government’s culpability (instead of providing the September 2017 UN report, itself questionable, and a much longer read for Solon), (emphasis added):

“All evidence available leads the Commission to conclude that there are reasonable grounds to believe Syrian forces dropped an aerial bomb dispersing sarin in Khan Sheikhoun.”

Reasonable grounds to believe is not exactly a confirmation of evidence, it’s just a belief.

The same article noted the investigators had not been to Syria and “based their findings on photographs of bomb remnants, satellite imagery and witness testimony.”

Witness testimony from an al-Qaeda-dominated area? Very credible. The White Helmet leader in Khan Sheikhoun, Mustafa al-Haj Yussef, is an extremist showing allegiance to the actions of al-Qaeda. As Vanessa Beeley wrote:

“Yussef has called for the shelling of civilians, the execution of anyone not fasting during Ramadan, the murder of anyone considered a Shabiha, the killing of the SAA and the looting of their property. …He clearly supports both Nusra Front, an internationally recognised terrorist group, and Ahrar Al Sham…Yussef is far from being neutral, impartial or humanitarian.

The initial analysis (of an April 2017 White House statement on Khan Sheikhoun) by Professor Emeritus of Science, Technology, and National Security Policy Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Theodore Postol, found (emphasis added):

“I believe it can be shown, without doubt, that the document does not provide any evidence whatsoever that the US government has concrete knowledge that the government of Syria was the source of the chemical attack in Khan Shaykhun, Syria at roughly 6 to 7 a.m. on April 4, 2017.

Postol’s analysis concludes that the alleged evidence

“points to an attack that was executed by individuals on the ground, not from an aircraft, on the morning of April 4,” and notes that “the report contains absolutely no evidence that this attack was the result of a munition being dropped from an aircraft.”

Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh also looked at the official accusations, noting that claims made by MSF contradicted the official accusation of the Syrian government bombing the area with sarin. Hersh wrote (emphasis added):

“A team from Médecins Sans Frontières, treating victims from Khan Sheikhoun at a clinic 60 miles to the north, reported that ‘eight patients showed symptoms – including constricted pupils, muscle spasms and involuntary defecation – which are consistent with exposure to a neurotoxic agent such as sarin gas or similar compounds.’ MSF also visited other hospitals that had received victims and found that patients there ‘smelled of bleach, suggesting that they had been exposed to chlorine.’ In other words, evidence suggested that there was more than one chemical responsible for the symptoms observed, which would not have been the case if the Syrian Air Force – as opposition activists insisted – had dropped a sarin bomb, which has no percussive or ignition power to trigger secondary explosions. The range of symptoms is, however, consistent with the release of a mixture of chemicals, including chlorine and the organophosphates used in many fertilizers, which can cause neurotoxic effects similar to those of sarin.”

The second article to which Solon linked was a NY Times article which called the report a “politically independent investigation”. This should make readers pause to guffaw, as the investigating mechanism includes the questionably-funded OPCW, and among those which the investigators interviewed were al-Qaeda’s rescuers.

Regarding the report, Professor Marcello Ferrada de Noli (founder and chairman of Swedish Professors and Doctors for Human Rights) in November 2017, refuted it as “inaccurate” and “politically biased”. Points he made included (emphasis added):

  • “The same JIM authors acknowledge that rebels in Khan Shaykhun have however destroyed evidence by filling the purported impact “crater” with concrete. Why the “rebels” have done that – and what consequences that sabotage would have for the investigation of facts is not even considered by the panel.”
  • “By acknowledging that Khan Shaykhun was then under control of al-Nusra, the JIM report exhibits yet another methodological contradiction: That would mean that al-Nusra and its jihadists allies, by having control of the area, they were also in control of the ‘official’ information delivered from Khan Shaykhun on the alleged incident. This would imperatively call for a questioning of the reliability/credibility (bias) of main sources that the panel used for its allegations.”

 

Twitter user @Syricide picked up on one of the JIM’s most alarming professed irregularity, tweeting:

Syricide

Even the Nation in April 2017 ran a piece stressing the need for actual investigation into the chemical weapons claims, citing the research of Postol, as well noting the following (emphasis added):

Philip Giraldi, a former CIA case officer and Army intelligence officer, told radio host Scott Horton on April 6 that he was “hearing from sources on the ground in the Middle East, people who are intimately familiar with the intelligence that is available, who are saying the essential narrative we are hearing about the Syrians and Russians using chemical weapons is a sham.”

Giraldi also noted that ‘people in the both the agency [CIA] and in the military who are aware of the intelligence are freaking out about this because essentially Trump completely misrepresented’ what had taken place in Khan Sheikhun. Giraldi reports that his sources in the military and the intelligence community “are astonished by how this is being played by the administration and by the US media.”

The same article included the words of the former UK ambassador to Syria, Peter Ford, who noted:

“It defies belief that he would bring this all on his head for no military advantage.” Ford said he believes the accusations against Syria are “simply not plausible.”

So, in fact, no, some of the most vocal and informed sceptics were neither Beeley nor myself, but MIT Professor Emeritus Theodore Postol, investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, former UK ambassador Peter Ford, and former CIA and Army intelligence officer Philip Giraldi, not exactly “fringe” voices.

Investigative journalist Robert Parry in April 2017 wrote of a NY Times deflection tactic (one which Solon employed), emphasis added:

“Rather than deal with the difficulty of assessing what happened in Khan Sheikhoun, which is controlled by Al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate and where information therefore should be regarded as highly suspect, Rutenberg simply assessed that the conventional wisdom in the West must be correct.

 

To discredit any doubters, Rutenberg associated them with one of the wackier conspiracy theories of radio personality Alex Jones, another version of the Times’ recent troubling reliance on McCarthyistic logical fallacies, not only applying guilt by association but refuting reasonable skepticism by tying it to someone who in an entirely different context expressed unreasonable skepticism.”

That sounds familiar. Solon wrote:

“Beeley frequently criticises the White Helmets in her role as editor of the website 21st Century Wire, set up by Patrick Henningsen, who is also an editor at Infowars.com.”

Infowars is Alex Jones’ site, and Henningsen is for many years no longer affiliated.

Solon followed this with another non sequitur argument about Beeley and the US Peace Council meeting with the Syrian president in 2016, a point irrelevant either to the issue of the White Helmets or the alleged chemical attacks. But irrelevance is what corporate media do best these days.

The Guardian story-writer has done literally zero investigative research into the fallacies she presents as fact in her article. She’s just employed the same, predictable, tired, old CIA defamation tactics.

Integrity-Devoid Sources Solon Cited

In addition to those I’ve already mentioned, it is interesting to note some of the other sources Solon quoted to fluff her story:

  • Scott Lucas, whose allegiance to Imperialists is evident from his twitter feed, a textbook Russophobe, Iranophobe. Lucas relied on the words of terrorist-supporter, Mustafa al-Haj Youssef, for his August article on the White Helmets (the one Solon seemingly plagiarized from). Solon relied on Lucas’ smears to dismiss the work and detract from the integrity of those Solon attacked. That, and being a token professor to include in attempt at legitimacy, was Lucas’ sole function in the Guardian story.

 

  • Amnesty International, the so-called human rights group which as Tony Cartalucci outlined in August 2012, is “US State Department Propaganda”, and does indeed receive money from governments and corporate-financier interests, including “convicted financial criminal” George Soros’ Open Society.

 

It’s not just “conspiracy theorists” like Cartalucci who have written on Amnesty’s dark side. Ann Wright, a 29-year U.S. Army/Army Reserve Colonel and a 16-year U.S. Diplomat serving in numerous countries, including Afghanistan, who “resigned in 2003 in opposition to the Iraq war,” and “returned to Afghanistan in 2007 and 2010 on fact-finding missions,” has as well. Her co-author was Coleen Rowley, “a FBI special agent for almost 24 years, legal counsel to the FBI Field Office in Minneapolis from 1990 to 2003, and a whistleblower “on some of the FBI’s pre-9/11 failures.” Together, in June 2012, they wrote about “Amnesty’s Shilling for US Wars”.

Professor of international law, Francis Boyle, who himself was a member of the US board of Amnesty, wrote of the group’s role in shilling for war. In October 2012, he wrote of Amnesty’s war mongering regarding Iraq—endorsing the dead incubator babies story told by the Kuwaiti ambassador’s daughter—and his own attempts to inform Amnesty “that this report should not be published because it was inaccurate.” He noted:

“That genocidal war waged by the United States, the United Kingdom and France, inter alia, during the months of January and February 1991, killed at a minimum 200,000 Iraqis, half of whom were civilians. Amnesty International shall always have the blood of the Iraqi People on its hands!”

Boyle’s parting words included:

“…based upon my over sixteen years of experience having dealt with AI/London and AIUSA at the highest levels, it is clear to me that both organizations manifest a consistent pattern and practice of following the lines of the foreign policies of the United States, Britain, and Israel. …Effectively, Amnesty International and AIUSA function as tools for the imperialist, colonial and genocidal policies of the United States, Britain, and Israel.”

  • Eliot Higgins, of whom Gareth Porter wrote:

“Eliot Higgins is a non-resident fellow of the militantly anti-Russian, State Department-funded Atlantic Council, and has no technical expertise on munitions.

British journalist Graham Phillips wrote in February 2016 on Eliot Higgins. Answering his question on who is Eliot Higgins, Phillips wrote:

“He never finished college, dropping out of the Southampton Institute of Higher Education. When asked…what he studied at university, his answer was, Media…I think.’ Higgins has always been completely open about his lack of expertise.”

The Guardian’s Russia Obsession

By now it should be clear that the intent of Solon’s December 18th story was not to address the manifold questions (facts) about the White Helmets’ ties to (inclusion of) terrorists in Syria, nor to question the heroic volunteers’ obscene amount of funding from Western sources very keen to see Syria destabilized and its government replaced.

Rather, the intent was to whitewash this rescue group, and to demonize those of us highlighted, and especially to insert more Russophobia (although Russia’s military intervention in Syria is legal, unlike that of the US-led coalition, of which Solon’s UK is a part).

Since our last early October communication until the long-awaited publishing of her slander-filled piece, Solon produced (or co-produced) 24 stories for the Guardian, nine of which were blame-Russia! sort of stories, including such lexicon as “Russian operatives”, “Russian interference”, “Russian trolls”, “Russian propagandists”, and “Russian bots”.

Is Baroness Cox, of the UK House of Lords, who recently spoke in support of Russia’s (invited) intervention in Syria, a “conspiracy theorist”, a Russian operative” or Kremlin-funded? She said (emphasis added):

“And the fourth point that I would like to make particularly to you is the very real appreciation that is expressed by everyone in Syria of the support by Russia to help get rid of ISIS [Daesh] and get rid of all the other Islamist religious groups.”

Cox, who went to Syria, is probably not a Kremlin or Assad agent. She probably just listened to the voices of Syrians in Syria, like the rest of us Russian propagandists who have bothered to go (repeatedly) to Syria and speak with Syrian civilians.

This is the first part of a longer article. Part II is forthcoming.

(*Some small additions are marked in red.)

DRau5UBX4AIcSem.jpg large

 

[Eva Bartlett is a freelance journalist and rights activist with extensive experience in the Gaza Strip and Syria. Her writings can be found on her blog, In Gaza.]

Avaaz Goes to Myanmar

Avaaz Goes to Myanmar

September 8, 2017

by Cory Morningstar with Forrest Palmer

 

“Good fucking luck with the World Bank ‘supporting’ your transition to democracy. Soon, the ADB (Asian Development Bank) will come and do the same – if it hasn’t already. Everyone falls for the utterly stupid. Mad world.” – Philippine citizen/activist Kristine Alvarez in response to the announcement “World Bank OKs first Myanmar aid in 25 years”, November 2, 2011

Andrea Woodhouse poses for a portrait on the new bridge on Sule Pagoda road, downtown Yangon. (C) Chiara Luxardo

 

In the book NGOs – The Self-Appointed Altruists (written in 2002 and updated in 2011) the author observes:

“NGO’s in places like Sudan, Somalia, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Albania, and Zimbabwe have become the preferred venue for Western aid – both humanitarian and financial – development financing, and emergency relief. According to the Red Cross, more money goes through NGO’s than through the World Bank. Their iron grip on food, medicine, and funds rendered them an alternative government – sometimes as venal and graft-stricken as the one they replace.”

 

“The elites like this model, but it’s fragility is evident. Cancun itself can only take so many more category 5 hurricanes before it will be retired like Mazatlan or Atlantic City. When this happens, new frontiers of commodified leisure, whether in Colombia, Sri Lanka or Myanmar, will be developed, but even so the economic and political costs of the 2 degree Celsius average temperature rise that the world leaders have deemed acceptable are staggering.” — Normalizing Catastrophe: Cancun as Laboratory of the Future, Dec 18. 2010

In the March 3, 2017 article Yangon, Myanmar: World Bank Specialist Goes Back to Beginnings the Financial Times published a full feature on Avaaz co-founder Andrea Woodhouse. The article covers the following events.

In 2008 Avaaz co-founders Andrea Woodhouse and her husband David Madden went to Myanmar. According to Woodhouse, she carried out post-disaster work for nine months following Cyclone Nargis for “a body comprising the government, the UN, and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations”. During this time, Woodhouse states there were “no credit cards, no ATMs and a SIM card for a mobile phone cost roughly $1,500.00.”

Former United States President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with Aung San Suu Kyi and her staff at her home in Rangoon on November 19, 2012. Source: (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Neoliberalism would soon follow. In 2012, Woodhouse would relocate to central Yangon “to settle as a social development specialist for the World Bank, which was re-engaging with Myanmar after an absence of more than 20 years” with her spouse and Avaaz co-founder David Madden. Not so coincidentally, Myanmar’s opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi was released from house arrest, US and EU sanctions began to lift and “market liberalisation” was under way. Between 2011 and 2015 the cost of renting a typical apartment more than doubled with landlords catering to the wave of foreign money by demanding a full years rent up front.

In the Montessori school where Woodhouse’s child attends (“one of maybe two expats in a class of about 15 to 20 children”) the school teaches in English rather than Burmese. Living in one of the poorest countries in Asia, wealthy expats (inclusive of Woodhouse and Madden) and Myanmar elites travel abroad for medical treatment and child birth. Woodhouse acknowledges her children are  “extremely privileged”.

August 18, 2017, The FINANCIAL — “The Republic of the Union of Myanmar and the World Bank today signed a US$200 million credit for a First Macroeconomic Stability and Fiscal Resilience Development Policy Operation…. The terms for the IDA credit include a repayment period of 38 years…” [Source]

“In 2012 if we went to a restaurant popular with expats, we would probably recognise everyone there. Now we wouldn’t know a single person.”— Andrea Woodhouse

The vast majority of expats rent. Typical two-bedroom, serviced apartments in the capital cost about $5,100 per month. Parliament passed a new condominium law, which gives foreigners rights to purchase flats, in January 2016.

Avaaz Co-founder David Madden in Myanmar

  

Avaaz and Purpose co-founders Jeremy Heimans (l) and David Madden: “Jeremy Heimans and David Madden founders of Get Up! Action for Australia, at Old Parliament house in Canberra on Friday, 29th July, 2005.” THE AGE NEWS Picture by PENNY

“After years of isolation, Myanmar is opening up. Opportunities abound. However international companies have little experience here and local firms have little experience working with them. Parami Road meets this need.” — Parami Road Website

As first noted in the 2014 article, SYRIA: Avaaz, Purpose & the Art of Selling Hate for Empire, David Madden, co-founder of both Avaaz and New York consulting firm Purpose, has also co-founded the marketing firm Parami Road in Myanmar (“Our clients are mostly international companies entering Myanmar and they demand an international standard of work”) as well as the tech firm Phandeeyar – a 6000 square foot ICT hub in the heart of downtown Yangon. Launched with the support of several sponsors in 2014, including Internews and Phandeeyar (previously operated as Code for Change Myanmar), it is important to note that the key partners of Phandeeyar are USAID, the US State Department, U.S. Mission to ASEAN, and the  US-ASEAN Business Council. [Source]

“A serial entrepreneur who co-founded the global campaigning website Avaaz.org and U.S.-based digital strategy agency Purpose, among others, the Harvard-educated Madden believes technology is essential for Myanmar’s development.” — July 8, 2015, Myanmar Now

Simply stated, Madden plays a vital role in bringing western ideologies and foreign investment to the doorstep of Myanmar. As a co-founder of Avaaz, an NGO that specializes in behavioural change, Madden’s hashtag for his tech firm (“human Capital Development”) sums up the goal: social impact (#socialimpact MM). Of course, Madden cannot achieve this alone, thus he is joined by thousands of NGOs that comprise the non-profit industrial complex:

“Estimates vary widely on the number of local NGOs in Myanmar. An article claimed more than 10,000 such groups, while another study conducted in 2003 by Save the Children—the first detailed look at civil society in Myanmar—estimated there were 270 local NGOs at that time. Regardless of the number, there is a vibrant and growing nongovernment sector encompassing a range of interests and approaches throughout the country. International NGOs are increasingly active in Myanmar, working in humanitarian response and longer-term development in a multitude of sectors, including the environment, health, education, livelihoods, rule of law, advocacy, and civil society capacity building. International NGOs, present in small numbers since the 1990s, have entered Myanmar in two recent waves: in the aftermath of Cyclone Nargis in 2008, and since the forming of the new government in early 2011.” — Civil Society Briefs Myanmar

A key function of Madden’s tech firm is not unlike that of MoveOn.org (a co-founding NGO of Avaaz) and its relationship with the US Democratic party, which is to focus on building Myanmar’s voter registration. It’s other key function is to pitch business opportunities to investors. In September of 2016, the tech firm launched the “Phandeeyar accelerator”.  According to Forbes (October 31, 2016), the “accelerator” provides $25,000 in seed funding, mentoring and free office space in Phandeeyar’s 6,000-square-foot building. Participants also receive “$200,000 worth of strategic services, including access to Amazon Web Services, free English classes and a range of other benefits. They’ll also have the opportunity to pitch investors who Madden describes as ‘serious about the Myanmar market.'” Madden foresees startups that establish themselves “could be poised for explosive growth in the next several years as the economy continues to accelerate.”

“Madden said that some had been hesitant, waiting to see how State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi’s rise to power would play out. But confidence is growing following the peaceful political transition, and the U.S.’ decision to ease sanctions in recent years has inspired much interest in the country. McKinsey Global Institute estimates that Myanmar’s economy has the potential to reach $200 billion in 2030, more than tripling from $45 billion in 2010. The Overseas Private Investment Corporation, run by the U.S. government, issued the first installment of $250 million loan to the telecommunication company Apollo Towers Myanmar in June. Microsoft is working with the Myanmar Computer Company to help 100,000 people develop IT skills within the country. And the country saw a strong performance from its first listed stock earlier this year, indicating potential for future growth. Investment opportunities abound, with deep needs across the energy, tourism and infrastructure markets, according to the British Chamber of Commerce.” —This Tech Accelerator Is Betting That Myanmar’s Startup Scene Is Set To Explode, Forbes, October 31, 2016 [Emphasis added]

In 2017, the Phandeeyar Accelerator’s Demo Day hosted over 200 local and international investors. The list included 70 venture capital investors (VCs) and mentors including Red Dot Ventures, Digital Ventures, and Omidyar Network. Note that although the official language of Myranmar is Burmese, spoken by 70-80% of the population, all Burmese speaking in the Phandeeyar demo day video are speaking English. Far be it for Anglo “leaders” to make any concerted effort to speak Burmese, let alone learn the language. This of course is colonization in one of its most accepted and blatant forms. This point is further validated by the fact that Edulink Australia (specializing in English proficiency) is a strategic partner of Phandeeyar.

Madden is not the only expat poised for explosive growth in Myanmar. With the global capitalist economic system hovering close to stall speed, the world’s most powerful corporations are desperately searching for new markets. Myanmar is the “new sweet spot” for the most egregious corporate entities:

“Still, the country’s young, inexpensive workforce and low living standards offer huge potential for growth. GE, on its website, describes Myanmar as a “new sweet spot” for growth in Southeast Asia. Some other major U.S. brands got a head start, including Coca-Cola, which has a factory producing for the local market. Ball Corp. has a factory in Yangon’s Thilawa Special Economic Zone making cans for Coca-Cola. MasterCard is expanding in the area of ATM cards. GE is active in energy and other sectors and leases Boeing 737-800s to the country’s national airlines. ConocoPhillips and Chevron have stakes in oil and gas exploration and development. Some U.S. businesses, like Caterpillar, have distribution tie-ups in Myanmar with local or other foreign companies.” [October, 2016, Source]

 

Above: Phandeeyar headquarters

On June 3, 2016 it was announced that Phandeeyar secured a $2 million follow-on investment from Omidyar Network. [Source: Deal Street Asia] Omidyar Network first invested in Phandeeyar in 2014 with other investors and aid givers including the Schmidt Family Foundation, the Open Society Foundation, USAID and Google. Deal Street Asia also reports that “[A]part from Phandeeyar, Omidyar Network has invested in Proximity Designs, Open Myanmar Initiative (OMI), Myitmakha news agency, Yangon Journalism School, Global Witness and Namati in the country.”

Financiers of Madden’s entrepreneurial tech operations and innovations also include Internews, Facebook, the United States Embassy, Hewitt Packard, Samsung, the US State Department, Pact, Office of Transition Initiatives (USAID), The Asia Foundation, KBZ Bank and Red Dot Ventures. Strategic partners include (but are not limited to) telenor, wave money (telenor, Yoma Bank), Fb Start, AWS Activate (Amazon), JobNet, Microsoft BizSpark, Today Ogilvy Myanmar (“we make brands matter”), Edulink Australia (specializing in English proficiency) and PwC.

The Innovation Marketplace is a joint initiative by Phandeeyar and FHI 360, and supported by USAID in which a primary focus is “mobilization of popular support for social change.”

And while the rich get richer:

“Land laws were changed in 2012 and 2013 to make it easier for the government to facilitate land grabs and many segments of the rural population have seen their homes demolished and their paddy fields ruined to make way for foreign development projects. Farmers like Umya Hlaing have been left without land with, “no conversation, no replacement land, no adequate compensation.” [January 30, 2017, Source]

The Ultimate Balancing Act

Here one must note that while Myanmar opens its arms to neoliberal foreign policy, it simultaneously transitions into a playground for the rich – all while the tensions and killings between the Muslim Rohingya, the Buddhist Rakhine, the Burmese authorities, Burmese government and its military escalate. As the so-called human rights NGOs (which are actually in servitude to empire) turn up the volume on this crisis, we must acknowledge there is much more going on behind the scenes that we, in the west, are not cognizant of. For example, terrorist factions such as Islamic State and Al Qaeda have embedded themselves into various Rohingya organizations such as the Rohingya Liberation Organization and the Rohingya Solidarity Organization. The well-documented atrocities and killings of Buddhist Rakhine by the Rohingya go unreported by mainstream media. This has undoubtedly been orchestrated, at least in part, by foreign interests. Exploiting existing divisions is key to controlled chaos and destabilization. Where divisions do not already exist – they are created.


Above: Avaaz campaign

Above: Avaaz training Buddhist Monks:A young student and monk take part in a non-violence training program – they cannot show their faces for fear of being identified by the military.” Source: Avaaz website

The said contention surrounding the Rohingya is the issue of legal citizenship (sovereignty and nationality) verses refugee/migrant status. This ongoing crisis is then conflated with the religious components. The fact that this is a basic human rights issue is then lost. Further, “Harsha Walia, a social justice activist and journalist, tells us that borders are constructs and that they serve an imperialistic purpose. Borders represent practices used to legally coerce displaced migrants into precarious labor and criminalized existence. In her work, Undoing Border Imperialism, Walia offers a framework termed ‘border imperialism,’ which is a system that controls the flow of people, themselves fleeing the military or economic violence of empire, who are racialized and economically exploited by their illegalization.” [Source: Borders: Imaginary Lines, Real Exploitation]

What is notable here is that fact that although Avaaz has produced a campaign to bring attention to this tragedy, never do they ask for the world to demand the implementation of a no-fly zone as they have done in countries that reject imperial dominance. It appears as though, if Myanmar does not continue to kowtow sufficiently to foreign interests, an intervention with a no-fly-zone on could easily be the next campaign demand for NGOs to rally behind. However, this is most unlikely as the full transition of Myanmar to western ideologies is already well underway with foreign investment now pouring in. Regardless of the geopolitics involving China and Asia as a whole, the fact is the World Bank has already sunk it’s teeth in. There is simply too much to risk with a full raze of the landscape. Indeed, the Myanmar crisis will prove to be a problematical balancing act of sabotaging Chinese interests while simultaneously attracting foreign investment from western corporations. If necessary, a coup is far more likely to be orchestrated by foreign interests. The crisis being highlighted by international NGOs should be seen as more of a threat – pressure upon Aung San Suu Kyi to ensure complete subservience more than anything else. The key factor is this: interventions by imperial states are never based on protecting human rights.

Also, to be taken into account, is the power struggle between the declining United States and new superpower China. First, consider the massive investment into Myanmar by China:

 “But the total $248 million U.S. companies have committed since 1988 amounts to less than 1 percent of total foreign investment of about $60 billion. China has invested more than $25 billion, according to Chinese figures.” [October 2016, Source]

Secondly, consider the crucial energy aspect:

 “After the massive Rakhine energy reserves were discovered in 2004 they attracted China’s attention. By 2013 China completed oil and natural gas pipelines, which connect Myanmar’s port of Kyaukphyu with the Chinese city of Kunming in Yunnan province.” [Source]

Dmitry Mosyakov, director of the Centre for Southeast Asia, Australia and Oceania at the Institute of Oriental Studies of the Russian Academy of Sciences, sums it up as follows:

“First, this is a game against China, as China has very large investments in Arakan [Rakhine] Second, it is aimed at fueling Muslim extremism in Southeast Asia…. Third, it’s the attempt to sow discord within ASEAN [between Myanmar and Muslim-dominated Indonesia and Malaysia]. — [Source]

Myanmar-to-China Crude Oil & Gas Pipelines

The Myanmar-China crude oil and gas pipelines were designed to carry more than 22 million tons of oil and more than 420 billion cubic feet of natural gas per year was to commence operations in 2013. On April 11, 2017, the Financial Times announced that China and Myanmar would open long-delayed oil pipeline after being suspended for years, fraught with delays and conflict. “Once fully operational, the pipeline from Made island in Rakhine state can supply almost 6 per cent of China’s crude oil imports. The gas line is already in use.” On May 20, 2017 India of Times reported that “China-Myanmar oil pipeline opens enhancing tie: The oil reached Ruili, a border city of in China’s Yunnan Province at 4 p.m. on Friday according to the state owned China National Petroleum Corporation, which built the pipeline.”

Map: Oil & Gas Journal, 2012

Near-term pipeline plans grow, longer-term projects sag – Oil & Gas Journal, February 6, 2012:

“Myanmar awarded China National Petroleum Corp. exclusive rights to construct and operate the proposed Myanmar-to-China crude oil pipeline. This line and a companion natural gas pipeline would transport hydrocarbons from the Bay of Bengal across Myanmar to southwestern China (Fig. 4). Plans call for the 440,000-b/d crude pipeline to run between Maday Island in western Myanmar through Ruili in China’s southwestern Yunnan province and on to a new 200,000-b/d refinery in Anning. Both the pipeline and refinery are to begin operation by 2013. CNPC began building a large oil import port at Kyaukpyu, Myanmar, in October 2009 to serve as the pipeline’s input point. The port will be able to receive vessels up to 300,000 dwt and will have storage capacity of 600,000 cu m.”

The natural gas pipeline is scheduled to begin carrying 12 billion cu m/year to southwestern China in 2013. Route preparation began in mid-2010, with the first pipes welded in August 2011. The pipeline will parallel the route of the crude pipeline to Ruili. From there it will run to Kunming, the capital of Yunnan province, before extending to Guizhou and Guangxi in South China.

The crude line will transport oil carried by tanker from the Middle East, while the gas line will carry material from Myanmar’s offshore A-1 and A-3 blocks. Total estimated project costs are $1.5 billion for the oil pipeline and $1.04 billion for the gas pipeline.

The new pipelines will give China better access to Myanmar’s resources and will speed deliveries and improve China’s energy security by bypassing the congested Malacca Strait, which currently ships most of China’s imported crude oil.”

Here it is important to note that 90% of the crude oil going through the Myanmar-to-China pipeline is designated for China – while the bulk of the ecological devastation and social impacts/displacement, has been placed on the Myanmar ecosystems and most vulnerable populations.

The Strategic Expansion of Globalization & Capitalism

In this Friday, Oct. 7, 2016 photo, a sign of KFC’s grinning Colonel Sanders and his goatee is lit outside its outlet in Yangon, Myanmar. The end of most U.S. sanctions against Myanmar is raising hopes western businesses will join the rush to invest in Myanmar that up to now has been dominated by China and other Asian countries. But much hinges on how the government, led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, reshapes the country’s outdated laws and other policies. (AP Photo/Elaine Kurtenbach)

 

Here it is critical to acknowledge that empire’s strategic plans for expansion are designed years and even decades in advance. Consider that the co-founder of Avaaz Ricken Patel has been involved in Burmese activism since 2001 – 6 years prior to the founding of Avaaz – and also prior to co-founding Res Publica (a founding NGO of Avaaz) with Avaaz co-founder and former U.S. Representative Tom Perriello:

“…I have worked for years in Sierra Leone, Liberia, Sudan, and Afghanistan for international organizations, and I first got involved in Burma activism in 2001, so I had some experience to bring to understand the dynamics and the groups involved.

 

From the start, we recognized that granting money well, monitoring its expenditure, and following up is a demanding activity that requires professional support. Avaaz is a campaigning organization and not in this business. So we chose a foundation partner with long experience supporting the Burmese people to advise and administer our community’s donation. That group is the Open Society Institute, one of the largest and most respected foundations in the world. OSI is taking no overhead on the funds we are granting to Burmese groups, and has also increased its own support to this cause in 2008.” [Source]

It is also vital to recall George Soros (a key financial backer of Avaaz at its inception) has long had his eye on Myanmar.  The 2003 Council of Foreign Relation’s report titled “Burma: Time For Change,” (“Report of an Independent Task Force Sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations”) summarized the intentions: “[T]hese recommendations are intended to inform U.S. government actions as well as to increase U.S. cooperation with other countries, especially in Asia, to bring about a long overdue political, economic, and social transformation of Burma.” The independent task force sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations included 21 task force members (inclusive of George Soros) who were representative/associates of the following organizations, corporations and institutions:  Human Rights Watch, Goldwyn International Strategies (an international consulting firm focusing on the geopolitics of energy), the Unocal Corporation (oil and gas), liaisons for Vanity Fair, New York Times, New Republic, U.S News, World Report, The Economist,  the Open Society Institute and the Soros Foundations Network, Soros Fund Management, the World Bank, Amnesty International, National Security Council, the Millennium Development Goals, Psychiatry and Public Health, Refugee NGOs, and National Democratic Institute for International Affairs.

The seven organizations/institutions represented by eight task force observers were The Century Foundation, The Asia Foundation, U.S. Department of State, Council on Foreign Relations, U.S. House of Representatives, International Crisis Group and the United Nations Department of Political Affairs.

As a side note, the report also demonstrates the extent to which the international NGOs work hand in glove with imperial states, funneling funds through NGOs rather than governments. This demonstrates the blatant paternalism unabashedly embedded in the policy of Western governments:

“According to the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office, current U.K. policy is to deliver “targeted, transparent, and accountable assistance to ordinary Burmese people through the UN, international NGOs, and not through the Burmese authorities,” — The Council of Foreign Relation’s (CFR) 2003 document entitled “Burma: Time For Change,” [Source]

And while those in Ivory Towers, who have succeeded in decimating the natural environment in their own countries, transform Myanmar into a country that will reflect not only Western values but also the vapid western waste and consumption… and while rich expats rent apartments for USD $3,000 – $8,000 per month… consider the residents of 555:

“Like many others, he moved to Yangon to look for work in the sprawling shantytowns that have grown up on the outskirts of the city. The suburbs are centers of industries that have begun to boom since Myanmar opened to the world in 2011. Factories cordoned off behind iron gates produce everything from salt to garments. But with a new government in power since April, the 555 residents are among hundreds of thousands of informal settlers facing an uncertain future as displacement looms on the horizon again.

 

Nay Shwe moved to Hlaing Tharyar in 1996 as a construction worker employed to build the upmarket Pun Hlaing Golf Course — a gleaming image of wealth right next door to the slums. He rifled through a plastic wallet to pull out a crumpled, yellowed letter granting permission for himself and several other laborers to live near the grounds. At the time, there was little more than vacant scrubland. “We have endured hardships since that time until now,” he says. “We had to pump much sand from the river to live here.” Subsequent years brought tussles over the land. In 2012, he spent six months in prison for organizing protests against a planned forced eviction that was eventually suspended…

 

“When we describe the slums we always describe the negative things,” says Slingsby. “We never look at the positive things. These people are great survivors. … Somehow they manage to survive. Somehow a lot of them send their children to school and even to university. Who built the houses? The people built houses themselves.”

 

When their kids were turned away from the official schools, the 555 residents simply built their own. They recruited their own volunteer teachers. On a recent morning, a group of village elders, all men, stood outside and admired their handiwork. Like most of the structures in the area, the single-story school is propped up on wooden stilts to protect it from the rising water.

 

“So flooding is a problem here, but we can build a concrete road, so flooding for two or three hours is OK for us,” says Hla Htay. 555 might not exist, officially, and it might not be good land, but it is home.

 

“We prefer living here because it is the nearest place to our work, to the factories, so here we can build everything by ourselves,” he says. “We can build our houses. If we need to move somewhere provided by the government it will be expensive. … It will be a lot of rules.” [July 18, 2016, Evicting the Residents of 555]

The word Avaaz apparently translates to “voice”. Unfortunately, Avaaz is a voice for the elite power structures that keep the world at large enslaved. Avaaz is a slap in the face to the self-determination of citizens in sovereign countries everywhere. It must be recognized that those who continue to support this organization, with full knowledge of its elite formation, share these paternalistic Western values.

 

 

Further reading:

  • China Kunming to Myanmar Kyaukpyu DWP pipelines to open in June 2013, January 23, 2013
  • Myanmar, la Cina assetata di petrolio costruisce un porto e un gasdotto: in fuga migliaia di pescatori locali e 23 villaggi fantasma, February 5, 2015
  • Geopolitics of Rohingya Crisis, September 3, 2017
  • The Rohingya Crisis: Conflict Scenarios And Reconciliation Proposals, September 7, 2017

 

[Cory Morningstar is an independent investigative journalist, writer and environmental activist, focusing on global ecological collapse and political analysis of the non-profit industrial complex. She resides in Canada. Her recent writings can be found on Wrong Kind of Green, The Art of Annihilation, and Counterpunch. Her writing has also been published by Bolivia Rising and Cambio, the official newspaper of the Plurinational State of Bolivia. You can follow her on twitter @elleprovocateur]

[Forrest Palmer is an electrical engineer residing in Texas.  He is a part-time blogger and writer and can be found on Facebook. You may reach him at forrest_palmer@yahoo.com.]

Amnesty International Is Weaponizing Human Rights For The U.S., NATO

TeleSUR

August 13, 2017

by Tortilla con Sal

 

Nicaragua’s current Sandinista government has been the most successful ever in reducing poverty and defending the right of all Nicaraguans to a dignified life.

Over the last year, in Latin America, Amnesty International has taken their collusion in support of NATO government foreign policy down to new depths of falsehood and bad faith, attacking Venezuela and, most recently, Nicaragua. The multi-million dollar Western NGO claims, “We are independent of any government, political ideology, economic interest or religion.”

That claim is extremely dishonest. Many of Amnesty International’s board and most of the senior staff in its secretariat, which produces the organization’s reports, are individuals with a deeply ideologically committed background in corporate dominated NGOs like PurposeOpen Society InstituteHuman Rights Watch, and many others.

Mexico has over 36,000 people disappeared and abuses by the security forces are constant. Colombia has over four million internally displaced people with over 53 community activists murdered just in 2017. Amnesty International generally puts that horrific reality in context by including criticism of forces challenging those countries’ authorities. By contrast, its reporting on Venezuela and Nicaragua, like those of other similar Western NGOs, reproduces the false claims of those countries’ minority political opposition forces, all supported one way or another by NATO country governments.

In Venezuela and Nicaragua, Western human rights organizations exaggerate alleged government violations while minimizing abuses and provocations by the opposition. This screenshot of Amnesty International’s three main news items on Venezuela from Aug. 9 gives a fair idea of the organization’s heavily politicized, bad faith coverage of recent events.

This is identical false coverage to that of Western mainstream corporate media and most Western alternative media outlets too. Amnesty International’s coverage minimizes opposition murders of ordinary Venezuelans, setting many people on fire, violent attacks on hospitals, universities and even preschools and innumerable acts of intimidation of the general population. That headline “Venezuela: Lethal violence, a state policy to strangle dissent” is a pernicious lie. President Nicolas Maduro explicitly banned the use of lethal force against opposition demonstrations from the start of the latest phase of the opposition’s long drawn out attempted coup back in early April this year.

Likewise, against Nicaragua, Amnesty’s latest report, kicking off their global campaign to stop Nicaragua’s proposed Interoceanic Canal, also begins with a demonstrable lie: “Nicaragua has pushed ahead with the approval and design of a mega-project that puts the human rights of hundreds of thousands of people at risk, without consultation and in a process shrouded in silence” That claim is completely false. Even prior to September 2015, the international consultants’ impact study found that the government and the HKND company in charge of building the canal had organized consultations with, among others, over 4,000 people from rural communities in addition to 475 people from Indigenous communities along the route of the canal and its subsidiary projects. There has been very extensive media discussion and coverage of the project ever since it was announced.

That extremely prestigious ERM consultants’ Environmental and Social Impact study, which together with associated studies cost well over US$100 million, is publicly available in Spanish and in English. Two years ago, it anticipated all the criticisms made by Amnesty International and was accepted by the Nicaraguan government, leading to a long period of analysis and revision that is still under way. Amnesty International excludes that information. Recently, government spokesperson Telemaco Talavera said the continuing process involves a total of 26 further studies. Until the studies are complete, the government is clearly right to avoid commenting on the proposed canal, because the new studies may radically change the overall project.

Amnesty International states, “According to independent studies of civil society organizations, along the announced route of the canal, approximately 24,100 households (some 119,200 people) in the area will be directly impacted.” But, the ERM study notes, “HKND conducted a census of the population living in the Project Affected Areas. The census determined that approximately 30,000 people (or 7,210 families) would need to be physically or economically displaced.” But Amnesty International’s report omits that contradictory detail, demonstrating how irrationally committed they are to the false propaganda of Nicaragua’s political opposition.

Amnesty International claim their research team interviewed “at least 190 people” concerned about the effects of the canal. By contrast, the Nicaraguan government and the HKND company have discussed the project with around 6,000 people in the areas along the route of the canal. In that regard, even the local church hierarchy has criticized the way the Nicaraguan opposition have manipulated rural families on the issue of the Canal. But that fact too, Amnesty International omits. Their whole report is tailor made to supplement the political opposition’s campaign for U.S. intervention via the notorious NICA Act.

The Nicaraguan government has made an express commitment to a fair and just resolution of the issue of expropriations. Its 2015 report on the canal in the context of its National Development Plan, states: “The Nicaraguan government and HKND will guarantee that persons and families on the route of the canal’s construction will have living conditions superior to those they currently have (without the canal). To that end, the Government of Reconciliation and National Unity, via the Project’s Commission, will guarantee not just a fair and transparent indemnification of their properties, via negotiations and direct agreements with each family affected, but furthermore will promote actions to improve their economic conditions, health care, education, housing and employment.”

But the Amnesty International report systematically excludes that and any other sources giving the government’s point of view, claiming it was unable to access primary sources either from the government itself or from among the canal’s numerous advocates. However, secondary sources abound that categorically contradict Amnesty’s advocacy against the canal. The report specifically and extensively attacks the Law 840, facilitating the construction of the canal and its sub-projects, but cynically omits a fundamental, crucial detail, while also failing completely to give relevant social and economic context.

The crucial detail is that Law 840’s Article 18 specifically states the canal project “cannot require any Government Entity to take any action that violates the Political Constitution of the Republic of Nicaragua or the terms of any international treaty of which the State of the Republic of Nicaragua is a party.” Amnesty International completely omits that absolutely crucial part of Law 840 from their report because it makes redundant their advocacy of opposition claims attacking the equity and legality of the Canal’s legal framework. The same is true of the relevant political, social and economic context.

Nicaragua’s political culture is based on dialogue, consensus, and respect for international law. All the main business organizations in Nicaragua and all the main international financial and humanitarian institutions acknowledge that. President Daniel Ortega and Vice President Rosario Murillo enjoy levels of approval of over 70 percent. There is a good reason for that massive majority approval. Among many other factors, the precedents of how the Nicaraguan authorities have resolved the relocation of populations affected by large projects, for example, the Tumarin hydroelectric project, completely contradict the scaremongering of the Nicaraguan opposition propaganda, so glibly recycled by Amnesty International.

Nicaragua’s current Sandinista government has been the most successful ever in reducing poverty and defending the right of all Nicaraguans to a dignified life. To do so, among many other initiatives, it has mobilized record levels of direct foreign investment. In that context, Law 840 explicitly protects the huge potential investments in the proposed canal, while at the same time implicitly guaranteeing constitutional protections. Similarly, ever since the announcement of the canal, Ortega has repeatedly, publicly reassured people in Nicaragua that any families who may eventually be relocated should the canal go ahead will get every necessary help and assistance from the government.

Just as it has done in the case of Venezuela, on Nicaragua, Amnesty International misrepresents the facts, cynically promoting the positions of the country’s right wing political opposition. In Latin America, under cover of phony concern for peoples’ basic rights, in practice Amnesty International, like almost all the big multi-millionaire Western NGOs, gives spurious humanitarian cover to the political agenda of the US and allied country corporate elites and their governments. The destructive, catastrophic effects of Amnesty International’s recent role in the crises affecting Syria, Ukraine and now Venezuela, are living proof of that.

 

[Tortilla con Sal is an anti-imperialist collective based in Nicaragua producing information in various media on national, regional and international affairs. In Nicaragua, we work closely with grass roots community organizations and cooperatives. We strongly support the policies of sovereign national development and regional integration based on peace and solidarity promoted by the member countries of ALBA.]

Usual Suspects

Public Good

June 26, 2017

by Jay Taber

“Automaton Conformity” by Erich Fromm

As noted at WKOG, the most recent fake news about chemical weapons attacks in Syria recycles the 2015 myth–propagated by the NATO-funded, White Helmets terrorist acting troupe–with ongoing assistance from the Soros-funded NGO, Human Rights Watch.

Before one jumps on the pro-war bipartisan bandwagon, as a reaction to alleged chemical warfare in Syria, one should examine the record of falsehoods created by the humanitarian-military-industrial complex. A good place to start is The Wall Will Fall. The US/UK intervention has been a Wag the Dog show since the outset.

As UK Professor Tim Hayward notes in his op-ed at WKOG, he, like many former Amnesty International supporters, took AI at its word when alleging war crimes and crimes against humanity by the Government of Syria. Reviewing the basis for such claims, Hayward easily discovered that AI had no evidence for them, and in so doing violated its own protocol to “collect evidence with our own staff on the ground,” thus failing to ensure that “every aspect of our data collection is based on corroboration and cross-checking,” as stated by Amnesty International’s Secretary General.

Eva Bartlett and Vanessa Beeley, independent journalists who covered the mainstream media fraud in Syria, shoot holes in the BBC/CNN/FOX promotion of terrorists as heroes.

The creation of discursive monoculture—intended to dominate all discussion of vital issues—is the result of a strategy by the power elite to prevent counter-power narratives from entering mainstream consciousness. Through hostile takeovers of government, media, and the non-profit industrial complex, the financial sector in the last decade has accomplished what official censorship and political repression could not: totalitarian control of social media, and the mobilization of progressives in support of neoliberal fascism.

As I noted in Preventing Discursive Monoculture, the financial sector capture of media, academia, and civil society indicates a future of diminishing consciousness—a future where fantasies about political power enable the murder of Indigenous activists and unembedded journalists with impunity. More recently, in A World of Make Believe, I elaborated on the fact that privatized mass communication now dominates public opinion to such a degree that all public discussion of vital issues is choreographed by PR firms.

In Controlling Consciousness, I observed that the donor elites that set the civil society agenda benefit from Wall Street’s vertical integration of controlling consciousness, allowing them to fabricate news, as well as to integrate advertising with government propaganda. In order to maintain credibility, the non-profit PR firms subservient to the power elite, i.e. Avaaz, need to first establish a noble reputation, often using the tried-and-true method of poverty pimping—an effective and largely undetected tool in the art of social engineering.

As I remarked in R2P: The Theatre of Catastrophe, under the neoliberal model of global conquest, social media marketing agencies like Avaaz, Purpose, and Amnesty International function as stage managers for the power elite in choreographed productions where neoliberal heroism can be enacted. These constructed events–that urge neoliberal military interventions in countries like Mali, Burundi, Libya and Syria—then draw in civil society as participants of moral catastrophe, where they actually become complicit in crimes against humanity.

The ulterior strategy of Avaaz as the ‘Great White Hope’ in other venues, subsequently allowed this social media marketing agency to easily herd so-called progressives to line up behind the neoliberal imperial campaigns in Libya & Syria—where Avaaz literally designed and managed the PR campaign for NATO and the US–in order to present the Al Qaeda affiliate Al Nusra as the good guys in ‘white helmets’. Networked psychological warfare (Netwar) is not hard to grasp; it just isn’t discussed anywhere, making Communication: The Invisible Environment.

In Smart Power & The Human Rights Industrial Complex, Patrick Henningsen reveals ‘perception management’ by the NGO sector as ‘co-marketing’ of foreign policy objectives of the US State Department, Pentagon and NATO. As Henningsen notes, leading human rights organizations—such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch—“have become virtual clearinghouses for interventionist propaganda”.

Says Henningsen, in the Balkans, Ukraine, Syria and Yemen—where they supported regime change—“NGOs function as public relations extension to a United Nations western member Security Council bloc, namely the US, UK and France”. To successfully frame geopolitical narratives on which these NGOs derive their fundraising campaigns, the lucrative revolving door between NGOs, government and media “converge to form a highly efficient, functioning alliance”.

Underwritten by some of the world’s leading transnational corporations, these organizations have well-developed links “leading straight into the heart of the military industrial complex”. Blinded by the fog of mass media and bombarded with faux moral imperatives, public opinion is led by these NGOs into supporting western-backed rebels and terrorists “under the banner of ‘human rights’.”