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WATCH: UKRAINE ON FIRE

UKRAINE ON FIRE – The Real Story. Full Documentary by Oliver Stone (Original English version)

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“Ukraine. Across its eastern border is Russia and to its west—Europe. For centuries, it has been at the center of a tug-of-war between powers seeking to control its rich lands and access to the Black Sea. 2014’s Maidan Massacre triggered a bloody uprising that ousted president Viktor Yanukovych and painted Russia as the perpetrator by Western media. But was it?

Ukraine on Fire by Igor Lopatonok provides a historical perspective for the deep divisions in the region which lead 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.

Executive producer Oliver Stone gains unprecedented access to the inside story through his on-camera interviews with former President Viktor Yanukovych and Minister of Internal Affairs, Vitaliy Zakharchenko, who explain how the U.S. Ambassador and factions in Washington actively plotted for regime change. And, in his first meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Stone solicits Putin’s take on the significance of Crimea, NATO and the U. S’s history of interference in elections and regime change in the region.” [Source: Ukraine on Fire website]

 

Imperial Mind Tricks: “Remember Pearl Harbor”, “Never Forget 9/11”, “Putin Did It”

The Greanville Post

August 11, 2018

By Hiroyuki Hamada

 


Pearl Harbor: The USS Virginia foundering. One of several capital ships attacked by Japanese aviation on 7 December 1941. US policy had made the attack almost certain.

“Remember Pearl Harbor” was the mantra used to enlist the US population in the imperial war in the Pacific.  The US triumphantly succeeded in bringing out the Japanese imperial force in the military conflict by squeezing Japan with trade embargo, war propaganda and military provocations when it became obvious that the interests of the Japanese empire collided with its own.

There were many common threads between the Japanese empire and the US empire.  Both were vehemently anti-communist, colonial and militaristic. There just couldn’t be two capitalist empires in the Pacific. The immediate US actions after the war—the war which was supposed to fight off the imperial Japanese—clearly indicate that the US was there to dominate the Pacific:  the devastating Korean War aimed to kill off communist forces from the peninsula resulted in the deaths of 1/4 of the Korean population, US colonial policies against Pacific nations and beyond, and commencement of the Cold War with USSR and its allies.


Hollywood has made many movies about Pearl Harbor. From Here to Eternity, a famous book, taken to the screen with a stellar cast, provided the plot for one of the industry’s biggest blockbusters. This is the poster for the French market. A prestigious film, the real backdrop for the story is the American soldiers’ reaction to “Japanese treachery.”  This is the way the culture absorbs and replicates the official narratives.

The US nuked Japan to state who was the top dog in the Pacific and beyond.  After the war the two empires became one.  The US establishment utilized willing Japanese war criminals in shaping the trajectory of post WW2 Japan within the US imperial framework.  Today,  the phrase “remember Pearl Harbor” is used to keep the US Pacific ally under control, while justifying its imperial trajectory across the globe.

Now, such an angle also helps us see 9/11 from a fresh perspective.  All the unanswered questions surrounding the event, the use of the event to start a string of colonial wars against the Middle East, the use of the event to introduce draconian laws against the US population and so on delineate the nature of the imperial trajectory.

Most of us avoid talking about 9/11 without following the narratives provided by the establishment because the topic has been stigmatized as “conspiracy” and it has become an industry independent from the historical context of colonial wars, capitalist expansion and loss of civil liberties.  However, it is clear that the world is suffering as a result of actions that followed the event—as 1 out of 100 people become refugees, while millions are killed by the US backed colonial wars, which have destroyed many countries in the name of “democracy”, “freedom” and “justice”.

I mentioned “remember Pearl Harbor” because recently I was told to remember it when I mentioned the dropping of nuclear bombs on the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  One would like to hope that nuclear incineration of a few hundred thousand innocent civilians would be condemned without any attempt for a justification.  However, the US school system still teaches the children that the decision to massacre so many people was necessary to end the war.  Of course, such a position represents racism, American exceptionalism and colonial mentality, and it is successfully refuted by many reputable scholars and journalists as well as testimonies by US military officials at the time of the events.  By the time nuclear bombs were dropped, the Japanese government was seeking ways to end the war.  It was totally unnecessary for the stated purpose, however, it functioned as an unimaginably gruesome live human experiment, a threat against communist powers and collective punishment against any imperial competitor which gets in the way of the US empire building.  If you or your family members are not familiar with the accurate  version of the event,  I highly recommend reading works by Gar Alperovitz and others (1).


FROM HERE TO ETERNITY CARRIED THE NARROW AMERICAN VERSION OF HISTORY, WRAPPED IN PERSONAL DRAMA. The film’s poster for the Italian market. Every region had its own marketing program, and the film was widely distributed throughout Asia, too. Many other Hollywod films presented the same poit of view. Only by the 1980s and 1990s, when Japan was seen as a reliable vassal state well integrated into the American imperialist system and expected to help contain China, were films permitted to incorporate a more balanced view of events, in some cases even presenting the Japanese in a sympathetic light.

But to say the least, I was not alive in 1941.  By the time I was born (1968) Japan was firmly in the hands of the US empire, violently repressing the segment of the Japanese population which stood against Japan’s complicity in the US militarism.  So can you see where those people stand when they tell you to “remember Pearl Harbor”?  It is the voice of the US empire chastising any element that goes outside of the imperial framework of colonialism, corporatism and militarism.

In the same way, I see people saying “remember 9/11”, “never forget 9/11” and so on.  But 9/11 regularly happens in Yemen today at the hands of the US led coalition (2).  Countless 9/11s have happened in Syria, which have killed 1/2 million Syrians, inflicted by the US backed terrorists (3).  Incidentally, those terror groups include associates of Al Qaeda, the original 9/11 attackers.  The US establishment is breaking its law in giving material support to terror groups, turning its own military forces into an auxiliary of Al Qaeda forces (4)(5).  And speaking of the origin, Osama Bin Ladin was a US backed “freedom fighter” in Afghanistan.  The US embarked on a deadly proxy war against socialist Afghanistan, and in the process, they created a justification for the the highly lucrative war on terror as well.  In that sense, no matter where the truth lies, there is something to the claim that 9/11 was an inside job.  One can observe that the US capitalist hegemony is actively shaping the imperial hierarchy by any means necessary.

But there is much more.  There have been over 10,000 victims of many 9/11s inflicted by the US backed Ukrainian coup government in the Russian-speaking eastern region of Ukraine. Those who are still parroting the US propaganda lies about Ukraine, or Crimea (6), please do watch Oliver Stone’s excellent documentary Ukraine On Fire (7).  It meticulously describes how the CIA fomented Nazi forces in the region, which had become vital in the US backed coup against the democratically elected deposed government.  Furthermore, in 2017, details of protester killings—which were quickly blamed on the elected Ukraine government by the media—were revealed by Georgian snipers (8).  In the testimonies, they claimed that they were ordered to shoot anyone to cause chaos at the scene (8).  Shockingly, they also stated that they were under command of an American military officer (8).  The US has been arming and training Ukraine military, continuing to add numbers of victims in Ukraine.  Those people who have contracted the Putin panic, an epidemic spewing hatred against anything Russian, need to recognize the gravity of the matter.  Our species has suffered deaths and destruction of imperial violence for some time.


Now, we have those same people in the west who have promoted the colonial savageries of murder and destruction against “others” telling us that Russians are destroying our “democracy”.  For those who do not know the history, Russia was subjected to political and economic intervention by the US in the 90s.  The US backed Boris Yeltsin—the US establishment openly bragged about him being their agent—even attacked his own parliament with tanks killing many officials.  Swarmed by the US neoliberal restructuring forces, the country’s socialist fabric was ripped apart to be sold away.  A prominent anti-imperial historian Luciana Bohne summarizes the era succinctly:

“The Neoliberal Great Terror,” known as economic “shock therapy.” Between 1992 and 2000, there were between five and six million “surplus deaths,” 170,000 people were murdered, the GDP fell by 50% (more than during German occupation in WW II), 70 million fell into poverty, death rates increased by 60%, like countries at war, life expectancy decreased in males to 57, abortions increased spectacularly, birth rates fell , , , suicides, tuberculosis, measles, diphtheria (eradicated in the 1930s) . . . In short (and this was supposed to be a short post) Russia, under “shock-therapy” “reforms” became the site of an economic genocide.”

It’s worth reading about what Luciana has to say about the century long US intervention against Russia (9).


The moral bankruptcy of the imperial media —mirroring the DNA of the capitalist system itself at its most malignant—is evident to anyone who understand even a bit of history.

Let’s put the dynamics in a perspective here regarding the “Evil Russian Empire”.  Russia’s economy is about the size of South Korea.  Its military spending is about 1/12 of the NATO forces.  The US continues to encroach on Russia with hundreds of military bases.  The US has been supporting right-wing coups around Russia despite its promise not to expand NATO forces.  It continues to economically pressure Russia with embargoes.  Russia is a geographically huge country with rich natural resources.  It is a strategic ally of the emerging economic giant China.  What is the US doing here?  The empire has been waiting for Russia to jump on its Pearl Harbor or a 9/11, isn’t it?  But after seeing what the US hegemony does to a country like Russia, why would anyone bite the bait?

Then we’ve got this insane Putin panic epidemic, which is nothing more than a product of psychopathic delusional projection by the establishment that has been hacking, intervening, destroying, hijacking and stealing other countries’ political processes for generations.  Two years of allegations, accusations and speculations have not provided any proof of the Russian President stealing the election.  The same thing can be said about the 12 Russians indicted recently (10), (11).  The government’s own intelligence officer, former CIA analyst Ray MacGovern, is warning the people that the alleged “Russian hacking” is unfounded while speculating that it is most likely the work of its own agency (12).

In any case, I am rather surprised that many people are buying such an obvious scheme of imperialism.  What the US establishment is concocting is a classic momentum heading toward a war described eloquently by Smedley Butler in War is a Racket (13).  It is a tactic of fascist manipulation described by Nazi war criminal Herman Goering:

“the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger.”

According to how history has unfolded what comes next are millions of horrible deaths and destruction.

We have been living in an empire that requires great sacrifices among the oppressed.  There isn’t a future for such a scheme that stands on a pile of lies and deceptions.  Every action to cover up a lie confirms the lie. The empire has been attempting to keep order by force.  They’ve hired hitmen, many of them.  But there is a time when the interests of the armed forces and the rich men collide in propping up the hierarchy.  The late stage capitalism, as gruesome and atrocious as it is, isn’t entirely about protection racket, extortion, murder and theft.  At some point, capitalists must fight among themselves for their own survival as their economic sphere suffers from their own violence and greed.  This is what we are facing today.  We are looking at the empire disintegrating as its economic sphere is losing its power and legitimacy while “enemies” of the empire are gaining a sphere of influence.  Corporate political parties, war industry, government agencies and the rest of the imperialists are struggling to assert their own interests within the imperial framework of corporatism, colonialism and militarism, while picking fights with Russia, China, Iran and any country that defies the imperial hegemony, desperately seeking ways to matastasize for their survival.  But the entire imperial order is collapsing.

We must not be a voice for the capitalist lords nor for the hitmen.  This is a time we must reach out to people like us in Russia, China, Syria, Iran, and other peoples of the planet, and people like us in our communities, with messages of peace, sharing and mutual respect.  The corporate power is already embarking on colonizing the momentum (see the work done by the Wrong Kind of Green on the non-profit industrial complex, for instance, 14).  We the people of the planet somehow must assert our desire to bring about a new era for our species beyond the sufferings and deaths of neo-feudalism.  You might feel isolated.  But we are everywhere on this planet. We want to live as brothers and sisters.  We want to live in harmony with our planet.  We share our perspectives and facts for a better tomorrow for our children and their children.  This is an urgent challenge of our time.  Peace to us all.


END NOTES

1. The War Was Won Before Hiroshima—And the Generals Who Dropped the Bomb Knew It

By Gar Alperovitz

https://www.thenation.com/article/why-the-us-really-bombed-hiroshima/

2. The US Led War on Yemen

By Stephen Gowans

https://www.greanvillepost.com/2017/11/20/the-us-led-war-on-yemen/

3. Washington’s Long War on Syria (A video from the book tour)

By Stephen Gowans

https://youtu.be/I7hWHrYdl00

4. The De Facto US/Al Qaeda Alliance

By Robert Parry

https://consortiumnews.com/2016/10/29/the-de-facto-usal-qaeda-alliance/

5. Syria – U.S. Moves To Protect Al-Qaeda And ISIS in Daraa

By Moon of Alabama

http://www.moonofalabama.org/2018/05/syria-us-moves-to-protect-al-qaeda-and-isis-in-daraa.html

6. Is it True That “Russia is Aggressive”?

by RICK STERLING

https://www.counterpunch.org/2016/07/15/is-it-true-that-russia-is-aggressive/

7. Ukraine on Fire

By Oliver Stone

https://vimeo.com/252426896

8. The Hidden Truth About Ukraine, Kiev Euromaidan Snipers Kill Demonstrators. Italian Documentary Bombshell Evidence

Cheap Dignity of the Ukrainian Revolution

By Oriental Review

https://www.globalresearch.ca/the-hidden-truth-about-ukraine-italian-documentary-bombshell-evidence-kiev-euromaidan-snipers-kill-demonstrators/5619684

9. LUCIANA BOHNE: TALK TO ME ABOUT RUSSIAGATE, ha!

https://www.greanvillepost.com/2018/07/28/luciana-bohne-talk-to-me-about-russiagate-ha/

10. Clinging to Collusion: Why Evidence Will Probably Never Be Produced in the Indictments of ‘Russian Agents’

By Joe Lauria

https://consortiumnews.com/2018/07/14/clinging-to-collusion-why-evidence-will-probably-never-be-produced-in-the-indictments-of-russian-agents/

11. No Evidence In Mueller’s Indictment Of 12 Russians – Release Now May Sabotage Upcoming Summit

By Moon of Alabama

http://www.moonofalabama.org/2018/07/no-evidence-in-muellers-indictment-of-12-russians-release-now-may-sabotage-upcoming-summit.html#more

12. Did DID [CIA’s Digital Innovation Directorate) Do the ‘Russian Hacking’?  Circumstantial evidence points in that direction, as Ray explains in this 16-minute video.

https://youtu.be/q75RKjfJ18M

13. War Is A Racket

By Smedley Butler

https://archive.org/stream/WarIsARacket/WarIsARacket_djvu.txt

14. PURPOSE GOES TO LATIN AMERICA

by Cory Morningstar with Forrest Palmer

http://www.wrongkindofgreen.org/2018/08/08/purpose-goes-to-latin-america/

[Hiroyuki Hamada was born in 1968 in Tokyo, Japan. He moved to the United States at the age of 18. Hamada studied at West Liberty State College, WV before receiving his MFA from the University of Maryland. Hamada has been included in numerous exhibitions throughout the United States including his previous exhibitions, Hiroyuki Hamada and Hiroyuki Hamada: Two Sculptures, at Lori Bookstein Fine Art. He was the recipient of the New York Foundation for the Arts Grant in 2009 and the Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant in 1998.  Most recently, he was awarded the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship in 2018. Hamada’s work is featured in Tristan Manco’s Raw + Material = Art (Thames & Hudson). The artist lives and works in East Hampton, NY.]

Is It Time to Critically Interrogate Nonviolence & Nonviolent Direct Action?

Black Agenda Report

March 15, 2018

By Doug Henwood

time to question nonviolence

Time to question nonviolent direct action as the path to change.

Activism. Democracy. Change through nonviolent direct action. These, Doug Henwood points out, have been fetishes for much of the US left for quite some time, especially that portion of the US left that takes its marching orders from corporate funders. Gene Sharp, the founder of the Albert Einstein Institute who passed away at the end of January was regarded as the father of American nonviolent direct action.

I usually write a weekly piece for Black Agenda Report, but this time I’m going to use that space to republish somebody else’s work, easily the most important thing I’ve heard so far this month. It’s an hour long Doug Henwood interview for the weekly radio show Behind The News on KPFA radio. Doug talks with Marcie Smith, who is writing a book on Sharp’s long and problematic career in the service of the US national security apparatus. Smith is an adjunct econ professor at John Jay College. She reveals how Gene Sharp and the Albert Einstein Institute which he founded weaponized and deployed nonviolent direct action in the service of successful and unsuccessful US attempts to overthrow the governments of the Soviet Union, Ukraine, China, Myannmar, Iran, Egypt during the Arab Spring, Venezuela, the former Yugoslavia and the Baltic States.

Besides deploying nonviolent direct action to topple governments standing in the way of Uncle Sam’s global empire, Gene Sharp and his funders have mentored a good deal of what some regard as the US left – at least those parts of it under the influence of one-percenter philanthropy – in the tactics and what passes for the philosophy of nonviolent direct action. According to Sharp’s and the Albert Einstein Institute’s peculiar philosophy, property destruction is violence, while the ravages of poverty and deprivation, of economic blockades and lack of medical care just to name a few phenomena, are not. Sharp’s views on the methods and importance of nonviolent direct action are highly influential in such quarters as Moral Monday and the so-called New Poor Peoples Campaign, parts of the environmental movement, and other places. Whether or not we embrace or espouse nonviolent direct action as an occasional tactic or a bedrock and fundamental strategy we owe it to ourselves to understand the origin of this idea, why the national security state promotes it, how and for whom it works and does not work, and why.

It’s time to critically interrogate the fetishes of nonviolence and nonviolent direct action as a path to the world we need to build. This great interview is a good start to that conversation. Here is the link. Click to listen or download it.

 

[You can find Doug Henwood’s Behind the News shows archived for the last several years at http://leftbusinessobserver.com .]

WATCH: NGOs: Grassroots Empowerment or Tool of Information Warfare?

South Front

September 30, 2016

 

The Work of Revelations: Snowden, the Torture Report, and the Diminishing Returns of Info-Spectacles

Popaganda

January 2, 2015

 

omidyar-lede

Omidyar, right, with (clockwise from left) Glenn Greenwald, Edward Snowden, and Laura Poitras. Illustration by Matthew Woodson. Photo: Matthew Woodson. Image: THE PIERRE OMIDYAR INSURGENCY [Source]

 

“An invasion of armies can be resisted, but not an idea whose time has come,” wrote Victor Hugo. Isn’t that ultimately the message of Les Misérables? In contrast to the revolutionaries hopelessly slaughtered en masse at the barricades, it’s Jean Valjean’s unimpeachable righteousness alone that ultimately drives his longtime tormentor to suicide. I dreamed a dream…

Rather than just being the domain of French Romantics and office motivational posters, the notion that information alone has transformative power is the cornerstone of establishment left thinking. It stems from liberal enlightenment ideals that configure history as a linear progression—embodied in the apocryphal quote about the moral arc of the universe. It goes one way, and that’s forwards towards progress. This coincides happily with the preponderance of lawyers in the ranks of mainstream human rights and civil liberties groups, for whom information is the sine qua non of preparing briefs and mounting cases.

There’s a more controversial theory that information isn’t inherently good. Even revelatory information—stuff the powerful don’t want you to know—ostensibly in the service of a progressive goal, can be used for right-wing ends if it obscures or moderates a more radical prescription. If information is getting used to co-opt a more radical course of action, then that project is reactionary.

For its part, progressive e-magazine TruthDig doesn’t want people messing with this line of thinking in the case of the Senate Torture report: “When the truth is spoken by politicians…skeptics are right to suspect it’s not merely the truth. It is always tailored to redound to some benefit to the speaker. But there are moments in history when that doesn’t matter.”

We’re being told it’s one such moment now. The Senate Intelligence Committee has released a heavily redacted, heavily abridged “Executive Summary” of its 6,000 page report on CIA torture. Adding to the report’s mystique is the fact that the White House and CIA wanted to suppress the information contained within, with the CIA even hacking the computers of Senate staffers compiling the report. The torture report seems like the most illicit kind of revelatory information, so it’s created an enormous amount of commentary and condemnation.

However, with the exceptions of some specific ghoulish details, most of the information was already known. The most horrific facts—that the CIA raped prisoners, that torture was used to fabricate justifications for the War in Iraq, that human beings were tortured to death, that almost a quarter of torture cases were the result of mistaken identity—had all been reported on within the last decade.

There’s a disconnect between the content of the torture report and the narrative that now surrounds the event itself. When TruthDig called for putting skepticism aside, it was in a piece hailing Senators Dianne Feinstein and John McCain as their progressive heroes of the week. Feinstein’s fingerprints are on many of the US’s worst abuses of this century, and McCain is one of the most bloodthirsty figures in the US government, and by extension the planet. Given that these newly minted progressive heroes are some of the worst imperialists, and the torture report’s aura doesn’t reflect reality, this seems like exactly the right moment for those meddlesome skeptics to be asking questions.

The journalists and public figures who promote the torture report present it as transformative information, but it’s shaping up to be a spectacle that sets the left back yet again. The report has followed many parallels with the last time this happened, the spectacle surrounding Ed Snowden’s leaks to Glenn Greenwald et al. The Snowden drama provided a useful template for how dissent is going to be managed, channeled, and moderated going forward. The way the NSA leaks were handled has provided the elites a scalable model for taking the release of even revelatory information and using it to come out on top and consolidate their power.

***

Fortunately, last October Pierre Omidyar’s First Look Media had an acrimonious public divorce with once-hire Matt Taibbi. If Taibbi had been someone with less social capital, then the failure of Racket might’ve just been a momentary hiccup for the internet’s hottest journalistic “insurgency.” As it stands, the fact that people want to be in Taibbi’s orbit has opened up a lot of space for analysis of Omidyar’s would-be media empire, where the establishment consensus was once airtight. It’s certainly vindicated what Taibbi said about journalists being akin to an easily spooked herd of deer, who only get around to asking the right questions “eventually. But far after the fact.”

When the leaks began, they painted a complete picture of a monster whose contours had only previously been hinted at. Stories about warrantless wiretapping and the size of “Top Secret America” had won their authors Pulitzers and hinted that the US government was spying on all of us. There were reports of a secret government data-storage facility of gargantuan proportions being built in Utah. Stories had periodically cropped up in unexpected places about the government’s ability to record and store all our communications. However, now the public knew the truth definitively. There was excitement, talk of change, reform, maybe even something more drastic. Soon, the whistleblower went public. More stories came out, about more countries.

However, there were problems from the outset. Tarzie, one of maybe 3 or 4 people asking the right questions from the outset, drew these threads out in August 2013 in his “Fuck the Guardian” series. Some of the serious problems were a zeal for secrecy and redactions, an over-emphasis on one set of actors at the expense of the bigger picture, and a single-minded devotion to “debate” and reform as the ideal solution. There were plenty of other problems, like the smearing of Chelsea Manning and a near-monopoly on information, all of which spoke to having surrendered ground to the very enemies being exposed. The entire event was taking place on the state’s terms, and as Arthur Silber wrote, “when the state floods the zone, any chance for reform is dead.”

However, the state weren’t the only interested parties. There was a big story to be told, after all, and a billionaire patron chose to underwrite the project. The consensus that instantly emerged–and remained firmly in place until Racket’s collapse–was that Pierre Omidyar was a “civic minded billionaire.” What was being exchanged between Omidyar and Greenwald was a paycheck for prestige. As Tarzie pointed out at the beginning, PayPal had conducted an extrajudicial corporate blockade against WikiLeaks that hobbled the organization, and Greenwald lied about Omidyar’s involvement.

When it came out that Omidyar had funded regime change in Ukraine and the election of a fascist PM in India, and would profit handsomely for it, this revelatory information wasn’t enough to tarnish the “civic-minded” gloriole. “Since the rich man in question has demonstrably been involved in funding imperialist activities,” explained Patrick Higgins, the Snowden leak keepers were now “by extension, running interference on imperialism’s behalf.” A typical imperialist oligarch bought a bulletproof reputation as a civic-minded hero, for only $250 million (of which only $50 million has actually been paid so far). To get an idea of what a robust return on investment this is, Bill Gates has to spend billions of dollars a year in order to be seen as a humanitarian while defending capitalism’s brutality and making Malthusian calls for population reduction in Africa and Asia.

Snowden eventually came out of his self-imposed media exile and played a part in the vaunted debate. It’s been reported that whistleblowers tend to be conservative individuals, and this makes sense. Someone who thinks the CIA is an organ of state terrorism is unlikely to get hired there, nor would they seek to restore it to an imagined past if they joined up and eventually found this to be the case. That explained phenomena like Snowden’s insistence that information be mediated by “responsible journalists and government stakeholders,” and a whole slew of reactionary statements he made as the spectacle went on.

As Snowden explained, he was “still working for the NSA” in spirit, seeking to reform temporarily disoriented agencies. For anyone hoping that substantive change would result, this is a death sentence. As Chris Floyd said, “the system itself is not under threat [when] the only goal of any revelations will be ‘reform.’ ‘Reform’ and ‘debate’ can always be managed by those who control the levers of power.”

In the end, the public accrued very limited benefits if any. There were stories that essentially recapitulated the same theme of mass government data collection, told with some different details but committed salesmanship. Long after most of the world has moved on, The Intercept’s reporters still use the same breathless promotional language. In mid-December 2014 Jeremy Scahill was promoting a “Blockbuster” story at The Intercept that’s basically a longer version of a story already reported at Der Spiegel 14 months ago. There wasn’t even reform, either, with one failed bill widely derided as a “sham.” Even First Look supporters concede that the NSA ultimately “retained its powers.” And they might have stronger defenses against future leakers in place now, thanks to Ed Snowden. As reported in a Wired cover story, as Snowden took documents from NSA servers, he did so in a way that “[gave] the government time to prepare for leaks in the future,” in case anyone more radical than him came along.

If anyone benefitted from the event, besides the leak’s owners and the state, it was the tech sector. Snowden updated Thomas Jefferson for the disruptor set when he recommended restraining government surveillance with “the chains of cryptography.” He announced the Reset the Net initiative on June 5th, 2014. By unveiling it a year after the Guardian released its first Snowden-sourced story, the event was marketed as the solution to government surveillance, the logical endpoint of the events that have preceded it. According to Wired, Reset the Net is “a coalition of more than two-dozen tech companies,” i.e. former partners in government spying who would now be the vanguards of privacy. When Trevor Timm, a board member of the Electronic Frontiers Foundation with Greenwald, listed “Four Ways Edward Snowden Changed The World,” two reasons were essentially sales pitches for the tech industry. To hear left celebrities orbiting the Snowden trove tell it, all Silicon Valley had to do was suffer a mild public shaming in order to become zealous guardians of their users’ privacy.

***
Obviously, some factions of the state and oligarch class* would rather the public know nothing. However, if this isn’t an option, then there are ways to accrue benefits from the information release. The Snowden spectacle has shown how the guilty parties can create positive outcomes for themselves, coming out even better than before. The common threads include:

  1. A distracting, singular focus on one set of actors at the expense of other guilty parties.
  2. An erasure of related and often more serious crimes.
  3. The lionizing of deeply reactionary figures.
  4. Right-wing, power-serving “solutions.”
  5. The erasure of leftist ideas from the left.
  6. A further fetishizing of the transformative power of revelation.

In the Snowden spectacle and the torture report, there are two situations in which information is released to the public. It’s been known, but now there are specific details and official confirmations. This is presented as a revelation, and re-stated in different permutations to retain public interest. From there, the ruling class will create an unexpected victory.

  1. Distracting Focus on One Set of Actors

In the case of the Snowden leaks, over a year of reporting focused almost exclusively on the NSA. There was almost no reporting done on the private sector, or the 16 other government agencies that comprise the Intelligence Community—from the FBI and DEA to Army intelligence and the National Reconnaissance Office.

In the case of the Senate torture report, the focus has been exclusively on CIA torture authorized and directed by the Bush administration and its lawyers. Dick Cheney has come out of the shadows to issue ghoulish pronouncements about torture’s goodness, acting as a cartoonish, literally heartless proxy for the entire cast of villains.

However, the focus on the Bush administration has erased contemporary Democratic culpability in the torture program. The 2002 briefing of House Democrats Nancy Pelosi and Jay Rockefeller by the CIA was, according to CIA war criminal and noted sociopath José Rodriguez, “short and sweet.” Though Democrats at the at the time adduced torture as a reason to vote for Democrats, it was, like anti-war opposition, cheap posturing to score political points.

A few years later, it was rising Democratic star Barack Obama’s turn to sweep torture under the rug after exploiting it for electoral reasons. In a tremendously revealing statement that received scant attention at the time, then-Senator Obama said that impeachment was off the table because it was reserved for “serious breaches” of the President’s authority. The statement was a clear indication that Obama didn’t—and doesn’t—consider torture to constitute a serious offense, at least when committed by the United States. Though candidate Obama made overtures to investigate torture, his 2008 behavior on FISA showed how hollow these promises were. On the campaign trail, the Senator declared that he would filibuster TeleCom immunity, before voting for it once it was politically expedient. When Obama was elected and made “look forwards, not backwards” his mantra, the Democratic leadership owned torture as much as Bush.

Just like the NSA was the sole focus of the Snowden cache, a casual observer would think that the CIA were the sole perpetrators of torture after 9/11. The singular focus on the CIA has erased the fact that the US military was responsible for many of the most horrific abuses of the War on Terror. Abu Ghraib, for instance, was born out of a policy to “’Gitmoize’ Iraq,” applying the brutal torture policies of America’s Cuban hellhole to the entire nation of Iraq. Military installations were the sites of countless crimes, like Afghanistan’s Bagram Air Base or Iraq’s Camp Nama, whose name was backronymed to mean “Nasty-Ass Military Area.”

The Senate torture report has successfully cordoned off torture as the work of one agency and one set of elites, when the entire political class and national security apparatus is guilty.

  1. Erasure of Related and More Serious Crimes

The Snowden event brought us dozens of stories that reiterated essentially the same point. Less publicized was Reuters’ August 2013 report on NSA-DEA “parallel construction,” where the NSA was giving warrantlessly surveilled information to the DEA, who then build up a criminal case under the pretense that the information had been lawfully obtained. In this case, abstract reports on government abuse were crowding out concrete reports of government abuse. The narrative around the Senate report has taken this aspect of the Snowden drama to a much higher degree. There is a constellation of American crimes that are being erased, whitewashed, and legitimized by the focus on the CIA torture report.

The Obama administration and the CIA saw the kind of legal and political mess that came from indefinite detention, and concluded that assassination was easier. A 2004 report from the CIA’s inspector general warned that “The agency faces potentially serious long-term political and legal challenges as a result of” the torture regime. “The report was the beginning of the end for the program,” according to journalist Mark Mazzetti. “The ground had shifted, and counterterrorism officials began to rethink the strategy for the secret war. Armed drones, and targeted killings in general, offered a new direction.”

Consequently, the Obama administration has waged a far more vicious assassination campaign than Bush ever did, with thousands killed in drone strikes and even American citizens targeted for extrajudicial murder. Obama’s theory of executive power was best summarized by Attorney General Eric Holder explaining that “due process” didn’t need to involve a trial by jury, but could be achieved by the President deciding to murder you in one of his “Terror Tuesday” meetings.

That’s not to say that torture isn’t still practiced. Torture is still common practice in Guantánamo Bay, where inmates are subjected to excruciating force-feedings. The experience of having a feeding tube slid through the nasal cavity and down into the prisoner’s stomach is usually compared to having a razor blade shoved through the nostril and down the throat.

Obama’s vaunted torture ban has also not banned torture, merely returned it to the grey-area status it enjoyed before the Bush administration codified it. The CIA has long practiced torture, like under the Phoenix program in Vietnam or taught at the notorious School of the Americas. Today, the CIA maintains its “extraordinary rendition” and secret prison programs, with loopholes in place for torture to continue more covertly. Torture is still allowed for the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), and since expanding JSOC’s operational scope has been a cornerstone of Obama’s war-fighting policies, some inductive reasoning indicates that it’s expanded into those dark corners. As the blog Moon of Alabama points out:

The Army Field Manual 2 22.3. Appendix M is still in force and it allows “interrogation techniques” which the UN’s Committee against Torturesays (PDF) amount to torture. The White House is also still believing that using torture abroad is not covered by the UN Convention Against Torture and thereby permissible.

This, together with Appendix M, lets me assume that the U.S. is still torturing people abroad. Why else would it keep those legal holes open?

All this is only to discuss how torture is still practiced in prosecuting the War on Terror (or as it’s called now, the Overseas Contingency Operations). It’s an entirely different story about the United States practicing torture in its system of mass incarceration through solitary confinement, which “human beings experience…as torture,” according to Dr. Atul Gawande.

  1. Reactionary Heroes

The release of the torture report has lead to some strange scenes. Teju Cole, for instance, a longtime critic of American imperialism, thanked Dianne Feinstein “for [her] service” in the pages of the New York Times. Dianne Feinstein has long been a supporter of almost every imperialist venture the US has embarked upon. Her husband’s status as a member of a lucrative government contractor also makes her, quite literally, a war profiteer.

As for John McCain, this release affords him to playact the maverick that the media needs to remind everyone that he is. It’s also erased the fact that in 2008 McCain fought to exempt the CIA from a torture restriction.

Besides Feinstein and McCain, the biggest hero in the release of the torture report has been John Kiriakou, the CIA case officer who first blew the whistle on the CIA’s torture program. As is typical of National Security whistleblowers, Kiriakou is deeply conservative, a “patriotic” spy whose “Letters from Loretto” penitentiary spend a lot of time railing against the FBI. A common theme of his letters are slams against the FBI for their dishonesty, positioning the CIA—who’ve spent over a decade running a global torture and assassination program—as the honest Agency.

At least the Snowden case gave Americans a fresh face, who only exposed his retrograde beliefs gradually. The Senate torture report has boosted “heroes” who are some of the past decade’s most imperialist figures.

  1. Power-Serving Solutions

Jane Mayer, who’s written more about America’s post-9/11 torture regime than any other journalist, wrote in the New Yorker that “torture is becoming just another partisan issue.” Particularly given the incoming Republican-majority Senate, torture accountability seems like a position that the Democrats can own after having tacitly endorsed it. According to Mayer, Feinstein “proved that Congress can still perform its most basic Madisonian function of providing a check on executive-branch abuse,” while “By contrast, the new report, even before it was released, came under attack from Republicans.” Soon, newly minted transparency and accountability heroine Feinstein will be out, replaced by Republican Richard Burr, “a staunch defense and surveillance hawk,” according to Joshua Eaton at Al Jazeera. “At the same time, one of the intelligence community’s most outspoken voices, Mark Udall, will leave the committee after losing re-election last month.” The departure of the Democrats “threatens to stall attempts to reform the nation’s surveillance laws and avoid transparency about the CIA’s controversial interrogation program,” Eaton says. The narrative, as it’s taken hold, paints a clear distinction between Democrats and Republicans on this issue.

For a Democratic party seeking to reinvigorate its increasingly apathetic base after what Dr. Cornel West calls “a Wall Street and drone presidency,” this is a great branding opportunity. One of Obama’s first decisions in office was to immunize torturers. However, with a Republican Congressional majority imminent, this is a perfect chance for the soon-to-be-helpless Democrats to act like they’d been champions of transparency all along.

For those who remember the now-ancient years of Bush’s second term, the reason proffered to vote for Democratic representatives in 2006 was to stop the Bush agenda. Then, Democrats still couldn’t do anything without a Democrat in the White House. Once Americans gave the Democratic party the veto-proof Democratic supermajority that they needed for some sweet Change, they discovered that relatively little could get done in the face of Republican intransigence. Increasing numbers of Americans see little hope in the two-party system, but the torture report provides a golden opportunity for the Democrats to burnish their image anew.

The report puts torture back in the contested category it once enjoyed. Democrats can once again compel their supporters to go to the polls to vote against torture and in favor of transparency—just like they did in 2006 and 2008, and by recycling the exact same rhetoric. That Hillary Clinton is making a public show of denouncing torture and praising the report’s release is a sign that this is exactly what’s going to happen. Clinton, who supported torture and is “a walking profanity” embodying the worst American corporatism and imperialism, signals that the Democrats are interested in play-act opposition to torture once again, after years of tacit approval.

Beyond just the Democrat/Republican modality, the torture report is functioning as a whitewash for the entire American project. There’s the predictable “rally ‘round the flag” effect—the idea that only America could produce a work of decency and introspection like a report on its own torture program.

Then there’s the hand-wringing over how aberrant torture is—how America lost its way—and accompanying appeals to return to an imagined past. “When I was growing up,” a typical missive goes, “Americans thought of torture as a tactic used by history’s villains.” It’s true, America thought of torture as a uniquely evil tactic, while committing it covertly and teaching it to its proxies. While the author of the above passage was growing up, learning that torture was the sole domain of dictators and terrorists, the US was exporting torture expertise throughout the Southern Cone.

Torture has been with the US since its foundation—what could the treatment of African slaves be called besides that? Overseas torture programs also date back at least to the counterinsurgency to subjugate the Philippines at the birth of the 20th century. So the idea that the CIA torture program was a unique, momentary evil that erupted from the minds of Dick “work the dark side” Cheney and John “the President can crush a baby’s testicles” Yoo serves to conveniently whitewash America’s history as a white supremacist and imperial entity. The release of the torture report is propagating these narratives even as it seems to challenge power.

  1. An Erasure of Substantive Leftist Beliefs

Adolph Reed has written about how one of the ideological functions of neoliberalism is to erase substance from politics, and leave only empty signifiers. “Being a progressive is now more a matter of how one thinks about oneself than what one stands for or does in the world.” The Snowden drama was remarkable for how much it divorced substantive leftist politics from a position called “leftist.” Leftists went to the mattresses for a journalist’s right to redact, hoard, and genuflect to NatSec concerns. “Marxists, anarchists, libertarians and Occupy activists now call a billionaire by his first name”:Pierre. The Snowden leaks told the left some information about bulk collection in exchange for dragging it rightward.

The torture report is so far succeeding in erasing more of the left. Anthony Romero, the executive director of the ACLU, published a New York Times op-ed calling for Obama to pardon the Bush administration. “If the choice is between a tacit pardon and a formal one, a formal one is better. An explicit pardon would lay down a marker, signaling to those considering torture in the future that they could be prosecuted.” Besides the obvious inversion of reality evinced by Romero’s position, and the childish treatment of “the law” as some supernatural Platonic construct, it’s literally the ACLU advocating pardons for war crimes. Stephen Walt reiterated this position in a Foreign Policy piece that compared Chelsea Manning to Dick Cheney. A few days later, he tweeted this:

Merry Christmas, torturers. #empathy

A few days after Romero’s op-ed, the ACLU published a piece titled “CIA Agents Said ‘No’ to Torture.” The reason people are discussing the torture report is because CIA personnel said “yes” to torture, but the ACLU is here to remind Americans that #NotAllSpies chose to commit this offense to human dignity. These case officers and analysts the ACLU is celebrating held fast to their day jobs assassinating people, subverting foreign democracy, or otherwise manifesting “the ruling class’s determination to retain power and privilege.”

Those who did torture were, shockingly, not even trained torturers. This is according to one narrative that’s cropped up, echoed by progressive outlets like Mother Jones and lawyers for prisoners’ rights group Reprieve. Deferring to the state’s euphemisms for torture, Mother Jones says that “Extreme interrogations…went on for more than three months before CIA officers received any sort of training in the new techniques from anyone.” For some, evidently, the problem is that CIA torturers hadn’t been briefed on proper torture techniques. This probably resulted in total amateur mistakes like threatening to murder their mothers instead of sisters, or blasting Metallica for 8 hours when they should’ve been blaring Marilyn Manson. Maybe liberal outlets were too quick to pounce on the $80 million payments to those two torture psychologists, since there were too few torture-professionals rather than too many.

Whatever the celebrity left believes their positions to be, many of their concerns don’t seem particularly left-wing. Even less than a month into the torture report drama, we’ve seen calls for pardons, celebrations of CIA spies, and a focus on improper torture techniques and insufficiently trained torturers. With heroes like Feinstein and McCain at the center of this, there’s no rightward boundary for how far the left can slide.

  1. The Fetishizing of Information

In the end, the fetish for information above all else is reified. If only the public learns the truth, if only the lawyers who overwhelmingly staff human rights groups have more direct evidence, something will change. Each revelatory event is also presented as the proverbial Big One, restarting the cycle from scratch. There have been diminishing returns, but the salesmanship is just as enthusiastic.

Shahid Buttar, the executive director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, called the torture report “the most important document revealing crimes of the intelligence agencies since the Pentagon Papers.” The Snowden leaks, Wikileaks and Cablegate, the Washington Post’s “Top Secret America”—all these events didn’t accomplish much since this is the event we’ve been waiting for. Buttar harkens back to the Pentagon Papers, which have become the Ur-Leak Event in all these conversations. Daniel Ellsberg himself adds to the mystique of each event by coming out and saying he’s been waiting his whole life for it (free idea for The Onion: “Daniel Ellsberg can’t remember all the people who are the next Daniel Ellsberg”).

The narrative that This Is The Leak Event We’ve Been Waiting For serves to keep the public interested in supporting leftish groups like the ACLU, whose lawyers can now meet standing requirements and prepare the relevant briefs. It also resets the clock, convincing a new group of people that justice is imminent while the ruling class manages increasingly favorable outcomes. The Snowden spectacle worked out so well that the torture report offers more reactionary ideas for even less new information.

The idea that information itself, especially information you’re not supposed to possess, is its own good is an article of faith. There’s additional pressure because pointing out that revelatory information is already publicly available is associated with the political right. When someone points out that the information isn’t “new,” it’s usually a crass attempt at smarmy self-promotion or a diversionary tactic from a party with some stake in derailing the inquiry (Mark Ames once wrote “you can always tell a paid troll by their ‘nothing new here’ nonsense”).

However, the left can’t embrace these events without interrogating them more than is going on now. As it stands, the ruling class is being strengthened by these spectacles, and seeing their power further entrenched. Most insidiously, with each info-drama, the left is being purged of actual leftist substance. The idea that’s reflexively invoked, “at least now we know,” is wrong—there’s more than that going on. As Chris Floyd said:

Yet revelations of these machinations, of government/corporate crime or “excesses,” have made no difference. Nothing changes, because the commanding heights of politics and media are in the hands of people deeply committed to preserving the system that gives them wealth and power.

We live in an age of revelation. There has never been era in which so much clear and glaring evidence of so many horrific crimes and abuses by state and private power has been so widely and freely available. Year after year, the revelations pile up. None of it makes any difference. Instead, power doubles down.

The truth alone might not set us free. Powerful entities are working to see it does nothing, or even make us less free in the end.

Update: additional reading– “Liberals vs. Radicals on the Power of Information

Stranger Than Fiction: How to Keep an Antiwar Movement Down

by Emma Quangel

May 9, 2016

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Imagine, if you will, the year 2016. It is a year of war. Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Palestine, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Ukraine, Turkey – just a handful in a long list – are under attack. Covert operations angling at “regime change” take place in the Caribbean, Central and South America. The African continent is engulfed in conflict, the threat of “regime change” knocking against even South Africa’s door. The BRICs are threatened, destabilizing. Thousands drown every year in the Mediterranean while millions more flood Europe, desperate for refuge from the violence and poverty that plagues their homelands. The right is on the rise across Europe, the US, Canada and Australia. The global economy is sagging under the weight of its own contradictions.

The United States government, that acts as the hired guns of a global class of jet-setting billionaires, imprisons 2.3 million of its own people. 3.2 per cent of its citizens are under correctional control. The descendants of those once kidnapped and enslaved are particularly tormented – one in three black males in the USA will spend some time in prison. 12,000 children in Flint, Michigan are poisoned by lead in the water. 60,000 people in New York City are homeless. Nearly 1,000 people were killed by the police in the United States last year. Thousands more are tortured – even boiled alive – in US prisons. In the state of Louisiana, black men in chains pick cotton for slave wages while overseers toting shotguns monitor them from horseback. The electoral system is rigged, disenfranchises millions, and offers the same solution, year after year: submit or be crushed.

Imagine, if you will, the year 2016 without a revolutionary movement against such conditions.

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The Black Panther Party was possibly the highwater mark for American revolution in the 20th century because it existed in concert with, and gave guidance to, a broad-based antiwar movement. While the labor struggles of the working class at the turn of the century were integral in improving the lives of millions of Americans and providing a platform for revolutionary socialism, it wasn’t until the radical labor movement started to speak out against the First World War that they were persecuted in full by the government, lynched, deported and imprisoned. Likewise, the Black Panthers were most heavily targeted when they developed a line that connected the suffering of the American people to the suffering inflicted on others by the United States abroad. In both instances, the culprit was imperialism, capitalism made flesh in the form of guns and planes that could stamp out challenges to its hegemony.

That the Black Panther Party even existed should one of the greatest points of pride among radicals in the United States. Indeed, Black Panthers are still on the run from the FBI or languishing in prisons, sometimes for decades under solitary confinement. They were able to serve the people while educating them about the world we lived in. To the Black Panthers, to anyone who would call themselves a dialectical materialist, the idea that the United States Government is an institution that can be reformed is simply absurd. The United States Government, to Marxists, does not exist as a faulty waiter failing to bring free health care and universal housing with the check, but rather, to mediate class conflict in favor of the bourgeoisie – not just in the United States, but worldwide. The Black Panthers saw this, and declared themselves in solidarity with the victims of imperialism. They toured the world, meeting with revolutionaries from North Korea to Vietnam. And this, along with organizing among poor black communities in the United States, is what brought down the wrath of the state on their heads.

It is possible to say that a revolutionary movement in the United States can only exist when there is praxis that recognizes the relationship between oppression in the US and imperialism. I would further venture to say that there can be no praxis without the two elements being present concurrently, and that no honest effort at building a revolutionary movement in the US can be made without recognizing that there must be an antiwar movement to join, and that this antiwar movement must be anti-imperialist.

After all, the wars of today differ greatly from the wars of the early 20th century, the wars that threw Emma Goldman and Big Bill Haywood in jail. We no longer have the draft – the popular rage over Vietnam saw an end to that – and the US spends more time launching air strikes from unmanned drones than digging trenches or preparing for bayonet combat. Likewise, imperialism doesn’t always take place at the end of a gun. The IMF and World Bank, created at the end of World War II, helped to exert influence over economies and governments where a heavier, more direct hand was once required. The creation of NATO and the Cold War made imperialism seem a war of ideologies, rather than the ham-fisted grab at resources that it was. Now, it seems that while American bombs and bullets murder so many worldwide, we are encouraged to side with imperialism as socialists. We are expected to take on the reasoning of George W. Bush and Samantha Power so long as it is dressed up and marketed in a way that pleases us, even if we consider ourselves “Left” leaning politically. Like soda and smartphones, we are exhorted to find identity in our positions, to represent ourselves by our consumer choices.

An alarming trend is on the rise in the United States and in the English-speaking world more generally: the ubiquitous Op-Ed. What was once relegated to just one page of the newspaper (the term Op-Ed meaning something that ran on the page opposite to Editorial) now makes up large sections of online news media. I imagine it is cheaper to pay a freelancer $250 (optimistic!) for their opinion than finance a foreign bureau. Whole TV networks run on an audio-visual version of the Op-Ed. It is a form of news that directly tells its reader how to think about the current events. Many gain their information on a topic simply from reading Op-eds. Today’s columnist and pundit is a TV show, someone that we can tune into on a regular basis for entertainment and flattery. If one show is boring, if you don’t like what they’re saying – simply switch the channel. It doesn’t matter, as all are trying to sell you a ruling class agenda. And, above all else, in our 24 hour news cycle, we are never allowed to present news in a boring way. The VICE lifestyle brand turned global news channel, with its correspondents pulled from content marketing’s central casting, is a prime example of the desire to “sex-up” news by letting opinions lead coverage. It is a way to engage the youth, as it boasts openly, to not only consume brands, but also official narratives, with enthusiasm.

A narrative example from the Op-ed world of news could be as follows: In Syria, democratic protesters are fighting against a brutal regime that slaughters them with impunity. These democratic protesters, now called rebels, are always at risk of being annihilated by state violence and torture because the Western Left has “failed” them.We must all support these rebels and pressure our government to do the right thing,whatever that might be.

Some articles might be run in conjunction, many that might contradict this narrative. We might learn from respected journalists with years of experience and lauded professional histories that things aren’t so simple. We might learn from State Department press transcripts that these brave rebels take quite a lot of money from the US Government. But it doesn’t matter if half of the paper contradicts the other half. When we are told how to read the news, through the eyes of these pundits, we are happily oblivious of whatever facts might contradict our chosen authority. After all, Thomas Friedman is far more influential and famous than some no-name stringer for The Times. Anyone who might disagree with the official narrative, even if they are respected journalists, scholars or activists, are now called conspiracy theorists, “hacks” or worse.

But while journalists are still nominally held to professional standards, the pundit owes no such thing to her audience. After all, this is just her opinion, and she is not expected to have thoroughly researched differing narratives – nor is she obligated to present opposing views, or to present anything evenly – when publishing her Op-ed. This is not unexpected, nor is it dishonest to the job description of a “pundit”. It’s up to the publication to decide how much of its material is news, and how much of it is entertainment packaged as Op-eds.

Yet, there is danger when a pundit or entertainer decides to call herself a journalist without having been subjected to the same standards we would expect from the NYT stringer. Facts are not checked and sources are not vetted. So-called journalists, such as Michael Weiss or Molly Crabapple, rely heavily on anonymous sources who slip them scintillating information or photographs. And yet, I am unsure who these sources are, who has vetted them, and how they did so. Indeed, as this new generation straddles the line between journalist and pundit, the means by which they communicate are themselves in question. My own WhatsApp number is from Iraq, though I have not lived there since October 2015. So, I think it’s natural to ask how these sources are processed, especially if the Op-ed writers posing as journalists are writing whole books based on their testimony, appearing on talk shows as experts, and building careers off promoting wars. While the content may be biased and one-sided, laden with marketing copy and convenient omissions, we should be incredibly wary on how we define, protect, but also how we verify the “source”. Indeed, I wouldask how these pundits find, vet and receive information, but as many already tried to have me fired from my last job for asking such questions, it’s pointless to attempt from my position – though I welcome corrections and inputs from editorial.

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As it stands, The Guardian admitted last week that it had been fed stories on Syria by the UK Home Office operating from behind a PR firm that was operating a Syrian advocacy campaign. Breakthrough Media joins its American agency Purpose (via The Syria Campaign) in pushing advocacy for pro-intervention narratives on the Syria conflict. What is left out of the discussion of whether or not public funds are being used to propagandize war to the tax-paying public is the disclosure of who the freelance “journalists” are that are being paid or otherwise lobbied to write on Syria. We would expect that journalists taking money or in kind contributions from campaign staff disclose such information when writing on the election – why not the same expectation from those who write on foreign policy matters? Perhaps it is because, in the long run, such issues are far weightier than whatever new jab a candidate throws on social media or a cable news talk show. One of the more chilling revelations from The Guardian, one seemingly lifted straight from my book, is that some of the journalists reported they were unaware that they were being utilized in this way.

If we knew that Fred Hampton or Emma Goldman were taking money from public relations firms (who may or may not have been receiving marching orders from governments) when speaking or writing on the wars they opposed, wouldn’t that change the way we see their positions? And certainly, if we were to discover that some of our favorite, cherished personalities who regularly tell us how to read the news were taking money from PR firms, to confuse, mislead, attack or threaten activists who might otherwise try and build a case against the US government’s wars abroad and at home, wouldn’t that be a scandal?

There may be no antiwar movement today because we live in a media environment that seeks to destroy it in its nascence. Andrew Bacevich, in his recent instructive essay for Harper’s called “American Imperium”, makes the case that:

The trivializing din of what passes for news drowns out the antiwar critique. One consequence of remaining perpetually at war is that the political landscape in America does not include a peace party.

Indeed, before there can be a peace party, there must be an antiwar critique. And the “trivializing din” that Bacevich speaks of is not simply drowning out antiwar critique, it is merciless in seeking to destroy and discredit ideas such as the fact that the United States enjoys unprecedented military, economic, ideological and strategic domination over the entire world. Such ideas, when voiced publicly, are met with derision and laughter. As if, with dozens of bases and tens of thousands of soldiers surrounding Russia, one could seriously argue that Russia is imperialist, or an equal threat to world peace as the US. There are no Russian bases and no Russian soldiers garrisoned on our borders. We cannot even know, as the numbers are not publicly available, how many US soldiers and bases are currently in the Middle East – indeed, how many are currently in Iraq and Syria, where much conflict is currently taking place. Whereas before, reliable journalists and their supportive editors might have been successful in discovering such figures, they are now too focused on revenue and survival. This opens wide the door for propagandists who wish to deride and discredit any remaining “Left” antiwar sentiment in the US. Until this is resolved, building an anti-imperialist antiwar movement will remain an uphill battle, even among smaller groups, as subjectivity and sophistry continues to be taught and promoted over objectivity, materialism, serious study and clear thinking.

 

[“Emma Quangel is the woman who bravely contributed to the outing of Nazi murderer/”Last Rhodesian” Dylann Storm Roof’s blog, which probably spoiled Roof’s chances at the inexorably successful—for white supremacists—insanity defense.  After Quangel, an insanity verdict for Roof would be an insanity verdict for the U.S. white supremacist system: which is to say, in lieu of Aristotelian-bourgeois justice, Artaudian ritual magic, a self-reparative exorcism.”]

Fog of War

Public Good Project

March 18, 2016

by Jay Taber

 

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War fog by Marc Manigrasso

 

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’.”

 

 

 

[Jay Thomas Taber is an associate scholar of the Center for World Indigenous Studies, a correspondent to Forum for Global Exchange, and a contributing editor of Fourth World Journal. Since 1994, he has served as communications director at Public Good Project, a volunteer network of researchers, analysts and journalists engaged in defending democracy. As a consultant, he has assisted indigenous peoples in the European Court of Human Rights and at the United Nations. Email: tbarj [at] yahoo.com Website:www.jaytaber.com]

Smart Power & The Human Rights Industrial Complex

UK Column

March 15, 2016

by Patrick Henningsen

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Human rights in the West: does the reality live up to the rhetoric? On the surface, the cultural narrative seems innocent enough: billionaire philanthropists, political luminaries and transnational corporations, along with legions of staff and volunteers – all working together in the name of social justice, forging a better, fairer and more accountable world.

The story reads well on paper, and well it should. After all, the 20th century saw a string of failures by various governments to curb and halt some of the most horrific exhibitions of genocide and crimes against humanity. The door has been opened for many charities and human rights organizations to play a bigger role in moderating international affairs. Upon more rigorous inspection, however, what emerges is one of the most unfortunate realities of 21st century geopolitics. Though many human rights charities still market themselves as ‘neutral’ and ‘nonpartisan’, the reality is something very different. With public skepticism at an all-time high, the danger is clear: if conflicts of interest are not addressed in a serious way, they threaten to undermine the credibility of the entire non-governmental organization (NGO) sector internationally.

One difficult aspect in analyzing this struggle for ‘perception management’ is that most human rights and aid organizations are staffed and run by good, hard-working and extremely well-educated individuals, many of whom carry out their roles with an altruistic heart and with the best of intentions. For the most part, many remain unaware or uninterested in who actually funds their organisations and what those financial strings mean in terms of the what a given organisation’s stance will be on any range of geopolitical issues or military conflicts. It’s certainly true that over the years, sincere and dedicated campaigning by organisations has helped to free individuals who where unjustly imprisoned and achieved due process and justice for the dispossessed. It’s also true that many of these same organizations have helped to raise awareness on many important social and environmental issues.

Due to increased funding from corporate interests and direct links to government and policy think tanks in recent years, these organisations have become even more politicised, and more closely connected with western ‘agents of influence.’ As a result, an argument can be made that, on many levels, these ‘human rights’ organisations may be contributing to the very problem they profess to be working to abate: causing more suffering, death and instability worldwide through their co-marketing of the foreign policy objectives of Washington, London, Paris and Brussels.

The problem is both systemic and institutional in nature. As a result, many of the western world’s leading human rights organizations based in North America and Europe have become mirror reflections of a western foreign policy agenda and have become virtual clearing houses for interventionist propaganda.

Writer Stephanie McMillan describes the new role of the non governmental organizations in the 21st century:

Along with military invasions and missionaries, NGOs help crack countries open like ripe nuts, paving the way for intensifying waves of exploitation and extraction.

Outsourcing Consensus Building

Shaping western public perception and opinion on major international issues is essential if major world powers are to realise their foreign policy goals. Not surprisingly, we can see that many of the public positions taken by NGOs are exactly aligned with western foreign policy. In the Balkans War of the 1990’s, human rights groups supported partitioning. In the Ukraine in 2014 and with both Syria and Yemen in 2016 they supported regime change. In each instance NGOs function as public relations extension to a United Nations western member Security Council bloc, namely the US, UK and France. This collusion is manifest throughout the upper echelons of these organizations whose streamlined agenda conforms through a lucrative revolving door which exists between a cartel of western NGOs, government and media.

As western governments find themselves more heavily involved in long-term conflicts around the globe, the need to outsource their ethics and morals to NGOs becomes more apparent. Continuity between these symbiotic entities is essential if governments are to successfully frame the geopolitical narratives on which international human rights organizations so often derive their own public relations and fundraising campaigns. Together, all of these things converge to form a highly efficient, functioning alliance which could be described as a type of ‘government-media-human rights’ industrial complex.

Nowhere is this complex more evident than with the United States-led foreign policy towards Syria. By framing the Syrian Conflict (2011 to present) as a “civil war”, both western media and human rights organizations did their part in propping-up an important western foreign policy narrative. Inaccurate and distorted, this narrative has helped shield the US-led clandestine proxy war which has been allowed to carry on almost unimpeded below the surface narrative of western public perception. For mainstream US audiences, if truly known, the reality of Syria might be too much to bear – a US-backed guerrilla war where Washington and Ankara, along with NATO and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) allies, flooding Turkey and Syria with weapons, cash, equipment, social media teams, military trainers and foreign fighters from as a far away as Pakistan. When analyzed from this wider perspective, very little is ‘civil’ about the Syrian Conflict.

The Human Rights Industry

What was once a 20th century adjunct to an emerging international progressive movement has since mushroomed into a 21st century multi-billion dollar, internationalised ‘third sector’ concern – underwritten by some of the world’s leading transnational corporations. This impressive labyrinth is led by organizations like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch (HRW), and the Worldwide Human Rights Movement (FIDH). Each of these organisations has well-developed links leading directly into central governments, and perhaps more surprisingly, links leading straight into the heart of the military industrial complex. Safely cloaked under the official guise of ‘charity organisation’, many of these entities push a political agenda and effectively serve as public relations outlets for US and NATO forward military planning.

Working behind the public-facing human rights industrial complex is another key component which helps set the geopolitical agenda. Leading western governmental efforts are the White House and the US State Department. Behind the political facade, however, is where the real work takes place; a myriad of think tanks which serve as an unofficial academic-like support structure for managing policy planning, rolling out grand strategies and other big ideas. Some recognisable names in this industry are the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Brookings Institute, Heritage Foundation, American Enterprise Institute (AEI), and Foreign Policy Initiative (the heir apparent to PNAC). These think tanks and foundations are also referred to as ‘policy mills’ because of their ability to churn-out volumes of policy ‘white papers’, surveys and strategic studies which are then disseminated through various industry journals and at functions, conferences and events in Washington DC and New York City. Certain think tanks, like the Committee for Peace and Security in the Gulf, were set-up in the 1990’s to push through specific foreign policy objectives – like kick-starting the war in Iraq. Where you find a war, you most certainly will find a think tank advocating behind it.

Follow the Money

To find the common thread between think tanks, foundations and human rights charities, one needs only to follow the money.

Many of these entities receive large portions of their funding from the same sources – transnational corporations. One large contributor of annual funding for human rights organisations, including HRW, is the controversial Wall Street billionaire George Soros, through his NGO the Open Society Institute. Other human rights organisations like FIDH which draw together some 178 organizations from 120 countries, receives funding from the US State Department by way of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). Here we have a direct financial link which forms a ring connecting western governments, NGOs and charities.

One can argue, and successfully, that this nexus ensures that the output, ideas and marketing messages of each leg of a human rights campaign conforms to western foreign policy language and objectives.

Smart Power: Formerly of the US State Dept., now an NGO luminary, Suzanne Nossel

Washington’s HR Revolving Door

It’s no secret that a revolving door exists between the US State Department and many of the western world’s leading human rights organisations. That relationship can be gleaned from this CFR policy paper which states:

To advance from a nuanced dissent to a compelling vision, progressive policymakers should turn to the great mainstay of twentieth-century U.S. foreign policy: liberal internationalism, which posits that a global system of stable liberal democracies would be less prone to war … Washington, the theory goes, should thus offer assertive leadership – diplomatic, economic, and not least, military – to advance a broad array of goals: self-determination, human rights, free trade, the rule of law, economic development, and the quarantine and elimination of dictators and weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

That passage, taken in the context of the Syrian conflict, reveals a stark picture of how Washington really works. It was written by Suzanne Nossel, one of Washington’s most high-profile humanitarian advocates who managed to transition seamlessly from her position as Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Organisations at the US State Department – directly into an executive director position at Amnesty International USA in 2012. Prior to the State Dept., Nossel was also served as chief operating officer for Human Rights Watch, vice president of strategy and operations at the Wall Street Journal and a media and communications consultant to CFR founding corporate member, law firm McKinsey & Company.

Here we see a powerful public relations resumé, combined with established links to Washington’s foreign policy core, and at a time where multiple Middle Eastern nations states, like Libya and Syria, were being forced into submission under the yoke of US-led international pressure. Projecting Washington’s preferred narrative is paramount in this multilateral effort and Nossel would be a key bridge in helping to project US foreign policy messaging internationally through top tier NGO Amnesty.

2012 Amnesty International USA PR campaign.

Around this time, Amnesty USA launched a new PR campaign aimed at millennials and selling the following geopolitical narrative: “NO MORE EXCUSES: Russia has vetoed two UN Security Council resolutions while continually supplying arms, causing the violence to worsen.”

This digital and print campaign was also backed by rallies and other live events used to promote their anti-Russia and Anti-Syria PR effort. At one event in 2012, young school children in Nepal could be seen holding up signs that read, “Russia: Stop Arms Transfer to Syria!”.

When you consider its mirror reflection of foreign policy lines emanating from the US State Dept., it’s easy to see how this catchy slogan had little if anything to do with human rights, but but could easily be viewed as trying to isolate both the Russian and Syrian governments geopolitically.

In truth, Amnesty’s narrative was a complete inversion: while attempting to lay the blame on Russia as being responsible for the escalation and sustained violence in Syria, the country was being over-run by tens of thousands of foreign terrorist militants, illegally trafficked weapons, along with CIA and other foreign assets, as part of the wider US-led Coalition presently waging a proxy war in Syria.

Soft Power vs Smart Power

Despite its foreign policy aspirations, the West still needs public opinion backing for any military action. While the public are none the wiser, blinded by the fog of mass media coverage and bombarded with faux moral imperatives and ‘ticking bomb’ style scenarios demanding that, “we must act now to save innocent lives” – soft power agents have provided the crucial communication bridge for most interventions.

Both media and NGOs fall under the classification of ‘soft power’, and it is this soft power complex which provides the soft cushion upon which soft-sounding foreign policies like “humanitarian intervention” and the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) can comfortably rest on in western discourse. In reality, these foreign policies are anything but soft, and in the absence of declaring war between nation states – these policies now serve as the tip of an imperialist spear. If you surveyed any of the millions of Middle Eastern residents on the receiving end of the west’s recent humanitarian interventions they will tell you it was anything but soft – especially for the people living in Libya, Syria, Yemen, Yugoslavia and Iraq.

Inside Washington’s inner sanctum, ‘soft power’ has given way to Smart Power. Indeed, it was Susan Nossel who coined the term “Smart Power” while working alongside US humanitarian hawks like Hillary Clinton, Samantha Power and Susan Rice, and also with Washington’s lesser known Atrocity Prevention Board, all of whom worked to successfully implement this new range of intervention marketing concepts including humanitarian intervention and R2P.

In this age of professionally staged colour revolutions and ‘Arab Springs’, and wars fought by proxies and front organizations – vaunted human rights organisations should really acknowledge that there are nation-states and central governments who are not long for this world, and who are literally fighting for their survival. Governments who find themselves under the western hammer cannot always afford the luxury of settling internal disputes nicely, or putting down armed rebel factions and terrorists with all affordable due process. If these rebels or terrorists are western-backed, or GCC-backed, then this condition becomes more acute. Certainly, the United States and its NATO allies, or Israel for that matter, do not afford such civility for any of its victims of collateral damage’ or during a protracted ‘humanitarian intervention’.

‘Agents of Change’ & Emotive Appeals

By now, it’s also a well-documented fact that America’s CIA and Pentagon intelligence departments have used an array of charities, aid organisations, and even religious missionary organisations as fronts for conducting espionage overseas, and with the prime directive of to further foreign policy objectives.

In recent years, however, under the banner of ‘human rights’, the US has developed some new and innovative methods of intelligence gathering and achieving an increased military footprint in new countries.

To reach these objectives, western governments enlist ‘change agents’.

No story serves as a better example of how a human rights organisation can be applied as a sharp tool of foreign policy than Kony 2012, described by the Atlantic Magazine as a viral video campaign which “reinforces a dangerous, centuries-old idea that Africans are helpless and that idealistic Westerners must save them.”

As viral social media campaigns go, Kony 2012 set a new standard for speed and efficiency in penetrating the western youth market. This effort was not with out help from mainstream corporate media in the US, and also from the US government in Washington DC.

Here, soft power was applied in order to manufacture public consent through an emotive public appeal which was eventually exposed as a gross distortion of reality. In this case, the antagonist was the illusive warlord Joseph Kony, leader of the Lords Resistance Army. According to their campaign, if the president could send a military force to “find Kony”, then many children would be saved in the process. The only problem was that no one had actually seen Kony in over 6 years, with rumors abound that Kony may even have died years earlier. This did not deter the campaign though, as organisers pressed ahead, raising millions along the way. The human rights charity which fronted the project, Invisible Children, actually targeted their viral campaign and fundraising drive at under aged American school children, and even drafted primary school students to raise money on the charity’s behalf. In the end, the project collapsed, but the ultimate objective was achieved: culminating with a successful public relations event and photo opportunity at the White House, and under cover of the Kony 2012 media campaign – President Barack Obama publicly deployed US military assets to Uganda under an expansion of US AFRICOM operations in Africa.

Trapped inside their own ideological controlled environment where every decision is a virtual fait accompli, western media and government officials will routinely refer to the human rights industry in order to provide a necessary moral back-stop for any foreign policy objective. This same practice is also repeated by the United Nations too, which often cites the very same statistics and reports used by Washington to back-up its foreign policy moves.

Independent human rights activist Rick Sterling explains this all too familiar cycle in today’s international affairs:

There is a pattern of sensational but untrue reports that lead to public acceptance of US and Western military intervention in countries around the world: In Gulf War 1, there were reports of Iraqi troops stealing incubators from Kuwait, leaving babies to die on the cold floor. Relying on the testimony of a Red Crescent doctor, Amnesty International ‘verified’ the false claims. Ten years later, there were reports of ‘yellow cake uranium’ going to Iraq for development of weapons of mass destruction. One decade later, there were reports of Libyan soldiers ‘drugged on Viagra and raping women as they advanced.’ In 2012, NBC broadcaster Richard Engel was supposedly kidnapped by ‘pro-Assad Syrian militia’ but luckily freed by Syrian opposition fighters, the “Free Syrian Army”. All these reports were later confirmed to be fabrications and lies. They all had the goal of manipulating public opinion and they all succeeded in one way or another. Despite the consequences, which were often disastrous, none of the perpetrators were punished or paid any price.

Strange Bedfellows: NATO, Amnesty and HRW

It’s no coincidence that nearly every foreign policy front the US State Department has prioritised is mirrored by Amnesty International USA. The US State Department together with the Pentagon, will also utilise social justice issues in order to advance a foreign policy objective. The most potent of these has to be gender identity politics, seen through the western lens as “woman’s rights”. By projecting this issue on to a non-favoured’ nation, western war planners can quickly construct an important leg in foreign policy messaging.

In 2012, Amnesty International USA ran a national billboard campaign with images depicting Afghan women and girls, accompanied by the slogan: “NATO: Keep the Progress Going.” Not surprisingly, at this same moment, western media were referring to NATO’s military operation in Afghanistan as “the first feminist war.” In its totality, this is one example of near perfect streamlined marketing campaign which tied together all branches of the interventionist network – the US State Department, the Pentagon, the mainstream media and Amnesty International. This cynical attempt to manipulate public opinion by Amnesty International, on behalf of the Pentagon and Brussels, could be traced back to one Amnesty patron, former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who in the 1990’s, famously remarked, “We think the price is worth it,” referring to the death of a half million Iraqi children as a result of crippling US economic sanctions.

In early 2015, Ken Roth, Director of Human Rights Watch, tweeted out an aerial image purporting to be from Kobane, Syria, showing a neighborhood reduced to rubble which he described as, “a drone’s eye tour of what Assad’s barrel bombs have done to Aleppo.” It turned out that Roth’s tweet was a forgery. The image he used was actually taken from Gaza the previous summer, showing the destruction of Palestinian neighborhoods at the hands of Israel’s IDF. This was another example of slipshod propaganda disseminated by high profile human right organization – expressly designed to demonise a foreign government that Washington nation builders are seeking to overthrow. It’s no surprise then that HRW would also appoint CIA operative Miguel Diaz to serve on its advisory board, or that Javier Solana, former Secretary General of NATO and architect of the 1999 bombing of Yugoslavia (a war which HRW itself condemned in 2000) also serves on HRW’s board of directors.

Beyond the slick marketing and celebrity endorsements, in all actuality HRW is nothing more than a Cold War era propaganda relic which has been retrofitted to serve a 21st century Atlanticist geopolitical agenda. According to Washington DC-based transparency advocate Keane Bhatt, “HRW was originally called Helsinki Watch. It was created in 1978 during the Cold War to scrutinize and criticize the crimes that were being committed by the USSR and its allies. That Cold War ideology has long played a role in the kinds of priorities and advocacy that HRW engages in”.

Syria’s NGO Kaleidoscope

One of the most egregious examples of a NGO being used to reinforce a US-led geopolitical narrative is the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), created in 2006. Beyond the grandiose name, this ‘organisation’ is basically a one-man show which until recently, was run out of a one bedroom apartment in Coventry, England. SOHR is run by a Syrian dissident named Osama Ali Suleiman, commonly known in the media as “Rahmi Abdul Rahman”. The SOHR has played the key role in developing the all-important “facts on the ground” story for the Washington-London-Paris Axis seeking to topple the government in Damascus through its stoic policy of ‘regime change’ in Syria. When it comes to ‘official’ death toll numbers out of Syria, almost every mainstream report in the US and Europe has cited the SOHR as its data source with hardly a passing thought as to either the accuracy or the credibility of its numbers, and under which category death tolls are counted.

Despite the fact that the SOHR is closely affiliated with the US and UK-backed Syrian opposition, its data sets will often include casualty figures of ‘rebel forces’ (which will often include known foreign terrorist fighters) within its civilian casualty figures. These dubious figures are also used by a number of UN agencies, as well as leading human right organisations. Similarly, US, UK and European officials will frequently attribute a figure of 250,000 ‘Syrian deaths’ to civilians killed by “the regime” embodied by President Bashar al Assad. One week, a western official will quote a number of 150,000, and the next week it will be 350,000. As a result, most mainstream reports of Syria’s casualty figures are rife with bias and methodological inconsistencies, and as a result no one really seems to know the real figure. The larger the number, the more passionate the plea for western military intervention. Even the Council of the Foreign Relations is on record stating that the numbers being cited by the likes of John McCain simply don’t add up. Micah Zenko and Amelia M. Wolf of the CFR admitted in 2014 that, “most of the reported deaths in Syria have not been committed by forces under Bashar al-Assad’s command.” Meanwhile, western media, politicians and human rights organisations routinely ignore the fact that over 100,000 deaths since 2011 have been Syrian Army and Security personnel killed by foreign-backed militants and terrorists. Zenko later added that, “the types of interventions that proponents have endorsed for Syria … have almost nothing to do with how Syrian non-combatants are actually being killed.”

While the Syrian Conflict is a messy and tragic affair, with brutality and violence affecting every side of the fighting, readers should note exactly how this subtle, yet relentless western campaign of disinformation feeds neatly into the western policy of regime change embodied in the rhetorical demand that “Assad must go.” John Glaser from Antiwar.com adds here:

A common policy proposal to mitigate the mass suffering in Syria is for the U.S. to help the rebels and undermine the Assad regime, a scheme that just becomes ludicrous after looking at the data.

It should also be noted that the SOHR receives its funding directly from the EU, and also enjoys substantial support from the British Foreign Office – both of whom are actively seeking to overthrow the government in Syria through guerrilla proxies. At the very least this could be described as a conflict of interest. The SOHR is hardly ‘non partisan’ and more likely to be used as a tool to manufacture consensus for humanitarian intervention in Syria.

Intervention Digital Marketing

They say that ‘the road to tyranny is paved with good intentions’. That old adage couldn’t be more true today, despite all of our seemingly wonderful internet tools and ‘activist’ platforms online.

A key set piece in any nation building or humanitarian intervention is the ‘No Fly Zone’. Made famous during NATO’s Balkans War in Yugoslavia, the US-led Gulf Wars for Iraq, and later with NATO Libya, securing a No Fly Zone is essential for dictating the terms and conditions of any interventionalist program. The term has since developed an elastic quality and has been subtly altered into what many now refer to a “Safe Zone”, the idea being that by securing the skies above with western air power, the people below will be ‘safe.’

However, it’s still become a hard-sell because of negative connotations associated with past unpopular operation that have been viewed western wars of aggression. New technology is needed in order to repackage and market this damaged brand.

WANTED FULL 2

The internet and social networking have provided just that, where a myriad of social networking online petition web portals have been launched in recent years, the most prominent of which is the online organization Avaaz.org was co-founded in 2007 by Res Publica and Moveon.org, and whose funding sources include the George Soros’ Open Society umbrella foundation network. Key founders and players include Tom Perriello, Ricken Patel, Tom Pravda, Jeremy Heimans, David Madden, Eli Pariser and Andrea Woodhouse, each of whom have working relationships with the UN and World Bank, and coordinate with US-controlled institutions like the UN Security Council and UN Human Rights Council.

According to the Avaaz website, their mission is to “organise citizens of all nations to close the gap between the world we have and the world most people everywhere want.”

Non-profit Avaaz works closely with its for-profit arm, New York City-based PR firm Purpose, which refers to itself as a “proud public benefit corporation.”

It is important to understand that by their own admission, these organizations are not meant to be purely altruistic, but rather are enterprise businesses. In her article entitled “The Rise of the Movement Entrepreneur and its Impact on Business”, writer Allison Goldberg explains the ‘big idea’ which is used a wrapping for their self-styled social license:

The rise of new technology has drastically lowered the barrier to movement creation while providing an alternative to established institutions, formerly seen as the route to reform. Instead of relying on government bodies or other established organizations often weighed down by bureaucracy, entrepreneurs are utilizing the power of social media to mobilize the masses in favor of large-scale change. As a result, organizations have arisen such as Avaaz.org, which defines itself as “the campaigning community bringing people-powered politics to decision-making worldwide.” Avaaz now boasts seven million members worldwide.

Together, Avaaz and Purpose create the language and the online consensus-building tools. While maintaining the illusion of grassroots activists advocating for human rights, the core function of their public relations campaigns are outcome-based, or to help herd public opinion in order to provide a pretext for multilateral institutions like the the IMF and NATO to implement programs like economic sanctions, or  military intervention.

One of the Avaaz ‘Safe Zone’ campaigns for Syria in 2012-2013

In 2012 and 2013, Avaaz campaigns featured a number of large online petitions which demanded that international bodies (like the UN) send “3,000 international monitors” into the country, and that Western military powers (like NATO) impose a ‘No-Fly Zone’ over the entire country in order to “save innocent lives.” One petion read as follows:

To the Arab League, European Union, United States, and Friends of Syria: As global citizens, we call on you to take immediate action to stop the deadly terror in Syria. Enough is enough. We ask you to immediately demand a ceasefire to stop the bloodshed so that parties can come to the negotiating table to agree on a way forward. Until a ceasefire is reached, we call on you to work together and with the international community to enforce a no fly zone to stop the bombardment of Syria’s civilians and ensure that humanitarian aid reaches those most in need.

Again, another NGO public relations messaging campaign mirroring foreign policy planks from the US State Department and Washington’s defense community.

On Avaaz’s website you can often find a number of sensational claims. During their No-Fly-Zone campaign cycle this statement appeared:

The Syrian air force just dropped chlorine gas bombs on children. Their little bodies gasped for air on hospital stretchers as medics held back tears, and watched as they suffocated to death.

Unfortunately, the incident in question never actually happened.

Rick Sterling explains:

Many well-intentioned but naive members of the U.S. and international public are again being duped into signing an Avaaz petition based on fraud and misinformation. If the campaign succeeds in leading to a No Fly Zone in Syria, it will result in vastly increased war, mayhem and bloodshed.

The following illustration outlines to sequence of events that eventually lead to Avaaz calling for a ‘No Fly Zone’ in Syria.

One organization championed in Avaaz marketing campaigns is a ‘neutral’ organization called the Syrian Civil Defense also known as the ‘White Helmets‘.

Writer Vanessa Beeley explains the all-too familiar funding sources for the White Helmets in her article entitled, Syria’s White Helmets: War by Way of Deception – Part I:

The White Helmets were established in March 2013, in Istanbul, Turkey, and is headed by James Le Mesurier, a British “security” specialist and ‘ex’-British military intelligence officer with an impressive track record in some of the most dubious NATO intervention theatres including Bosnia and Kosovo, as well as Iraq, Lebanon, and Palestine. Le Mesurier is a product of Britain’s elite Royal Military Academy at Sandhurst, and has also been placed in a series of high-profile pasts at the United Nations, European Union, and U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office. The origins of The White Helmet’s initial $300k seed funding is a little hazy, reports are contradictory but subsequent information leads us to conclude that the UK, US and the ‘Syrian opposition’ (or Syrian National Council, parallel government backed an funded by the US, UK and allies) are connected. Logistical support has been provided and given by Turkish elite natural disaster response team, AKUT. A further $13 million was poured into the White Helmet coffers during 2013 and this is where it gets interesting. Early reports suggest that these “donations” came from the US, UK and SNC with the previously explored connections to George Soros in the US. However, subsequent investigations reveal that USAID has been a major shareholder in the White Helmet organisation. The website for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) claims that, “our work supports long-term and equitable economic growth and advances U.S. foreign policy objectives by supporting: economic growth, agriculture and trade; global health; and, democracy, conflict prevention and humanitarian assistance.” In a USAID report update in July 2015 it is clearly stated that they have supplied over $ 16m in assistance to the White Helmets.

Regarding USAID, Beeley adds that:

The USAID track record as a primary US Government/CIA regime change facilitator is extensively documented. From South America to the Ukraine and in the Middle East, USAID serve a malevolent and ultimately destructive role in the dismantling of sovereign nations and their reduction to western hegemony vassal states, as always, all in the name of freedom and democracy.

Even more crucial in this case, is evidence that links the White Helmets to militant fighting groups in Syria, including al Nusra Front (al Qaeda in Syria). While this does not prove anything beyond association between members of both organizations, it’s significant when one considers that both organizations are receiving material and financial support from the same member nations of the US-led Coalition.

Geopolitically Correct

For all practical purposes, as a moral and ethical tenet, ‘human rights’ is an anomaly in any western military action.

How one frames a story determines its thesis. In the 21st century, the concept of human rights has been weaponised, pointed at nonaligned and independent nation-states who are seen as obstacles to American and European market-makers and nation builders. A number of target states not geopolitically aligned with the US, NATO or the GCC, are yet to be absorbed, seduced, conquered, or as in the case of Libya, completely collapsed, or in the case of Syria – completely dismembered. These include states listed by former US General and NATO Supreme Commander, Wesley Clark, in his Commonwealth Club speech in San Francisco in 2007. During the event, Clark intimated a conversation he had after a classified defense briefing where a Pentagon source had told him weeks after 9/11 of the Pentagon’s plan to attack Iraq, as well as a “coup” being plotted by Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz along with “a half dozen other collaborators from the Project for the New American Century”. According to Clark, his told him about seven countries which were slated for overthrow: Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Iran.

It should also be noted that both Wesley Clark and George Soros serve on the board of trustees of The International Crisis Group.

For any of these unlucky states, a sustained US or ‘Coalition’ military campaign means that a nation can be under attack 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and yet, that nation and its residents are given no quarter by western human rights organizations, governments or media. A perfect example of this is Saudi Arabia’s highly illegal undeclared war of aggression against its neighbor Yemen which began in the spring of 2015.

It’s worth noting here, that despite its own hotly contested human rights record, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was somehow managed to get elected to the UN’s prestigious Human Rights Council (UNHRC). Evidence suggests that this appointment was facilitated in part by British officials as part of a larger quid pro quo arrangement. According to classified Saudi foreign ministry files that were passed to Wikileaks in June 2015, and translated by Geneva-based UN Watch and revealed how UK initiated the secret negotiations by asking Saudi Arabia for its support. Eventually, both countries were elected to the 47 member state UNHRC. The following passage from the leaked cables reveals how a clear deal was struck:

The ministry might find it an opportunity to exchange support with the United Kingdom, where the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia would support the candidacy of the United Kingdom to the membership of the council for the period 2014-2015 in exchange for the support of the United Kingdom to the candidacy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

According to The Guardian another cable revealed a Saudi Arabia transfer of $100,000 for “expenditures resulting from the campaign to nominate the Kingdom for membership of the human rights council for the period 2014-2016”. At the time of their report, no one knows how this money was spent.

In addition, it was later shown that Saudi Arabia pledged $1 million to UNHRC prior to winning the its seat. Then rather amazingly (or not), in the fall of 2015, the UN appointed Saudi as Chair of the UNHRC.

When pressed on the matter, a Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokeswoman said, “as is standard practice with all members, we never reveal our voting intentions or the way we vote.”

This was followed by a standard, throwaway PR platitude:

The British government strongly promotes human rights around the world and we raise our human rights concerns with the Saudi Arabian authorities.

While its commendable that Saudi officials would want to take a leading role in advocating for international human rights, one cannot ignore the political hypocrisy at play considering Riyadh’s own soiled laundry regarding this issue which includes, among other items, the sanctioning of more than a 150 beheadings in 2015 – a number believed to be even higher than Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS).

To make matters worse, the controversial Saudi appointment also took place amid the a new diplomatic row over a lucrative UK prison building contract in the Kingdom and the proposed execution of 17 year old Shia student activist, Ali Mohammed al-Nimr, who was sentenced to ‘death by crucifixion’ for joining an anti-government demonstration.

Consider the amount of political and media campaigning against the government of Syria over numerous and largely unfounded allegations, where an international network comprised of the US State Department, UK Foreign Office, the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) lobby, HRW and humanitarian interventionist luminaries are all backing a policy of regime change in Syria – and then contrast this with Saudi Arabia’s proven record on human rights and abuse of power. It’s impossible not to see the double standard.

As far as the Western political establishment are concerned, if there are any human rights violations or any local casualties mounting in one of its many dirty wars, geopolitical correctness dictates that these are either ignored or neatly filed away as an inconvenient consequence of America’s ‘national security’ or an unfortunate byproduct “collateral damage” along the road to international progress, peace and prosperity (democracy). Because it crosses swords with the US State Department, or NATO HQ, pubic pressure by humanitarian organizations like HRW and Amnesty USA is relatively nonexistent.

Outside of the theater of combat, the international community is also faced with the inconvenient dilemma of illegal detentions of supposed ‘enemy combatants’, ‘enhanced interrogation’ (torture) and ‘extrajudicial killings’ (assassinations). These are the politically correct terms for the age of western militarisation.

Again, because of “bad optics” in Washington DC very little attention or pressure is applied by marquee international human rights charities.

The human rights industry also has its own politically correct lexicon and identifiers like ‘defectors’, ‘detainees’, ‘activists’ and a new emerging category of ‘activist-journalists’. Sometimes these terms can be accurate, but in a war theater like Syria, they are often euphemisms for actors in full spectrum information warfare. In the case of Syria, this information warfare is designed to embolden a foreign-backed opposition, but more importantly, to apply sustained public relations pressure towards an end goal of regime change.

The WMD Ritual

Conjuring a ‘WMD’ subplot in order to trigger a humanitarian intervention has become commonplace in western foreign policy. After being exposed as a momentous lie in Iraq in 2003, this set-back did not stop Washington from aggressively  pursuing the same narrative in Syria in 2013. Fortunately, the Syrian WMD narrative collapsed in the aftermath of a failed false flag Sarin gas attack that turned out to be orchestrated by US Coalition-backed ‘moderate’ rebels52. It was hardly a coincidence then to discover that HRW was the NGO tasked with providing the ‘smoking gun’ Washington and London needed to make their R2P case in August 2013.

Elizabeth Palmer reported for CBS News at the time, “on Tuesday, the group Human Rights Watch issued a report that said evidence strongly implies that Syrian government troops’ firing of rockets containing a nerve agent into a Damascus suburb on August 21 that the U.S. said killed over 1,400 people.” In the end, this turned out to be another epic lie.

While the US-led ‘Coalition’ is quick to seize upon spurious WMD narratives against its geopolitical targets, it will routinely ignore common Geneva Convention violations like Israel’s use of deadly white phosphorous in Gaza, the use of depleted uranium munitions by American military units in Iraq and Afghanistan, and Saudi Arabian cluster bombs being dropped on Yemeni civilians.

Western Institutionalised Bias

Wars, whether conventional or covert, are a dirty business.

One argument that the western human rights industry judicially avoids is that an armed opposition cannot rightly be classified as a ‘political opposition’, so long as it is armed. This could certainly be the case in Syria. Syrian president Assad explained this dilemma during his 2015 interview with CBS News anchor Charlie Rose, stating that “whenever you hold a gun, and kill people, and destroy public buildings, destroy private properties, that’s terrorism.”

Although most foreign policy officials in Washington DC would beg to differ, especially if the opposition in question is receiving weapons, cash or logistical support from the US or its allies. Assad futher clarifies the position and also exposes the fallacy in western rhetoric, explaining:

The word opposition, everywhere in the world, including your country, is a political opposition. Do you have military opposition in the United States? Would you accept it? You wouldn’t, and we wouldn’t. No-one accepts military opposition.

During his speech at Columbia University in 2006, Australian journalist and filmmaker John Pilger explained:

The oldest cliché is that truth is the first casualty of war. I disagree. Journalism is the first casualty. Not only that: it has become a weapon of war, a virulent censorship that goes unrecognized in the United States, Britain, and other democracies; censorship by omission, whose power is such that, in war, it can mean the difference between life and death for people in faraway countries.

Pilger’s reference can especially be applied to the institutional media bias that has underpinned the long running international war which the Middle East and Central Asia finds itself currently embroiled in. Some might argue that even if western human rights organisations could somehow be cured of their systemic bias towards Washington and CFR foreign policy narratives –  their needs to be an overhaul in defining the concept and the context of what ‘human rights’ are in real terms. A fresh look needs to take into account a level of western subterfuge which maybe western politicians and media are not yet ready  to acknowledge.

In Conclusion

Indeed, it was ‘human rights’ campaigning which led directly to the illegal bombing of Libya (NATO’s aggressive bombing campaign in Libya was not authorized in the UNSC Resolution 1973 which only called for a ‘No-Fly Zone’, and should therefore be considered illegal under international law), where the West’s sole intent was to topple the government of Muammar Gaddafi. Regrettably, thousands of innocent civilians died in the process and the nation state of Libya quickly collapsed, separating into sub-regional, tribal and lawless militant enclaves.

The lesson of Libya was stark. The world should have taken note, but unfortunately it did not. Instead, onlookers saw then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who, when asked during a CBS News interview about the removal of the Libyan president, could only cackle and laughingly joke, “we came, we saw, he died.”

Is this the new tone of humanitarianism?

Both Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch regularly solicit support from Hollywood celebrities and international recording artists, and spend millions of dollars per year producing films which depict situations around the world through their own political lens. To date, they have yet to produce a film showing the other unsavory side of the ‘rebel insurgency’ in Syria. Is this because that might undermine the entire US and NATO member foreign policy?

The public and private sponsors of NGO’s like HRW and Amnesty have invested, not donated, hundreds of millions collectively into these organisations so that they can portray world events in such a way that will enable their own corporate aspirations to be met. No matter how idealistic the rhetoric might sound coming from leading human rights organisations, the money could stop flowing if they discontinued manufacturing consent for wars.

This also raises the question of whether or not a non-governmental organisation that champions the issue of human rights can remain apolitical – as many such organizations claim to be. What would happen should such an organisation dare to adopt a truly righteous geopolitical (not political) stance advocating opposition to destructive western imperialist policies? Would western governments move to withdraw their 501c3 or tax exempt status which allows these charities to maintain their viability as a nonprofit organisation?

Once again, if conflicts of interest and revolving doors between government and charities are not properly addressed, it could eventually undermine the integrity of the entire NGO sector internationally. Corruption at the top of the pyramid also threatens to damage countless other small to medium sized organisations who do not have access to the US State Department or Hollywood, but who are still performing important services and engaged in real civic aid projects.

For human right organisations to be in lock-step with the US State Department, or hiring military operatives as board members and chief executives, is simply inexcusable by any social standard.

If the international community is to advance beyond defunct neocolonialist paradigms, it will need to place compassion ahead of policy, and humanity ahead of profits. Only then can the reality live up to the rhetoric.

 

[Author Patrick Henningsen is founder and editor of the news and analysis website 21st Century Wire, and is an independent foreign and political affairs analyst for RT International. He is also the host of the SUNDAY WIRE radio program which airs live every Sunday on the Alternate Current Radio Network. Find out more at: www.patrickhenningsen.com]

Western Aggression: The Highest Form of Terrorism

Image: Mark Gould

Aggression is arguably the highest form of terrorism as it invariably includes the frightening of the target populations and their leaders as well as killing and destruction on a large scale.. The U.S. invaders of Iraq in 2003 proudly announced a “shock and awe” purpose in their opening assault, clearly designed to instill fear; that is, to terrorize the victim population along with the target security forces. And millions of Iraqis suffered in this massive enterprise. Benjamin Netanyahu himself defined terrorism as “the deliberate and systematic murder, maiming and menacing of the innocent to inspire fear for political ends.” This would seem to make both the Iraq war (2003 onward) and the serial Israeli wars on Gaza (2008-2009; 2012; 2014) cases of serious terrorism.

How do the responsible U.S. and Israeli leaders escape this designation? One trick is the disclaiming of any “deliberateness” in the killing of civilians. It is “collateral damage” in the pursuit of proper targets (Iraqi soldiers, Hamas, etc.). This is a factual lie, as there is overwhelming evidence that in both the Iraq and Gaza wars the killing of civilians was on a large scale and often not comprehensible in terms of genuine military objectives. (I give many illustrations in “They kill reporters, don’t they?” Yes–as Part of a System of Information Control That Will Allow the Mass Killing of Civilians, Z Magazine, December 2004. That this goes back a long way is well documented in Nick Turse’s Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam, Metropolitan, 2014).

But even if the killings were only collateral damage, the regular failure to avoid killing civilians, including a built-in carelessness and/or reliance on undependable sources of information, is both a war crime and terrorism. Recall that the Geneva Conventions state that combatants “shall at all times distinguish between the civilian population and combatants and between civilian objects and military objectives and, accordingly, shall direct their operations only against military objectives” (Part IV, Chap. 1, Article 48). Also, if civilian casualties are extremely likely in bombing attacks against purported military targets, even if the specific civilians killed were not intended victims, their deaths—some deaths—were predictable, hence in an important sense deliberate. Michael Mandel, while dismantling the claim of non-deliberateness in the usual collateral damage killing of civilians, points out that even in Texas a man who shoots someone dead while aiming at somebody else is guilty of murder.1

A second line of defense of U.S. and Israeli killing of civilians, only occasionally made explicit, is that the civilians killed are helping out the enemy armed forces–they are the sea in which the terrorist fish swim—so this makes them legitimate targets. This opens up vast possibilities for ruthless attacks and the mass killing of civilians, notorious in the Vietnam war, but also applicable in Iraq, Afghanistan and Gaza. Civilian killings are sometimes admitted to be an objective by official sources, but not often, and the subject is not focused on by the mainstream media. This rationale may placate the home population but it does not satisfy international law or widely held moral rules.

The same is true of the retaliation defense. The United States and Israel are always allegedly retaliating for prior aggressive acts of their targets. Deadly actions by the target military or their supporters, even if they clearly follow some deadly action by the United States or Israel, are never deemed retaliatory and thus justifiable. It has long been a claimed feature of the Israeli ethnic cleansing project that Israel only retaliates, the Palestinians provoke and virtually compel an Israeli response. In fact, the Israelis have long taken advantage of this bias in Western reporting at strategic moments by attacking just enough to induce a Palestinian response, that justifies a larger scale “retaliatory” action by Israel.

Of course, all of these tricks work only because an array of Western institutions, including but not confined to the media, follow the demands of Western (and mainly U.S.) interests. For example, although the Nuremberg judgment against the Nazis features aggression as “the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole,” because the United States is virtually in the full-time business of committing aggression (attacking across borders without Security Council approval), the UN and “international community” (i.e., Western and even many non-Western leaders, not publics) do nothing when the United States engages in aggression. The brazen 2003 invasion of Iraq called forth no UN condemnation or sanctions against the U.S.aggression, and the UN quickly began to cooperate with the invader-occupiers. The word aggression is rarely applied to that massive and hugely destructive attack either in the media or learned discourse, but it is applied with regularity to the Russian occupation of Crimea which entailed no casualties and could be regarded as a defensive response to the U.S.-sponsored February 2014 coup d’etat in Ukraine. The U.S. invasion of Iraq was surely not defensive, and was rationalized at the time on the basis of what were eventually acknowledged to be plain lies. (For an exception to the establishment’s villainization of Russia in the Ukraine conflict.2 )

Perhaps the most murderous aggression and ultra-terrorism of the last 40 years, involving millions of civilian deaths, has been the Rwanda-Uganda invasion of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), beginning in 1996 and still ongoing. But the invasion’s leaders, Paul Kagame and Yoweri Museveni, were (and still are) U.S. clients, hence they have been subject to no international tribunal nor threat from the Security Council or International Criminal Court, and there has been no media featuring of the vast crimes carried out in this area. You have to be a U.S. target to get that kind of attention, as with Iran, Syria and Russia.

These rules also apply to the major human rights groups. Both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have a rule that they will not focus on the origins of a conflict but will attend only to how the conflict is carried out. This is wonderfully convenient to a country that commits aggression on a regular basis, but it flies in the face of logic or the UN Charter’s foundational idea that aggression is the supreme international crime that the world must prevent and punish. Thus, neither HRW nor AI condemned the United States for invading Iraq or bombing Serbia but confined their attention to the war crimes of both the aggressor and target — mainly the target. HRW is especially notorious for its huge bias in featuring the war crimes of U.S. targets, underplaying the criminality of the aggressor, and calling for international action against the victim (see Herman, Peterson and Szamuely, “Human Rights Watch in the Service of the War Party,” Electric Politics, February 26, 2007.). During the period leading up to the U.S.-UK attack on Iraq, HRW head Kenneth Roth had an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal entitled “Indict Saddam” (March 22, 2002). Thus beyond failing to oppose the imminent war of aggression, this human rights group leader was providing a public relations cover for the “supreme international crime.” His organization also failed to report on and condemn the “sanctions of mass destruction” against Iraq that had devastating health effects on Iraqi civilians, accounting for hundreds of thousands of deaths. For HRW these were “unworthy victims.”

In the case of the Rwandan Patriotic Front’s invasion and massacres of 1990-1994, HRW and its associates (notably Alison Des Forges) played an important role in focusing on and condemning the defensive responses of the Rwanda government to the military and subversive advances of the U.S.-supported invading army of Tutsi from Uganda, thereby making a positive contribution to the mass killings in Rwanda and later in the DRC.3

Similarly the ad hoc international tribunals established in the last several decades have always been designed to exclude aggression and to focus on war crimes and “genocide.” And they are directed at U.S. targets (Serbia, the Hutu of Rwanda) who are actually the victims of aggression, who are then subjected to a quasi-judicial process that is fraudulent and a perversion of justice.4  The International Criminal Court (ICC) was also organized with “aggression” excluded from its remit, in deference to the demands of the Great Aggressor, who still refused to join because there remained the theoretical possibility that a U.S. citizen might be brought before the court! The ICC still made itself useful to the Great Aggressor by indicting Gaddafi in preparation for the U.S.-NATO war of aggression against Libya.

In short, terrorism thrives. That is, state terrorism, as in the serial U.S. wars—direct, joint and proxy–against Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Libya and Syria and the still more wide-ranging drone assassination attacks. In the devastating wars in the DRC by Kagame and Museveni. And in Israel’s wars on Gaza and Lebanon and ordinary pacification efforts in Gaza and the West Bank. And in Saudi Arabia’s war on Yemen and Turkey’s proxy war in Syria and war against the Kurds.

All of these wars have evoked mainly retail terrorist responses to the invading, bombing, and occupying forces of the United States and its allies, responses that have been shocking and deadly, but on a much smaller scale than the state terrorism that has evoked them. But in the Western propaganda systems it is only the responsive terrorism that surprises and angers politicians, pundits and the public and is called “terrorism.” There is no recognition of the true flow of initiating violence and response, no recognition of the fact that the “global war on terrorism” is really a “global war OF terrorism.” The propaganda system is, in fact, a constituent of the permanent war system, hence a reliable supporter of wholesale terrorism.

 

• First published in Z Magazine, February 2016

 

  1. How America Gets Away With Murder, Pluto, 2004, 46-56 [?]
  2. John Mearsheimer, “The Ukraine Crisis is the West’s Fault,” Foreign Affairs, September-October, 2014 [?]
  3. Herman and Peterson, Enduring Lies: The Rwandan Genocide in the Propaganda System, 20 Years Later, Real News Books, 2014, 66-70. [?]
  4. On the Yugoslavia tribunal, see John Laughland, Travesty, Pluto, 2007; on Rwanda, Sebastien Chartrand and John Philpot, Justice Belied: The Unbalanced Scale of International Criminal Justice, Baraka Books, 2014. [?]

 

[Edward S. Herman is an economist and media analyst with a specialty in corporate and regulatory issues as well as political economy and the media.]

(New Book) Force Multipliers: The Instrumentalities of Imperialism

Zero Anthropology

October 12, 2015

by Maximilian Forte

 

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Friends and allies, partners and protégés, extensions and proxies—the vocabulary of US power in the form of multiples of itself has become so entrenched that it rarely attracts attention, and even less so critical commentary. Force multiplication is about “leverage”: using partners and proxies in an expanding network, but where power still remains centralized. Forces are conceptualized in multi-dimensional terms. Anything in the world of cultural systems, social relationships, and material production can become force multipliers for imperialism: food security, oil, electricity, young leaders, aid, social media, NGOs, women’s rights, schoolgirls, democratization, elections, the G8, the European Union, NATO, the IMF, the World Bank, the World Economic Forum, AFRICOM, development, policing, borders, and epidemics, among others. This takes us to related conceptualizations of “full-spectrum dominance,” “three-dimensional warfare,” and “interoperability,” in what has become an imperial syndrome. Chapters in this volume present diverse examples of force multiplication, ranging from Plan Colombia to Bulgarian membership in NATO and the US-Israeli relationship, from the New Alliance for Food Security to charitable aid and the control of migration, to the management of secrecy.

This volume is timely on numerous fronts. The time spanning the production of this book, from late 2014 to late 2015, has witnessed several new and renewed US interventions overseas, from Ukraine to Venezuela, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and Libya, and the non-withdrawal of US forces from Afghanistan, where a disastrous war stretches into its 14th year. On the academic front, and particularly in North American anthropology where the word “imperialism” is virtually unspeakable and the subject of deliberate or unconscious censorship, seminar participants have taken on a bold and unusual challenge.

Chapters in this volume speak directly to the alliance and coalition aspects of force multiplication, in military and economic terms. The Introduction (“Force Multipliers: Imperial Instrumentalism in Theory and Practice”) is not a mere formality, running 87 pages in length. Instead it is an in-depth exploration, using US and some British government documents, of the “science of control” as expressed in this murky concept, “force multipliers,” a concept that receives its first serious treatment in this volume. Anyone thinking of engaging in false debates of “imperialism vs. agency” or “conspiracy vs. coincidence,” ought to first read this chapter. I shall also be serializing that chapter on this site over the next days and weeks, with summarizing slides presented on Twitter and Facebook.

Chapter 1, “Protégé of an Empire: The Influence and Exchange of US and Israeli Imperialism,” by John Talbot, deals with the question of Israel as a force multiplier of US empire in the Middle East. Talbot’s research sought to uncover how the relationship between the US and Israel impacts the foreign policy and global actions of both. Furthermore, his work seeks to understand what exactly is the “special” relationship between the US and Israel. His chapter explores two prominent answers to these questions and posits his own. One answer is that there is a significant and powerful pro-Israel lobby in the US which has a grappling hold on the US Congress, media, and within universities—suggesting that these are Israel’s own “force multipliers”. The Israel lobby’s actions create ardent support for Israel’s actions and pro-Israel foreign policy even when this goes against US interests. The second position argues that the US is not being manipulated; rather it is acting according to its own imperial interests. The argument assumes Israel was, and is, in a strategic position which works to protect the US’ imperial and economic interests. Both the vast reserves of oil in the Middle East and the spread of cultural imperialism are of interest to the US empire. The chapter ends with a position that the relationship is neither one-sided nor symbiotic. The US is supporting a protégé in the realms of nationalism, colonialism, imperialism, exceptionalism, state violence, heavy militarization, the creation of a state of emergency, and empire. Israel is acting as the US itself does while relying on its support. Understanding this relationship alongside the other standpoints can help make sense of otherwise irrational actions in which each actor may engage on the global stage. Talbot’s work has added significance in that it was produced just as the Concordia Students’ Union (CSU) officially supported the international boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israeli occupation, a decision that was the product of a historic vote by a majority of Concordia undergraduate student voters, reinforcing the decisions by graduate students and other campus bodies.

In chapter 2, “The New Alliance: Gaining Ground in Africa,” Mandela Coupal Dalgleish focuses on the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition which claims that it will bring 50 million people out of poverty in sub-Saharan Africa. He examines the origins of the New Alliance as well as the narrative that fuels New Alliance strategies. The chapter also considers how the value chains, growth corridors and public-private partnerships are furthering the interests of corporations while causing the further impoverishment of smallholder farmers in sub-Saharan Africa. The relaxation and reduction of regulations and laws related to trade and ownership, which are required for African countries to participate in the New Alliance, are enabling occurrences of land grabbing, contract farming and the loss of diversity and resilience in African farming systems. This chapter is also very much related to discussions of “connected capitalism” (see the Introduction), the existence of the corporate oligarchic state at the centre of imperial power, and of course by invoking “alliance” the chapter’s contents relate to force multiplication. In this instance, force multiplication has to do with gaining productive territory and projecting power by remaking food security into something controlled by Western transnational corporations and subject to Western oversight.

In chapter 3, “Cocaine Blues: The Cost of Democratization under Plan Colombia,” Robert Majewski asks: Is the “war on drugs” in Colombia really about drugs? Majewski finds that the situation is more complex than simply a war on drugs. Instead he shows that rather than limiting actions to controlling and eradicating drug production, the US is on a imperialist quest of forging Colombia into a country able to uphold US ideals of democracy, capitalism and the free market. Through the highly militarized Plan Colombia that came to light in 2000, the US has utilized a number of mechanisms to restructure the country to its own liking. The ways in which US imperial aims are being attained are both through ideological and more direct means. Ideologically, the rule of law acts as a legal basis for the implementation of Americanized democracy. In a more direct manner, the US is training the Colombian army and employing private military security companies to carry out its objectives. As Majewski argues, the final aim is to create a secure environment for foreign capital to flourish, an environment that is even today seen as under threat by insurgent groups such as the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces (known by their Spanish acronym, FARC). As we see in the Introduction, the US’ cultivation of ties to the Colombian military is an excellent example of what Special Forces and US Army documents describe when speaking of force multipliers and “foreign internal defense,” allowing the US a presence by proxy inside the Colombian polity.

Chapter 4, “Bulgarian Membership in NATO and the Price of Democracy,” by Lea Marinova, examines Bulgaria’s membership in NATO—where Bulgaria now serves as one of the newer force multipliers of a force multiplying alliance that works to project US dominance. Some of the central questions raised by this chapter in examining the nature of Bulagria’s NATO membership are: What are the main arguments on the side of NATO which favour Bulgarian participation in the Alliance, and to what ends? How is Bulgaria advantaged from this allegiance? Through the examination of the Bulgarian government’s “Vision 2020” project and the participation of Bulgaria in NATO missions, it is argued that NATO is an instrumentalization of US imperialism. Through the exposition of specific socio-historical predispositions which led to that association, the link between the interests of the US in having Bulgaria as an ally by its side in the “global war on terrorism” is demonstrated. Marinova argues that it is important to produce critical investigation of organizations such as NATO, which claim to promote “democracy, freedom and equality,” because behind this discourse there is a reality of creating political and economic dependency, while public and political attention is removed from this reality as the country’s internal problems continue to escalate.

Chapter 5, “Forced Migrations: An Echo of the Structural Violence of the New Imperialism,” by Chloë Blaszkewycz, shows how borders too can be used as force multipliers, or feared as force diminishers—either way, Blaszkewycz brings to light the territoriality of the so-called new imperialism which is routinely theorized as being divorced from the territorial concerns of the old colonial form of imperialism. Her chapter explores migratory movement as being influenced by the structures supporting the new imperialism. Harsha Walia’s concept of border imperialism is used as a starting point to understand the different level of oppression and forms of violence coming from the US new imperialism. Even though scholars are less likely to talk about the territorial forms of domination in the new imperialism, when analyzing migratory movement one is confronted with the fortification of borders, both material and psychological ones. Therefore, adding the concept of the border into imperialism is paramount, Blaszkewycz argues. Border imperialism legitimizes structural, psychological, physical and social violence towards migrants through narratives of criminalization and apparati of control such as detention centres that are an extension of the prison system. In brief, in a paternalistic way the US is compelling the migration trajectory of Others and forces people to be in constant movement. Therefore this is also a significant contribution for bridging migration studies with studies of imperialism.

Chapter 6, “Humanitarian Relief vs. Humanitarian Belief,” by Iléana Gutnick, continues themes that were heavily developed in the fourth of our volumes, Good Intentions. It plays an important role in this volume for highlighting how humanitarian doctrines, NGOs, and development, are forms of foreign intervention that also serve as force multipliers for the interests of powerful states. Moreover, Gutnick argues that humanitarian aid discourse is voluntarily misleading in that it shifts the public’s focus of attention towards seemingly immediate yet irrelevant ways of coping with the world’s problems. The pursuit of development has become the basis of action for foreign intervention in all sectors. This chapter tries to present the actual causes of “poverty” in an attempt to recontextualize it within its political framework to shed light on possible solutions, if there are any.

Chapter 7, “On Secrecy, Power, and the Imperial State: Perspectives from WikiLeaks and Anthropology,” which has been written and redeveloped since 2010, focuses on the demand for secrecy that is occasioned by an imperial state relying heavily on covert operations and whose own forms of governance are increasingly beholden to the operations of a “shadow state”. This chapter is thus related to discussions of “connected capitalism” and the corporate oligarchic state discussed below. I proceed by examining how WikiLeaks understands strategies of secrecy, the dissemination of information, and state power, and how anthropology has treated issues of secret knowledge and the social conventions that govern the dissemination of that knowledge. In part, I highlight a new method of doing research on the imperial state and its force multipliers, which rests heavily on the work of anti-secrecy organizations, of which WikiLeaks is paramount.

This is the fifth volume in the New Imperialism series published by Alert Press, the first open access book publisher in anthropology and sociology. However, for the time being, this volume will be the last. As always it has been my pleasure and honour to serve as the editor for such a collection, despite the fact that this year has been particularly challenging for personal reasons. Given the costly and time-consuming nature of these endeavours, and the fact that the seminar itself is not likely to be offered for the next couple of years at least, it will be a while before readers can hope to see a new volume in this series. Until next time then, I thank the reader for taking the time to study the contents of this volume.

 

[Maximilian C. Forte has an educational background in Latin American and Caribbean Studies, Spanish, International Relations, and Anthropology. He lived and studied for seven years in Trinidad & Tobago, for four years in Australia, and for three years in the U.S. He is a dual Italian-Canadian citizen, and had previously achieved Permanent Resident status in Trinidad & Tobago. His primary website is that of the Zero Anthropology Project.]