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Ukraine, International Law, and a Left Worth Wanting

Ukraine, International Law, and a Left Worth Wanting

Tortilla con Sal

March 10, 2022

By Stephen Sefton

 

 

Most commentary on Western progressive and radical media on events in Ukraine has failed to acknowledge the right to self-defense of the Russian Federation and its allies the Donetsk and Lugansk Popular Republics. This is one more example of the way North American and European progressive and radical movements collaborate with their ruling classes, just as they generally did over their governments’ repressive economic and social measures addressing Covid-19. The very Western movements claiming to be morally superior to both sides in the Ukraine war, by doing so, aid and abet the US government, its NATO allies and their Nazi sympathizer protegés in Ukraine.

The double standard could hardly be more clear. As distinguished international war crimes specialist Christopher Black notes: “When one takes account of all the factors that governed the Russian decision to send its forces into Ukraine it is clear that in law they had the legal right to do so whereas the United States continues its illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq and Syria to this day and the NATO media powers and governments say nothing, because they are all complicit in those invasions.” Now, Ukrainian military documents retrieved by the Russian authorities have demonstrated conclusively that their intervention preempted a large scale assault by Ukrainian armed forces against Donetsk and Lugansk, planned for early March this year.

So President Vladimir Putin was right to argue his government was acting in self defense in Ukraine after eight years of Ukrainian attacks on Donestk and Lugansk, since, as Christopher Black argues, Article 51 of the UN Charter applies, namely “Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security. Measures taken by Members in the exercise of this right of self-defence shall be immediately reported to the Security Council and shall not in any way affect the authority and responsibility of the Security Council under the present Charter to take at any time such action as it deems necessary in order to maintain or restore international peace and security.”

Which renders entirely specious the argument of many widely respected left wing commentators like, for example, Ignacio Ramonet that Russia’s action in self defense “is barely even a fig leaf, a barebones legal skeleton to explain away an unjustifiable attack on Ukraine”. The role of Ramonet, like so many similar commentators, is to cover the Left flank of their social democrat and liberal support networks in the European Union and the United States, giving cover for otherwise inexcusable EU and US policies. Such commentators played a practically identical role in 2011 making excuses for Nato countries’ destructive aggression against Libya, Syria and Ivory Coast.

 

This explains why Ramonet’s claim that it is “difficult to understand why the United States did not do more to avoid this conflict in Ukraine” is fundamentally dishonest and false. Self-evidently the Western corporate elites have used the governments they own in North America and Europe to weaken and, if possible, destroy not just the independence and autonomy of the Russian Federation, but that of the European Union too. Western corporate elites will make enormous profits rearming Germany and the rest of Europe, and also Japan, and ensuring that Europe depends on US and allied country energy and food supplies. Turning Europe into a heavily militarized US vassal region prevents the US from losing the extremely lucrative, for now, European markets to Russia and China.

Also self-evident is the fact that commentators like Ignacio Ramonet and others assign completely disproportionate meaning to the recent UN General Assembly vote on the war in Ukraine which was so symbolic as to be practically meaningless. Countries representing an enormous majority of the world’s peoples chose to abstain or simply not take part in the vote. Here is the list of abstentions: Algeria, Angola, Armenia, Bangladesh, Bolivia, Burundi, Central African Republic, China, Congo, Cuba, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, India, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Madagascar, Mali, Mongolia, Mozambique, Namibia, Nicaragua, Pakistan, Senegal, South Africa, South Sudan, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Tajikstan, Uganda, Tanzania, Vietnam and Zimbabwe. Not taking part in the vote were: Azerbaijan, Burkina Faso, Eswatini, Ethiopia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Morocco, Togo, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Venezuela.

So it is completely false to claim that the UN vote in any way at all represented a global condemnation of Russia by the majority of the world’s peoples. This is even more the case because, subsequently, Indonesia, Malaysia, Turkey, Brazil and Mexico have all made clear they are unwilling to apply illegal coercive economic and other measures against Russia. Nor is it likely that countries in Latin America and the Caribbean will act to damage their countries’s already fragile economies in the context of global efforts to recover from the effects of measures supposedly addressing Covid-19. These are incontrovertible realities that most Western progressives and radicals seem unwilling to acknowledge.

In turn, this means that what they think is practically irrelevant for the majority world. Very serious and committed anti-imperialist, class conscious writers openly discuss whether any kind of Left worth wanting exists any more in North America and Europe, for example Max Blumenthal and Cory Morningstar or the Black Agenda Report collective. These discussions may well be useful eventually for the cultural, social and political well being of Western countries, but in any case the majority world, despite the evil policies of the US and European ruling elites, will continue working successfully to realize their peoples’ right to a decent life, to their human development and to the sovereign independence of their nations.

[Stephen Sefton is a member of the Tortilla con Sal collective based in Nicaragua.]

WATCH: Negating Colonial Lies About Russia

WATCH: Negating Colonial Lies About Russia

Streamed live on March 20, 2022.

 

Continued discussion on Russia’s defensive war in Ukraine against the global colonial powers.

“The attitude of the Russians were quite different because they are not attitudes that were born, that came from, [that] developed from slavery and colonialism like you find in the so-called West where the colonialism and slavery has its origins, and that continues to dominate the consciousness of white people, here, now. That’s why you see the white left, the so-called leftists in the United States, they are white nationalists. Most of them are like colonialist leftists. They are left colonizers and they’re not, generally speaking, able to unite against the oppression of the peoples of the world – including unite with Russia in this defensive war that is fighting against the United States through Ukraine…

This propaganda against Russia extends beyond just the war – the Russian people are being targeted in various places in the free world, in the colonial world. The fact of the matter is that this left, this left that comrade Tasha is talking about, this left that supports Ukraine,
is the same left that Lenin was criticizing more than a hundred years ago. It’s the same left. It’s an opportunist left. It’s a colonial base left. So it’s nothing new with how this left is acting. In the United States, or in much of Europe. This left supported French colonialism. At the same time the French claimed to be fighting against colonialism, fascism, in the 1940s – they were oppressing and killing black people in in Algeria – and and they continued to control something like fifteen different countries in Africa today under colonialism. And the communists of those countries supported that. They worked with that. So there’s a difference in a struggle against colonialism. If you don’t understand that – that the entire foundation of so-called western civilization rests upon colonial domination of Black people and other oppressed peoples around the world – that’s why we stand with Russia.”  — Chairman Omali Yeshitela

 

FEATURED SPEAKERS

Chairman Omali Yeshitela, African People’s Socialist Party (APSP), Alexander Ionov, President, Anti-Globalization Movement of Russia, LIVE from Moscow, Luwezi Kinshasa, Secretary General, African Socialist International (ASI) and Tafarie Mugeri, Director of Organization, ASI Africa Region.

 

 

WATCH: Russia & Ukraine – What’s Really Happening? [Feb 23, 2022]

WATCH: Russia & Ukraine – What’s Really Happening? [Feb 23, 2022]

Uhuru Solidarity

February 22, 2022

 

“African People’s Solidarity Committee (APSC) Chair Penny Hess and Uhuru Solidarity Movement (USM) Chair Jesse Nevel welcome special guest Chairman Omali Yeshitela for a discussion summing up the situation in Russia and Ukraine, from an African Internationalist point of view.”

Western Reporting – News From Nowhere

Tortilla con Sal

February 26, 2022

Stephen Sefton

 

There are three main senses in which practically no foreign affairs reporting by Western news media and NGOs is ever about the country ostensibly the subject of their reports. First, almost invariably the reporting is so selective and biased as to be in effect a fictional account of some notional place barely recognizable as the country in question. Secondly, any particular report is always and principally intended to serve the much larger false narrative of Western superiority and benevolence. Thirdly, the reports generally depend on some great comprehensive deceit offering false plausibility to other minor, more detailed untruths.

 

Apologies to John Heartfield’s “Whoever reads bourgeois newspapers becomes blind and deaf”

 

In Ukraine, the massive deceit has been to ignore NATO country governments’ support for a fascist regime subordinate to followers of Nazism attacking its own Ukrainian citizens since 2014 with around 14,000 deaths, tens of thousands of wounded and hundreds of thousands people displaced. Those same NATO country governments destroyed Libya and almost destroyed Syria, falsely accusing those countries’ leaders of “killing their own people”. In Latin America, the catch-all big lie is that Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela are incompetent brutal dictatorships, when in fact their people-focused policies put to shame the desperate social reality prevalent in the countries of US allies like Colombia, Guatemala, Haiti, or Honduras.

This reality is self-evident to anyone trying to report faithfully from any of the countries targeted as enemies by the ruling elites of North America and Europe, the respective government leaders they control and, too, their pscychological warfare media and NGO apparatus. Western media and NGOs systematically mislead their populations about international affairs based on three fundamental presuppostions:

  • -North American and European countries are highly morally principled
  • -The majority world generally benefits from Western good intentions
  • -Governments opposed to the West are bad and deserve to punished

 

Thus, accounts published in NATO country psychological warfare outlets like the New York Times, the Guardian, El País, Le Monde, Deutsche Welle, France 24, the BBC, CNN and so on and on, have barely anything to do with the region or country on which they feign to be reporting. Their role is to misinform Western populations about world events, criminalizing foreign governments so as to consolidate political support for North American and European crimes against the majority world. Domestically, their role is to suppress any trace of popular dissent threatening Western ruling elites’ power and control. Since at least the Iraq war, this inverse relationship has been very clear. Overseas, Western power and influence decline: at home, economic and political repression increase.

While events in Ukraine and elsewhere currently dominate global news, long standing Western aggression against smaller countries like, in Latin America, Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela continues. Typical recent coverage of that aggression in the case of Nicaragua demonstrates how the negation of basic reporting integrity renders Western media and NGO accounts of foreign affairs practically worthless. Nicaragua’s Sandinista government has been under comprehensive assault from Western media and NGOs ever since taking office in January 2007.

Mural by the Felicia Santizo Brigade of Panama, 1980. Photo: David Schwartz.

Its president, Daniel Ortega has won election after election with massive majorities. Prior to 2018 Nicaragua stood out in the region for its achievements reducing poverty, its economic growth and its political and social stability. Unable to win power with popular support via elections, the US and EU funded opposition promoted a failed coup attempt in 2018 during which opposition militants and thugs with firearms burned down public buildings, businesses and private homes and even preschools. They killed over 20 police officers wounding 400 officers.

They installed roadblocks as bases from which to terrorize local people, demanding money, searching and stealing people’s personal effects, assaulting government supporters, abusing women and girls.Those responsible for organizing that violent failed coup attempt tried to repeat it around last year’s elections. Before they could do so they were arrested and put on trial. As usual, reporting of this reality by Western media, NGOs and institutions inverted what happened, casting the traitorous opposition criminals as innocent and peaceful while portraying the Nicaraguan government as brutal and illegitimate. That mendacious inversion has facilitated every kind of false account of subsequent events.

So, for example, most recently, the New York Times reports the Nicaraguan authorities’ closure of six private universities for failing to satisfy regulatory requirements as if the government is shutting down the country’s private university sector as a whole. The NYT omits that Nicaragua has over 50 universities, the great majority of which are private and the authorities immediately set up three new public universities to guarantee good quality university education for the affected students with lower fees and more scholarships. Likewise, the NYT reports that hundreds of thousands of Nicaraguans now live in Costa Rica, without explaining that this has been the case for decades rather than being any kind recent migratory phenomenon, as their report implies.

Practically all Western media reporting on Nicaragua deploys this kind of systematic deceit, sourcing their reports exclusively on Nicaragua’s plentiful opposition media outlets, almost all of which are funded directly or indirectly by US and allied governments. The most notorious of these outlets is Confidencial, which, despite receiving US government funding, is invariably described in Western reporting as being independent. North American and European NGOs and institutions collude in this bad faith reporting, reinforcing the deceitful Western consensus, especially around human rights related issues.

For example, people interested in environmental or indigenous peoples’ issues will look to NGOs like the Oakland Institute or Mongabay for trustworthy reporting. Both these organizations receive large donations from corporate owned funders. The Oakland Institute has been funded by the Howard Buffet Foundation specifically to report on Nicaragua. Mongabay, although a non profit entity, is itself a corporation whose president and chief executive officer is paid US$234,000 a year. Its income reached over US$4 million in 2020 dropping to US$2.4 million the following year. Mongabay has received numerous donations of over US$100,000 from bodies like the Walton Family Foundation, the Ford Foundation and the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), for example.

John Heatfield – “Peace and Fascism”. The dove of peace is transfixed by the fascist bayonet before the League of Nations building, whose white cross has become a Swastika

The role of these NGOs reporting on Nicaragua is thoroughly dishonest. Nicaragua has the most innovative and advanced system of indigenous people’s self government anywhere. Distorting this reality, the Oakland Institute has been shown to have claimed falsely that cattle farming for beef exports was the cause of murderous conflicts on indigenous peoples lands. Likewise, Mongabay has claimed government policy in Nicaragua incites invasion of indigenous peoples’ lands despite elected indigenous peoples leaders themselves contradicting that falsehood. This kind of false reporting by media and NGOs feeds into US controlled institutions like the Organization of American States or UN human rights bodies, rendering worthless those influential institutions’ own reports.

Writers like Cory Morningstar and Whitney Webb have explained in detail the underlying rationale for this systematic legitimization of falsehood by Western controlled international institutions, media and NGOs.The relentless psychological warfare offensive undermines national governments, promoting the predatory corporate driven social and environmental agenda aimed at privatizing nature itself and imposing relentless digital control on all aspects of human life. Western media outlets, NGOs and institutions avow transparency and accountability but that too is a contemptible, cynical lie. Anyone challenging the false consensus is either attacked or suppressed.

Corporate NGOs like Mongabay or major institutions like the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights never engage well informed challenges publicly. In part, this clear ethical failure stems from fear of having their falsity and bad faith exposed, but linked to that is a deeply anti-democratic determination to prevent a wider public from having the chance to make up their own minds based on broadly sourced information. The test of good faith for any information is whether the reporting outlet is honest in declaring its own bias and interests and at least acknowledges competing information sources. Western foreign affairs reporting outlets almost invariably fail that test, consistently and comprehensively, reducing themselves to pathetic instruments of psychological warfare.

 

[Stephen Sefton is a member of the Tortilla con Sal collective based in Nicaragua.]

 

Human Rights Fraud from Ukraine to Nicaragua

Tortilla con Sal

July 26, 2020

Stephen Sefton

Current Western human rights industry practice has nothing to do with establishing the truth. Increasingly in recent years, US and allied elites have sought to legitimize illegal aggression by exploiting human rights motifs in their attempts to recolonize the majority world.

 

In any given crisis, human rights NGOs funded by the US and allied corporate elites and governments deploy sensationalist false claims, for example of police murdering peaceful protestors, so as to create a cognitive limbo of doubt and suspicion aimed at disabling opposition to the West’s recolonization campaigns. Over the medium and long term, the steady drip of false accusations against countries resisting recolonization, like Syria and Iran, or Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, creates false memories, corrupting and distorting the historical record and obscuring the West’s crimes against those and so many other countries in the majority world.

Western ruling elites have corrupted human rights organizations and institutions at practically every level using corporate grant making and government funding. The practical results of this corruption mirror corporate techniques of control fraud and strategic avoidance of regulation. Economics writers like Michael Hudson and  William Black, among others, have explained how corrupt US and allied corporations have exploited these fraudulent abuses for decades.  Control fraud is essentially no different from ancient practices like debasing coins, adulterating food products or selling defective goods as fit for use. They all fool people into accepting something that causes them loss, hurt and damage.

In the United States, powerful corporations control US political and institutional life sufficiently to be able to co-opt justice and escape criminal prosecution. This reality crowds out honest, socially responsible business and financial practice. Parallel to control fraud by major financial institutions, other multinational corporations, for example oil, mining or information technology corporations,  operate what various writers call a “veil of tiers” strategy misrepresenting their earnings so as to avoid tax or other regulation, and legal prosecution. More legitimately, in the field of insurance, the “veil of tiers” strategy spreads risks associated with potential litigation. The international human rights industry uses similar techniques to justify and cover up Western attacks against the peoples of the majority world.

The dependence of international human rights NGOs on corporate and government funding and on publicity via corporate media and public relations over time has generated the osmosis of corrupt corporate practice into the human rights industry. Writers like Cory Morningstar have analyzed exhaustively how this takeover by corporate culture of the “non-profit industrial complex serves hegemony as a sophisticated fine-tuned symbiotic mechanism in a continuous state of flux and refinement. The ruling elite channel an immeasurable amount of resources and tools through these organizations to further strengthen, protect and expand existing forms of power structures and global domination.”

In a human rights context, control fraud takes the form of politically motivated, false, sensationalist accusations based on egregiously one-sided, often fact-free research, sometimes using fake pseudo-scientific reconstructions. Accountability for these false accusations is rendered negligible by means of a “veil of tiers” strategy starting at a low level with small, local or national human rights NGOS, progressing via larger international human rights NGOs and auxiliary private contractors to regional human rights institutions, then reaching United Nations organizations and ultimately the highest levels of the international human rights legal system. By excluding independent corroboration, the interchange from one level to the next imparts spurious mutual legitimacy of varying degrees between the organizations and institutions involved.

The process is quasi-judicial with zero accountability, such that attempting to counteract false accusations is extremely difficult if not impossible, especially in the short term. If anything, the human rights industry is even less accountable than multinational corporations. Two recent examples, among innumerable others, confirm the creeping monopolization of the human rights industry by corrupt corporate practice. Against both the Ukraine government in February 2014 and against the Nicaraguan government in May 2018, Western human rights NGOs made very similar accusations that their police forces murdered peaceful protestors indiscriminately. In both cases, the accusations were false.

The context of the killings in both cases was a violent attempt at regime change by a US government funded political opposition. In Ukraine’s case, the opposition had been supported for over twenty years with US government funding amounting to over US$5 billion as confirmed in 2013 by Victoria Nuland, then US Assistant Secretary of State. That US government finance was in addition to funding from US corporate oligarchs like Pierre Omidyaar and George Soros. The most notorious event in the regime change campaign in Ukraine took place over February 18th-20th in 2014 when over 70 people were killed in Kiev’s Maidan square during violent confrontations between police and protestors. The massacre led to the overthrow of the legitimate government and its replacement by a fascist US client regime.

After the event, even CNN felt bound to report a leaked conversation between Estonia’s Foreign Minister Urmas Paet and Catherine Ashton, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs in which Paet confirmed that a  pro-opposition doctor treating wounded protestors claimed opposition snipers, not government security forces, had shot the protestors. That report was followed by the broadcast from Italy’s Mediaset Matrix television channel of interviews, here and here, with mercenary snipers confessing they had fired on both protestors and police during the Maidan protests in February 2014. The mercenaries had come forward aggrieved at not getting paid by the opposition aligned figures who hired them. Even so, the Ukraine authorities announced their investigation into the shootings was complete, simply repeating the false accusations against the former Ukrainian government despite categorically clear evidence to the contrary.

A prominent part of the Ukraine prosecutors’ false case was a virtual reconstruction of events  by a private New York contractor called SITU Research whose human rights work is funded by US oligarch owned grant making bodies, like the MacArthur Foundation, the Oak Foundation and the Open Society Foundations. Ivan Katchanovski of the University of Ottawa has exposed as phony the SITU Research reconstruction of the Maidan shootings, demonstrating, for example, that in various cases SITU Research’s imaging moved wound locations indicated in the respective forensic autopsy reports in order to suit the video’s conclusions. Katchanovksi’s detailed analysis draws on other evidence omitted by SITU Research which also contradicts their claims, for example witness testimony from 25 wounded opposition supporters that they were shot from opposition controlled buildings.

Katchanovski points out that numerous video and TV footage shows opposition snipers and shooters in buildings controlled by the opposition. That footage is supported by over 150 witness testimonies confirming snipers were firing from those locations. Katchanovski also notes that Brad Samuels, founding partner of SITU Research “said in a video [start at 55:16] that ‘…eventually, there is a consensus that there was a third party acting. It is clear from forensic evidence that people were shot in the back. Somebody was shooting from rooftops.’ ” Katchanovski remarks that Samuels’ “striking observation was not included anywhere in the SITU 3D model report that he produced.” Katchanovski’s critical analysis of SITU Research’s material and of the broader official Ukraine investigation into the Maidan massacre has never been seriously challenged.

Similar false accusations ignoring readily available contradictory evidence and also using SITU Research modeling were made against Nicaragua’s government earlier this year. On May 30th the Organization of American States subsidiary body the Interdisciplinary Group of Independent Experts (GIEI), the Argentinian Forensic Anthropology Team and SITU Research jointly published a video allegedly proving that Nicaragua’s police shot and killed unarmed protesters at a demonstration on May 30th 2018. But detailed analysis of the video shows that in this case too SITU Research have misrepresented data, namely the distance between the police and the protestors which was in fact about 175 metres, in order to harmonize the reality of what happened with their virtual reconstruction which claims police snipers fired from a distance of around 250 metres.

The video footage of the protests in Nicaragua contains no scenes where Nicaraguan police use their firearms. Similarly, just as in their false reconstruction of events in Kiev’s Maidan square, SITU Research omitted a substantial body of information contradicting their account of the shootings in Managua on May 30th. The context in this case too was of extremely violent protests by organizations funded by the US government with over US$15 million just in 2017-2018. For example, local human rights organizations received over US$3 million from the US government that year as did local media NGOs. Although, two solidarity organizations wrote and published an open letter to the organizations who produced the video, respectfully questioning their findings, to date the letter has received only a formal acknowledgment without replying to the questions.

In both Ukraine and Nicaragua, the US government funded local opposition aligned NGOs to make false allegations of very serious human rights violations. A private company contractor was funded by US corporate interests to produce false pseudo-scientific material unfairly incriminating the governments for those violations. International human rights NGOs repeated the false accusations on the basis of that same false evidence. Regional human rights institutions accused the governments concerned on the basis of that same material.

The accusations are false but the Nicaraguan government and accused members of the former Ukrainian government are denied a fair defense. This same process has been repeated over and over again against governments resisting US and allied policies. Western human rights organizations share the same corrupt methodology as their corporate and government patrons. They make false claims, suppress inconvenient evidence, do all they can to avoid independent scrutiny and systematically evade accountability.

 

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