Aletho News


Chinese Hackers? US Propagandists Should Look in the Mirror

By Eric Draitser |New Eastern Outlook | November 4, 2015

Like millions of Americans, this past week I was sitting on my couch, drinking a cold beer, watching Game 1 of the World Series – professional baseball’s hallowed championship. Suddenly the satellite feed went out, the screen went dark. Naturally, as FOX Sports scrambled to get their live feed fixed, many of my fellow Americans took to twitter to speculate as to what had caused the outage. I was, sadly, unsurprised to see that the most common joke people were making was that China must have hacked the World Series.

On the one hand, it is understandable given the barrage of propaganda about Chinese hackers as a threat to corporate and national security; seemingly every week there is a new news item highlighting the great red cyber-menace. On the other hand, it is a perfect illustration of the hypocrisy and ignorant arrogance of Americans who, despite being citizens of unquestionably the most aggressive nation when it comes to both cyber espionage and surveillance, see fit to cast China as the real villain. It is a testament to the power of both propaganda and imperial triumphalism that a proposition so disconnected from reality, and bordering on Orwellian Doublethink, is not only accepted, but is ipso facto true.

But there is a deeper political and sociological phenomenon at play here, one that begs further exploration. How is it that despite all the revelations of Edward Snowden regarding US intelligence and military snooping capabilities across the globe, Americans still cannot accept the culpability of their own government and corporate interests – the two work hand in hand – in global cyber-espionage? Even if they explicitly or implicitly know about the NSA, CIA, DIA, and Pentagon programs (among many others), their instinctive reaction is to blame China. Why? The answer lies in the complexity and effectiveness of the anti-China propaganda.

In his landmark book Public Opinion, the renowned writer, commentator, and theoretician of propaganda, Walter Lipmann, defined the term “stereotype” in the modern psychological sense as a “distorted picture or image in a person’s mind, not based on personal experience, but derived culturally.” In other words, the stereotype is an image in our mind’s eye, one that is constructed by outside forces; it is information filtered through a particular societal or cultural framework that then creates a picture of how something is to be understood. Lipmann went further, noting that carefully constructed propaganda could be used to shape stereotypes, thereby allowing the powers that be the ability to construct and manipulate information and narratives.

And this is precisely the phenomenon at work here. By repeating it endlessly, the US political and corporate media establishment have successfully convinced Americans that China is the real threat when it comes to cyberspace, playing on the stereotype of Chinese people in general, and the People’s Republic of China specifically. But, I would argue something far different: rather than seeing China as a threat, perhaps Americans, and westerners generally, should shine a light on what their own countries are doing, thereby gaining a broader perspective on the issue. For China’s moves in this field pale in comparison to those of the US, and are clearly a response to them.

China and the US: Comparing the Rap Sheets

The corporate media is replete with stories of Chinese hacking of US institutions. From alleged Chinese hacking of the University of Virginia employees connected with US government programs directed at China, to the infamous breach of the federal government’s Office of Personnel Management which resulted in the theft of the personal information of more than 20 million Americans, such stories help to construct an image of China as the world’s leading hacker-state. This week it is Chinese hackers targeting health care providers, last year it was stealing the secrets of Westinghouse and US Steel, and literally dozens of other such examples.

The purpose of this article is not to deny the veracity of these reports; I’m not a computer expert, nor do I have access to the information that an expert would need in making a determination. Instead, my purpose here is to show the grossly unbalanced, and utterly dishonest, way in which the issue is presented to Americans especially, and to probe why that might be. For any fair and balanced approach to the issue would present the simple fact that the US is the world leader in cyber-warfare, having actually conducted what are to date the only recorded live uses of cyberweapons.

Take for instance the joint US-Israel developed Stuxnet virus, a pair of highly complex and severely destructive, computer viruses launched at Iran’s nuclear facilities. According to a group of independent legal experts assembled at the request of NATO’s Cooperative Cyber Defense Center of Excellence, the Stuxnet cyberattack was “an act of force.” Their report noted that “Acts that kill or injure persons or destroy or damage objects are unambiguously uses of force [and likely violate international law].”

Indeed, the US and its Israeli partners launched the very first true cyberweapon. As cyber security expert Ralph Langer wrote in Foreign Policy in 2013:

Stuxnet is not really one weapon, but two. The vast majority of the attention has been paid to Stuxnet’s smaller and simpler attack routine — the one that changes the speeds of the rotors in a centrifuge, which is used to enrich uranium. But the second and “forgotten” routine is about an order of magnitude more complex and stealthy. It qualifies as a nightmare for those who understand industrial control system security… The “original” payload… attempted to overpressurize Natanz’s centrifuges by sabotaging the system meant to keep the cascades of centrifuges safe.

Essentially, the US and Israel employed the world’s first cyberweapon without even fully knowing the potentially destructive consequences. As the virus migrated out of the Iranian nuclear facility at Natanz and onto the internet, innumerable variables could have come into play, with the potential for disastrous outcomes.

But of course Stuxnet was not alone. The US and Israel also deployed both the Gauss and Flame viruses, two more sophisticated cyberweapons designed to cause major damage to online infrastructure. The Gauss virus, discovered by Kaspersky labs, one of the world’s most highly respected cyber-security firms, was designed to steal sensitive data such as financial records. According to the US officials who spoke with the Washington Post, the Flame virus was a: massive piece of malware [which] secretly mapped and monitored Iran’s computer networks, sending back a steady stream of intelligence to prepare for a cyberwarfare campaign… “This is about preparing the battlefield for another type of covert action… Cyber-collection against the Iranian program is way further down the road than this.” said one former high-ranking U.S. intelligence official, who added that Flame and Stuxnet were elements of a broader assault that continues today.

Clearly the US and Israel were not merely interested in surveillance and information-gathering, but actually having the ability to manipulate and destroy vital computer infrastructure in Iran. Any reasonable reading of international law should hold that such actions are, in fact, an act of war, though of course war with Iran has not come to pass. But just the very use of such sophisticated weapons, far more elaborate, technical, and dangerous than mere hacking by humans, should call into question the weepy-eyed condemnations of China for its alleged stealing of corporate and government information.

And then of course there is the seemingly endless supply of revelations from Edward Snowden regarding the US surveillance infrastructure, how all-encompassing it truly is, how it is used to manipulate political outcomes, how it is used as a weapon against foreign governments, and much more.

Just to name a few of the countless programs and initiatives of the NSA and the surveillance state designed to capture information for political purposes:

PRISM – allows “The National Security Agency and the FBI [to tap] directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. internet companies, extracting audio and video chats, photographs, emails, documents, and connection logs.”

BLARNEY – “Gathers up metadata from choke points along the backbone of the internet as part of an ongoing collection program the leverages IC (intelligence community) and commercial partnerships to gain access and exploit foreign intelligence obtained from global networks.”

Boundless Informant – “Details and even maps by country the voluminous amount of information it collects from computer and telephone networks.”

US & UK Target G20 Leaders – “The documents suggest that the operation was sanctioned in principle at a senior level in the government.”

US Spied on EU Offices – “America’s National Security Agency (NSA) not only conducted online surveillance of European citizens, but also appears to have specifically targeted buildings housing European Union institutions… in addition to installing bugs in the building in downtown Washington, DC, the European Union representation’s computer network was also infiltrated.”

But of course, the US has also specifically, and successfully, trained its cyber-espionage and cyber-warfare sights on China itself. Thanks to Snowden, we now know that US intelligence repeatedly hacked into Beijing’s Tsinghua University, China’s top education and research institute. As revealed in the South China Morning Post:

The information also showed that the attacks on Tsinghua University were intensive and concerted efforts. In one single day of January, at least 63 computers and servers in Tsinghua University have been hacked by the NSA… The university is home to one of the mainland’s six major backbone networks, the China Education and Research Network (CERNET) from where internet data from millions of Chinese citizens could be mined. The network was the country’s first internet backbone network and has evolved into the world’s largest national research hub.

But it wasn’t only Tsinghua University that was targeted. Snowden also revealed that Chinese University in Hong Kong was the victim of US hacking; the university is home to the Hong Kong Internet Exchange, the city’s central hub for all internet traffic. In addition, it came out that US intelligence has repeatedly hacked into Chinese mobile phone companies, spied on users, and stolen data, including text messages. These are, of course, only what we know about thus far from the Snowden revelations. The scope of US hacking operations against China is not known, but could be safely assumed to be far-reaching.

In fact, the depth of US hacking and other intelligence operations targeting China, including those taking place inside China itself, has been alluded to repeatedly. The New York Times noted in August 2015 that the Obama administration was cautious about any retaliation against China for the breach of the Office of Personnel Management because “Intelligence officials say that any legal case could result in exposing American intelligence operations inside China — including the placement of thousands of implants in Chinese computer networks to warn of impending attacks.”

It is clear that what we do know about US cyberwar programs and tactics is really only the tip of the iceberg. It is likely that Washington has myriad other China-specific hacking programs and initiatives, including the much discussed attempts to subvert the oft referenced “Great Firewall of China.” Put simply, the US is engaged in the most sophisticated forms of hacking and cyber-subversion, and much of it is directed at China (and Russia and Iran). This should now be beyond question.

Keep this information in mind the next time another story about Chinese hackers attacking US interests runs in the corporate media. While the hack may or may not be true, it is the context within which such actions take place that really needs to be understood.

There is a cyberwar going on, of this there can be no doubt. But who’s got the biggest guns? And who fired the first shot?

November 6, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

From ‘sexed up’ in Iraq to silenced in Afghanistan, cowing of the BBC continues

By Dan Glazebrook | RT | November 6, 2015

Ever since allegations that Saddam Hussein’s WMD program were “sexed up” to give the UK reason for joining the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, the BBC has been “cowed,” a claim that seemed vindicated following last month’s US attack of an Afghan hospital.

On October 3rd, the US carried out a sustained bombing raid on a Medecins Sans Frontiere hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan. The attacks continued every 15-minutes for over an hour and involved five separate strafing runs. By the time it was over, at least twenty two people had been killed.

According to Counterpunch : “The hospital was deliberately set ablaze by incendiary weapons, and the people inside not incinerated were killed by a spray of bullets and anti-personnel flechettes.”

US officials initially claimed the attacks were an accident. However, this was refuted by MSF, who pointed out that not only were the US fully aware of the precise coordinates of the hospital, but that they had also called the US army during the strike itself begging them to stop, to no avail.

Eventually, as Media Lens has noted, US officials changed their story, claiming that the attack was justified because the Taliban had been using the hospital as a “base” – effectively admitting that it had indeed been deliberately targeted. MSF completely denied that claim as well, and noted that the claim “amounts to an admission of a war crime.”

So why was it that on October 15th, the BBC News at Ten was still claiming that the hospital had been “mistakenly bombed” by the US – a claim disputed by MSF from the start, and which even US officials themselves later admitted was a lie?

To answer this question requires an appreciation of the way in which the BBC has, over many years, been cowed and intimidated into an attitude of almost total subservience towards the foreign policy agenda of Britain and its allies.

Of course, the BBC has always been an instrument of the British state, established by statute in 1928 and run by a governor appointed by the Prime Minister. As Seumas Milne has pointed out: “There is no point in romanticizing a BBC golden age. The corporation was always an establishment institution, deeply embedded in the security state and subject to direct government control in an emergency…[with] around 40 percent of the staff… vetted by MI5.”

Yet within this framework there was, for a time, some degree of freedom to make programs that challenged the status quo.

Particularly irksome to the Conservative government of the 1980s were three in particular – Maggie’s Militant Tendency, a Panorama special on the influence of the far right in the Conservative party; Real Lives, featuring an extended interview with the Irish republican leader Martin McGuinness; and a documentary about a secret British intelligence satellite. The latter program, which was never broadcast, even triggered a raid by Special Branch on the BBC’s Glasgow offices – but, Milne notes, “By [that] time… preparations to sack the director general were far advanced.”

Thatcher installed the “fiercely anti-union” Marmaduke Hussey as BBC Chairman, and, following discussions with Rupert Murdoch, Douglas Hurd and security advisor Victor Rothschild, forced Alasdair Milne (Seumas’s father) to resign as director general. The move had its intended effect.

As Seumas Milne put it: “This was a No 10 coup by any other name – and one from which the BBC has never fully recovered. Once the government had demonstrated it could not only manipulate the license fee to ensure BBC compliance, but summarily dispatch its leadership at barely one remove, what BBC director general or chair would do anything but bend the knee or jump ship?”

Of course, the message still needs reiterating from time to time.

Shortly after the 2003 invasion of Iraq, BBC Radio Four’s Today program broadcast an interview with the journalist Andrew Gilligan in which he claimed that the British government had “sexed up” its notorious ‘intelligence dossier’ on Iraqi weapons, deliberately including information it “probably knew” was untrue.

We now know such claims were entirely correct.

But Alastair Campbell, Prime Minister Tony Blair’s Director of Communications desperately sought blood. An inquiry was launched, with a suitably supine judge appointed to lead it; Lord Hutton was a former Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland, who had presided over the system of notorious ‘Diplock courts’ which abolished the right to trial by jury (The Diplock courts had been an innovation of Brigadier Frank Kitson, whose manual on counter-insurgency instructed that “the activities of the legal services have to be tied into the war effort in as discreet a way as possible). Hutton proved himself true to his mentor’s understanding of ‘judicial neutrality’ – and its disposability in matters of war.

During the inquiry, it was revealed that the wording of the dossier had indeed been altered to make a stronger case for war; that Alastair Campbell had requested these changes himself; and that the serious reservations of Intelligence experts about the intelligence presented was indeed known to the government. Nevertheless, Hutton’s conclusions completely exonerated the government, concluding that Gilligan’s accusation of “sexing up” the dossier was “unfounded”, and that the BBC’s editorial and management processes were “defective”.

Effectively, the BBC was being told: yes, what you reported was true; but how dare you broadcast it? The BBC was breaching another of Brigadier Kitson’s principles – that it is not only “legal services” that “have to be tied into the war effort” – but media as well.

The Director-General, Greg Dyke, and the Chairman Gavyn Davies were forced to resign; whilst those who had fabricated evidence in order to justify an illegal war of aggression got off, and continue to get off, scot-free.

The BBC has been cowed ever since. As a report by the Independent on the Hutton inquiry ten years on noted: “Damage was done to the BBC news room, which caught a chill. If this episode had never happened and Dyke had served a full term in charge, then ‘I think their journalism might have been a bit braver,’ he says. ‘I think the place was really shocked by losing the chairman and director general together over one issue.’”

Kevin Marsh, the Today program editor at the time of Gilligan’s broadcast, agreed there had been what the Independent called a “chilling effect on the BBC’s reporting” and noted that the new Deputy Director General Mark Byford, placed in charge of journalism, was “very cautious”.

Threats to funding are another good way the government can keep the BBC’s reporting ‘in line’ (whilst always, of course, maintaining the appearance of ‘hearty debate’). As already noted, Seumas Milne reports that “manipulating the license fee” had been a means of “ensuring compliance” in the 1980s; and so too today. With the ten-year renewal of the BBC’s charter looming, David Cameron remarked to a busload of journalists shortly before this year’s general election that he was “going to close down” the BBC.

“Some people on the bus regarded it as funny” said BBC Political Editor Nick Robinson, “but they generally didn’t work for the BBC. The people who did regarded it as yet another bit of pressure and a sort of sense of ‘don’t forget who’s boss here’…. We didn’t know at the time, of course, that he would carry on [as Prime Minister], but given that that was a possibility, given the timing of charter renewal … it’s quite a thing to say.”

And it bore results. Even the BBC’s so-called ‘attack dog’, John Humphrys of the Today program, has proved himself extraordinarily adept at avoiding the real issues. When he interviewed David Cameron in the days following the murder of thirty eight tourists at the beach resort of Sousse in Tunisia on June 26th of this year, for example, Britain’s destruction of neighboring Libya was not even mentioned. This is despite the fact that Libya had been the origin of just about every other terrorist attack in North Africa since 2011 – from the Al-Amenas attack in Algeria, to the storming of Timbuktu in Mali in 2012, to the growth of Boko Haram in Nigeria, to the Bardo museum attack in Tunisia itself just three months earlier.

Indeed, the day after that interview, the Tunisian authorities revealed that the Sousse attacker had, too, trained in Libya. But that was no surprise. Every serious analyst knows that the massive increase in the capability of the region’s death squads in North Africa is a direct consequence of Cameron’s war on Libya, which effectively handed control of the entire country – along with its arms depots – over to the region’s paramilitaries.

Does John Humphrys honestly not know any of this? Or does he just understand that he is not to raise it? To question the war on Libya is, it seems, completely taboo on today’s BBC.

However, the Cameron interview did produce results. Of the Al-Qaeda splinter group brought to power by British and US destabilization of Iraq and Syria (again, not mentioned by Humphrys), Cameron said: “I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State.” But that is what they call themselves, Humphrys pleaded. “So-called [Islamic State]…would be better,” Cameron replied. The BBC have referred to them as “the group calling themselves Islamic State” ever since.

On the one hand, of course, Cameron’s argument that they are neither Islamic (as understood by the majority of Muslims), nor are they a state is correct. Yet his indignation is hardly consistent. After all, his own organization, the Conservative Party should, by rights, have fallen foul of the Trade Descriptions Act long ago. Genuine conservatism, as its founder Edmund Burke well understood, was about opposition to radical – and especially revolutionary – change, on the grounds that it undermined stability, tradition and social order.

He was vehemently opposed, for example, to the nature of British colonial rule in India for precisely its destructive impact on a civilization he argued demanded respect. No one who believed in such a philosophy could ever support wars of ‘regime change’ such as those wrought on Afghanistan, Iraq or Libya; yet John Baron was the sole Conservative MP to vote against the attack on Libya. Should the BBC, then, not be referring to Cameron’s organization as the “group calling itself the Conservative Party”?

I recently lodged a formal complaint with the BBC about their coverage of Syria. I was not really expecting it to be upheld – after all, guess who was adjudicating the complaint? None other than the BBC itself (being the only broadcaster officially exempt from investigation by Ofcom, the official regulatory body). But their grounds for rejecting my complaint were most revealing.

I had complained about their broadcasting, without comment, of a claim that President Assad had used chemical weapons in the suburbs of Damascus in August 2013 when, I argued, this was far from proven. The UN investigation team had only found that chemical weapons had been used, but had not attributed blame (and had no brief to do so). However, I pointed out, the leader of a previous UN team, Carla Del Ponte, had earlier in the year suggested that it was the Syrian opposition, not the government, that had been using such weapons.

Furthermore, the authors of an independent investigation by scientists at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology had concluded that “We do not claim to know who was actually behind the attack of 21 August in Damascus. But we can say for sure that neither do the people who claim to have clear evidence that it was the Syrian government.”

The BBC’s response was that whilst “You are right to point out that the UN did not establish that the Syrian government was responsible…. Nevertheless a number of governments concluded that the Syrian government was responsible.” Guess which governments? No prizes here – they mention only three: The UK, the US and France; that is, the three leading cheerleaders and patrons of the terrorist war against Syria, who had been desperate for a legal veneer to a bombing raid on that country since 2011, and who therefore had every interest in portraying the Syrian government as the perpetrator; and at least two of whom had very recent ‘form’ in manipulating intelligence for the purposes of justifying war. Yet, for the BBC, their judgments – which had even been opposed by the authors of the study from which they claimed to have derived them – are, apparently, unassailable. It is as if nothing has been learnt from Iraq.

But, of course, the reality is that the BBC has indeed learned their lessons from Iraq – or rather from Hutton – only too well: foreign policy can be ‘debated’ of course: but only in terms of its wisdom. Its ‘intelligence findings’ must never be questioned – and certainly not its noble aims.

Dan Glazebrook is a freelance political writer who has written for RT, Counterpunch, Z magazine, the Morning Star, the Guardian, the New Statesman, the Independent and Middle East Eye, amongst others. His first book “Divide and Ruin: The West’s Imperial Strategy in an Age of Crisis” was published by Liberation Media in October 2013. It featured a collection of articles written from 2009 onwards examining the links between economic collapse, the rise of the BRICS, war on Libya and Syria and ‘austerity’. He is currently researching a book on US-British use of sectarian death squads against independent states and movements from Northern Ireland and Central America in the 1970s and 80s to the Middle East and Africa today.

November 6, 2015 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , | Leave a comment

Egyptian army shoots, kills Palestinian fisherman off Gaza coast

Ma’an – November 5, 2015

-2126892910GAZA CITY – Egyptian military forces shot and killed a Palestinian fisherman off the coast of the southern Gaza Strip on Thursday afternoon, the Ministry of Health in the besieged enclave said.

Ashraf al-Qidra, spokesperson of the ministry, said Firas Mohammad Miqdad, 18, from Rafah was shot in the abdomen by Egyptian forces while at sea and died from his injuries.

It is unclear why Egyptian forces opened fire.

In May, Egyptian naval forces opened fire at a Palestinian fishing boat off the coast of the southern Gaza Strip, injuring a fisherman from Rafah.

Egypt upholds an Israeli military blockade on Gaza, keeping borders largely closed and limiting imports, exports, and the freedom of movement of its residents.

The threat from Egyptian forces comes as Palestinian fishermen already face daily risks in order to make a living, including routine harassment from Israeli naval forces, confiscation of boats and materials, detention, and potentially death.

Israeli forces reportedly fired towards Palestinian fishing boats on a daily basis last week, according to documentation by the UN agency for Palestinian refugees.

November 6, 2015 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , | 1 Comment

Israeli forces kill Palestinian woman, 72, after alleged car attack

Ma’an – November 6, 2015

BETHLEHEM – Israeli forces shot and killed an elderly Palestinian woman after an alleged vehicle attack in Halhul, north of Hebron on Friday.

A spokesperson at the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem told Ma’an that the woman, aged 72, was dead upon arrival at the hospital.

Israeli media reported that the woman attempted to run over Israeli soldiers in Halhul and was shot and seriously wounded by Israeli forces.

The Jerusalem Post said that a “suspicious vehicle” drove at Israeli soldiers, with forces opening fire at the car.

No Israeli injuries were reported.

The victim was identified as Tharwat al-Sharawi, 72. Her husband, Fouad, was killed by Israeli forces during the 1st Intifada.

Two Palestinian youths who were standing at a gas station nearby were injured as Israeli gunfire shattered the car’s windows.

Both youths were taken to the al-Ahli hospital in Hebron to treat their injuries, which were described as moderate.

Al-Sharawi was the 74th Palestinian to be killed since the beginning of last month, the majority of whom were shot dead by Israeli forces during alleged, attempted, and actual attacks on Israeli military and civilians.

On Wednesday, Ibrahim Skafi, 22, was also shot dead by Israeli forces in Halhul after a vehicular attack that left a 20-year-old border policeman seriously injured.

The town of Halhul, north of Hebron city, was sealed by Israeli forces following the attack.

Recent attacks come as Israeli intelligence said earlier this week that a recent lull in violence was unlikely to be long-term, citing high levels of frustration among the Palestinian public.

Tharwat al-Sharawi, 72.

November 6, 2015 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Israeli MK: ‘Label products of countries that back boycott’

MEMO | November 6, 2015

Israeil Knesset Deputy Speaker Miki Zohar yesterday proposed a bill that requires Israeli retailers to mark products that are manufactured in countries which boycott settlement goods, local media reported.

Israels Hayom newspaper reported that Zohar’s “A label for a label” initiative comes in response to the European campaign to label Israeli produce manufactured in illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.

According to the bill, failure to comply would result in a six month prison term and a fine of up to 14,000 Israeli shekels ($3,500).

The newspaper reported that Member of the Knesset Michael Oren of the Kulanu party said: “The EU decision to label Israeli products is anti-Semitic. There are dozens of border disputes and occupations in the world but the EU decided to single out Israel. They are not labelling products from China, India or Turkey – only Israel.”

“The Israeli consumers need to know that when they buy European products, they are supporting the EU’s anti-Semitic policies,” Oren added, calling on the government to prioritise trade with the United States as well as Asian and African countries who do not support the boycott.

The European Union is expected to start labelling products manufactured in Israeli settlements on Wednesday.

November 6, 2015 Posted by | Economics, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , | 3 Comments

Netanyahu aide: Obama is an anti-semite

By Jonathon Cook | The Blog From Nazareth | November 5, 2015

Picture the scene. Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is off to Washington to see Barack Obama next week for the first time in more than a year. Their last major dealings were in March, when Netanyahu travelled to the US to speak to Congress in a bid to undermine a key plank of the US president’s foreign policy – reaching a nuclear deal with Iran.

This time Netanyahu wants a favour. He hopes to squeeze from Obama billions more of US taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars in “aid” so that he can buy yet more weapons to use against the Palestinians.

How is Netanyahu preparing for this important visit? He has appointed a new head of public diplomacy, Ran Baratz.

And how will Baratz help Netanyahu repair relations with Obama? It seems he won’t. Last March, as Netanyahu went behind Obama’s back to try to stymie the Iran deal in Congress, Baratz posted his views of Obama on Facebook. He called the US president an “anti-semite” for criticising Netanyahu’s behaviour.

Here’s what he wrote:

Obama’s reference to Netanyahu’s speech – this is what modern anti-Semitism looks like in Western and liberal countries. And it comes, of course, alongside much tolerance and understanding toward Islamic anti-Semitism.

By the way, to give you a flavour of quite how unhinged Netanyahu has become in appointing someone like Baratz as his new spokesman, Baratz has also argued that the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem should be replaced by a third Jewish temple and Muslims denied the right to pray at the site unless they recognise its holiness to Jews. Almost as crazy as accusing the Palestinians of persuading Hitler to carry out the Holocaust.

Will this cause Netanyahu any harm in Washington or prompt Obama to refuse to subsidise Israel’s belligerent and illegal occupation? Don’t hold your breath. It seems there is no insult Obama and the US political elites won’t swallow when it comes from their “ally” Israel.

November 6, 2015 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Wars for Israel | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Failed Syrian rebel training program cost US taxpayers $2 million per fighter – report

RT | November 6, 2015

Newly acquired documents show the Pentagon spent nearly $400 million, or $2 million per fighter, on its failed train-and-equip program, according to USA Today. The Pentagon claims the actual cost was $30,000 per trainee.

USA Today reported the train-and-equip program was abandoned after the department had already spent $384 million on it. “Of the 180 Syrians vetted, trained and equipped, 145 fighters [remained] in the program,” the report stated. Of those 145 fighters, 95 were in Syria.

When asked to comment on the findings, the Pentagon disputed that it had spent $2 million per fighter, saying the actual cost was far lower – $30,000 per trainee. They added that the “vast majority” of the funds had gone to buying weapons, equipment, and ammunition, of which some is still in storage.

“Our investment in the Syria train and equip program should not be viewed purely in fiscal terms,” Navy Commander Elissa Smith told the news outlet in an email. Smith said some of those trained fighters had been calling in air strikes, and that ammunition designated for trainees had been given to other forces fighting the Islamic State instead.

According to the documents outlining the program’s $501 billion budget, $204 million was supposed to be spent on ammunition, $77 million on weapons, $62 million on mobility, $47 million on services, $46 million on construction, $40 million on strategic lift/shipping, $13 million on equipment, $6 million on communications, and $6 million on facilities and maintenance.

The program was intended to graduate 3,000 trained and equipped New Syrian Forces fighters in 2015, and 5,000 annually afterwards, to combat Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL). However, President Barack Obama abandoned the program earlier this fall.

In documents and interviews, USA Today was able to confirm that two of the four training camps designed for the program never hosted even a single recruit.

In September, it was revealed that one group of trainees had surrendered one quarter of their US-supplied weapons, ammunition, and vehicles in exchange for safe passage through territory held by another rebel group, considered to be extremist.

While the training has stopped, the US will continue to give equipment and weapons to the leaders of ‘vetted’ groups of rebels who are already fighting IS “so that over time they continue to re-claim territory,” Smith told USA Today.

The rebel training program’s $500 million budget was in addition to the $42 million the Pentagon had already spent in 2014 to set it up.

The findings come as the Obama administration announced it was set to deploy up to 50 US special operations troops in northern Syria to assist in the fight against IS. It marked the first time the administration openly said it would send ground forces into Syria.

The Associated Press reported the White House has put no timetable on how long the American forces will stay in Syria, although Obama has previously said he expects the campaign against IS to last beyond his presidency.

Obama inherited two military conflicts and will hand off a third to his successor. He recently announced plans to maintain a troop presence in Afghanistan beyond 2015.

In July, the National Priorities Project, a non-profit, non-partisan federal budget research group, reported that America’s war in Afghanistan has cost taxpayers roughly $4 million an hour. Their research found more than $700 billion has been spent on the war since the George W. Bush administration authorized the invasion in 2001, including more than $35 billion in fiscal year 2015.

The initial budget for the Afghan war was over $20 billion for 2001/02. The budget dropped to $14 billion over the next two years as spending shifted to the war in Iraq. Expenditures on the Afghan war took a back seat to Iraq war spending before ballooning to more than $100 billion in 2010, when the cost of the Iraq war began to decline. Spending in Afghanistan continued to top $100 billion annually until 2013, when it began falling by increments of $10 billion, finally reaching its current budget of $35 billion.

November 6, 2015 Posted by | Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , | Leave a comment

Who Will Blink in Syria? Russia? Or the US?

By Paul Larudee | Dissident Voice | November 5, 2015

The first to die will be US troops. Russians will be made to appear as the killers, but the agents will probably be ISIS, Al-Qaeda (aka al-Nusra), Turks, or the Americans themselves. I’m not ruling out that the Russians might actually do the job, especially if the Americans order their 50 soldiers to the most likely Russian bombing targets and then dare the Russians to hit them. But most likely, the US will do the job itself and not take a chance that the Russians might miss.

Those dead American soldiers are needed as bargaining chips so as to up the ante. Next, Russians have to die, with or without a mutual secret agreement to that effect.

The strategy is based upon the assumption that if the stakes become high enough, the other side will back down. It is called brinkmanship, and its best known example was the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. One or both sides may believe that they are bluffing, but if their bluff is called are they really going to back down? Or are they going to up the ante so much that they end up in a real war, where they are required to respond to the other’s actions with ever-escalating effect?

I do not think the Russians will blink. They have had enough of American encroachment. They will not stand for further NATO poaching of their erstwhile Warsaw Pact allies, and certainly not in Ukraine, which is to Russia roughly as Canada is to the US. Similarly, the port of Tartus in Syria is Russia’s only Mediterranean naval base, and Syria is currently its only ally in the Arab world. Russia has much more at stake than the US, and is therefore much less likely to back down. In fact, Russia has clearly made a major commitment to the preservation of Syria, and waited a long time before doing so, which is another sign that they will not shrink soon from their decision to stay the course.

On the American side, the stakes are much less well defined. Syria is part of the post-USSR assertion of US global dominance, as advocated mainly by the neoconservative strategic movement, closely allied with Israeli and Zionist interests, which benefits from the Israel Lobby clout in the US. From its base in the Congress and the National Security Agency, this movement has made inroads into the intelligence services, the State Department and the Department of Defense, mainly at the top echelons. (Elected and appointed positions are the most vulnerable to lobbyist penetration.)

Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the neocons argued that the US should use its military might to mold the world into US-controlled fiefdoms. Plans for such domination have been variously described in the “Clean Break” proposal, the “Project for a New American Century”, and the “New Middle East”. They begin with the destruction (aka “regime change”) of seven Middle Eastern countries, of which Iraq and Libya are considered successfully catastrophic outcomes, and a model for what is to be done to Syria.

Part of the purpose is to remove “bad examples” of nations that refuse to open their economies to U.S. exploitation and to accept US direction of their foreign policy, regardless of their own national interests. Iran and Syria are current examples of such countries, as were Libya and Iraq prior to their destruction. If these objectives happen to coincide with the Israeli policy of destroying the countries in its neighborhood, we may be forgiven for thinking that this is not mere coincidence.

Also on the American side, the stakes are ruled to a greater extent by domestic politics. Having championed the cause of regime change in Syria, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are loathe to appear weak or indecisive, and thus vulnerable to Republican criticism. In any case, they rely heavily on the Israel Lobby, which appears willing to sacrifice America’s fortune and youth on the altar of Israeli interests.

Despite these considerations, the American motives are not as strong as those of Russia. The problem is, neither is American leadership. There is a clear way out of this confrontation, with a face-saving agreement, if only the US will allow it to happen. It is for Russia and the US to cooperate in eliminating ISIS, al-Qaeda and their allies, cutting off US support for these terrorist organizations, forcing US allies Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and others to do the same, and jointly convening a peace conference that brings indigenous Syrian groups together to negotiate an agreement that allows all sides to claim victory (even if it is something of a charade, as are most such agreements).

Brinkmanship is unnecessary. It is dangerous, and it is not a solution. Vladimir Putin is ready to achieve a negotiated outcome that protects Russia’s interests and ends US encroachment. Assad has never been an enemy of the US, and he is the current choice of the vast majority of the Syrian people, whether enthusiastically or reluctantly (as in most countries). The United States will be able to claim victory over its terrorist enemies as well as a compromise over the form of government in Syria, and a new positive working relationship with Russia. The Israelis will be upset that we have not done enough killing for them, but they will get over it, in the same way that they are reluctantly learning to live with the US-Iran settlement on nuclear development.

It shouldn’t be a question of who blinks first, but of having the option to continue blinking at all.

Paul Larudee is one of the founders of the Free Gaza and Free Palestine Movements and an organizer in the International Solidarity Movement.

November 6, 2015 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments