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Nick Cohen: Brexiteers are fascists, liars and charlatans whose only recourse is name-calling


OffGuardian | June 19, 2016

Mere days after the Guardian published no less than four different editorials criticising the tone of the debate, the poisoning of the atmosphere, and the contempt we have for our elected officials, Nick Cohen has bravely waded into the debate. Roundly condemning the modern wave of what he calls “paranoid populism”, a term he evidently thinks is catchy:

Paranoid populism’s defining principle can be summarised in a paragraph. No one contradicts me in good faith. My opponents must be lying. They must be corrupt. They are more than merely mistaken, they are degenerate.

“Paranoid populism” – and by this Cohen means anyone who doesn’t like politicians, anyone who doesn’t vote for Hillary Clinton, anyone who wants to leave Europe, “conspiracy theorists” and anyone who voted for Jeremy Corbyn – relies on ad hominem attacks, baseless accusations, assumptions of corruption and the assertion of moral authority. Now, with this in mind, you may think Mr Cohen’s column is then based on objective data and reasoned arguments, and is highly respectful in tone, right? Let’s take a look at the highlights:

The Leave campaign has captured the worst of England and channelled it into a know-nothing movement of loud mouths and closed minds.

You get a measure of the unashamed charlatanry of the men who ask for your votes…

Paranoid populism is a general sickness, as common on the left as the right. You hear it when audiences on Question Time scream that all politicians are liars and crooks, then sit back expecting to be applauded as heartily as they applaud themselves.

…you cannot deny that the Leave campaign has had to head into the sewers of conspiracy theory and race politics because it had nowhere else to go.

Disregarding the honest and “respectful” debate that Guardian has been calling for, Cohen chooses instead to pretend the only issue ever discussed in terms of the EU debate has been immigration – a complete lie. The truth is the only issue the MEDIA has discussed has been immigration – but that has been a deliberate limiting of the debate, in order that well-paid virtue-signallers like Cohen, Toynbee and Freedland can lament the rise of xenophobia in this country, whilst never having to deal with an actual argument.

The anti-EU arguments, and there are many, are about economics and democracy. Can the UK be truly democratic if the unelected bureaucrats from the EC can enforce laws on our government? How will the NHS fare under TTIP? A bill which will destroy the NHS and remove the ability of sovereign governments to outlaw additives, or label GMOs. These questions don’t deserve answers, according to Cohen, and if you ask them…you’re a racist.

Early on in the piece Cohen accuses the Leave campaign of peddling fear:

With a cynicism, which again I can find no historical parallel for, it has now decided to fan fear….

Always one to oppose the political fear-mongering Cohen ends his piece with:

In the name of defending Britain, Brexit will start a rolling economic, constitutional and diplomatic crisis, which its authors do not have the smallest idea how to solve.

No fear-mongering here.

If this article was intended as a complex satire on media hysteria and hypocrisy, I would hail it as a triumph. Unfortunately I know the Guardian, and Nick Cohen, too well for that.

June 19, 2016 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , | 2 Comments

Gen. Breedlove, Strangelove-ian War Hawk


By Gilbert Doctorow | Consortium News | June 19, 2016

At this conclusive stage of the presidential campaign cycle, Foreign Affairs magazine is doing what it traditionally does, showcasing on its pages candidates for appointive office in the cabinet of the next president whom the magazine’s editorial board would like to see installed.

Thus, the current, July-August issue carries an article by Philip M. Breedlove, until recently Commander of the U.S. European Command and NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander, Europe. His piece, entitled “NATO’s Next Act” might more honestly be called “Why I Have Earned My Next Job as Secretary of Defense in the Administration of Hillary Clinton.”

During his service in Europe, General Breedlove was never bashful about being a politicking military officer who was keen to pick a fight with Russia. He met with the press often, making newsworthy pronouncements about Russia’s malevolent intentions and illegal actions that were unsupported by facts. Our European allies objected to Breedlove, stating openly that some of his allegations regarding Russian operations in Ukraine contradicted what their own intelligence services were reporting.

Indeed, on March 6, 2015, the Spiegel Online carried a story under a headline that says it all: “Breedlove’s Bellicosity: Berlin Alarmed by Aggressive NATO Stance on Ukraine.” At the time, it was believed that Breedlove was trying to sabotage the recently instituted cease-fire in Donbas and overturn the Minsk-2 Accords in favor of resumed fighting in which the U.S. would provide Kiev with lethal weapons. By this scenario, a full-blown proxy war with Russia would follow.

The purpose of the new essay in Foreign Affairs is, as I say, to spread the word on what Breedlove achieved in his three years on duty in Europe by turning NATO around and giving it a new/old calling. When he arrived, NATO was busy extricating itself from its failed campaigns out of region, in Afghanistan and Iraq, where it had faced unfamiliar challenges for which it was ill-equipped, fighting insurgencies and irregular troops.

On his watch, a new threat was seen emerging in Eastern Europe. In Breedlove’s words, this took the form of a revitalized and aggressive Russia, seeking to reclaim its great power status and sphere of influence in post-Soviet space.

With its takeover of Crimea in March 2014 and involvement in the Donbas on behalf of Russian-speaking forces rebelling against the new Maidan government in Kiev, Russia demonstrated both defiance of the American-controlled New World Order and breathtaking military prowess. It thereby became a threat worthy of NATO’s finest traditions as defender of “law and order” on the European home front.

Still more recent Russian action in Syria awakened Breedlove to the fact that Russia’s ambitions are global. In this context he now declares Russia, with its nuclear arsenal, to be an “existential threat” to the United States which must be met by superior force. After all, Breedlove tells us, force is all that the Kremlin understands.

After going through this pre-history, Breedlove explains exactly what we are doing now to strengthen NATO in Poland, the Baltic States and Romania/the Black Sea so as to be prepared to resist Russian aggression and deter its existential threat.

Upside-Down Narrative

Most everything is wrong with what Breedlove tells us in his article. It is a perfect illustration of the consequences of the monopoly control of our media and both Houses of Congress by the ideologists of the Neoconservative and Liberal Interventionist School. We see a stunning lack of rigor in argumentation in Breedlove’s article coming from absence of debate and his talking only to yes-men.

Perhaps the biggest mistakes are conceptual: urging military means to resolve what are fundamentally political issues over the proper place of Russia in the European and global security architecture. Whereas for Clausewitz war was “a continuation of politics by other means,” for Breedlove politics – in this case, diplomacy – do not exist, only war.

In this respect, Breedlove is merely perpetuating the stone deafness of American politicians dating back to Dmitry Medvedev’s proposal in 2010 to negotiate an international convention bringing Russia in from the cold. The earnest offer of Russia’s most Westernizing head of state in a hundred years was left without response.

Breedlove’s entire recounting of what NATO is doing to stop a Russian threat to the Baltics and to Poland — through additional NATO boots on the ground and pre-positioned American heavy equipment — fails to mention, let alone explain what possible reason there might be for a Russian attack.

I contend that no realistic assessment of Russian national interest could justify their taking over the territories in question. The net result of any occupation could only be heavily negative due to hostile local populations even without considering its geopolitical consequences or retaliatory military and other action by the West.

Presumably the logic behind the assumption of Russian aggressive designs is illogic: the assumption of an insane Russian leadership. Such a line of thinking would be the direct fruit of the demonization of Vladimir Putin and of Russia more generally that the U.S. media has disseminated gleefully, with encouragement from the Obama administration.

Breedlove’s would-be boss in the Oval Office, Hillary Clinton, has likened the Russian ruler to Hitler. That obviates the need to examine rational calculations of your adversary.

Then there is Breedlove’s totally wrong-headed conceptualization of what constitutes the world order that he says is under threat. In his understanding, the United State is, by definition, the sole supplier of public good to the world and everything that it initiates is selfless and right.

This self-righteousness begins with history, with the sequencing of who did what to whom, who honored and who violated international obligations, who is the aggressor and who is the victim.  But this all comes down to one question: when did history start.

In Breedlove’s reading of history, the narrative that counts and is relevant to where we are today all started with the Russian “invasion” of Crimea. The controversial overthrow of the legitimately elected President of Ukraine on Feb. 22, 2014, the day after France and Germany brokered an agreement between the government and opposition (for reduced presidential powers and early elections) does not exist in Breedlove’s version of history. Nor, of course, does any other prior Western intervention in the intra-Ukrainian power struggle going back to the start of the Maidan demonstrations in December 2013.

This leaves us with the whole series of Russian reactions that he gives us without any reference to the missing actions by the U.S.-led West. There are other holes in Breedlove’s logic through which you could drive a tank, if I may use metaphors from his domain of expertise.

Reassessing Russian Might

It is in a way refreshing to see Breedlove recognize (within limits) the newfound capabilities of the Russian military, which just several years ago were mocked by Western commentators, even by the occupant of the Oval Office.

Breedlove does underestimate the skills and equipment of the Russian air force and insists on the underlying military superiority of the U.S. and its NATO allies in the European theater. But, on balance, he asserts that today Russia poses an existential military threat to the United States. It would be nice if he finished the thought and explained exactly how and why (since Russia is not the only country with nuclear weapons and the ability to deliver them but like those other countries – China, for instance – has no rational reason to do so unless directly threatened).

In any case, what is the appropriate response to an existential threat? Do you recommend the continued rapid build-up of NATO forces precisely at Russia’s Baltic and Black Sea borders to counter a perceived (though nonexistent) localized threat or do you address the existential threat by seeking to minimize tensions?

To date, and into the next five years, all of the U.S. and NATO measures which Breedlove describes and for which he takes credit have only unnerved the Russians and caused them to respond with equally provocative and dangerous counter-measures of a localized nature without in any way compromising their nuclear capability to wipe the United States off the map in any hot war.

Does this baiting the Russians near their borders make any sense? This was precisely the point that German Minister of Foreign Affairs Frank Walter Steinmeier has just called out in an interview published in Bild am Sonntag in which he speaks against any further saber-rattling by NATO in Poland or the Baltic States.

The seeming parallels between stepping up to the line today, and stepping up to the line in Berlin during the Cold War are illusory. The present line is not in a distant buffer zone which Joseph Stalin had created precisely for this purpose, to remove conflict from Russia’s borders.

It is so threatening to Russia’s survival that the Kremlin is now moving vast military resources from Central Russia into the Leningrad Oblast, within a very few miles of the new NATO presence just across the border in the Baltics. The time for either side to react to local military incidents has been shortened immensely compared to the past. This is a formula for Doomsday which Breedlove willfully ignores.

The $3.4 billion expenditure, which President Obama has allocated to bring forward depots of American heavy equipment and key personnel to Poland, Romania and the Baltic States, recognizes the logistical disadvantage of NATO forces under the remote defense perimeter that extends to Russia’s western and southern frontiers. But it cannot resolve this intractable disadvantage.

Territorial Disadvantage

It has been argued that a major factor that worked against Russian forces in World War I was logistical – the length of time it took Russia to move its men and equipment from the centers of population of the country hundreds if not thousands of kilometers away to its western borders where the fight against Germany was going on.

Today, the U.S. and NATO have placed themselves in exactly the same disadvantage by seeking to fight Russia in a conventional war right where the Russians are concentrating the bulk of their strength and where NATO can at best only position “trip wire” forces having symbolic, not actual military defensive value.

The best that NATO can propose, it would seem, is to snatch the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad  (the clear mission of the Anakonda-16 games now going on in Poland) in case the Russians occupied the Baltic States (within the 60 hours or so that a recent Rand Institute study suggests is feasible).

However, as President Putin has stated clearly, such encroachment on Russian soil will unleash a nuclear response from Russia that will include missile attacks on the mainland USA, i.e. not limited to the European theater.

Finally, let’s consider another absurdity in General Breedlove’s letter setting out his candidacy for a cabinet position. He repeats, parrot-like, the position of the Obama administration and of putative Democratic candidate for President Hillary Clinton that we can selectively cooperate with Russia on issues of common interest like counter-terrorism, Pacific fishing rights (!) and the like even as we remain engaged in a life-or-death scramble for position on the ground in Europe.

In fact, the U.S. effort to totally isolate Russia by cutting off many, perhaps most of its bilateral programs of cooperation with the country have worked precisely to defeat cooperation, none more grievously so than in the area of fighting terrorism.

Meanwhile, what amounts to American encouragement of the Islamic State and Al Qaeda’s Nusra Front in Syria by pressing for the overthrow of the Russian-backed regime of Bashar al-Assad continues to this day under the guise of protecting the “moderate opposition” that happens to be embedded among the jihadist “bad guys.’’

The fairy tales coming from Washington should not fool anyone, but Breedlove passes them along to his readers in the smug expectation that they will accept whatever he utters.

By lending its valuable “real estate” to the campaign for a high-level appointment by one of the most outspoken Cold Warriors within the U.S. military, the editorial board of Foreign Affairs magazine has shown yet again that it is incapable of guarding its own neutrality or balance.

Gilbert Doctorow is the European Coordinator of The American Committee for East West Accord Ltd. His most recent book, Does Russia Have a Future? was published in August 2015.

© Gilbert Doctorow, 2016

June 19, 2016 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Erdogan to go ahead with controversial Gezi park redevelopment plans

Press TV – June 19, 2016

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has announced the revival of controversial plans to redevelop a central Istanbul park that sparked major anti-government protests back in 2013.

“A project that we need to address in a courageous manner is (that of) Gezi park in Taksim. We will build this historic structure,” said Erdogan during a Saturday speech in Istanbul.

The plans consist of rebuilding an Ottoman-era barrack and other buildings on land currently occupied by Gezi park, which is one of the few remaining green spaces in Istanbul. The barracks was originally built in 1789 and was torn down in the 1940.

At least eight people were killed and thousands more were injured in the demonstrations which followed the announcement of the redevelopment plans.

Following the wave of protests, Turkish authorities halted the plans. But, last year, they changed their decision following a request by the city’s municipality.

“If we want to preserve our history we must rebuild this historic structure, we will rebuild it,” Erdogan added.

“One of the issues that we have to be brave [about] is Gezi park in Taksim,” Erdogan added. “We will construct that historical building there,” he said.

June 19, 2016 Posted by | Aletho News | , , | Leave a comment

‘Extend American power’: Foreign policy establishment doubles down

RT – May 21, 2016

The new generation of Americans needs to be taught that US hegemony is “vital” to their well-being and global peace, and that it must be extended if world order is to be sustained, says a report by a bipartisan group of foreign policy veterans in Washington.

A working group at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) published a 20-page pamphlet this week, articulating their vision for the next president’s foreign policy. The think-tank was established in 2007, and has worked closely with the Obama administration ever since.

Titled “Extending American Power: Strategies to Expand US Engagement in a Competitive World Order,” the report is the culmination of a year-long effort. The project was co-chaired by Dr. Robert Kagan of the Brooking Institution and James Rubin, former Assistant Secretary of State during the Clinton administration and currently a senior adviser at CNAS.

US military, economic and diplomatic power has “provided the critical architecture in which this liberal order has flourished,” the report’s authors claim, but today that order is being challenged by “powerful and ambitious authoritarian governments like Russia and China,” as well as “radical Islamic terrorist movements,” global economic shifts, and “changes in our physical environment.”

“Responsible political leaders need to explain to a new generation of Americans how important this world order is to their well-being and how vital America’s role is in sustaining it,” the group says.

The best way to ensure the survival of a system favorable to the US “is to extend American power and US leadership in Asia, Europe, and the Greater Middle East.”

The financial expenditures this would require are “well within our means,” they say, since the US economy has proven itself to be dynamic and resilient in face of global crisis.

Implementing the Trans-pacific Partnership (TPP) and Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) trade pacts will preserve US economic leadership, the authors concluded.

In Asia, Washington’s alliances with Japan and South Korea and the commitment to “maintaining open sea lanes, open trade, state sovereignty and freedom of navigation” have “made possible generations of historic peace and prosperity.” However, the report says that dominance is now being challenged by China – the authors do not explain why – and the only way to keep Beijing in check is for the US to “increase its capabilities and extend its military posture accordingly.”

Ukraine, Russia and Brexit

As far as Europe is concerned, “the transatlantic community remains both the foundation and the core of the liberal world order,” but that is now threatened by “growing Russian ambition and willingness to use force, including the invasion of neighboring countries,” the report claims.

European commitment to US hegemony is also threatened by “British strategic retrenchment, French economic weakness, and historic German strategic ambivalence in the security sphere.”

The report fully backs deploying more US and NATO troops on Russia’s borders, while getting European allies to increase their military spending.

For all of Washington’s official commitments to freedom of sovereign states to choose their own paths, the CNAS report argues that the “strategy of the United States and Europe must be to help Ukraine achieve political and economic stability, anchored in the West.”

“The United States has a particular interest in Britain remaining a strong and active player within the EU,” the authors also say.

ISIS, Syria and Iran

In the Middle East, the report’s authors argue for a military escalation against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) and regime change in Syria.

Any political solution to the Syrian civil war “must include the departure of Bashar al-Assad,” they say. To accomplish this, the US “must employ the necessary military power, including an appropriately designed no-fly zone, to create a safe space in which Syrians can relocate without fear of being killed by Assad’s forces and where moderate opposition militias can arm, train, and organize.”

While not giving up on the nuclear deal reached with Iran in July 2015, the US “must adopt as a matter of policy the goal of defeating Iran’s determined effort to dominate the Greater Middle East,” the CNAS paper said.

While accusing Iran of “demonizing” US ally Saudi Arabia, the authors do note that the Saudi elites “bear much responsibility for the growth of extremist ideologies that promote intolerance and Jihadi terrorism,” by spreading Wahhabism throughout the Islamic world.

Establishment figures

To achieve these ambitious goals, the report’s authors advocate against concentrating policymaking authority in the National Security Council and, instead recommend giving more power to “regional assistant secretaries of state,” for example, who “need to be given the power and authority necessary so that when they travel overseas they are regarded as the key administration policymakers and spokespeople for their regions.”

One of the co-chairs of the group behind the report, Robert Kagan, last made headlines in February, when he disavowed Republican front-runner Donald Trump and endorsed Hillary Clinton on the pages of the Washington Post. He is the co-author of a 1996 treatise advocating the “benevolent global hegemony” of the US, and is married to Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland.

Among those who signed the report are CNAS CEO Michèle Flournoy and President Richard Fontaine; George W. Bush’s National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley; former World Bank president and Goldman Sachs executive Robert Zoellick (currently senior fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government); and James Steinberg, Dean of Syracuse University’s Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs.

June 19, 2016 Posted by | Militarism | , , , , | Leave a comment

Iran bemoans scant global aid over Afghan refugees

Press TV – June 18, 2016

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has criticized the insufficient international aid over the Afghan refugees in the country, stressing the importance of preparing the ground for their voluntary return to Afghanistan.

“Iran hosted [Afghan] refugees for over three decades but unfortunately received little international aid,” Zarif said in a meeting with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi in Tehran on Saturday.

He added that many legal and illegal Afghan refugees are living in Iran, saying, “The Islamic Republic of Iran has always tried to provide the refugees with good facilities and has spent hugely on refugees’ education.”

The Iranian foreign minister urged the UN’s refugee agency and donating countries to ramp up investment in Afghan economic projects with the purpose of preparing the necessary ground for the voluntary return of Afghan refugees.

“Very little investment has been made in this regard and it is necessary to do more work,” Zarif said.

He noted that Iran has carried out a number of economic projects such as the development of the southeastern Iranian port of Chabahar and the supply of drinking water to Afghanistan, which have resulted in more employment opportunities in the war-torn country.

On May 23, Iran, India and Afghanistan signed a key trilateral deal, known as the Chabahar agreement, to establish a strategic transit and transport route connecting the three countries.

The agreement was signed in the presence of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani in the Iranian capital of Tehran.

Chabahar is located in the Gulf of Oman on the border with Pakistan. It is Iran’s closest and best access point to the Indian Ocean.

Iran role model for promoting refugees’ health, education: UN

The UN official, for his part, praised Iran for hosting refugees and said the Islamic Republic has spent a huge sum of money on refugees’ health and education and described Iran’s acts as exemplary.

Grandi said he was taken by surprise by the steadily growing volume of services rendered to refugees in Iran, and expressed hope international bodies would further assist refugees in Iran.

Iran has been hosting large numbers of Afghan refugees, who fled wars and conflicts in their country. In recent years, Tehran has been urging the Afghan nationals to return home voluntarily to contribute to the reconstruction of their homeland.

More than 350,000 Afghan refugee children are now in school in Iran while some 48,000 undocumented Afghan children were allowed last year to enroll for the first time in Iranian public schools, according to a recent UNHCR report.

June 19, 2016 Posted by | Economics | , | Leave a comment

‘Deep State’ behind US State Dept. dissent on Syria

By Derek Monroe | RT | June 19, 2016

Last Friday’s release of US State Dept leaked memo featuring its 51 employees presenting dissent on the US Syria policy has rocked the world of American diplomacy.

As retired US Navy Rear Admiral John Kirby, the State Dept spokesman, fielded questions and struggled to contain damage from the revelations, the ripple effect of internal rebellion has spread worldwide.

This event is without precedent as it shows the inner workings of one of the most important departments in the US federal government divided on one of its most important challenges: What to do with Assad’s Syria?

The last time there was internal disagreement in the US State Dept happened in 2003 with several resignations following the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. However, that incident failed to grab the attention of the American public and largely pro-government US media.

The current row represents internal disagreement over the Obama administration’s decision not to attack President Assad’s regime after alleged cease fire violations by Syrian military forces. The anger expressed in the memo carries over from Obama’s 2012 so-called red-line declaration, which threatened an attack on Syria’s military if the latter was to cross the threshold of chemical weapons use.

As there were several documented chemical attacks in the Syrian civil war that brought allegations against both sides, any clear indication as to what side carried out the attacks was blurred. Furthermore the idea of weakening the Assad government by military strikes as favored by the State Dept. dissenters has absolutely no relation to military reality on the ground.

The clean cut conflict between the military and paramilitary forces supporting Assad and the rebels has been transformed into a set of simultaneous proxy wars featuring US-supported rebels, Gulf States supported rebels, Syrian military, US military, Russian military, Hezbollah militia, the Kurds, Jihadists and the Islamic State, to mention a few. The outcome of weakening of the Syrian state due to US attacks as desired by the US State Dept dissenters could lead to ripple effect of consequences that guarantees to destabilize the region even further. Additionally, it could trigger a genocide of the Alawi and other minorities that would most definitely follow the fall of the Assad regime.

As all this was to be carried out in the name of ‘human rights in Syria’, the memo presents the new low in cynical exploitation of human tragedy as a ploy to win political “victory” on the ground. Following this narrative, the rule of Islamic State or Al-Nusra Front (Al-Qaeda) is considered a viable and welcome alternative by the signatories as it removes Syria from the orbit of Russia and Iran’s influence, while sacrificing Syrians on the altar of failed US policy that began with invasion of Iraq in 2003.

What is also ironic is that the part of the US federal government responsible for maintenance of external relations based on carrying out policies rooted in international treaties and laws has now, according to the memo’s signatories, been chastised for following them. It is as if the lesson from 2003 of attacking a government that posed no threat to the US was wasted.

An explanation for this phenomenon was provided in Michael J. Glennon’s 2014 book, “National Security and Double Government.”

In it, Glennon argues that the reason US foreign policy and national security policy doesn’t change regardless of comings and goings of US administrations due to what he terms the “deep state.” The author goes back to the political theory of 19th century English scholar Walter Bagehot who argued in his 1867 book, “The English Constitution” that England of the day had a double government: The official one presented to the public, and an inner one, made up of the elites that make real decisions away from constitutional processes, public scrutiny and media.

Glennon picks up on the idea and makes a thesis that national security bureaucrats, along with intelligence and military elite influenced by money and politics, make decisions regardless of constitutional process or even laws.

Until now the idea of a political class presenting different visions for the country in electoral process has been a cornerstone of US political system that calls itself a representative democracy.

The State Dept memo, together with National Security apparatus’ track record of defacto immunity from any effective oversight, has made this vision nothing more than a mirage.

June 19, 2016 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism | , , | 1 Comment

Reuters on Terror: the “Wolf Den” Fallacy


By Eoin Higgins | June 17, 2016

Since the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando last weekend, the American public has sought answers as to who could have committed this atrocity- and why.

The two main theories, so far, revolve around the shooter’s sexuality and ethnicity: Did Omar Mateen shoot up Pulse, a gay nightclub, because of his sexuality? Or did he act because of his apparent allegiance to ISIS?

The latter theory has taken up most of the oxygen in media reports. The prevailing assumption is that Mateen was radicalized at some point, swore allegiance to ISIS, and acted as a “lone wolf” terrorist to shoot up Pulse. The “lone wolf” terrorist, by this line of thinking, is the new threat of terror in 2016.

One journalist, however, has another theory. Joseph Ax of Reuters posits that “lone wolf” attacks are less frequent than we are led to believe. Ax says that rather than “lone wolves” we need to fear clusters of terrorists- or “wolf dens.”

The evidence indicates that, in general, “wolf dens” surrounding the radicalized aren’t made up of anyone other than the FBI.

Ax’s piece begins by placing Mateen in the “lone wolf” category, at least from what we know so far. This is accurate, but this isn’t Ax’s point- he proposes that Mateen is actually the exception to the rule as far as ISIS related attacks go:

A Reuters review of the approximately 90 Islamic State court cases brought by the Department of Justice since 2014 found that three-quarters of those charged were alleged to be part of a group of anywhere from two to more than 10 co-conspirators who met in person to discuss their plans.

Scary stuff. How many sleeper cells are there in the US? How many “wolf dens?” Could there be one in my community?

The answer to that is most likely “no.” And the reason for that is buried in the above paragraph: “two to more.”

Ax goes into the FBI’s involvement in US ISIS plots later. The entire relevant portion of the article is worth quoting in full (emphasis added):

In an increasingly frequent occurrence, the defendant was unwittingly working with an FBI informant posing as a co-conspirator, as federal authorities rely more on human intelligence and less on the comparatively low-hanging fruit of social media to identify potential attackers.

Face-to-face interactions can accelerate extremist viewpoints, turning the group to violence, experts said. And it can draw in others who might otherwise not have been susceptible to the lure of jihadism.

So here we see Ax disproving his scare-quoted proposition from earlier- that “wolf dens” of radicalized terrorists are a clear and present danger across the US- with simple logic. If, as Ax says, these “wolf dens” are made up of “anywhere from two to more than 10 co-conspirators,” then it stands to reason that he must have used a number of “two” membered wolf dens. Otherwise, why include pairs in the analysis?

To take this to the next logical conclusion, if “the defendant was unwittingly working with an FBI informant posing as a co-conspirator” and “face-to-face interactions can accelerate extremist viewpoints,” then surely at least some of these “wolf dens” only exist because of FBI involvement.

The evidence of FBI involvement in the radicalization of US citizens over the past two years is undeniable. Here are four examples:

*September, 2014: Mulfid Elfgeeh of Rochester, NY, is arrested for material support for ISIS after two informants approach him with their plans to travel to Syria. Prior to this moment, there was little evidence of any radicalization for Elfgeeh.

*November 27, 2014: Olajuwon Ali Davis and Brandon Orlando Baldwin are arrested for plotting to blow up the Arch in St. Louis and police stations. The evidence included intending to purchase bombs from FBI informants- a product that was offered to the two men, not requested. In fact, the informants appear to have constructed much of the planning themselves, with Davis and Baldwin only agreeing to the plot and not independently generating it.

*April, 2015: 7 Somali men in Minneapolis are charged with conspiracy to join ISIS. The evidence comes from a paid informant with a history of lying to authorities about crimes and whose actions suggest he set the entire plot in motion with little to no involvement from the charged.

*July, 2015: Alexander Ciccolo of Adams, MA, is arrested for plotting to attack a local college. The entire plot, court documents show conclusively, was generated by an unnamed FBI informant who not only provided Ciccolo with the push he needed to take action, but also offered to purchase explosives for Ciccolo.

Multiple studies and reports have shown that FBI involvement overwhelmingly is the driving force behind radicalization of many, if not most, ISIS plots.

Human Rights Watch, July 21, 2015:

Multiple studies have found that nearly 50 percent of the federal counterterrorism convictions since September 11, 2001, resulted from informant-based cases. Almost 30 percent were sting operations in which the informant played an active role in the underlying plot.

The Intercept, February 26, 2015:

We’re constantly bombarded with dire warnings about the grave threat of home-grown terrorists, “lone wolf” extremists and ISIS….

But how serious of a threat can all of this be, at least domestically, if the FBI continually has to resort to manufacturing its own plots by trolling the Internet in search of young drifters and/or the mentally ill whom they target, recruit and then manipulate into joining?

Al Jazeera, April 23, 2015:

With the rise of ISIL, there has been a renewed effort to counter potential threats on U.S. soil, including cases in which informants have played key — and some say controversial — roles.

“We have investigations of people in various stages of radicalizing in all 50 states,” FBI Director James Comey said in February. The message of ISIL in particular “resonates with troubled souls, people seeking meaning in some horribly misguided way,” he added. “Those people exist in every state.”

The New York Times, June 11, 2016:

The F.B.I. has significantly increased its use of stings in terrorism cases, employing agents and informants to pose as jihadists, bomb makers, gun dealers or online “friends” in hundreds of investigations into Americans suspected of supporting the Islamic State, records and interviews show.

Each of the above reports has extensive documentation of the lengths to which the FBI will go to manufacture “terror plots.”

So the question is- are there actually “wolf dens” in America, and if so, are they actually a threat? The answer appears to be- from all publicly available data- not that many and not really.

Most American “jihadis” only start down that path after the kindly push from a “fellow traveler” who turns out to be an FBI informant or agent.

If Ax (and by extension Reuters ) are using “two or more” as their definition for “wolf dens” of extremism in the US- and if they’re refusing to leave out those pairs that include FBI informants- then the “Reuters review of the approximately 90 Islamic State court cases brought by the Department of Justice since 2014” that concluded that there is a legitimate threat of group of radicals in the US is not only wrong. It’s negligent.

June 19, 2016 Posted by | Deception, False Flag Terrorism, Timeless or most popular | , | Leave a comment