Aletho News

ΑΛΗΘΩΣ

US Espionage System Misleads New Zealand to Suspect Democracy Group of Coup Plot

Sputnik — 15.08.2016

New Zealand’s security agency, using US National Security Agency (NSA) surveillance programs, mistook pro-democracy activists for conspirators plotting a coup in Fiji, media reported.

An investigation carried out by Television New Zealand together with The Intercept media outlet revealed on Sunday that New Zealand’s Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) used NSA-based surveillance system in the summer of 2012 to intercept the internet communications of a group of local campaigners for democracy in Fiji who were suspected of conspiring to overthrow of the government.

According to the media outlet, GCSB’s surveillance of citizens of New Zealand was not authorized at the time.

Although communications collected by the GCSB lacked evidence to prove the plot, New Zealand’s Security Intelligence Service together with their counterparts from neighboring Australia were prompted to raid the homes of the suspects and their families to probe into the plot amid “national security concerns.”

Since 2013, former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden has been leaking documents that have exposed numerous global surveillance programs, many of them run by the NSA and the Five Eyes surveillance alliance, which includes the intelligence agencies of New Zealand, the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia and Canada.

August 15, 2016 Posted by | Deception | , , , , | Leave a comment

More revelations at ‘snipers’ massacre trial in Kyiv

New Cold War | August 10, 2016

Unbeknownst to consumers of mainstream Western media, trials in Ukraine are ongoing against officers of the former ‘Berkut’ police force who were on duty in Maidan Square, Kyiv at the height of the violent protest movement that overthrew the elected President Victor Yanukovych on February 22, 2014.

Live streaming on Aug 4, 2016 of 'Maidan Massacre' trial in Kyiv

‘Maidan Massacre’ trial in Kyiv – Aug 4, 2016

Trial proceedings are filmed and broadcast (in Ukrainian language), but Western media is loathe to cover and report on proceedings. That’s because trial testimony is countering the centrepiece of the Western propaganda construct of the overthrow of Ukrainian President Victor Yanukovych in February 2014, namely the killings by sniper fire of dozens of protesters on Maidan Square on February 20, 2014.

Western governments and media have claimed all along that the killings were the work of the Berkut special police under orders of the Yanukovych government to suppress the protests. But as revealed at the trial and brought to light in the English language by the ongoing writing of Ottawa researcher Ivan Katchanovski, it turns out that most if not all of the sniper killings were perpetrated by paramilitaries of the extreme, right-wing forces on Maidan Square.

Katchanovski is reporting the revelations at the ‘Maidan Massacre’ trials on his Facebook page and in occasional academic papers analyzing the whole snipers episode. Enclosed is his report of August 5, 2016 on Facebook, reporting on trial revelations the day before.


By Ivan Katchanovski, August 5, 2016

An on-site, forensic ballistic investigation which was conducted by a ballistics expert on a GPU [Prosecutor General of Ukraine] request and made public during the Maidan massacre trial on August 4, 2016 confirmed my APSA paper [research paper presented to American Political Science Association in September 2015] finding that a Maidan medic was wounded from a Maidan-controlled location on February 20, 2014 and not from the Berkut  positions. The moment of his wounding was filmed by CNN from the Hotel Ukraina and used by the media in the West and in Ukraine as evidence that the government forces deliberately targeted even medics. My analysis found that the medics were shot by Maidan “snipers” as a part of a false flag operation.

The on-site forensic ballistic investigation concluded that Roman Kotliarevsky was shot from a sector ranging from the Hotel Ukraina to the Bank Arkada. The ballistic expert did this based on the reconstruction of the position of Kotliarevsky and his wound location that were shown by this wounded medic but the expert amazingly did not see the CNN video to make a more precise determination about the shooting location. [Lengthy trial video footage streaming of Aug 4, 2016 here.]

A forensic medical report made public during the trial confirmed that Kotliarevsky was shot in the top back part of his right thigh at a steep angle from a top to bottom direction. This wounded medic stated during this investigation experiment that he was most likely shot from the Bank Arkada based on the steep direction of his wound channel. The GPU investigation continues to deny that any “snipers” were at these locations and charges the Berkut police with wounding Kotliarevsky.

A forensic ballistic report, made recently public during the trial concluded that this medic was shot from the same 7.62×39 caliber AKM-type weapon, or its hunting version, which was used to kill Mykola-Oleh Pankiv. The forensic medical reports, made public during the Maidan massacre trial last year, also found that Pankiv was killed from a steep vertical angle. These forensic findings confirm my APSA paper finding that Pankiv was killed from the same Maidan controlled-sector, specifically the Bank Arkada and Horodetskoho Street buildings (pp. 39-40 of APSA research paper):

“Mykola-Oleh Pankiv was fatally wounded 10:07am when he was filmed in the Zelenyi Front video sitting behind a tree protecting from the Berkut side and facing Horodetskoho Street and Bank Arkada. The prosecution charges confirmed that he was shot in his chest. This indicates either of these two buildings in the Maidan-controlled area but the prosecution charged the Berkut policemen with his murder. Within several seconds of his killing, Oleksander Labetsky, who was next to Pankiv behind the same tree facing Arkada, was wounded. He said that he was shot in his inner thigh and saw the bullet on the ground nearby. His position shortly before he was shot and the wound location and its very steep direction indicate that he was most likely shot by a sniper on the roof of Bank Arkada.

At 10:17am, CNN filmed from the Hotel Ukraina a Maidan medic being shot in his right leg, but did not report in its Emmy-nominated coverage of the Maidan massacre that this direction pointed to a shooter in one of the Maidan-controlled buildings. Roman Kotliarevsky, the wounded Maidan medic, said that his position at the moment of his shooting and a steep wound in the side back area of his right thigh indicated that he was shot from the Bank Arkada or a roof of one of the buildings there, i.e. on Horodetskoho Street. He also stated that he was wounded with 7.62mm bullet and that the investigation in his shooting was dragged out and that no specific suspects were identified.”

Background:
Maidan protesters were killed by snipers in Maidan-controlled Hotel Ukraina’: Interview with Ivan Katchanovski, Feb 20, 2016

Revelations in the Maidan Massacre trial in Ukraine go unreported in the West, interview with Ivan Katchanovski, published in Aletho News, July 22, 2015

The Snipers’ Massacre on Maidan Square in Ukraine (updated Sept. 2015), research paper by Ivan Katchanovski presented to the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association, San Francisco, Sept 3-6, 2015

August 15, 2016 Posted by | False Flag Terrorism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | | Leave a comment

US War Crimes or ‘Normalized Deviance’

By Nicolas J S Davies | Consortium News | August 15, 2016

Sociologist Diane Vaughan coined the term “normalization of deviance as she was investigating the explosion of the Challenger space shuttle in 1986. She used it to describe how the social culture at NASA fostered a disregard for rigorous, physics-based safety standards, effectively creating new, lower de facto standards that came to govern actual NASA operations and led to catastrophic and deadly failures.

Vaughan published her findings in her prize-winning book, The Challenger Launch Decision: Risky Technology, Culture and Deviance at NASA, which, in her words, “shows how mistake, mishap, and disaster are socially organized and systematically produced by social structures” and “shifts our attention from individual causal explanations to the structure of power and the power of structure and culture – factors that are difficult to identify and untangle yet have great impact on decision making in organizations.”

When the same pattern of organizational culture and behavior at NASA persisted until the loss of a second shuttle in 2003, Diane Vaughan was appointed to NASA’s accident investigation board, which belatedly embraced her conclusion that the “normalization of deviance” was a critical factor in these catastrophic failures.

The normalization of deviance has since been cited in a wide range of corporate crimes and institutional failures, from Volkswagen’s rigging of emissions tests to deadly medical mistakes in hospitals. In fact, the normalization of deviance is an ever-present danger in most of the complex institutions that govern the world we live in today, not least in the bureaucracy that formulates and conducts U.S. foreign policy.

The normalization of deviance from the rules and standards that formally govern U.S. foreign policy has been quite radical.  And yet, as in other cases, this has gradually been accepted as a normal state of affairs, first within the corridors of power, then by the corporate media and eventually by much of the public at large.

Once deviance has been culturally normalized, as Vaughan found in the shuttle program at NASA, there is no longer any effective check on actions that deviate radically from formal or established standards – in the case of U.S. foreign policy, that would refer to the rules and customs of international law, the checks and balances of our constitutional political system and the experience and evolving practice of generations of statesmen and diplomats.

Normalizing the Abnormal

It is in the nature of complex institutions infected by the normalization of deviance that insiders are incentivized to downplay potential problems and to avoid precipitating a reassessment based on previously established standards. Once rules have been breached, decision-makers face a cognitive and ethical conundrum whenever the same issue arises again: they can no longer admit that an action will violate responsible standards without admitting that they have already violated them in the past.

This is not just a matter of avoiding public embarrassment and political or criminal accountability, but a real instance of collective cognitive dissonance among people who have genuinely, although often self-servingly, embraced a deviant culture.  Diane Vaughan has compared the normalization of deviance to an elastic waistband that keeps on stretching.

Within the high priesthood that now manages U.S. foreign policy, advancement and success are based on conformity with this elastic culture of normalized deviance. Whistle-blowers are punished or even prosecuted, and people who question the prevailing deviant culture are routinely and efficiently marginalized, not promoted to decision-making positions.

For example, once U.S. officials had accepted the Orwellian “doublethink” that “targeted killings,” or “manhunts” as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld called them, do not violate long-standing prohibitions against assassination, even a new administration could not walk that decision back without forcing a deviant culture to confront the wrong-headedness and illegality of its original decision.

Then, once the Obama administration had massively escalated the CIA’s drone program as an alternative to kidnapping and indefinite detention at Guantanamo, it became even harder to acknowledge that this is a policy of cold-blooded murder that provokes widespread anger and hostility and is counter-productive to legitimate counterterrorism goals – or to admit that it violates the U.N. Charter’s prohibition on the use of force, as U.N. special rapporteurs on extrajudicial killings have warned.

Underlying such decisions is the role of U.S. government lawyers who provide legal cover for them, but who are themselves shielded from accountability by U.S. non-recognition of international courts and the extraordinary deference of U.S. courts to the Executive Branch on matters of “national security.” These lawyers enjoy a privilege that is unique in their profession, issuing legal opinions that they will never have to defend before impartial courts to provide legal fig-leaves for war crimes.

The deviant U.S. foreign policy bureaucracy has branded the formal rules that are supposed to govern our country’s international behavior as “obsolete” and “quaint”, as a White House lawyer wrote in 2004.  And yet these are the very rules that past U.S. leaders deemed so vital that they enshrined them in constitutionally binding international treaties and U.S. law.

Let’s take a brief look at how the normalization of deviance undermines two of the most critical standards that formally define and legitimize U.S. foreign policy: the U.N. Charter and the Geneva Conventions.

The United Nations Charter

In 1945, after two world wars killed 100 million people and left much of the world in ruins, the world’s governments were shocked into a moment of sanity in which they agreed to settle future international disputes peacefully. The U.N. Charter therefore prohibits the threat or use of force in international relations.

As President Franklin Roosevelt told a joint session of Congress on his return from the Yalta conference, this new “permanent structure of peace … should spell the end of the system of unilateral action, the exclusive alliances, the spheres of influence, the balance of power, and all the other expedients that have been tried for centuries – and have always failed.”

The U.N. Charter’s prohibition against the threat or use of force codifies the long-standing prohibition of aggression in English common law and customary international law, and reinforces the renunciation of war as an instrument of national policy in the 1928 Kellogg Briand Pact. The judges at Nuremberg ruled that, even before the U.N. Charter came into effect, aggression was already the “supreme international crime.”

No U.S. leader has proposed abolishing or amending the U.N. Charter to permit aggression by the U.S. or any other country.  And yet the U.S. is currently conducting ground operations, air strikes or drone strikes in at least seven countries: Afghanistan; Pakistan; Iraq; Syria; Yemen; Somalia; and Libya. U.S. “special operations forces” conduct secret operations in a hundred more. U.S. leaders still openly threaten Iran, despite a diplomatic breakthrough that was supposed to peacefully settle bilateral differences.

President-in-waiting Hillary Clinton still believes in backing U.S. demands on other countries with illegal threats of force, even though every threat she has backed in the past has only served to create a pretext for war, from Yugoslavia to Iraq to Libya. But the U.N. Charter prohibits the threat as well as the use of force precisely because the one so regularly leads to the other.

The only justifications for the use of force permitted under the U.N. Charter are proportionate and necessary self-defense or an emergency request by the U.N. Security Council for military action “to restore peace and security.” But no other country has attacked the United States, nor has the Security Council asked the U.S. to bomb or invade any of the countries where we are now at war.

The wars we have launched since 2001 have killed about 2 million people, of whom nearly all were completely innocent of involvement in the crimes of 9/11. Instead of “restoring peace and security,” U.S. wars have only plunged country after country into unending violence and chaos.

Like the specifications ignored by the engineers at NASA, the U.N. Charter is still in force, in black and white, for anyone in the world to read. But the normalization of deviance has replaced its nominally binding rules with looser, vaguer ones that the world’s governments and people have neither debated, negotiated nor agreed to.

In this case, the formal rules being ignored are the ones that were designed to provide a viable framework for the survival of human civilization in the face of the existential threat of modern weapons and warfare – surely the last rules on Earth that should have been quietly swept under a rug in the State Department basement.

The Geneva Conventions

Courts martial and investigations by officials and human rights groups have exposed “rules of engagement” issued to U.S. forces that flagrantly violate the Geneva Conventions and the protections they provide to wounded combatants, prisoners of war and civilians in war-torn countries:

–The Command’s Responsibility report by Human Rights First examined 98 deaths in U.S. custody in Iraq and Afghanistan. It revealed a deviant culture in which senior officials abused their authority to block investigations and guarantee their own impunity for murders and torture deaths that U.S. law defines as capital crimes.

Although torture was authorized from the very top of the chain of command, the most senior officer charged with a crime was a Major and the harshest sentence handed down was a five-month prison sentence.

–U.S. rules of engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan have included: systematic, theater-wide use of torture; orders to “dead-check” or kill wounded enemy combatants; orders to “kill all military-age males” during certain operations; and “weapons-free” zones that mirror Vietnam-era “free-fire” zones.

A U.S. Marine corporal told a court martial that “Marines consider all Iraqi men part of the insurgency”, nullifying the critical distinction between combatants and civilians that is the very basis of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

When junior officers or enlisted troops have been charged with war crimes, they have been exonerated or given light sentences because courts have found that they were acting on orders from more senior officers. But the senior officers implicated in these crimes have been allowed to testify in secret or not to appear in court at all, and no senior officer has been convicted of a war crime.

–For the past year, U.S. forces bombing Iraq and Syria have operated under loosened rules of engagement that allow the in-theater commander General McFarland to approve bomb- and missile-strikes that are expected to kill up to 10 civilians each.

But Kate Clark of the Afghanistan Analysts Network has documented that U.S. rules of engagement already permit routine targeting of civilians based only on cell-phone records or “guilt by proximity” to other people targeted for assassination. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism has determined that only 4 percent of thousands of drone victims in Pakistan have been positively identified as Al Qaeda members, the nominal targets of the CIA’s drone campaign.

–Amnesty International’s 2014 report Left In The Dark documented a complete lack of accountability for the killing of civilians by U.S. forces in Afghanistan since President Obama’s escalation of the war in 2009 unleashed thousands more air strikes and special forces night raids.

Nobody was charged over the Ghazi Khan raid in Kunar province on Dec. 26, 2009, in which U.S. special forces summarily executed at least seven children, including four who were only 11 or 12 years old.

More recently, U.S. forces attacked a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, killing 42 doctors, staff and patients, but this flagrant violation of Article 18 of the Fourth Geneva Convention did not lead to criminal charges either.

Although the U.S. government would not dare to formally renounce the Geneva Conventions, the normalization of deviance has effectively replaced them with elastic standards of behavior and accountability whose main purpose is to shield senior U.S. military officers and civilian officials from accountability for war crimes.

The Cold War and Its Aftermath

The normalization of deviance in U.S. foreign policy is a byproduct of the disproportionate economic, diplomatic and military power of the United States since 1945. No other country could have got away with such flagrant and systematic violations of international law.

But in the early days of the Cold War, America’s World War II leaders rejected calls to exploit their new-found power and temporary monopoly on nuclear weapons to unleash an aggressive war against the U.S.S.R.

General Dwight Eisenhower gave a speech in St. Louis in 1947 in which he warned, “Those who measure security solely in terms of offensive capacity distort its meaning and mislead those who pay them heed. No modern nation has ever equaled the crushing offensive power attained by the German war machine in 1939. No modern nation was broken and smashed as was Germany six years later.”

But, as Eisenhower later warned, the Cold War soon gave rise to a “military-industrial complex” that may be the case par excellence of a highly complex tangle of institutions whose social culture is supremely prone to the normalization of deviance. Privately, Eisenhower lamented, “God help this country when someone sits in this chair who doesn’t know the military as well as I do.”

That describes everyone who has sat in that chair and tried to manage the U.S. military-industrial complex since 1961, involving critical decisions on war and peace and an ever-growing military budget. Advising the President on these matters are the Vice President, the Secretaries of State and Defense, the Director of National Intelligence, several generals and admirals and the chairs of powerful Congressional committees. Nearly all these officials’ careers represent some version of the “revolving door” between the military and “intelligence” bureaucracy, the executive and legislative branches of government, and top jobs with military contractors and lobbying firms.

Each of the close advisers who have the President’s ear on these most critical issues is in turn advised by others who are just as deeply embedded in the military-industrial complex, from think-tanks funded by weapons manufacturers to Members of Congress with military bases or missile plants in their districts to journalists and commentators who market fear, war and militarism to the public.

With the rise of sanctions and financial warfare as a tool of U.S. power, Wall Street and the Treasury and Commerce Departments are also increasingly entangled in this web of military-industrial interests.

The incentives driving the creeping, gradual normalization of deviance throughout the ever-growing U.S. military-industrial complex have been powerful and mutually reinforcing for over 70 years, exactly as Eisenhower warned.

Richard Barnet explored the deviant culture of Vietnam-era U.S. war leaders in his 1972 book Roots Of War. But there are particular reasons why the normalization of deviance in U.S. foreign policy has become even more dangerous since the end of the Cold War.

In the aftermath of World War II, the U.S. and U.K. installed allied governments in Western and Southern Europe, restored Western colonies in Asia and militarily occupied South Korea. The divisions of Korea and Vietnam into north and south were justified as temporary, but the governments in the south were U.S. creations imposed to prevent reunification under governments allied with the U.S.S.R. or China. U.S. wars in Korea and Vietnam were then justified, legally and politically, as military assistance to allied governments fighting wars of self-defense.

The U.S. role in anti-democratic coups in Iran, Guatemala, the Congo, Brazil, Indonesia, Ghana, Chile and other countries was veiled behind thick layers of secrecy and propaganda. A veneer of legitimacy was still considered vital to U.S. policy, even as a culture of deviance was being normalized and institutionalized beneath the surface.

The Reagan Years

It was not until the 1980s that the U.S. ran seriously afoul of the post-1945 international legal framework it had helped to build. When the U.S. set out to destroy the revolutionary Sandinista government of Nicaragua by mining its harbors and dispatching a mercenary army to terrorize its people, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) convicted the U.S. of aggression and ordered it to pay war reparations.

The U.S. response revealed how far the normalization of deviance had already taken hold of its foreign policy. Instead of accepting and complying with the court’s ruling, the U.S. announced its withdrawal from the binding jurisdiction of the ICJ.

When Nicaragua asked the U.N. Security Council to enforce the payment of reparations ordered by the court, the U.S. abused its position as a Permanent Member of the Security Council to veto the resolution. Since the 1980s, the U.S. has vetoed twice as many Security Council resolutions as the other Permanent Members combined, and the U.N. General Assembly passed resolutions condemning the U.S. invasions of Grenada (by 108 to 9) and Panama (by 75 to 20), calling the latter “a flagrant violation of international law.”

President George H.W. Bush and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher obtained U.N. authorization for the First Gulf War and resisted calls to launch a war of regime change against Iraq in violation of their U.N. mandate. Their forces massacred Iraqi forces fleeing Kuwait, and a U.N. report described how the “near apocalyptic” U.S.-led bombardment of Iraq reduced what “had been until January a rather highly urbanized and mechanized society” to “a pre-industrial age nation.”

But new voices began to ask why the U.S. should not exploit its unchallenged post-Cold War military superiority to use force with even less restraint. During the Bush-Clinton transition, Madeleine Albright confronted General Colin Powell over his “Powell doctrine” of limited war, protesting, “What’s the point of having this superb military you’re always talking about if we can’t use it?”

Public hopes for a “peace dividend” were ultimately trumped by a “power dividend” sought by military-industrial interests. The neoconservatives of the Project for the New American Century led the push for war on Iraq, while “humanitarian interventionists” now use the “soft power” of propaganda to selectively identify and demonize targets for U.S.-led regime change and then justify war under the “responsibility to protect” or other pretexts. U.S. allies (NATO, Israel, the Arab monarchies et al) are exempt from such campaigns, safe within what Amnesty International has labeled an “accountability-free zone.”

Madeleine Albright and her colleagues branded Slobodan Milosevic a “new Hitler” for trying to hold Yugoslavia together, even as they ratcheted up their own genocidal sanctions against Iraq. Ten years after Milosevic died in prison at the Hague, he was posthumously exonerated by an international court.

In 1999, when U.K. Foreign Secretary Robin Cook told Secretary of State Albright the British government was having trouble “with its lawyers” over NATO plans to attack Yugoslavia without U.N. authorization, Albright told him he should “get new lawyers.”

By the time mass murder struck New York and Washington on September 11, 2001, the normalization of deviance was so firmly rooted in the corridors of power that voices of peace and reason were utterly marginalized.

Former Nuremberg prosecutor Ben Ferencz told NPR eight days later, “It is never a legitimate response to punish people who are not responsible for the wrong done. …  We must make a distinction between punishing the guilty and punishing others. If you simply retaliate en masse by bombing Afghanistan, let us say, or the Taliban, you will kill many people who don’t approve of what has happened.”

But from the day of the crime, the war machine was in motion, targeting Iraq as well as Afghanistan.

The normalization of deviance that promoted war and marginalized reason at that moment of national crisis was not limited to Dick Cheney and his torture-happy acolytes, and so the global war they unleashed in 2001 is still spinning out of control.

When President Obama was elected in 2008 and awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, few people understood how many of the people and interests shaping his policies were the same people and interests who had shaped President George W. Bush’s, nor how deeply they were all steeped in the same deviant culture that had unleashed war, systematic war crimes and intractable violence and chaos upon the world.

A Sociopathic Culture

Until the American public, our political representatives and our neighbors around the world can come to grips with the normalization of deviance that is corrupting the conduct of U.S. foreign policy, the existential threats of nuclear war and escalating conventional war will persist and spread.

This deviant culture is sociopathic in its disregard for the value of human life and for the survival of human life on Earth. The only thing “normal” about it is that it pervades the powerful, entangled institutions that control U.S. foreign policy, rendering them impervious to reason, public accountability or even catastrophic failure.

The normalization of deviance in U.S. foreign policy is driving a self-fulfilling reduction of our miraculous multicultural world to a “battlefield” or testing-ground for the latest U.S. weapons and geopolitical strategies. There is not yet any countervailing movement powerful or united enough to restore reason, humanity or the rule of law, domestically or internationally, although new political movements in many countries offer viable alternatives to the path we are on.

As the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists warned when it advanced the hands of the Doomsday Clock to 3 minutes to midnight in 2015, we are living at one of the most dangerous times in human history. The normalization of deviance in U.S. foreign policy lies at the very heart of our predicament.


Nicolas J S Davies is the author of Blood On Our Hands: the American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq.

August 15, 2016 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | | Leave a comment

Banking problems prevent Iran exports

Press TV – August 15, 2016

More indications emerge to show that banking problems remaining from the sanctions against Iran are still obstructing the country’s exports.

Fariborz Karimaei, the deputy head of the Association of Petrochemical Industry Corporation of Iran, was quoted by the media as saying that Iran’s petrochemical exports to Europe are facing problems as a result of sanctions-related banking issues that have not been fully settled.

Karimaei emphasized that the European banks are still failing to cooperate with the Iranian exporters of petrochemical products even eight months after the removal of the sanctions.

In January, a series of economic sanctions that had been imposed against Iran were removed after a deal that the country had last year reached with the P5+1 – the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany – came into effect.

The sanctions restricted banking transactions with the country among other issues.

Iran has been persistently urging European countries to take the required measures to encourage their banks to facilitate transactions with Tehran now that the sanctions have been removed.

However, the country’s plea appears to have fallen on deaf ears so far.

Analysts have already emphasized that the banks remain wary of the impacts of the remaining American sanctions against Iran, specifically those that address banking transactions with the country.

Reports earlier said they want a promise that the US will not prosecute or punish them for transactions involving Iran — a step the US has so far been reluctant to take.

In May, US Secretary of State John Kerry told a meeting of top EU bankers that they will not be penalized for conducting or facilitating business with Iran.

However, European banks have already emphasized that Kerry’s assurances are not enough and a series of confusions that remain over transactions with Iran need to be cleared by Washington.

August 15, 2016 Posted by | Economics, War Crimes | , , | 1 Comment

With Gove now on the backbenches, the pro-Israel lobby isn’t getting value for money

By Alistair Sloan | MEMO | August 15, 2016

The Henry Jackson Society is a neoconservative London-based think tank set up in the wake of the July 2005 London bombings. Earlier this year it contributed towards the expenses for former Justice Secretary Michael Gove and his family to attend pro-Israel events in the United States. On a trip to receive an award from the right-wing online magazine The Algemeiner, parliamentary records show that Gove, his wife and two children, as well as a member of staff, received thousands of pounds worth of flights, taxi journeys, accommodation and dinners.

The Algemeiner itself paid £124 for Gove and his entourage to travel in taxis, £2,525 on flights and a dinner costing £856. There was also a huge reception at which Michael Gove, Bernard Henri-Levy and Rupert Murdoch were the speakers. The Henry Jackson Society then topped up the contribution by paying for accommodation, amounting to £2,764 for the week’s lodgings. The Lisa and Michael Leffel Foundation, which is famed for its association with a number of pro-Israel causes as well as support for Israel soldiers’ charities, also took Gove and his political adviser out for a separate meal costing £185. The pair were wined and dined for a third time by Alisa Swidler, also a small-time Tory donor, at a cost of over £200.

Gove, who has made a flushed retreat to the backbenches following a bungled attempt to become prime minister in the wake of Brexit, and then being fired as Justice Minister by the new Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May, has long been a celebrity amongst Algemeiner staff. In 2013, they opined that his views were “more favourable to Israel than those of any other mainstream British politician, current or past.” He has won awards from their editorial board consistently for championing the cause of Israel in London and, particularly of late, trying to delegitimise the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement. The Henry Jackson Society’s world view has become well-established in Westminster, although the group is small and not well-regarded by many Tory MPs; its pro-Israel stance is well known.

Since Israel’s 2006 war in Lebanon, when the Conservatives were still in opposition in Westminster, the then planning minister Michael Gove allied with George Osborne in convincing the formerly ambivalent David Cameron that British support for Israel must be redoubled, despite the ruling Likud Party’s ties with far-right parties. Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague sparked a bitter rift between neoconservative figures like Gove and more sombre realists. “In some instances, such as attacks on the Lebanese army or on parts of the civil infrastructure, Israeli actions have been disproportionate,” Hague wrote, “and our Foreign Office should not be afraid to say so; our position in international affairs may often be linked to that of the United States but it does not have to be identical to it.”

According to one friend, this incensed Gove, who was on the cusp of publishing his first book as a Member of Parliament; he called it “Celsius 7/7” (his right-wing echo of Michael Moore’s film “Fahrenheit 9/11”), which called for a strengthening of ties with Israel. The mood at the Henry Jackson Society was equally angry. When the Israeli air force began pounding military and civilian targets in southern Lebanon, a crowd of two hundred HJS supporters at the launch event of its inaugural collection of neoconservative essays (“The British Moment”) rather coarsely “cheered to the rafters”, according to one person who was there. “I hope this book will ensure that the case for foreign policy with a conscience, grows in strength,” Gove wrote in his dedication for the tome.

The Spectator also insinuated that Hague’s reaction to the 2006 Lebanon war may have had an immediate financial impact, veering towards the kind of anti-Semitic tropes of which Gove has been such a fierce critic. A Tory donor was reported as saying that Hague’s position was “the latest in a long line of rebuttals for people like us, and the things we believe in.” Fraser Nelson at the Spectator (now editor of the magazine) judged that “of the £12 million the party normally raises each year (£25 million in an election year)… about a tenth comes from donors who are Jewish or have Jewish associations.” Apparently, he spoke with three donors who were planning to withhold funds from the Tories, prompted by a threatening letter by major donor Lord Stanley Kalms, who responded to Hague’s comments thus: “William Hague’s usual good sense has deserted him. Criticising Israel for being disproportionate without serious consideration of the alternatives merely mouths the buzzwords of the ignorant armchair critic. Think again, William, for whom you speak. How do you deal with the Hezbollah leader Nasrallah, who is committed to Israel’s total destruction (not a single Jew to remain alive in Israel) and who rains thousands of rockets on Israel, keeping the population in shelters, devastating industry, kidnapping and killing Israeli soldiers within Israeli territory?”

As the 2010 elections drew closer — after which the Conservatives took office as the major party in a coalition — the debate between Gove and his party opponents over whether Israel should be supported or rebuffed raged on. One former associate wrote that he remained “a purist neo-con, believing that the best way of tackling the rise of radical Islam is to oppose totalitarian regimes and back democracy in the Middle East, with Israel as its beacon.” Meanwhile, Hague — who would serve as Foreign Secretary, a role coveted deeply by Gove — took the realpolitik view that Syria should be courted as an ally, if only Damascus could be convinced to cut ties with Iran. Despite the withdrawal of donations from apparently pro-Israel donors, Cameron persisted and at one stage called Gaza a “prison camp” while insisting that the Israelis allow in more humanitarian aid.

Gove and Osborne eventually convinced Cameron to change tack; in fact, by the time of the 2015 General Election, Cameron’s persecution of the BDS movement and insouciance to credibly-alleged Israeli war crimes was earning him praise from the American right, Tel Aviv and the Israeli media. “Is David Cameron the most pro-Israeli [British] PM ever?” asked a Haaretz headline shortly before the polls opened.

The Henry Jackson Society is thought by many to be the stately home of British Neoconservatism, and as staunchly pro-American as it is pro-Israel. Gove and Robert Halfon, at that time Chairman of Conservative Friends of Israel, were, according to a co-founder of the think tank, “The only two active trustees at the start,” playing a role in securing early-stage funding. A core part of its activity has been around promoting pro-Israel views in the halls of Westminster and in the media; its Associate Director Douglas Murray is a regular broadcaster in defence of Israel during its recurrent military offensives against the Gaza strip.

The international patrons of HJS include American neoconservative figures like the journalists Robert Kagan and William Kristol (son of Irving Kristol, “godfather” of the neoconservatives, and Gertrude Himmelfarb, his wife, and also a prominent neoconservative), as well as the politically-minded American businessman Richard Perle. With a career spent drifting through mid-level Washington politics, Perle acted as a special adviser to the think tank’s namesake, the US Democrat Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson, the “patron saint” of the neocon movement for his hawkish stance during the Cold War; the right-wing Perle would later play a key part in convincing George W. Bush to invade Iraq.

The Henry Jackson Society’s efforts to promote Israel since 2005, as well as those of politicians like Michael Gove and George Osborne, and supportive journalists, have not been entirely successful. While Cameron has expressed support for Israel’s “right of self-defence” and thus condoned high Palestinian casualties in Gaza, and dampened his calls for humanitarian assistance to Palestine, the pro-Israel lobby has been unable to slow the rising BDS movement, failed to stop a non-binding Parliamentary vote to recognise the state of Palestine, and failed to stop the Iran nuclear deal. With figures like Gove and Osborne now relegated to the backbenches, the lobby is in crisis as it tries to find new allies with the ear of the prime minister. Trips to America may be a good way to pass the time, but at the moment they may well be a waste of money with scant return for the lobbyists.

August 15, 2016 Posted by | Corruption, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

American Pravda: Did the US Plan a Nuclear First Strike Against Russia in the Early 1960s?

By Ron Unz • Unz Review • August 15, 2016

Several years ago, my articles advocating a large hike in the minimum wage caught the attention of James Galbraith, the prominent liberal economist, and we became a little friendly. As president of Economists for Peace and Security, he invited me to speak on those issues at his DC conference in late 2013. And after the presentations, he arranged a meeting with a friend of his, prominent in DC political circles, at which the two of us could present my minimum wage proposals.

While we were waiting for the taxi to take us to that meeting, I heard him quietly discussing a few other matters with a friend standing next to him. Phrases such as “attacking Russia,” “a nuclear first strike,” and “Kennedy and the Joint Chiefs” came to my ears. I can’t recall the exact words, but the conversation stuck in my mind both at the time and on my later flight home that evening, and although I hadn’t mentioned anything, I wondered what remarkable historical facts he had been discussing. His father, the legendary economist John Kenneth Galbraith, had spent decades as one of America’s most prominent public intellectuals and was a very influential figure in the Kennedy Administration, so I assumed that he was not merely engaging in casual speculation.

Finally, a week or two later, my curiosity got the better of me, and I dropped him a note, gingerly raising the topic I’d accidentally overheard. I suggested that if he possessed any private information regarding so astonishing a possibility—that the Kennedy Administration might have considered a nuclear first strike against the USSR—perhaps he had a duty to bring the facts to public awareness lest they be lost to history.

He replied that he’d indeed found persuasive evidence that the US military had carefully planned a nuclear first strike against the Soviet Union in the early 1960s, and agreed about the historical importance. But he’d already published an article laying out the case. Twenty years earlier. In The American Prospect, a very respectable though liberal-leaning magazine. So I located a copy on the Internet:

I quickly read the article and was stunned. The central document was a Top Secret/Eyes Only summary memo of a July 1961 National Security Council meeting written by Howard Burris, the military aide to then-Vice President Lyndon Johnson, which was afterward deposited in the Johnson Archives and eventually declassified. The discussion focused on the effectiveness of a planned nuclear first strike, suggesting that 1963 would be the optimal date since America’s relative advantage in intercontinental nuclear missiles would be greatest at that point. Galbraith’s student, Heather A. Purcell, had discovered the memo and co-authored the article with him, and as they pointed out, this meeting was held soon after the US military had discovered that the Soviet missile forces were far weaker than previously had been realized, leading to the plans for the proposed attack and also proving that the first strike under discussion could only have been an American one.

This history was quite different from the deterrent-based framework of American nuclear-war strategy that I had always absorbed from reading my textbooks and newspapers.

Obviously no nuclear attack took place, so the plans must have been changed at some point or discarded, and there were various indications that President Kennedy had had important doubts from the very beginning. But the argument made was that at the time, the first strike proposal was taken very seriously by America’s top political and military leadership. Once we accept that idea, other historical puzzles more easily fall into place.

Consider, for example, the massive campaign of “civil defense” that America launched immediately thereafter, leading to the construction of large numbers of fallout shelters throughout the country, including the backyard suburban ones which generated some famous ironic images. Although I’m hardly an expert on nuclear war, the motivation had never made much sense to me, since in most cases the supplies would only have been sufficient to last a few weeks or so, while the deadly radioactive fallout from numerous Soviet thermonuclear strikes on our urban centers would have been long-lasting. But an American first strike changes this picture. A successful U.S. attack would have ensured that few if any bombs fell on American soil, with the shelters intended merely to provide a couple of weeks of useful protection until the global radioactive dust-clouds resulting from the nuclear destruction of the Soviet Union had dissipated, and these anyway would have only reached America in highly attenuated form.

Furthermore, we must reassess the background to the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, certainly one of the most important and dangerous events of that era. If Soviet military analysts had reached conclusions similar to those of their American counterparts, it is hardly surprising that their political leaders would have taken the considerable risk of deploying nuclear warheads on intermediate range missiles close to American cities, thereby greatly multiplying their deterrent capability immediately prior to their point of greatest strategic vulnerability. And there was also the real possibility that their intelligence agents might have somehow gotten hints of the American plans for an actual nuclear first strike. The traditional view presented in the American media has always been that an unprovoked American attack was simply unimaginable, any Soviet paranoia notwithstanding, but if such an attack was not only imagined but actually planned, then our Cold War narrative must be significantly modified. Indeed, perhaps important aspects of the superpower confrontations of that era should be completely inverted.

Could such a momentous historical discovery have been so totally ignored by our mainstream journalists and historians that I’d never heard of it during the previous twenty years? Gossipy rumors of an additional JFK infidelity might periodically make the headlines, but why was there no discussion of serious plans to launch a non-defensive global thermonuclear war likely to kill many millions?

I have limited expertise in either analyzing nuclear warfare strategy or interpreting national security documents, so I could easily be making an error in evaluating the strength of the case. But in a later issue of TAP, William Burr and David Alan Rosenberg, scholars proficient in exactly those areas, published a lengthy rebuttal to the article, followed by a rejoinder from Galbraith and Purcell. And in my own opinion, the Burr/Rosenberg critique was quite unpersuasive.

In their arguments, they emphasized that the key document was found in the Vice Presidential archives, while the National Archives and those of President Kennedy himself are usually a far better source of important material. But perhaps that’s exactly the point. The authenticity of the Burris document was never disputed, and Burr/Rosenberg cite absolutely no contradictory archival material, implying that the documentary evidence was not available to them. So the materials dealing with such an extraordinarily explosive proposal had either elsewhere not been declassified or might even have been removed from the main archives, with only the less direct Burris summary memo in a secondary location surviving the purge and later being declassified, perhaps because its treatment of the subject was much less explicit.

Meanwhile, a careful reading of the Burris memo seems to strongly support the Galbraith/Purcell interpretation, namely that in July 1961 President Kennedy and his top national security officials discussed cold-blooded plans for a full nuclear attack against the Soviet Union in roughly two years’ time, when the relative imbalance of strategic forces would be at its maximum. The proposal seemed quite concrete, rather than merely being one of the numerous hypotheticals endlessly produced by all military organizations.

In a later footnote, Galbraith even mentioned that he subsequently had his interpretation personally confirmed by Kennedy’s former National Security Advisor: “When once I asked the late Walt Rostow if he knew anything about the National Security Council meeting of July 20, 1961 (at which these plans were presented), he responded with no hesitation: `Do you mean the one where they wanted to blow up the world?’”

 

Once I accepted the reasonable likelihood of the analysis, I was shocked at how little attention the remarkable article had received. When I simply Googled the names of the authors “Galbraith Heather Purcell” I mostly discovered very brief mentions scattered here and there, generally in specialized books or in articles written by Galbraith himself, and found absolutely nothing in the major media. Possibly one of the most important revisions to our entire history of the Cold War—with huge implications for the Cuban Missile Crisis—seems to have never achieved any significant public awareness.

And there is also a sequel on this same topic. In 2001 military affairs writer Fred Kaplan published a major article in The Atlantic with the explicit title “JFK’s First-Strike Plan.” Drawing on a wealth of newly declassified archival documents, he similarly described how the Kennedy Administration had prepared plans for a nuclear first strike against the Soviets. His analysis was somewhat different, suggesting that Kennedy himself had generally approved the proposal, but that the attack was intended as an option to be used during a hypothetical future military confrontation rather than being aimed for a particular scheduled date.

The government plans unearthed by Kaplan are clearly referring to the same strategy discussed in the Burris memo, but since Kaplan provides none of the documents themselves, it is difficult to determine whether or not the evidence is consistent with the somewhat different Galbraith/Purcell interpretation. It is also decidedly odd that Kaplan’s long article gives no indication that he was even aware of that previous theory or its differing conclusions, containing not a single sentence mentioning or dismissing it. I find it very difficult to believe that a specialist such as Kaplan remained totally unaware of the earlier American Prospect analysis, but perhaps this might possibly be explained given the near-total media blackout. Prior to the establishment of the Internet or even in its early days, important information ignored by the media might easily vanish almost without a trace.

Kaplan’s long article seems to have suffered that similar fate. Aside from a few mentions in some of Kaplan’s own later pieces, I found virtually no references at all in the last 15 years when I casually Googled it. Admittedly, the timing could not have been worse, with the article appearing in the October 2001 edition of the magazine, released in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, but the silence is still troubling.

The unfortunate fact is that when a massively important story is reported only once, with virtually no follow-up, the impact may be minimal. Only a small slice of the public encounters that initial account, and the lack of any repetition would eventually lead even those individuals to forget it, or perhaps even vaguely assume that the subsequent silence implied that the claims had been mistaken or later debunked. Every standard historical narrative of the 1960s that continues to exclude mention of serious plans for an American nuclear first strike constitutes a tacit denial of that important reality, implicitly suggesting that the evidence does not exist or had been discredited. As a consequence, I doubt whether more than a sliver of those seemingly informed Americans who carefully read the NYT and WSJ each morning are aware of these important historical facts, and perhaps the same is even true of the journalists who write for those esteemed publications. Only repetition and continuing coverage gradually incorporates a story into our framework of the past.

It is easy to imagine how things might have gone differently. Suppose, for example, that similarly solid evidence of plans for a devastating and unprovoked nuclear attack on the Soviet Union had been found in the archival records of the presidential administrations of Richard Nixon or Ronald Reagan. Is there not a far greater likelihood that the story would have been heavily covered and then endlessly repeated in our media outlets, until it had become fully embedded in our standard histories and was known to every informed citizen?

 

In some respects, these discussions of events from over a half-century ago have little relevance for us today: the individuals involved are now all merely names in our history books and the world is a very different place. So although the sharp differences between the Galbraith/Purcell analysis and that of Kaplan might engage academic specialists, the practical differences would today be minimal.

But what has enormous significance is the media silence itself. If our media failed to report these shocking new facts about the early 1960s, how much can we rely upon it for coverage of present-day events of enormous importance, given the vastly more immediate pressures and political interests which are surely brought to bear? If our mainstream histories of what happened fifty years ago are highly unreliable, what does that suggest about the stories we read each morning concerning the ongoing conflicts in Ukraine or the South China Sea or the Middle East?

Consider a particularly troubling thought-experiment. Suppose that the proposed nuclear attack on Russia had actually gone ahead, resulting in millions or tens of millions dead from the bombs and worldwide radioactive fallout, perhaps even including a million or more American casualties if the first strike had failed to entirely eliminate all retaliatory capability. Under such a dire scenario, is it not likely that every American media organ would have been immediately enlisted to sanitize and justify the terrible events, with virtually no dissent allowed? Surely John F. Kennedy would have been enshrined as our most heroic wartime president—greater than Lincoln and FDR combined—the leader who boldly saved the West from an imminent Soviet attack, a catastrophic nuclear Pearl Harbor. How could our government ever admit the truth? Even decades later, this patriotic historical narrative, uniformly endorsed by newspapers, books, films, and television, would have become almost unassailable. Only the most marginal and anti-social individuals would dare to suggest that the facts might actually have been otherwise, and they would be widely regarded as eccentric or even mentally ill for doing so. After all, how would the general public know anything different? As I always tell people, the media creates reality.

I am grateful that the world escaped this terrible nuclear disaster. But I find it disturbing that I spent decades religiously reading The New York Times every morning, but only discovered this crucial element of the Cold War by overhearing a conversation while waiting for a taxi.

For Further Reading:

August 15, 2016 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | | 1 Comment