Aletho News


US-Russia ties are heading south

By M K Bhadrakumar | Indian Punchline | September 1, 2017

The US-Russia diplomatic tit-for-tat escalated with the announcement in Washington on Thursday ordering the Russians to shut down their consulate in San Francisco as well as two trade annexes. Moscow has regretted “the escalation of tensions” and promised a reaction after careful review of the “new measures”. The state department press release is titled “Achieving Parity in Diplomatic Missions”, implying that the US has merely followed up the “Russian desire for parity in the diplomatic relationship”, which was how Moscow had rationalised its order to cut down the total strength of the US diplomats and staff in Russia by September 1.

A senior state department official explained in a special media briefing that “it is our hope that the Russians will recognize that since they were the ones who started the discussion on parity and we’re responding and complying with what they required of us… Regarding previous actions, the actions that this government took in December – I think you all know the reasons why we took those steps. It had to do with harassment of our diplomats and interference in our domestic affairs, in our elections. So I think those actions spoke for themselves.” (Transcript)  Interestingly, White House has since added that President Donald Trump took Thursday’s decision. (President Vladimir Putin had said in July that he personally took the decision to achieve “parity” in the diplomatic relations.)

The state department has warned that Washington is “prepared to take further action as necessary and as warranted.” In sum, if Russia makes further moves, US threatens to retaliate. Lavrov reacted cautiously today: “The president (Putin) has said it many times — we do not wish to quarrel with this country. We have always maintained a friendly attitude towards the American people, and now we are open for meaningful cooperation in the areas of our interests. Our sincere wish is for the political atmosphere between the two countries to return to normal. But, as you know, it takes two to tango. It seems to me, our US counterparts have been performing solo break-dance moves recently.”

It appears that the Trump administration lulled the Russians to complacency through recent weeks. On Wednesday, in fact, Russia’s Ambassador-designate to the US Anatoly Antonov gave an interview to Kommersant newspaper highlighting the “great potential for the mutually beneficial cooperation in various spheres” between Russia and the US. Indeed, ambassadors are obliged to present a hopeful landscape even when the skyline is thick with dark clouds, but the interview sounded hopeful that the Trump administration would adopt a constructive approach.

Quite obviously, the US-Russia diplomatic feud seems only widening and it is a reflection of the state of play in the overall relations. There is growing talk of the US supplying lethal weapons to Ukraine. In Syria, the race for Dier Ezzor city and for control of Syrian-Iraqi border is still open. On Afghanistan, Trump announced a new strategy in a 30-minute speech ten days ago without mentioning Russia even once. Over the North Korean situation, Putin said in an interview with the Chinese media on Thursday, “Russia believes that the (US) policy of putting pressure on Pyongyang to stop its nuclear missile programme is misguided and futile… Provocations, pressure and militarist and insulting rhetoric are a dead-end road.”

Meanwhile, provocative US deployments to Russia’s western borders continue. On the pretext of reinforcing the NATO allies in the Baltics against the backdrop of “Zapad 2017″ (forthcoming Russian military exercise), US deployed to Lithuania another seven US F-15 fighter jets.

September 1, 2017 Posted by | Russophobia | , | Leave a comment

McCain’s Transmutation from Cautious Realist to Super-Hawk

By Stephen J. Sniegoski • Unz Review • September 1, 2017

For many years, John McCain has been one of the major war hawks in the Senate, but he was not that way for more than a decade after he was first elected to Congress. When he entered the House of Representatives in 1983, he was a cautious realist, holding the position that U.S. military power should only be used to protect vital national interests. He developed this view as a result of his experience in the Vietnam War and his post-Vietnam studying of the origins of that war at the National War College.[1] That view loomed large among military leaders at this time and was exemplified by General Colin Powell.

In his first year in Congress, McCain, although a strong supporter of then President Reagan, voted against the latter’s decision to continue the deployment of troops in Lebanon during that country’s civil war. The measure would pass in both Houses of Congress, with substantial support from Democrats, and with only a small minority of Republicans daring to oppose Reagan. In his floor speech on this issue, McCain stated:

“The fundamental question is: What is the United States’ interest in Lebanon? It is said we are there to keep the peace. I ask, what peace? It is said we are there to aid the government. I ask, what government? It is said we are there to stabilize the region. I ask, how can the U.S. presence stabilize the region? . . . . The longer we stay in Lebanon, the harder it will be for us to leave. We will be trapped by the case we make for having our troops there in the first place.

“What can we expect if we withdraw from Lebanon? The same as will happen if we stay. I acknowledge that the level of fighting will increase if we leave. I regretfully acknowledge that many innocent civilians will be hurt. But I firmly believe this will happen in any event.”[2]

After a truck filled with explosives rammed into the Marine compound in Beirut, killing 241 service members, Reagan opted to remove the remaining troops a few months later. McCain was vindicated and he gained considerable attention from the mainstream media for his prescience and courage to take such a stand against a popular President from his party. This helped to develop his reputation as a “maverick.”

“The American people and Congress now appreciate that we are neither omniscient nor omnipotent,” McCain would later tell the Los Angeles Times, “and they are not prepared to commit U.S. troops to combat unless there is a clear U.S. national security interest involved. If we do become involved in combat, that involvement must be of relatively short duration and must be readily explained to the man in the street in one or two sentences.”[3]

In 1987, during the Iran-Iraq War, in which the United States was supporting Iraq, McCain, now a Senator, opposed President Reagan’s move to put American flags on Kuwaiti oil tankers and have the U.S. Navy protect them against possible Iranian attacks. In the Arizona Republican, he described Reagan’s action as a “dangerous overreaction in perhaps the most violent and unpredictable region in the world.” He continued: “American citizens are again being asked to place themselves between warring Middle East factions, with no tangible allied support and no real plan on how to respond if the situation escalates.”[4]

McCain did support the Gulf War in 1991, but even here he was something of a moderate. McCain biographer Matt Welch writes: “When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in the summer of 1990, McCain oscillated between hawkishness and reluctance, denouncing the Iraqi dictator and then the U.S. government for having cozied up too closely to Hussein during the Iran-Iraq war, but at the same time warning against a protracted land battle.”[5] McCain stated: “If you get involved in a major ground war in the Saudi desert, I think support will erode significantly. Nor should it be supported. We cannot even contemplate, in my view, trading American blood for Iraqi blood.”[6]

Under Republican Presidents Reagan and the elder Bush, it must be acknowledged that McCain was not an actual non-interventionist since he supported the American opposition to the Soviet Union, and what he considered to be pro-Soviet forces in Central America. Moreover, he supported the removal of Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega by the U.S. military in 1989. But this was still a far cry from the global interventionist that McCain would become.

Moreover, during Bill Clinton’s presidency, McCain would be even more non-interventionist until his radical change during the last years of Clinton’s term. In a commencement address he made to the Marine Corps Command and Staff College in Quantico, Virginia in June 1994, McCain emphasized that his cautious approach to war resulted from his Vietnam experience. He solemnly orated that he had not forgotten “the friends who did not return with me to the country we loved so dearly. The memory of them, of what they bore for honor and country, causes me to look in every prospective conflict for the shadow of Vietnam.”[7]

In December 1992, after losing the November election to Bill Clinton, the elder George Bush dispatched American troops to Somalia, then embroiled in a many-sided civil war, to facilitate the provision of food to the starving civilian population. This was part of a United Nations effort. By the fall of 1993, this military mission morphed into one of arresting war lords and nation-building. In October 1993, a 15-hour battle took place in Mogadishu that left 18 Americans dead and 73 injured, with many of these casualties the result of two Black Hawk helicopters being shot down.[8]

Because of this loss of American lives, there was a Senate bill supported by President Clinton which planned to remove American troops from Somalia. Demanding a quicker troop exit, McCain stated: “Mr. President, can anyone seriously argue that another six months of United States forces in harm’s way means the difference between peace and prosperity in Somalia and war and starvation there? Is that very dim prospect worth one more American life? No, it is not.”

Drawing an analogy to what happened in Lebanon in 1983, McCain contended: “240 young Marines lost their lives, but we got out. Now is the time for us to get out of Somalia, as rapidly, and as promptly, and as safely as possible.”

“The longer we stay the more difficult it will be to leave,” McCain asserted. “The loss of American lives is not only tragic, it is needless.”[9] His proposed amendment for a quicker departure, however, was voted down.

McCain also opposed Clinton’s intervention in Haiti to bring back President Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who had been elected in 1990 and then overthrown in a coup in 1991. After a UN resolution authorized the use of military force to return Aristide to power, the United States would ultimately do so on October 15, 1994. In late August 1994, McCain declared: “It is the post-invasion circumstances that I fear will bog down U.S. forces in a low-level, open-ended, ill-defined conflict which will require U.S. servicemen and women to serve as a virtual palace guard for President Aristide once he is returned to power.”[10]

The major international concern in the 1990s was the conflict in Yugoslavia—with the focus first on Bosnia and then Kosovo. After the downfall of Communism, Yugoslavia dissolved, with the secession, in 1992, of Croatia, Macedonia and Slovenia. Bosnia also declared its independence despite the staunch opposition of Bosnian Serbs, who wanted to remain united with Serbia. Civil war broke out between the Bosnian Serbs, supported by Serbia, and the Muslim-dominated Bosnian government. Thousands of people were killed, raped, and expelled from their homes. The West generally looked upon the atrocities, real and imagined, as being primarily perpetrated by the Serbs. In the United States, this was especially the case among American liberals who would advocate “humanitarian” military intervention to protect the Muslims.

In 1992, the UN peacekeeping forces intervened for humanitarian reasons and set up several so-called safe areas for refugees, which often turned out to be not very safe. The UN forces were composed of non-American troops, while American ships and airplanes enforced an arms embargo.

The wars in Yugoslavia would ultimately lead to a sea change in McCain’s position on American military intervention, but this did not occur all at once. Initially, McCain was, like many Republicans, opposed to American involvement in the conflict. In fact, biographer Matt Welch describes McCain as having been “one of the Senate’s most stubborn opponents to US military intervention against Serbs.”[11] McCain contended that any American military “peace-keeping” effort in Bosnia would likely lead to a quagmire. “I think you can draw a parallel to the military challenge in Bosnia with what the Russians faced in Afghanistan,” McCain opined in May 1993. “Even with ground forces and with overwhelming air superiority, they were unable to defeat a motivated, very capable enemy.”[12]

In December 1994, McCain, whom the Los Angeles Times described as a “a leading opponent of greater American military involvement in the war,” stated: “I think we have a very full plate of a legislative agenda, which are the commitments we made to the American people–and Bosnia wasn’t one of those.”[13] In May 1995, McCain held that U.S. efforts in the Balkans were “doomed to failure from the beginning, when we believed that we could keep peace in a place where there was no peace.”[14] Neocon Robert Kagan bemoaned the fact that on Bosnia, Senator McCain led the Republican attack, warning that any use of military power there would result in “another failure like Vietnam or Lebanon.”[15]

Prospects for peace, however, improved in the summer of 1995 when NATO, led by the United States, launched airstrikes against Bosnian Serb targets, which combined with better-equipped Muslim and Croatian forces pressured the Bosnian Serbs into participating in peace negotiations. This led to the Dayton Accords in November 1995, which ended the war in Bosnia. NATO would provide peace-keeping troops, including 20,000 from the U.S.

After NATO’s success, McCain quickly dropped his staunch anti-interventionist position. McCain later claimed that his position had begun to change as a moral reaction to the Serbs’ massacre of thousands of unarmed Bosnian Muslims in July 1995.[16] While most Republican members of Congress were opposed to sending American troops to Bosnia, McCain joined Senator Robert Dole (Republican—Kansas) in putting forth the nonbinding Dole-McCain resolution which permitted Clinton to send troops, though limiting the deployment to one year–which was Clinton’s stated time period—and requiring the United States to lead an effort to arm and train Bosnian troops. The resolution passed in the Senate but was not taken up in the House.[17]

Showing that he had not completely dropped his previous cautious approach to intervention, McCain emphasized that the Dole-McCain resolution was not seeking support for President Clinton’s decision to deploy the troops. “It asks that you support the deployment after the decision has been made,” he said. “The decision has been made by the only American elected to make such decisions [i.e., the President].” However, McCain also expressed a firm interventionist conviction: “When we arrive at the moment when less is expected from our leadership by the rest of the world, then we will have arrived at the moment of our decline.” And he said, “We cannot withdraw from the world into our prosperity and comfort and hope to keep those blessings.”[18]

While a change from his previous strong opposition to American intervention abroad, supporting this peace effort in Bosnia did not portend McCain’s radical transmutation to the global super-hawk that he would become. That final step would require the involvement of the neoconservatives. This connection began when, in 1997, McCain and his advisers read an article in the Wall Street Journal editorial page by neoconservatives Bill Kristol and David Brooks who were promoting the idea of “national greatness” conservatism, which consisted of a more activist domestic agenda and a more interventionist global role.[19]

While this article may have fit in with the direction that McCain’s thinking was moving, it had political implications as well: McCain had been eyeing the presidency for a number of years. According to John Weaver, a major political adviser to McCain at this time: “I wouldn’t call it a ‘eureka’ moment, but there was a sense that this is where we are headed and this is what we are trying to articulate and they [Kristol and Brooks] have already done a lot of the work. . . . And, quite frankly, from a crass political point of view, we were in the making-friends business. The Weekly Standard represented a part of the primary electorate that we could get.”[20] And it should be emphasized that McCain’s change was not a gradual one but rather one that was quite radical and took place in a very short period of time.

After reading this article, McCain and staff were consulting regularly with leading neocons, including Kristol, Robert Kagan, and Randy Scheunemann[21], to, in the words of journalist David Kirkpatrick, “develop the senator’s foreign policy ideas and instincts into the broad themes of a presidential campaign.”[22] In short, McCain realized that he needed the neocons’ intellectual and political support if he were to achieve higher office. The neocons were already well-known and had played a significant role in the Reagan administration. And during the Clinton years, neocons promoted their views from a strong interlocking network of think tanks which have had a significant influence in shaping American foreign policy.

McCain would begin to support neocon positions. On January 26, 1998, the neocon-dominated Project for a New American Century (PNAC), created in 1997 and headed by Bill Kristol, sent a letter to President Clinton urging him to take unilateral military action against Iraq to overthrow Saddam and offered a plan to achieve that objective. After the Clinton administration failed to take action, another neocon-front group, the resurrected Committee for Peace and Security in the Gulf, which had promoted the 1991 Gulf War, sent another letter urging war. And, because of Clinton’s continued inaction, PNAC would send another such letter in May.

While President Clinton failed to take action, McCain pushed for military action against Saddam in 1998. McCain co-sponsored the Iraq Liberation Act, committing the United States to support the overthrow of Saddam and funding opposition groups, most importantly the Iraqi National Congress. Headed by the notorious neocon-favorite Ahmed Chalabi, the Iraqi National Congress would provide much of the spurious information that generated support for the war on Iraq in 2003. The bill passed in both houses of Congress and on October 31, 1998, President Clinton signed it into law. Clinton, however, did not intend to implement this measure and George Bush made no mention of it during the 2000 campaign.[23] McCain, however, remained in lock-step with the neocons on Iraq and would be made Honorary Co-chair of the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq when it was created in 2002.

McCain had been in line with the neocons as a strong supporter of Israel even during the time he adhered to a cautious realist position regarding U.S. military interventionism. He was the 1999 recipient of the Defender of Jerusalem award, given by the National Council of Young Israel. In his acceptance speech, McCain in effect told his pro-Zionist audience that the United States should be prepared to make war for Israel’s sake. “Certainly, no one would argue with the proposition that our armed forces exist first and foremost for the defense of the United States and its vital interests abroad,” McCain intoned. “We choose, as a nation, however, to intervene militarily abroad in defense of the moral values that are at the center of our national conscientiousness even when vital national interests are not necessarily at stake. I raise this point because it lies at the heart of this nation’s approach to Israel. The survival of Israel is one of this country’s most important moral commitments. . . . Like the United States, Israel is more than a nation; it is an ideal.”[24] Note that this was diametrically opposed to his former view that American intervention abroad should only take place to protect vital American interests.

However, it was not Iraq or any of Israel’s enemies that put McCain in the national limelight but rather the U.S.-led NATO war on Serbia over Kosovo in 1999. As Washington Post staff writer Dan Balz wrote in early April 1999, “no politician has been more visible on the issue of Kosovo the past two weeks than the former Vietnam prisoner of war, and a number of political analysts say his performance has given a boost to his presidential aspirations.”[25]

President Clinton orchestrated the NATO war on Serbia, because of the Serbs “ethnic cleansing” of Muslims in their territory of Kosovo. Since Serbia could not possibly threaten the United States, the war was presented as being largely for humanitarian reasons. At this time, there were all types of stories of Serb mass killings of Kosovars, with figures up to 100,000 Kosovar civilians being missing and conceivably murdered.[26] Physical evidence for these extreme claims was not found and former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic was not even charged with crimes of such great magnitude at his trial before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). And according to German government documents no “ethnic cleansing” of Kosovar Albanians took place until after the NATO bombing.[27]

Unlike many Republicans, McCain supported Clinton’s decision for war. But while Clinton limited American actions to air strikes, McCain maintained that it was essential to win this military confrontation at all costs and called on the Clinton Administration to deploy ground troops if the reliance on air strikes alone appeared to be insufficient to achieve victory.[28]

McCain thus sponsored a resolution that would have given President Clinton congressional authorization to use all means necessary to win the military campaign in Kosovo. The leaders of both parties opposed this resolution and it was tabled. McCain complained: “The president doesn’t want the power he possesses by law because the risks inherent in its exercise have paralyzed him.”[29]

McCain’s hawkish position reflected the views of the neoconservatives. And obviously, his pro-intervention stance represented a sea change from his previous emphasis on caution and support of war only if it involved a vital American interest.

Members of the interventionist Balkan Action Committee, which advocated NATO ground troops for Kosovo, included such prominent neoconservative mainstays as Richard Perle, Max M. Kampelman, Morton Abramowitz, and Paul Wolfowitz. Other neoconservative proponents of a tougher war included Eliot Cohen, Elliott Abrams, John Bolton, Bill Kristol, Robert Kagan, and Norman Podhoretz.[30]

Largely because of his bellicose position on Kosovo, McCain was the favorite presidential candidate for many leading neoconservatives in 2000. As Franklin Foer, editor of the liberal New Republic, put it: “Jewish neoconservatives have fallen hard for John McCain. It’s not just unabashed swooner William Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard. McCain has also won over such leading neocon lights as David Brooks, the entire Podhoretz family, The Wall Street Journal‘s Dorothy Rabinowitz, and columnist Charles Krauthammer, who declared, in a most un-Semitic flourish, ‘He suffered for our sins.’”[31]

McCain was especially championed by Bill Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, and his associate David Brooks. They held that McCain would promote their idea of “national greatness,” as opposed to what they regarded as the standpatness of the conservative Republicans. The “national greatness” program would entail a greater role for the federal government and more extensive intervention throughout the world to promote American values.

Neoconservatives admired McCain for his support of the American war on Serbia, toward which many mainstream conservatives were decidedly cool. The attack on Serbia, ostensibly for humanitarian reasons, provided the intellectual groundwork for the attack on Iraq, the neocons’ fundamental target, since it set the precedent of violating international law’s prohibition against initiating offensive wars. No longer would the United States have to be attacked, or even threatened, to engage in war. As Kristol and Brooks put it: “For all his conventional political views, McCain embodies a set of virtues that today are unconventional. The issue that gave the McCain campaign its initial boost was Kosovo. He argued that America as a great champion of democracy and decency could not fail to act. And he supported his commander in chief despite grave doubts about the conduct of the war–while George W. Bush sat out the debate and Republicans on the Hill flailed at Clinton.”[32]

But the neocons did not support McCain simply because of his defense of the Kosovars, but rather because of his broader interventionist position of “rogue state rollback,” which pointed directly at the enemies of Israel. While participating in a Republican debate moderated by CNN’s Larry King on February. 15, 2000, the candidates were asked: “What area of American international policy would you change immediately as president?” McCain replied: “I’d institute a policy that I call ‘rogue state rollback.’ I would arm, train, equip, both from without and from within, forces that would eventually overthrow the governments and install free and democratically-elected governments.” And he added: “As long as Saddam Hussein is in power, I am convinced that he will pose a threat to our security.”[33]

What caused McCain’s radical shift from cautious realist to super hawk? Biographer Matt Welch sees it as essentially a return to his basic world view, largely derived from the family’s military background, after the non-interventionist effect of the Vietnam Syndrome. Welch writes: “But much less understood is the extent to which interventionist hegemony has been literally seared into McCain’s skull and then reignited late in life after the long intellectual detour of Vietnam.”[34]

Justin Raimondo sees it otherwise: “It is impossible to know what is in McCain’s heart. There may be a purely ideological explanation for his changing viewpoint. But what seems to account for his evolution from realism to hopped-up interventionism is nothing more than sheer ambition.” He goes on: “He was positioning himself against his own party, while staking out a distinctive stance independent of the Democrats. It was, in short, an instance of a presidential candidate maneuvering himself to increase his appeal to the electorate—and, most importantly, the media.”[35]

In an article in Rolling Stone, Tim Dickerson expresses a view similar to that of Raimondo, describing McCain as “a man willing to say and do anything to achieve his ultimate ambition: to become commander in chief, ascending to the one position that would finally enable him to outrank his four-star father and grandfather.” Dickerson continues: “Few politicians have so actively, or successfully, crafted their own myth of greatness.”[36]

McCain has flip-flopped on domestic issues, sometimes supporting a conservative position and at other times a more liberal one which wins him the plaudits of the mainstream media—but once he moved into the neocon orbit regarding U.S. foreign policy, he has stayed there. It is obviously beneficial for a politician to have the broad neocon network of organizations on one’s side. And more than a few of these neocons—such as Bill Kristol, Robert Kagan, David Brooks, are featured regularly in the mainstream media. Moreover, the mainstream liberal media itself has adopted many neocon interventionist positions in foreign policy in regard to Russia and the Middle East, so McCain’s positions are held in esteem there, too.

So while McCain portrays himself as a “maverick” and “straight-talker” who is above politics– and this image is largely accepted by the mainstream media—it would seem most likely that his political positions have been adopted to advance his own political interests.[37] While this approach did not enable him to become President, it did serve to make him something of a public icon, which is a position few politicians attain. However, the war-oriented policies he has advocated have been disastrous for the United States. It is only fortunate that John McCain has not attained the power to have his positions adopted in their entirety.

September 1, 2017 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , | 1 Comment

How Israel Weaponizes Archeology

By Kathryn Shihadah | If Americans Knew | August 31, 2107

From the Zionism’s earliest days in the late 1800s until the present, Israel’s battle has always been about land, but for some the issue goes much deeper—literally. What is underground is as valuable as what is above ground, and the battle has been raging for years.

The battle is over ancient artifacts, from Jerusalem to Gaza to Qumran.

The “Jewish State” prioritizes anything that might boost its legitimacy as rightful owner of Holy Land real estate, and has appropriated the science of archeology to help create its narrative.

The goal is to highlight the ancient Jewish presence and discount all other communities. whether historic or current. The Israeli narrative assumes, for example, that Christians may have been present for a short time, but only as visitors, leaving virtually no trace; the same goes for any Muslim presence.

In order to back up this version of history, Israel has found it necessary to destroy villages, demolish ancient sites, appropriate historic areas, rewrite textbooks, redraw boundary lines, and more. With the illusion of an ongoing, dominant Jewish presence, Israel can assert that it is simply “re-claiming” what is rightfully theirs, instead of taking what belongs to others.

Facts under the ground

It is no surprise that Israel/Palestine is an archeological gold mine: ancient trade routes crisscrossed the region; it was the historic home of the Philistines and Crusaders; a stone’s throw from the early civilizations of Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Phoenicia; part of the Roman, Greek, Persian, and Ottoman empires, to name a few; and the dwelling place of Jews, Christians, and Muslims.

In fact, Palestine is home to the oldest archeological organization in the world, the Palestine Exploration Fund, founded in 1865. Here excavators have feasted on a dizzying array of strata, ranging from Upper Paleolithic (about 40,000 BC) to late Ottoman (19th century AD), and everything in between; their findings have led to the advancement of the science of archeology itself. No wonder archeologists from around the world have been assembling for at least a century and a half to unearth and study Palestine’s ancient cultural riches.

When Israel created itself in 1948—and even before this date—the “Jewish State” worked to take control of archaeology, and thus, of the region’s history. It toiled to erase footprints of the numerous civilizations that had preceded the Jewish presence, as well as the peoples that have come afterward.

“Hand to hand”

The claim to the land is based on a very small window of time, as Illene Beatty pointed out in Arab and Jew in the Land of Canaan: “The extended kingdoms of David and Solomon, on which the Zionists base their territorial demands, endured for only about 73 years… Then it fell apart… [Even] if we allow independence to the entire life of the ancient Jewish kingdoms, from David’s conquest of Canaan in 1000 B.C. to the wiping out of Judah in 586 B.C., we arrive at [only] a 414 year Jewish rule.”

The Israeli narrative pushes the window open a few hundred years more: history (at least, relevant history) supposedly “started with King David and ended with the destruction of the second temple [70 A.D.], restarting with Jewish settlement in the nineteenth century.” Some Greek and Roman presence and a “smattering of early Christianity” are tolerable. But ancient Philistines, Arabs, and Muslims are never acknowledged as part of the region’s history. They would impinge upon Jewish interests.

The official explanation, according to an introductory film that is shown to tour groups in Jerusalem, is simply, “For two thousand years, the city passed from hand to hand.” The “righteous return” and the settler agenda are the only account to which visitors are exposed. On Palestine, there is only silence.

As Israeli author and activist Uri Avnery reminds us, the Zionist claim to the land of Palestine, based as it was on the Biblical history of the Israelites, requires proving that the Bible is true. Almost all of the founders of Israel were professing atheists, but they gritted their teeth and gave their orders.

During the early years of Israel’s existence, bulldozers removed Ottoman and Mameluke remains, Arab and Crusader artifacts, Byzantine and Roman and Greek and Persian remnants—in order to find “pay dirt”: biblical Hebrew artifacts. The search is ongoing. (Read this and this, for example.)

And over the years, the narrative has been pieced together for a single purpose: to manufacture “legitimacy.”

“I told you so”

This explains why, for example, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rushed to social media when a coin was found recently in an Israeli settlement in the West Bank (Palestine). Preliminary identification classified the coin as a 2,000-year-old half shekel. The Prime Minister posted on Facebook that the artifact was “evidence of the deep connection between the people of Israel and its land” (mind you, the item was found in Palestine, not Israel). Several days later, the coin was more accurately identified by the Israel Museum as a replica, a souvenir, circa 2000 A.D. The Facebook post was removed.

After the 2015 discovery of an ancient jug with Hebrew inscription, Israel’s minister of education, Naftali Bennett, posted on Facebook, “This is yet another example of the many facts on the ground that tell the story of the Jewish state that flourished here in this land 3,000 years ago… A nation can not occupy its own land.”

Moral of the story: Archeologywhen massaged properly—is proof positive that there is no occupation.

Palestinian villages evaporate

As part of this effort, Zionist forces wiped out 400-600 Palestinian villages in the 1940s—some were destroyed in the war, but many were depopulated and razed even before the war began; others were demolished in the three years or so following the war.

According to Just Past? The Making of Israeli Archaeology, “remnants of the Arab past were considered blots on the landscape and evoked facts everyone wanted to forget” (everyone except the Palestinians). Many of these lost villages were themselves ancient, or contained ancient building materials. This assisted forgetting, essentially “Nakba denial,” is undoubtedly the greatest theft of Palestinian history. Today, in place of those lost villages are Israeli towns, farms, and orchards.

Hundreds of historical monuments and places of worship (primarily mosques) were also targeted for demolition after the 1948 war. A few Israelis pleaded with the Israeli Department of Antiquities to preserve these sites, but they were for the most part unsuccessful.

Raz Kletter wrote about the situation, of which he as an archeologist was ashamed: “I don’t think this village landscape belongs to us—it belongs to the people who lived here—but still, there is longing for that lost landscape. We cannot bring it back, but at least we should be aware of the truth and not lie to ourselves.”

Cartographers were sent out to make a new map, renaming cities, villages, rivers, etc. with Israeli/Hebrew names to erase all vestiges of Palestinian presence.

This effort has continued for decades, down to even renaming parks and streets.

Appropriating archeological sites & the Dead Sea Scrolls

The 1995 Oslo Accords II assigned 60% of the West Bank (Palestine) to full Israeli military control by designating it “Area C.” This was meant to be a temporary arrangement, but has lasted over twenty years to date. Israel maintains authority over all land-related civil matters, which includes the Jewish-only settlements on Palestinian land (with a current population of about half a million) and almost all of Palestine’s archeological sites.

According to international law, artifacts found on Palestinian land— whether Area A, B, C, Gaza, or East Jerusalem—belong to Palestine and should remain inside Palestine. UNESCO Accords, UN Security Council resolutions, and the 1954 Hague Convention all indicate that “when ownership of an antiquity is vested in a nation, one who removes it without permission is a thief, and the antiquities are stolen property”— this according to Patty Gerstenblith, DePaul professor and author of a 2016 Department of Justice guide to cultural property law.

The appropriation of archeological sites and their artifacts is, by definition, illegal, but Israel has a great deal of experience in flouting international law and getting away with it. This crime does not need to be covered up.

Witness the famous Dead Sea Scrolls: discovered by Palestinians before the founding of Israel, in the Qumran Caves which are located in the West Bank of Palestine. Because Qumran is in Area C of the West Bank, Israel controls the archeological site, the tourism, and the conversation. The scrolls are now in the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. Their official website does not contain any mention of Palestine.

Area C designation enables Israel de facto control over not only excavation and the distribution of artifacts; but decisions about when to stop digging and start building new structures—or parks or parking lots—on top of a site.

Palestinian towns and neighborhoods that are close to or part of East Jerusalem are subject to particularly exasperating treatment: the 1980 Jerusalem Law essentially annexed East Jerusalem (most of the world does not recognize the annexation), declaring all of Jerusalem “the complete and united capital of Israel,” and promising to “provide for the development and prosperity of Jerusalem and the well-being of its inhabitants.” Israeli domination ensued, and for Palestinians it feels like an elaborate land grab.

Case study: Silwan

The East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, whose families have owned their lands since Ottoman times, has been living under this cloud of Israeli authority since 1967.

Silwan used to be almost completely Palestinian and Muslim. After the 1967 annexation of East Jerusalem, a plan was announced to shift the population to 75% Israeli. As one of the settler/archeologist spokesmen explained, the objective was “to get a [Jewish] foothold in East Jerusalem and to create an irreversible situation in the holy basin around the Old City.” (This is called “ethnic cleansing.”) This has been accomplished through evictions and home demolitions—over half of the houses in Silwan are under demolition orders—sometimes using forged documents.

Palestinian women in Silwan watch as settlers move into homes in the neighborhood

One of the main ways Israel got a “foothold” in Silwan was through the 1950 Absentee Property Law. This insidious regulation states that if a piece of Palestinian property has been uninhabited for three years, or ownership documents could not be produced, the land would revert to a Custodianship Council, which could then distribute the property for military or settlement use.

The Absentee Property Law had worked handily when Palestinian refugees were refused the right of return: after three years, their land was confiscated and they had nothing to come back to anyway. Those few who did get back, and whose homes were still standing—only seven villages were left intact—often found their deeds missing or destroyed, and new, Jewish tenants in place. According to the Israel Government Yearbook, 5719, almost 60,000 homes and 10,000 businesses were appropriated during Israel’s early years.

A large number of properties in Silwan have been appropriated through this law.

The small number of green spaces in Silwan have also been claimed as archeological sites, forbidden to Palestinians. Hundreds of closed-circuit TV cameras are used to insure compliance.

Having appropriated swaths of Silwan, the work of appropriating swaths of history began “with bulldozers clearing huge areas in haste and multiple levels being dismantled in a race to get to ‘Jewish’ bedrock.” Where they couldn’t find what they needed, settlers built houses on top of excavation sites.

Silwan’s Palestinian residents used to take pride in the archeological riches of their land, but since Israel’s land grab, things have gone from bad to worse. The heavy machinery and deep digging are beginning to compromise structures: Palestinian homes are showing large cracks, making their owners nervous and angry.

One resident, Jawad Siyam, created a petition to end the destructive digging, and filed it with the Israel Supreme Court. The result: Jawad and all of those who signed the petition were imprisoned or put under house arrest for “disturbing the peace and causing damage to property.”

Adding insult to injury, the Jerusalem municipality replaced a number of Arabic-named streets in Silwan with biblical Hebrew names—yet another daily reminder to Palestinians of who is in charge.

Antiquities in Gaza

Not surprisingly, the situation in Gazan archeological sites is even worse—though its location as a seaport makes it wildly rich in ancient treasures. Gaza’s Ministry of Tourism and Antiquities oversees digs and artifact preservation to the best of its limited ability: its offices, as well as many historical sites, have been damaged by Israeli bombs.

In addition, the equipment and chemicals needed to carry out work are forbidden for “security reasons” under the decade-old blockade. Guest archeologists can not get in to help, and local archeologists can not get out for training. Oddly, many of Gaza’s most valuable artifacts have turned up in Israeli museums.

Needless to say, there is little funding for the work in Gaza, what with the highest unemployment rate in the world, electricity shortages, and clean water crisis.

Israeli tourism

Anyone familiar with the region knows that tourism has been almost completely appropriated by Israel—and this is another sore spot for Palestinians in archeologically rich areas. For example, the City of David National Park (built on Silwan’s land—see above) welcomes hundreds of thousands of tourists a year, each of whom pays an $7 entrance fee, and most of whom buy food and souvenirs from Jewish Israeli settlers. Not only are all of the profits pocketed by Israel and Israelis, the Palestinians of Silwan and their connection to the land are completely and intentionally disregarded.

This tourism income may be small change to Israel—it receives over $10 million a day from the US alone—but it would make a huge difference to the people of Silwan and other towns that are casualties in the antiquity war.

A great irony in the saga of Israel’s quest for legitimacy in the land is this: no one, Palestinian or otherwise, denies an ongoing Jewish presence since ancient times. The pilfering of archeology has been unnecessary and unbecoming from that standpoint. The rising consensus worldwide of Israel as a pariah state and the increasing popularity of the Boycott, Divestment, & Sanctions movement (BDS) indicate that Israel’s strategy is not helping in legitimacy efforts.

September 1, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular | , , | 3 Comments

How Media Obscure US/Saudi Responsibility for Killing Yemeni Civilians

By Ben Norton | FAIR | August 31, 2107

A coalition of Saudi Arabia, the United States, the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates, with minor support from several other Middle Eastern nations, has relentlessly bombed Yemen since March 2015. This August, the coalition ramped up the ferocity of its airstrikes, killing dozens of civilians.

On August 23, the US/Saudi coalition bombed a hotel near Yemen’s capital Sanaa, killing 41 people, 33 of whom—80 percent—were civilians, according to the United Nations.

Then on August 25, the coalition bombed homes in Sanaa, massacring a dozen civilians, including eight members of the same family.

Major Western media outlets have, however, obscured the responsibility Saudi Arabia, and its US and European supporters, bear for launching these airstrikes.

There are no other parties presently bombing Yemen, so media cannot feign ignorance as to who is responsible for the attacks. But reports on the bloody US/Saudi coalition airstrikes were nonetheless rife with ambiguous and downright misleading language.

NPR: Dozens Of People Killed As Airstrike Hits Hotel Near Yemen's Capital

It seems worth mentioning that the airstrike was
supported by the same government that supports NPR.

“Dozens of People Killed as Airstrike Hits Hotel Near Yemen’s Capital,” wrote NPR (8/23/17), in a masterwork of euphemism. Apparently dozens of Yemenis mysteriously died of unknown causes at the exact moment a generic, unaffiliated airstrike hit the hotel. NPR only indirectly mentioned, in the story’s fifth paragraph, that the “Saudi-led coalition” was “blamed” for the attack.

AFP‘s news wire (8/23/17), which was republished by Yahoo, the Daily Mail and Breitbart, used the headline “Air Raids on Outskirts of Yemen Capital Kill ‘at least 30,’” again obscuring who was responsible for those air raids. France 24 (8/23/17) ran the wire with the headline “Air Raids on Yemen Capital Kill Dozens.”

The BBC (8/23/17) wrote, “Yemen War: Air Strike on Hotel Outside Sanaa ‘Leaves 30 Dead.’”  “Dozens Killed in Airstrike on Yemeni Hotel,” the Guardian headline (8/23/17) read.

The London-based Middle East Eye (8/23/17) was just as ambiguous, with “Yemen Air Attack Destroys Hotel, Killing at Least 35 People,” as was Qatar-owned Al Jazeera (8/23/17), with “Air Raid in Yemen Kills at Least 35 people”  and the Turkish TRT World (8/24/17), which wrote, “At Least 60 people Killed in Airstrikes on Hotel in Yemen.”

Whose airstrike was it? What party was responsible? This remains unknown to those who only glanced at the headlines—that is to say, to most readers.

The 29-month war has killed thousands of Yemeni civilians, with tens of thousands more injured and millions facing famine. And the United Nations has repeatedly reported that the US/Saudi coalition is responsible for a majority of the civilian casualties.

Even when Saudi Arabia’s guilt is acknowledged by media, the crucial role of the US is typically ignored (, 8/31/15, 10/14/16, 2/27/17). Readers miss out on crucial context that is needed to understand the war, and their governments’ contributions to it: Saudi Arabia is flying US-made planes, full of fuel provided by the US Air Force, dropping US- and UK-made bombs, with intelligence and assistance from American and British military officials.

Non-Yemeni ‘Yemeni Airstrikes’

Reuters: Yemen air strike kills 12, including six children: rescuers

Neither the headline nor the accompanying story mention who conducted
the airstrike—though the photo caption refers to the “Saudi-led airstrike.”

Two days later, reports were just as obfuscatory, and even used the term “Yemeni airstrike,” to refer to an airstrike that was carried out by non-Yemenis.

“Yemen Airstrike Kills 12, Including Six Children: Rescuers,” Reuters reported on August 25. This brief two-paragraph wire did not once mention the US/Saudi coalition was responsible.

“After Yemeni Airstrike, Little Girl Is Family’s Only Survivor,” the international news agency wrote the next day (8/26/17). This Reuters piece noted that the “Saudi-led coalition” was “blamed,” though even that language seems designed to deflect; blamers can be wrong, after all.

Major newspapers were similarly misleading. “Young Yemeni Girl Is Sole Survivor After Airstrike Topples Her Home,” the New York Times (8/26/17) reported. The lead provided no further information: “An airstrike toppled their apartment building.” In fact, it was not until the seventh paragraph, after three large photos, that the Times finally conceded, “A Saudi Arabia–led coalition took responsibility for the airstrike a day after the attack, citing a ‘technical mistake.’” The Times did not once mention American or British support for the coalition.

Al Jazeera (8/25/17) likewise used the headline “Children Among Dead in Latest Attack on Yemen Civilians.” And TRT World (8/26/17) reported, “Yemen Airstrike Kills 12, Including Six Children.”

Even when Saudi Arabia admitted responsibility for killing Yemeni civilians, media watered down the language. “Saudi-Led Force Admits Strike in Yemen’s Capital Hit Civilians,” Reuters (8/26/17) headlined its news wire. Note the airstrike hit civilians, not killed them.

The attack was also reduced to a mere “mistake.” Larger context was not provided: namely that more than one-third of US/Saudi coalition airstrikes have hit civilian areas, and that there is a growing body of evidence that the coalition has intentionally targeted civilian infrastructure in Yemen.

Not all media were equally misleading; some were more forthright. AP‘s news wire (8/23/17), which was republished by the Chicago Tribune, New York Daily News, Houston Chronicle and San Francisco Chronicle, used a headline that told readers who was responsible for the deadly attack: “Saudi-Led Airstrikes Hit Yemen Hotel, Killing at Least 41.”

The Washington Post was similarly direct, with its reports “Saudi-Led Coalition Airstrike Kills Dozens in Yemen Ahead of Major Rally” (8/23/17) and “Saudi-Led Airstrikes Kill 14 Civilians in Yemen’s Capital” (8/25/17).

The Art of Obfuscation

To justify this ambiguity in reporting, media might claim it is sometimes not immediately clear who launched the airstrikes. But, again, there are no other parties flying warplanes in Yemen.

Yemeni Houthi-Saleh forces, who govern the north of the country and roughly 80 percent of the population, have not been bombing their country. Moreover, the US/Saudi coalition has imposed an air blockade on the impoverished country since March 2015 (another significant fact that is rarely reported by corporate media).

In Syria, where numerous rival countries have been launching airstrikes, it is understandable that media may sometimes have to exercise caution before apportioning blame. But this is not the case with Yemen.

In the 29-month war in Yemen, there is one party that has been responsible for thousands of air raids: the Saudi air force, as part of a coalition with the US, the UK and the UAE.

Yet Yemen is not an isolated case of this ambiguity. Media frequently obfuscate and downplay the culpability for bombing when the US and its allies are responsible.

New York Times headline corrected

NYT headline (10/3/15) improved by Twitter user @OneKade

When the US bombed a hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, in October 2015, killing dozens of civilians, media scrambled to craft almost laughable euphemisms. FAIR (10/5/15) documented at the time  how news outlets used circuitous headlines like “US Is Blamed After Bombs Hit Afghan Hospital.” Also seen in the August 23 NPR report cited above, this brand of misleading, ambiguous rhetoric is the “officer-involved shooting” of war reporting.

On the other hand, the responsibility of US enemies for killing civilians is rarely if ever obscured.

It is instructive to compare Western media coverage of Yemen to that of Syria, where attacks are “Assad bombing” (Fox News, 2/15/17), “Assad airstrikes” (Breitbart, 4/28/16), “Assad regime airstrikes” (Times of Israel, 10/16/12;  Australian, 8/18/15), “regime airstrikes” (NBC, 8/19/16) or “regime bombing” (Daily Caller, 8/17/15).

Media have even written of a “pro-Assad drone” that was “displaying hostile intent,” and thus just had to be shot down by the US (Guardian, 6/20/17; Independent, 6/20/17; The Hill, 6/20/17), as if the robot were personally a fan of the Syrian leader.

The phrases “Salman bombing,” “Salman airstrikes” or “Saudi regime airstrikes” are, however, nowhere to be found in reports on Yemen.

Downplaying the Key US Role

Media calling US/Saudi coalition attacks “Yemeni airstrikes” is at best misleading, and at worst flat-out false. Yet this language also has a political effect: It obscures the character of the war. This framing is part of the “civil war” trope media have propagated for two-and-a-half years.

When Yemen is discussed, it is virtually always through the lens of a “civil war.” As FAIR (7/25/17) has detailed before, this exceedingly widespread myth, which has permeated media discourse, denies the extent to which the conflict is actually a foreign war on Yemen, led by Saudi Arabia, the UAE and their US and European sponsors.

Even the term “Saudi-led” coalition is misleading. The New York Times editorial board (8/17/16) acknowledged, in a little-noted editorial on Yemen, “Experts say the coalition would be grounded if Washington withheld its support.”

That is to say, if the US wanted the war in Yemen to end, it would end overnight. The “Saudi-led” coalition is only led by Saudi Arabia in name.

Surprisingly, in the midst of intensified coalition attacks, the New York Times published another rare editorial on Yemen on August 25. In the piece, dramatically titled “The Slaughter of Children in Yemen,” the editorial board forcefully warned of exactly what critics have been saying for 29 months:

The Saudi coalition—and its American enablers, who provide military equipment, aerial refueling and targeting—simply cannot be allowed to continue killing civilians and destroying what little is left of Yemen. That is why it is imperative to publicly identify the unconscionable slaughter of innocents for what it is, and to hope that this will shame Saudi Arabia and its American backers to search for a humane end to Yemen’s hell.

Reporters at the Times and elsewhere should heed this call to demonstrate journalistic responsibility by clearly conveying their governments’ responsibility for the slaughter in Yemen—not just in editorials, but in news articles, every time.

September 1, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, War Crimes | , , , | 1 Comment

‘400,000 deaths in Syria civil war directly attributed to US & allies’

By Dan Glazebrook | RT | September 1, 2017

African and Asian leaders are denied by the West to have any military means against an insurgency in their countries, while the US and its allies have absolute impunity when they want to take on a population anywhere in the world, says political analyst Dan Glazebrook.

The US-led coalition against Islamic State has confirmed another 61 civilian deaths are likely to have been caused by its air and artillery strikes in Iraq and Syria. That brings the total number of civilians it has acknowledged killing since the conflict began to 685.

Dan Glazebrook: I think it’s also likely to be a gross underestimate because we found out in 2012, for example, that all military-age males killed in US airstrikes are not classified by the US military as civilians, they’re automatically excluded from those statistics. So if I was walking down the street in Iraq, unarmed, and I was directly and intentionally blown to pieces by a US airstrike, that would not be recorded as a civilian death. Now, I don’t know if they still use this criterion currently, but what we certainly do know is that the monitoring group Airwars suggested almost 1,500 people may have been killed in US coalition bombings in Iraq and Syria in March of this year alone, including the terrible strike on a residential block in Mosul that is thought to have killed around 200 people. So these statistics are certainly likely to be a gross underestimate.

There are a couple of other points I’d like to make about this as well. This narrow focus on civilians we must recognize is deeply ideological because it serves to whitewash the true scale of the slaughter taking place in Iraq and Syria right now. Why should a 16-year-old boy, pressed into service by ISIS and then blown to pieces by the US before even firing a shot, why should his life be considered so unworthy, so meaningless, as not to be recorded in any kind of statistic because he’s, “not a civilian”? This use of the term and focus on civilians is actually a means of placing all soldiers, all militants, in the same category of subhuman and implies they deserve to be killed. More than that, not only do they deserve to be killed, but their lives are so meaningless and unworthy, they don’t even deserve to be recognized in any kind of balance sheet as to the costs of this war.

And a third point I’d like to make is that in 2011, Syria was at peace until, in that year, the US, Britain, and France sponsored a violent sectarian insurgency, an insurgency in Syria that eventually morphed into ISIS and spilled over into Iraq. So I would actually go further than this and I would attribute all 400,000 deaths in the Syrian civil war directly to the US, France, Britain and their allies.

RT:What would you make of comments made by US Defense Secretary James Mattis that Americans are the good guys and locals know the difference. Is there a difference between good bombs and bad bombs?

DG: No, of course, there isn’t, and what’s absolutely clear is their recklessness, which was actually bad enough under Obama but has increased under Trump. The recklessness with which the US is pursuing its foreign policy goals – and Britain and its allies in the coalition, I should add – have got complete impunity and complete disregard for the lives of those living in places like Mosul and Raqqa and it really shows the racism which is inherent in what’s going on here. Leaders of African and Asian states are denied by the West to have any kind of military means against an insurgency that happens within their borders. And yet when the US and its allies decide they want to take on a population anywhere in the world, they have absolute impunity to do so. So in 2011 Gaddafi was trying to put down a proto-ISIS rebellion in Benghazi and was labeled by the West as a bloody genocidal dictator and so on and was eventually subjected to torture and lynching by those states. When the US decides it wants to carpet-bomb Mosul or Raqqa thousands of miles from its shores, it can do so with complete recklessness and impunity and disregard for the populations living there.

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

September 1, 2017 Posted by | Deception, War Crimes | , , , | 5 Comments

Nicaragua’s Sandinista Achievements Baffle World Bank, IMF

teleSUR | August 31, 2017

No one can take at face value any report, governmental or quasi non-governmental, coming out of the imperialist bureaucracy in Washington. Ideological bias and institutional self-justification prevent these reports from giving a true account of virtually anything.

The latest World Bank report on Nicaragua is no exception.

The implicit but unstated truth in this report is that President Daniel Ortega and the Sandinista National Liberation Front have achieved an unprecedented economic turnaround in just seven years, starting in 2010.

Reading the report, it is impossible to ignore the tension between latent ideological and political imperatives and the obligation to report the facts. Put another way, mild conflict clearly prevails between the World Bank’s Washington head office and its reality based local officials. From Washington, the tendency is both to minimize Ortega’s achievement and also to cover up the World Bank’s own lamentable history in Nicaragua. On the other hand, in Nicaragua, local World Bank staff dutifully report the facts as they see them.

A total of 71 people contributed to the report. Supposing those 71 people each worked for a month to prepare the research and say their average salary was about US$80,000, then pro rata a month’s work by that team cost over US$500,000, a very conservative guess. Even so, in summary, that money bought policy recommendations for Nicaragua’s development amounting to little more than better infrastructure; better basic services; more private business investment; more efficient government; better targeted social policies. That’s it, for US$500,000 or more.

In general, the report recognizes Nicaragua’s achievements in reducing poverty and inequality, raising productivity, diversifying economic activity and promoting security and stability. The report’s 130 or so pages include, among the economic and sociological analysis, many self-confessed guesses to fill in “knowledge gaps” and much gerrymandered history to cover up what Harold Pinter in his 2005 Nobel prize winning address justly called “the tragedy of Nicaragua.”

Pinter himself might have remarked the report is almost witty in its audacious, glib omissions. It acknowledges the catastrophic destructive effects of the 1980s war in Nicaragua, but carefully omits the U.S. government’s deliberate role in that destruction, now repeated against Syria and Venezuela.

The report talks about a “democratic transition” starting in 1990. In fact, the Sandinistas organized the first free and fair democratic elections ever in Nicaragua in 1984, but the U.S. government ordered the main Nicaraguan opposition to boycott them. Despite the war, Ortega and the Sandinistas won with 67 percent of the vote, very similar to the most recent presidential elections in 2016.

The heavy ideological bias also explains the World Bank’s curious dating of when Nicaragua’s economic turnaround began, placing it firmly in the neoliberal era prior to 2007. But at just that time, the World Bank was cutting back the public sector as much as they could, pushing, for example, to privatize Nicaragua’s public water utility and its education system.

Back then, Nicaragua’s neglected electrical system collapsed through 2005 and 2006, incapable of generating even 400 megawatts a day, plunging swathes of Nicaragua back into 19th-century darkness for 10 to 12 hours at a time, day after day. That was the World Bank and IMF’s gift to Nicaragua after 17 years of so-called “democratic transition.” That period included Hurricane Mitch, devastating Nicaragua to the tune of 20 percent of its GDP, only for the corrupt neoliberal government at the time to misuse hundreds of millions of dollars in disaster relief. The only structurally significant economic achievement of the neoliberal era in Nicaragua was substantial foreign debt relief.

When Ortega took office in January 2007, he faced four years of domestic crisis with an opposition controlled legislature persistently sabotaging his government’s programs. From 2007 to 2008, Nicaragua and the whole region struggled in vain to contain a balance of payment deficits against oil prices reaching US$147 a barrel in 2008.

That disaster was compounded by the collapse of the Western financial system in late 2008 to 2009, a year when Nicaragua’s economy suffered a 3 percent contraction. Only in 2010, did the Nicaraguan government finally enjoy domestic and international conditions stable enough to be able to consolidate and improve its social programs, improve infrastructure investment, democratize and diversify the economy, extend basic services, and attract foreign investment, among other things.

If that sounds suddenly familiar, it should. It is exactly the development recipe offered up by this latest World Bank report, essentially an embellished review of policies the Nicaraguan government has already been implementing for a decade. Put positively, the government’s National Human Development Plan and other relevant documents suggest that the World Bank’s engagement with the Nicaraguan government has been one of mutual learning. So much so, that the current country program is likely to continue and may even expand.

The political opposition in Nicaragua has seized on parts of the report to try and discredit the Sandinista government’s outstanding achievements. In fact, for 17 years under neoliberal governments implementing World Bank and IMF policies, areas criticized like, for example, access to drinking water and adequate sanitation, or education, suffered chronic lack of investment, compounded by egregious waste and corruption. Now, the World Bank hypocritically criticizes Nicaragua’s government for intractable policy difficulties the IMF and the World Bank themselves originally provoked.

Similarly, when the World Bank report criticizes the targeting of social programs, they omit the unquestionable success of the government’s Zero Usury micro credit program and the Zero Hunger rural family support program, both prioritizing women. These programs have lifted tens of thousands of families out of poverty and, along with unprecedented support for Nicaragua’s cooperative sector, radically democratized Nicaragua’s economy, especially for previously excluded rural families and women. That supremely important national process is entirely absent from the World Bank report.

In its discussions of almost all these issues, the report makes more or less detailed contributions, mostly already identified by the government itself. In every case, the underlying cause of problems or lack of progress, for example, on land titling or social security, has been the legacy of neoliberal governments between 1990 and 2007, that reinstated elite privilege, rolled back the revolutionary gains of the 1980s and failed to guarantee necessary investment.

The World Bank and the IMF were enthusiastic ideological partners in that endeavor. They would have continued their ideological offensive had not Ortega and his government dug in their heels in 2007 and 2008, backed by investment support for social and productive programs from Venezuela as part of the Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas.

Since then, the World Bank, as this report suggests, seems, at least for the moment, to have learned two key lessons from the Sandinistas. In a world dominated by corporate elite globalization, their report implicitly recognizes the importance, firstly, of a mixed economy under a strong central government and, secondly, the crucial role of broad dialogue and consensus, across all sectors of society, to promote and sustain national stability. Essentially, the World Bank has acknowledged the undeniable success of the Sandinista Revolution’s socialist inspired, solidarity based policies, decisively prioritizing the needs of people over corporate profit and demonstrating the systemic inability of capitalism to meet those needs.

September 1, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Economics | , , , | 1 Comment

Seymour Hersh Honored for Integrity

By Ray McGovern | Consortium News | September 1, 2017

Journalist Seymour Hersh is to be honored with this year’s Sam Adams Award for Integrity to be presented to him at the Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence (SAAII) award ceremony on the evening of Sept. 22 at American University.

Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh

Sam Adams Associates, who selected Hersh last month from a truly impressive roster of truth-tellers, are enthusiastic at the prospect of Sy joining the ranks of the 15 earlier awardees – from Coleen Rowley (2002) to John Kiriakou (2016). Included among those in between are other patriots: like Katharine Gun, U.K. Ambassador Craig Murray, Col. Larry Wilkerson, Julian Assange, Assistant Secretary of State Thomas Fingar, Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, and Bill Binney. [To learn more about previous honorees, as well as other material on whistleblowing, go to]

SAAII confers its annual award on a member of the intelligence profession or related field who exemplifies the courage, persistence and devotion to truth of Sam Adams, a CIA analyst on Vietnam who exposed the lies of the generals in Saigon and was then silenced. Later – but too late – Sam realized he should have gone public. (Yes, during the 1960s and 1970s, more of the U.S. media was able to put the national interest first and was open to whistleblowers.)

Sam, who was a fourth cousin seven times removed of President John Adams, died prematurely at age 55, nagged by the thought that had he not let himself be diddled by the system, thousands of lives might have been saved in Indochina. His story is told in War of Numbers, published posthumously. Several of Sam’s former colleagues are included in SAAII, as well as others who hold up the experience he underwent as a lesson for those who now know that, if they wish to succeed in getting the truth out, “going thru channels” normally is not only quixotic but also dangerous.

In 1967, Sam discovered that there were more than a half-million Vietnamese Communists under arms in South Vietnam – roughly twice the number that the U.S. command in Saigon would admit to, lest the outside world learn that American generals’ claims of “progress” were bogus. Commanding general William Westmoreland had put an artificial limit on the number that Army intelligence was allowed to carry on its books.

On Aug. 22, 1967, Westmoreland’s deputy, Gen. Creighton Abrams, specifically warned the Johnson administration back in Washington that the press would have a field day if Adam’s numbers were released, and that this would weaken the war effort. In a SECRET/EYES ONLY cable from Saigon, Abrams wrote: “We have been projecting an image of success over recent months,” and cautioned that if the higher figures became public, “all available caveats and explanations will not prevent the press from drawing an erroneous and gloomy conclusion.”

The Communist countrywide offensive during Tet (January/February 1968) made it painfully clear that the generals had been lying and that Sam Adams’s higher figures were correct. A few weeks after Tet, Daniel Ellsberg rose to the occasion and leaked the truth. Dan had learned that Westmoreland was asking for 206,000 more troops to widen the war into Cambodia, Laos and North Vietnam — right up to the border with China, and perhaps beyond.

After the 206,000 request was leaked by someone else to the New York Times, Ellsberg leaked Sam Adams’ information on actual enemy strength. Dan had come to the view that leaking truth about a deceitful war would be “a patriotic and constructive act.” It was his first unauthorized disclosure, and it was effective. On March 19, 1968, the Times published a stinging story based on Adams’s figures.

On March 25, President Johnson complained to a small gathering, “The leaks to the New York Times hurt us. … We have no support for the war. This is caused by the 206,000 troop request [by Westmoreland] and the leaks. … I would have given Westy the 206,000 men.” On March 31, 1968, Johnson introduced a bombing pause, opted for negotiations, and announced that he would not run for another term in November.

Enter Sy Hersh

Sy Hersh, who was already famous for bringing the My Lai massacre story to global attention in 1969, found Sam Adams and pursued this other story of Vietnam deception. Thus, there is poetic justice in Sy Hersh receiving this award named for Adams, since it was he who first reported (in the New York Times on Feb. 26, 1973) on Sam’s David vs. Goliath struggle against a military/political/intelligence establishment eager to cover up the politically driven undercounting of Communist fighters in South Vietnam.

In an article on Feb. 26, 1973, Hersh duly quoted Army officials who were still disparaging Sam’s courageous pursuit of the truth. But the quote that Sy chose to conclude the article reflects his well honed smell for the truth. He wrote, “’The trouble with Sam is that he has always been right,’ one former colleague remarked. ‘He always told the truth and never cared whose toes he stepped on.’”

Sy Hersh has no doubt worn out several pairs of shoes stepping on the toes of a well-heeled Establishment. The current response from the mainstream media to Hersh’s latest exposés that challenge the lies and propaganda of Official Washington is to say: “We’ll show you, Hersh. Just you try to get published anywhere in the English-speaking world.”

Sy tried in vain to find an American or British outlet that would publish his most recent report on President Donald Trump’s lie that a Syrian aircraft carried out a “chemical weapons attack” in Syria’s Idlib Province on April 4. This disclosure of a deception by the new President would have been a big deal, at least by the journalistic standards of the past, since Trump openly attacked Syria with 59 cruise missiles on April 6 in ostensible “retaliation.”

Sy ended up having to go to the mainstream German newspaper Die Welt to get the results of his investigation published. [See here and here.]

As for the New York Times – the so-called “paper of record” – and its proud tradition of publishing “all the news that’s fit to print,” its hallowed pages have made no mention of Pulitzer Prize-winning Sy Hersh’s article on the chemical incident in Syria on April 4. The slogan should be changed to “all the news that fits neatly into the government narrative we print.” Many Sam Adams Associates have also been active with Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity and have faced similar ostracism from the mainstream media for almost 15 years.

Until He Was Silenced

Besides revealing the My Lai massacre in 1969, Hersh exposed illegal CIA domestic operations against the antiwar movement in 1974. More recently, in 2004, he reported on the torture and other abuses at Abu Ghraib in Iraq, and he exposed the Obama administration’s lies used to justify a bloody proxy war in Syria. None of this, however has left him cynical or dulled his conscience.

Sy told Die Welt that he still gets upset with government lying and at the reluctance of the media to hold governments accountable. Summing up lessons from Trump’s reaction to the April 4 chemical event in Syria, Sy said this: “We have a President in America today who lies repeatedly … but he must learn that he cannot lie about intelligence relied upon before authorizing an act of war. There are some in the Trump administration who understand this, which is why I learned the information I did.”

The common challenge we all face is getting such information into media outlets that Americans regularly access. Encouragement comes from Sy Hersh’s example of grit, integrity and stick-to-itiveness, which have already had a powerful influence on Sam Adams Associates. In sum, this year’s awardee is a wonderfully good fit.

Ray McGovern works for Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. A former CIA analyst and colleague of Sam Adams, Ray co-founded Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence and Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

September 1, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | , | 3 Comments

Putin on N. Korea crisis: Tensions ‘balancing on brink of large-scale conflict’

RT | September 1, 2017

Attempts to pressure North Korea into stopping its nuclear missile program through sanctions are “misguided and futile,” Russian President Vladimir Putin warned, adding that threats and provocations would only add more fuel to the fire.

“The situation on the Korean Peninsula, where tensions have grown recently, is balancing on the brink of a large-scale conflict. Russia believes that the policy of putting pressure on Pyongyang to stop its nuclear missile program is misguided and futile,” Putin, who is due to attend a summit of the BRICS nations in China next week, wrote ahead of his trip.

“The region’s problems should only be settled through a direct dialogue of all the parties concerned without any preconditions. Provocations, pressure and militarist and insulting rhetoric are a dead-end road,” he noted.

Russia and China have created a roadmap for a settlement on the Korean Peninsula that is designed to promote the gradual easing of tensions and the creation of a mechanism for lasting peace and security, the Russian leader added.

The Russian-Chinese initiative of “double freezing,” put forward by the Russian and Chinese foreign ministers on July 4, is designed to cease any missile launches and nuclear tests by Pyongyang, as well as large-scale military exercises by Washington and Seoul.

Last month, the UN Security Council unanimously agreed to impose more restrictive measures on Pyongyang, banning exports of coal, iron, lead, and seafood. The move came in response to North Korea’s missile launches in July, which it, as well as South Korea and the US, claimed were intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) tests. Moscow has questioned the claim, arguing North Korea was testing intermediate range rockets.

China announced a full ban on imports of coal, iron, and seafood, among other goods from North Korea as of August 15, thus cutting key export revenues for Pyongyang.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Friday that all conceivable and unimaginable sanctions against North Korea have already been imposed, to no avail.

“All possible sanctions aimed at preventing North Korea from using a map of external relations for the development of missile and nuclear programs banned by the [UN] Security Council, all conceivable and even unimaginable sanctions, which have little to do directly with these areas of DPRK’s [the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] activities, have already been adopted by the Security Council. In addition, unilateral sanctions have been adopted, which we consider illegitimate,” Lavrov said.

In a bid to ease tensions, Moscow will seek the resumption of six-party talks on the situation on the Korean Peninsula, the Russian Foreign Minister noted.

“We will still seek to resume these talks,” he said, adding that “we know that Americans are talking with representatives of Pyongyang via some semi-secret, semi-official, semi-academic channel.”

Moscow will be happy “if they agree on some de-escalation, so that all parties cool down, sit down at the negotiating table and start talking.”

“We have a common goal – denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, so that neither the North nor the South, the US and us [Russia] have nuclear weapons,” Lavrov said.

September 1, 2017 Posted by | Militarism | , , , | 1 Comment