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Russian Sappers Departing for Laos to Clear Country of US Bombs – Reports

Sputnik – 10.10.2018

MOSCOW – The bomb squad of the Russian Armed Forces’ International Mine Action Center will depart for Laos to help the country clear out remaining unexploded US bombs from the Vietnam War later on Wednesday, local media reported.

The squad consists of 36 people, according to the Krasnaya Zvezda newspaper. The mission will last until March 2019, and will focus on clearing myriads of hard-to-find US bombs that pose a threat to local residents from the Laotian jungle, as chief of the engineer troops of the Russian Armed Forces Lt. Gen. Yury Stavitsky said last week.

The United States dropped some 260 million bombs on Laos between 1964 and 1973, according to experts. The Vietnam war, which began in 1964 and ended in 1975, killed about 3 million Vietnamese and over 58,000 US nationals, as well as many people in adjacent countries, including Cambodia and Laos.

US Army investigators secretly confirmed over 300 war crimes committed by the US military, including murder, torture, rape, corpse mutilation and indiscriminate fire in civilian areas, according to the Crimes of War Education Project.

October 9, 2018 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , | 2 Comments

Benjamin Netanyahu Is No Friend to America

By Scott Ritter | TruthDig | October 4, 2018

Benjamin Netanyahu is no stranger to the American spotlight. A career Israeli politician who attended school in the United States, he specializes in the kind of rhetoric that his American counterparts revel in—a kind of narcissism that’s more used car salesman than educator.

Netanyahu specializes in selling danger to the American people. This is an art he has practiced on numerous occasions, whether it be at the gatherings of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), his many appearances before the U.S. Congress, at televised events or during the general debate in the United Nations General Assembly, an annual gathering of global leaders and diplomats where each nation’s representative is provided the opportunity to address counterparts and the world on issues he or she deems to be of particular import.

Bibi (as he is known, affectionately or otherwise) delivered his latest address to the General Assembly on Sept. 27. Like others he had delivered previously, this one was a tour de force of angst, fear and anger with a nearly singular focus on the issue that has seized Netanyahu for more than two decades—Iran and its alleged nuclear weapons program.

In his 1995 campaign autobiography, “Fighting Terrorism,” Netanyahu, preparing to run for the office of prime minister of Israel, asserted that Iran was “three to five years” away from having a nuclear bomb. Bibi repeated this claim several times over the next 20-plus years, apparently unconcerned by the fact that his self-appointed timetable kept coming and going without the Iranian nuclear threat manifesting itself.

In September 2002, when he briefly found himself a private citizen, Netanyahu shifted his aim to Iraq, which he confidently asserted had a nuclear weapons program as he touted the benefits of removing Saddam Hussein from power—this during so-called “expert” testimony before the U.S. Congress. He was wrong on both counts, a fact that seems to slip the minds of those who continue to assign him a semblance of credibility given his proximity to Israel’s vaunted intelligence service.

As someone who spent four years (from 1994 to 1998) working closely with Israel’s intelligence service to uncover the truth about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction programs, I can attest that Israeli intelligence is better than most at what it does, but far from perfect. For every good lead the Israelis delivered to the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM), for which I was working at the time, they provided a dozen or more that did not pan out. Their detailed analysis about the alleged organization and structure of Iraq’s covert nuclear program proved to be far removed from the truth. They got names wrong, affiliations wrong, locations wrong—in short, the Israelis made the exact same mistakes as any other intelligence service.

Iraq was a denied area, made less so by the presence of UNSCOM weapons inspectors like me who had unprecedented access to the most sensitive national security sites in the country. And still the Israelis got it wrong. They did so not because of “bad intelligence,” but because they, like the CIA and other intelligence agencies around the world, were privy to the vast amount of information and data collected by UNSCOM inspectors about the true state of Iraq’s proscribed weapons and related programs. They suffered from the same lack of imagination as did the others that postulated a nuclear-armed Iraq circa 2002, unwilling to consider the possibility that Saddam Hussein might be telling the truth about not having retained any weapons and related capabilities prohibited by the Security Council resolution. This same lack of imagination appears to fuel Netanyahu’s increasingly wild claims about Iran.

It is no secret that Netanyahu has opposed the Iran nuclear deal—officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Program of Action, or JCPOA—since the possibility of a negotiated solution to the stand-off between Iran and the rest of the world was put on the table by the Obama administration in 2012. He lobbied hard against the agreement, interjecting himself in American domestic politics in an unprecedented fashion to undermine the negotiations.

When Donald Trump won the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Netanyahu found a kindred spirit whose intellectual curiosity would not permit any effective challenge to the narrative constructed by the Israeli prime minister. And when Trump faced resistance from his secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, and his national security adviser, H.R. McMaster, he simply replaced them with more compliant persons, Mike Pompeo and John Bolton respectively.

Trump’s decision to withdraw from the JCPOA was facilitated not by any supporting brief from the U.S. intelligence community, which held fast to the assessment that Iran was fully compliant with its obligations under the JCPOA, but rather by intel provided by Israel that featured wild claims of an operation in the heart of Tehran; hundreds of thousands of documents purported to outline a nuclear program that Iran insisted did not exist. In April 2018, Bibi unveiled the existence of what he termed Iran’s “Atomic Archive” as he detailed some of its contents, allegedly recovered during an Israeli operation.

While Netanyahu’s dramatic presentation proved to be enough to help push Trump into withdrawing from the JCPOA the following month, it failed to convince the rest of the world that Iran was operating in bad faith when it came to declaring the totality of its nuclear program. One of the main reasons for this is that the tale put forward by Bibi simply didn’t add up. Documents he presented as being derived from the newly captured archive were recognized by officials from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)—which, along with supporting governments, is responsible for implementing the JCPOA—as matching those presented to the agency more than a decade ago. That cache of documents was allegedly recovered from a laptop computer sourced to an Iranian opposition group by Israeli intelligence.

At best, there is nothing new in these materials, and all the underlying issues alleged to have been “exposed” had already been discussed and rectified by the IAEA and Iran prior to the rectification of the JCPOA. At worst, Netanyahu was lying about the Israeli intelligence operation, and simply recycling old material—which may have been manufactured by Israel to begin with back in 2004—simply to provide political cover for Donald Trump.

Netanyahu spent much of his Sept. 27 address before the General Assembly detailing an alleged “Atomic Warehouse,” supposedly uncovered by Israeli intelligence in the heart of Tehran. As was the case with the “Atomic Archive” facility, Netanyahu made grand claims about Iranian malfeasance: The site contained “15 ship containers full of nuclear-related equipment and material,” along with “15 kilograms of radioactive material” that Iran allegedly evacuated from the site to evade detection. (Netanyahu seems to have overlooked the fact that the U.S. Department of Energy, prior to the JCPOA and in anticipation of such a scenario, “evacuated” nuclear material from one of its facilities during an exercise, only to have evidence of its existence uncovered by inspectors wielding the same detection capabilities as the IAEA.)

Netanyahu alleged that Iran was maintaining both an “Atomic Archive” and an “Atomic Warehouse” so that it could reconstitute its nuclear weapons program when the “time is right,” ostensibly when the sunset clauses of the JCPOA, which limit the number of centrifuges Iran can operate, expire. As with the “Atomic Archive” story, however, outside of Trump and his inner circle of anti-Iranian acolytes, informed American officials aren’t buying the Israeli leader’s tale, noting that Netanyahu has exaggerated the scope and scale of the warehouse in question. (These officials claim that the “material” being stored there is documentary in nature, a far cry from the “equipment” claimed by Netanyahu.)

Netanyahu bemoaned the fact that the world was promised “anywhere, anytime” inspections in Iran, and yet the IAEA has failed to take any steps to investigate the revelations provided by Israel. The reality is that the JCPOA promised no such thing. “Anywhere, anytime” was an artificial construct cobbled together by opponents of the deal by denigrating the investigatory capabilities of the IAEA. Moreover, the IAEA is intimately familiar with the quality of the intelligence information provided by Israel in the past, having spent months with Iran carefully deconstructing the claims contained within. The agency is hesitant to fall victim to Israeli exaggerations and falsifications again, and rightfully so.

More importantly, the JCPOA has a detailed mechanism in place to investigate claims such as those put forth by Israel. But by precipitously withdrawing from the JCPOA, the Trump administration has removed itself from that process. This means that Israel would need to turn to the Europeans, Russians or Chinese to plead its case. And the fact that neither France nor Germany nor the United Kingdom has picked up the mantle of Israel’s claims points to the inherent weakness of its intelligence. Netanyahu may be able to play siren to Trump’s Ulysses in order to crash America’s ship onto Iranian shoals, but the rest of the world is not following suit.

The American people should not tolerate this continued intrusion into their affairs by an outsider whose previous lies, prevarications and provocations helped get the United States entangled in one war, all the while advocating for our involvement in another. Bibi Netanyahu has a problem with telling the truth, and we give power to his words and deeds by not calling him out for what he truly is—a habitual liar with the blood of thousands of our fellow citizens on his hands. Netanyahu claims he is a friend of the American people. He is, in fact, the furthest thing from it.

Scott Ritter is the author of “Dealbreaker: Donald Trump and the Unmaking of the Iran Nuclear Deal,” published by Clarity Press, October 2018.

October 9, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , | 1 Comment

India-Russia relations go way beyond defence deals

By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | October 9, 2018

Amidst the welter of commentaries on the Indian-Russian annual summit last week in New Delhi, what stands out is that the government has outstripped our strategic analysts. The latter viewed the Russian summit last week exclusively through the prism of the $6 billion S-400 missile defence deal. Now, that turned out to be like missing the wood for the trees.

The United States’ Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) stipulates secondary sanctions against countries that enter into “significant transactions” with the Russian defence industry. Our S-400 deal became a celebrated test case. So, when in the face of threats held out by the American side relentlessly, when PM Modi went ahead with the S-400 deal, it stunned onlookers.

The ensuing confusion will take time to wither away. It will take time before it sinks in that US bluster aside, there is no way US will sanction India. The CAATSA is a legislation that the US Congress imposed on a reluctant president in the civil war conditions in US politics to stop him from improving relations with Russia (on which there is bipartisan consensus.) True, secondary sanctions have been imposed on China, but US does not intend to export arms to that country anyway!

But that is not the case with India or Turkey. Despite Turkey’s decision to not only fast track its S-400 deal with Russia and to make advance payments to the Russian manufacturer, US still intends to go ahead with its sale of F-35 stealth fighters. Turks nonchalantly told Washington that if the latter wanted to impose sanctions and annul the F-35 business deal, that’s fine with them, and they’d simply source stealth aircraft from some other country (read Russia). But, no, US still wants the F-35 deal to go through, because F-35 is a highly lucrative super business deal for Lockheed Martin, which hopes to sell to Turkey 100-120 aircraft at over $80 million per piece! In effect, Turkey called the American bluff.

Americans have keen business acumen and will not let go a honeypot like the Indian market. In fact, Modi has taken an even tougher decision to go ahead with oil imports from Iran and to sign up contracts for the month of November, although Trump warned that November 4 would be the cutoff date.

Alas, there is a lack of awareness as to what is happening. Our think tankers weaned on American folklore have been programmed to estimate that Russia is a spent force in global politics. They don’t realize that Americans themselves had no doubts already by the start of the millennium that Russia was on the comeback trail. The high oil prices in 2010-2011 proved a game changer for Russia. It was no coincidence that the first American sanctions against Russia was imposed in 2012 – Magnitsky Act – on human rights issues!

The knowledge of Russian politics and the raison d’etre of India-Russia relations is abysmally poor among Indian analysts. Modi’s strategic decision to revive India-Russia relationship as an anchor sheet of foreign policy is yet to sink in. What Americans know and Modi knows but our think tankers do not yet know is that Russia has not only returned to the global stage as a great power but with renewed capabilities in military technology and with an economy that has survived the western sanctions. The high oil prices in the period ahead will only add to Russia’s income significantly.

If the Americans sanction against India’s use of dollars for its transactions with Russia, make no mistake, Indian and Russian ingenuity will find a way to put in place a clearing system that altogether obviates the use of dollar. Arguably, it will be a blessing in disguise if the US forces India and Russia to revive their old Cold War era payment system, because if that happens, the economic content of the relationship will increase exponentially. Will the US want a major global economy like India to jettison the use of dollar and get accustomed to local currency payments?

Again, the US-Russia-China triangle is today splendidly working for Moscow and Beijing to counter the US, while both capitals retain strategic autonomy and neither seeks a military alliance. India can also be a beneficiary here if the available platforms are optimally used – BRICS, RIC and SCO, in particular. Modi made it clear at last week’s summit that India stands with Russia in strengthening multipolarity. It is a clear rejection of the US’ characterization of Russia as a “revisionist power.” Earlier, at the Shangri La Dialogue in Singapore in June, Modi underscored that India does not regard Indo-Pacific to be a strategy. The import of all this should be very clear except if one insists on holding the American brief on Russia and China. Simply put, India has a lot in common with Russia and China in regard of the emerging world order. Modi’s Wuhan initiative and his visit to Sochi soon afterward suggest that he is open to the idea of India’s Eurasian integration.

Things are looking up for India-Russia relations after the long winter of the UPA rule. For the first time in the post-Cold war era, there are signs that trade and investment between India and Russia is gaining traction. Energy sector is poised to generate massive business volume in a conceivable future. The defence cooperation still remains appreciable – at 62% of India’s arms procurement – despite the atrophy during the UPA rule.

It is sound realism that in a multipolar world, India strengthens relationships with Russia with whom it has common interests in regard of the emerging world order. The army chief Gen. Bipin Rawat’s remarks in the weekend asserting that the S-400 deal is a manifestation of India’s independent foreign policy must be viewed in that light. Last week’s summit averted a real risk of India ending up in America’s “Indo-Pacific” stable as a domesticated milch cow.

October 9, 2018 Posted by | Economics | , , , | 1 Comment

That Single Line of Blood: Nassir al-Mosabeh and Mohammed al-Durrah

By Ramzy Baroud | Ma’an | October 9, 2018

As the frail body of 12-year-old Nassir Al-Mosabeh fell to the ground on Friday, September 28, history was repeating itself most tragically.

Little Nassir was not just another number, a ‘martyr’ to be exalted by equally poor refugees in Gaza, or vilified by Israel and its tireless hasbara machine. He was much more than that.

The stream of blood that poured out from his head wound on that terrible afternoon drew a line in time that travelled back 18 years.

Almost 18-years to the day separates Nassir’s recent murder and the Israeli army killing of Mohammed Al-Durrah, also 12, on September 30, 2000. Between these dates, hundreds of Palestinian children have perished in similar ways.

Reports by the rights’ group, B’tselem, are rife with statistics: 954 Palestinian children were killed between the Second Intifada in 2000 and Israel’s war on Gaza, the so-called Operation Cast Lead in 2008. In the latter war alone, 345 children were reportedly killed, in addition to another 367 child fatalities reported in Israel’s latest war, ‘Protective Edge’ of 2014.

But Mohammed and Nassir – and thousands like them – are not mere numbers; they have more in common than merely being the unfortunate victims of trigger-happy Israeli soldiers.

In that single line of blood that links Nassir al-Mosabeh and Mohammed al-Durrah, there is a narrative so compelling, yet often neglected. The two 12-year-old boys looked so much alike – small, handsome, dark-skinned refugees, whose families were driven from villages that were destroyed in 1948 to make room for today’s Israel.

Jamal al-Durrah and his 12-year-old son, Muhammad, were filmed as they were caught in crossfire between Israeli and Palestinian security forces. The footage shows the pair crouching behind a concrete cylinder, the boy crying and the father waving, then a burst of gunfire and dust, after which the boy is seen slumped across his father’s legs [Wikipedia]

Young as they were, both were victims of that reality. Mohammed, died while crouching by the side of his father, Jamal, as he implored the Israelis to stop shooting. 18 years later, Nassir walked with thousands of his peers to the fence separating besieged Gaza from Israel, stared at the face of the snipers and chanted for a free Palestine.

Between the two boys, the entire history of Palestine can be written, not only that of victimization and violence but also of steadfastness and honour, passed from one generation to the next.

“Who will carry on with the dream,” were the words Nassir’s mother repeated, as she held a photograph of her son and wept. In the photo, Nassir is seen carrying his school bag, and a small bottle of rubbing alcohol near the fence separating Gaza and Israel.

“The dream” is a reference to the fact that Nassir wanted to be a doctor, thus his enthusiasm to help his two sisters, Dua’a and Islam, two medical volunteers at the fence.

His job was to carry the alcohol bottle and, sometimes, oxygen masks, as his sisters would rush to help the wounded, many of them Nassir’s age or even younger.

In a recent video message, the young boy – who had just celebrated the achievement of memorizing the entire Holy Quran – demonstrated in impeccable classical Arabic why a smile could be considered an act of charity.

Protesting the Israeli siege and the injustice of life in Gaza was a family affair, and Nassir played his role. His innovation of taping raw onions to his face to counter the tears induced by the Israeli army tear gas garnered him much recognition among the protesters, who have been rallying against the siege since March 30.

So far, nearly 200 unarmed protesters have been killed while demanding an end to the 11-year long blockade and also to call for the ‘Right of Return’ for Palestinian refugees.

Nassir was the 34th child to be killed in cold-blood since the protests commenced, and will unlikely be the last to die.

When Mohammed al-Durrah was killed 18 years ago, the images of his father trying to shield his son’s body from Israeli bullets with his bare hands left millions around the world speechless. The video, which was aired by France 2, left many with a sense of helplessness but, perhaps, the hope that the publicity that Mohammed’s televised murder had received could shame Israel into ending its policy of targeting children.

Alas, that was never the case. After initially taking responsibility for killing Mohammed, a bogus Israeli army investigation concluded that the killing of Mohammed was a hoax, that Palestinians were to blame, that the France 2 journalist who shot the video was part of a conspiracy to ‘delegitimize Israel.’

Many were shocked by the degree of Israeli hubris, and the brazenness of their mouthpieces around the western world who repeated such falsehood without any regard for morality or, even, common sense. But the Israeli discourse itself has been part of an ongoing war on Palestinian children.

Israeli and Zionist propagandists have long claimed that Palestinians teach their children to hate Jews.

The likes of Elliott Abrahms raged against Palestinian textbooks for “teaching children to value terrorism.” “That is not the way to prepare children for peace,” he wrote last year.

In July the Israeli army claimed that Palestinian children deliberately “lure IDF troops,” by staging fake riots, thus forcing them into violent confrontations.

The US-Israeli propaganda has not just targeted Palestinian fighters or factions but has done its utmost to dehumanize, thus justify, the murder of Palestinian children as well.

“Children as young as 8 turned into bombers, shooters, stabbers,” reported one Adam Kredo in the Washington Free Beacon, citing a “new report on child terrorists and their enablers.”

This is not merely bad journalism, but part of a calculated Israeli campaign aimed at preemptively justifying the killing of children such as Nassir and Mohammed, and thousands like them.

It is that same ominous discourse that resulted in the call for genocide made by none other than Israel’s Justice Minister, Ayelet Shaked, where she also called on the slaughter of Palestinian mothers who give birth to “little snakes.”

The killing of Nassir and Mohammed should not then be viewed in the context of military operations gone awry, but in the inhuman official and media discourses that do not differentiate between a resistance fighter carrying a gun or a child taking an onion and an oxygen mask.

Nor should we forget that Nassir al-Mosabeh and Mohammed al-Durrah are chapters in the same book, with an overlapping narrative that makes their story, although 18 years apart, one and the same.

October 9, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular | , , , | 1 Comment

The politicisation of the Palestinian right of return is imperative

Nakba journey - Palestinians fleeing during the Nakba in 1948

By Ramona Wadi | MEMO | October 4, 2018

In its annual report to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People recommended that Israel acknowledges the Palestinian Nakba. The backdrop for such an acknowledgement remains the two-state compromise, which defeats the purpose of the recommendation.

Such recognition, according to the report, is “a necessary requirement for a viable and lasting peace.” The Committee also recommended that “Palestine refugees should be treated as dispossessed nationals of a country – Palestine – rather than stateless refugees.” It refuted the framing of colonisation as “conflict”, stating, “It is not a conflict between two parties over disputed territory. It is one of one State occupying, colonising and annexing the territory of another state.”

The terminology is a far cry from the usual platitudes used by UN institutions. However, there is still the possibility of manipulating Palestinian rights due to the Committee’s adherence to the two-state paradigm. Taking a stance against the Israeli and US efforts to alter, to the point of non-recognition, the Palestinian refugees and their legitimate right of return is not enough if the Committee does not articulate an alternative that is derived completely from Palestinian narratives.

The two-state scenario has been exposed as a scam to facilitate Israel’s colonisation of Palestinian territory and create a perpetually displaced population, to the point that the Palestinian right of return needs to be read and interpreted in relation to the ongoing displacement. In Palestinian memory, the Nakba is not restricted to 1948, because Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Palestine has never stopped. As the international community fails to challenge Israel’s colonialism and demographic obsession, it is consenting to Israel’s displacement of Palestinians from their territory. Far from promoting the importance of recognising the Nakba, the international community is endorsing it by allowing Israel to exist on its own terms, while Palestinians are constantly forced to modify their existence to accommodate a colonial power on their territory.

Nakba denial by Israel is steeped in its fabricated narratives, imposed upon the international community and disseminated in such a way that Palestinian narratives, despite their legitimate roots, are forced to fight for space in order to gain international recognition, let alone endorsement. The international community’s obsession with dissociated commemoration runs contrary to its purported human rights obligations. It is also an insult to Palestinians’ memory that their history is condensed into remembrance on specific days while Israel has been allowed every day of the year since 1948 to advance its colonisation of Palestinian territory, to say nothing of the earlier settler-colonialism that facilitated the establishment of the state.

International recognition of the Palestinian Nakba as an ongoing trauma in Palestine’s collective memory would isolate Israel’s attempts to force it into oblivion. Yet, this step cannot be implemented within the two-state framework as the latter still endorses Israel’s colonial existence as legitimate, while presenting a hypothetical Palestinian state as dependent, even malfunctioning, in terms of self-determination and its exclusion of Palestinian liberation.

The politicisation of the Palestinian right of return is thus imperative. As things stand, the international community continues to feed the illusion that the two-state compromise constitutes the only political solution, while the right of return is misrepresented as compensation in its entirety. This is why Palestinians must determine their own right of return even if it challenges the international community’s impositions.

October 9, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

Omidyar’s Intercept Teams Up with War-Propaganda Firm Bellingcat

By Whitney Webb | MintPress News | October 8, 2018

The Intercept, along with its parent company First Look Media, recently hosted a workshop for pro-war, Google-funded organization Bellingcat in New York. The workshop, which cost $2,500 per person to attend and lasted five days, aimed to instruct participants in how to perform investigations using “open source” tools — with Bellingcat’s past, controversial investigations for use as case studies. The exact details of what occurred during the workshop have not been made public and Bellingcat founder Eliot Higgins declined to elaborate on the workshop when pressed on social media.

The decision on the part of The Intercept is particularly troubling given that the publication has long been associated with the track records of its founding members, such as Jeremy Scahill and Glenn Greenwald, who have long been promoted as important “progressive” and “anti-war” voices in the U.S. media landscape.

Greenwald publicly distanced himself from the decision to host the workshop, stating on Twitter that he was not involved in making that decision and that — if he had been — it was not one “that I would have made.” However, he stopped short of condemning the decision.

Bellingcat’s open support for foreign military intervention and tendency to promote NATO/U.S. war propaganda are unsurprising when one considers how the group is funded and the groups with which it regularly collaborates.

For instance, Bellingcat regularly works with the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), which – according to the late journalist Robert Parry – “engages in ‘investigative journalism’ that usually goes after governments that have fallen into disfavor with the United States and then are singled out for accusations of corruption.” OCCRP is notably funded by USAID and the controversial George Soros-funded Open Society Foundations.

In addition, Bellingcat’s founder Eliot Higgins is employed by the Atlantic Council, which is partially funded by the U.S. State Department, NATO and U.S. weapons manufacturers. It should come as little surprise then that the results of Bellingcat’s “findings” often fit neatly with narratives promoted by NATO and the U.S. government despite their poor track record in terms of accuracy.

Bellingcat’s funding is even more telling than its professional associations. Indeed, despite promoting itself as an “independent” and open-source investigation site, Bellingcat has received a significant portion of its funding from Google, which is also one of the most powerful U.S. military contractors and whose rise to prominence was directly aided by the CIA.

Google has also been actively promoting regime change in countries like Syria, a policy that Bellingcat also promotes. As one example, leaked emails between Jared Cohen, former director of Google Ideas (now Jigsaw), and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton revealed that Google developed software aimed at assisting al-Qaeda and other Syrian opposition groups in boosting their ranks. Furthermore, Cohen was once described by Stratfor intelligence analysts as a “loose cannon” for his deep involvement in Middle Eastern regime-change efforts.

Under President Donald Trump, Google’s connections to the U.S. government have become even more powerful, as the current Trump-appointed Director of National Intelligence once worked as a corporate lobbyist for Google.

Synergy in the service of empire

Given the clear alliances between Bellingcat and the military-industrial complex, The Intercept’s decision to host a Bellingcat workshop in its New York offices may seem surprising. However, The Intercept has long promoted Bellingcat in its written work and its parent company has actually been associated with Bellingcat since 2015.

Indeed, Google-owned YouTube announced in 2015 the formation of the “First Draft coalition,” which nominally sought to bring “together a group of thought leaders and pioneers in social media journalism to create educational resources on how to verify eyewitness media.” That coalition united Bellingcat with the now-defunct Reported.ly – another venture of The Intercept’s parent company, First Look Media.

In the years since, The Intercept has repeatedly promoted Bellingcat in its articles, having called the Atlantic Council-connected, Google-funded group “a reputable U.K.-based organization devoted to analyzing images coming out of conflict zones.” Furthermore, prior to the recent workshop in late September between The Intercept and Bellingcat, both jointly participated in another workshop hosted in London earlier this year in April.

Omidyar’s connections

In addition, the Intercept’s main funder – eBay billionaire Pierre Omidyar – shares innumerable connections to the U.S. government and has helped fund regime-change operations abroad in the past, suggesting a likely reason behind the publication’s willingness to associate itself with Bellingcat.

For instance, Omidyar made more visits to the Obama White House between 2009 and 2013 than Google’s Eric Schmidt, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg or Amazon’s Jeff Bezos. He also donated $30 million to the Clinton global initiative and directly co-invested with the State Department — funding groups, some of them overtly fascist, that worked to overthrow Ukraine’s democratically elected government in 2014.

Even after Obama left office, Omidyar has continued to fund USAID, particularly its overseas program aimed at “advancing U.S. national security interests” abroad. Omidyar’s Ulupono Initiative also cosponsors one of the Pentagon’s most important contractor expos, a direct link between Omidyar initiatives and the U.S. military-industrial complex.

Such promotion of the regime-change wars has been reflected in reporting done at The Intercept, particularly in regards to Syria. Indeed, Intercept writers covering Syria frequently promote Syrian “rebels” and the opposition while also promoting pro-regime-change talking points.

Another former Intercept contributor and now Intercept “fact checker,” Mariam Elba, wrote a poorly researched article that sought to link the Syrian government to U.S. white nationalists, claiming that the Syrian government sought to “homogenize” the country despite its support for religious and ethnic minorities in stark contrast to the Syrian opposition. Notably, Elba recently praised the Intercept/Bellingcat workshop, which she had attended.

If that weren’t enough, last year the paper hired Maryam Saleh, a journalist who has called Shia Muslims “dogs” and has taken to Twitter in the past to downplay the role of the U.S. coalition in airstrikes in Syria. Saleh also has ties to the U.S.-financed propaganda group Kafranbel Media Center, which also has close relations with the terrorist group Ahrar al-Sham.

Furthermore, MintPress noted last year that The Intercept had withheld a key document from the Edward Snowden cache proving the Syrian opposition was taking marching orders from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The Intercept published that document only after the U.S. State Department itself began to report more honestly on the nature of these so-called “rebels,” even though The Intercept had had that document in its possession since 2013.

Even “anti-interventionist” Intercept journalists like Jeremy Scahill and Glenn Greenwald have come under fire this past year for allegedly promoting inaccurate statements that supported pro-regime-change narratives in Syria, particularly in regards to an alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma. That attack is now widely believed to have been staged by the White Helmets.

Thus, while The Intercept has long publicly promoted itself as an anti-interventionist and progressive media outlet, it is becoming clearer that – largely thanks to its ties to Omidyar – it is increasingly an organization that has more in common with Bellingcat, a group that launders NATO and U.S. propaganda and disguises it as “independent” and “investigative journalism.”

Author’s Note | John Helsby contributed research, particularly in regards to social media, to this report.

Editors Note: After objection from Bellingcat founder Eliot Higgins, this story was updated to read: “The exact details of what occurred during the workshop have not been made public”, This was updated from the original: “The details of the workshop have not been made public” as Higgins interpreted this to mean details made prior to the event. MintPress was well aware of the pre-event details that were made public prior to the workshop, such as cost to attend, date and location as a link that the announcement of those details can be found in the second sentence of the article, which remains unchanged.

Whitney Webb is a staff writer for MintPress News and a contributor to Ben Swann’s Truth in Media. Her work has appeared on Global Research, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has also made radio and TV appearances on RT and Sputnik. She currently lives with her family in southern Chile.

October 9, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , | Leave a comment

Moscow Doesn’t Plan to Create Stronghold in Libya – Russian Embassy in UK

Sputnik – October 9, 2018

LONDON – The Russian Embassy in London on Tuesday refuted reports claiming that Moscow was allegedly plotting to get control over European immigration routes in Libya and establish a stronghold against the West.

“This publication has nothing to do with reality. We are treating it as a new attempt to shift the responsibility for the ruined country and destroyed lives of millions of Libyans on Russia which had no relation to the 2011 NATO military intervention which grossly violated the whole range of UN Security Council resolutions,” a representative of the embassy told reporters.

The embassy added that Russia supported peacemaking efforts in Libya and never planned any military intervention.

“We fully respect the UN Security Council Resolution 1970 which imposed an arms embargo on Libya,” the mission representative said.

On Monday, The Sun reported that the UK intelligence had warned UK Prime Minister Theresa May of Moscow’s alleged plans to send weapons and troops to Libya to turn it into “new Syria” and take control of migration routes to Europe thus increasing Moscow’s influence on the West.

Russia calls for the parties to the Libyan conflict to engage in a constructive dialogue on political settlement as the only way to end the crisis, the embassy concluded.

Libya has been in turmoil since the overthrow of its long-time leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. The country is divided between two governments, with the eastern part controlled by the Libyan National Army and the western part governed by the UN-backed Government of National Accord of Prime Minister Fayez Sarraj.

Libya is also the major gate for migrants from all of the North Africa attempting to cross the Mediterranean and settle in Europe.

October 9, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , | Leave a comment

Syrian President Assad grants amnesty to army deserters

RT | October 9, 2018

Syrian President Bashar Assad has granted general amnesty to army deserters both within Syria and those outside the country.

A decree published by state media on Tuesday says the amnesty doesn’t include “criminals” and those on the run unless they turn themselves in to authorities. Deserters in Syria have four months to do so; those abroad have six months.

The amnesty could help boost the return of refugees, some of whom have not been able to go back home because they were blacklisted, AP reported.

Government forces have managed over the past year to capture wide areas once held by insurgents, including in southern Syria and the eastern suburbs of the capital, Damascus. The flashpoint is now Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib.

October 9, 2018 Posted by | Aletho News | | 1 Comment

Aux Barricades Mes Enfants!

Time for the sans-culottes to rise up against Washington’s insanity

By Philip Giraldi • Unz Review • October 9, 2018

On October 21st there will be a Women’s March on the Pentagon hosted by the Global Women’s Peace Action. My wife and many of our friends will be going and even I will tag along in support in spite of my gender. We participate with some reservations as we have only demonstrated publicly twice since 9/11, once opposing the then about to start Iraq War and once against the annual meeting of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). All too often demonstrations morph into progressive exercises in flagellation of what are now referred to as “deplorable” values with little being accomplished either before, during or afterwards, apart from the piles of debris left behind to be cleaned up by the Park Service. And such events are rarely even covered by the media in Washington, where the Post generally adheres closely to a neocon foreign policy tactic, which means that if you ignore something distasteful it will eventually go away.

Hopefully on this occasion it will be different because the time for talking politics is rapidly being rendered irrelevant by the speed of Washington’s disengagement from reality and Americans of all political persuasions must begin to take to the streets to object to what their government is doing in their name. I am mildly optimistic that change is coming as I find it difficult to imagine that in spite of the relentless flood of mainstream media propaganda there is even a plurality of Americans that supports with any actual conviction what the United States is doing in Syria and what it intends to do in Iran. And apart from a desire to make voting in America safer and insofar as possible interference free, I also believe that most think that Russiagate is a load of hooey and would prefer to be friends with Moscow.

Why now? “Now” is a whole new ballgame, as the expression goes, because the utter insanity coming out of Washington could easily wind up killing most of us here in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave. Specifically, in a press conference on Tuesday, Kay Bailey Hutchison, a former Senator from Texas who is currently the United States’ ambassador to NATO, declared that Washington was prepared to launch a preemptive attack on Russian military installations as a response to alleged treaty violations on the part of Moscow. Note particularly what Hutchison actually said: “At that point, we would be looking at the capability to take out a missile that could hit any of our countries. Counter measures would be to take out the missiles that are in development by Russia in violation of the treaty. They are on notice.”

And note further what she was implying, namely that Washington, acting on its own authority, has the right to attack a nuclear armed and powerful foreign country based on what are presumably negotiable definitions of what are acceptable weapons to base on one’s own soil. It would be an attack on a neighbor or competitor with whom one is not at war and which does not necessarily pose any active threat. By that standard, any country with a military capability can be described as threatening and one can attack anyone else based purely on one’s own assessment of what is acceptable or not.

It is quite remarkable how many countries in the world are now “on notice” for punishment when they do things that the United States objects to. United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley has warned that she will be “taking names” of those United Nations members that criticize U.S. policies in the Middle East. As increasing discomfort with U.S. initiatives there and elsewhere is a worldwide phenomenon, with only Israel, the Philippines, Nigeria and Kenya having a favorable view of Washington, Haley’s list is inevitably a long one. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Advisor John Bolton, when they are not fabricating intelligence and inflating threats, have likewise warned specific countries that they are being judged by Washington and will be punished at a level proportionate to their transgressions.

Hutchison is not known as a deep thinker, so one has to suspect that her expressed views were fed to her by someone in Washington. Her specific grievance against Russia relates to Moscow’s reported deployment of new land-based missiles that have a claimed range of more than 5,000 kilometers, which is enough to hit most targets in Europe. If true, the development would be in violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty of 1987 and would definitely pose a potential threat to the Europeans, but the more serious question has to be the rationale behind threatening a nuclear war through preemptive action over an issue that might be subject to renewed multilateral negotiation.

Hutchison and the State Department inevitably went into double-speak mode when concerns were expressed about possible preemption against Russia. She clarified her earlier comments with an almost incomprehensible “My point: Russia needs to return to INF Treaty compliance or we will need to match its capabilities to protect U.S. & NATO interests. The current situation, with Russia in blatant violation, is untenable.”

Spokesman Heather Nauert at State then chimed in “What Ambassador Hutchison was talking about was improving overall defense and deterrence posture. The United States is committed to upholding its arms control obligations and expects Russia to do the very same thing.” Both disclaimers were needed, even if lacking in clarity, but they did not dispel the ugly taste of the initial comment regarding starting a war of preemption. Russia took note of the back and forth, with a Foreign Ministry spokesman drily observing “It seems that people who make such statements do not realize the level of their responsibility and the danger of aggressive rhetoric.” Hutchison and Nauert also do not seem aware of the fact that Russia’s frequently stated defense doctrine is to use nuclear weapons if and when it is attacked by a superior force, which might well be Moscow’s assessment of the threat posed by U.S. led NATO.

The disconnect between the White House’s often expressed desire to improve relations with Russia and the bureaucracy’s tendency to send the opposite message is typical of what has been referred to as Trump’s “dual-track presidency”. Gareth Porter has recently observed how President Trump, for all his faults in so many ways, is indeed desirous of military disengagement in some areas but he is repeatedly being overruled or outmaneuvered by the permanent bureaucracies in government, most notably the Pentagon and intelligence services. Hutchison, Haley, Pompeo and Bolton speak and act for that constituency even when they appear to be agreeing with the president.

So given the danger of war based on what Washington itself says about the state of the world and America’s presumed role in it, it is time to take the gloves off and march. That a high-level official can even stand up and speak about preventive war with a major nuclear power is disgraceful. She should be fired immediately. That she has not been fired means that someone somewhere high up in the bureaucracy agrees with what she said. Nuclear war is not an option. It is an end of all options.

Philip M. Giraldi, Ph.D., is Executive Director of the Council for the National Interest, a 501(c)3 tax deductible educational foundation that seeks a more interests-based U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Website: www.councilforthenationalinterest.org

October 9, 2018 Posted by | Militarism, Solidarity and Activism | , | 1 Comment

Ukraine evacuating 10,000 after ammo depot blasts

Press TV – October 9, 2018

Multiple blasts and an ensuing fire at an ammunition depot in northern Ukraine has prompted the compulsory evacuation of nearly 10,000 people in the area.

The fiery incident occurred early Tuesday morning at a Ukrainian Defense Ministry depot near the city of Chernigov, about 180 kilometers east of the Ukrainian capital of Kiev, officials said.

The area was placed on lockdown for air and land travel immediately following the explosions, they added.

No casualties have so far been reported as a result of the incident, and it was not instantly clear whether the blasts were the outcome of an accident or sabotage.

According to a statement by Ukraine’s emergency services, the airspace within a 20-kilometer radius of the military site has been closed and road and rail transport in the immediate vicinity has also been suspended.

“About 10,000 people were evacuated,” said the statement. “From 04:22 am (0122 GMT) the airspace within a radius of 20 km has been closed. The movement of rail and road transport is suspended.”

The statement further said that hundreds of emergency workers had been deployed to the munitions depot and that the chief of Ukraine’s armed forces had also traveled to the location.

Huge explosions also occurred last year at a military depot in Ukraine’s Vynnytsya region, 270 kilometers west of Kiev, prompting local authorities to evacuate 24,000 people.

The incident occurred a day after Ukrainian military started a series of large-scale aerial war games with the United States and other NATO member countries.

The “Clear Sky 2018” war games, which will run until October 19, are being held in western Ukraine.

Ukraine is involved in a military crackdown on ethnic Russians in the east of the country.

October 9, 2018 Posted by | Militarism | | Leave a comment