Aletho News


Israel arrested 5,700 Palestinians, 980 children in 2018

MEMO | December 29, 2018

Israel arrested 5,700 Palestinians in 2018, including 980 children and 175 women, the Palestine Prisoners’ Centre for Studies announced yesterday.

Director of the centre Riyadh Al-Ashqar said that the Israeli occupation continued its violations against Palestinian prisoners in clear violation of international law, Quds Net News reported. As evidence of this violation, Al-Ashqar cited Israel’s daily detention campaigns, severe torture – including beating prisoners with batons and rifle butts – as well as raiding prisoners’ cells, confiscating their belongings, isolating them under harsh conditions and issuing vengeful sentences against them.

Al-Ashqar noted that Israeli occupation forces this year detained several children under the age of ten, including 3-year-old Durgham Maswada who in March was detained in the Old City of Hebron, in the south of the occupied West Bank.

He also noted that the 175 women detained, including the elderly, wounded, journalists, academics and university professors, as well as 14 female minors. In addition, Al-Ashqar said that 1,300 of the imprisoned men were ex-detainees, while 150 were disabled – including 53-year-old Ali Hannoun who is blind.

In addition, Israel’s military courts issued 920 administrative detention orders against women, children and politicians, Al-Ashqar said. One of the most prominent detainees was 92-year-old Ali Al-Haj who was arrested from his home earlier this year.

December 29, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , | 1 Comment

Israel demolished 538 homes, facilities in West Bank in 2018

Palestinian boys watch Israeli excavators demolish an allegedly unauthorised Palestinian apartment block in E. Jerusalem, 1 May 2018 [Mostafa Alkharouf/Anadolu Agency]
MEMO | December 29, 2018

Israel demolished 538 Palestinian homes and facilities across the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem in 2018, leaving 1,300 Palestinians and 225 children homeless.

A report issued yesterday by the Abdullah Al-Hurani Centre – an affiliate of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) – stressed that these demolitions were carried out in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention and other international laws.

In the report, the centre said that Israel “continues its policy of ethnic cleansing against the Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem,” pointing out that, in addition to the demolitions, Israel had issued 460 “stop-building orders” during the same period.

Israel’s Civil Administration – which carries out Israeli policy in the occupied West Bank – issued a military order to demolish all the targeted buildings less than 30 days before the demolition was carried out, a move the centre sees as aiming to cut short the possibility of appealing such orders.

The report also documented the demolition or closure of 12 Palestinian schools and kindergartens built by the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank.

December 29, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , | 2 Comments

Persecution & intimidation: Fate of Russians in US prisons casts shadow on American justice system

© (top left) Viktor Bout / Reuters / Damir Sagolj; (top right) A placard with an image of Konstantin Yaroshenko / Sputnik;
(bottom left) Maria Butina / Reuters / Alexandria Sheriff’s Office; (bottom right) Family photo of Roman Seleznyov / AFP
RT | December 29, 2018

As Washington continues detentions of Russians across the world the plight of those, who have already fallen into the clutches of the US authorities, raises suspicion about the true colors of the US justice system.

In mid-December, yet another Russian citizen was detained outside of Russia’s borders – this time in Finland – at the request of the United States, marking the latest episode in what the Russian Foreign Ministry decried as a “de-facto hunt” for the Russians on a global scale.

The news about the arrest of a Russian woman in Finland, who was placed in a “male” detention center and reportedly complained of poor conditions, came just days after a long-time Russian prisoner jailed in the US revealed that he was offered various favors, including a Green Card for his family in exchange for accusing the Russian government of corruption.

These developments shed light on how the US justice works, at least when it comes to Russians. RT looks at some of the high-profile cases, involving Russian citizens who have been detained or imprisoned in the US.

1. Viktor Bout

A businessman jailed in the US on accusations of being an international arms dealer, Viktor Bout, is one of the Russians who has spent the longest period of time in a US prison in recent history. He has been in custody for a decade now, after being arrested in 2008 in Thailand during a sting operation. He was convicted in the US in 2012 on a charge of conspiring to kill American citizens, by selling weapons to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), and was handed a 25-year sentence.

The businessman himself has denied accusations. As the scandal developed he’s been in the media spotlight. While talking to reporters he spoke about life in the US high-security prison claiming that a maximum-security prison he is in spends hundreds of thousands of dollars on every prisoner from the US budget. Nevertheless, the conditions in the facility leave much to be desired and “nobody ever investigated” why the cost is so high, he said.

Bout was also highly critical of the US justice system by calling it a “cheap farce” and saying that the only reason behind his incarceration was to “intimidate other Russians”. It was also him, who said that the US offered him a deal in exchange for “telling the US authorities about corruption in the Kremlin.”

Still, he remains full of optimism and says that yoga, learning foreign languages and anecdotes keep him in good shape both physically and mentally.

2. Konstantin Yaroshenko

Other Russian citizens faced a much more ghastly fate and Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot arrested in Liberia back in 2010, is one of them. Detained as a result of another US sting operation, Yaroshenko was accused of participating in a plan to smuggle drugs into the US and was handed down a 20-year sentence in 2011, which he has been serving ever since.

Yaroshenko has always insisted that he is completely innocent and that the whole process was part of a scheme by US agents to extract evidence against Bout. He also repeatedly complained about the conditions he was held in. He claimed he had been denied medical assistance despite health problems and was tortured by the prosecutors.

In May 2018, he told his wife by phone that his health problems could be due to deliberate poisoning. He also said he was put in a disciplinary cell for 30 days despite serious health issues. “He said he was tired of the torments and that 30 days in the disciplinary cell would kill him, he would not walk out of it alive,” she told reporters. His lawyer, meanwhile, assumed that it might have been punishment for talking to the Russian media.

Moscow has repeatedly urged Washington to pardon Yaroshenko but the US rejected any appeals.

3. Maria Butina

A pro-gun rights activist, Maria Butina, has become one of the latest Russian citizen jailed in the US in a high-profile case. Living in the US on a student visa, she was arrested in mid-July in the middle of the hunt for “Russian agents” and accused of secretly working for the Russian government as an unregistered lobbyist.

While being far from a dangerous criminal, Moscow said that Butina faced unnecessarily harsh treatment during her pre-trial detention. She was kept in solitary confinement for months, denied medical help and “subjected to a kind of torture,” as the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov put it.

While initially pleading not guilty, Butina, who faced up to 15 years in jail, then changed her mind and agreed to strike a deal with prosecutors. Lavrov then said that he had “reasons to believe” the conditions she was kept in were “intended to break her will and make her confess to something she likely didn’t do.”

4. The hunt for ‘Russian hackers’

In recent years, the US also started a real hunt for those it called the ‘Russian hackers.’ About half a dozen Russian programmers were arrested in various corners of the world upon similar US requests and were all accused of various cybercrimes.

Roman Seleznyov, the son of Russian MP Valery Seleznyov, was arrested as he was on holiday in the Maldives in 2014. He was accused of being involved in bank fraud, obtaining information from protected computerized cash registers and aggravated identity theft.

Seleznyov has pleaded not guilty to all the charges. The man was held in prison even before trial despite his lawyer arguing that his client did not represent any danger to society. “This case does not involve an act of terrorism. It does not involve an act of war,” the lawyer said at that time.

Seleznyov was eventually sentenced to 27 and 14 years in two separate cases. Both sentences will run concurrently.

A similar fate befell programmer Pyotr Levashov, accused by US prosecutors of being the mastermind behind a large bot net. He was extradited to the US from Spain in February 2018 and initially pleaded not guilty to all 8 counts against him.

He also said his life would be in danger if Spanish authorities complied with the US extradition request, and afraid that he might face torture in the US “in order to extract Russian secrets.” Just seven months later, he pleaded guilty. His trial is scheduled for September 2019. Until then, he will still stay in prison.

Another Russian programmer, Stanislav Lisov, was extradited to the US from Spain in January 2018 and has been held in the Metropolitan correction center in New York.

The FBI claims that Lisov was the creator and administrator of NeverQuest, a banking trojan that has defrauded thousands of people, and cost the US some $5 million. Lisov denied all accusations and said that he just provided tech support for websites. He also said he was long kept in the dark about the real charges and was asked if he “broke into the Pentagon” or the FBI or the CIA.

His wife told RT before his extradition that she and her husband were “ninety-percent certain that the case is politically motivated.” In October, his lawyer told the Russian Izvestia daily that Lisov, 32, could get a “de-facto life sentence” even though the maximum sentence in his case could not exceed 25 years.

These are just some examples. As many as 54 Russians were held in US prisons in 2017, according to the data provided by the US Federal Bureau of prisons to RT. The Russian Foreign Ministry’s spokeswoman Maria Zakharova has, in turn, condemned the US for “acting on the sly” and simply “abducting” the Russian citizens during their travels abroad.

Although almost all the cases against the Russians in the US do look like simple criminal proceedings, the circumstances surrounding these cases still leave many questions about whether they were solely about the pursuit of justice.

December 29, 2018 Posted by | Russophobia | , , , | Leave a comment

Gefälschte Nachrichten

ZMAN | December 23, 2018

Last week, the German publication Der Spiegel was forced to fire its star performer, when it was revealed he was a fabulist. Claas Relotius had written for the publication for close to a decade. He had been handed several awards by other media organs. His exposure as a serial fabricator was the result of his piece on the small town of Fergus Falls Minnesota, after the 2016 election. The thrust of his story was that rural America voted for Trump, because it is full of xenophobic weirdos and economic losers.

His mistake was to pick on a small town in the age of the internet. The yokels were able to look up the article and compare his version of reality with their own. More important, they could go to a popular platform and post their reactions to his article, so the world could then compare his work to reality. Michele Anderson and Jake Krohn, who live in Fergus Falls, posted their analysis of the article on Medium. Eventually, it took over a year, Der Spiegel was forced to address the issue publicly.

In Germany, this is quite a scandal in media circles, because Der Spiegel is like their version of New York Times. That is, it positions itself as the official arbiter of truth, with regards to public morality. They not only decide what is true, they decide which truths can be said. Worse yet for them, they have been bragging about their fact checking for a long time. As a result of this tent pole toppling over, the German media is scrambling to convince everyone that it is an isolated incident, not a system failure.

The amusing bit is the German media is rushing around looking puzzled, as to how the vaunted fact checking system could have failed. After all, the best people are in control of the media. How could the best people have made such basic errors? As is the case in America, whenever these things happen, the media hand-wringing is just a dodge. What really concerns them is how easy it was for two bumpkins from dirt country to sluice out the facts from the fiction in this particular article.

That’s always the thing with these scandals. The media big shots always come off as if they have been insulted about their shenanigans being revealed. In this case, the other major media outfits are rallying to defend Der Spiegel. In the dreaded private sector, competitors are always quick to take advantage of the mistakes of a competitor. In the main stream media, the opposite is always true. They circle the wagons and begin lecturing the hoi polloi about the dangers of questioning the media.

That is the real cause of these scandals. For a long time, the mass media in the West has been a mono-culture. You can’t have a career in the media if you don’t hold all the right opinions. To call the media an echo chamber for the left is to understate the problem. The better analogy is a school of fish. Each individual just reacts to those around him, giving the effect of the school having agency as a whole. What looks like collusion is just the result of a uniformity of mind, experience and social class.

That’s why no one at Der Spiegel, or anywhere else in the German media, noticed the fraudulence of Claas Relotius. He was writing the things his coevals and superiors said at luncheons, cocktail parties and in the office. His story about slack-jawed yokels in the American heartland ticked all the boxes popular with the left-wing cultural outlook. He was not sent there to report on the place. He was sent there to confirm what his employers already knew about Middle American and Trump voters.

This is why Western media is something worse than propaganda. The person hired by the state or hired by the corporate marketing department has self-awareness. They know their job is to polish the apple of their superiors. The tricks they employ to do that are done with knowledge and forethought. The guy telling the public that his employer, the pesticide company, is deeply concerned about the environment does so knowing full well that no one believes him, including his family.

The media is a different thing. They really believe their own nonsense. They think they are part of a special class of human, a priestly class that not only reports facts to the public, but provides moral instruction. The mass media is so intoxicated by their own self-righteousness, they lack the ability to question their own actions. When Claas Relotius came back from the bush, reporting exactly what his bosses knew was the case, they had no reason to question it. It was too good to check.

December 29, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Progressive Hypocrite | | Leave a comment

Irony alert: Firm that warned Americans of Russian bots… was running an army of fake Russian bots

By Danielle Ryan | RT | December 29, 2018

The co-founders of cybersecurity firm New Knowledge warned Americans in November to “remain vigilant” in the face of “Russian efforts” to meddle in US elections. This month, they have been exposed for doing just that themselves.

Ryan Fox and Jonathan Morgan, who run the New Knowledge cybersecurity company which claims to “monitor disinformation” online, penned a foreboding op-ed in the New York Times on November 6, about “the Russians” and their nefarious efforts to influence American elections.

At the time, it struck me that Fox and Morgan’s reasoning seemed a little far-fetched. For example, one of the pieces of evidence presented to prove that Russia had targeted American elections was that lots of people had posted links to RT’s content online. Hardly a smoking gun worthy of a Times oped.

Morgan and Fox, intrepid cyber sleuths that they are, claimed in the article they had detected more “overall activity” from ongoing Russian influence campaigns than social media companies like Facebook and Twitter had yet revealed — or that other researchers had been able to identify.

The New Knowledge guys even authored a Senate Intelligence Committee report on Russia’s alleged efforts to mess with American democracy. They called it a “propaganda war against American citizens.” Impressive stuff. They must be really good at their job, right?

This week, however, we learned that New Knowledge was running its own disinformation campaign (or “propaganda war against Americans,” you could say), complete with fake Russian bots designed to discredit Republican candidate Roy Moore as a Russia-preferred candidate when he was running for the US senate in Alabama in 2017.

The scheme was exposed by the New York Times — the paper that just over a month earlier published that aforementioned oped, in which Fox and Morgan pontificated about Russian interference online.

New Knowledge created a mini-army of fake Russian bots and fake Facebook groups. The accounts, which had Russian names, were made to follow Moore. An internal company memo boasted that New Knowledge had “orchestrated an elaborate ‘false flag’ operation that planted the idea that the Moore campaign was amplified on social media by a Russian botnet.”

Moore lost the race by 1.5 percent. To be fair, accusations published by the Washington Post that he pursued underage girls back in the 1980s may have had something to do with it as well, but that’s a different story.

Of course, New Knowledge and even the New York Times, which blew the lid of the operation, are trying to spin this as some kind of “small experiment” during which they “imitated Russian tactics” online to see how they worked. Just for research, of course. They have also both claimed that the scheme, dubbed ‘Project Birmingham’ had almost no effect on the outcome of the race.

The money for the so-called research project came from Reid Hoffman, the billionaire co-founder of LinkedIn, who contributed $750,000 to American Engagement Technologies (AET), which then spent $100,000 on the New Knowledge experiment. After the scheme was exposed, Hoffman offered a public apology, saying he didn’t know exactly how the money had been used and admitting that the tactics were “highly disturbing.”

If people like Fox and Morgan actually cared about so-called Russian meddling or the integrity of American elections, they would not have run the deceptive campaign against Moore, no matter how undesirable he was as a candidate. Their sneaky and deceitful methods are in total contrast to the public profile they have cultivated for themselves as a firm fighting the good fight for the public good. But is it really that much of a surprise?

You would think that a newspaper like the New York Times would have cottoned on to the fact that guys like Fox and Morgan, with their histories in the US military and intelligence agencies, have clear agendas and are not exactly squeaky clean or the most credible sources of information when it comes to anything to do with Russia. But that kind of insight or circumspection might be too much to ask for in the age of Russiagate.

Facebook removed Morgan’s account on Saturday for “engaging in coordinated inauthentic behavior” around the Alabama election. Three days after publishing its initial article on the scandal (the one in which it played down the effects of New Knowledge’s disinfo campaign), the New York Times published a follow-up piece about the Facebook removal, in which it admitted that the controversy would be a “stinging embarrassment” for the social media researcher, noting that he had been a “leading voice” against supposed Russian disinformation campaigns.

In Fox and Morgan’s original NYT oped, they warned of the ubiquitous “Russia-linked social media accounts” and estimated that “at least hundreds of thousands, and perhaps even millions” of US citizens had engaged with them online. One must now wonder, were they including their own fake Russian bots in that count, or were they leaving those ones out?

It’s nearly two years into the Trump presidency and still we have no solid evidence that the Russian “collusion” theory is anything more than a fantasy concocted by Democrats desperate to provide a more palatable reason for Hillary Clinton’s loss than the fact that she simply ran a bad campaign.

In fact, at this point, we actually have more solid and irrefutable evidence of election meddling from the likes of dodgy American and British companies like Cambridge Analytica and New Knowledge than we do of any meddling orchestrated by Russia.

Danielle Ryan is an Irish freelance writer based in Dublin. Her work has appeared in Salon, The Nation, Rethinking Russia, teleSUR, RBTH, The Calvert Journal and others. Follow her on Twitter @DanielleRyanJ

Also on

The only ‘Russian bots’ to meddle in US elections belonged to Democrat-linked ‘experts’

LinkedIn billionaire ‘sorry’ for funding ‘Russian bot’ disinformation campaign against Roy Moore

December 29, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , | Leave a comment

Argentina: Milagro Sala to Run for Governor of Jujuy in 2019

teleSur | December 28, 2018

Sala was recently acquitted of attempted murder, an accusation she claims is politically motivated.

Activist and Indigenous leader Milagro Sala, now in detention, has announced she will run in the 2019 regional elections for governor of Jujuy province, northern Argentina.

“I have the intention of competing against Gerardo Morales in the elections,” said Sala during a radio interview on Thursday.

Sala said she wants to improve the living conditions of the people of Jujuy, where she says there’s “no democracy or freedom, only hunger.”

The activist was unanimously acquitted of attempted murder on Thursday in the ‘Shooting of Azopardo’ case, from October 27, 2007. Sala celebrated the verdict and thanked the judges for not succumbing to government pressure.

Morales, Jujuy’s incumbent governor, described the court’s decision to acquit the activist as “shameful.”

“The ruling acquitting two criminals such as Milagro Sala and Beto Cardozo is shameful,” Morales wrote on Twitter.

“If there’s something that the people of Jujuy know about is the violence they committed and how much they stole. The struggle against impunity continues.”

Sala is one of the founders and leaders of the Tupac Amaru Neighborhoods’ Organization, providing housing and other services to informal workers and working-class sectors since 1999.

She is also being investigated for alleged illicit association, fraud and extortion, crimes she was charged with days after being detained in early 2016 for allegedly instigating violence during a protest against Jujuy Governor Gerardo Morales, which she didn’t attend.

The case is known as the “Pibes Villeros” and Sala claims it’s political persecution “to discipline the leaders and the opposition,” as she told teleSUR in October.

Tupac Amaru Neighborhoods’ Organization claims the persecution against Sala is “politically motivated.”

The activist has expressed multiple times her intentions to participate in the regional elections in Jujuy. In 2017, while she was under house arrest, Sala said she would like to run against Morales “as equals, not from prison while he is ruling over everything here in Jujuy.”

Sala served as an Argentine legislator between 2013 and 2015 and was later elected to Mercosur’s Parliament (Parlasur), prior to her arrest in 2016 for allegedly instigating violence against the state.

December 29, 2018 Posted by | Aletho News | , | Leave a comment

Christmas 2018: Iran and Syria show respect, Israel and Saudi Arabia don’t

By Neil Clark | RT | December 29, 2018

Christmas is a time of goodwill to all men. Or at least it should be. But while the West’s Middle East ‘bad guys’ Iran and Syria, showed the Yuletide spirit, its closest allies, Saudi Arabia and Israel, failed to do so.

Iran is demonized by Western neocons and we’re meant to see the country as an evil, ‘monster‘ regime of foaming-at-the-mouth religious fanatics who hate everyone.

So it goes against the dominant narrative somewhat that Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif tweeted a Christmas message and wished ‘peace and joy to all in 2019’, on Christmas Eve.

It also goes against the narrative, that Zarif, back in September, wished Jews, in Iran and across the world, “a very Happy New Year filled with peace and harmony.”

We’re told repeatedly that the Iranian ‘regime’ is ‘anti-Semitic’, but do ‘anti-Semites’ wish Jews a happy ‘Rosh Hashanah’? If so, it’s a rather strange definition.

The Iranian Foreign Minister also tweeted on December 26 a message of goodwill to Iran’s Zoroastrian community.

Contrast this consideration to people of different faiths from Tehran, with the lack of congratulations on other religious holidays from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. A week before Iran’s Foreign Minister was tweeting positively about Jesus, the KSA’s Customs Authority was also on the social media platform, confirming that Christmas trees were banned from entering the Kingdom for the festive season.

In fact, despite the large number of Christians from other countries who work in the country, including many Britons, the holding of any Christmas-related services or commemorations in Saudi Arabia is strictly banned. “The Christmas season – often a season where Christians around the world are most visible – is a tense time for Christians in Saudi Arabia, who have to celebrate the holiday in secret, risking arrest and deportation,” said Jeff King, President of the International Christian Concern, in 2016.

Imagine being a Christian and not being able to openly celebrate the birth of Christ. It happens in Saudi Arabia, yet Western leaders, so keen to lecture others about ‘human rights’ and ‘religious freedom’ stay silent, preferring to pick on Iran – where Christmas can be openly celebrated.

Syria is another country ‘monstered’ by the endless war lobby but where, against all the odds, the Christmas spirit is still maintained. Big seasonal celebrations were held this year in Aleppo and Damascus. Remember Aleppo?

It was recaptured by the Syrian Arab Army from Islamist ‘rebels’ two years ago this month, and the neocon/’liberal interventionist’ commentariat, and most of the political class portrayed it as a most terrible thing. Ian Austin MP said that people in Aleppo faced ‘slaughter’.

John Woodcock MP called the Morning Star newspaper ‘traitorous scum’ for referring to the recapture of Aleppo by Syrian forces of their own territory, as a ‘liberation’. But if you look at the pictures of Christians celebrating Christmas there once again, which they were forbidden to do under the western-backed head-chopping ’rebels’ you can see that the ‘L’ word was indeed appropriate.

This year in Damascus though, the festive celebrations were defiled by another act of aggression against Syria from a Western-supported-country, one which incidentally Ian Austin and John Woodcock have been Parliamentary ‘Friends’ of.

On the evening of December 25, loud explosions could be heard seven miles from the center of Damascus. Russia’s Defense Ministry said that Israel’s Christmas Day F-16 strikes endangered two civilian flights – as well as injuring three personnel at the logistics compound.

Whatever your stance is on Middle Eastern affairs – and leaving aside the illegality of the operation whenever it took place – the question is: did Israel really have to bomb Syria on Christmas Day?

Would Israel’s ’security’ have been lessened if the raid had taken place on December 28 and not the 25th? Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did tweet Christmas greetings out to ‘Christian friends’ in Israel and around the world on December 24, but why did his forces attack a country where Christians were celebrating one day later?

Just imagine the enormous outcry if Russia had carried out air strikes on Ukrainian targets on the evening of 25th December. In fact, the US magazine Newsweek, doing its best to ratchet up East-West tensions still further, predicted such an event only last week. They published an article on Christmas Eve which began with the words “As people in Western Europe and the United States get comfortable for the holidays, the chances increase that Russia will take advantage of the distraction to launch attacks against its neighbor Ukraine, experts said.”

And who are these ’experts’, I hear you ask. Well, guess what, they were all from the Atlantic Council.

The ‘experts’, surprise surprise, were wrong. The ‘monster’ Russia did not launch attacks on Ukraine over Christmas. But Israel did attack Syria – and there was silence from those who would have screeched very loudly (and be calling for RT to be taken off the air immediately) if the Kremlin had ordered such a sacrilegious act.

Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) were also busy bombing on Christmas Day. The genocidal group carried out suicide bomb attacks on Libya’s Foreign Ministry in Tripoli on Tuesday morning, killing three and leaving over half-a-dozen injured.

One doesn’t expect IS to respect Christmas, but you would expect Western leaders – of predominantly Christian nations to regard the group as public enemy number one. Yet in Syria, the US and its allies welcomed the group’s growth precisely because it threatened the secular, Christian-protecting government of Bashar al-Assad. A declassified US intelligence report from August 2012 predicted the establishment of a “Salafist principality in Eastern Syria” and said that this is “exactly what the supporting powers to the opposition want, in order to isolate the Syrian regime.”

Furthermore, in a leaked tape recording the former Secretary of State John Kerry admitted that the US allowed IS to expand its territory to threaten Damascus.

At the same time, those fighting IS, and other al-Qaeda-linked death squads in Syria, namely the Syrian Arab Army, Russia, Iran and Hezbollah, have been ‘monstered’ by the West and its regional allies’ propaganda machines.

Reflect on this: It wasn’t Syrian, Russia, Iranian or Hezbollah forces or followers who slaughtered British and other Western holiday-makers on the beach in Tunisia in 2015 – but an IS terrorist who is thought to have trained at a jihadist camp in neighboring Libya and whose government had been forcibly toppled by NATO powers four years earlier. Similarly, it wasn’t Syrian, Russian, Iranian or Hezbollah forces or followers who carried out murderous attacks against civilians in Paris, Nice, Brussels, and London, or at Christmas markets in Berlin and Strasbourg.

Respecting Christmas and what it stands for is an important litmus test, as it tells us a lot about the actors involved, especially if they are not themselves Christians.

The ‘monstering’ of those who do show the proper ‘Yuletide spirit’, and the turning of a blind eye to those that don’t, highlights the spectacular hypocrisy of those in power in the West who profess to support ‘Christian values’ but in fact do everything possible to subvert them.

If anyone needs an Ebenezer Scrooge-style epiphany this Christmas, it’s the ‘monster-slayers’ themselves.

Read more:

Christmas in Aleppo: Syrians celebrate as city recovers from years-long bloodshed (VIDEOS)

December 29, 2018 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Notes On The Withdrawals

By Michael Tracey | Medium | December 23, 2018

Trump announced the withdrawal of US troops from two warzones, which prompted the resignation (and now, firing) of James Mattis. It’s one of the most consequential weeks of the presidency thus far, so rather than try to come up with a grand cohesive Take on it all, here are some scattered thoughts.

  • The media doesn’t know how to grapple with an event that genuinely does represent Trump contending with an intractable establishment, which is partially understandable given recent overheated bleating about the Deep State — a phenomena that does plainly exist but has been misrepresented by the dumber portion of MAGA boosters. “Establishment,” likewise, is a fuzzy buzzword, and almost nobody ever claims to be part of it. Trump himself can reasonably be said to be The Establishment considering he is the President. However, this is a specific instance in which Trump really is in direct confrontation with very particular “establishment,” namely the institutional national security apparatus, which exists largely unfettered across administrations. Survey the scene and there’s not a single person in this entire apparatus who apparently supports the Syria withdrawal.
  • So what does the media do? They act, essentially, as vehicles for the grievances of said national security apparatus. Take a look at some of the coverage from the major outlets: NYT, WaPo, AP, etc.
  • OK, who exactly is “outraged,” and why does their sentiment justify featured placement in an Associated Press headline? It’s the national security establishment figures who are outraged, for them Mattis is a patron saint. These are the people AP, NYT, and WaPo reporters rely on to inform their natsec coverage. This NYT example is less subtle, and far more egregious:
  • Really? Robert Kagan, to the uninformed reader, might just be some innocuous “expert” offering his wisdom, but Kagan is one of the most significant neoconservative foreign policy luminaries ever, competing ignominiously for that distinction with Bill Kristol. And it’s his ideology which is being transmitted to unwitting readers by way of the NYT. People who hate Trump will be susceptible to the message, because what he’s saying portrays Trump in a very negative light, but they’re also consuming loads of stubborn interventionist pablum along with the typical anti-Trump dopamine hit.
  • Collectively, the theme of all mainline media coverage in reaction to the withdrawals is some combination of “chaos,” “disarray,” “tumult,” etc. Never is it ever considered that the very fact of multiple endless military deployments in hot warzones is also “chaotic.” And destructive. And insanely expensive. And unpopular with the wider public. None of these facts amount to “chaos” in the minds of fretting journalists, because what they’re being informed by is the sentiments of the “natsec” apparatus Trump has just acted against. (Oh yeah BTW the Syria deployment is also illegal and unauthorized, and has been since Obama launched it on false pretenses, but again, that’s definitely not chaotic.)
  • On a slightly different note, it’s also worth harkening back to the time, earlier this year, when John Bolton was appointed National Security Advisor. I joined in the dismay, considering Bolton is one of the most fervent unreconstructed hawks in the entire country, and has *even today* not stopped defending the Iraq invasion. I attended a speech of his in DC about a month before the appointment when he did so, once again… in 2018. His Iran antagonism is a virulent obsession, and he called for a first strike on North Korea in February.
  • But what happened subsequently? Bolton’s wishes have been totally overruled at every turn, most notably at two spectacular junctures. The first was Trump’s Korea diplomacy initiative, when Bolton was made to sit meekly at the negotiating table with Kim’s generals, whom he’d not long before declared should be wiped out with a preemptive strike. Then this week, the Syria withdrawal is among the most epic humiliations conceivable, as Bolton has specifically and publicly declared that US troops would not be leaving Syria until Iranian influence was repelled (i.e., essentially never).
  • So those are crucial facts to consider about Bolton’s influence in the administration. I still think it’s dangerous to have him anywhere near the locus of military power, because who knows what leverage he might wield in the event of some unforeseen crisis. But he’s clearly not anywhere close to calling the shots, or the last 9 months of the Trump presidency would have gone much differently. (If he had any personal pride he’d resign in the wake of the Syria withdrawal, but Bolton’s principal priority is proximity to power, not personal consistency or pride. Unlike, evidently, Mattis.)
  • In sum: the initial freakout when Bolton was appointed at least had basis, because he’s a dangerous person, but the freakout over the policies which he’s (ironically) presided over have engendered an even greater freakout, by several orders of magnitude. And those policies have tended to be dramatically less belligerent and militaristic than what you’d expect from an Administration in which Bolton resides. (The two leading examples again being Korea and Syria/Afg withdrawals.) So you have to wonder what the freakout is really about then. Maybe it’s just simple knee-jerk Trump hatred. (Yeah, it’s that.)
  • There’s a running fight in certain Online Circles about whether Trump is a “non-interventionist.” My point was always that Trump clearly evinced greater non-interventionist tendencies than Hillary Clinton, but that 2016-specific observation has been exaggerated by certain bad faith agitators into a bogus charge that I claimed Trump is some pure, peace-loving anti-war voice. Obviously that’s NEVER been the claim. Any assessment of Trump’s scatter-shot “non-interventionism” has to coexist alongside the acknowledgment that Trump has dropped large quantities of bombs in pre-existing warzones, and killed lots of civilians in the process. That’s bad. At the same time, Trump has now declared his intention to end two wars that were started by previous administrations, and has not started any new ones. He’s done so over the strident objections of his own staff, advisors, and 95% of his own party. Clearly the “instincts” I noted, and then was ruthlessly ridiculed for noting, had some basis in reality, or we would not be where we are.
  • Trump, during the campaign, frequently complained about the trillions squandered in the Middle East. Hillary Clinton never did (because she was partly responsible for it). Therefore, the comparative assessment was warranted. Nobody ever assumed Trump’s complaint would automatically translate into a swift, seamless change in US policy, or that the US would now become a beacon of wholesome anti-interventionism. It took two years, but Trump has now taken tangible steps to actualize those complaints, at significant political risk.

December 29, 2018 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism | , , , | 1 Comment

Pentagon mulls allowing Kurdish militias to keep weapons after US withdrawal from Syria, breaking promise made to Turkey

RT | December 29, 2018

The Pentagon is considering allowing Kurdish fighters to keep their US-supplied weapons after American forces withdraw from northern Syria, breaking a promise it had made to Turkey, a media report reveals.

US commanders preparing for the troop pullout from Syria have recommended that Kurdish militias be allowed to keep weapons and equipment provided by the US military, according to American officials who spoke with Reuters. The Pentagon is mulling the possibility as it draws up its plan for exiting Syria. A final decision on the matter will have to be approved by President Donald Trump, who ordered the withdrawal of all US forces from Syria earlier this month.

After the emergence of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), the US had repeatedly supplied the Kurds with small arms, equipment, and munitions, as well as vehicles and medical aid, at times airdropping dozens of tons of supplies ahead of major battles. However, the supplies were said to exclude heavy weapons, anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles due to concerns of Turkey.

It wasn’t until before the 2017 Battle of Raqqa that Washington officially said it was sending heavy arms – including TOWs – to Kurdish forces. But Ankara said that the resigning US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has promised that Kurds are to give all those arms back.

However, one official who spoke with Reuters said that locating all the weapons and securing their return would be close to impossible. Another unnamed official argued that it would be irresponsible to demand the weapons back, since the Kurdish YPG are still clearing out the remnants of Islamic State from northeastern Syria.

The situation is further complicated by Turkish threats to launch an offensive against the YPG, which Ankara claims is a terrorist group. Turkish military forces were spotted crossing into Syria on Friday.

On the same day, the Syrian Army reportedly entered the Kurdish stronghold of Manbij, after the YPG called on Damascus to help defend the city from a Turkish attack.

December 29, 2018 Posted by | War Crimes | , | Leave a comment

Trump responds to Israeli complaints about US troops exiting Syria: We give Israel $4.5 billion

If Americans Knew | December 28, 2018

Israel and its American partisans have been complaining vociferously about President Trump’s recent decision to pull U.S. troops from Syria, a nation that Israel and pro-Israel neocons have long targeted.

When Trump was recently asked at a briefing in Iraq whether the troop withdrawal would leave Israel in jeopardy, Trump responded: “We give Israel $4.5 billion a year. And they’re doing very well defending themselves…”

Trump emphasized: “We’re going to take good care of Israel. Israel is going to be good. But we give Israel $4.5 billion a year.”

He went on: “And we give them, frankly, a lot more money than that, if you look at the books — a lot more money than that.”

While Trump’s statements went virtually unreported in U.S. media, which rarely tell Americans about U.S. money to Israel, Israeli news organizations headlined the statement, some questioning the amount.

While Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had originally demanded that the U.S. give Israel $4.5 billion per year in U.S. military aid, Netanyahu signed a memorandum of understanding with the Obama administration in 2016 that placed the ceiling at $3.8 billion per year for the next 10 years.

New legislation currently before Congress would make the disbursement law rather than a non-binding agreement, and changed the arrangement to make the $3.8 billion a minimum, with the expectation that the aid will increase in future years. (The bill is currently being held up by Senator Rand Paul.)

Israel’s Ha’aretz newspaper suggests that the difference between the current allocation of $3.8 billion and the $4.5 billion stated by Trump might be due to additional aid to Israel under other budget items:

Ha’aretz reports that in early 2018 the U.S. allocated “over $700 million to supporting Israel’s various missile defense systems, including the Iron Dome system. This was included in the federal spending bill of 2018, and it was an increase of more than $100 million compared to the amount of money provided for Iron Dome and other missile defense systems in the previous year.

“The missile defense support budget is separate from the $3.8 billion Israel will receive under the 2016 agreement signed by Obama and Netanyahu. When the two support budgets are combined, the math behind Trump’s comment becomes clear: 3.8 plus 0.7 adds up to 4.5.”

Ha’aretz also addresses what Trump might have meant by “And we give them, frankly, a lot more money than that, if you look at the books — a lot more money than that.”

Ha’aretz posits that the President might be referring to American support for the Palestinian Authority’s security forces, “which received tens of millions of dollars this year from his administration. It is a well-known secret in Washington that the strongest advocates for continued American support of the PA’s security forces are Israeli security and intelligence officials, who want to keep in place the successful coordination between the IDF and those forces.”

The website Mondoweiss points out that Trump has complained about U.S. aid to Israel before: “During the 2016 campaign, he said that Israel should pay for American defense, just as he had called on South Korea, Japan and Saudi Arabia to do. ‘I think Israel will do that also, yeah, I think Israel do—there are many countries that can pay and they [Israel] can pay big league.’”

The difference is that the American lobby for Israel dwarfs the lobbies for other countries.

December 29, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , , | 3 Comments