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Propaganda 101: The New York Times pumps another ‘evil Russia’ plot

By Finian Cunningham | RT | October 10, 2019

The “newspaper of record” New York Times arguably holds the record for peddling anti-Russia scare stories. This week the NY Times delivered yet another classic spook tale dressed as serious news.

Among its splash articles, under the headline ‘Top Secret Russian Unit Seeks to Destabilize Europe, Security Officials Say’, readers were told of an elite Russian spy team which has, allegedly, only recently been discovered.

It’s called “Unit 29155” and purportedly directed by the Kremlin to “destabilize Europe” with “subversion, sabotage and assassination.”

According to the NY Times, this crack squad of Russia’s most ruthless military intelligence agents were involved in an attempted assassination of an arms dealer in Bulgaria in 2015; the destabilization of Moldova; a failed coup against the Montenegrin government; and the alleged poisoning of former double agent Sergei Skripal in England last year.

The article states: “Western security officials have now concluded that these operations, and potentially many others, are part of a coordinated and ongoing campaign to destabilize Europe, executed by an elite unit inside the Russian intelligence system skilled in subversion, sabotage and assassination.”

The NY Times adds: “The purpose of Unit 29155, which has not been previously reported, underscores the degree to which the Russian president, Vladimir V. Putin, is actively fighting the West with his brand of so-called hybrid warfare — a blend of propaganda, hacking attacks and disinformation — as well as open military confrontation.”

This is all because, the readers are told, “The Kremlin sees Russia as being at war with a Western liberal order that it views as an existential threat.”

In response, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed it as more of the “pulp fiction category” which Western news media have manufactured with seeming increasing intensity over recent years. Peskov pointed out that Moscow has repeatedly stated its desire to normalize relations with Western states and the European Union in particular, contradicting the theme of the NY Times’ piece.

Indeed, the Russian Embassy in Britain recently published a compilation of false articles peddled by Western media over the past four years. The NY Times features prominently as one of the main purveyors of scare stories about alleged malign Russian activities, from hacking into presidential elections, to targeting American power grids, to covert collusion with President Donald Trump.

For students of Propaganda 101, this week’s tale makes a case study of how disinformation is disseminated in the guise of “news reporting.”

First of all, the NY Times reporter, Michael Schwirtz, gives a meandering account of lurid dirty deeds performed in various international locations allegedly carried out by the supposed “elite” Kremlin hybrid warriors. But tellingly, there are no details evidencing Russian involvement. It’s all lurid speculation spiced with fear-mongering, which reads like a pallid John le Carré spy novel.

Then, the usual giveaway that the NY Times is engaging in disinformation, it quotes anonymous security officials for apparent verification of its claims about “Unit 29155”. This is tacit admission of who the real authors are: Western spooks.

Next, a neat effort to give the lame story some legs is to quote named public figures. But these sources don’t confirm the existence of the alleged Kremlin unit; they are merely invited to speculate on its existence and presumed malign purpose. One of those named sources is MI6 chief Alex Younger. Yes, that’s right, the paper of record is quoting British military intelligence as a reliable source for public information. Another named source is Peter Zwack, who is described as a former US military intelligence officer who worked at the American Embassy in Moscow. Zwack is quoted as describing Russians as “organically ruthless” (whatever that means), while the paper actually admits that “he was not aware of the unit’s existence.”

The purpose of throwing a few names into the reporting mix is to lend a veneer of credibility to the nebulous, unverifiable, scary stuff that the anonymous spooks feed the reporter.

A special mention must be given to a third named source quoted by the NY Times. He is Eerik-Niiles Kross, an Estonian lawmaker and former military intelligence chief in Tallinn. He styles himself as “Estonia’s James Bond,” and is known for his salacious Russophobic warnings of “imminent invasion of the Baltic states” – over the past three decades. Kross is quoted to speculate on the existence of the alleged Kremlin hybrid warfare unit. Of course, he dutifully serves up his notorious anti-Russian fear-mongering. But he is not confirming. His speculation is pseudo-validation of information that is essentially fictional.

All in all, the latest installment of anti-Russia propaganda from the NY Times this week is a damp squib among many previous baseless reports of alleged Kremlin malign activity. If it serves any purpose, it is perhaps a choice illustration of how disinformation is sneakily, insidiously presented as ‘news’. The fact that this should appear in a Pulitzer Prize-winning, supposedly premier, American newspaper is the disturbing part.

But it is no surprise to those who have long studied how the US corporate media has been under the control of state intelligence agencies for many decades, especially after the Second World War and during the subsequent Cold War against the Soviet Union.

In a seminal essay in 1977 for Rolling Stone magazine, award-winning journalist Carl Bernstein documented how the CIA systematically cultivated hundreds of reporters, columnists, editors, publishing executives and broadcast networks to function as conduits for disinformation – much of it directed at demonizing the Soviet Union.

“From the outset, the use of journalists was among the CIA’s most sensitive undertakings,” writes Bernstein.

He added: “By far the most valuable of these associations, according to CIA officials, have been with the New York Times, CBS and Time Inc.”

How the CIA goes about planting false stories in the American and European media is outlined in this candid interview by John Stockwell, who was former National Security Council coordinator for the agency during the 1970s. Stockwell also added: “Enemies are necessary for the wheels of the US military machine to turn.”

You may wonder, if the Cold War ended nearly 30 years ago when the Soviet Union dissolved, why then do the NY Times and other Western media outlets continue to pump out anti-Russian propaganda? But that assumes the Cold War was primarily about the US opposing the ideology of communism. It wasn’t. It was, and still is, all about imposing control over the masses so they don’t ever challenge the power structure that deprives them of full democratic rights and decent livelihoods.

In a recent interview, philosopher André Vitchek makes the point that Western politicians and media like the NY Times keep harping on Cold War scare stories about evil foreigners in order “to distract their citizens from thinking about their increasingly limited freedoms and diminishing standards of living.”

The Cold War continues, and anti-Russia hysteria is but a distraction, as was the anti-Soviet hysteria. The aim is to distract the public from the real Cold War which is a war by the elites against democracy ever being actually realized among the masses.

October 10, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , | 1 Comment

On the Geo-Politics of Turkish Incursion into Syria

By Salman Rafi Sheikh – New Eastern Outlook – 10.10.2019

Despite the fact that Turkey has been defying the US as of recently with regard to its purchase of Russian S-400 missile system, the US president has finally conceded to its NATO partner’s long-standing demand of invading northern Syria and wipe out the Kurdish militias. This is a critical decision since Kurdish militias were the main US ground allies in the war against the Islamic State in Syria. With the US now abandoning its only ground ally in Syria, a policy shift is in the air, a change that might ultimately go to Syria’s benefit. While we shall come to this point later, what is pertinent here to discuss is the factor that led the US to change its erstwhile position vis-à-vis Kurds.

There is hardly any gainsaying that the world is increasingly becoming multipolar, and Turkey being a ‘Middle Kingdom’ between two poles has been making the best use of its geo-strategic position in the emerging world order. As Erdogan said in his recent UNO speech, “the world is bigger than five.” He was referring to the five permanent members of the Security Council: Britain, France, Russia, China, and America. Perhaps he wants his country to be included as a sixth, or that the world has already changed too much for these countries to manage on their own without showing sensitivity to other powers’ interests.

As many reports in the mainstream western media have indicated, Turkey, despite its very explicit strategic ties with Russia, remains important for the US. The fact that the US, despite being so deeply accustomed to running the world unilaterally, has had to change its position reflects the necessary foreign policy and strategic adjustments that even the US is having to make in this increasingly multipolar world where a country, relatively much smaller than the US and lying on the intersection of Asia and Europe, can force a much bigger and powerful country to prioritise a smaller country’s interests.

Two things, as such, stand out. First, Turkey is no longer a pliant and a willing US partner and/or a strong adherent to the dead cold war agenda of ‘containment’ of the Soviet Union, or Russia and China in the contemporary era, although it still continues to provide İncirlik Air Base, a military airport in southeastern Turkey, which hosts fifty tactical nuclear weapons aimed at primarily reinforcing what NATO experts call ‘extended deterrence guarantee’ of their organisation against a Russian invasion of Europe. Secondly, the US, due to deep presence of Russia in the region, is no longer an external hegemon entrenched in the region, practically no longer in a position to force its policies on its partners. This means that Turkey is in a far better position to pursue its interests a lot more independently than was the case few years ago. This is perhaps the reason why Russia, despite knowing that Turkish territory can be used against Russia in any future conflict with the NATO, is still developing its relations in a way never known before to both countries.

This is something that the US cannot control. All it can do is to adjust its position to secure its long-term interests. Its decision to stand aside in the up-coming Turkish On the Geo-Politics of Turkish incursion reflects that adjustment.

On the other hand, Russia and Syria are also very much in the equation. While Syria and Russia may object to a large scale military presence of Turkey in Syria—and both will reiterate that this presence is uninvited and has no legal basis—this objection will not turn into a practical opposition; for, a Turkish incursion and the US silence that followed together with its abandoning of Kurds might bring the Kurds closer to Syria and Russia.

Russian officials, as of recently, have been speaking of the “maximalist positions” the Kurds have adopted in their dealings with the Syrian government. Therefore, when cornered by the Turks and abandoned by the US, they might turn to the Syrian government for a settlement. This will, of course, provide Syria and Russia with an opportunity to reunify the whole of Syria, an ultimate objective that even Turkey has shown sensitivity to. A recent statement from the Turkish foreign minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, said that Ankara had “supported the territorial integrity of Syria since the beginning of the crisis and will continue to do so” and that by eliminating all ‘terrorist forces’ from that region, Turkey will only “contribute to bringing safety, peace and stability to Syria.”

Also, given that Russia has been eyeing an expansion of cooperation with Turkey beyond Syria, Moscow will not object to Turkish incursion and let Ankara slip out its hands. At the same time, Moscow would want to make sure that no large-scale fighting takes place, allowing rouge groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda to resurface and reverse the gains Russia and Syria have made in last two years or so.

Moscow will, therefore, make its own adjustment and prefer to play a mediatory role between the Kurds and the Turks, and Kurds and Damascus in order to solidify Syrian control on all of its territories.

Given this, it is possible that a settlement might emerge out of the storm that Turkey is going to start. Moscow’s mediation might be acceptable to all the parties. Ankara, of course, would want a guarantee from Damascus and Moscow about Kurds being confined to their traditional areas and not engaging in any militant and activities against Ankara, or inciting separatism among the Kurds living in Turkey.

Salman Rafi Sheikh is a research-analyst of International Relations and Pakistan’s foreign and domestic affairs.

October 10, 2019 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , , , | 1 Comment

#TrumpBetrayedtheKurds: “Progressive Hollywood” Calls for War

Conditioned “influencers” crying crocodile tears on cue

By Kit Knightly | OffGuardian | October 10, 2019

I wrote, just a few days ago, that we’d be able to tell just how real Trump’s “Syria Withdrawal” was by how loud, and how strong, the establishment voices came out against it.

The media (and collected punditry) will likely play the “poor little Kurds” card a lot in the next few days…[this] will determine how much of a genuine threat to the establishment agenda this “withdrawal” really is.

Turns out, it might be a lot.

Every single media outlet is variously “shocked”, “appalled” or “disgusted”. Politicians from both sides of the house (and Israel) have condemned him. Media pundits, ex-generals. Combat veterans in the Independent.

Even good-old Fox News, Trump’s only real support in the media, have finally had to choose between supporting the President and supporting war. They chose war.

Nowhere is this seething hatred of Trump, and adoration of the Kurds stronger than Hollywood. A population of ill-informed moralising egos have decided Trump’s “betrayal” of the Kurds is his greatest crime, despite having very little idea who the Kurds are or what (if anything) they have ever done.

Still, there’s not to reason why, there’s just to tweet and lie.

Compare the hysteria about “protecting the Kurds” today, to the tone of commentary on the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The difference is startling.

Hell, compare it to Yemen. Were there this many hashtags about Yemen? Of course not.

The Hollywood outrage machine only kicks into gear when American troops WITHDRAW, but never when they ATTACK.

All of the US aggression against Syria was met with a shrug by these same people, and the hundreds of others like them. If they even knew it was happening.

But it’s not just Hollywood, even the “new wave” of Brave Democrat Women were keen to oppose withdrawing US troops from a country they are illegally occupying in breach of international law.

Somewhere along the line, the poison of identity politics has totally subverted the traditionally anti-war politics of the fringe-left, the arts, actors and writers.

They now respond literally like programmed robots, without ever pausing to question their hardcoded responses

Trump wants to run “end war”.
Trump = “bad”
Therefore: “end war” = “bad”
Therefore: “war” = “good”.

The process runs, the output is logged and off they run: Damning Trump for his stupid racist fascist peace, and declaring we should be fighting a lovely progressive war (against…Turkey? I guess? I’m not sure and neither are they).

This is the ultimate victory of the Deep State in the United States. The zenith of Trump Derangement Syndrome: The Pavlovian conditioning of the entire “liberal” establishment.

We told you this would happen.

October 10, 2019 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite | , , | 1 Comment

Winston Churchill Starved 3 Million Indians to Death in the Man-Made Bengal Famine of 1943

By Marko Marjanović | Checkpoint Asia | December 22, 2016

Churchill’s Secret War: The British Empire and the Ravaging of India during World War II is a book by a science journalist Madhusree Mukerjee. It tells of British policy in India in the Second World War and how it relates to the Bengal Famine of 1943.

Mukerjee reminds the reader that before the British conquest India was a rich land. Certainly the conquerors drawn to Bengal in the 18th century were of the opinion they were adding a magnificently wealthy possession to their empire. Under colonial rule, however, Bengal soon became a synonym for poverty and a frequent setting of famine.

During the Second World War the colony was made to contribute heavily to the British war effort. India’s industries, manpower, and foodstuffs were made to serve requirements of the war the empire had involved itself in.

This was merely the latest escalation in a long lasting exploitation of the colony. The British deemed their unwanted presence in India a service and therefore extracted “payment” for it in the form of the Home Charge. As the British obstructed the expansion of manufacturing in India lest it provide competition for their domestic industry, the export of agricultural produce presented the only way of realizing this transfer.

Finally, since the empire set the transfer so high so much grain was extracted for export that the colony — which continued to produce more food than its need through the 19th century — was artificially kept in a condition of chronic malnutrition.

Unsurprisingly, there was strong resistance to colonial rule that could only be overcome by large scale repression. As part of the August 1942 crackdown against the Quit India Movement alone, more than 90,000 people were locked up and up to 10,000 were killed.

Short on manpower the British at times resorted to attacking crowds with aircraft. In particularly rebellious districts authorities burned down homes and destroyed rice supplies. British India was not unlike an occupied land.

The book exposes the manifold causes of the Bengal Famine. To begin with mortality rate in Bengal under British rule was atrocious even in a normal year with some of that attributable to malnutrition.

The immediate reasons why conditions deteriorated beyond this “normal” state of semi-famine was the catastrophic Midnapore Cyclone and the Japanese capture of Burma.

The Cyclone storm and subsequent floods disrupted life and ruined crops. The loss of Burma severed links with an important source of rice imports to India. These two factors which were outside British control, were probably enough for a disaster on their own, but subsequent British policies made the crisis far worse than it needed to be.

Anticipating the possibility the Japanese could advance further, the British carried out a scorched earth policy in coastal Bengal, seizing rice stocks, motor vehicles, bicycles and boats. Seizure of boats was particularly disruptive as they normally represented the primary means of transporting rice crops to the markets.

The loss of Burmese rice imports to India was not made up by imports from elsewhere, nor was India’s obligation to supply British Indian troops abroad lessened. Instead, India was made to cover the loss of Burmese rice imports to Ceylon, Arabia and South Africa even though these territories were already better provisioned with food than India.

Albeit in the years before WWII India had become a net importer of food, importing at least one million tons of cereal per year — a figure that was not actually sufficient to cover its needs, but represented what it could afford to import after paying the Home Charge — the British now undertook to export food from India.

Anticipating food shortages that were certain to follow, colonial administration moved to protect the strata of society most useful to the British Empire — administrators, soldiers and industrial workers. It set out to buy up huge quantities of grain and store it for their use. It would pay for these stocks in the same way it acquired supplies for the war effort — by printing money.

The government acquired some grain by requisitioning, but for the most part it simply bought it. Some purchases it made on its own, others it contracted out to private traders. Big merchant companies were given advances of vast sums of money and instructed to purchase grain at any price for the government.

The price of already precious grain skyrocketed and the Bengal peasant was priced out of the market. Between the purchases of the Bengal administration, the Government of India, the army and the industries which were recipients of government largesse, grain was sucked out from rural areas. Departments of government and industries crucial for the war effort secured huge stocks of grain — part of which would end up rotting as millions starved.

What made the looting of the countryside to this extent possible was that the transfer of purchasing power away from the peasant and to the government and those the government made business with that money printing entailed.

In the course of the war the money supply increased by between six and seven times, so that the British worried they were “within sight of collective refusal to accept further paper currency”. This confounded the problem of food scarcity since some cultivators understandably held onto their grain rather than release it to the market, as it was seen a better store of value than the rapidly depreciating currency.

The reason government purchases were so devastating for Bengal peasants was that most families owned tracts of land too small to sustain their families on their own.

Even in a normal year such families were not in position to store enough of their harvest to sustain them until the next one. They were not sellers of crops, they sold their labor to the big landowners and bought food.

Except now buying food meant competing with a government that could print money at will.

Prevalence of effectively landless peasants in Bengal in itself was the result of British policies in India which had created the landlord class from what had been tax collectors before the conquest.

Albeit crop failure and the loss of Burmese imports was enough to create a serious food deficit for India, there was actually no food problem for the British Empire taken as a whole. In fact London claimed that Bengal could not be fed — not for a lack of food, but for a lack of ships — supposedly shipping was so scarce that grain, which was available, could not be taken to India without disrupting the British war effort.

Prioritizing its war over the bare lives of three million of its subjects would have been bad enough, but Mukarjee shows that shipping was nowhere as scarce as London claimed, albeit it was certainly being mismanaged. For example there was shipping and food enough to build up a stockpile in the Eastern Mediterranean for the purpose of Allied invasion of the Balkans that would never come about. Also there were always ships aplenty to build up an enormous and ever growing stockpile of food in the British Isles that the London government was actually building up for post-war use.

In reality the biggest obstacle to secure food for famine-stricken India was not a lack of means, but the lack of will to allocate the resources necessary. Such readjustments would have clashed with the interest and the intent of the British Empire under Winston Churchill to exploit its colony for its purposes to the greatest extent possible.

To their credit, not every Brit was of a mind with the London government personified in Winston Churchill.

Many officials, including high ranking ones like the Secretary of State for India, Leopold Amery and the Viceroy of India, Field Marshal Wavell repeatedly called for a decisive effort to relieve the famine. Governments of Australia, New Zeeland and Canada offered grain for India if United Kingdom, which had taken control of their shipping, would transport it there.

British soldiers on the scene defied orders not to help famine refugees often handing over food from their own rations.

In addition to showing how the British Empire helped cause the Bengal Famine of 1943 and then denied it famine relief Churchill’s Secret War also provides the context for these two stories.

Mukarjee recounts a fair bit of the dynamic between colonial metropolis and the colony centering on exploitation and resistance, explains the consequences of British wartime policies for the political future of the colony — partition and independence — and paints a picture of famine and repression as seen from the ground by offering vivid first hand accounts by people who were affected.

It is a book rich in content, but probably the one thing to take from it is the way in which the famine was made worse and its victims selected by government abuse of paper currency.

British reaction to food shortages in Bengal was to protect the cities and industries at the expense of the peasants. Like the Soviet Union which had faced a food crisis of its own a decade earlier the British Empire figured it was up to it to decide who would live and who would die.

Only where the Soviet method of robbing the countryside of grain in 1932-33 was requisition, the British method of choice in India was money creation. It was a more elegant method, but no less deadly, and more difficult to effectively resist.

If the famine in 1932-33 in the Soviet Union was a requisition famine, the Bengal Famine of 1943 was a printing press famine.

October 10, 2019 Posted by | Book Review, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Malthusian Ideology, Phony Scarcity, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , | 3 Comments

Battle of Military Drones has Begun!

By Vladimir Platov – New Eastern Outlook – 10.10.2019

Robot technology has long become an indelible part of our world. Robots are actively used in our daily lives, in production facilities and are playing an increasingly important role in the military sphere. Spellbinding scenes from Star Wars movies depicting battles involving thousands of military robots and various pieces of equipment that captured our imagination not too long ago are now part of our reality. And any country that will be able to conduct large-scale military operations on land, in the sky, in the sea and in space first with the aid of unmanned military vehicles would, undoubtedly, enjoy a considerable advantage in any future armed conflicts and wars in comparison to its opponents.

This was evidenced by a recent attack by Houthi rebels on an oil processing facility in Saudi Arabia. The incident served to demonstrate the types of approaches and weapons that will be used in wars in the next decades.

For the past 170 years, the means of waging armed conflict was developing world-wide towards the possible use of military drones! After all, unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs) were first utilized on 12 July 1849, when the Austro-Hungarian Army deployed them (hot air balloons were chosen to carry shrapnel bombs with time fuses, the latter were used to initiate the dropping of the explosives) to suppress a rebellion in Venice. However, at the time, the UCAVs proved to be fairly ineffective on the battle-field, which is why their first use in an armed conflict was not widely publicized.

When discussing governmental usage of drones, it is enough to remember that the United States Air Force alone has approximately 1,150 UAVs at its disposal. They are stationed in USAFE (US Air Forces in Europe) and PACAF (Pacific Air Force) areas of responsibility. In addition, the U.S. Army, Marine Corps and Special Operations Command have approximately 5,000 RQ-11 Ravens (small reconnaissance unmanned aerial vehicles or SUAVs). Moreover, U.S. Army ground troops are equipped with more than 100 MQ-1C Gray Eagle attack and reconnaissance UAVs, and the Marine Corps has 275 RQ-7B Shadow 400 unmanned aerial systems for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance and 1,400 small reconnaissance RQ-14 Dragon Eye UAVs. And there are far more UAVs at the disposal of the U.S Armed Forces than those listed above. Despite the fact that American troops are equipped with a wide variety of UAVs ranging from lighter (under 9 kg) to heavier (over 600 kg) ones, which are either used for intelligence gathering or in attacks, since 1991 the United States has had a preference for smaller UAVs. This choice is based on its experience in waging several local conflicts involving ground and Marine Corps troops, some of which are still raging in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

Nevertheless, the use of UAVs by Houthis in the attack on the oil processing site in Saudi Arabia showed that one does not need to have a technologically advanced military force (as, for example, that of the United States today) to conduct a strike resulting in considerable financial losses and distress using such weapons. Even a military unit that does not have access to cutting-edge weaponry or vast amounts of money can nowadays carry out an attack of this nature. In other words, if 100 years ago the global community feared terrorist bombers who used explosives as means of protest against governments and societies, today, anyone who simply has a moderately-sized UAV poses a considerable threat.

At present, even nations and terrorist organizations that are not very powerful can have access to modern weapons and conduct strikes against their opponents resulting in considerable damage. Terrorists, among others, can get their hands on such weaponry via various networks run by private and state organizations of different nations that wish to use terrorist groups for their own financial gain. We only need to recall a recent report by U.S. television channel CNN stating that Saudi Arabia and its coalition allies (which are engaged in a military operation in Yemen) were passing on U.S.-manufactured weapons to extremists linked to Al-Qaeda (a terrorist organization banned in Russia), thereby violating prior agreements with Washington.

Let us take U.S. company Throwflame as an example. It began selling flamethrower attachment for drones this year. This particular manufacturer always tries to point out that its products are only meant for peaceful purposes, i.e. first and foremost, for farmers, as a “flying flamethrower” is ideal for clearing fields off dry plants and weeds, and for destroying pests’ breeding areas. However, one does not have to be an expert to understand what kind of damage such flamethrower attachments for UAVs could cause to oil and gas processing facilities of an opponent!

Nowadays, the use of drones is heavily regulated in many nations considering the fact that they are capable of performing a wide range of functions and numerous tasks. However, there are no international norms and rules at present, primarily because of lobbying efforts made by the sellers and manufacturers of unmanned vehicles (aerial as well as other types), especially in the United States.

As for attack and reconnaissance UAVs, nowadays, any nation with an army has such drones, since its military staff have understood that in the future armed conflicts will be fought with this high-precision weaponry and not weapons of mass destruction as half a century ago. In 2015, English rock band Muse even released an album called Drones. On the world wide web, one can find any information about UAVs, such as possible means of purchasing them, their manufacturers and even selling points. For example, anyone interested can learn that the benefit of miniature explosives-laden drones is their high precision (owing to GPS) despite slow speeds.

At present, a number of countries are using Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Neural network technologies in their work on unmanned combat aerial vehicles. However, we must not forget that despite their advantages, AI-equipped drones will not have a moral compass. Hence, a head of any terrorist organization who gets their hands on such a machine could reprogram it, thereby transforming the drone into means of inflicting terror and devastation, which could even lead to the Third World War.

In conclusion, since the use of UAVs in armed conflicts is becoming the norm, we must consider all the risks associated with this development. And we should also think about formulating an international agreement that includes measures restricting the use of drones, just as we did before with treaties aimed at limiting the spread of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction.

October 10, 2019 Posted by | Militarism | Leave a comment

Sanctioning Away Free Speech: Americans Meet With Iranians at Their Peril

By Philip Giraldi | Strategic Culture Foundation | October 10, 2019

The issue of the United States waging what seems to be a global war by way of sanctions rarely surfaces in the western media. The argument being made by the White House is that sanctions are capable of putting maximum pressure on a rogue regime without the necessity of having to go to war and actually kill people, but while economic warfare may seem to be more benign than bombing and shooting the reality is that thousands of people die anyway, whether through starvation or inability to obtain medicines. It is often noted that 500,000 Iraqi children died in the 1990s due to sanctions imposed by the Bill Clinton White House and current estimates of deaths in Syria, Iran and Venezuela number in the tens of thousands.

Meanwhile the regimes that are under siege through sanctions do not, in fact, capitulate to American demands even when they are feeling considerable pain. Cuba has been sanctioned by Washington since 1960 and nothing has been accomplished, apart from providing an excuse for the regime to tighten its control over the people. Indeed, one might argue that free trade and travel would have likely succeeded in democratizing Cuba much more quickly than threats coupled with a policy of economic and political isolation.

Apart from their ineffectiveness, the dark side of sanctions is what they do to third parties who get caught up in the conflict. America’s recently imposed total ban on Iranian petroleum exports comes with secondary sanctions that can be initiated on any country that buys the oil, alienating Washington’s few remaining friends and creating universal concern regarding the United States’ long-term intentions. Indeed, the United States was a country that prior to the “Global war on terror” was generally liked and respected, but today it is widely regarded as the most dangerous threat to peace in the world. This shift in perception is due to the actual wars that the US has started as well as the sanctions regime which has as its objective regime change of governments that it disapproves of.

Another aspect to sanctions that is somewhat invisible is the impact that government action has had on what are regarded as the constitutional rights of American citizens. Max Blumenthal has written an interesting article on a recent application of sanctions that has affected a group of citizens who were seeking to attend a conference in Beirut Lebanon.

Blumenthal describes how the attempt to criminalize any participation in a conference sponsored by the Iranian NGO New Horizon as a “significant escalation in the Trump administration’s strategy of ‘maximum pressure’ to bring about regime change in Iran.” A number of Americans who had intended to speak or otherwise participate in the conference were approached in advance by FBI agents, evidently acting under orders from Sigal Mandelker, Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence. The Agents warned that any participants in the conference might be subject to arrest upon return to the US because New Horizon is under sanctions. One of those who was approached by the Bureau explained that “They’re interpreting the regulations to say that even if you associate with someone who has been sanctioned, you are subject to fines and imprisonment. I haven’t seen anything in the regulations that allows that, but they’ve set the bar so low that anyone can be designated.”

The New Horizon Conference is an annual event organized by Iranian TV host and filmmaker Nader Talebzadeh and his wife, Zeina Mehanna. New Horizon was placed under financial sanctions earlier this year by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). [Full disclosure: the author attended and spoke at the conference in Mashhad last year]

US government interest in New Horizon conferences appeared to begin in 2014, after the Jewish Anti-Defamation league (ADL) called that year’s meeting an “anti-Semitic gathering” that “included US and international anti-Semites, Holocaust deniers and anti-war activists.”

Potential participants in the Beirut conference made strenuous efforts to find out just what the consequences might be if they were to attend the event, but the Treasury Department refused to be drawn into a debate over restrictions that were arguably unconstitutional. Lawyers who were consulted warned that any notice from the FBI that someone might be arrested should be interpreted as meaning that someone will be arrested. Other sources in the government suggested privately that the Trump Administration would be delighted if it could make an example of some Americans who were soft on Iran.

Now that the conference has been concluded without any significant American presence, there has been some clarification of how the sanctions might be applied. Responding to a query by a potential participant, an OFAC employee explained that “transaction” and “dealing in transactions,” as those terms are used by OFAC, are broadly construed to include not only monetary dealings or exchanges, but also “providing any sort of service” and “non-monetary service,” including giving a presentation at a conference. Any person engaging in that activity could be subject to legal consequences because the Treasury Department and OFAC have broad latitude to take action against persons who violate its rules or guidelines, and that a range of factors are taken into consideration when deciding to take action against any specific person or for any specific violation.

When asked whether dealing with non-sanctioned Iranian organizations might also be construed negatively, the OFAC employee observed that there could or might be consequences. That’s because Iran (along with North Korea and a few other countries) is a “comprehensively sanctioned” country, meaning that anything having to do with “supporting it” is sanctionable.

Exactly how speaking at any Iranian sponsored event is damaging to American interests remains unclear, in spite of the “clarification” provided by OFAC, but the real damage is to those US citizens who choose to travel to countries that are at odds with Washington to offer a different perspective on what Americans actually think. And there is also considerable value in those travelers returning to the United States to share with fellow citizens perceptions of how foreigners regard US foreign policy, insofar as anything describable as a policy actually exists. In truth, the sanctions regime with its steady diet of punishment has now entered a new phase, as Blumenthal observed, where White House aggression overseas is now blowing back, eroding the protections afforded by the Bill of Rights in an act of self-destruction that is both unnecessary and incomprehensible.

October 10, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , | 2 Comments