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Western media excited about ‘new Iran revolution’, but polls tell a different story about protests

By Sharmine Narwani | RT | November 27, 2019

Data from two foreign polls tell a very different story about protests in Iran. The economy is tough, but a majority of Iranians back their government’s security initiatives and reject domestic upheaval.

On November 15, angry Iranians began pouring onto the streets to protest sudden news of a 50% fuel price hike. A day later, peaceful demonstrations had largely dissipated, replaced instead by much smaller crowds of rioters who burned banks, gas stations, buses and other public and private property. Within no time, security forces hit the streets to snuff out the violence and arrest rioters, during which an unconfirmed number of people on both sides died.

Western commentators tried in vain to squeeze some juice out of the short-lived protests. “Iranian protesters strike at the heart of the regime’s legitimacy,” declared Suzanne Maloney of the Brookings Institution. France 24 asked the question, is this “a new Iranian revolution?” And the LA Times slammed Iran’s “brutal crackdown” against its people.

They grasped for a geopolitical angle too: protests in neighboring Lebanon and Iraq that were based almost entirely on popular domestic discontent against corrupt and negligent governments, began to be cast as a regional insurrection against Iranian influence.

And despite the fact that the internet in Iran was disabled for nearly a week, unverified videos and reports curiously made their way outside to Twitter accounts of Iran critics, alleging that protestors were calling for the death of the Supreme Leader, railing against Iran’s interventions in the region and calling for a fall of the “regime.”

Clearly, the initial protests were genuine – a fact that even the Iranian government admitted immediately. Reducing petrol subsidies on the cheapest fuel in the region has been an issue on Iran’s political agenda for years, one that became more urgent after the US exited the Iran nuclear deal last year and began to tighten the sanctions screws on Iran again.

To try and understand Iranian reactions in the past twelve days, let’s look at two opinion polls conducted jointly by the University of Maryland’s Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM) and Toronto-based IranPolls in the immediate aftermath of the 2017/2018 protests/riots – and in May, August and October 2019, when the US “maximum pressure” campaign was in full gear.

What leaps out immediately from the earlier 2018 poll is that Iranians were frustrated with a stagnant economy – and 86% of them specifically opposed a hike in the price of gasoline, the main impetus for protests this November.

Ironically, this month’s gasoline price hike was meant to generate upward of $2.25 billion earmarked for distribution to Iran’s 18 million most hard-hit families. In effect, the government was softening the fuel subsidy reduction with payouts to the country’s neediest citizens.

The 2018 poll also lists respondents’ single biggest woes, ranging from unemployment (40%), inflation and high cost of living (13%), low incomes (7%),financial corruption and embezzlement (6%), injustice (1.4%), lack of civil liberties (0.3%), among others.

These numbers suggest the 2018 protests were overwhelmingly in response to domestic economic conditions– and not over Iran’s foreign policy initiatives or “widespread repression” that was heavily promoted by western media and politicians at the time.

The same Suzanne Maloney quoted above on this month’s protests, insisted in a 2018 Washington Post article: “The people aren’t just demonstrating for better working conditions or pay, but insisting on wholesale rejection of the system itself.”

In fact, in the 2018 poll, only 16% of Iranians agreed with the statement “Iran’s political system needs to undergo fundamental change,” with a whopping 77% disagreeing.

Like protests this month in Iran, the 2017-18 demonstrations also morphed into small but violent riots, and Iranian security forces hit the streets to stop the chaos. But in the aftermath of those events – and despite endless foreign headlines about the “brutality” of the security reaction – Iranians overwhelmingly sided with their government’s treatment of rioters.

Sixty-three percent of those polled in 2018 said the police used an appropriate amount of force, and another 11% said they used “too little force.” Overall, 85% of Iranians agreed that “the government should be more forceful to stop rioters who use violence or damage property.”

This Iranian reaction must be understood in context of Iran’s very insecure neighborhood, region-wide terrorism often backed by hostile states and a relentless escalation against Iranian interests after Donald Trump became US president. His “maximum pressure” campaign has only worsened matters, and Iranians consider themselves in a state of war with the United States – on constant guard against subversion, sabotage, espionage, eavesdropping, propaganda, border infiltration, etc.

Earlier this decade, the US military declared the internet an “operational domain”of war, and cyber warfare has already been widely acknowledged as the future battle frontier in conflicts. Iran was one of the early victims of this new warfare, when the suspected US/Israeli Stuxnet virus disrupted its nuclear program.

The US military has set up war rooms of servicemen dedicated to manipulating social media and advancing US propaganda interests. The British army has launched a “social media warfare” division, its initial focus, the Middle East. Israel has been at the online propaganda game forever, and the Saudis have recently invested heavily in influencing discourse on social media.

It should therefore come as no surprise that the Iranian government shut down the internet during this crisis. Expect this to become the new normal in US adversary states when chaos looms and foreign information operations are suspected.

The western media themes of corruption, violent repression, popular rejection of the Islamic Republic and its regional alliances have been consistent since the 2009 protests that followed contentious elections in Iran. They flared up briefly in early 2011, when western states were eager for an “Iranian Spring” to join the Arab Spring, and became popular narratives during 2017-18 protests when social media platforms adopted them widely.

This November, those narratives sprung to the surface again. So let’s examine what Iranians thought about these claims in October when CISSM/IranPolls published their latest, extremely timely survey.

Iran’s regional military activities

Sixty-one percent of Iranians support retaining military personnel in Syria to contain extremist militants that could threaten Iran’s security and interests. Polls taken since March 2016 confirm the consistency of this view inside Iran, with a steady two-thirds (66%) of respondents supporting an increase in Iran’s regional role.

Asked what would happen if Iran conceded to US demands and ended the US-sanctioned Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) activities in Syria and Iraq, 60% of Iranians thought it would make Washington demand more concessions – only 11% thought it would make the US more accommodating.

Moreover, the October 2019 report says negative attitudes toward the United States have never been higher in CISSM/IranPoll’s 13 years of conducting these surveys in Iran. A hefty 86% of Iranians do not favor the US, and those who say their view of the US is very unfavorable has skyrocketed from 52% in 2015 to 73% today.

They could care less that Washington has sanctioned the IRGC and its elite Quds Force Commander Qassem Soleimani, who is the most popular national figure of those polled, with eight in ten Iranians viewing him favorably. If anything, a hefty 81% of Iranians said the IRGC’s Mideast activities has made Iran “more secure.”

As for the IRGC’s role in Iran’s domestic economy – a favorite subject of western foes who cast the military group as a malign and corrupt instrument of the state – today 63% of Iranians believe the IRGC should be involved “in construction projects and other economic matters,” as well as continuing their security role. In times of crisis, they’re viewed as a vital institution: the IRGC and Iranian military scored top points with the public (89% and 90% respectively) for assisting the population during crippling floods last Spring, which displaced half a million Iranians.

Economy and corruption

Seventy percent of Iranians view their economy as “bad” today, a figure that has stayed surprisingly consistent over the past 18 months, despite the imposition of US sanctions last year. The majority blame domestic mismanagement and corruption for their economic woes, but a rising number also blame US sanctions, which is possibly why 70% of Iranians prefer aiming for national self-sufficiency over increasing foreign trade.

Asked about the “impact (of sanctions) on the lives of ordinary people,” 83% of Iranians agreed there was a negative impact on their lives. Oddly, since the US exited the JCPOA, economic pessimism has dropped from 64% in 2018 to 54% last month-mainly, the poll argues, because Iranians feel the US can’t realistically pressure Iran much further with sanctions. Accordingly, 55% of Iranians blame domestic economic mismanagement and corruption for Iran’s poor economy versus 38% who blame foreign sanctions and pressure.

The blame for much of this mismanagement and corruption is pinned on the administration of President Hassan Rouhani, whose favorability numbers dropped under 50% for the first time, to reach 42% this August. Fifty-four percent of Iranians think his government isn’t trying much to fight corruption.

In contrast, 73% believe the Iranian judiciary is much more engaged in fighting economic corruption, up 12% since May.

On the economic front, it appears that Iranians have largely been disappointed by the promises and vision of this administration, which could benefit its Principlist opponents in upcoming parliamentary elections. The fuel tax hike two weeks ago was a necessary evil and a brave move by Rouhani, despite the mismanagement of its public rollout. Unfortunately, Iranians, who have railed against subsidy removals for years, are unlikely to be forgiving anytime soon.

On the political front, Iranians appear to be largely in lockstep with their government’s foreign policy and military initiatives, viewing the IRGC’s activities – domestic and regional – very favorably, and supporting Iran’s involvement in neighboring Iraq and Syria, both for security reasons against terrorism and because they believe in an active regional role for Iran. In terms of support for their leaders, a majority of Iranians view favorably the IRGC’s Soleimani (82%), followed by Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif (67%) and Judiciary Head Ebrahim Raisi (64%), which covers an unexpectedly broad spectrum of political viewpoints in the country.

In light of these numbers, it is fair to say that there is no “second revolution” on Iran’s horizon, nor any kind of significant rupture between government and populace on a whole host of key political, economic and security issues. Foreign commentators can spin events in Iran all they want, but so far Iranians have chosen security and stability over upheaval every time.

*Poll numbers in this article have been rounded up or down to the nearest unit.

November 29, 2019 Posted by | Economics, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | | 6 Comments

The ballad of India’s Kashmir and Israel’s Palestine

Palestinian children play outside their dwelling in al-Eizariya town in the Israeli-occupied West Bank with the Jewish settlement of Maale Adumim in the background.
By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | November 29, 2019

“I believe the security situation will improve (in J&K), it will allow the refugees to go back, and in your lifetime, you will be able to go back … and you will be able to find security, because we already have a model in the world.”

“I don’t know why we don’t follow it. It has happened in the Middle East. If the Israeli people can do it, we can also do it.” 

The above reported remarks by India’s consul-general in New York Sandeep Chakravorty while addressing an audience of Kashmiri Pandits raised some dust in the Indian media. But his job or career is no mortal danger.

For, Chakravorty must be an intelligent man and probably estimated that he was only articulating from a Track 1.5 platform the Modi government’s surreptitious policy in J&K  — following the Israeli footfalls of forcible occupation and colonisation of lands inhabited by alienated people. 

Whether the policy is doable or not is for time to tell. To my mind, the final word is not yet available whether even the brutal Israeli policy will work or not. Besides, circumstances are vastly different, and Kashmir is not an analogous situation. 

The main difference is that although the Indian state resorted to the use of force, much like Israel had done in Palestinian lands, the security situation has only deteriorated over the years, over decades. There are no two opinions that even half a million troops could not achieve anything by way of enduring results in the Kashmir valley. 

The ground realities in the valley militate against repression and state terrorism as viable policy option for a country such as India. The stark evidence of it lies in the government’s decision in August to change the status of J&K, which is an admission of failure rather than a mark of triumphant glory. 

Consul-general Chakravorty seems unaware how Israel went about systematically to prepare an external environment first by subduing the Arab countries that surrounded it and harboured sympathy, and were willing to support the Palestinian cause. Arguably, India too should begin with defeating and subduing Pakistan first? But, honestly, such an option is not available for India in our thermonuclear era, now or ever, the bravado of our ruling elite and their acolytes notwithstanding. 

Then, there is the western support for Israel, which helps it to get away with murder. The underlying factors here are complex and deep rooted in history. At its core, the western countries are constantly forced into an attitude of atonement for their anti-semitism that has a long and loathsome history dating back centuries. Remember the notorious Dreyfus affair in France — leave alone the slaughter of Jews in the Holocaust, which makes Angela Merkel wobbly in the legs even today when she mentions Israel. 

Israel plays the “anti-semitic card’ very effectively. In actual practice, any criticism of Israeli state violations against Palestinians is instantly discredited as being “antisemitic”. Today, US Congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib and British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn are in the crosshairs of the Israeli lobby for this reason. Corbyn’s sin is that he has pledged to cut military trade with Israel and move to officially recognise a Palestinian state, if elected to power. 

The well-known commentator Finian Cunningham recently wrote, “This conflation of valid criticism of the Israeli state with being “anti-Jew” is a cynical distortion which is wielded to give Israel impunity from international law. It plays on moral blackmail of critics by equating the historical persecution of Jews and in particular the Nazi holocaust with the sanctity of the modern Israeli state.” 

Unfortunately, there is a notion even amongst educated Indians (including bureaucrats in the Indian Foreign Service) that linking up with the Jewish organisations would enable India to piggy ride on the Israeli lobby in the US. The false notion largely stems from sinister claims about the influence of “Jewish money” — and, it is not of recent origin. Didn’t Brajesh Mishra, the NSA under Atal Bihari Vajpayee, envisage a US-Israel-India condominium? 

The heart of the matter is that India is not Israel. Unlike Judaism, Hinduism is not an Abrahamic religion and it is not joined at the hips with the Christian world. This is one thing. Second, while large sections of Hindus too have suffered cruel persecution through centuries, it happened to be at the hands of their co-religionists. Clearly, there is no reason for atonement on the part of the West. 

Third, while Indian-Americans are a prosperous community relatively, their clout in the Wall Street is minimal. Unlike the “Jewish lobby”. Simply put, following the Israeli footfall on the occupation and colonisation of the Palestinian homeland or the territories illegally annexed during wars will not take India very far in regard of the J&K situation. 

The bottom line is that the western opinion on Kashmir is supportive of neither India nor Pakistan. It always rooted for the “Third Option” — an independent and sovereign state of Kashmir. The official US position, in particular, always made it a point to stress that any solution should take into account the “wishes of the Kashmiri people.” 

In the prevailing geopolitical situation in Asia, an independent Kashmir state will be a strategic asset for Washington. Surely, any colonisation of Kashmir Valley by non-Kashmiris grates against the US interests. Israel, on the contrary, is itself a western creation on the map of the Middle East and the US condones Israel’s war crimes and aggressive state policies as a matter of regional strategy. 

One would imagine that an Indian diplomat of the rank of ambassador would know that discretion is the better part of valour. Yet, he voiced maverick opinions like a run-of-the mill rabble-rouser on the Hindutva platform, which, he should be intelligent enough to grasp, would only serve to confirm Pakistani allegations regarding the Modi government’s intentions behind the change of status of J&K. The politicisation of the Foreign Service, which such sordid episodes highlight, won’t serve any good.

November 29, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular | , , , | 1 Comment

BBC under increasing criticism for biased reporting

By Johanna Ross | November 27, 2019

It’s almost as British as fish and chips and a pint, but what used to be embraced by the masses as a reliable source of information, the BBC, is now under increasing scrutiny for its overt political bias. With the growing popularity of social and alternative media, Brits are no longer taking as gospel what is pumped out by, this publicly funded service which is increasingly coming under fire for being nothing more than a propaganda machine for the sitting government.  The hashtag #BBCbias has been trending for some time now on Twitter, and with more and more commentators questioning the integrity of this public service, it’s clear that the organisation needs to take a long hard look at itself.

Let’s take the issue of Scottish Independence for example. Coverage of this, and of the Scottish National Party has been demonstrated to be biased for years. A 2014 report by Dr John Robertson concluded that BBC reports in the run up to the Yes campaign consisted of “typically a Westminster scare story, on the Yes campaign, mostly left unanswered and unchallenged” and that coverage had “not been fair or balanced”. More worrying however, the research had illustrated that this biased reporting could well have had a negative impact on the independence movement: “we have evidence of coverage which seems likely to have damaged the Yes campaign”.  The revelations earlier this year by a senior BBC journalist, Allan Little, that his colleagues viewed it as their responsibility to demonstrate how ‘foolish’ independence was, only adds to the case that coverage was far from impartial.

But despite the public outcry, it’s clear that few lessons have been learned. Much of the current criticism of the BBC is to do with its stance towards the Labour party led by Jeremy Corbyn. It couldn’t be more obvious from interviews by some of its top journalists – Andrew Marr for one – that there is an anti-Corbyn position, and in fact Corbyn has himself accused Marr in the past of ‘establishment bias’. A report from 2016 only looked into coverage of the Labour leader by the mainstream media in general and concluded that there was a “marked and persistent imbalance” in favour of sources critical to him. Furthermore, it singled out the BBC for using more ‘pejorative language’ when referring to Corbyn and his party colleagues and it gave almost double the unchallenged airtime to people criticising the Labour leader than to his supporters.

In recent months however, since Prime Minister Boris Johnson took office, the preferential treatment given to the government has been more stark than ever, mainly down to the nature of his ‘style’. For more than any other Prime Minister before him, Johnson has been accused of being economical with the truth. Therefore the BBC is under increased pressure to either promote the government position, as it has traditionally done, however extraordinary it may be, or rethink its approach altogether. One of the first to bring this issue to the public eye was acclaimed journalist Peter Oborne. Writing in Open Democracy, he stated that ‘British journalists have become part of Johnson’s fake news machine’. He accuses the Prime Minister of having “debauched Downing Street by using the power of his office to spread propaganda and fake news” and mentions the BBC Political Editor Laura Kuenssberg, saying she was ‘manipulated by Downing Street’ when she reported ‘insider information’ without questioning it.  But with the lies of Boris Johnson being exposed more and more, how long can the BBC protect him?

Peter Oborne does go some way to explaining the problem: “I have talked to senior BBC executives, and they tell me they personally think it’s wrong to expose lies told by a British prime minister because it undermines trust in British politics.” But in actual fact this does not convey fully what is happening. For the reality is, despite its mission statement boasting of its aim “to act in the public interest, serving all audiences through the provision of impartial, high-quality and distinctive output and services which inform, educate and entertain”, the BBC is, and always has been, a mouthpiece for the British government of the day. Its journalists, up until the 1990s were vetted by the British security services. It’s always had an agenda to promote the establishment narrative and to oppose any individuals or movements which threaten that. Scottish independence is a threat. Jeremy Corbyn is another. The former will break up the Union; the latter is deemed a security risk because of his pacifist tendencies and non-interventionist stance when it comes to foreign policy.

But with both these movements gaining ground, and British politics and society in a state of flux, we are now in uncertain territory. The period of post-war stability is now coming to an end, and so is it the reign of the mainstream media. For the BBC to survive in this new media landscape it will have to inject a heavy dose of honesty and transparency into its broadcasting, or face being obsolete.  As populism gathers strength, and people access a wider range of media sources than ever before, they will no longer be accepting things at face value.

Johanna Ross is a journalist based in Edinburgh, Scotland.

November 27, 2019 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , | 2 Comments

Report: US rejected UAE request to purchase F-35 fighter jets

MEMO | November 26, 2019

The United States has rejected a request by the United Arab Emirates to purchase the F-35 Stealth Fighters, Israeli Channel 13 reported.

According to the news station Pentagon officials said they would not allow the sale of F-35 Stealth Fighters to the UAE in order to preserve Israel’s qualitative military edge (QME).

According to the channel, the UAE has been seeking to purchase the stealth fighters for more than six years without success.

The US, Channel 13 continued, has a long held policy of upholding Israel’s qualitative military edge, whereby Israel maintains a technological advantage in the region when it comes to defence capabilities.

Israel has recently received two additional F-35 fighter jets amid escalating tensions with Iran in the region.

November 26, 2019 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , | 1 Comment

Recognition of a Palestinian state without liberation is an illusion

By Ramona Wadi | MEMO | November 26, 2019

During the Berlin European Council summit in 1999, the European Union declared “its readiness to consider the recognition of a Palestinian state in due course” and conditionally dependent upon the Oslo framework, as well as “Israel’s security and Israel’s acceptance as an equal partner in the region.” Two decades later, the EU is still being prompted to recognise a Palestinian state.

The latest recommendation came from Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister, Jean Asselborn, as a reaction to the US reversing its official position over the legality of Israeli settlements. However, Asselborn himself emphasised the limitations of such a move, describing it as “a mere recognition of the right of the Palestinian people to [their] own state.” Speaking to Reuters, Asselborn insisted that any such recognition “would not be meant against Israel,” but rather a step towards implementing the two-state paradigm.

In other words, such recognition would merely affirm the EU’s consistency with its foreign policy. By no means is EU recognition of a Palestinian state meant to advance Palestinian liberation. Furthermore, the constant political reactions to the US and Israel advancing colonial expansion in Palestine is rendering any possible significance of recognition negligible.

The European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) highlighted reasons why the European Parliament should vote in favour of a Palestinian state, mentioning, among other things, the “significant EU financial investment in the two-state solution”. Of particular significance is how the ECFR ties recognition of a Palestinian state to Israel’s purported legitimacy as evidenced by its statement that, “Recognising a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders reaffirms the EU’s support for the two-state solution and the legitimacy of Israel.” Furthermore, the ECFR opined that such recognition would “likely have a restraining influence” on Palestinians resorting to armed resistance. The Council maintained that in the event of “no progress with Israel, at least all is not lost in the world and that their [the Palestinian] leadership can deliver a diplomatic success.”

What the ECFR fails to mention is that diplomatic successes for Palestinians, conditioned as they are by powerful institutions aligned with Israeli demands, are responses as opposed to claims for rights. The fact that the Palestinian Authority is at the helm, endorsing this labyrinth of half-truths that protects Israel at all costs, creates bleak prospects for the people of Palestine. It is one thing to advocate for the two-state paradigm, and another to impart what the PA is grovelling for at an international level, namely prioritising Israel’s presence and security narrative at the expense of Palestinian land and people, which is what the two-state compromise is all about, as the ECFR spells out.

Even if it were to issue such recognition, the EU will not step away from its commitment to maintain Palestinians as a humanitarian project. State recognition without its equivalence in terms of land, sovereignty and liberated people is as deceptive as the state-building which the EU funds the PA for, in return for its complete acquiescence to the two-state paradigm which keeps Palestinians stateless. Without changing its politics, EU rhetoric and drawn-out symbolic concessions will only serve to highlight the fact that a Palestinian state without Palestinian liberation is an illusion.

November 26, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | 1 Comment

Beware of the Medicare “Disadvantage” Corporate Trap – Wake Up AARP

By Ralph Nader | November 21, 2019

While the Democratic presidential candidates are debating full Medicare for All, giant insurance companies like UnitedHealthcare are advertising to the elderly in an attempt to lure them from Traditional Medicare (TM) to the so-called Medicare Advantage (MA) – a corporate plan that UnitedHealthcare promotes to turn a profit at the expense of enrollees.

Almost one third of all elderly over 65 are enrolled in these numerous, complex MA policies the government pays so much for monthly. The health insurance industry wants more enrollees as they continue to press Congress for more advantages.

Medical Disadvantage would be a more accurate name for the programs, as insurance companies push to corporatize all of Medicare, yet keep the name for the purposes of marketing, deception, and confusion.

Elderly people enrolled in MA will experience its often merciless denials when they get sick. As hospital expert – attorney, physician, Dr. Fred Hyde put it: “It’s not just what you pay, it’s what you get.”

Start with the cross-subsidy of MA from TM. In 2009, the Congressional Budget Office estimated these overpayments would cost the federal government $157 billion over the coming decade. Obama’s Affordable Care Act started to reduce these subsidies to the giant insurers, but they still amount to many billions of dollars per year.

Add that with Medicare Disadvantage you are restricted to networks of vendors. That restricts your choice for competence and skills, and sometimes, requires you to travel longer distances for treatment. This could mean fewer enrollees will utilize their healthcare and more profits for the insurance companies.

Under Medicare Disadvantage you are subject to all kinds of differing plans, maddening trapdoor fine print, and unclear meaning to the insurers arguing no “medical necessity” when you’re denied care.

The advertisements for Medicare Disadvantage stress that you can sometimes get perks – gym memberships, hearing aids, and eyeglasses, as enticements, but they avoid telling you they are not so ready to cover serious needs like skilled nursing care for critically ill patients.

Under Medicare Disadvantage, there is no Medigap coverage as there is for TM. Co-pays and deductibles can be large. Under a recent Humana Medicare Advantage Plan in Florida, your co-pay for an ambulance is up to $300, up to $100 co-pay for lab services, and another $100 for outpatient x-rays.

A few years ago, UnitedHealthcare corporations dismissed thousands of physicians from their MA networks, sometimes immediately, sometimes telling their patients before telling their physicians.

Dr. Arthur Vogelman, a gastroenterologist, said he received a termination letter in 2013 from UnitedHealthcare. He appealed, documenting his successful treatment of many patients. The company denied his appeal, with no reason, as it had for thousands of network physicians.

Dr. Vogelman called it “an outrage. I have patients in their 80s and 90s who have been with me 20 years, and I’m having to tell them that their insurer won’t pay for them to see me anymore. The worst thing is I can’t even tell them why.” Except that the company wanted more profits.

After a lengthy protest by national and state medical societies in 2013, UnitedHealthcare began to be less aggressively dismissive.

Studies show the main reason MA enrollees return to TM is how badly the corporate insurers treated them when they became sick.

Medicare itself is getting overly complex. But nothing like the ever changing corporate rules, offerings, and restrictions of Medicare Disadvantage. How strange it is that AARP, with its Medigap insurance business run by UnitedHealthcare, doesn’t advise its members to go with the obviously superior Traditional Medicare. AARP reportedly receives a commission of 4.95% for new enrollees on top of the premiums the elderly pay for the Medigap policy from United Healthcare. This money – about seven hundred million dollars a year – is a significant portion of AARP’s overall budget.

AARP responded to my inquiries into their Medicare Advantage policy saying that it does not recommend one plan over another, leaving it to the uninformed or misinformed consumer. That’s one of AARP’s biggest cop-outs— they know the difference.

There is no space here to cover all the bewildering ins and outs of what corporations have done to so-called managed Medicare and managed Medicaid. That task is for full-time reporters. The government does estimate a staggering $60 billion in billing fraud annually just on Medicare – manipulating codes, phantom billing, etc. You need the equivalent of a college-level course just to start figuring out all the supposed offerings and gaps.

Suffice it to say that, in the words of Eleanor Laise, senior editor of Kiplinger’s Retirement Report, “the evidence on health care access and quality decidedly favors original Medicare over Medicare Advantage, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation review of 40 studies published between 2000 and 2014.”

All this anxiety, dread, and fear, all these arbitrary denials of care – prompted by a pay-or-die commercial profit motive – all these restrictions of what doctors or hospitals you can go to, do not exist in Canada. All Canadians have a Medicare card from birth; they have free choice of health care vendors. There are few American-style horror stories there; patients have better outcomes, and almost never even see a bill. The whole universal system costs half per capita of that in the U.S., where over 80 million people are uninsured or underinsured – still! (See singlepayeraction.org, for civic action to rid Americans of this perverse chaos).

November 26, 2019 Posted by | Deception | , , | 1 Comment

Now the Interim of US Self-Deception Over Bolivia

To read the mainstream press on what just happened to Evo Morales is to enter a hall of mirrors

Bolivia’s Evo Morales in 2008. (Joel Alvarez, Wikimedia Commons)
By Patrick Lawrence | Consortium News | November 25, 2019

Years from now, maybe a generation from now, it will be permissible to describe Evo Morales’s resignation-at-gunpoint two weeks ago as what it was: a coup the U.S. cultivated just as it has dozens of others since it emerged as a superpower in 1945. The acknowledgement will not matter then. The events in question will be comfortably distant in time. Those responsible for deposing the Bolivian president will be either retired or deceased. Americans will not have fooled any Bolivians, for this autumn will be etched in their memories, but Americans will have once again fooled themselves.

This is how it often goes when Washington crushes the democratic aspirations of others by toppling legitimately elected leaders and replacing them with figures — usually corrupt, often dictatorial, by definition undemocratic — to its liking. It took decades for the U.S. to acknowledge the C.I.A.–directed coup in 1953 against the Mossadegh government in Iran: President Barack Obama did so (without apologizing) in 2009. Forty-five years after the fact, Bill Clinton spent half a day in Guatemala expressing regret for the coup that brought down President Jacobo Árbenz in 1954.

This is what awaits us now in the case of Bolivia — a long interim of self-deception, ending only when the truth makes little difference and responsibility can no longer be assigned.

Here is some of what Bill Clinton, president at the time, said in Guatemala City in March 1999. He spoke shortly after Guatemala’s Historical Clarification Commission — a name one has to love — concluded that in deposing Árbenz the U.S. was responsible for the blood-soaked human rights abuses that followed during 36 years of civil war:

“It is important that I state clearly that support for military forces or intelligence units which engaged in violent and widespread repression of the kind described in the report was wrong. And the United States must not repeat that mistake. We must and we will instead continue to support the peace and reconciliation process in Guatemala.”

Dishonesty & Consequences

This is a complacently dishonest statement, and it is essential to recognize not only Clinton’s dishonesty but also its consequences. These bear directly on the Bolivia question now.

Clinton was explicit in asserting that the Árbenz coup was an injustice that will not happen again. The past was evil, but evil has passed: This is a sound summation of his message. Having followed Clinton’s Central American tour at the time, I remain convinced that he addressed Americans at least as much Guatemalans when he made the just-quoted remarks. Some of us intervened violently in another country and caused much suffering, he told us norteamericanos, but we are not those people. They are gone now and we are better than they were.

This is the message implicit in all of the apologies U.S. officials occasionally make for misdeeds safely packed away in history’s deep freeze. In it we find the grand illusion of America’s present-day innocence. And it is by this illusion that the U.S. regularly repeats the mistake Clinton mentions, always certain that its injustices lie in a past for which Americans alive in the present bear no burden of guilt.

What are we to make of America’s apologies to others in view of the record before and after one or another of these expressions of regret? In Latin America alone, the Guatemalan “mistake” in 1954 was repeated, successfully or otherwise, in Cuba (1961, Bay of Pigs), Chile (1973), Nicaragua (1981–90, the Contra insurgency), and Honduras (2009). Washington has been trying for years to repeat its mistake in Venezuela and is currently trying again in Nicaragua. In the Venezuela case, sanctions have already succeeded in destabilizing the nation’s economy.

We have just watched it make this mistake in Bolivia. John Bolton, in his noted “troika of tyranny” speech a year ago, lumped Cuba with Venezuela and Nicaragua. Trump’s now-departed national security adviser unabashedly promised coups in all three nations.

The past is evil, all right, but evil has not passed.

Fighting for Plain Speech

Language is the battleground in the Bolivian case, as in all others like it in the past. This is as it should be. The fight for plain, spade-a-spade language is one worth fighting. It is by naming things and events honestly that we shed our illusions of innocence. This is the essential first step if America is to alter its ruinous conduct abroad. To fail in this is to protect the illegal practices of a disorderly hegemonic power from scrutiny.

Our corporate media have treated us to a remarkable display of hand-wringing and verbal contortions to avoid using the term “coup” in describing the events in La Paz from Oct. 20, when Morales was elected to a fourth term, and Nov. 10, when his high command forced him into exile. “Was there a coup in Bolivia?” The Economist asked after Morales sought asylum in Mexico. “Coup isn’t the right word,” the reliably neoliberal Foreign Policy protested as if in response. This is the same journal that published a piece in mid–2018 headlined, “It’s Time for a Coup in Venezuela.”

To read the mainstream press on Bolivia is to enter a hall of mirrors. The violent overthrow of an elected president struck a blow for the restoration of order and the rule of law. Christian fundamentalists of European descent, racist to the core and explicitly contemptuous of Bolivia’s indigenous majority, are “democrats” worthy of our support. Bolivia’s first indigenous president, highly popular for lifting an impressive percentage of Bolivians out of poverty, was a hated, “tyrannical dictator.”

This, the Orwellian touch, is routine — and is routinely reported in the American press. When the murderous General Abdul–Fattah al–Sisi took power in Egypt in a coup six years ago, John Kerry, as U.S. secretary of state, applauded  him for “restoring democracy.” For good measure the secretary of state added, “The military did not take over.”

Islands of Responsible Coverage

Accurate, responsible accounts of the events surrounding Morales’s ouster are perfectly available, even if they appear amid a sea of mis– and disinformation. The Grayzone’s reporting on Bolivia this autumn is second to no one’s. Last week Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, FAIR, carried a highly informed and informative interview with Alex Main of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington.

These publications make the truth of events in Bolivia easily legible. There was no “drastic change” in the vote count late in the polling process, as the U.S.–controlled Organization of American States alleged. Neither was there a suspicious interruption in official reports of the final results, as also alleged. Many of the key figures in the coup have dense ties to Washington; some, including Williams Kalimán Romero, the since-replaced commander of the armed forces at the time of the coup, were trained at WHINSEC, the military training base in the U.S. state of Georgia previously (and infamously) known as the School of the Americas.

Just as it has elsewhere — Venezuela and Ukraine are recent examples — Washington was supporting right-wing political parties and opposition “civil society” groups even before Morales first won office in 2006. The first U.S.–cultivated coup attempt against him came two years later.

Do we have prima facie proof of Washington’s involvement in the coup against Morales? This is rarely available in such circumstances as these. As in many other cases, we may have to wait for the historians and the declassification of foreign- relations records. The closest we come so far in the Bolivia case is a set of 16 audio recordings released Nov. 10 by El Periódico, an independent publication in Costa Rica. These appear to record top coup plotters as they plan actions against the Morales government and, in one, discuss the support they receive from Senators Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Bob Menendez — all of whom have taken a hand in previous Latin American interventions.

The recordings are here with English-language summaries of each recording, and here in the original El Periódico version. Provenance, chain of custody, the identities of those who made the recordings and those whose voices are recorded: None of this is clear. El Periódico did not reply to queries sent by email. But given how closely these audios align with established procedures in U.S.–cultivated coups (such as a leaked audio regarding the coup in Ukraine), and the formidable accumulation of compelling circumstantial evidence, they cannot be dismissed pending needed verifications.

What just happened in Bolivia happened in Guatemala 65 years ago, 66 in Iran, and so on. Coups were conducted in more or less the same fashion, without so much as a procedural update. Now as on previous occasions, most Americans are kept ignorant of what has been done in their name — and, atop this, remain indifferent to their ignorance. This is a media failure as much as a moral failure. When Bolton openly promises coups across Latin America, and liberal magazines such as FP cheer on such plans in banner headlines, we must conclude that in our late-imperial phase we are a numbed nation.

Washington has just degraded Bolivia’s long effort to climb out of poverty, to take control of its resources and its destiny, and to escape from centuries of exploitation at the hands of Westerners. This is shameful. The silent consent of most Americans after many decades of unlearned lessons is equally so.


Patrick Lawrence, a correspondent abroad for many years, chiefly for the International Herald Tribune, is a columnist, essayist, author and lecturer. His most recent book is “Time No Longer: Americans After the American Century” (Yale). Follow him on Twitter @thefloutist. His web site is Patrick Lawrence.

November 26, 2019 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | 1 Comment

US impeachment furor sabotages Ukraine peace talks

By Finian Cunningham | RT | November 26, 2019

The much-anticipated meeting between Ukraine’s Volodymyr Zelensky and Russia’s Vladimir Putin is in danger of being a lost opportunity for peace. Washington’s political infighting has stacked the odds against a successful summit.

Weeks of impeachment hearings in the House of Representatives, accusing President Trump of abusing his office with regard to Ukraine, have achieved very little except for two things. Ukraine’s international image has been trashed with corruption claims and depiction of the country as having vassal-like dependency on the US, and secondly, demonization of Russia which has been heightened as an “aggressor” supposedly out to destroy Ukraine.

The irony is that Washington purports to be an ally of Ukraine to promote democracy, sovereignty, and independence of the former Soviet republic. But the upshot of the impeachment inquiry is that Ukraine’s independence and sovereignty is gravely undermined.

When President Zelensky holds multilateral talks soon with Putin, the Ukrainian leader will have little room to maneuver as a result of the cacophony back in the US.

The two leaders are due to meet on December 9 in Paris as part of a four-way summit also involving German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron. The meeting is a return to long-suspended peace talks and an attempt to revive the 2015 Minsk accords for ending conflict in eastern Ukraine.

It is over three years since the so-called Normandy Format last convened. The Minsk peace deal was never implemented, mainly because former Ukrainian president, Petro Poroshenko, refused to fulfill commitments to give regional autonomy to pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine. Consequently the war has dragged on for nearly five years.

Zelensky was elected by a landslide vote in April primarily on the ticket that he would seek a peace settlement. In September, he agreed in principle to grant special status for the Donbas breakaway region of eastern Ukraine. Subsequently, though, Zelensky has appeared to backpedal on how much autonomy he is willing to countenance. Troops under his command have begun withdrawing from the front line with separatists, but it is not clear if that move marks a reliable de-escalation.

Alexander Lukashevich, Russia’s permanent representative to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, stated on November 21 that forces under Kiev’s command are still violating terms of a truce by not removing combat hardware from the line of contact. “This, to put it mildly, non-constructive approach to preparations for the Normandy meeting causes justified concern,” he added.

In a move seen as a trust-building gesture, Russia recently returned three Ukrainian naval vessels which it had confiscated last year after an infringement of its territory in the Kerch Strait.

The forthcoming meeting in Paris thus holds a fledgling start to finding a peaceful resolution to a conflict which has resulted in over 13,000 dead and millions displaced from their homes.

However, the impeachment debacle in Washington has painted Zelensky as a pathetic politician “who loves Trump’s a**” and “who will do anything” to curry favor with the president. The Democrats and obliging former US diplomats who had worked in Ukraine are claiming that Trump pressured Zelensky to dig dirt on Joe Biden, his would-be Democrat rival in next year’s election.

So zealous are Trump’s political opponents in Washington, together with the liberal media and US intelligence agencies, to pin an impeachable offense on him, that the Ukrainian president has ended up a lame-duck leader in the collateral damage.

This has generated much mockery among Ukrainians of the former comedian-turned-president, who has been nicknamed “Monica” in reference to the impeachment of President Bill Clinton for his sexual affair with White House intern Monica Lewinksy.

Even before the hearings in Congress got under way, Zelensky had been under fire from Ukrainian nationalists who accuse him of “capitulating” to Russia over his willingness to negotiate a peace settlement in eastern Ukraine. Kiev has seen large rallies of up to 20,000 protesting Zelensky’s peace efforts as a betrayal.

In a recent media interview, American professor Stephen Cohen, an astute observer on Russia-Ukraine, says that Zelensky is in a very precarious situation. Despite being overwhelmingly elected to find a peaceful solution to Ukraine’s conflict, the new president, says Cohen, has to contend with far-right paramilitary leaders who view any peace deal negotiated with Russia as treasonous. Zelensky has been subjected to death threats.

As Cohen points out, if the US was genuinely concerned about establishing peace and democracy in Ukraine, then Washington should be fully supporting Zelensky’s overtures to Moscow, to let him and the Ukrainian people know “we got your back.”

But as it is, Zelensky is going into negotiations with Putin as an isolated figure who has been demeaned by Washington’s squabbling and caricatured as a stooge.

Thus, what is being set up for the Ukrainian leader is an almost impossible task. If he were to agree with Putin to a further withdrawal of military forces from the contact line with pro-Russian separatists, or if he commits to implementing Minsk provisions for regional autonomy, then the uproar in Washington is predictable. Zelensky will be cast as selling out to Putin and capitulating to “Russian aggression.”

Such is the delirium of Russophobia in Washington, where Democrats and so-called ‘Russia experts’ like Fiona Hill have labeled Trump a “Kremlin agent” and “Bolshevik,” the next sequence in their narrative is that Trump abused his office in order to get Zelensky to surrender to Putin. Now we’re really talking impeachment, so it goes.

Missing from the political fight in Washington are the following key issues: it was American and European interference in Ukraine, not Russian, that plunged the country into ongoing conflict. That interference peaked with the CIA-backed coup in Kiev in February 2014, which led to Crimea seceding in a referendum and joining the Russian Federation. The coup also led directly to the war in eastern Ukraine by a neo-Nazi regime in Kiev against the ethnic Russian population who understandably have demanded autonomy.

The $400 million in military aid that Trump is accused of using as leverage on Zelensky, obscures the bigger picture of why the US has sent a total of $1 billion in military aid to the country in order to antagonize Russia. This has long been the agenda of Washington’s foreign policy establishment, to destabilize Russia by pushing Ukraine to join the NATO alliance.

The impeachment hearings against Trump have obscured and turned reality on its head. The anti-Trump Democrats, media and ‘deep state’ operatives want to exclude any wider investigation into corrupt dealings by the former Obama administration in Ukraine by asserting that any such claims are merely “Russian disinformation.”

Moreover, not only is the truth about Washington’s corruption in Ukraine being concealed, but the vassal status of Ukraine is complete by it not having any freedom to negotiate its way out of conflict or restoring normal neighborly relations with Russia.

Also on rt.com:

Impeachment hearing gets more bizarre with Sondland confirming ‘Zelensky loves Trump’s ass’ , but vague on quid pro quo

November 26, 2019 Posted by | Militarism, Russophobia | , | Leave a comment

No Plan B for Planet A

Replacing fossil fuels with “renewable” energy would devastate the only planet we’ve got

By Paul Driessen | Watts Up With That? | November 26, 2019

Environmentalists and Green New Deal proponents like to say we must take care of the Earth, because “There is no Planet B.” Above all, they insist, we must eliminate fossil fuels, which they say are causing climate change worse than the all-natural ice ages, Medieval Warm Period or anything else in history.

Their Plan A is simple: No fossil fuels. Keep them in the ground. More than a few Democrat presidential aspirants have said they would begin implementing that diktat their very first day in the White House.

Their Plan B is more complex: Replace fossil fuels with wind, solar, biofuel and battery power – their supposedly renewable, sustainable alternatives to oil, gas and coal. Apparently by waving a magic wand.

We don’t have a Planet B. And they don’t really have a Plan B. They just assume and expect that this monumental transformation will simply happen. Wind, solar, battery and biofuel technologies represent the natural evolution toward previously unimaginable energy sources – and they will become more efficient over time. Trust us, they say.

Ask them for details, and their responses range from evasive to delusional, disingenuous – and outrage that you would dare ask. The truth is, they don’t have a clue. They’ve never really thought about it. It’s never occurred to them that these technologies require raw materials that have to be dug out of the ground, which means mining, which they vigorously oppose (except by dictators in faraway countries).

They’re lawyers, lawmakers, enforcers. But most have never been in a mine, oilfield or factory, probably not even on a farm. They think dinner comes from a grocery store, electricity from a wall socket, and they can just pass laws requiring that the new energy materialize as needed. And it will happen Presto!

It’s similar to the way they handle climate change. Their models, reports and headlines bear little or no resemblance to the real world outside our windows – on temperatures, hurricanes, tornadoes, sea levels, crops or polar bears. But the crisis is real, the science is settled, and anyone who disagrees is a denier.

So for the moment, Let’s not challenge their climate or fossil fuel ideologies. Let’s just ask: How exactly are you going to make this happen? How will you ensure that your Plan A won’t destroy our economy, jobs and living standards? And your Plan B won’t devastate the only planet we’ve got? I’ll say it again:

(1) Abundant, reliable, affordable, mostly fossil fuel energy is the lifeblood of our modern, prosperous, functioning, safe, healthy, fully employed America. Upend that, and you upend people’s lives, destroy their jobs, send their living standards on a downward spiral.

(2) Wind and sunshine may be renewable, sustainable and eco-friendly. But the lands, habitats, wildlife, wind turbines, solar panels, batteries, transmission lines, raw materials, mines and laborers required or impacted to harness this intermittent, weather-dependent energy to benefit humanity absolutely are not.

(3) The supposed cure they say we must adopt is far worse than the climate disease they claim we have.

Using wind power to replace the 3.9 billion megawatt-hours that Americans consumed in 2018, coal and gas-fired backup power plants, natural gas for home heating, coal and gas for factories, and gasoline for vehicles – while generating enough extra electricity every windy day to charge batteries for just seven straight windless days – would require some 14 million 1.8-MW wind turbines.

Those turbines would sprawl across three-fourths of the Lower 48 US states – and require 15 billion tons of steel, concrete and other raw materials. They would wipe out eagles, hawks, bats and other species.

Go offshore instead, and we’d need a couple million truly monstrous 10-MW turbines, standing in water 20-100 feet deep or on huge platforms in deeper water, up and down our Atlantic and Pacific coasts. Not as many of the beasts, but each one a lot bigger – requiring vastly more materials per turbine.

A Category 4 hurricane going up the Atlantic seaboard would wipe out a lot of them – leaving much of the country without power for months or years, until wrecks got removed and new turbines installed.

Using solar to generate just the 3.9 billion MWh would require completely blanketing an area the size of New Jersey with sunbeam-tracking Nellis Air Force Base panels – if the Sun were shining at high-noon summertime Arizona intensity 24/7/365. (That doesn’t include the extra power demands listed for wind.)

Solar uses toxic chemicals during manufacturing and in the panels: lead, cadmium telluride, copper indium selenide, cadmium gallium (di)selenide and many others. They could leach out into soils and waters during thunderstorms, hail storms, tornadoes, hurricanes, and when panels are dismantled and hauled off to landfills or recycling centers. Recycling panels and wind turbines presents major challenges.

Using batteries to back up sufficient power to supply U.S. electricity needs for just seven straight windless days would require more than 1 billion half-ton Tesla-style batteries. That means still more raw materials, hazardous chemicals and toxic metals.

Bringing electricity from those facilities, and connecting a nationwide GND grid, would require thousands of miles of new transmission lines – onshore and underwater – and even more raw materials.

Providing those materials would result in the biggest expansion in mining the United States and world have ever seen: removing hundreds of billions of tons of overburden, and processing tens of billions of tons of ore – mostly using fossil fuels. Where we get those materials is also a major problem.

If we continue to ban mining under modern laws and regulations here in America, those materials will continue to be extracted in places like Inner Mongolia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, largely under Chinese control – under labor, wage, health, safety, environmental and reclamation standards that no Western nation tolerates today. There’ll be serious pollution, toxics, habitat losses and dead wildlife.

Even worse, just to mine cobalt for today’s cell phone, computer, Tesla and other battery requirements, over 40,000 Congolese children and their parents work at slave wages, risk cave-ins, and get covered constantly in toxic and radioactive mud , dust, water and air. Many die. The mine sites in Congo and Mongolia have become vast toxic wastelands. The ore processing facilities are just as horrific.

Meeting GND demands would multiply these horrors many times over. Will Green New Dealers require that all these metals and minerals be responsibly and sustainably sourced, at fair wages, with no child labor – as they do for T-shirts and coffee? Will they now permit exploration and mining in the USA?

Meeting basic ecological and human rights standards would send GND energy prices soaring. It would multiply cell phone, laptop, Tesla and GND costs five times over. But how long can Green New Dealers remain clueless and indifferent about these abuses?

Up to now, this has all been out of sight, out of mind, in someone else’s backyard, in some squalid far-off country, with other people and their kids doing the dirty, dangerous work of providing essential raw materials. That lets AOC, Senator Warren, Al Gore, Michael Mann, Greenpeace and other “climate crisis-renewable energy” profiteers preen about climate justice, sustainability and saving Planet Earth.

They refuse to discuss the bogus hockey stick temperature graph; the ways Mann & Co. manipulated and hid data, and deleted incriminating emails; their inability to separate human influences from the powerful natural forces that have caused climate changes throughout history; or the absurd notion that the 0.01% of Earth’s atmosphere that is carbon dioxide from fossil fuel use over the past 50 years is somehow responsible for every extreme weather event today. But they won’t be able to ignore this fraud forever.

Meanwhile, we sure are going to be discussing the massive resource demands, ecological harm and human rights abuses that the climate alarm industry would impose in the name of protecting the Earth and stabilizing its perpetually unstable climate. We won’t let them dodge those issues in 2020.

Paul Driessen is senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (www.CFACT.org) and author of books and articles on energy, climate, environmental and human rights issues.

November 26, 2019 Posted by | Economics, Environmentalism | , | 1 Comment

WikiLeaks Proved the OPCW Cannot Be Trusted In Syria

By Paul Antonopoulos | November 26, 2019

The “Syrian regime” and chemical weapons has become a constant mantra in the Western World and has become synonymous with the Syrian War since it began in 2011. One of the most famous cases was the April 2018 chemical weapon attack in the Damascene satellite city of Douma that led to the U.S., UK and France conducting airstrikes against Syrian Army positions, despite the lack of evidence that the Syrian government was responsible for the incident.

The April 7, 2018 chemical incident killed between 40 and 50 people and was followed up by the Western Powers attack against Syria exactly a week later. Strangely though, the attack took place just mere hours before the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) inspectors arrived in Syria to investigate the attack. The U.S., UK and France knew that the eventual OPCW report would not match their claims and allegations against the Syrian government, and were quick to act in wasting their people’s tax dollars by dropping bombs on the Arab country.

The final OPCW report would not match the first report made by the Fact-Finding mission that were actually on the ground in Syria. An email released by whistleblowing Wikileaks on the weekend found that the final OPCW report on the Douma incident had been manipulated and changed by the Office of the Director-General of the OPCW, then held by Turkish diplomat Ahmet Üzümcü. This is an extremely disturbing discovery as the OPCW claims to have a “neutral role” by not assigning blame for chemical weapon use, but to find out the details of how the attack was conducted. This however was reversed last year with the OPCW being given permission to investigate perpetrators – but they still kept the mythology that they are “neutral.”

Although the report did not assign blame, the e-mail claims that the report “morphed into something quite different to what was originally drafted” and that “a bias has been introduced into the report, undermining its credibility” and that it “is disingenuous.” This was of course to bring the illusion that Syria was responsible for the attack, despite no tangible evidence.

In March, the OPCW report claimed that chlorine was the likely agent used in last year’s attack, but the newly released email explains that this claim “is highly misleading and not supported by the facts.”

“Omitting this section of the report has a serious negative impact on the report as this section is inextricably linked to the chemical agent identified… In this case, the confidence in the identity of chlorine or any other choking agent is drawn into question precisely because of the inconsistency with the reported and observed symptoms. The inconsistency was not only noted by the fact-finding mission team, but strongly supported by three toxicologists with expertise in exposure to chemical warfare agents”, the e-mail revealed.

The email then makes a final request that the original report be released in “its entirety” as the author fears that the manipulated report does not “reflect the work of the team” and “would negatively impact on the perceived credibility of the report, and by extension that of the Organisation.”

It must be remembered that when the OPCW report was released in March 2019, nearly a whole year after the incident. The released report ignored evidence provided by the Russian Foreign Ministry that the Al-Qaeda affiliated White Helmets were responsible for the attack, and that rather the report was attempting to justify the U.S.-led attack against Syria.

However, the release by WikiLeaks was only the final nail in the coffin confirming that the OPCW is not “neutral” and rather highly politicized. It was revealed only last week by the Grayzone that a second whistleblower from the OPCW came forward to accuse the top leadership of the organisation of suppressing critical evidence because of pressure from the U.S.

This demonstrates that there is a major rift between the actual inspectors on the ground and the higher-level officials of the organization who are willingly submitting to U.S. pressures despite trying to maintain their credibility of being neutral. The very appointment of Üzümcü, a former Turkish ambassador to Israel and a former Permanent Representative of Turkey to NATO, demonstrates that his very appointment had political motivations knowing Ankara’s aggressive foreign policy towards Syria since the beginning of the war.

There can be little doubt now that the claim of neutrality is far from reality and rather the top leadership of the OPCW are willing to omit, manipulate and change facts that were on the ground and discovered by their own Mission at the behest of the U.S. so it could pressure Syria and legitimize the illegal U.S.-led attack. This can only bring into question now the legitimacy of all the other chemical weapon attacks blamed on the Syrian government over the course of many years.

In addition, the OPCW should be the center of wide condemnation from the international community and the United Nations, who once shared a Joint Mission with the OPCW to remove Syria’s chemical weapons from October 2013 to September 2014. The OPCW has now lost all credibility and should be replaced by a new organization that does not appoint controversial Director-Generals or submit to pressure from external forces, like the U.S., and perhaps even Turkey.

However, the most telling of the politicization of the OPCW occurred at yesterday’s annual OPCW forum in the Hague, where the organization vehemently defended themselves against the well-timed Wikileaks expose. Fernando Arias, the current OPCW Director-General, defended the manipulated report, saying: “the nature of any thorough inquiry for individuals in a team is to express subjective views. While some of these diverse views continue to circulate in some public discussion forums, I would like to reiterate that I stand by the independent, professional conclusion [of the investigation].”

Simply put, WikiLeaks has helped prove that the OPCW can no longer be trusted and certainly is not neutral. Britain and France unsurprisingly at yesterday’s OPCW forum also defended the initial report and rejected the allegations of doctoring. But this of course was always to be expected.

Paul Antonopoulos is a Research Fellow at the Center for Syncretic Studies.

November 26, 2019 Posted by | Deception | , , , , , | 1 Comment

China rejects allegations of meddling in Australia affairs

Press TV – November 25, 2019

China says it has never been interested in meddling in the internal affairs of other countries amid claims that the Chinese Communist party sought to infiltrate Australia’s parliament.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a daily news briefing on Monday that some Australian media outlets had fabricated such allegations as China’s interference.

Some Australian politicians, organizations, and media, the official added, had “become seized with imaginary fears” on issues related to China.

“They constantly fabricate cases of so-called Chinese spies infiltrating Australia.”

“However bizarre the story, lies are still lies in the end, whatever new guise they wear.”

The allegations, first aired by local network Nine, claim that a suspected Chinese espionage ring approached a Chinese-Australian man to run as a member of parliament.

The channel report alleged that Chinese operatives offered one million dollars to Liberal party member Nick Zhao to run for federal parliament in the Melbourne suburban seat of Chisholm, now held by Hong Kong-born Liberal lawmaker Gladys Liu.

Zhao was found dead in a Melbourne hotel room after he reportedly approached the Australian Security Intelligence Organization (ASIO) to discuss the plot.

On Sunday, Australia’s 60 Minutes program and affiliated newspapers said a suspected Chinese espionage ring had offered money to pay for a Melbourne luxury car dealer to run for a seat in the federal parliament.

The ASIO said it was investigating an alleged plot by China to install an agent in the parliament.

Following the report on Sunday, the ASIO director general, Mike Burgess, said the domestic spy agency “was previously aware of matters that were reported today, and has been actively investigating them.”

Describing the alleged plot as “deeply disturbing and troubling,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the government was determined to protect Australians from foreign interference and had bolstered laws to strengthen the powers of intelligence agencies.

However, he said he would not draw conclusions on an alleged Chinese plot.

The episode involving China and Australia comes at a time of friction between the West and Beijing.

China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi recently minced no words when he lashed out at the United States over Washington’s one-sided approach to world politics and its adversarial attitude towards Beijing.

“It (the US) has already become the world’s biggest destabilizing factor,” China’s Foreign Ministry cited the top diplomat as saying on the sidelines of a Group of 20 ministerial meeting in the city of Nagoya in southern Japan on Saturday.

November 25, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | , | 4 Comments