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Russia warns Turkey against rash moves in Idlib


Turkish military reinforcements preparing to cross the border into Syria’s northwestern province of Idlib, February 12, 2020
By M. K. BHADRAKUMAR | Indian Punchline | February 19, 2020

Moscow has taken with a pinch of salt Turkish President Recep Erdogan’s statement on Wednesday that a Turkish incursion into the northwestern Syrian province of Idlib is imminent.

Objectively speaking, Erdogan should be out of his mind to order a military offensive against the Syrian and Russian forces in Idlib. A Russian military delegation, which visited Ankara last week, had advised the Turks to back down, but Erdogan instead beefed up the deployments in Idlib.

Again, the Russian side proposed to the Turkish delegation, which visited Moscow this week for further talks, that a new ceasefire is the best option, necessitated by the ground reality that Damascus will not vacate the strategic areas flanking the M4 and M5 highways.

The Turkish delegation not only disputed the Russian demarche that terrorist attacks from Idlib continue still against the Hmeimim airbase but Erdogan’s statement today goes a step further.

Clearly, Moscow cannot take chances. The Kremlin spokesmen Dmitry Peskov calmly shrugged off Erdogan’s threat by saying, “Let us not expect the worst scenario to become a reality.”

He added, “We are determined to continue to use our working contacts with our Turkish counterparts to prevent the situation in Idlib from escalating further.” Peskov stressed that “contacts with Turkey would continue at various levels.”

But the Russian intention is to forewarn Erdogan against making any rash moves. The point is, the Idlib situation evolved over a period of time since last summer when Russia and Syria reached an estimation that Turkey had no intentions of fulfilling its commitments to evict the al-Qaeda affiliates.

Turkey was instead utilising its 12 “observation posts” in Idlib to keep an eye on the Syrian and Russian forces beyond the ceasefire line.

When the Russian-Syrian offensive finally got under way, Turks could do nothing to stop it and very soon, these observation posts got surrounded by the Syrian army. Erdogan lost face. And he ordered a deployment of 5,000 troops to Idlib with heavy armour, tanks and artillery.

But the Syrian forces took on the challenge and13 Turkish soldiers were killed. Erdogan had probably thought that the Syrian forces would hesitate to take on a NATO power. Again, he lost face. And this time around, he threatened to attack the Syrian and Russian forces.

But the offensive rolled on and more towns and territories came under control of the Syrian government. As a commentary featured today in the Kremlin-funded RT puts it, “Erdogan’s bluff had been effectively called. The Turks now find themselves in an impossible situation.”

Erdogan has pulled back the rebel groups that are Turkey’s proxies and left the al-Qaeda groups to fend for themselves where they are being systematically decimated by the Syrian and Russian forces. The RT commentary concludes:

“For the Turkish troops still deployed inside Idlib, their situation has become increasingly perilous. Their numbers and dispositions preclude any chance of a meaningful defense of Idlib, even if the decision was made to engage the Russian Air Force and Syrian Army. The best that Turks can hope for at this juncture is a new ceasefire that allows its military forces in Idlib to be withdrawn safely with their honour intact… Turkey has made its position in Idlib unsustainable both militarily and politically.”

However, Russia won’t take chances. In a display of military superiority, two Russian Tupolev Tu-22M3 strategic bombers performed a scheduled flight over the Black Sea today, covering a distance of about 4,500 km and staying in the air for more than five hours, while fighter jets of Russia’s Southern Military District escorted the bombers.

Again, today, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov repeated Moscow’s full backing for the Syrian operations in Idlib. He said in a clear rebuff to Turkey, “It is only natural that the Syrian armed forces, reaffirming their commitment to the original agreements on Idlib, including an agreement on a ceasefire, respond to such inadmissible provocations. We support them in this.”

“The Syrian army’s actions are a response to a flagrant violation of the agreements on Idlib… Syrian troops are not pushing militants and terrorists back on a foreign territory but on their own soil, thereby reestablishing the legitimate Syrian government’s control over its territories.”

Although US President Trump keeps cheering Erdogan to buck up his spirits, the NATO as such is not getting involved in the Turkish adventure in Idlib. Tass quoted a NATO diplomatic source in Brussels that NATO countries will neither support the invocation of Article 5 over the death of Turkish troops in Idlib nor provide Turkey with military assistance in the event of a military operation in the region.

Moscow has been far too lenient toward Erdogan who has “significant challenges at home, where the Turkish economy is slowing down, and overseas, where Turkey’s military is over-stretched, from Syria to Libya,” as a scholar at the Washington Institute noted.

In a clear message warning Erdogan from punching so far above his weight, Haftar’s forces had fired shells at a Turkish ship at Tripoli harbour last week, which was carrying arms and supplies. Interestingly, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu met today with the Libyan commander Khalifa Haftar, who is Erdogan’s bête noire.

The astonishing part is that amidst all this cacophony, on Tuesday, the Turkish military quietly resumed joint patrols with Russian forces in northeastern Syria where both countries have a common interest in preventing a US return to the Turkish-Syrian border regions with their Kurdish allies. Certainly, as Peskov signalled today, the Kremlin has reason to hope that the better sense will prevail in Ankara.

February 19, 2020 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , | Leave a comment

Putin questions America’s creepy collection of Russian DNA for possible bio-weapons program

The US Air Force is trying collect samples of ethnic Russian DNA. If history is a guide, the purposes of this new US program are highly nefarious.

By Adam Garrie | The Duran | November 1, 2017

In recent months, the US Air Force has issued calls for ethnic Russians to provide DNA samples for a mysterious “research” program. US Air Force Captain Beau Downey claimed that the samples were required for “locomotor studies to identify various biomarkers associated with trauma.”.

Downey further stated,

“The request (by the research centre) did not specify where the samples should be received from, but to continue the study, similar samples were required. Since the supplier originally provided samples from Russia, suitable for the initial group of diseases, the control group of the samples should also be of Russian origin.

The goal is the integrity of the study, not the origin (of the samples)”

However, given the fact that the US military has attempted to obtain Russian DNA samples without the permission of the Russian government and furthermore, given the low state of Russia-US relations, many are questioning whether the sought samples are intended to be part of a biogenetic weapons program.

Biogenetic weapons are defined as biological agents designed to inflict debilitating diseases or other internal bodily afflictions on a specific group of people, based on a shared genetic code.

While it is unclear if such a weapon has ever successfully been developed, the US and Israel have in the past, attempted to create such a devastating bio-genetic weapon.

In the late 1990s, it was reported that Israel had successfully created a biogenetic weapon which was specifically designed to target Arabs and only Arabs.

An archived press clipping from 1998 reports,

“According to a Jerusalem Post report quoting the London-based Foreign Report, Israel has successfully developed what is being called an ‘ethnic-bullet’, which will target only Arabs. The report quotes an ‘unconfirmed report’ which originated in South Africa, which details how Israeli scientists have made a biological weapon tailor made to attack targets with the Arab genetic system. Long-term studies of Iraqi Jews was credited with providing the genetic code needed to target Arabs. According to the report, the ethnic-bullet program was originally developed for use in Apartheid South Africa for use against blacks. Scientist in both countries worked together towards the development of the Israeli program. Israeli officials declined to confirm the existence of the ‘ethnic bullet,’ but one told the newsletter: ‘We have a basket full of strategic surprises which we will not hesitate to use if we feel that the State of Israel is under serious threat”.

The popular US based technology magazine Wired, also ran a story on Israel’s biogenetic weapons program in 1998. The story reads,

ISRAEL IS REPORTEDLY developing a biological weapon that would harm Arabs while leaving Jews unaffected, according to a report in London’s Sunday Times. The report, citing Israeli military and western intelligence sources, says that scientists are trying to identify distinctive genes carried by Arabs to create a genetically modified bacterium or virus.

The ‘ethno-bomb’ is reportedly Israel’s response to the threat that Iraq may be just weeks away from completing its own biological weapons.

The ‘ethno-bomb’ program is based at Israel’s Nes Tziyona research facility. Scientists are trying to use viruses and bacteria to alter DNA inside living cells and attack only those cells bearing Arabic genes.

The task is very complex because both Arabs and Jews are Semitic peoples. But according to the report, the Israelis have succeeded in isolating particular characteristics of certain Arabs, ‘particularly the Iraqi people.’

Dedi Zucker, a member of the Israeli parliament, denounced the research in the Sunday Times. ‘Morally, based on our history, and our tradition and our experience, such a weapon is monstrous and should be denied.’

Last month, Foreign Report claimed that Israel was following in the ignominious footsteps of apartheid-era research, in their supposed efforts to develop an “ethnic bullet.”

A year later, a report from Reuters citing British scientists, confirmed that such a biogenetic weapon was possible given the advanced state of genetic mapping, although the report neither confirmed nor denied the existence of an Arab killing Israel biogenetic weapon.

Russians are therefore clearly worried that the US military intends to collect samples of Russian DNA in order to engineer a biogenetic weapon similar to the ones Israel is said to have created in the 1990s. The fact that genetic mapping technology has advanced even further since the 1990s, makes this fear all the more magnified.

In the 1980s, the Soviet Union feared that the AIDS virus was created in a US military bio-weapons lab in Fort Detrick, Maryland. While the story was dismissed by the US as geo-political propaganda, many black Africans and African-Americans continue to believe that the CIA had a hand in either creating or weaponising the AIDS virus. To this day, AIDS continues to disproportionately effect black men across the globe.

The notion that AIDS was part of a CIA experiment aimed at population modification, was spoken of widely in the 1980s. The American musician Frank Zappa even wrote a musical about the alleged phenomenon called ‘Thing Fish’.

In the year 2000, the neocon think-thank that would provide the George W. Bush administration with many important advisers, the Project for the New American Century published a report which spoke of the desirability of weaponising genetically mapped biological agents for use in 21st century warfare. This was one of the factors leading to Russia banning the export of domestic DNA samples in 2007, as was reported in Russian mainstream media at the time.

While exporting Russian DNA samples remains illegal in most circumstances, the US military is still keen on flaunting Russian law.

President Vladimir Putin has responded to the latest attempts by the US military to collect Russian DNA samples in the following way,

“Do you know that biological material is being collected all over the country, from different ethnic groups and people living in different geographical regions of the Russian Federation? The question is – why is it being done? It’s being done purposefully and professionally. We are a kind of object of great interest.

Let them do what they want, and we must do what we must”.

The latter part of Putin’s statement derives from the Melian Dialogue of the Athenian historian Thucydides. In his History of the Peloponnesian War, Thucydides recounts Athenian envoys trying to convince the small island of Melos to surrender its sovereignty or be destroyed. The dialogue includes a famous line which is usually translated as “The strong do as they will and the weak submit as they must”.

Putin therefore is suggesting that no matter what the US has in store for Russia, the leadership of the Russian Federation is able and willing to take defensive matters in any scenario. The seemingly cautious statement from Putin, is actually incredibly forceful when read carefully.

Based on past experiences, the US is not operating under innocent intentions and therefore, Russia should not take any chances.

February 19, 2020 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , | 3 Comments

WaPo wants a bigger role for ‘elites’ in picking the president, & doesn’t even try to hide why

The “fake the consensus” model

One big happy family © AFP / Rick Odell
By Helen Buyniski | RT | February 19, 2020

“Elites” should get “a bigger say in choosing the president,” a Washington Post oped has declared, describing a system where regular voters just tell elites their pick and go home to let their betters work it all out.

The popular vote has been declared an anachronistic inconvenience in a WaPo oped by Marquette University professor Julie Azari that bemoans the “rocky start” to the Democratic primaries. Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is leading the popular vote in the first two states, but this doesn’t match the delegate count, which unsurprisingly favors establishment favorite Pete Buttigieg. It’s best, then — according to Azeri — to throw out the whole system.

© screenshot, WaPo

Starting from the relatively uncontroversial principle that the current primary system is overly complex and sometimes coughs up unviable candidates, Azari takes a hard oligarchic turn. She calls for further disenfranchising ordinary voters by making their “vote” merely a suggestion given to an elected “intermediate representative,” who then “bargains” with the other representatives without being bound by the wishes of the voters who put them in place.

If that sounds like the nominating system already in place at the party conventions, you’re not wrong. Azeri, it seems, merely wants to extend the elites’ ability to pull the ripcord on populist drift down a step to make even the state primaries safe for her preferred, predetermined form of “democracy.” And if that sounds unfair — surely, she can’t be suggesting party elites rig the primaries — the whole point, in her mind, is to remove “uncertainty” from the nominating process, then allow a kayfabe (controlled, pro-wrestling-style theatre) version in the general contest:

“Democracy thrives on uncertainty — outcomes that are not known at the beginning of the process. But uncertainty doesn’t help parties strategize for the general election.”

But Azari would be hard-pressed to find any rank-and-file voter who would agree that the problem with American elections is “uncertainty” — or that the solution to the real problem is to give less power to the people. It’s not, after all, like the “elites” are underrepresented in circles of power. No one who has made it to the general election in the last 20 years has done so without an Ivy League pedigree, the ultimate elite signifier, and the journalists who write about them (and sell them to the voters) often move in the same elite social circles. A for-show “preference primary” in which the hoi polloi merely “inform elites about voter preferences,” which those elites are free to disregard, would forever seal off the process to genuine democracy, enshrining the “smoke-filled rooms” Democratic National Committee lawyers defended when they were sued over rigging the 2016 primary into procedure for the foreseeable future. At a time when exclusion mechanisms like superdelegates are less popular than ever, to try to shove this “reform” down voters’ throats is almost guaranteed to backfire.

This is, in a way, the point — both of the headline and of WaPo in general: to gaslight the reader into believing there is a national consensus behind the odious ideas it publishes, which are in reality the views of a moneyed oligarchy that feels only disdain for not only “flyover country,” but for the working-class denizens of the cities its members inhabit who keep the lights on and the shelves stocked. If the reader believes “superdelegates for primaries” are a done deal, they’re less likely to take to the streets and start breaking things.

If the response on social media was any indication, Azari’s “fake the consensus” model isn’t doing so hot these days — though it did inspire a bizarre consensus of its own between pro-Trump conservatives, #Resistance liberals, and progressives:

It’s still over a month until April Fool’s Day, and Azari at no point breaks character, so the reader can only assume the piece is meant in full seriousness.

Helen Buyniski is an American journalist and political commentator at RT. Follow her on Twitter @velocirapture23

February 19, 2020 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , | Leave a comment

Israeli policy of assassinations cannot terrorize Palestinians to accept Trump’s deal: Nakhala

Secretary-General of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad resistance movement Ziad al-Nakhala speaks during a televised speech broadcast live from Gaza City on February 19, 2020.
Press TV – February 19, 2020

The secretary-general of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad resistance movement says the Tel Aviv regime’s plan to return to “the policy of assassinations” against distinguished figures of Palestinian resistance groups in the Gaza Strip cannot terrorize Palestinians to acknowledge US President Donald Trump’s so-called deal of the century on the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“The policy of assassinations will not make the Palestinian people give up their rights, nor will it manage to break up the resistance front. We will respond to any assassination in time, and any act of aggression against our people in the Gaza Strip will be met with resistance that the occupation [Israel] has not experienced before,” Ziad al-Nakhala said in a televised speech broadcast live from Gaza City on Wednesday afternoon.

He added, “The threats of enemy leaders will not intimidate us, nor will make us accept what they have crafted and called the deal of the century. They will not make us relinquish our historical rights in Palestinian lands and al-Quds (Jerusalem).”

‘Oslo Accords bore nothing for Palestinians other than humiliation’

Nakhala also censured the Oslo Accords signed between the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Israeli regime more than two decades ago, stating that the set of agreements brought nothing for Palestinians other than humiliation, shame and delusions.

“We presented our history as well as our children, and sacrificed them on the altar of delusion of peace. We reaped nothing other than despair that was represented by the deal of the century,” he pointed out.

The Oslo Accords — consisting of Oslo I and Oslo II accords — were signed by the late chairman of the PLO, Yasser Arafat, and former Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, respectively in Washington DC, in 1993 and Egypt in 1995. The purported goal of the accords was to achieve peace based on the United Nations Security Council resolutions 242 and 338, and to realize the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination.

The senior Palestinian official also lambasted some Arab and Muslim countries for supporting and acknowledging Trump’s proposal in the eye of the international community.

Nakhala then called upon all Palestinian resistance movements to join forces, and tirelessly protect Jerusalem al-Quds and the Palestinian cause from liquidation.

‘The US decision to declare al-Quds as the capital of Israel was not surprising, given that America is the sponsor of the Zionist project ever since its inception (back in 1948). It is a full partner to this project, and is in fact spearheading the Western project in our region,” he underscored.

On January 28, Trump unveiled his so-called deal of the century, negotiated with Israel but without the Palestinians.

Palestinian leaders, who severed all ties with Washington in late 2017 after Trump controversially recognized Jerusalem al-Quds as the capital of the Israeli regime, immediately rejected the plan, with President Mahmoud Abbas saying it “belongs to the dustbin of history.”

Palestinian leaders say the deal is a colonial plan to unilaterally control historic Palestine in its entirety and remove Palestinians from their homeland, adding that it heavily favors Israel and would deny them a viable independent state.

February 19, 2020 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | 2 Comments

UK ran propaganda campaigns in Syria as cover for spying and potential military operations

The British military has several specialised propaganda and information warfare units, the largest of which is the Berkshire-based 77th Brigade
Press TV – February 19, 2020

The extent of the British government’s involvement in sophisticated propaganda campaigns in Syria appears to have been under-estimated.

In an exclusive report, the London-based Middle East Eye (MEE – a news and analysis outlet), has revealed that the UK covertly funded so-called “citizen journalists” inside Syria, often without the knowledge of the individuals affected, thus placing them in harm’s way.

The so-called citizen journalists who had been duped by British government officials were tasked to produce TV footage, radio programmes, social media, posters, magazines and in some cases even children’s comics.

FCO/MoD venture 

The project was jointly masterminded by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and the Ministry of Defence (MoD), who used an anthropologist (with a counter-terrorism background) to supervise the operation.

The British military is known to make extensive use of anthropologists to supervise so-called “cultural” projects, which are in most cases barely concealed intelligence operations.

In that context, it is not altogether surprising that front companies run by former British military intelligence officers competed to win lucrative FCO-MoD contracts.

MEE reveals that “nine” companies bid for the contracts, most of which were run by former British “diplomats, intelligence officers and army officers”.

The division of labour between the FCO and the MoD appears to have been fairly simple: the FCO awarded the contracts whilst the MOD managed them, sometimes using serving (as opposed to former) military intelligence officers.

Turkish connection 

The successful companies established offices in Istanbul and Reyhanli (Turkey) and Amman (Jordan), and set about employing local Syrians who in turn recruited Syrians inside Syria to act as “citizen journalists”, or more accurately propagandists, and in some cases spies.

People involved in the clandestine British-led operations have described it as a “shady shady business” and an extensive effort to “pump out propaganda, inside Syria and outside”.

For their part, British officials were understandably anxious to keep the operation a secret, forbidding managers and implementers to “speak publicly (to the media or at academic conferences) about their work without the explicit permission of HMG [Her Majesty’s Government]”.

MEE claims that two Syrian “citizen journalists” captured and murdered by militant groups on the suspicion of spying were connected to the British-led information manipulation operation.

In terms of funding, at the peak of the operation in 2015, the project was in receipt of £410,000 per month.

The operations were wound down once it became clear that the Syrian government – and its Iranian and Russian allies – were prevailing in the country’s complex proxy wars.

The real agenda 

But chillingly, documents uncovered by MEE appear to indicate that the British government was using the propaganda operations to establish a foothold in Syria in anticipation of a military intervention involving British forces.

According to the core document (laying out the blueprint of the project), the operations should have “the capability to expand back into the strategic as and when the opportunity arises, to help build an effective opposition political-military interface.”

Those familiar with the British military’s idiosyncratic language would readily understand those words to mean that the UK was expecting to deploy a significant military force inside Syria with a view to shaping the country’s political future.

A failed project 

This latest revelation comes in the wake of the suspicious death of the White Helmets founder, James Le Mesurier, in Istanbul last November.

Le Mesurier was a former British military intelligence officer who is alleged to have also acted as an MI6 agent.

The failure of the joint FCO-MoD propaganda project, in addition to the death of Le Mesurier (who is alleged to have been murdered to protect secrets), point to the collapse of Britain’s Syria policy, which for years banked on the flawed assumption that the Syrian government would fall.

February 19, 2020 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , | Leave a comment

US Sanctions Russia’s Rosneft for Venezuela Dealings

By Ricardo Vaz | Venezuelanalysis | February 19, 2020

Caracas – The US Treasury Department imposed sanctions against Russian state energy giant Rosneft on Tuesday for “operating in the oil sector of the Venezuelan economy.”

The measure targeted Rosneft Trading SA, the Swiss-based subsidiary of the Russian multinational, and its chairman Didier Casimiro.

“Rosneft Trading S.A. and its president brokered the sale and transport of Venezuelan crude oil,” Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said in a statement.

The statement listed several alleged Rosneft dealings with Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA, including 55 million barrels transported between September and December 2019.

As a result, all US assets in which Rosneft Trading and Casimiro hold a larger than 50 percent stake are blocked. The Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) granted a 90-day period for companies to wind down their dealings with Rosneft Trading.

White House Special Envoy for Venezuela Elliott Abrams later gave a press conference, referring to the latest measures as a “significant step.”

“I think you will see companies all over the world in the oil sector now move away from dealing with Rosneft Trading,” Abrams told reporters.

Washington has imposed several rounds of punishing sanctions targeting Venezuela’s oil sector, traditionally the source of over 90 percent of the country’s foreign currency income. Financial sanctions against PDVSA were first introduced in August 2017, before an oil embargo was imposed in January 2019. Venezuela’s oil output plummeted from an average of 1.911 million barrels per day in 2017 to 793,000 in 2019.

Following measures against other sectors of the Venezuelan economy, the Trump administration imposed a blanket ban on all dealings with Venezuelan state entities in August 2019, while also authorizing secondary sanctions against third party actors. US officials had repeatedly threatened to levy secondary sanctions against foreign companies buying Venezuelan crude.

With the US embargo driving away buyers in recent months, Rosneft had reportedly been carrying over 60 percent of Venezuela’s crude output before rerouting to other destinations. The company had denied violating US sanctions.

Other multinationals, including Spain’s Repsol and India’s Reliance Industries, have also been warned to “tread cautiously” by the Trump administration. Both companies have stated that they have not violated US sanctions, allegedly by exchanging crude for fuel or diluents.

Rosneft has yet to comment on Washington’s decision, with the company’s shares falling by as much as 5.2 percent in Moscow’s stock exchange. The Russian Foreign Ministry published a statement criticizing the US for “raising international tensions,” while vowing that relations with Venezuela would not be affected.

Venezuelan authorities likewise blasted the latest move, with Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza stating that Caracas “firmly rejects” the measures against Rosneft Trading.

“The measures against Rosneft Trading are aimed against our oil industry […]. They keep attacking the people of Venezuela, trying to generate suffering and difficulties,” Arreaza wrote on Twitter.

The foreign minister added that the Venezuelan government would add the latest measures to a criminal complaint submitted before the International Criminal Court (ICC). Arreaza delivered a 60-page document to the ICC at The Hague last week, arguing that US sanctions represent “crimes against humanity” and can be equated to “weapons of mass destruction.”

February 19, 2020 Posted by | Economics | , , , | 1 Comment

Will Censorship Prevail Over The First Amendment?

By Paul Craig Roberts | Institute for Political Economy | February 18, 2020

I remember when censorship in America was a limited phemonenon. It applied during war time—“loose lips sink ships.” It applied to pornography. It applied to curse words on the public airwaves and in movies.  It applied to violence in movies. There could be violence, but not the level that has become common.

Today censorship is ubiquitous. It is everywhere. In the United States censorship is both imposed from above and flows from the bottom up. Censorship is imposed from above by, for example, TV and print media, Google, Facebook, Twitter, and by laws in 28 states prohibiting criticism and participation in boycotts of Israel and by President Trump’s executive order preventing federal funding of educational institutions that permit criticisms of Israel. Censorship flows from the bottom up by, for example, people of protected races, genders, and sexual preference claiming to be offended.

The ubiquitous censorship that today is characteristic of the United States has shut down comedians. It has shut down criticism of non-whites, homosexuals, transgendered, feminists, and Israel. Official explanations are shielded by labeling skeptics “conspiracy theorists.” The ubiquitous censorship in the United States is an extraordinary development as the US Constitution guarantees freedom of expression and a free press.

We owe journalist Abby Martin appreciation for reminding us of our right to free speech. Abby is suing the state of Georgia, one of 28 states that have violated the Constitutional protection of free speech.

Abby was scheduleded to give the keynote speech at a conference at Georgia Southern Univeristy. She discovered that in order to speak publicly at a Georgia college she had to sign a pledge of allegiance not to criticize Israel. Her refusal to sign resulted in the conference being cancelled.

Here we have the state of Georgia blocking free speech because it will not support the Israeli position on Palestine. See: https://www.lewrockwell.com/2020/02/no_author/journalist-abby-martin-sues-state-of-georgia-over-law-requiring-pledge-of-allegiance-to-israel/ .  Also:  https://www.timesofisrael.com/filmmaker-who-wouldnt-sign-georgias-oath-not-to-boycott-israel-sues-us-state/

Think about this for a moment. More than half of the 50 states that comprise the United States have passed laws that are clear violations of the US Constitution. Moreover, these 28 states have imposed censorship in behalf of a foreign country. Americans have gags stuck in their mouths because 28 state governments put the interest of Israel higher than the First Amendment of the US Constitution. When government itself is opposed to free speech, what becomes of democracy and accountable government?

Why would 28 states legislate against the US Constitution? One explanation is that the state governments were bought by the Israel Lobby with money under the table, by promises of political campaign donations, or by threats of financing rival candidates. How else do we explain 28 state governments imposing censorship in behalf of a foreign country?

Abby Martin is one person who will not stand for it. She has brought a lawsuit that—if the US Supreme Court is still a protector of the First Amendment—will result in the 28 state laws and Trump’s executive order being overturned. The protection of Israel against boycotts parallels state laws passed in the 1950s that prevented Martin Luther King’s movement from boycotting businesses that practiced racial segregation. These laws were overturned by the Supreme Court.

The outcome of Abby Martin’s suit will tell us whether the US Constitution is still a living document.

February 19, 2020 Posted by | Civil Liberties | , , | Leave a comment

The West Displays Its Insecurity Complex

By Diana Johnstone | Consortium News | February 19, 2020

The West is winning!” U.S. leaders proclaimed at the high-level Annual Security Conference held in Munich last weekend.

Not everybody was quite so sure.

There was a lot of insecurity displayed at a conference billed as “the West’s family meeting” – enlarged to 70 participating nations, including U.S. -designated “losers”.

Trump’s crude Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made nobody feel particularly secure by treating the world as a huge video game which “we are winning”. Thanks to our “values”, he proclaimed, the West is winning against the other players that Washington has forced into its zero-sum game: Russia and China, whose alleged desires for “empire” are being thwarted.

The Munich Security Conference (MSC) is a private gathering founded in 1963 by Ewald-Heinrich von Kleist-Schmenzin, a member of the aristocratic Wehrmacht officer class who plotted to get rid of Hitler when their estates in Eastern Germany were already being lost to the Red Army (to become part of Poland). The conference was evidently conceived as a means to enable Germans to get a word into strategic discussions from which they had been excluded by defeat in World War II.

The Munich conference knew its greatest hour of glory in February 2007, when Russian president Vladimir Putin shocked the assemblage by declaring his opposition to a “unipolar world” as “not only unacceptable but also impossible in today’s world.” Putin declared that NATO expansion up to Russian borders had nothing to do with ensuring security in Europe.

Russia, he said then, “would like to interact with responsible and independent partners with whom we could work together in constructing a fair and democratic world order that would ensure security and prosperity not only for a select few, but for all.”

This speech was taken as a major challenge, redefining capitalist Russia as the new enemy of the West and its “values”.

What is ‘The West?’

The term “the West” could mean a number of things. The conference organizers define it by “values” that are supposed to be essentially Western: democracy, human rights, a market-based economy and “international cooperation in international institutions”. In fact, what is meant is a particular interpretation of all those “values”, an interpretation based on Anglo-American history. And indeed, in historic terms, this particular “West” is essentially the heir and continuation of the British empire, centered in Washington after London was obliged to abdicate after World War II, while retaining its role as imperial tutor and closest partner.

It implies the worldwide hegemony of the English language and English ideas of “liberalism” and is “multicultural” as empires always are. While the United States is the power center, many of the most ardent subjects of this empire are not American but European, starting with the Norwegian secretary general of NATO. Its imperial power is expressed by military bases all around the world offering “protection” to its subjects.

As for protection, the United States is currently shipping 20,000 military personnel to reinvade Germany on their way to unprecedented military manoeuvers next month in ten countries right up to Russia’s borders. Some 40,000 troops will take part in this exercise, on the totally imaginary pretext of a “Russian threat” to invade neighboring countries.

This delights Washington’s enthusiastic vassals in Poland and the Baltic States but is making many people nervous in Germany itself and other core European Union countries, wondering where this provocation of Russia may lead. But they hardly dare say so in violation of “western solidarity”. The only complaint allowed is that the United States might not defend us enough, when the greater danger comes from being defended too much.

Opening this year’s conference, the President of the German Federal Republic Frank-Walter Steinmeier, expressed Germany’s strategic frustration more openly than usual. Steinmeier accused Washington, Beijing and Moscow of “great power competition” leading to more mistrust, more armament, more insecurity, leading “all the way to a new nuclear arms race.” He didn’t specify who started all that.

Overwhelming establishment distaste for Trump has provided a novel opportunity for leaders of U.S.-occupied countries to criticize Washington, or at least the White House. Steinmeier dared say that “our closest ally, the United States of America, under the present administration, rejects the idea of an international community.” But he made up for this by accusing Russia of “making military violence and the violent change of borders on the European continent a political tool once again” by annexing Crimea – forgetting the NATO violent detachment of Kosovo from Serbia and ignoring the referendum in which an overwhelming majority of Crimeans voted to return to Russia, without a shot fired.

French President Emmanuel Macron also expressed frustration at Europe’s dependence on Washington. He would like the European Union to develop its own military defense and security policy. “We cannot be the United States’ junior partner,” he said, although that is certainly what Europe is. While repeating the usual NATO line about the Russian threat, he noted that the policy of threats and sanctions against Russia had accomplished nothing and called for a “closer dialogue” to resolve problems. In that, he was surely echoing the consensus of the French elite which sees absolutely no French interest in the ongoing U.S.-inspired feud with Moscow.

Macron openly aspires to building a more independent EU military defense. The first obstacle lies in EU Treaties, which tie the Union to NATO. With the UK out of the EU, France is its strongest military power and its sole possessor of nuclear arms. There are indications that some German leaders might like to absorb France’s nuclear arsenal into a joint European force – which would surely arouse a “nationalist” uproar in France.

Playing the Game

Aside from providing protection, the Empire calls on everybody to play the game of international trade – so long as they consent to lose.

On Saturday in Munich, both Nancy Pelosi and Defense Secretary Mark Esper lit into China for daring to emerge as a trade giant and technological center. “China is seeking to export its digital autocracy through its telecommunication giant Huawei,” Pelosi warned.

Huawei has overtaken Russian natural gas as the export Washington condemns most vigorously as nefarious interference in the internal affairs of importers.

Esper gave a long speech damning Beijing’s “bad behavior”, “malign activity”, authoritarianism and, of course, Huawei. The Pentagon chief concluded his diatribe against America’s number one economic rival by a moralizing sermon on “our values, sense of fairness, and culture of opportunity,” which “unleash the very best of human intellect, spirit, and innovation.”

Maybe, just maybe, we can get them on the right path,” Esper suggested benevolently. “Again, make no mistake, we do not seek conflict with China.”

In general, said Esper, “we simply ask of Beijing what we ask of every nation: to play by the rules, abide by international norms, and respect the rights and sovereignty of others.” (He could say, what we ask of every nation except our own.)

The Department of Defense, he said, is doing its share: “focused on deterring bad behavior, reassuring our friends and allies, and defending the global commons.” We want China to “behave like a normal country” but, said Esper, if it “will not change its ways”, then we must make “greater investments in our common defense; by making the hard economic and commercial choices needed to prioritize our shared security … prepared to deter any threat, defend any Ally, and defeat any foe.”

In short, China’s economic progress provides another excuse to increase the Pentagon budget and pressure European allies into more military spending. This could only please such major sponsors of this conference as Raytheon and Lockheed Martin (and probably did not displease Goldman Sachs and all the other major Western industries backing this get-together).

Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi replied to Esper’s harangue with some lessons of his own for the West, concerning “multilateralism”.

“It is not multilateralism if only the Western countries prosper while the non-Western countries lag behind forever. It would not achieve the common progress of mankind,” said Wang. “China’s modernization is the necessity of history.” China’s history and culture meant that it could not copy the Western pattern nor seek hegemony as major powers in the past.

Wang said the West should discard its subconscious mentality of civilization supremacy, give up its bias and anxiety over China, and accept and welcome the development and revitalization of a country from the East with a system different from that of the West.

The West at Munich did not appear particularly ready to follow this advice. Nor that of Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov who was also allowed his few minutes to address deaf ears. Lavrov lamented that the structure of the Cold War rivalry is being recreated as NATO continues to advance eastward, carrying on military exercises of unprecedented scope near the Russian borders, and inflating arms budgets. Lavrov invited the West to stop promoting the phantom of the Russian or any other “threat” and remember “what unites us all” before it’s too late.

But the self-appointed representatives of “the West” hadn’t come to hear that. They were much more ready to listen respectfully to representatives of such friendly arms purchasers as Qatar and Saudi Arabia whose acceptance of “Western values” was not called into question.

Westlessness’

It had evidently been decided who belongs to “the West” and who is threatening it: China and Russia. “China’s rapid ascent has stirred much debate over the primacy of the United States and the West in the 21st century,” Esper remarked. Indeed, the “Munich Security Report” published for the conference was devoted to the odd theme of “Westlessness”, lamenting a new “decline of the West” (in echo of Oswald Spengler’s famous Der Untergang des Abendlandes of a century ago). The world was becoming less Western – and even worse, so was the West itself.

This complaint had two sides, material and ideological. In material terms, the West feels challenged by foreign economic and technological development, especially in China. It is notable that, while Western powers vigorously promoted international trade-based economies, they seem unable to react to the results except in terms of power rivalry and ideological conflict.

As long as Western dominance was ensured, international trade was celebrated as the necessary basis for a peaceful world. But the moment a non-Western trader is doing too well, its exports are ominously denounced as means to exert malign influence over its customers. The prime example was Russian natural gas. Chinese technology is the next. Both are decried, especially by U.S. spokespeople, as treacherous means to make other countries “dependent”. <

Of course, trade does imply mutual dependence, and with it, a certain degree of political influence. Certainly, the overwhelming U.S. dominance of the entertainment industry (movies, TV series, popular music) exercises an enormous ideological influence on much of the world. The U.S. influence via Internet is also considerable.

But the avoidance of such nefarious foreign influence would call for precisely an “inward-looking” nationalism that the MSC denounced as destructive of our Western values.

The Western strategists see themselves threatened by too much globalization abroad, in the terms of China rising, and not enough enthusiasm for globalization at home. Enthusiasm is waning for foreign military expeditions to impose “values” – an essential aspect of Western identity.

The Report deplored the rise of “inward-looking” nationalism in Europe, which could be called patriotism, since it has none of the aggressive tendencies associated with nationalism. In fact, some of these European “nationalists” actually favor less intervention in the Middle East and would like to promote peaceful relations with Russia.

When the alleged threat to the West was “godless communism”, Western values were relatively conservative. Today, the liberal West is threatened by conservatism, by people who more or less want to preserve their traditional lifestyle.

Finally, the MSC acknowledged that “the defenders of an open, liberal West, … so far seem unable to find an adequate answer to the illiberal-nationalist challenge…”. Part of the reason “may be found in the long almost unshakable conviction that all obstacles to liberalization were only minor setbacks, as liberalism’s eventual triumph was seen as inevitable.” Politicians have presented their policies as without alternative. As a result, there is growing “resistance against a system allegedly run by liberal experts and international institutions, which in the eyes of some amounts to a ‘new authoritarianism’…”

Isn’t “liberal authoritarianism” an oxymoron? But what do you call it when Macron’s police enjoy impunity when they shoot out the eyes of Gilets Jaunes citizens peacefully protesting against massively unpopular social policies, when the UK holds Julian Assange in a dungeon despite denunciation of his cruel treatment by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture? When the United States holds a record number of people in prison, including Chelsea Manning, simply to force her to testify against her will, and with no end in sight?

The day may come when it is accepted that the world is round, and “West” is only a relative geographic term, depending on where you are.


Diana Johnstone lives in Paris, France. Her latest book is Circle in the Darkness: Memoirs of a World Watcher (Clarity Press, 2020).

February 19, 2020 Posted by | Militarism, Russophobia | , | 1 Comment

Everything You Wanted to Know About Pete Buttigieg, But Were Too Afraid to Ask

By Robert Bridge | Strategic Culture Foundation | February 19, 2020

Rhodes Scholar. Afghan vet. Mayor. An impressive resume, to be sure, but to have made the fantastic leap from local politics to the doorstep of the Oval Office – at the age of just 38 – seems altogether impossible without some serious behind-the-scenes connections.

Let’s just cut right to the chase with a couple questions that the media has glaringly failed to consider about the top-polling Democratic presidential candidate. First, the most obvious one. How on earth does a young Midwestern mayor, regardless of his polished resume, jump to the front of the serving line, past hundreds of veteran politicians who have quietly nurtured presidential ambitions inside of the Beltway their entire lives?

As The Economist emphatically stated this week, “Mr Buttigieg is ridiculously young to be doing so well.”

Second, if the mayor of South Bend, Indiana (pop. 101,166) is now in serious contention to challenge Donald Trump in November, what exactly does that say about the depth of the Democratic bench, loaded as it is with Senators, House members, Governors and various state officials with far more political experience and acumen?

While the Oval Office has seen its share of pretenders, and even actors, the great majority of those men who made it to the pinnacle of power have spent at least some time in high political office before contemplating a presidential run. Incidentally, it is on this particular point, political experience, which could make a Trump-Buttigieg debate a very interesting spectacle. Although Buttigieg has limited political experience, Trump had none before he entered the White House, although certainly proving his abilities once in office.

For Pete’s sake!

Born on January 19, 1982, Buttigieg graduated valedictorian from St. Joseph High School in 2000. That same year he won a JFK ‘Profiles in Courage’ essay contest on the subject of none other than Bernie Sanders, the democratic socialist the incredibly rising mayor is competing against for the November nod. “Above all, I commend Bernie Sanders for giving me an answer to those who say American young people see politics as a cesspool of corruption, beyond redemption,” Buttigieg wrote. His trip to Washington D.C. to collect his prize included a meeting with members of the Kennedy clan, an honor that must have left a deep impression on the 18 year old.

Upon graduation from Harvard University, Buttigieg did a stint (2007-2010) at the Chicago office of McKinsey & Co, the discreet U.S. management consulting firm. During his time there, the young upstart took a trip to perhaps the most unlikely destinations in the world, Somaliland, a self-proclaimed independent state in Africa that is struggling for international recognition to this day. In other words, not a trip to Disneyland.

Just before embarking on his African adventure (Summer of 2008), Buttigieg was taken on as a fellow with the Truman National Security Project, a neoliberal think tank that has been described as “a powerful and exclusive club for the best and brightest young progressives in the country.” Among its esteemed alumni is none other than Madeleine Albright, chief architect of NATO’s obliteration of Yugoslavia. Meanwhile, the founder of the Truman Project, Rachel Kleinfeld, deserves some consideration.

Upon graduating from Oxford, Kleinfeld took up employment with Booz Allen Hamilton, the private contractor that carried out a long list of services for the military. It has also been described as “the world’s most profitable spy organization.” The head of the company at the time was none other than James Woolsey, the neoconservative former CIA director who has advocated for a fiercely interventionist U.S. foreign policy, notably the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

Back to Somaliland. In addition to Buttigieg’s affiliation with the Truman Center, where he now sits on the advisory board, his Somalian ‘vacation’ managed to garner special attention in The New York Times, suggesting this was much more than your ordinary getaway.

“Somaliland is pursuing investment and support from China and Gulf countries,” Buttigieg wrote in the Times piece, co-authored by Nathaniel Myers, who also went along for the joyride. “Such support might be enough to ensure Somaliland’s survival and eventual growth, but it will crowd out America’s chance to win the gratitude of a potentially valuable ally in a very troubled area.”

Possibly more than just incidentally, Myers, a Harvard buddy of Buttigieg, now serves as Senior Transition Advisor at USAID – Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI), which works to destabilize governments deemed unfavorable to U.S. interests.

Just over a year later, in September 2009, Buttigieg, and despite his participation in anti-war rallies while at Harvard, signed up for the U.S. Navy Reserve. Due to his particular “pedigree,” writes Stars and Stripes magazine, he was sworn in as an ensign in naval intelligence without any prior preparation, which is not the traditional route for enlistees. In 2014, he was deployed to Afghanistan, which required Buttigieg to take a seven-month leave of absence from his mayoral duties in South Bend. Here is where the political upstart’s career begins to look a little sketchy.

According to The Grayzone, Buttigieg “spent his six months in Afghanistan in 2014 with a little-known unit that operated under the watch of the Drug Enforcement Administration. It was the Afghanistan Threat Finance Cell (ATFC), according to his appointment papers.”

What exactly did Special Officer Pete Buttigieg do in this unit, which was founded by none other than the future CIA chief General David Patreaus, who at the time was the head of U.S. Central Command? Well, that’s hard to say because the job description that appears in his discharge papers is left conveniently blank. This, and the fact that the ATFC has direct links to U.S. intelligence has fueled rumors with regards to who or what was responsible for placing the mayor of South Bend, Indiana on the political fast lane.

But those sorts of connections alone cannot explain Buttigieg’s meteoric rise in Washington, D.C., especially when the young upstart spent the majority of his time in South Bend. No, Pete Buttigieg would require boatloads of cash to earn such fame in such a short time. And as it turns out, the money has been pouring into his coffers from some of the wealthiest families in the country.

Buttigieg attracts the bucks

According to federal election data, forty billionaires and their spouses have donated to Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign, putting his campaign war chest at around $52 million, the most collected among all the Democratic candidates. An analysis of the contributions shows that the majority of the billionaire donators came from the financial, media and technology sectors.

Of particular interest, however, is how much the tech titans of Silicon Valley have lavished the democratic frontrunner with attention as well as infusions of hard cash. In December, for example, Rex Reed, co-founder of Netflix, helped organize a fundraising dinner at a wine cellar in Palo Alto, California, which gave Buttigieg’s Democratic opponents a golden opportunity to expose his billionaire connections.

“Billionaires in wine caves should not pick the next president of the United States,” Elizabeth Warren told Buttigieg in a December debate.

Buttigieg responded that he was “literally the only person on this stage who is not a millionaire or a billionaire,” and that therefore Warren had failed the “purity test.”

It’s not just billionaires, however, who are cracking open their wallets for the Indiana native. The list includes more than 200 foreign policy and intelligence officials, including Anthony Lake, national security adviser for President Clinton, former National Security Council spokesman Ned Price, and former deputy CIA director David Cohen, among many others. Although such support from the foreign policy and intelligence community doesn’t prove cause and effect, it has helped spawn a number of online conspiracy theories that Buttigieg is something of a Manchurian candidate, propped up by a deep state desperate to beat the swamp drainer Donald J. Trump.

Those ideas were brought to a boil during the Iowa caucus when the aptly named app Shadow, designed to perform the simple task of reporting the polling results in a timely and efficient manner, fizzled out just as Bernie Sanders had taken a commanding lead over Buttigieg. Would it come as any surprise that Shadow Inc. has a very shadowy history?

“Shadow Inc. was picked in secret by the Iowa Democratic Party after its leaders consulted with the Democratic National Committee on vetting vendors and security protocols for developing a phone app used to gather and tabulate the caucus results,” AP reported. “Shadow Inc. was launched by ACRONYM, a nonprofit corporation founded in 2017 by Tara McGowan, a political strategist who runs companies aimed at promoting Democratic candidates and priorities.”

McGowan is married to none other than Michael Halle, a senior strategist for Pete Buttigieg’s presidential campaign, which records show has also paid Shadow Inc. $42,500 for the use of software.

And people wonder why there are so many ‘conspiracy theorists’ running around these days.

In any case, the glitch led to many days of debate as to who really won the Midwestern state, a debate that continues today. Yet despite that state of mass confusion, Buttigieg didn’t miss an opportunity to seize victory from the claws of (possible) defeat, announcing just hours after the technological breakdown that he had been “victorious” in Iowa. Meanwhile, Sanders’ supporters saw it as yet another brazen move by the DNC to sideline the democratic socialist.

So how does one explain the incredible string of political success for the young star of the Democratic Party? Is he really so politically talented and smart that there was no choice but to let him move to the front of the pack? That seems hard to believe since his speeches come off as hollow and scripted, a rhetorical trick that many politicians with far more experience have perfected. And how about all those billionaires, former state officials and people from the national security apparatus who have come forward to support him? A case of billionaire grassroots democracy in action, or just more good luck for the South Bend native?

As it stands, Pete Buttigieg remains a great mystery, a proverbial dark horse on the U.S. political scene. While there can be no question that he has a long future in American politics, it is too early to tell if that will be a good thing for the American people. There is still a lot of unpacking to do on the life and times of the former mayor of South Bend, Indiana.

February 19, 2020 Posted by | Deception | , , | 5 Comments