Aletho News


What’s Really Behind Rohrbacher’s ‘Assange Pardon’ Story?

By Patrick Henningsen | 21st Century Wire | February 20, 2020

Just as Roger Stone’s sentencing was getting underway this afternoon, another story began drifting out into the media sphere – another potential spanner in the works just in time for part one of Julian Assange’s US extradition hearing which is due to commence this Monday.

According to a revelation aired during a recent scheduled case hearing on Wednesday by a member of Assange’s defence team, Edward Fitzgerald QC, Assange was informally offered some kind of pardon deal by a US representative during the first year of the Trump Administration. Fitzgerald was reading from a statement by Assange’s lawyer Jennifer Robinson, reportedly saying:

“Mr Rohrabacher going to see Mr Assange and saying, on instructions from the president, he was offering a pardon or some other way out, if Mr Assange … said Russia had nothing to do with the DNC leaks.”

This statement is referring to former US Congressman Dana Rohrbacher (R-CA) who says he visited Assange as part of Rohrbacher’s own independent ‘fact finding mission’ at London’s Ecuadorian Embassy in August 2017, near  the beginning of the Mueller Investigation.

Before we continue and unravel what has been said and by whom, there are three key aspects of this latest news to consider.

The first and most importantly – is the media spin aspect. Given that this is both a highly-charged partisan, as well as geopolitical case, and that we are just days away from the start of Assange’s historic extradition hearing, there are powerful forces, be they state, partisan or media – who will try and spin this and other ‘bombshells’ in a way which suits their political agenda. It also goes without saying that there are agents of influence within mainstream media organizations who are both willing and able to manipulate, twist, distort or fabricate any aspect of a story like this in order to further the interests of the two primary government stakeholders in this case, the United States and United Kingdom. This has already been demonstrated time and time again with the Assange story, most notably by The Guardian newspaper who completely fabricated at least one headline story by Luke Harding and Danny Collyns claiming that former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort had visited Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy. The Guardian then followed this fake news story up with a sequel in which they used Harding’s Manafort story to help bolster another bogus claim that an ally of Nigel Farage was attempting to obtain emails from WikiLeaks. Bottom line: if there is any opportunity to advance a Trump-Russia or RussiaGate narrative, there are mainstream journalists and editors ready to publish or say anything, even if it’s a complete lie.

The second thing to consider is how this latest news will factor into Julian Assange’s extradition hearing next week.

And thirdly, whether or not the Dana Rohrbacher story will ultimately help, or hurt the real protagonist in this case, Julian Assange.

Most certainly, the mainstream media have distorted this story from the word go, mostly to advance anti-Trump and anti-Russian narratives. We’ll look at two reports, one from the Daily Beast, and the other from the UK’s Independent.

The Daily Beast story written by Nico Hines carries an over-the-top headline, “Trump Offered Assange Pardon if He Covered Up Russian Hack, WikiLeaks Founder’s Lawyer Claims”. Of course, this isn’t actually what the lawyer said. The headline doesn’t actually correspond with the claims made below in the article. Hine’s own article does not stipulate that Trump himself made such an offer to Assange. Hine then repeats the same lie in the sub-header, saying that Rohrbacher “had brought the message to London from Trump.” In addition to this, the headline erroneously asserts that Assange is also orchestrating a cover-up. No doubt the Daily Beast’s management and data analytics team knows that a large percentage of online readers, especially those seeing content via social media, only skim the headline of a post and do not read the body of the article (content engineers need to know this data because it is how they place and bill for advertising space). In addition to this, according to a statement made by former Congressman Dana Rohrbacher, the former Congressman made a proposition to Assange that if the WikiLeaks founder was prepared to give proof of who provided the DNC and related email leaks, Rohrbacher would do his best to lobby the President for a pardon. With his gratuitous headline, stamped with “Quid Pro Quo” in red lettering right below it, Hines was attempting to re-purpose the UkraineGate-Impeachment accusation of Trump’s abuse of power in asking the Ukrainian President Zelensky for an illicit ‘Quid Pro Quo’ favor, thus engaging in yet another under-the-table dodgy deal.

Above all, this story is being crafted to look as if Trump was in league with Assange to try and cover-up any Russian involvement in the DNC Leaks and the 2016 Election – leaving the reader to assume that there was Russian involvement. This story is complete spin and clickbait by the Daily Beast. In classic propaganda style, the author also uses this opportunity to reinforce the usual laundry list of unproven RussiaGate narrative talking points, stating a series of evidence-free assertions and falsehoods as if they were iron-clad proven facts (now standard operating procedure for most US mainstream outlets):

“Russia’s involvement in hacking emails from the Democratic National Committee.”

“WikiLeaks posted the stolen DNC emails after they were hacked by Russian operatives.”

This is followed by a cheap, ad hominem smear against Rohrbacher:

“Rohrabacher, who was known as Putin’s favorite congressman.”

Like The Guardian, formerly a respectable newspaper, the UK’s Independent has become a formidable online propaganda outlet. It’s headline takes the Daily Beast spin even further, adding ‘Russian election interference’ for good measure: “Trump offered to pardon Assange if he covered up Russian interference in US election, court told”. Of course, this is not what the court was told, but the truth doesn’t seem to be a priority for these mainstream outlets. It repeats most of the lies woven through the Daily Beast article, and then builds a partisan angle on top of the initial lie, making reference to the 2020 US election:

“… could have profound consequences for Mr Trump’s re-election effort if proven true.”

Note also the use of the cheap throwaway propaganda phrase, “if proven true” – which more often than not denotes a fake allegation, and is proof of deceptive intent, or a pre-existing agenda or bias by the author. A similar election smear here:

“It’s another indication that Trump’s assault on the rule of law isn’t new; it’s been ongoing throughout his term. And imagine just how much we don’t yet know.”

The propaganda housekeeping continues, advancing the official conspiracy theory that the DNC and Clinton emails were hacked, when there is still no proof to validate this claim, citing a likely partisan source, Obama CIA official Ned Price:

“A series of emails embarrassing for the Democrats and the Hillary Clinton presidential campaign were hacked before being published by WikiLeaks…”

More of the same, reinforcing unproven, untested accusations tabled by Mueller probe:

The Mueller investigation, published in April, found Russian GRU agents hacked Ms Clinton’s private server for the first time just hours after Mr Trump’s public request for Russia to “find the 30,000 emails that are missing”.

(NOTE: DOJ indictments of ‘GRU hackers’ have shown no proof, FBI did not forensically inspect DNC servers, only showed redacted IT reports from the private firm Crowdsrike, and posited an unproven theory that Russian GRU agents ran online cut-outs like Guccifer 2.0)

Needless to say, when it comes to stories like this, most mainstream media outlets are not fit for purpose, and most likely co-opted by some partisan interests, or worse, by an intelligence agency. History is replete with examples of this.

The second consideration is: how will this latest revelation effect Julian Assange’s extradition hearing next week? If you can filter out all of the media and partisan spin, you can see that this new information was introduced by the defense for a reason which may have less to do with Trump and Russia, and more to do with substantiating a complaint made by the defense that Assange should not be extradited to the U.S. because Washington’s case against him is in fact politically motivated. In this case, as a serving member of Congressman, Rohrbacher’s meeting with Assange and solicitation of a deal automatically proves that there was direct US political involvement in advance of the Department of Justice’s 18 superceding indictments of Assange served this past summer. In addition to this, the defense has proof of a CIA-led operation which spied on Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, which included surveillance of his discussions with his attorneys. Taken together, these two pieces of evidence could be crucial in the defense’s effort to have the US extradition request overturned on the basis that the US effort is entirely politically motivated and therefore in violation the extradition treaty between the two countries.

WikiLeaks tweeted out today that this Rohrbacher story will come into play on Tuesday’s session of the hearing.

WikiLeaks also points out the issue of the timeline of events with this story – that the Rohrbacher meeting took place long after Assange had publicly stated that his source for the DNC leaks was not a sate actor.

In addition to this, former UK Ambassador and friend of Assange, Craig Murray, has also declared publicly ( and confidently) on numerous occasions that the source was not Russia, but from ‘Washington DC circles’. From Sputnik News :

In December 2016 Murray told Radio Sputnik that the DNC Leaks had “absolutely nothing to do with Russia”. He said that he discovered the source while attending a whistleblowing conference in the US and stressed that it came from “official circles in Washington DC”.

Lastly, there is the question of whether or not the Dana Rohrbacher story will help, or hurt the credibility of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks.

As I have stated a number of times previously, the key to the DOJ case against Assange lies in the language in which they have reframed Assange and WikiLeaks from being a journalist and a press outlet, and instead labeled him as a ‘cyber terrorist and Russian asset’, and a ‘hostile non-state foreign intelligence service’, respectively. This reframing will also allow the US to strip Assange and WikiLeaks of any first Amendment protections upon arrival in the US, as well as justify Special Administrative Measures, which places Assange essentially in the same category as an enemy combatant or terrorist. One way to make this reframing exercise more credible is by attacking the credibility of both Assange and WikiLeaks, to portray them as not acting like ‘conventional journalistic outlets,’ simply to demonstrate that Assange and WikiLeaks are cavalier or careless in keeping to their journalistic principles. This is where the claims made by Dana Rohrbacher might be used to undermine Julian Assange’s insistence that WikiLeaks protects their sources at all costs. The insinuation by Rohrbacher – which has now cascaded through the world’s media – is that Assange was willing to sell-out his principles by divulging to Washington who leaked the DNC emails in order to save his own skin in the form of a pardon from President Trump.

In Rohrbacker’s own words:

“Upon my return, I spoke briefly with Gen. Kelly. I told him that Julian Assange would provide information about the purloined DNC emails in exchange for a pardon.”

In his statement posted on Feb. 20, 2020, Rohrbacher was careful not to state explicitly that Assange had told him “Yes” and agreed to give up his source in exchange for a Presidential pardon – it was only inferred in Rohrbacher’s above quote, “I told him that Julian Assange would provide information…” – but he does not specify what exactly that information would be: a source, contextual information, deductive information, ie. who it wasn’t, or some other forensic evidence which would rule out a Russian state actor. It’s hard to know at this point, but that didn’t stop the mainstream media from colonizing that vacuum of information with the usual bevy of speculation, spin and fake news which we demonstrated earlier in this article. But the general impression in all of the reporting and from the Congressman himself, is that Assange had told Rohrbacher he would indeed give up his source in exchange for a pardon. This does not square with many vehement statements made by Assange about maintaining the integrity of WikiLeaks’ sources.

Who would really expect Assange to have have suffered this ten-year long ordeal – only to suddenly trust an emissary of the United States government to keep his promise to make good on some informal, and highly uncertain promise of freedom?

It’s also worth noting here that this same narrative mirrors a story which has been circulating somewhat under the radar for months, about a former FOX News contributor named Ellen Ratner (late brother Michael Ratner had been a U.S. lawyer for WikiLeaks) who says she visited with Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy in the fall of 2016. Claims about her visit were then made by an alleged associate, another FOX News contributor and Dallas financial manager named Ed Butowsky – and Butowsky claims that Ratner told him that Assange said his source was the late Seth Rich, a DNC employee who was shot and killed a block from his apartment in Washington DC on July 10, 2016. This of course infers, by extension, that Rich was murdered because he was the leaker. The Ratner-Butowsky story has been mentioned by a few mainstream media outlets, but is more popular in alternative American conservative media. All of this is purely speculative, and as yet, without any evidence to validate the theory. However, Butowsky’s third-hand claims have triggered a chain a lawsuits led by a libel suit filed by the family of Seth Rich against various parties and media outlets who made the claim that Rich leaked the DNC emails to WikiLeaks.

The amount of media noise surrounding this issue can easily obfuscate some of the fundamental principles and themes which are governing the mainstream narrative of this story.

What’s important to note here is that just like Rohrbacher’s inference that Assange had agreed to provide information on the DNC leaks, Butowsky’s unfounded claim infers that Julian Assange gave up his source to Ellen Ratner – a core principle which Assange has sworn he would never betray. Again, such a narrative actually undermines the ethical and professional credibility and staunch reputation of Julian Assange and WikiLeaks as serious journalists.

Rohrbacker’s approach wasn’t the first interface between US officials and Julian Assange. While Rohrbacher’s approach was a traditional face to face meeting and offer of a pardon, a previous approach was said to have been made by the FBI and CIA agencies in 2017, as reported by John Solomon in 2018, whereby Assange would be offered immunity from prosecution in exchange for cooperation with intelligence agencies in mitigating some of the damage from WikiLeaks release of a CIA document trove. Solomon reports for The Hill:

This yarn begins in January 2017 when Assange’s legal team approached Waldman — known for his government connections — to see if the new Trump administration would negotiate with the WikiLeaks founder, holed up in Ecuador’s London embassy. They hoped Waldman, a former Clinton Justice Department official, might navigate the U.S. law enforcement bureaucracy and find the right people to engage.

Allegedly, FBI director James Comey then intervened later in the process in order to kill the deal.

The Rohrbacher story is just one of many fascinating details which will be introduced during the process of Assange’s hearing which will take place in two parts; in February, and then in May. But with all of these details and revelations, readers should pay close attention to how and why the news is being spun the way it is, and to the benefit of whom. Also, consider the source of the information.

The first half of Assange’s extradition hearing will begin on Monday Feb 24th at Woolwich Crown Court, where US lawyers will make the case that he should be extradited to the United States to face 18 federal counts of espionage and conspiring to commit computer intrusion, totally 175 years in prison – if he is found guilty.

February 20, 2020 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | | Leave a comment

Pentagon expects US public to buy lame excuse about missing weapons sent to Syria, Iraq

‘We weren’t keeping inventory’

By Nebojsa Malic | RT | February 20, 2020

US weapons worth some $715 million dollars were warehoused poorly and soldiers handling them did not keep receipts or records, so it’s impossible to tell how many, if any, ended up in wrong hands, the Pentagon says.

Supply units in Kuwait and elsewhere “did not maintain comprehensive lists of all equipment purchased and received” or “stored weapons outside in metal shipping containers, exposing the equipment to harsh environmental elements, such as heat and humidity.”

This is according to the partially redacted report by the Department of Defense’s inspector general (IG), of an audit into the “Counter Islamic State of Iraq and Syria Train and Equip Fund” (CTEF), dated February 13 and published this week.

That is not to say that $715 million worth of US weapons, intended for the Iraqi military and “Vetted Syrian Opposition” – as the euphemism for US-allied militia goes – has gone missing, as some reports may have suggested. In Pentagon-speak, there was “a lack of a central repository for accountability documentation.” Once you cut through the obtuse verbiage, the IG report basically says there’s no way of figuring any of that out, because the troops charged with running the program did not maintain records or receipts.

The audit was commissioned because the DOD has requested $173.2 million for weapons, ammunition, vehicles, and other CTEF-S equipment for the current fiscal year, which began in October. Without accurate records, the Pentagon risks buying stuff it doesn’t need and “further overcrowding” the warehouses in Kuwait, which is what caused the pricey hardware to be stored outside in the first place.

Even though the Trump administration declared Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) defeated back in March 2019, ensuring the “enduring defeat” of the terrorists apparently requires that the weapons and equipment must flow. While the US taxpayers don’t have a choice in footing the bill, expecting them to swallow the explanation – that their noble men and women in uniform are just too stupid, lazy or incompetent to keep a ledger – sounds a bit rich.

Washington has a notoriously spotty record of pouring weapons into Syria and Iraq. At one point in 2015, the Pentagon admitted the failure of its program to train and equip “Vetted Syrian Opposition” (also known as “moderate rebels”). Having spent $2 million per fighter, the US saw them defect to the Al-Qaeda affiliate group Al-Nusra, bringing the US-supplied weapons and kit along.

So the Pentagon doubled down in 2016, spending untold millions to train “dozens” of rebels in Turkey. It is unclear how many of those “moderates” took part in last year’s assault on areas held by US-allied Kurdish militias.

As late as September 2016, Al-Nusra commanders openly talked about getting US weapons, both “directly” and via third countries, such as Saudi Arabia. The Syrian government has since dealt the militants one defeat after another, and currently advances on their last remaining strongholds in the Idlib province.

While the US government and media have objected to these operations – and NATO member Turkey actually sent troops and tanks to Idlib in an attempt to halt them – a spokesman for the anti-IS coalition has just openly admitted Idlib is a nest of terrorists.

February 20, 2020 Posted by | Deception | , , | 1 Comment

“The Donald Trump I know”: Abbas’ UN Speech and the Breakdown of Palestinian Politics

By Ramzy Baroud | Dissident Voice | February 20, 2020

A precious moment has been squandered, as Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas, had the chance to right a historical wrong, by reinstating Palestinian national priorities at the United Nations Security Council on February 11, through a political discourse that is completely independent from Washington and its allies.

For a long time, Abbas has been a hostage to the very language that designated him and his Authority as ‘moderates’ in the eyes of Israel and the West. Despite the Palestinian leader’s outward rejection of the US ‘Deal of the Century’ – which practically renders Palestinian national aspirations null and void – Abbas is keen to maintain his ‘moderate’ credentials for as long as possible.

Certainly, Abbas has given many speeches at the UN in the past and, every single time, he has failed to impress Palestinians. This time, however, things were meant to be different. Not only did Washington disown Abbas and the PA, it also scrapped its own political discourse on peace and the two-state solution altogether. More, the Trump administration has now officially given its blessing to Israel to annex nearly a third of the West Bank, taking Jerusalem ‘off the table’ and discarding the right of return for Palestinian refugees.

Instead of directly meeting with leaders of the various Palestinian political parties and taking tangible steps to reactivate dormant but central political institutions such as the Palestinian National Council (PNC) and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), Abbas preferred to meet with former Israeli right-wing Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, in New York, and to carry on regurgitating his commitment to a by-gone era.

In his UN speech, Abbas said nothing new which, in this instance, is worse than not saying anything at all.

“This is the outcome of the project that has been introduced to us,” Abbas said, while holding a map of what a Palestinian state would look like under Donald Trump’s ‘Deal of the Century’. “And this is the state that they are giving to us,” Abbas added, referring to that future state as a ‘Swiss cheese’, meaning a state fragmented by Jewish settlements, bypass-roads and Israeli military zones.

Even the term ‘Swiss cheese’, which was reported in some media as if a new phrase in this ever-redundant discourse, is actually an old coinage that has been referenced repeatedly by the Palestinian leadership itself, starting with the onset of the so-called peace process, a quarter of a century ago.

Abbas labored to appear exceptionally resolute as he emphasized certain words, like when he equated the Israeli occupation with the system of apartheid. His delivery, however, appeared unconvincing, lacking and, at times, pointless.

Abbas spoke of his great ‘surprise’ when Washington declared Jerusalem as Israel’s undivided capital, subsequently relocating its embassy to the occupied city, as if the writing was not already on the wall and that, in fact, the embassy move was one of Trump’s main pledges to Israel even before his inauguration in January 2017.

“And then they cut off financial aid that was given to us,” Abbas said in a lamenting voice with reference to the US decision to withhold its aid to the PA in August 2018. “$840 million are held from us,” he said. “I don’t know who is giving Trump such horrid advice. Trump is not like this. Trump that I know is not like this,” Abbas exclaimed in a strange interjection as if to send a message to the Trump administration that the PA still has faith in the US President’s judgement.

“I would like to remind everyone that we have participated in the Madrid peace conference, and the Washington negotiations and the Oslo agreement and the Annapolis summit on the basis of international law,” Abbas recounted, signaling that he remains committed to the very political agenda that reaped the Palestinian people no political rewards whatsoever.

Abbas then went on to paint an imagined reality, where his Authority is supposedly building the “national institutions of a law-abiding, modern and democratic state that is constructed on the basis of international values; one that is predicated on transparency, accountability and fighting corruption.”

“Yes,” Abbas emphasized, as he looked at his audience with theatrical seriousness, “We are one of the most important countries (in the world) that is fighting corruption.” The PA leader, then, called on the Security Council to send a commission to investigate allegations of corruption within the PA, a bewildering and unnecessary invitation, considering that it is the Palestinian leadership that should be making demands on the international community to help enforce international law and end the Israeli occupation.

It went on like this, where Abbas vacillated between reading pre-written remarks that introduce no new ideas or strategies and unnecessary rants that reflect the PA’s political bankruptcy and Abbas’ own lack of imagination.

The PA President, of course, made sure to offer his habitual condemnation of Palestinian ‘terrorism’ by promising that Palestinians would not “resort to violence and terrorism regardless of the act of aggression against us.” He assured his audience that his Authority believes in “peace and fighting violence.” Without elaborating, Abbas declared his intention of continuing on the path of “popular and peaceful resistance,” which, in fact, does not exist in any shape or form.

This time around, Abbas’ speech at the UN was particularly inappropriate. Indeed, it was a failure in every possible way. The least, the Palestinian leader could have done is to articulate a powerful and collective Palestinian political discourse. Instead, his statement was merely a sad homage to his own legacy, one that is riddled with disappointments and ineptitude.

Expectedly, Abbas returned to Ramallah to greet his cheering supporters once more, who are always ready and waiting to raise posters of the ageing leader, as if his UN speech had succeeded in fundamentally shifting international political momentum in favor of Palestinians.

It has to be said that the real danger in the ‘Deal of the Century’ is not the actual stipulations of that sinister plan, but the fact that the Palestinian leadership is likely to find a way to co-exist with it, at the expense of the oppressed Palestinian people, as long as donors’ money continues to flow and as long as Abbas continues to call himself a president.

Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of five books. His latest is “These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons” (Clarity Press, Atlanta). Dr. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA), Istanbul Zaim University (IZU). His website is

February 20, 2020 Posted by | Corruption, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , | 1 Comment

Blago Is Free

By Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr. | | February 20, 2020

On Tuesday, February 18, President Trump with excellent judgment commuted the 14 year prison sentence of former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, aka “Blago.”

“We have commuted the sentence of Rod Blagojevich,” Trump said. “He’ll be able to go back home with his family after serving eight years in jail. That was a tremendously powerful, ridiculous sentence in my opinion. And in the opinion of many others.”

The President thus brought to an end a disgraceful episode in American politics. After Barack Obama was elected President in 2008, his seat as Senator from Illinois became vacant. Blago was charged with trying to sell the seat.

If in fact Blago tried to sell the seat, he was just  practicing the dirty, rotten business of politics in the normal crooked fashion for Chicago and America. But out of all the corrupt pols, why did a federal prosecutor target a sitting governor, wiretap him, not allow him to use the wiretaps to defend himself, and send him to jail for 14 years?  His real “crime”, in the eyes of the monstrous Obama and his henchman Rahm Emmanuel, was that he refused to appoint the man Obama picked as his successor.

The indictment against Blago was unconstitutional. As the distinguished historian and authority on the Constitution Kevin Gutzman pointed out in an article written for LRC on January 6, 2009, “Interestingly, one might note that the statute Fitzgerald is enforcing against the governor bases Congress’s claim of power to criminalize corruption in state office on the Constitution’s Commerce Clause. One really wonders at the idea that conspiring to sell Jesse Jackson, Jr. a Senate seat is interstate commerce. No one takes this idea seriously; rather, it is based on a common lawyers’ corruption — yes, corruption — of language. On simple federal arrogation of state power. This corruption has far more far-reaching consequences than anything Blagojevich is accused of having done.”

The indictment and trial were gross miscarriages of justice, as President Trump has said. Harvey Silverglate in an article written in 2011 gave the best analysis of the whole rotten business: “The most controversial charge Blagojevich faced was that he planned to sell Barack Obama’s US Senate seat. But Fitzgerald decided to come out swinging, terminated the wiretaps on Blagojevich’s home and office, arrested the then-sitting governor, held a sensational press conference, and called it a wrap before this alleged sale would have even taken place. Fitzgerald was obviously unwilling to wait out the unfolding situation to see if the governor was really serious about “selling” the seat to the highest bidder.

Had Blagojevich actually followed through with the sale of a Senate seat, Fitzgerald’s heavy-handed prosecutorial approach might have been justified. But in light of the fact that no seat was sold, and that these appointments are regularly used for political benefit, the reasonable doubt that a crime was actually committed would appear to be overwhelming. For a US Attorney who is known for “crossing his T’s and dotting his I’s,” you have to wonder why Fitzgerald didn’t spring into action after the sale of the seat, once the dirty deal was done. Blagojevich’s own writing may give us a clue. Blagojevich claims in his memoir, “The Governor,” that the goal of the Senate appointment was to get a political opponent out of the way, not to sell the seat for cash. If this scenario is to be believed, then Fitzgerald went forward with the case when he did because, had he waited until after the seat was filled, there would not have been a case since the seat would have been awarded not for cash, but for quite traditional political advantage.

One of the most shocking, and seemingly damning, sound bites that came from the wiretaps was Blagojevich’s assertion that Obama’s Senate seat was “a [expletive] valuable thing. You don’t just give it away for nothing.” A US Attorney whose last few cases ended unfavorably might be interested in spinning this quote to seem as though a cash transaction was being arranged in exchange for the Senate seat. However, if Blagojevich were looking to use the seat for his political benefit, then his statement would be crass, but would also be evidence that he was operating within the parameters of the law. The type of political maneuvering engaged in by the then-governor may seem to the average citizen (or juror, for that matter), to be less than wholesome, perhaps even a bit sneaky, but if every unwholesome or sneaky maneuver were a crime, we would not be able to build the prisons quickly enough to meet demand.”

Why didn’t Fitzgerald wait? Joe Hall, writing on February 19 in Gateway Pundit has a good explanation. He says that Blago was set up by Mueller, Comey, and the Deep State Gang and that President Trump’s release of Blago may be intended to send the Gang the message that he will fight them. Hall cites investigative reporter Marty Waters, who said last August “that the Deep State, led by Comey and Mueller, did the same thing with the fraudulent Mueller investigation sham as they did in the past.  They create distraction, diversion and disinformation. In the early 2000’s they created Plamegate to distract and divert from the billions lost in Iraq and the weapons of mass destruction narrative that got the US into the war.  In the mid-2000’s, they created the Rezco/Blagogate scandals to cover up for Obama’s corrupt actions early in his administration and while in the US Senate. The Mueller investigation distracted from the many crimes involving Obama and the Clintons and was in the same mold as the prior sham investigations.”

Hall sums up and concludes: “Of course Mueller was the Head of the FBI throughout most of the 2000’s and before Comey took over the now corrupted institution. Also, Comey claimed Fitzgerald was his attorney after it was suspected that Comey shared classified information with Fitzgerald during the Russian hoax scandal.”

After Trump commuted Blago’s sentence, Governor of Illinois J.B. Pritzker condemned the President’s decision. He said; “Illinoisans have endured far too much corruption, and we must send a message to politicians that corrupt practices will no longer be tolerated. President Trump has abused his pardon power in inexplicable ways to reward his friends and condone corruption, and I deeply believe this pardon sends the wrong message at the wrong time.”

Pritzker’s self-righteous moralizing is ironic. According to a story in the Chicago Tribune published May 31, 2017, “Pritzker, a billionaire businessman with political ambitions, told Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich he was “really not that interested” in the US Senate seat the governor was dealing in late 2008. Instead, Pritzker offered his own idea: Would Blagojevich make him Illinois treasurer?”

Blago is no angel, but I can’t help liking him. I admire his spirit. He refused to cave to Obama and the higher-ups. Now that he is out, he is free to tell us where the bodies are buried. You can be sure he knows a lot and with the commutation, the Feds can’t shut him up anymore. Blago has Obama on the ropes, and fortunately for those of us who care about truth, he is a skilled boxing champ.

February 20, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | , | 1 Comment

Show Trial Ends: Roger Stone Sentenced to 40 months in Prison, Judge Decries ‘Threat to Democracy’

By Patrick Henningsen | 21st Century Wire | February 20, 2020

Today, the long-time friend and Trump campaign consultant Roger Stone was sentenced to 40 months in a federal prison for multiple charges relating to his Congressional testimony and Robert Mueller’s Russia probe.

US District Judge Amy Berman Jackson issued Stone’s sentence after his lawyers had first requested that he receive no prison time.

After the sentence was handed down, Stone refrained from making a personal statement to the court.

Normally, one might refrain from criticizing a judge too harshly, but this was no ordinary closing remarks performance, as Judge Jackson seemed to go on forever, attempting to address all of her critics, and seemed compelled to want to justify the premise of the legal proceedings.

After reviewing her statements, to say (and I don’t say this lightly) that she had personal axe to grind is an understatement, and her extended diatribe appears to point to an obvious political agenda.

Judge Jackson wasn’t shy about showing her bias either, remaining in lockstep with the original RussiaGate narrative – even though it’s been proven to be hoax after a 3 year-long Mueller Investigation produced no evidence of alleged ‘Trump-Russia Collusion.’ She clearly attempted to do this here:

“He was not prosecuted for standing up for the president,” said Judge Jackson during her closing remarks. “He was prosecuted for covering up for the president.”

Only the President did nothing which required covering for.

As that wasn’t enough, the judge went on during her hours-long sentencing hearing to claim that what Roger Stone did was somehow “a threat to our democracy”.

We’re still trying to work out exactly what she is talking about there, or how the 67 year-old Stone became so powerful as to bring down democracy in the United States. I mean, he has certain skills, but take down the United States of America? Here Jackson is dog whistling to the RussiaGate consensus – when in fact there was no collusion between Stone, Trump, WikiLeaks and Russia – nor did Stone have any ‘back channel’ to WikiLeaks. Any rational, objective professional might look at that and conclude that there was no underlying conspiracy which this entire Russia Investigation effort was supposed to uncover.

The truth is, Stone’s entire case was erected not only to help maintain the RussiaGate narrative, but to help towards delegitimizing Trump’s historic 2016 upset victory. Validating the hoax also helps to fortify a hawkish US foreign policy against Russia, and all the political, geopolitical and military industrial spoils that go with it.

In response to public comments made by Trump about the trial being a farce, Judge Jackson felt compelled to defend her political show trial, exclaiming that, “There was nothing unfair, phony or disgraceful about the investigation or the prosecution.”

If only it ended there. She kept going, insisting that the Stone case was ‘serious’ and not a joke, which Trump had publicly intimated. “The problem is nothing about this case was a joke,” said Jackson just prior to sentencing Stone. “It wasn’t funny. It wasn’t a stunt and it wasn’t a prank,” said Jackson.

That old Hamlet adage comes to mind, The lady doth protest too much, methinks.

Due to the President’s insistence on weighing-in with such vigour, it seems likely that Stone will eventually be pardoned by Trump, but it’s not certain when. Some have speculated that the White House would be better served to wait until after the General Election, but then again, Trump tends to defy the experts on conventional logic.

As I wrote in a feature published this morning at RT International, Roger Stone was simply the last available scalp for the Mueller brigade in order to lend credence to the underlying RussiaGate narrative upon which Stone’s criminal case is built. His criminality was assumed under the guise ‘Trump-Russia Collusion’ which is predicated on the as yet evidence-free official conspiracy theory that Russian GRU operatives hacked the DNC and Podesta and then gave those emails to Julian Assange and WikiLeaks. I explained how the underlying assumptions are fallacies and why the underlying assumptions in this case never did raise to the standard of criminality, while all of the little process crimes and reprimand which came during the legal circus was what this judge was compiling to build up Stone’s charge sheet.

In the end, all of this is just more grist to the mill. But for how much longer? The level of panic and desperation surrounding this case, as well as the politicized behavior of the judge and prosecutors – really demonstrated how deeply infected the federal judiciary is with partisan propaganda and conspiracy theories of Russian interference which were debunked long ago.

Any reasonable, objective judge or jury would look at this picture and deduce that there were definitely a lot of things going on here (like things that happen during elections, leaks and campaign bluster), but not a crime. For the prosecution, of the supposed ‘crimes’ came long after 2016, as part of the process of trying to prove there was Trump-Russia Collusion, which there wasn’t.

So one should consider Roger Stone as collateral damage in what is perhaps the greatest political hoax in American history.

Of course, very few will step forward and stand-up for a character like Roger Stone, and why would they? He’s a flamboyant political operative who cut his teeth working under Richard Nixon of all people. He’s a guy everyone loves to hate, so the support is sparse.

But let’s not forget that back when this all began – it was Stone who told Congress that there was never any Russian involvement. Of course, Stone was right, and the evidence is on his side. Official Washington on the other hand, was wrong. Yet, here we are three years later, still re-litigating an election which happened four years ago.

When will American exorcise its 2016 collective trauma and return to some semblance of sanity?

February 20, 2020 Posted by | Russophobia | | Leave a comment

Hamas delegation meets Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister

MEMO | February 20, 2020

A senior Hamas delegation has met with Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mikhail Bogdanov in Doha, the capital of Qatar.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, the Islamic Resistance Movement said that its delegation was led by the head of its International Office, Mousa Abu Marzook, accompanied by Political Bureau member Sami Khater and the former leader of its Political Bureau, Khaled Meshaal, as well as its representative in Moscow.

The Hamas delegation briefed Bogdanov on the latest political developments in the Palestinian cause, including the US “deal of the century”.

They reiterated that the deal is targeting the Palestinian people, their legitimate right to return and the efforts to establish an independent and sovereign state, which is why it has been rejected not only by the movement, but also all segments of Palestinian society.

Bogdanov reaffirmed his country’s support for the Palestinian people and rejection of any “peace plan” rejected by them. Russia, he explained, is ready to provide support for the Palestinians in order to end the internal division and achieve the national unity that is the key to achieving their legitimate objectives.

Furthermore, the Russian official stressed that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should be solved on the basis of international law, including UN General Assembly resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative.

February 20, 2020 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , | 4 Comments

The PA is blindly accepting international impositions on Palestinians

By Ramona Wadi | MEMO | February 20, 2020

Israel and the Palestinian Authority have been trading the same rhetoric about not having a suitable partner for diplomatic negotiations. The senior adviser and spokesman for Mahmoud Abbas, Nabil Abu Rudeineh, recently took the statement further to again assert the PA’s distaste for legitimate armed resistance. This was his attempt to reassure Israel about the PA’s commitment to remain tethered to failed diplomacy.

“The Palestinians do not want violence and it is very important for us that the Israelis know this and understand that our path is not violent,” Abu Rudeineh told Israeli political correspondents. Why would the PA seek to reassure the colonial presence in Palestine built and maintained upon violence that the colonised population are not seeking to use violent measures to escape from the Israeli yoke?

Unlike Israel’s ongoing ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian population and other measures such as its colonial settlement expansion, which are clearly defined as war crimes by international law, Palestinian resistance against the colonial violence of occupation is entirely legitimate. Abu Rudeineh is doing Palestinians yet another disservice by refusing to recognise the whole spectrum of the anti-colonial struggle. Furthermore, the PA does not differentiate between various forms of violence, which are defined by context.

It is the Palestinians who should be seeking reassurances that no further violence will be inflicted upon them. However, the normalisation of Israeli violence, combined with the diplomacy which allows Israel to function as a violent colonial state, prevent Palestinians from making such demands.

A group of protesters gather in front of United Nations headquarters to protest against U.S. President Donald Trump's Middle East plan as Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas speaks at the UN Security Council meeting in New York, United States on 11 February 2020. [Islam Doğru - Anadolu Agency]

Protesters at the UN headquarters oppose U.S. President Donald Trump’s Middle East plan as Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, speaks at the UN Security Council meeting in New York on 11 February 2020. [Islam Doğru – Anadolu Agency ]

What’s more, Palestinians are not guaranteed protection from Israeli violence; their rights are simply brushed aside. To make matters worse, Abu Rudeineh has eliminated this factor in his discussions regarding future “peace negotiations” to enable the façade of Israel’s “victim” status to be preserved. In keeping with the parameters set by the international community’s endorsement of Israel’s false “security” and “self-defence” narrative, Abbas’s spokesman is misrepresenting the Palestinian anti-colonial struggle and, as a result, regaling Israel with further opportunities to portray itself as the only democratic partner in negotiations. The PA would do well to remember that such talks would not have been necessary if the UN had taken the necessary steps to halt the earlier settler-colonial presence in Palestine and thus prevented Israel from manifesting itself on ethnically-cleansed Palestinian land.

However, the PA is merely absorbing the external narratives imposed by the international community on one hand, and the US on the other, the latter through its so-called “deal of the century”. The constant definition of the Palestinians according to external agendas have damaged the Palestinian cause beyond recognition.

Non-violent resistance and diplomacy have been manufactured by the international community as acceptable paths for Palestinians precisely because, on their own, they fragment the efficacy of anti-colonial struggle. The right to resist colonialism by all means is legitimate, whether diplomatic negotiations are taking place, or might be taking place in the future. Neither the international community nor the PA have the right to prevent Palestinians from exercising their right to armed struggle. It is a decision that must be made by the people themselves, since the Palestinian leadership has long abandoned the Palestinian cause to curry favour with the international community for its own self-serving hierarchy.

There is no need to reassure Israel as Abu Rudeineh has done; the only reminder that Israel needs is that Palestinians have every right to reclaim their land. Beyond that assurance, the PA’s rhetoric must be seen for what it is; an additional means of destroying the Palestinian struggle, for the benefit of Israel and the international community.

February 20, 2020 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | , , , , | Leave a comment

Colombia: Colonel Involves General in Extrajudicial Killings

teleSUR | February 20, 2020

Colombian Colonel Alvaro Amortegui said that General Mario Montoya ordered him to kill 17 civilians captured in an operation and make them appear as if they were guerrilla fighters killed in combat.

“In 2001… I captured 17 guys inside a house. [Montoya] called me on my cell phone and told me, ‘I’ve already sent you the bracelets.’ Then I replied, ‘don’t send me the bracelets… I captured these men alive and they stay alive’,” said Colonel Amortegui during an interview with Caracol Radio in which he also reported the theft of ammunition, uniforms and other Army material.

This senior officer mentioned that all this happened when he returned from Sinai, a peninsula in Egypt where the Colombian troops are part of the peacekeeping mission of the Multinational Force & Observers (MFO).

Given the implications of his claims, the Caracol Radio journalists asked Colonel Amortegui to better explain what happened with General Montoya, who was commander of the Colombian Army between 2006 and 2008, during the Presidency of Alvaro Uribe, a far-right politician who has been investigated by the Supreme Court.

In his response, Amortegui indicated that General Montoya was referring to the bracelets used by the militants of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

“He sent me FARC bracelets. Because [the 17 captured] were not FARC [fighters],” the colonel said.

The journalists insisted that Amortegui provide more details about what the General was asking for, to which he replied that Montoya “was asking me to kill them. What else do you want?.”

Eight days ago, Retired General Montoya declared for the first time before the Special Justice for Peace (JEP), although his appearance was described by the victims of state terrorism as “a mockery.”

“It was a mockery before the transitional justice mechanism, which has the task of investigating the most serious crimes committed amidst the armed conflict,” said lawyer Jose Alvear Restrepo who represents the victims of state crimes.

Between 1988 and 2014, the “false positives” was a practice whereby the military cheated poor young people, even those with disabilities, with promises of employment and then took them to distant places to execute them.

The bodies of these civilian victims used to be later presented to the authorities as if they had been killed-in-combat guerrilla fighters, which allowed the military to obtain benefits from their superiors.

So far, the Colombian Prosecutor’s Office has investigated about 5,000 cases of extrajudicial killings. At least 1,500 officials and troops were involved in these illegal practices.​​​​​​​

February 20, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | | Leave a comment

Syria and “Transitional Justice”

By Helena Cobban | Just World News | February 12, 2020

Almost from the beginning of the US-supported regime-change project in Syria,  US policymakers have incorporated several kinds of planning for what is called “transitional justice” into their pursuit of the project. Transitional justice (TJ) is a field that came into great vogue in the mid-1990s, after two key developments in the post-Soviet world: (1) the UN Security Council’s creation of a special International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) and (2) the agreement of the African National Congress in South Africa to negotiate an end to the Apartheid system– but with the proviso that the most heinous of the rights violators of the Apartheid era all ‘fess up to all their actions in a specially created Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC); and if those confessions were deemed full and heartfelt, then the perpetrators could escape prosecution for their actions.

From the early 1990s, these two approaches to TJ were in tension with each other; and that tension has lain at the heart of the rapidly burgeoning field of TJ projects ever since.

For its part, the prosecutorial/criminal-justice approach claimed descent from, crucially, the two US-dominated international courts established immediately after WW-II, in Nuremberg, and Tokyo. (The above photo is of Herman Goering on the stand, in Nuremberg.) The creation of ICTY was followed, two years later, by the Security Council’s creation of a parallel special court for Rwanda; and meantime, a broad movement emerged to press for the establishment by treaty among nations of a permanent “International Criminal Court” (ICC) which could hold accountable perpetrators of the worst forms of atrocities– described as war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide– in a criminal proceeding. In 1998, 120 governments adopted the “Rome Treaty” that established and set the rules for this court. In 2002, the requisite 60 countries had ratified the Rome Treaty and the ICC came into existence, headquartered in The Hague.

I have reflected at length in many earlier writings (including this 2006 book and these earlier articles: 1, 2) on some of the shortcomings of the ICC and the criminal-justice approach it adopts to dealing with the aftermath of atrocities. Suffice it here to note the following:

  1. The United States is not a member of the ICC; but all the presidents since 2002 have on occasion sought to use the  investigative, international arrest, and prosecutorial powers of the ICC, or to threaten their use, against political figures around the world they are opposed to.
  2. The whole prosecutions movement since the creation of ICTY has claimed descent (and therefore a strong degree of legitimacy) from the whole Nuremberg/Tokyo Trials legacy. But all the “modern” international courts have omitted from their actual charge-sheets one of the key acts– perhaps the key act– prosecuted at Nuremberg and Tokyo: the crime of aggression, that is, the act of launching an aggressive war. The Rome Treaty listed the crime of aggression as potentially on the ICC’s docket, but its signatories have failed to reach agreement on how to define it and thus it has not in practice been chargeable.
  3. In March 2003, eight months after the ICC formally came into existence, the United States launched a massive, quite unjustified (and militarily successful) war of regime change in Iraq– a war that UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan later admitted lacked any legitimacy.
  4. One of the early acts of the “Coalition Provisional Authority” through which the US military ruled Iraq after the invasion was to establish a special tribunal to try former president Saddam Hussein and his top associates. After the CPA set up an Iraqi government (though still under its own control), this government adopted the trial plan, renaming the body the Supreme Iraqi Criminal Tribunal. Saddam was captured by US soldiers in late 2003 and sent for trial by the SICT; in November 2006, it sentenced him to death. He was held in a prison inside the US military’s “Camp Justice.” On December 30, 2006 he was taken to a scaffold earlier than the Americans had planned by a group that included SICT officials and members of Shiite militias. There, he was hanged to the jubilation of many of the witnesses, who also circulated cellphone videos of the event. Saddam’s very unseemly execution capped off a trial that had been marred throughout by grave irregularities.

This political background should be borne in mind when considering the legitimacy (or even, the utility) of any plans to use prosecutorial TJ mechanisms in connection with US-led regime-change projects in the present era– in Syria, Venezuela, or anywhere else.

In June 2019, Max Blumenthal and Ben Norton published a broad and detailed description in The Grayzone of the work of several organizations that have as their mission the collection of evidence of war crimes and other atrocities committed in Syria and to some extent also Iraq, and the compilation of this evidence into forms that can help (or even spur) the prosecution of alleged perpetrators by international courts.

Most of these organizations are funded by Western governments. Most were also, like the Syrian Network for Human Rights, founded at, or shortly after, the time that Secretary of State Hillary of Clinton and Pres. Barack Obama committed Washington to full support of the regime-change project in Syria. Other such organizations include:

  • the “Commission for International Justice and Accountability”, an organization founded by an enterprising Canadian investigator called Bill Wiley, that has received funding from Canada, the EU, numerous European countries, and the United States. CIJA got a massive boost in visibility in the United States after the New Yorker published  a serious of materials about it written by Ben Taub. In this one, Taub breathlessly described how, “At an undisclosed location in Western Europe, a group called the Commission for International Justice and Accountability (CIJA) is gathering evidence of war crimes perpetrated by the Syrian government… “
  • The Syria Justice and Accountability Center (SJAC), which states explicitly on its website that it was founded in 2012 by the “Group of Friends of the Syrian People”– that is, the coalition of governments united in their project to overthrow the Syruian government. On its website, SJAC states that it was founded in The Hague and moved in 2016 to Washington DC, where it “is currently registered as a nonprofit corporation.” However, no organization of its name comes up in standard searches of nonprofits, while SJAC is currently listed as a project of the old cold-war organization, IREX.

Chart from p.50 of the Day After Project’s report

During their early years in existence, these organizations had as their goal the collection, preservation, and organization of materials that could, after the opposition’s overthrow of the government, serve in a war-crimes court as evidence of the organization by Syrian government officials of broad patterns of gross abuse.

The work of these documentation organizations was also inspired by  “The Day After Project”, a project the federally funded U.S. Institute of Peace launched in late 2011 to plan for what decisionmakers in Washington all confidently expected would be the imminent fall of the Assad government. The Day After Project’s final report (PDF) was launched in August 2012, ostensibly by the all-Syrian group of 45 individuals who co-authored it. It contained a lengthy section on “Transitional Justice”, complete with a complex organogram showing how all the proposed parts of this project should be managed.

That was still the heyday of the thinking in official Washington  that “Assad will fall any day now!” Washington– like Paris, Ankara, Doha, and other anti-Assad capitals– was full of very busy, Ahmad Chalabi-style Syrian exiles (often being handsomely paid by their Qatari, Saudi, or Emirati backers) who had managed to persuade themselves and numerous “locals” in those Western countries that any day now they would be riding into Damascus to take over the whole Syrian government. Well, in March 2003, Ahmad Chalabi did at least manage to get back to Baghdad in the wake of the US invasion of the country– though once he arrived, it was patently clear he had never enjoyed anything like the degree of popular backing within Iraqi society that he had long claimed to have. Regarding Syria, the earnest bands of exiles who were making detailed plans for their own imminent return “home” never even made it. They were unable to persuade a US government and public that had already been badly duped once, back in 2003, that the claimed “sins” of the Syrian government were bad enough to warrant a full-scale U.S. invasion– especially one that this time around (unlike in 2003) threatened to trigger a serious global showdown with a now more confident and capable Russia.

Yes, under Obama and Clinton, Washington did give the anti-Assad fighters some serious shipments of arms, along with strong political backing; and they and the Israelis did from time to time launch one-off strikes against Syrian military bases. But Obama and Clinton never signed off on a full-throated military campaign against Assad; and the anti-Assad rebels proved quite incapable of actually persuading enough Syrians to come over to their side, to win. The sides settled into a very lengthy and draining stalemate, during which the government side slowly proved able– with the help from international allies on whom it was quite legitimately able to call– to retake parts of Syria that had earlier been taken over by the foreign-armed (and increasingly jihadi-controlled) rebels.

Today, nine years into the conflict in Syria, there is no hope at all of the opposition seizing Damascus. And within the anti-Assad camp itself, extremist jihadis affiliated with either ISIS or Al-Qaeda long ago took over control, snuffing out the hopes of the Washington establishment that “moderate rebels” of the kind now firmly ensconced in Western think-tanks can ever become a significant force inside Syria. All the plans that those “moderate rebels” had made for the imminent establishment of an anti-Assad “special war-crimes court” like the one that earlier tried Saddam Hussein, or for other mechanisms of post-victory “transitional justice”, have to them a quality that is either robotic or slightly other-worldly.

Last week I went to the launch at a Qatari-funded think-tank called the Arab Center of Washington of a book called Accountability in Syria: Achieving Transitional Justice in a Postconflict Society. I guess the Qatari funding has been running a bit low, because there were no free copies of the book being handed out, and only one sample copy that  attendees could take a glance at. It costs $90. Rush right over to the link above to buy your copy!

The three panelists were: the book’s editor, Radwan Ziadeh, a longtime regime-change advocate whose only listed professional achievement is his longtime gig as a “Senior Fellow” at the Arab Center; Mai el-Saadany, a US-trained Syrian-American lawyer who now works at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy; and Mohammed Alaa Ghanem, who until recently was Government Relations Director and Senior Political Adviser for the Syrian American Council, one of  Washington DC’s principal regime-change organizations. Ghanem, who still has a (presumably nicely funded) affiliation with the UAE-funded Atlantic Council, is now doing a Master’s degree in international affairs at Columbia.

At one level, it was kind of a sad event. When Ziadeh started talking, he recounted that work on the book had started back in 2015– at a time when it may have been possible for regime-change advocates still to imagine that one day soon, just possibly, they could seize power in Damascus. (Hence, the reference in the book’s sub-title to a “Postconflict society.”) Poignantly, he spoke about how back then, “Aleppo”–actually, just that small portion  of East Aleppo that the opposition still controlled– was becoming a center of evacuation, and how Ma’aret al-Numaan, in the opposition fighters’ Idlib redoubt, was a center of evacuation today.

In both instances, as the government regained control of terrain previously held by the jihadi extremists, the government allowed the opposition fighters and any civilians who chose to leave, to do so, and indeed, facilitated their departure. This is in notable contrast to the bloodthirsty actions the jihadi oppositionists have always taken toward the residents and defenders of areas that they’ve overtaken. But the video footage of desperate civilians fleeing in advance of the Syrian army’s arrival always looks pretty heart-wrenching.

(The videos widely circulated in the west notably do not depict the civilians who stay in the areas being brought back under Syrian government control– or, the earlier presence and activities of any of the jihadi fighters, some of whom who are Syrian and many of whom are not, who had controlled these areas so brutally over the preceding few years.)

When Mai el-Saadany spoke she stated confidently that, “The time for justice is now… We can’t afford to wait until the conflict ends.” She said that both the International Criminal Court and the UN’s doctrine of “Responsibility To Protect” (R2P) had proven useless in protecting Syria’s people; but that even without those tools there were three “accountability tools” the Syrian oppositionists could use: Documentation; a couple of different UN inquiry/documentation mechanisms; and prosecutions outside Syria, such as the one brought against two former Syrian officials by a court in Germany, last October.

When she talked about documentation, el-Saadany singled out for special praise the efforts of a group called Bellingcat–and of The New York Times.

For his part, Ghanem focused on the contribution he had made to the Accountability in Syria book, in which he looked at what he described as the “sectarian cleansing” that he saw the Syrian government as undertaking in formerly opposition-held areas over which it regained control. He accused “the Assad regime” of being dominated by Alawites and of engaging in “sectarian cleansing or demographic engineering” against “communities” in these areas, though he did not name these “communities.” He said he had been very proud to have gotten reference to this phenomenon included in the “Caesar Act”— a US sanctions measure against Syria that was signed into law in late December.

The most interesting part of this sad gathering came toward the end ( at 1h24m on the video.) A questioner had asked how the panelists thought that the kinds of “accountability”mechanisms they favored could be applied to other perpetrators of atrocities in Syria, “such as in the Turkish-controlled areas, or the SDF”, in addition to the government. At that point, Ziadeh almost completely lost it. The other two panelists, much better qualified and better prepared professionals than he, had both expressed their support for the idea that all accused perpetrators of significant atrocities, whatever their political alignment, should be subjected to the same accountability measures. (This is, after all, a key tenet to the whole field of transitional justice… Heck, in South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, even some of the excesses of the ANC came under the same kind of scrutiny as the gross tortures of the Apartheid regime.)

Ziadeh argued that only the “Assad regime” should be addressed by any accountability mechanisms. “The Syrian government– it became not a rogue state, but deep sectarian militias, that has no regard for the life of any Syrian” he said. “It’s impossible to think of having a political settlement with this kind of militia in control of Syria… What’s the end answer? No Syrians nor anyone else have any answer for that… There is nothing to talk about! There is nothing to leverage or negotiate about. I am very pessimistic. There is no soon, any hope of a political settlement of the conflict.”

The other two panelists hewed more closely to the standard TJ script. Both argued that, while there is no “false equivalence” between the violations committed by the “Assad regime” and those committed by other parties, still, all violators should be held accountable.

Ghanem had earlier argued that accountability-seeking mechanisms could be used as “leverage” for the Syrian opposition in a future negotiated settlement. The relationship between pressure for “accountability” and momentum toward negotiations is a complex–and, as I demonstrated in this recent article, “Syria: Peacemaking or prosecutions?”, often an inverse–one. (When I wrote that piece, in early November, the prospects for reaching a negotiated political transition in Syria seemed greater than they do today.)

One misapprehension into which all three of the panelists at the Arab Center event seemed to have fallen was to conflate the idea of “accountability” almost completely with the path of criminal prosecutions. But as anyone who has studied the TJ field knows, there are numerous other mechanisms that have been used to enact accountability other than Western-style courts of law. South Africa’s TRC was one such mechanism. It was widely (and correctly) lauded for helping enable South Africans to make the transition from a deepseated system of colonial expropriation and Apartheid to a much more inclusive system that enabled the “White” colonists to remain in the country on a basis of political equality with its indigenes– and to achieve this without triggering a massive new race war between those two sides (though the transition was accompanied by very lethal fighting between the two major Black African political forces.)

The main premise of the TRC was that as part of the transition to political equality, it was necessary to draw a line under the violence of the past and to offer a full amnesty from prosecutions for all the perpetrators of that violence provided they (a) had stopped committing it; and (b) provided a full description of the violent acts they had committed, such as could help bring a degree of legal and emotional “closure” to survivors of the violence and others bereaved by it or otherwise affected by it.

The exact terms of the TRC’s “deal” with former perpetrators were painstakingly negotiated among the parties to the transition– principally, the Apartheid era’s ruling National Party and the anti-Apartheid African National Congress (ANC). The Apartheid government possessed overwhelming military and socioeconomic force throughout the whole of South Africa; and it would never have agreed to end Apartheid and transition to a one-person-one-vote system in South Africa if its leaders had not been offered an amnesty. If there had been no TRC, the whole of Southern Africa might still be riven with terrible conflicts, to this day. The “offer” of amnesty was backed up by the existence in the country of a fairly well-functioning judicial system. But the main factor motivating perpetrators to come forward and participate in the often riveting public hearings that the TRC held all around the country was the desire most of them felt to allow their families, their communities, and their country to move forward.

In my 2006 book, Amnesty After Atrocity? Healing Nations after Genocide and War Crimes, I looked at the effectiveness of South Africa’s TRC and compared it with the very different post-conflict mechanisms that, in that same period of 1992-94, had been adopted by Mozambique and post-genocide Rwanda. Those two other cases effectively “bracketed” what the South Africans agreed to do. In Rwanda, the post-genocide government was heavily inclined towards prosecutorialism, supporting both the creation and work of a UN-established International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) and the use of a very broad campaign of national-level prosecutions of suspected genocidaires. In Mozambique, by contrast, an extremely lengthy and ugly civil war was brought to an end in 1992 when the two main parties to it, the ruling Frelimo movement and the opposition Renamo, were brought together in a negotiation conducted by a Vatican-sponsored peace group and agreed to end their combat on the basis of a blanket amnesty for previous perpetrators of violence from both sides. The United Nations then stepped in with a broad program for demilitarization, demobilization, and reintegration into their home societies of the former fighters from both sides (DDR).

Intense inter-group conflict of any kind of course inflicts massive damage on a country’s economy, including its most basic infrastructure, so societies emerging from such conflicts have numerous, extremely pressing human and economic needs. In this context, the relative costs– and therefore, also opportunity costs– of the TJ mechanisms used are definitely a factor. I used public documentation to calculate the costs of these mechanisms as follows (p.209):

  • Each case completed at the ICTR : $42,300,000
  • Each amnesty application at the TRC: $4,290
  • Each case in Rwanda’s planned “local-style” gacaca courts (projected): $581
  • Mozambique: each former fighter demobilized/reintegrated: $1,075
  • South Africa: each former fighter demobilized/reintegrated: $1,066.

In that concluding chapter of the book, I presented (pp.212-13) a critique of the degree of “accountability” that advocates of prosecutorialism judge that their favored approach provides, noting that the kind of personal “accountability” required of perpetrators by a court of law is very thin indeed compared with, for example, that required in TRC or other similar mechanisms.

I also presented (p.241) a list of nine “meta-tasks” that, based on my previous analysis in the book– and on my own experience of having lived and worked in an area wracked by civil conflict, during the first six years of Lebanon’s civil war– I concluded that societies recovering from grave inter-group conflict need to undertake. It runs as follows:

Top rank (all of equal urgency):

    1. Establish rigorous mechanisms to guard against any relapse back into conflict and violence.
    2. Actively promote reconciliation across all inter-group divisions.
    3. Build an equality-based domestic democratic order that allows for nonviolent resolution of internal differences and respects and enforces human rights.
    4. Restore the moral systems appropriate to an era of peace.
    5. Reintegrate former combatants from all the previously fighting parties into the new society.
    6. Start restoring and upgrading the community’s physical and institutional infrastructure.
    7. Start righting the distributional injustices of the past.

Second rank (of somewhat less urgency):

    1. Promote psychological healing for all those affected by the violence and the atrocities, restoring dignity to them. (If the top-rank tasks are all addressed, those moves will anyway do much to achieve this; but it will probably need continuing attention.)
    2. Establish such records of the facts as are needed to meet victims’ needs (death certificates; identification of the burial sites; etc) and to start to build a record for history.

In the real world, decisions on what to do with individuals accused of having committed grave infractions nearly always get made in the context of a negotiation over the nature and terms of a major societal transition to a new political order. “String ’em all up on the lamp-posts!” or “Line ’em all up and shoot them!” are versions of one notable, non-negotiated type of such decision– and  a type that notably doesn’t augur well for the political tone of the new order. In Syria, the way that ISIS or the bunch of Al-Qaeda-affiliated jihadis who currently control Idlib treat accused government supporters who fall under their sway definitely falls into this category.

Negotiating an end to a conflict– or acting with restraint in the event no negotiation proves possible– nearly always augurs a better outcome. At the end of WW-II, in the Asian theater, the Japanese Emperor was able to negotiate surrender terms on fairly favorable terms that ensured his dynasty’s continuation in office (and his own exculpation from responsibility for any of Japan’s preceding war crimes)–but in return for allowing the Americans and their allies to set up an international criminal tribunal to try certain Japanese decisionmakers, and numerous other concessions. In Germany, there was no negotiated end to the fighting; and the Russian, French, and British leaders (whose peoples had suffered most gravely from the Nazis’ actions) were all baying for extreme retribution. But the US public was relatively distant from the battlefield. That allowed Secretary of War Henry Stimson and President Harry Truman– both of whom were also  aware of the disastrous sequelae of  the punitive approach the victorious Allies had imposed on post-WW-I Germany– to argue for, and implement, the much more restrained approach to post-war justice that the Nuremberg trials represented.

Recent developments in Syria make the prospect of a negotiated end to the country’s lengthy civil war seem more remote today than they did a few months ago. The country’s 22 million people have been held in the vice of this conflict, and victim to the wiles of numerous outside actors and interveners much more than to those of any domestic actors, for nine long years. (This was also, interestingly, the case in Mozambique. Much of the terrible violence that Renamo used in its campaign to control as many Mozambicans as possible as a way of pressuring and overthrowing the Frelimo government had been organized and underwritten by South Africa’s Apartheid. The intra-Mozambican negotiations that brought an end to the war only made progress after a weakened South Africa started to withdraw that support.)

Throughout the first six years of Syria’s civil war, the determination of the United States and several allied governments (Turkey, Qatar, the Saudis, the UAE) to accept nothing less than the complete overthrow of the Assad government stymied all attempts by the United Nations and others to attain a negotiated end to the war. After Pres. Trump assumed office, he was less devoted to total “regime change” than Pres. Obama had been… and since late 2018 or so, the UAE has pulled back from its focus on regime change. Turkey also, from the Astana Agreement of September 2018 on, was clearly exploring some kind of “regional super-powers mega-deal” with Russia and Iran, that could help ramp down, or even bring to a negotiated end, Syria’s civil war.

More recently, though, Trump has pulled back from his fondness for a pullback from Syria. And perhaps he has started to see US military involvement in Syria as helping to serve his broader campaign of “maximum pressure” against Iran? Turkey has also pulled back from its commitment to Astana and is currently squaring up for a possibly broader military clash with Syrian government forces?

So the prospect for a negotiated settlement to the Syrian civil war has receded some. But it has certainly not disappeared completely. If nine years of slogging fighting– accompanied by terrible, unspeakable atrocities being suffered by people from all “sides”–has not succeeded in bringing about a “decisive” victory for any side, then surely an end to this war that is negotiated in some way is the only reasonable path, and the only path that can draw a line under the suffering of the past nine years? A viable negotiating forum has already been established by the United Nations. Let us hope it can complete its work as soon as possible, and that as part of this process the negotiators can find a list of mutually acceptable ways to deal with the whole range of transitional justice issues. And these, as noted above, go considerably further than the kinds of war-crimes trials so beloved by the Western media.

February 20, 2020 Posted by | Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , | 1 Comment

Russian Air Force strikes repel militant attack on Syrian government army in Idlib – Defense Ministry

RT | February 20, 2020

The Russian Air Force launched strikes to repel a militant offensive against the Syrian Army in Idlib, which had sought to breach the government forces’ defensive lines, the Russian Defense Ministry said.

The militants, supported by Turkey, had shelled the Syrian Army’s positions in the region. However, the Turkish forces stopped the artillery barrage after Moscow contacted Ankara, the ministry added.

The militants had launched a “massive offensive” southeast of the city of Idlib, using many armored vehicles, the Russian Reconciliation Center in Syria said on Thursday, adding that it was Turkish artillery that helped them breach the Syrian Army’s defenses in some areas.

Aerial footage published by the Russian Defense Ministry shows a Turkish self-propelled howitzer battery shelling the Syrian Army positions.

At the request of Damascus, Russian Su-24 strike aircraft hit the advancing armed groups, helping Syrian forces to repel the offensive, destroying a tank and six infantry-fighting vehicles, among other hardware.

The reconciliation center also said that the Turkish shelling left four Syrian soldiers injured. Moscow also once again called on Ankara to cease its support for terrorists in Idlib, and stop handing over weapons to them.

Meanwhile, Turkey’s Defense Ministry said that two Turkish soldiers were killed and five others injured in the air strikes.

The incident comes amid a spike in tensions between Damascus and Ankara. Turkey has opposed the Syrian Army’s advances in the battle against extremists and militants entrenched in Idlib province for quite some time. On Wednesday, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that Turkey would not “leave Idlib to the Assad regime” and threatened to launch an incursion into the province.

Turkey had already reinforced its outposts in the area, which is the last remaining major militant stronghold on the Syrian territory. Russia repeatedly warned Turkey against attacking the Syrian Army and has continued diplomatic efforts to ease tensions around Idlib.

February 20, 2020 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Militarism | , , | Leave a comment

My Meeting with Julian Assange

By Dana Rohrabacher, United States Representative – 2/19/2020

​There is a lot of misinformation floating out there regarding my meeting with Julian Assange so let me provide some clarity on the matter:

At no time did I talk to President Trump about Julian Assange. Likewise, I was not directed by Trump or anyone else connected with him to meet with Julian Assange. I was on my own fact finding mission at personal expense to find out information I thought was important to our country. I was shocked to find out that no other member of Congress had taken the time in their official or unofficial capacity to interview Julian Assange. At no time did I offer Julian Assange anything from the President because I had not spoken with the President about this issue at all. However, when speaking with Julian Assange, I told him that if he could provide me information and evidence about who actually gave him the DNC emails, I would then call on President Trump to pardon him. At no time did I offer a deal made by the President, nor did I say I was representing the President. Upon my return, I spoke briefly with Gen. Kelly. I told him that Julian Assange would provide information about the purloined DNC emails in exchange for a pardon. No one followed up with me including Gen. Kelly and that was the last discussion I had on this subject with anyone representing Trump or in his Administration.

Even though I wasn’t successful in getting this message through to the President I still call on him to pardon Julian Assange, who is the true whistleblower of our time. Finally, we are all holding our breath waiting for an honest investigation into the murder of Seth Rich.

February 20, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | | 1 Comment

‘If It Did Happen, It Was Not an Offer to Assange to Lie’ – UN Expert on Alleged ‘Pardon Offer’

Sputnik – February 20, 2020

The Westminster Magistrates’ Court heard on Wednesday that evidence will be submitted in the extradition case of Julian Assange pertaining to an alleged “pardon offer” made by Donald Trump to the WikiLeaks founder, triggering speculations that it was in exchange for saying that Russia had no role in the DNC leaks.

“It is not outside the realm of possibility that a US Congressman allegedly speaking on behalf of the President offered Assange a Presidential Pardon in exchange of cooperation. If it did happen, it was surely not an offer to Assange to lie”, Former UN Independent Expert Alfred de Zayas believes. “Assange would not have needed to lie, because the evidence indicates that the DNC leaks did not come from Russian hackers. Assange himself said that the source was NOT the Russian government,” he said.

White House denied on Wednesday allegations that President Donald Trump directed former Congressman Dana Rohrabacher to offer WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange a pardon if he said Russia had no role in the DNC leaks.

“I do not like the talk of giving ‘pardon’ – because that implies that there has been a trial and a conviction. I do not think that Assange has committed any crime,” de Zayas says. “He is the victim of arbitrariness, irregularities, misuse of the administration of justice systems in the US, UK, Sweden and Ecuador. He is a victim of multiple crimes, including psychological torture, as documented by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Professor Nils Melzer.”

Assange’s Case

Julian Assange was indicted on 18 charges in the United States, mostly espionage after he leaked classified documents revealing war crimes committed by US-led forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

He also exposed a tranche of documents from the DNC and emails from Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and her campaign leadership which reveal how the DNC rigged the primary elections in Clinton’s favour and obtained debate questions for the candidate before her televised arguments with Donald Trump.

Assange is currently being held at a high-security prison in London. Several medical experts have expressed concerns that Assange’s current health condition would prevent Assange from properly participating in his defence. If convicted, Assange could face up to 175 years in US prison.

February 20, 2020 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | | Leave a comment