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Did Bill Barr Call His Shot? Unanswered Questions about FBI’s Foreknowledge of the El Paso Shooting

William Barr’s warning that a “major incident” could occur “at any time” and “galvanize public opinion” around the unpopular encryption back-door policy he has been seeking seems to have come true in the weeks since the attorney general made those statements.

By Whitney Webb | MintPress News | August 7, 2019

As a series of recent mass shootings have brought renewed demands for the U.S. government to do something to address the spike in “lone wolf” violence, the Trump administration’s decision to blame internet privacy, controversial websites like 8chan, and social media for the shootings has raised eyebrows from across the political spectrum, particularly in light of claims that Trump’s recent rhetoric about immigrants may have incited some of the shooters.

During a press conference on Monday, Trump blamed the internet for the three most recent mass shooting events:

We must recognize that the internet has provided a dangerous avenue to radicalize disturbed minds and perform demented acts. We must shine light on the dark recesses of the internet and stop mass murders before they start…. The perils of the internet and social media cannot be ignored, and they will not be ignored… We cannot allow ourselves to feel powerless. We can and will stop this evil contagion.”

Yet, not long before the recent spate of mass shootings began, U.S. Attorney General William Barr gave a speech on July 23 in which he spoke of the need for all consumer electronic devices and encrypted software to have a backdoor for the government to bypass encryption, essentially calling for many of the same measures that Trump has proposed following the recent shootings.

Notably, Barr concluded his speech by stating that he anticipated “a major incident may well occur at any time that will galvanize public opinion on these issues.” In other words, just a few days prior to the recent spate of mass shootings, William Barr stated that he anticipated a public safety crisis that “may well occur at any time” and would reduce public resistance to the further erosion of civil liberties that he was advocating for in his speech.

Furthermore, the FBI, which operates under the jurisdiction of the Department of Justice and reports directly to William Barr, has now stated that it was aware of the El Paso shooter’s plan to murder civilians via a post made on 8chan at least two hours before the shooting took place. 8chan — a controversial website that the FBI is known to have used to incite violence as part of its controversial terrorist entrapment strategy — has since been banned in the shooting’s aftermath. In addition, less than two months ago, the FBI obtained a warrant for 8chan’s host — Ch.net — in which the Bureau demanded access to the entire contents of the accounts that were of interest in that specific investigation, suggesting that the FBI had increased access to information of hundreds of 8chan accounts in the lead-up to the recent shootings.

The overlap between Barr’s recent speech and Trump’s proposed solution to the massacres, as well as the FBI’s unusual recent relationship with 8chan, has led some to suggest that the Trump administration is taking advantage of the tragedy at El Paso and of other recent mass shootings to impose unpopular restrictions on civil liberties and increase the mass surveillance of innocent Americans.

An uncanny prediction

On Tuesday, July 23, Attorney General William Barr gave the keynote address at the 2019 International Conference on Cyber Security (ICCS) at Fordham University. The focus of Barr’s speech was the need for consumer electronic products and applications that use encryption to offer a “backdoor” for the government, specifically law enforcement, to obtain access to encrypted communications as a matter of public safety.

Early in his speech, Barr stated:

Service providers, device manufacturers and application developers are developing and deploying encryption that can only be decrypted by the end user or customer, and they are refusing to provide technology that allows for lawful access by law enforcement agencies in appropriate circumstances….

While encryption protects against cyberattacks, deploying it in warrant-proof form jeopardizes public safety more generally. The net effect is to reduce the overall security of society.”

Barr went onto say that “warrant-proof encryption is also seriously impairing our ability to monitor and combat domestic and foreign terrorists.” Barr stated that “smaller terrorist groups and ‘lone wolf’ actors” — such as those involved in the series of mass shootings in California, Texas and Ohio that would occur in the weeks after his speech — “have turned increasingly to encryption.” Barr later notes that he is specifically referencing encryption used by “consumer products and services such as messaging, smart phones, email, and voice and data applications.”

Barr then laid out his vision of what the solution to this challenge posed by “warrant-proof encryption” would look like:

We believe that when technology providers deploy encryption in their products, services, and platforms they need to maintain an appropriate mechanism for lawful access. This means a way for government entities, when they have appropriate legal authority, to access data securely, promptly, and in an intelligible format, whether it is stored on a device or in transmission.

We do not seek to prescribe any particular solution. Our private-sector technology providers have immensely talented engineers who have built the very products and services that we are talking about. They are in the best position to determine what methods of lawful access work best for their technology.”

After laying out his vision, Barr stated that, while he would like to give private companies time to willingly cooperate and comply with his suggested solution to “warrant-proof encryption,” “the time to achieve that [government back-doors into electronic consumer apps and products] may be limited.”

To overcome the resistance by some private companies — who do not want to renege on their right to privacy by giving the government back-door access to their devices — and American consumers, Barr tellingly anticipates that a “major incident” will soon take place that will mold public opinion in favor of his proposed solution.

Barr concluded his speech by stating:

I think it is prudent to anticipate that a major incident may well occur at any time that will galvanize public opinion on these issues.

As this debate has dragged on, and deployment of warrant-proof encryption has accelerated, our ability to protect the public from criminal threats is rapidly deteriorating. The status quo is exceptionally dangerous, unacceptable, and only getting worse.

The rest of the world has woken up to this threat. It is time for the United States to stop debating whether to address it, and start talking about how to address it.” (emphases added)

On Thursday, July 25, the last day of the ICCS conference, FBI Director Christopher Wray also echoed Barr’s call for government back-doors into encrypted software and apps, stating in his speech:

Cybersecurity is a central part of the FBI’s mission. But as the attorney general discussed earlier this week, our request for lawful access cannot be considered in a vacuum. It’s got to be viewed more broadly, taking into account the American public’s interest in the security and safety of our society, and our way of life. That’s important because this is an issue that’s getting worse and worse all the time.

There’s one thing I know for sure: It cannot be a sustainable end state for us to be creating an unfettered space that’s beyond lawful access for terrorists, hackers and child predators to hide. But that’s the path we’re on now, if we don’t come together to solve this problem.”

A new phase of an old campaign

The speeches given by Barr and Wray are the most recent iterations of the Department of Justice’s years-long effort to evade and weaken the encryption used by certain electronic products and applications, particularly encrypted messaging apps. Indeed, the DOJ was particularly active in late 2017 in pushing for back-doors into encrypted software, citing the encrypted devices of past perpetrators of mass shootings as proving the need for federal law enforcement to easily and quickly bypass encryption in criminal investigations.

However, Barr’s and Wray’s speeches mark a new phase of this government campaign targeting encryption, a campaign that has picked up in the past two weeks just as a series of mass shootings in the United States have led to widespread calls for the government to do something to prevent further massacres.

At a Monday press conference, President Donald Trump gave his official response to the most recent shootings in Ohio and Texas, tragedies that he largely blamed on the internet and its “dark recesses” that are inaccessible to the government. “We must recognize that the internet has provided a dangerous avenue to radicalize disturbed minds and perform demented acts,” Trump stated, before adding: “We must shine light on the dark recesses of the internet and stop mass murders before they start.”

“The perils of the internet and social media cannot be ignored and they will not be ignored,” the president emphasized.

One of the main solutions Trump offered to what he alleged caused the recent shootings was to mandate the DOJ “to work in partnership with local, state and federal agencies as well as social media companies to develop tools that can detect mass shooters before they strike.” Some interpreted this statement as suggesting the more widespread implementation of “pre-crime” software, such as Palantir, which was co-founded by billionaire Trump backer Peter Thiel, who is also on Facebook’s board.

Conveniently for William Barr, Facebook announced in May that the company is already developing just the “backdoor” that the attorney general has sought. This new initiative would implement AI-powered surveillance measures onto consumer devices, which would bypass end-to-end encryption on both the recently encrypted Facebook Messenger and the popular encrypted messaging app WhatsApp, acquired by Facebook in 2014. Though the measure was announced in May, it has received media attention only in the last week, following Barr’s speech at the 2019 ICCS.

Following Trump’s proposal for social media and the Barr-led DOJ to work together to monitor encrypted messages, it seems that Facebook will be one of the first major tech companies to offer its ready-made solution to the U.S. government. It is also worth considering the possibility that Barr may use the threat of his Silicon Valley antitrust probe to potentially strong-arm tech companies that would otherwise be unwilling to create a government back-door in their software or products. That probe was announced the same day that Barr spoke about anti-encryption measures at the 2019 ICCS.

In addition, between Barr’s July 23 speech and Trump’s August 5 press conference, there has been a concerted push from not only the DOJ but also the Five Eyes intelligence alliance, of which the U.S. is part, to weaken encryption or give governments access to encrypted applications.

On the heels of the 2019 ICCS, at which Barr and Wray spoke, there was a related cyber security summit in London — called the Five Country Ministerial — where “senior ministers from the U.K., Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States … reaffirmed their commitment to work together with industry to tackle a range of security threats.”

According to the U.K. government’s press release on the summit, which took place from July 29 to 30, the ministers in attendance “stressed that law enforcement agencies’ efforts to investigate and prosecute the most serious crimes would be hampered if the industry carries out plans to implement end-to-end encryption, without the necessary safeguards.” William Barr attended that summit, representing the U.S., and echoed his speech given a week prior, stating:

We must ensure that we do not stand by as advances in technology create spaces where criminal activity of the most heinous kind can go undetected and unpunished.”

Notably, Australia last year implemented a law similar to that which Barr is seeking to enact in the United States. It has since been lampooned by expert cryptographers for its ineffectiveness and has caused damage to Australia’s tech industry. According to the Guardian, Microsoft revealed in March that companies and governments it works with say they “are no longer comfortable about storing their data in Australia as a result of the encryption legislation.” Perhaps predictably, what has happened since Australia’s enactment of this controversial encryption legislation is the Australian government’s use of its new “back-doors” to widely surveil its civilians without a warrant.

Barr’s Orwellian bent

Barr’s outsized involvement in this recent push for a government back-door into all encryption apps is notable given his past. For instance, prior to becoming attorney general under Trump, Barr worked at the law firm Kirkland & Ellis, a firm that “represent[s] clients on matters relating to data and network security.” Kirkland & Ellis, in describing its own services, notes:

These matters are increasingly important to national security and international trade concerns such as government surveillance issues, state-sponsored cyber-attacks and espionage, and legal limitations on cross-border data transfers. The Firm represents clients in navigating these legal matters, including with respect to investigating security incidents/breaches and handling resulting litigation or government relations aspects of such incidents.”

Furthermore, Barr’s previous stint as attorney general, during the administration of George H.W. Bush, saw him push for increasing mass surveillance of innocent Americans. According to USA Today, in 1992, while serving as Attorney General under Bush Sr., Barr “launched a vast surveillance program that gathered records of innocent Americans’ international phone calls without first conducting a review of whether it was legal.”  The program “ultimately gathered billions of records of nearly all phone calls from the United States to 116 countries, with little oversight from Congress or the courts” and also “provided a blueprint for far broader phone-data surveillance the government launched after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.” The program was partially carried out by the then-head of the DOJ’s Criminal Division, former FBI Director Robert Mueller.

Barr’s history of pushing for reducing privacy for citizens is troubling considering that, earlier in his career, he pushed for increased government secrecy while he was employed by the CIA in the late 1970s. For instance, while working at the CIA’s Office of Legislative Council, Barr attempted to circumvent the moratorium placed on the CIA that prevented it from destroying records and also stonewalled the Church Committee’s investigation into CIA abuses. Thus, Barr’s push for reduced privacy for citizens but increased privacy for the government bodes poorly for those who see government transparency and citizen privacy as important to keeping government overreach in check.

FBI foreknowledge

In the hours before the shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas — and less than two weeks after Barr warned of an imminent “major incident” that would “galvanize public opinion” in favor of ending encryption free from a government back-door — the FBI was made aware of a manifesto published on the controversial website 8chan that is alleged to have been authored by the shooter, Patrick Crusius.

According to NBC News, the FBI was aware of the document prior to the shooting, but was unable to act quickly enough to prevent the attack. There have, however, been conflicting reports about exactly how long the FBI was aware of the alleged manifesto prior to the shooting.

For instance, soon after the shooting, CNN stated that three different sources had told the outlet that the manifesto had been “posted days before the shootings.” However, the FBI later stated less than a half hour before the shooting, while separate law enforcement sources told reporters that it was actually two hours before the shooting.

There is also a discrepancy regarding whether the manifesto was originally posted on 8chan and whether the shooter himself even posted it. Jim Watkins, who owns the 8chan message boards and has alerted federal authorities previously when past shooting manifestos were published at the site, stated:

First of all, the El Paso shooter posted on Instagram, not 8chan… Later, someone uploaded the manifesto. However, that manifesto was not uploaded by the Walmart shooter. I don’t know if he wrote it or not, but it was not uploaded by the murderer; that is clear.”

Facebook, which owns Instagram, said that it had disabled an Instagram account that belonged to Crusius and also noted that that account had been inactive for over a year.

In the past, 8chan administrators had deleted manifestos minutes after they were posted and warned federal authorities that the documents had been published. In the case of the El Paso shooting, Watkins claimed that the site had informed federal authorities as soon as they were aware that the manifesto had been uploaded to its page.

The facts that the FBI knew in advance of the manifesto, that the manifesto may not have been uploaded by the shooter, and that the FBI was quick to link that document to the shooting event soon after it took place have led to speculation about how the FBI was able to make that connection so quickly. For instance, lawyer Robert Barnes stated the following on Twitter:

How did [the] FBI identify the shooter before he began his attack from a post on an anonymous chat board? Usually, this means the shooter tipped them off either directly or indirectly (informant). Misuse of informants (including encouraging violence) is an underexplored problem.”

In addition, journalist Rachel Blevins posed a similar question on social media following the revelations, writing:

It took just hours for the FBI to both identify the suspect in the El Paso shooting and connect him to a manifesto posted on 8chan, which raises the question… was the suspect included in the FBI’s surveillance, and were their agents in contact with him before the shooting?”

This possibility is worth considering, given the well-documented history of the FBI’s policy of manufacturing domestic terror plots within the United States, most of which are ultimately foiled at the last minute by the Bureau. In many of those cases, many alleged terrorists would not have planned or attempted those attacks without goading and support from the FBI, leading critics to accuse the FBI of deliberately using entrapment. For instance, a 2014 study by Human Rights Watch and Columbia Law School’s Human Rights Institute found that “many of these people [in the cases examined in the study] would never have committed a crime if not for law enforcement encouraging, pressuring, and sometimes paying them to commit terrorist acts,” according to the study’s co-author Andrea Prasow.

There are several instances where the FBI sought out mentally handicapped and unstable individuals with no resources of their own, giving them incentives, fake weapons and even driving them to the scene of the planned fake terror attack. Two high-profile domestic terror cases have also had hints of FBI involvement — including the Pulse nightclub shooting, where the shooter’s father was later revealed to be a FBI informant and the FBI had attempted to goad the Pulse shooter into committing a terror attack years prior to the Pulse shooting. In addition, the family of the Boston Marathon bombers claimed that the FBI regularly visited their family home and had cultivated a close relationship with one of the bombers, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, prior to the bombing.

Since late 2016, the FBI’s controversial policy of inducting individuals to commit acts of terror in the United States has expanded after a federal appeals court ruling in December of that year said that federal agents were allowed to target a person’s religious affiliation in order to “probe the attitudes” of an individual who may want to “do something to America” by entrapping them in fake terror act schemes. The ruling also permitted federal agents to create false friendships, referred to in the ruling as the “illusory cultivation of emotional intimacy,” as a means of manipulating individuals to commit acts of terrorism — as well as providing these unstable individuals with money, vehicles, businesses and even vacations to get them to agree to participate in fake attacks.

As a result of this troubling trend, and given the FBI’s foreknowledge of the manifesto and its ease in connecting that document to the shooter, it becomes important to ask whether the FBI had more foreknowledge of the situation than it has publicly let on.

Though history indicates that FBI foreknowledge of the shooter is definitely plausible, 8chan has been a recent focus of the FBI in recent months. For instance, after the alleged manifesto of the shooter responsible for the massacre at the Poway Synagogue earlier this year was published on 8chan, the FBI issued a warrant for hundreds of 8chan user accounts that had commented on the Poway Synagogue shooter’s thread, including both users that supported his statement of intent and those who were appalled by it.

According to the Bureau’s application for a search warrant, the FBI was seeking the “IP address and metadata information about [Poway shooter John] Earnest’s original posting and the postings of all of the individuals who responded to the subject posting and/or commented about it.” The FBI further instructed Ch.net, which hosts 8chan, “to make a digital copy of the entire contents of the accounts subject to seizure.”

It goes without saying that with the information on hundreds of 8chan users, the FBI would have had access to potential future informants and potential targets to be “groomed” by the FBI for a future domestic terrorism entrapment case. This is especially likely given that the FBI’s reasoning for obtaining this large amount of information in the warrant was to identify “individuals who are inspired by the subject posting [i.e., the Poway shooter manifesto].” One 8chan user who was contacted by the FBI after this search warrant and filmed the encounter, was asked by federal agents to help them with information-gathering on other 8chan users.

This possibility is further supported by the fact that the FBI agent who filed the search warrant application, FBI Special Agent Michael Rod, revealed that he had been active on 8chan and (perhaps inadvertently) revealed his user name on 8chan to be user “8f4812.” An archive of the Poway shooter’s 8chan thread, available here, reveals that Rod stated in that 8chan thread that Russia was to blame for the Poway shooting and Rod also claimed that he knew of the Poway shooting 15 minutes before it happened but was unable to warn the authorities because he “was shit posting and got tied up.”

In the wake of the recent shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, 8chan was taken offline after internet infrastructure company Cloudflare declined to continue supporting the website.

A tragedy foretold and exploited

William Barr’s warning that a “major incident” could occur “at any time” and “galvanize public opinion” around the unpopular encryption back-door policy he has been seeking seems to have come true in the weeks since the attorney general made those statements. Given Barr’s influence over the FBI, which operates under his jurisdiction, it is important to scrutinize the evidence that the FBI had apparent foreknowledge of at least one of these recent shootings, and consider that the Bureau may have failed to act to prevent the tragedy, allowing Barr’s prediction just weeks earlier to become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Trump’s proposed solution to the recent spate of mass shootings is focused on giving Barr a mandate to work with social media and tech companies to prevent another mass shooting before it occurs. It seems evident that this solution is set to involve surveilling encrypted communications to ostensibly prevent another shooting while also providing Barr, and the DOJ at large, the back-door into encrypted apps and consumer products that they have long sought but have been unable to sell to either the public or those same tech companies.

Now, a public safety crisis has emerged in the wake of Barr’s recent speech, tipping the scales — as Barr had predicted — so the public would favor further reductions to their civil liberties and right to privacy so that the federal government could provide increased public safety through increased surveillance. Yet, taking this alongside the well-documented fact that the FBI regularly manufactures domestic terror plots, it is worth asking whether some of these recent shootings were allowed to happen and whether public officials like William Barr are manipulating the public’s reaction to these tragedies to advance their own political agendas and further the build-up of state power.

Whitney Webb is a MintPress News journalist based in Chile. She has contributed to several independent media outlets including Global Research, EcoWatch, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has made several radio and television appearances and is the 2019 winner of the Serena Shim Award for Uncompromised Integrity in Journalism.

August 7, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, False Flag Terrorism, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , | 1 Comment

Australia not going to host US missiles: PM Morrison

Press TV – August 5, 2019

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced that missiles belonging to the United States will not be deployed in Australia.

Morrison, who held talks with US officials over the weekend, said on Monday that Australia will not be hosting US intermediate-range missiles.

His comments came hours after US Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo departed Sydney following US-Australia talks.

The talks ended with a joint statement in which the two sides agreed to create a stronger front against Chinese advancement in the Asia-Pacific region.

The US won’t “stand by idly” while China “attempts to reshape the region to its favor,” Esper was quoted by US media as saying.

However, in an interview on Saturday after pulling out of a landmark arms control treaty, the new Pentagon chief told reporters that he aimed to deploy ground-launched, intermediate-range missiles in the Asia-Pacific region in the coming months, raising serious concerns among the advocates of arms control.

China has described Beijing’s bilateral relationship with Australia as “unsatisfactory”.

After meeting his Australian counterpart last week, China’s top diplomat insisted that Beijing’s strained ties with Canberra needed to be ameliorated.

“During our diplomatic and strategic dialogue in Beijing last November, we agreed to calibrate and relaunch China-Australia relations, but the process of improving our ties has not been satisfactory,” said State Councilor, Wang Yi, after the Bangkok meeting which took place on the sidelines of a regional security forum.

Canberra claims the reason for severed ties was that Beijing had attempted to interfere in its internal affairs. Beijing rejects the claim, insisting it is does not, on principle, meddle in other countries’ domestic affairs.

August 5, 2019 Posted by | Militarism | , | 2 Comments

Will the Australian Government Join in a “Nuremberg Class” Attack on Iran?

U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo welcomes Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne to the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on January 30, 2019.
Credit: U.S. Department of State/ flickr
By David Macilwain | American Herald Tribune | June 24, 2019

As my father used to say in response to difficult questions – “ask no questions and you’ll be told no lies”. This seems to be the approach of Australia’s media organizations to our government’s extraordinary silence over events in the Gulf of Oman. Barring an anodyne statement condemning the attacks on civilian shipping, neither Australia’s foreign minister Marise Payne nor Prime Minister Scott Morrison has ventured an opinion on who might have been responsible for these provocative actions. This remains the case even when subsequent developments included a narrowly averted war with global repercussions, with no questions asked and no lies proffered.

In the aftermath of recent attacks on journalistic freedoms and intimidation of whistleblowers, many people have expressed the view that it is the job of journalists to hold governments and public servants to account. That the governments of both Australia and its parent Britain seek to avoid such scrutiny is clear from their actions. Draconian punishments now apply to those who are thought to “threaten national security” by revealing inconvenient truths.

So we might wonder whether the ABC’s failure to ask questions of Government ministers about the dangerous confrontation in the Persian Gulf is connected to these recent developments, which included a highly provocative police raid on the headquarters of the ABC. The ABC purports to be independent of Government, and is expected to interview ministers on behalf of the public when necessary, as well as seeking the view of shadow ministers from the opposition Labor party.

In those recent raids, which concerned an Australian equivalent of the “Collateral Murder” crime exposed by an insider in Australia’s Special Forces in Afghanistan and leaked to an ABC journalist two years ago, there was a widespread shock at the actions authorized under the police warrant. In examining the ABC’s files relating to the case, it was revealed that the recently expanded powers of police forensic officers included the deletion and alteration of computer files – though this was explained as limited to the removal of irrelevant material and identities. This could be true given that the need to rewrite history is now minimized thanks to current controls over access to information.

What was more shocking to some, however, was a widely expressed but ill-informed view from the “Murdoch Right” that the ABC raids were justified, as its actions had endangered national security. Similar views were expressed over the alleged crimes of Julian Assange, whether “narcissist” or “cyber-terrorist”, with little sympathy from fellow Australians for his persecution and torture by the UK regime.

Australian sentiment towards the Islamic Republic of Iran is similarly prejudiced, so persuading the public that Iran would have launched an attack on two tankers near the Straits of Hormuz on the basis of minimal evidence was never going to be difficult; a mere dog-whistle sufficed. What now seems worrying is that “Central Narrative Control” knew this in advance – that they could show a blurry video of Iranian forces rescuing a ship’s crew, while saying it showed them “removing a limpet mine”, and the US aligned media audience would believe that this was what they saw.

But how could people be fooled by this ridiculous story, presented with a video that didn’t stand the slightest scrutiny?  Why anyway would Iran sabotage two ships as a direct provocation, while trying to make it look as though the US or its allies were responsible? This wouldn’t make any sense, as the US would have no motive for such an attack – other than to frame Iran for it as a pretext for what has now followed!

The corollary of this perverse provocation by the US or its local agents is that while an Iranian strike on the two tankers could have been understood as a response to newly imposed sanctions targeting Iran’s petrochemical industry, such an attack on civilian shipping by the US with the sole object of framing Iran would be an undoubted war crime. As in fact, it was – and we need to remember this as subsequent events and silence from the media relegate it to a later investigation, or the memory hole. (Iran has also registered a protest over the US accusations with the UN)

Those subsequent events, which we now discover have brought us to the point of a major military escalation, allow current news reports to state that “following the Iranian attack on two ships in the Gulf of Oman” – tensions on both sides are increasing; no longer is the ship attack “alleged”. Instead, a new “limpet mine” narrative has been created to reinforce the idea of the Iranian threat, and this, in turn, feeds into talk of new Uranium enrichment above the agreed levels in the JCPOA, despite this being an entirely legitimate Iranian response to the US’ failure to keep to the agreement. Contrary to the immediate wild accusations from the usual suspects that Iran is now “again” working on a nuclear bomb (it never was, since 2003 [if ever] ), the renewed enrichment remains only to the 3.7% base limit, as those nuclear-armed suspects know perfectly well.

The need to be reminded of these stages in the development of the false narrative that Iran is the aggressor is that the silence from both media and politicians has actually enabled it, simply by drawing on the prejudices of the population. It seems that only those who doubt or deny the US-led accusations against Iran have noticed the deafening silence of Australia’s leaders and the failure of the main media to ask them to show their hand. Is it possible that we could find ourselves supporting the real aggressors in a criminal attack on a peaceful and friendly nation – a classic case of “sleepwalking into war”?

Well, now it appears that this is the case. The ABC hasn’t thought to ask the foreign minister whether we agree with the US story, and whether we would support them in military action against Iran despite the lack of evidence, because there is already that assumption. Despite the early skepticism of US claims from some mainstream commentators, and parallels drawn with the proverbial Iraqi WMD fraud, those reservations appear to now be forgotten. With this comes the realization that my father’s riposte does not apply to our national broadcaster; it doesn’t fear being told lies but rather fears having to admit the obvious truth, which is that of course, we believe the US story, and will support any action that our alliance demands.

Such blindness to the truth, and blind submission to the whims of the world’s most dangerous state, was brought home by this quote from Sydney Morning Herald correspondent Michael Bachelard:

“Some have likened the escalating atmosphere to the feeling leading up to George Bush’s invasion of Iraq in 2003. So why are we suddenly using the “w” word in the Middle East again, and should Australia brace to be invited into another Coalition of the Willing?”

Bachelard presents – and perhaps believes – “Australia” to be a well-intentioned onlooker on the mixed-up politics of the Middle East, whose “contribution” would always be towards peace and security and resolution of conflict. It is a rosy-eyed view of Australia sadly prevalent amongst people whose own intentions are honorable – assuming that the leaders of our traditional allies and partner “democracies” share their honesty and integrity and benevolence. By contrast, these same people seem happy to assume the worst about our “enemies”; Bachelard’s inappropriate use of a photo of a smiling President Assad greeting Ayatollah Khamenei in Tehran in February in the above article nicely reflects this ingrained prejudice.

The reality of Australia’s role in Middle Eastern politics, on the battlefields of Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan and over Palestine and Israel is sadly very different. Despite a “modest contribution” to the Iraq invasion force, John Howard was George Bush’s closest ally, notably refusing to accept that Saddam Hussein had no WMD until around 2010. More recently the involvement of Australian fighter jets in the 2016 US coalition attack on the Syrian Army near Deir al Zour was symptomatic of Australia’s illegitimate presence in Syria, and complicity in NATO allies’ support for the insurgent forces. This intimate alignment with the US also saw Australia copying Trump’s “recognition” of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, despite the damage this did to relations with our closest neighbor Indonesia.

In the light of this record, and the catalog of unasked questions and untold lies, we can only speculate on the Australian Government’s RSVP to America’s “invitation” to join in a “Nuremberg class” attack on Iran. With Foreign Minister Marise Payne’s record of meetings with both Pompeo and Bolton, and our shared bases and assets in the region, it seems likely such an invitation was a mere formality, likely preceding the first strikes on tankers in the Gulf of Oman.

And as with the story of the war crimes in Afghanistan, there won’t be any desire to rewrite the history of how the third Great War began, should the truth finally surface. That history has already been certified as true by the silence of “Australia’s most trusted news source” and recorded in the mind of the nation; no-one would now believe otherwise.

June 24, 2019 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism, War Crimes | , | Leave a comment

Australian feds raid broadcaster’s office over Afghan war crime stories

RT | June 5, 2019

Australian police have raided national broadcaster ABC’s headquarters over a 2017 story series exposing crimes committed by special forces in Afghanistan, the second raid on journalists in two days.

Six officers, including three police technicians, descended on the broadcaster’s Sydney offices with a warrant explaining the raid was “in relation to allegations of publishing classified material, contrary to provisions of the Crimes Act 1914.” The classified material in question? Hundreds of pages of leaked defense documents marked AUSTEO (Australian Eyes Only) that formed the basis of ABC’s 2017 story series ‘The Afghan Files.’ The warrant names the report’s authors, Dan Oakes and Sam Clark, as well as ABC news director Gaven Morris.

The officers rounded up ABC’s IT staff to assist in examining their email server looking for “a series of key words,” while others scoured a hard drive, according to John Lyons, ABC executive editor and head of investigations department, who live-tweeted the raid. Officers helpfully told him they were interested in “very specific matters” and “certain things,” dryly noting “this could take some time,” Lyons reported. Four hours into the raid, they had collected over 9,200 files and were deciding which could be seized under the warrant.

“It is highly unusual for the national broadcaster to be raided in this way,” ABC managing director David Anderson told news.com.au, promising to support its journalists, protect its sources, and “continue to report without fear or favor on national security and intelligence issues when there is a clear public interest.”

The federal police released a statement after the raid on Wednesday claiming “no arrests are planned today as a result of this activity” and denying it was connected to an intimidating visit paid to another journalist in Canberra the previous day – though it’s hard not to see a connection, given both were publishing stories on government misconduct based on documents unavailable to the public.

Officers raided News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst’s home on Tuesday, triggered by a story she wrote last year revealing the government’s plans to dramatically expand the Australian Signals Directorate’s spying on its own citizens, giving the agency power to secretly access bank records, text messages, and emails without an individual’s knowledge. Officers reportedly spent seven hours picking through Smethurst’s possessions; an unauthorized “leak of national security information” was cited as the cause.

That same day, 2GB radio host Ben Fordham said he had been contacted by the Department of Home Affairs in an effort to find out how he’d obtained “highly confidential” information for his reporting on asylum seeker vessels.

Condemning the “disturbing pattern of assaults on Australian press freedom,” the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance, Australia’s journalists’ union, called the raids “nothing short of an attack on the public’s right to know.”

“It seems that when the truth embarrasses the government, the result is the Federal Police will come knocking at your door.”

The Afghan Files describes a number of incidents in which Australian special forces shot civilians in addition to the insurgents they were supposed to be fighting and reveal Afghan authorities “were becoming increasingly agitated over Australians allegedly killing unarmed civilians” to the point that they “threatened to stop working with Australians.”

PM Scott Morrison has refused to condemn the raids, declaring all Australians must abide by national security laws. He won a “miracle” reelection last month, giving his Liberal National party a third straight term in power. Morrison appears to be using his mandate to crack down on antagonistic journalism, the MEAA noted.

June 5, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, War Crimes | | 1 Comment

Aussie Feds Raid News Corp Journalist’s Home After Government Spying Exposé

News Corp Australia’s Annika Smethurst, Home Affairs minister Peter Dutton​​​​
By Tyler Durden | Zero Hedge | June 3, 2019

Australian federal police officers are raiding the home of News Corp Australia journalist Annika Smethurst over an April, 2018 story accusing the government of radical new espionage powers allowing the Australian Signals Directorate (ASD) to monitor citizens for the first time, according to the Daily Telegraph (via the Herald Sun).

Ms Smethurst, the political editor for News Corp Sunday titles including The Sunday Telegraph, was at home preparing to leave for work this morning when several Australian Federal Police officers arrived with a warrant from an ACT magistrate giving them authority to search her home, computer and mobile phone.

Ms Smethurst complied with the warrant and is presently waiting for the raid to be completed. She has declined to answer questions apart from confirming her identity. –Herald Sun

Smethurst’s article revealed that the emails, bank accounts and text messages of Australian citizens could be secretly accessed by government spies without a trace under the proposal, as long as the Defense and Home Affairs ministers approved the plan.

The raid comes three weeks after the federal election returned the Morrison government to power, leaving Home Affairs minister Peter Dutton at the helm.

Ms Smethurst’s original story included images of top-secret letters between the secretary of Home Affairs, Mike Pezzullo, and his counterpart in Defence, Greg Moriarty, outlining a plan to potentially allow government hackers to “proactively disrupt and covertly remove” onshore cyber threats by “hacking into critical infrastructure.” –Herald Sun

Current Australian law prohibits the ASD from spying on citizens – a power left to the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and the Australian Security Intelligence Organization, the country’s domestic spy agency.

Smethhurt revealed that Dutton and former Defense Minister Marise Payne had reviewed the proposal, however it had not moved beyond that stage to be formally presented to the government.

June 4, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | | 1 Comment

Australia’s electoral officials ‘work with social media to tackle misinformation

RT | April 18, 2019

Australian electoral authorities have for the first time set up a cybersecurity task force, an official said on Thursday.

They are also working with social media companies to tackle misinformation in the run up to general elections on May 18.

Australian Electoral Commissioner Tom Rogers said safeguarding the election’s integrity gained priority “due to experiences in other countries,” AP reported.

Rogers is having daily briefings with the Electoral Integrity Assurance Task Force, which comprises the nation’s major security agencies and government departments. He declined to detail the task force’s functions, saying they included dealing with disinformation spread through social media.

April 18, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | | 1 Comment

Australian Defence Strategy Still Locked in A Past Era

By James O’Neill | American Herald Tribune | March 28, 2019

According to a report in the Sydney Morning Herald (25 March 2019) the coalition government, if re-elected, would spend $2.5 billion on an air defence system. The object of the expenditure is said to “bolster Australia’s capacity to intercept enemy aircraft”. The new system will also defend against helicopters, cruise missiles and unmanned aerial systems.

The cost is divided between an initial acquisition price of $1.5 billion and a further $1 billion to operate and maintain it over two decades. The Minister for Defence, Linda Reynolds, said that the project had great export potential.

Once again, one has to wonder exactly what planet our defence politicians and their advisors actually inhabit. While the cost of this touted new system is small change compared to the tens of billions of dollars being lavished on expensive boondoggles such as the F35 joint strike fighter and the French built submarines, it is another illustration of wasted expenditure on military equipment not fit for purpose.

The stated object is to be able to defend against four intruders: helicopters; unmanned aerial systems; enemy aircraft and cruise missiles. Why one would need a $1 billion system to defend against helicopters, with their low altitude, short range, slow moving and noisy character simply boggles the mind.

Exactly what is meant by ‘unmanned aerial systems’ is not defined, but presumably refers to drones. The same point applies here as to helicopters. The more serious question relates to enemy aircraft and cruise missiles, and the source of those hostile intruders.

There is no obvious reason for Australia to be attacked by Indonesia, Papua New Guinea or any other country for whom Australia would be within the range of its bombers. The unspoken “enemy” here is presumably China, although again that raises the obvious question as to why China would wish to attack Australia. The only obvious answer to this is as a defensive reaction to an attack upon China itself.

Australia would only do that as part of yet another United States led “Coalition”, but why Australia would wish to be involved in such a foolhardy exercise against its largest trading partner should not be seriously contemplated by our defence planners, and if it is they need to spell out their rationale in clear terms.

Let us assume for arguments sake that China did attack Australia. It would not be with helicopters, unmanned aerial vehicles, cruise missiles or bombers. It would be done with one or more of its repertoire of supersonic missiles from the Dong Feng family of missiles, most probably the DF41. This missile system travels at hypersonic speed (Mach 20) and has 8 to 10 independently targetable nuclear warheads.

There is nothing in the current repertoire of United States or Australian missile defence systems that can defend against such an attack, and the heroic claims of former defence minister Christopher Pyne that it will be a “highly effective defence system” is simply nonsense.

If Australia did get into a shooting war with China, that war would likely involve China’s strategic partner Russia, whose missile systems (for example, Zircon, Burevestnik, Avangaard and Kinzhal) are decades ahead of US military technology, as even the United States itself admits (www.news.com.au 19 December 2018). For details of these Russian systems see Martyanov www.unz.com 5 March 2018; and Vineyard of the Saker www.thesaker.is 24 January 2019.

If Australia was serious about having a missile defence system then the world leader by a significant margin is the Russian S400 system, recently bought by China, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and India among others. Turkey, a NATO member, is proceeding with the purchase of the S400 despite overt threats by the Americans. The Saudis, huge purchasers of US military equipment in the past, also know where to go in order to purchase the best available system. Quite why a similar degree of realism is not allowed to intrude upon discussions of Australian defence strategy remains a puzzle. Has Australia become so “joined at the hip” with the Americans that it is willing to compromise on real military defence strategy? Instead of coherent debate we are fed the mindless pap exemplified in the SMH article referenced above.

March 28, 2019 Posted by | Aletho News | | 1 Comment

Douma “Chemical Attack”: Still Waiting for an Apology

By James O’Neill | OffGuardian | March 13, 2019

On 7th of April 2018 an alleged chemical attack took place in the city of Douma in the Syrian Arab Republic. Dramatic footage of the “victims” was widely broadcast throughout the western mainstream media. Particularly prominent were images of children foaming at the mouth and being hosed down.

The footage for these dramatic depictions was almost entirely sourced from a group known as the White Helmets. They are invariably depicted in the western media as a form of civil defence organisation. They are in fact an arm of Britain’s MI6, trained by the British and financed by the UK and the United States.

The alleged “chemical attack” was used by the US, UK and French governments to make a missile attack upon Syrian targets. The approximately 100 missiles fired destroyed buildings and caused civilian casualties. Many of the missiles failed to reach their target, being either deflected or shot down by Syrian air defences.

Speaking to a press conference on the Sunday following the attacks, the then Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull made a series of unqualified assertions. He gave his government’s “strong support” for the military action, and urged Russia to exercise its authority to ensure that the chemical weapons were destroyed.

He further called on Russia to use its influence to ensure the “most recent chemical weapons attack is thoroughly investigated.” He blamed the Assad government for the incident and described the military action by the US, UK and France, “targeted, proportionate and responsible.”

He even attempted to link the Douma incident with the Skripal events in Salisbury, England, using both as a stick with which to beat the Russians over the head. Both the timing of and the linking of the two incidents were not a coincidence. They were clearly part of a campaign to discredit Russia, whose intervention in the Syrian war proved a decisive turning point, to the chagrin of the “regime changers” in Washington and London.

As is now almost invariably the case there is a marked distinction between the political rhetoric and the actual situation, both in terms of the relevant international law, and the facts on the ground. That has become glaringly obvious in the Skripal case, as has been well documented elsewhere, by for example, www.theblogmire.com 3 March 2019.

Dealing briefly with the legal situation in the Syrian bombing, there is no such thing as a “targeted, proportionate and responsible” bombing of a sovereign state unless two pre-conditions are met. It must either be in self-defence, if the countries taking the action have themselves been attacked, and that was manifestly not the case; and secondly, in the alternative, it must be an action authorised by the United Nations Security Council. That didn’t happen either.

As in so many of Australia’s military forays around the world, the legal basis for the Syria involvement is notably absent, although in this particular case their role was limited to being cheerleaders on the sidelines. Australia’s participation in the so-called coalition of forces fighting in Syria and allied to the United States, a serial offender against international law, has no legal foundation whatsoever. The Australian government has had legal advice on the matter, and has had such advice since 2014. If it was confident of its legal position, why then does it continue to refuse to release that advice?

The facts on the ground do not support the Turnbull position either. Turnbull criticized Russia for using its Security Council veto to block motions to investigate chemical weapons crimes. In fact, both Russia and Syria asked the Organisation for the Prevention of Criminal Weapons (OPCW) to investigate the Douma incident.

The OPCW fact-finding mission began their investigation on 21 April 2018, two weeks after the alleged attack. Jihadist groups blocked their initial investigation and they were only able to enter the relevant areas with protection provided by the Syrian army and the Russian military police.

An interim report was published on 6 July 2018 in which it concluded, “no organophosphate (sarin) nerve agents or their degradation products were detected in the environmental samples or the plasma samples taken from the alleged casualties.” The use of sarin had been one of the principal accusations against the Syrian government. This interim conclusion received minimal media attention.

The OPCW Final Report of the investigation was released on 1st of March 2019 although one will hunt in vain for an accurate account of that report in the western mainstream media. The reason for the media silence is not difficult to discern. The 0PCW Report effectively destroys the arguments advanced by US President Trump, UK Prime Minister May and Turnbull.

The OPCW’s investigation was hampered in significant ways. The White Helmets and their jihadist allies had either cremated or buried all the deceased “victims” of the alleged chemical attack. Those burial locations were not disclosed to the investigators. No autopsy material was therefore available.

The evidence of the medical staff in attendance at the Douma hospitals at the time began receiving “victims” prior to the timing of the alleged chemical attack. None had symptoms of chemical or nerve agent attack.

The OPCW investigation team carried out a number of analyses from areas said to have been affected by the chemical attack. Again, they found no traces of any banned chemical substances.

They were shown two yellow cylinders claimed to have been responsible for the casualties. Even that “evidence” was compromised as the two cylinders had been moved by the jihadists and were located in two places and in such a manner that they had no probative value.

The OPCW team was unable to say how the cylinders might have been used to release any toxins. Given that no toxic traces could be found anywhere, the likely inference is that the two cylinders were simply stage props.

This inference is reinforced by the fact that the OPCW team did find a further yellow canister similar to the two mentioned above. That canister however, was found in a jihadist workshop that also contained a variety of chemicals and equipment associated with bomb production. Insofar as this finding received any media coverage, it was to suggest that the Syrian government had planted the material. The OPCW made no such suggestion.

What the OPCW team did find were traces of chlorine. Chlorine however, is a common household substance and for that reason it is not on the list of banned chemical weapons. Chlorine would not in any case be likely to cause death, much less the significant casualty figures claimed.

The evidence of the medical professionals interviewed by the OPCW team was that the victims they treated at the hospital were suffering from the effects of dust and smoke inhalation. None had life threatening injuries and none died in hospital.

There was accordingly no basis in fact for the missile attack by the US, UK and France (quite apart from its illegality) and therefore no justification for Turnbull’s unequivocal assertions of Syrian culpability and Russian complicity in a chemical weapons attack upon the civilian population.

Notwithstanding the OPCW’s demolition of the claims made by the US and others, including Turnbull’s ill-advised unequivocal support, the US and mainstream media still refer to Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons as a reason to justify their continued occupation of Syrian territory.

That occupation itself is a violation of international law. The “debate” within US ruling circles about whether Trump’s original professed desire to leave Syria (since resiled from) should be carried out or not has a surreal tone to it. It never seems to occur to them that they are neither welcome nor legally entitled to be there at all.

Perhaps the final word should go to a senior BBC TV producer, Riam Dilati. On 13 February 2019 he tweeted: “after almost 6 months of investigations I can prove without a doubt that the Douma hospital scene was staged.”

If our own media and politicians could show a similar degree of honesty and integrity, they would be offering Syria and Russia the long overdue apologies to which they are entitled.

That may however, be a long wait.

James O’Neill is a barrister at law and geopolitical analyst. He may be contacted at joneill@qldbar.asn.au.

March 13, 2019 Posted by | False Flag Terrorism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , | 1 Comment

Australia’s Strategic Bubble: Denial in the Face of Changing Geopolitical Realities

By James ONeill – New Eastern Outlook – 11.01.2019

The next election in Australia is expected to be held on a date between March and May 2019. If two years of opinion polls are a reliable guide, the Opposition Labour party is expected to win comfortably. It should present an opportunity for a fresh start in Australia’s foreign and defence policies. That is unlikely however to be the case.

The leader of the Opposition and likely next Prime Minister Bill Shorten (assuming the current interim prime minister actually survives until the election, which is by no means a foregone conclusion) has given no indication in speeches or policy documents that a future Labour government would do other than follow the policies of past decades. (The spectre of the 1972 US-UK coup casts a long shadow).

There are a number of reasons why that is neither a viable policy option, nor is it in Australia’s national interest to remain wedded to the policies of the past.

The essential basis of Australia’s defence policy and its foreign policy corollary was set out in the 2016 Defence White Paper. That document is remarkable for its capacity for delusional thinking and a false historical narrative, as well as having an inability to anticipate radical changes in the geopolitical and strategic framework, notwithstanding that those changes were clearly discernible well in advance of the White Paper’s publication.

Under the heading ‘Strategic Outlook’ for example, it states support for a “rules based global order which supports our interests” (p19). The United States, it says, “will remain the pre-eminent global military power over the next two decades” (p43). Australia’s alliance with the United States “is based on shared values and will continue to be the centerpiece of our defence policy” (p46).

The ANZUS Treaty provides the formal basis of Australia’s defence relationship (p123). It (the Treaty) “obliges each country to act to meet the common danger” (p123).

Taking the last point first, what the treaty actually provides (Article III) is that “the parties will consult together whenever in the opinion of any of them the territorial integrity, political independence or security of any of the parties is threatened in the Pacific.”

Other provisions in the ANZUS Treaty provide for any measures taken by the parties to be referred to the United Nations Security Council. The parties undertake (Article I) to settle any international disputes by peaceful means in accordance with the UN Charter.

Since the treaty was signed (1951) and came into force (1952) Australia has been part of a United States led coalition that has attacked North Vietnam (1962-72), Afghanistan (2001 and continuing), Iraq (2003 and continuing), and Syria (2015 and continuing).

None of these countries posed a threat to the “territorial integrity, political independence or security” of any of the Treaty’s participants. Neither are any of those countries in or anywhere near the Pacific.

The ANZUS Treaty in short, is not what it is claimed to be and should not be used (assuming it even continues) as a fig leaf of respectability for the blatant geopolitical and imperial ambitions of the United States. That all of the above mentioned wars were and are manifestly in breach of international law and of the United Nations Charter is not a subject of discussion in Australia. Neither could it be claimed that these wars fulfilled the requirement to settle disputes by peaceful means.

The second element is the claim that Australia’s alliance with the United States is “based on shared values.” Politicians frequently repeat this phrase, in one form or another. What are those alleged shared values?

Is it the United States’ history of waging war? It has after all been at war for 222 out of 239 years since Independence in 1776. Just taking the post World War 2 period alone, it has attacked, undermined or overthrown the governments of more than 70 countries, killing between 30 and 40 million people in the process.

Is this really a “shared” value that Australia subscribes to? To claim that the United States presence in the Indo-Pacific (and globally) over the past 70 years has underpinned peace and stability is to take the Orwellian misuse of language to fresh heights.

The major delusion however, is to claim that the United States will remain the pre-eminent military power over the next two decades. Certainly, as long as the United States continues its long standing policy of attacking essentially defenceless countries it can continue to project military power with devastating consequences. Iraq for example is a graphic illustration of this point.

Faced with a power with the ability to fight back, a radically different picture emerges. The two most important opponents of US hegemony in this context are the two countries that the United States National Defence Strategy (December 2017) labeled “dangerous revisionist powers”, i.e. China and Russia.

In looking at the military prowess of those two “revisionist” countries, the dangerous delusions of Australian (and United States) foreign and military policy are brought into stark relief.

The Chinese for example have developed the Dong Feng (East Wind) series of missiles. There are at least 15 variations of this model. Two should be noted for their special relevance to Australia. The DF-21D is an anti-ship ballistic missile that travels at Mach 10 (12,000kmh) with a range expected to reach 8000km by 2020. It’s effectively forces United States aircraft carriers to move well beyond the range within which their aircraft can be used. General John Hyten, head of the US Strategic Command, acknowledged in Senate testimony (21 March 2018) that the United States was powerless against hypersonic missile attacks by China (or Russia).

The DF41 is an intercontinental ballistic missile with a 12,000 km range. It is accurate to within 150 metres, and would reach the United States (and nearly everywhere else in the world) in less than 15 minutes from launch. It has a top speed of Mach 25 and carries up to 10 independently targetable nuclear warheads. The whole of Australia is of course well within its range.

Australian political commentators have almost completely ignored China’s advanced military capabilities, preferring instead to focus (usually with little understanding) on issues such as China’s alleged “aggression” in the South China Sea. The nuanced strategic thinking that underpins Chinese defence policy, as set out for example in a recent essay by Professor Zhang Wenmu from China’s Centre of Strategic Studies in Beijing in Taipinyan Xuebao, August 2017.

These same commentators and indeed politicians and military strategists, display even less awareness of Russia’s advanced state of hypersonic missiles. Again only two of these systems need to be mentioned to make the point. More detailed analyses are really available. (See for example, www.thesaker.is 4 August 2018)

The Avangard is a highly maneuverable ICBM reaching Mach 27 at maximum speed. It totally nullifies any United States defence system (which in any case is vastly inferior to the Russian S400 and S500 anti-missile systems). It can reach almost anywhere in the world, from any direction, in 20 minutes or less. As the aforementioned General Hyten acknowledged, the United States “has no defence.”

The other weapon worth noting is the Kinzhal (“Dagger”) that Andrei Martyanov (www.unzreview.com 5 March 2018) accurately notes as a “complete game changer, geopolitically, strategically, operationally, tactically and psychologically.”

Like the Chinese DF-21D the Kinzhal has rendered carrier-based battle groups obsolete against peer enemies. Its ability to eliminate surface ships, essential for their support role for submarines, raises an important question in the Australian context: what is the point of its $50 billion projected submarine fleet (which will not in any case become operational before 2030?)

The psychological element Martyanov notes is significant because one consequence of the revelations about Russia and China’s military superiority is that it should help shatter the dangerous delusions (as exemplified in the White Paper) of United States geopolitical and military superiority.

The Swiss-American psychiatrist Elisabeth Kubler-Ross identified five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance). Her model was in the context of someone being advised as having a terminal illness, but it is applicable in the geopolitical context as well.

The initial United States reaction to President Putin’s speech of 1 March 2018 when he outlined the abyss between the United States and Russian missile systems was one of denial. Anger quickly followed and then, in classic US fashion, by demands for more money. These new funds would follow the trillions of dollars already wasted on their incredibly corrupt military industrial system whose latest fiscal and technical disasters include the F35 joint strike fighter (also bought by Australia!)

A bipartisan Congressional committee said that the “solution” to the United States’ technological gap with Russia was a 3-5% annual increase in military spending, (which would of course come at the expense of America’s crumbling infrastructure, education and health systems).

The other plan was to develop more scenarios involving the first use of nuclear weapons (Dinucci www.voltairenet.org 13 December 2018). This is itself based on a fundamental delusion that the United States could somehow avoid massive and devastating retaliation should it be so stupid as to attack either Russia or China.

In Australia’s case however, political and military planners seem to have adopted a new stage of Kubler-Ross’s model: ignoring the reality of a radically changed geopolitical space and, by reiterating old clichés and falsehoods about the United States alliance, hoping that the problem will simply disappear.

No such luxury is available. As Martyanov (op cit.) says, “the world can no longer afford a pretentious self aggrandizing and hollow bully which knows not what it does and threatens the world’s stability and peace.”

That is a reality that needs to be grasped by the incoming government. On past performance however that seems a vain hope.

James O’Neill, an Australian-based Barrister at Law and geopolitical analyst.

January 11, 2019 Posted by | Militarism, Timeless or most popular | , | Leave a comment

Australia’s Shameful Gift to Netanyahu

By Jeremy Salt | American Herald Tribune | December 17, 2018

Australia and Israel are white settler states, established violently over the heads of the indigenous people, without the benefit of any treaty arrangement. ‘A land without people for a people without land’ was the Zionist lie. ‘Terra nullius’ was the Australian white settler equivalent.

Australian aboriginal ownership was collective and traditional. Palestinian ownership was collective, traditional and individual but in both cases, the land was stolen. How can the foundations of any state established on stolen land be said to be legal? What will white Australians say if someone comes along and takes ‘their’ country from them? ‘You can’t do this to us’?

The essential differences between Israel and Australia are numbers and hinterland. The land the white settlers called Australia was inhabited in the late 18th century by about half a million people. They had lived in this island continent and its small heart-shaped island off the southern coast, Tasmania, for more than 60,000 years, making the oldest recorded civilizations in the Near East look like newborns. They had their own languages, traditions, art, and oral history, the ‘dreaming,’ which is the most wondrous telling of the experiences of their ancestors.

But they were not numerous. They had no written laws and – most importantly – no modern weaponry. Killed, driven off their land and stricken by the diseases the white settlers brought with them, they were soon decimated. There was no-one to whom they could turn for help, no sympathetic similar civilization living nearby that could spring to their assistance. They were all on their own.

Contrast this with the Palestinians. Their land was also taken from them but they lived according to written laws and contracts which Europeans could understand even if they violated them. They were not sufficiently well-armed to defend themselves against a colonial-settler minority backed by outside governments but they were far more numerous than the settlers, 90 percent of the population in 1920, even after 40 years of Zionist colonization, and still two-thirds of the population at the time of the war of conquest in 1948.

By 2018 the Israeli population stood at 8.4 million, of which number 6.1 million (about 75 percent) is Jewish and mostly Zionist. The Palestinian world population of about 12 million includes about 4.4 million Palestinians living in the West Bank, East Jerusalem or Gaza and about 1.4 million within Israel’s pre-1967 borders. Within a few years, the Palestinian population between the Mediterranean and the River Jordan is expected to surpass the Jewish population.

These numbers aside, as part of an Arab-Islamic civilization with a rich history, the Palestinians also have the support of a vast hinterland. The population of the Arab world stands at about 420 million. The world Muslim population is about 1.8 billion. Corrupt and undemocratic Arab governments may collaborate with Israel but the people are behind the Palestinians, as are Muslims everywhere as well as Christians and those of no particular religious or ideological affiliation who know right from wrong and, as a matter of conscience, must support the Palestinians.

In the face of these demographics, Israel’s continuing war against the Palestinians would seem to be suicidal. Palestine as an issue is not going to go away. In the long term, this is a war Israel cannot win. It holds Palestine by force, not by right, law or morality. All three are on the side of the Palestinians and not on the side of an Israeli state which continues the illegal settlement of their land.

No plan, no UN resolution gave Israel any right to drive the Palestinians from their homes and out of their homeland. No resolution gave the Zionists any sovereign right to Jerusalem. It was a Palestinian city which, after the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, should have remained the property of the Palestinian people, overwhelmingly Muslim and Christian, in their own state or as part of a Syrian state.  Instead, their land and the right to choose their future was taken from them.

Here are some relevant land ownership figures, compiled in 1945 by the British mandatory authorities (one dunam is the equivalent of 1000 sq. meters or about 0.245 of an acre):

Jerusalem district (Hebron, Jerusalem, Ramallah):

Arab ownership – 3,3993,001 dunums.

Jewish ownership – 39, 679 acres.

In the Jerusalem region, the ‘Arabs’ (mainly Palestinian Muslims and Christians) owned 1,326, 571 dunums against 33,401 dunums owned by Jews. In 1946 the UN produced a map showing that 62 percent of the Jerusalem district was ‘Arab’ and only 38 percent Jewish, despite the heavy Zionist settlement.

While the demographics of Jerusalem city showed a Jewish majority, as many incoming Jews preferred to live in cities rather than work on the land, most properties even in West Jerusalem (about 70 percent) were Palestinian-owned in 1948.

Almost all of the east – the old city – was. The fine stone buildings, the walls, the cobbled streets and the arches were designed and built over the centuries by Muslim and Christian Palestinians. They were part of the booty that fell to the Zionists when the city was taken over, first installment 1948 and second 1967, with the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian population continuing until the present day.

In law, all Jerusalem – not just the eastern sector – is an occupied city. It is an Israeli city, Israel’s ‘capital’, only according to the occupier’s law, which in fact is not a law at all but a gross violation of international law.

Yet, with two of the world’s most populous Muslim countries, Indonesia and Malaysia, not far away and objecting loudly, the Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, has announced his government’s recognition of West Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and its recognition of East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital when the time comes. He was speaking in Sydney at the Zionist think tank, the Lowy Institute, started by, and named after, Frank Lowy, a billionaire businessman of Czech origin who, as a member of the Haganah, helped to ethnically cleanse Palestine in the war of 1948 before migrating to another ethnically cleansed country, Australia, in the early 1950s.

Of course, Zionism never had any intention of sharing Palestine, let alone sharing Jerusalem as the capital of two states. Morrison has pledged to recognize East Jerusalem as the capital of a Palestinian state when the time comes. He must know that Israel is determined to make sure the time will never come. Israel, of course, is only partly happy because Australia is only-half recognizing its claim to Jerusalem.

Had the indigenous Australian people been more numerous, had they had the weapons to defend themselves and had they the support of a hinterland willing to support their resistance to white settlement, Australia could well have been driven openly in the direction of Israel or apartheid South Africa.  Israel is now pursuing the same goal that white settler Australia managed to achieve, the reduction of the indigenous population to an insignificant minority, whose rights are covered up with tokenism, as exemplified in the ‘sorry’ movement and the verbal acknowledgment of traditional land ownership at every conference or workshop, at a time rural aboriginal communities are treated with the same neglect as before. Out of sight, out of mind.

Why did Morrison do this? Out of his Christian religious convictions?  (He worships at a Pentecostal church in Sydney, which boasts of its adherents speaking in tongues when being baptized. Morrison has denied ever speaking in tongues himself, even though it would clearly be good practice for anyone planning a political career).

Does Morrison have some idea that the ‘Jewish vote’ will swing the next federal election his way? Did not the Wentworth byelection in 2018, lost by his government, show him that while there is a strong and influential Zionist lobby in Australia, there is no such thing as a Jewish vote, but individual Jewish voters, who may support Israel, but not Netanyahu’s Israel, and might see the Morrison decision as inflammatory and not helpful in the long term to anyone, including Israeli Jews.

Like Israel, Australia began life as a colonial settler state. Its Foreign Minister, H.V. Evatt, played a significant role in imposing Israel on Palestine in 1948. There have been exceptions, but by and large, all Australian governments have given open-ended support to Israel ever since. Their criticisms of its frequently vicious behavior never amount to more than a mild slap on the wrist, delivered for propaganda purposes.

It is no wonder that in Malaysia and Indonesia, Australia is widely regarded as a post-colonial remnant, still dependent on distant countries, first Britain and now the US, and still unable to pluck up the courage to carve out a genuinely independent future.

When Israel refuses to abide by international law, on Jerusalem, on the West Bank, on Gaza, on the occupied Golan Heights, on the return of the Palestinian people to their homeland and on the laws of war, why give Netanyahu the gift of recognizing even the western half of an occupied city as his capital?

Almost everyone writing on Australian politics seems to believe that Morrison will be out of government after the federal elections in 2019. Bill Shorten, an ALP (Australian Labor Party) machine man all his political life, has criticized Morrison over Jerusalem, but is he just playing politics, scoring points, or when he takes over as Prime Minister, will he rescind this unnecessary and provocative decision?

December 19, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | 1 Comment

Australia Announces Moving its Embassy to Jerusalem: Is there any Surprise?

By James ONeill – New Eastern Outlook – 18.12.2018

When the current Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison floated the idea that Australia might move its Israeli embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, it was widely suggested that this was an attempt to curry favour with the relatively large (12%) Jewish population in the electorate where a by-election was being held.

Following the government’s humiliating defeat in an electorate it had held for more than a century, the idea was expected to die. That possibility was reinforced by the widespread criticism that followed the prime minister’s announcement. That criticism was couched almost solely in terms of the damage such a move would do to Australia’s relationships with its near neighbours such as Indonesia.

Supporters of the Prime Minister also argued that moving the embassy to Jerusalem would enhance progress in the “two state solution” to the problem between Israel and the Palestinians.

More recently however, the Australian cabinet has approved the idea that the embassy should be moved, but not immediately. The delay was purportedly on cost grounds, financial cost that is, not reputational.

Almost completely missing from news bulletins and mainstream media analysis are the arguably far more important elements in the Tel Aviv – Jerusalem equation.

The first of these is the legal question. In considering that point, regard has to be had to Australia’s professed support for what it terms “the rules based international order.” That term, while widely used, is never clearly defined. In fact, as the experience of recent decades has conclusively shown, it means a western version of the international rules selectively employed to support an American centred hegemonic order.

The term “international law” is now avoided in political discourse, for the very good reason that the actions of the western powers do not sit well with adherence to international law.

The invasions, occupations, and attacks upon Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Yemen, among others this century alone make the point. In all of these illegal endeavours Australia has been a willing, indeed eager, participant. This is quite apart from Australia’s own violations of, for example, the Convention on Refugees and the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Australian politicians also regard themselves as immune from accountability for participating in illegal wars. Unlike the British and the Dutch for example, there has never been a public inquiry into the lies and illegalities at the base of the Iraq invasion in 2003.

The Australian government has never held a debate on its participation in the Syrian War, even defeating a Green Party motion in 2015 to even debate that decision to join yet another illegal war. What little has been said publically by the relevant Ministers about that war and the reasons for joining it are at best vague and more often untruthful.

It is this disregard for international law that is at the root of the decision to move the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. That decision needs to be put in the context of Australia’s record with regard to the Middle East, and more particularly, as it pertains to the status of Jerusalem and the Palestinian and Syrian territories.

From the inception of the Israeli State, the city of Jerusalem was accorded special status. In the Palestine Partition Resolution 181 of 1947, the United Nations General Assembly resolved that “the city of Jerusalem be established as a corpus separatum under a special international regime and shall be administered by the United Nations.”

That special status has been reaffirmed in every General Assembly or Security Council resolution on the matter from then until as recently as December 2018. It did not take long for Israel to disregard the special status of Jerusalem. A map showing Israeli and Palestinian territory at the time of partition, and a contemporary map show very different situations, as Israel has persistently encroached upon Palestinian territory to establish Jewish only settlements.

The 1948 war commenced this process in a significant way. The 1967 so-called Six Day War reinforced that process, with Israel capturing East Jerusalem from Jordan, the Golan Heights from Syria, and other parts of what was supposed to be the basis for a future Palestinian State.

Completely contrary to international law, Israel has continued to occupy the land it acquired through conquest. Judging by its actions and the statements of successive political leaders, up to and including the current Prime Minister Netanyahu, it has no intention of ever relinquishing its hold on the occupied territories.

In 1980 the Israeli parliament passed a law purporting to extend Israel’s law, jurisdiction and administration in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights. This was again in defiance of international law. UN Security Council Resolution 242 (1967) had unanimously confirmed that Israel should withdraw from territories it occupied in the Six Day War.

Following the passage of the Israeli law in 1980, the UN Security Council by 14:0 (with the United States abstaining) condemned Israel’s non-compliance with previous UNSC resolutions; condemned the attempt to change the status of Jerusalem as a violation of international law and therefore null and void; and demanded that the law be immediately rescinded.

While not specifically approving Israel’s blatant disregard for international law, and UN Security Council and General Assembly resolutions, neither did Australia go out of its way to be critical either.

Politicians in successive governments, either Labor or Liberal, have, with rare exceptions, refrained from criticism of Israel’s actions. If silence implies consent, then from 1947-2018 the overwhelming inference to be drawn is that Australia tacitly at the very least approved Israel’s actions.

In recent years that support has become more overt. In 2014 the government of the then Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced that it had decided to drop the word “occupied” when describing Israel’s settlements in East Jerusalem. The then Attorney General George Brandis said that the word “occupied” was “freighted with pejorative implications which is neither appropriate nor useful.”

To describe that claim as fatuous would be an understatement.

Australia’s tacit approval of Israel’s unlawful actions has now been made explicit. In a series of votes in late November and early December 2018, Australia was one of 6 countries to vote against a General Assembly resolution demanding an end to Israel’s occupation of the occupied territories; voted against a resolution demanding a peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine (along with only seven others); and abstained on a further resolution (along with 13 others) with 2 votes against (Israel and the United States) demanding an end to Israel’s illegal occupation of the Syrian Golan heights.

None of these votes, all of which were carried by overwhelming majorities, were featured in the Australian mainstream media.

The announced decision to move the Australian embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, where it would join only the United States and Guatemala, is therefore not a decision that should be seen in isolation. It simply reflects a long-standing tolerance of Israel’s persistent violation of international law.

As noted above, the Australian government also claims that shifting the embassy will facilitate the “peace process:” aimed at a two state solution. Apart from the United States and Israel, Australia must be the only country in the world to make such a claim.

The “two state solution” has been one of the great fallacies and enduring myths of the modern era. It is doubtful if it was ever more than a vain hope, and what little prospect there may have been in 1948 has been shattered by the repeated actions of successive Israeli governments that Australia supports.

A claim that moving the embassy will facilitate the peace process is on a par with Abbott and Brandis hoping to eliminate the word “occupied” from a discussion of Israeli actions in Palestine and the Syrian Golan Heights.

The conclusion must be that Australia has no serious interest in the resolution of the Israel/Palestine question. By its public statements and voting record in the United Nations there can now be no question that Australia is firmly in the Israeli camp.

Quite how that accords with the oft-repeated claim of a belief in the “rule of law” and support for the legitimate aspirations of an oppressed people is awaiting an explanation. Given the Australian mainstream media’s complicity in ignoring the reality of Israeli’s daily violation of the rights of the Palestinians, and equal complicity in concealing Australia’s actual voting record in the UN on Israel related questions, it may be a long wait.

Both of the major political parties are equally complicit in refusing to address any of these issues in Parliament. Quite why the politicians and the media take the stance they do is a separate question. A further separate question is why the government seems so determined to proceed in the face of expert advice and widespread opposition on a course of action so manifestly at odds with Australia’s national interest, its security, and its professed beliefs.

December 18, 2018 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation | , , , , | 3 Comments