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Russia shouldn’t go ‘tooth for a tooth’ after Facebook bans Russian-linked media – Lavrov

RT | February 19, 2019

Sergey Lavrov says he is opposed to retaliating against foreign media in Russia after the Facebook ban of Russia-linked pages. Moscow should instead focus on upholding the rights of its journalists abroad.

The recent suspension of four Maffick Media Facebook pages after a CNN report on their links to RT is “definitely another example of pressure against Russian media and against free speech,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told media after a meeting with his Slovak counterpart and current chairman of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Miroslav Lajcak.

Lavrov said he had also brought to Lajcak’s attention recent cases of discrimination against Sputnik and RT, including journalists being arbitrarily banned from official events in Spain.

When asked whether Moscow would retaliate against foreign media in Russia, however, Lavrov said he is “firmly against” such measures.

The fact that we still have not done so is not only testimony to our restraint, but also to our strength. We are an open society.

He pointed out that Ukrainian journalists are freely operating in Russia, including those reporting “rather aggressively” on both internal Russian events and Moscow’s relationships with the West.

The authorities responsible for deciding on a response should not employ the “tooth for a tooth” principle, Lavrov said.

“We should focus on maintaining comfortable working conditions for foreign journalists in Russia, while at the same time firmly defending the rights of our journalists abroad,” using the resources of international media rights institutions, the Russian foreign minister said.

During the weekend, CNN reported on the “Russian links” of several Facebook pages hosting political videos with millions of subscribers and over two billion views. Shortly afterwards, Facebook suspended four pages run by Maffick Media, half of which is owned by RT subsidiary Ruptly, and the other by In The Now host Anissa Naouai. No prior warning or explanation had been given for the ban, which Naouai called an act of “blatant censorship.”

February 19, 2019 Posted by | Full Spectrum Dominance, Russophobia | | 1 Comment

Blocked RT-Linked Facebook Accounts Sign of Geopolitical Confrontation

Sputnik – 18.02.2019

Margarita Simonyan, the editor-in-chief of Sputnik and RT, said that Facebook’s suspension of accounts operated by Maffick Media over ties to RT was a sign of “open geopolitical confrontation,” where media platforms are being used as “tools.”

“Obviously, things will be getting only worse. Nobody even tries to believe in any freedom or talk about any freedom. This has already become an open geopolitical confrontation, where media platforms… serve as tools,” Simonyan said.

The editor-in-chief of RT pointed out that Facebook had no complaints about the videos on the suspended pages or their content in general.

“However, since CNN contacted [Facebook] and asked ‘how could you allow these Russians to communicate with our population,’ Facebook removed this account,” Simonyan said.

According to the RT editor-in-chief, CNN acted as “the right hand… of the State Department, NATO and everything linked to that.”

CNN admitted it had been tipped off about Maffick Media’s funding by the Alliance for Securing Democracy, an advocacy group that is part of the German Marshall Fund (GMF) policy research centre. The fund considered an “undesirable organization” under the Russian law, receives some of its funding from the US and German governments, NATO and other organizations. According to CNN, the ASD does not receive financing from the GMF and is supported through private funds and grants, rather than by governments.

Facebook said it would ask the three suspended accounts — Soapbox, Back Then and Waste-Ed — to submit information on their affiliations.

“People connecting with Pages shouldn’t be misled about who’s behind them. Just as we’ve stepped up our enforcement of coordinated inauthentic behaviour and financially motivated spam over the past year, we’ll continue improving so people can get more information about the Pages they follow,” a Facebook spokesperson said in a statement, as quoted by RT.

Moscow considers the blocking of Facebook pages related to RT unacceptable, adding that these authoritarian actions violate the principles of freedom of expression. Moreover, Russia is waiting for a response from “OSCE structures” to these actions, the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

However, the social network has not, until now, required accounts to disclose information about their parent companies. Maffick remarked in its statement that plenty of media outlets supported in part by governments do not post information about their funding on their Facebook pages.

Last week Facebook suspended pages of projects run by Maffick Media, an independent journalistic group that is partly owned by the Ruptly video agency, which is a subsidiary of RT. Facebook did not give Maffick Media any prior warning. According to Maffick’s statement, the social network was “pressured” into doing this by CNN, which ran a story on Maffick Media and its perceived ties to the Kremlin.

February 18, 2019 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , | Leave a comment

US Top General Takes to CNN to Dispute Syria Withdrawal

Sputnik – 15.02.2019

US General Joseph L. Votel, who has presided over stagnant results in America’s wars since being named commander of US Central Command last year, recently publicly disagreed with US President Donald Trump’s decision to pull US troops from Syria.

“It would not have been my military advice at that particular time,” Votel told CNN of the plan to withdraw troops. Of course, the advice of US generals has brought the country 18 years of war with nothing to show for it except the Pentagon’s expanded budget. The United States now spends about 40 percent more on the military per year than it did during the height of the Iraq War in 2005.

“I would not have made that suggestion, frankly,” said Votel, referring to the decision to bring the troops back home to the US — a process that’s evidently ongoing and also a source of mystery. Exits are notoriously dangerous military maneuvers, so the US has kept quiet on the precise number of forces it has maintained across Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

Some analysts have suggested that the military’s consistent refusal over the years to be transparent about troop numbers in the above-mentioned countries has backfired, leaving them with little evidence for their assertions that Trump is killing a critical mission.

The US Constitution, of course, leaves final military decisions up to the president and not the generals, who are subordinate to the office.

Trump has advocated withdrawing US personnel from costly foreign military engagements that lack clear objectives, but his administration has waffled on putting those desires into motion for about two years, variously saying Daesh has been defeated, calling out the need to prevent a Daesh resurgence and combat Iran and plainly admitting that there is nothing in Syria for the US military except “sand and death.”

On Friday, Votel was back on the Pentagon’s message that Daesh is not actually defeated, even though the terrorists’ land holdings have been reduced from the size of Britain to less than a square mile. Daesh “still has leaders, still has fighters, it still has facilitators, it still has resources, so our continued military pressure is necessary to continue to go after that network,” said Votel to CNN, as reported by The Hill.

In any event, achieving the top post in US Central Command (CENTCOM) is often seen as a boon for the careers of military officers. Former CENTCOM chiefs include retired generals David Petraeus and James Mattis, who would go on to become the head of the Central Intelligence Agency and US Secretary of Defense, respectively, after their stints as CENTCOM commanders.

Former UK Ambassador to Syria Peter Ford tells Sputnik not to read too much into Votel’s comments but instead to observe the “continuing efforts of the media and political establishment to undermine Trump,” who has expressed far more anti-interventionist sentiments than his predecessor both during his campaign and while in office.

February 16, 2019 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism | , , , , | 2 Comments

The Real Motive Behind the FBI Plan to Investigate Trump as a Russian Agent

By Gareth Porter | Consortium News | February 13, 2019

The New York Times and CNN led media coverage last month of discussions among senior FBI officials in May 2017 of a possible national security investigation of President Donald Trump himself, on the premise that he may have acted as an agent of Russia.

The episode has potentially profound political fallout, because the Times and CNN stories suggested that Trump may indeed have acted like a Russian agent. The New York Times story on Jan. 11 was headlined, “F.B.I. Opened Inquiry into Whether Trump Was Secretly Working on Behalf of Russia.” CNN followed three days later with: “Transcripts detail how FBI debated whether Trump was ‘following directions’ of Russia.”

By reporting that Russia may have been able to suborn the president of the United States, these stories have added an even more extreme layer to the dominant national political narrative of a serious Russian threat to destroy U.S. democracy. An analysis of the FBI’s idea of Trump as possible Russian agent reveals, moreover, that it is based on a devious concept of “unwitting” service to Russian interests that can be traced back to former CIA director John O. Brennan.

The Proposal That Fell Apart

The FBI discussions that drove these stories could have led to the first known investigation of a U.S. president as a suspected national security risk. It ended only a few days after the deliberations  among the senior FBI officials when on May 19, 2017, the Justice Department chose Robert Mueller, a former FBI director, to be special counsel. That put control over the Trump-Russia investigation into the hands of Mueller rather than the FBI.

Peter Strzok, who led the bureau’s counter-espionage section, was, along with former FBI General Counsel James A. Baker, one of those involved in the May 2017 discussions about investigating Trump. Strzok initially joined Mueller’s team but was fired after a couple of months when text messages that he had written came to light exposing a deep animosity towards Trump that cast doubt over his  impartiality.

The other FBI officials behind the proposed investigation of Trump have also since left the FBI; either fired or retired.

The entirety of what was said at the meetings of five or six senior FBI officials in the immediate aftermath of Trump’s firing of James Comey as FBI director on May 9, 2017, remains a mystery.

Closed-door Testimony

The CNN and Times stories were based on transcripts either obtained or, in the case of the Times, on portions read to it, of private testimony given to the House Judiciary and Government Oversight and Reform committees last October by Baker, one of the participants in the discussions of Trump as a possible Russian agent.

Excerpts of Baker’s testimony published by CNN make it clear that the group spoke about Trump’s policy toward Russia as a basis for a counter-intelligence investigation. Baker said they “discussed as [a] theoretical possibility” that Trump was “acting at the behest of [Russia] and somehow following directions, somehow executing their will.”

Baker went on to explain that this theoretical possibility was only “one extreme” in a range of possibilities discussed and that “the other extreme” was that “the President is completely innocent.”

He thus made it clear that there was no actual evidence for the idea that he was acting on behalf of Russia.

Baker also offered a simpler rationale for such an investigation of Trump: the president’s firing of FBI Director Comey. “Not only would [firing Comey] be an issue of obstructing an investigation,” he said, “but the obstruction itself would hurt our ability to figure what the Russians had done, and that is what would be the threat to national security.”

But the idea that Comey’s firing had triggered the FBI’s discussions had already been refuted by a text message that Strzok, who had been leading the FBI’s probe into the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russians, sent immediately after the firing to Lisa Page, then legal counsel to Andrew McCabe, formerly the bureau’s deputy director who was then acting director.

“We need to open the case we’ve been waiting on now while Andy is acting,” Strzok wrote, referring to McCabe.

As Page later confirmed to congressional investigators, according to the CNN story, Strzok’s message referred to their desire to launch an investigation into possible collusion between Trump and the Russians. Strzok’s message also makes clear he, and others intent on the investigation, were anxious to get McCabe to approve the proposed probe before Trump named someone less sympathetic to the project as the new FBI director.

Why the FBI Wanted to Investigate

The New York Times story argued that the senior FBI officials’ interest in a counter-intelligence investigation of Trump and the Russians sprang from their knowledge of the sensational charges in the opposition research dossier assembled by British ex-spy Christopher Steele (paid for by the DNC and the Clinton campaign) that the Putin government had “tried to obtain influence over Mr. Trump by preparing to blackmail and bribe him.”

But the Times writers must have known that Bruce Ohr, former associate deputy attorney general, had already given McCabe, Page and Strzok information about Steele and his dossier that raised fundamental questions about its reliability.

Ohr’s first contacts at FBI headquarters regarding Steele and his dossier came Aug. 3, 2016, with Page and her boss McCabe. Ohr later met with Strzok.

Ohr said he told them that Steele’s work on the dossier had been financed by the Clinton campaign through the Perkins-Cole law firm. He also told them that Steele, in a July 30, 2016 meeting, told him he was “desperate that Donald Trump not get elected and was passionate about him not being president,” according to Ohr’s contemporaneous notes of the meeting.

So, key figures in the discussion of Trump and Russia in May 2017 knew that Steele was acting out of both political and business motives to come up with sensational material.

Strzok and Page may have started out as true believers in the idea that the Russians were using Trump campaign officials to manipulate Trump administration policy. However, by May 2017, Strzok had evidently concluded that there was no real evidence.

In a text message to Page on May 19, 2017, Strzok said he was reluctant to join the Mueller investigation, because of his “gut sense and concern” that “there’s no big there there.”

Why, then, were Strzok, Page, McCabe and others so determined to launch an investigation of Trump at about the same time in May 2017?

A CNN article about the immediate aftermath of the Comey firing reported that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and senior FBI officials “viewed Trump as a leader who needed to be reined in, according to two sources describing the sentiment of the time.”

That description by anti-Trump law enforcement officials suggests that the proposed counter-intelligence investigation of Trump served as a means to maintain some leverage over his treatment of the FBI in regard to the Russia issue.

That motivation would be consistent with the decision by McCabe on May 15, 2017 – a few days after the discussions in question among the senior FBI officials – to resume the bureau’s relationship with Steele.

The FBI had hired Steele as a paid source when it had earlier launched its investigation of Trump campaign official’s contacts with Russians in July 2016. But it had suspended and then terminated the relationship over Steele’s unauthorized disclosure of the investigation to David Corn of Mother Jones magazine in October 2016. So, the decision to resume the relationship with Steele suggests that the group behind the new investigation were thinking of seizing an opportunity to take off the gloves against Trump.

The ‘Unwitting Collaboration’ Ploy

The discussion by senior FBI officials of a counter-intelligence investigation of Trump has become part of the political struggle over Trump mainly because of the stories in the Times and CNN.

The role of the authors of those stories illustrates how corporate journalists casually embraced the ultimate conspiracy theory – that the president of the United States was acting as a Russian stooge.

The reporters of the CNN story — Jeremy Herb, Pamela Brown and Laura Jarrett — wrote that the FBI officials were “trying to understand why [Trump] was acting in ways that seemed to benefit Russia.”

The New York Times story was more explicit. Co-authors Adam Goldman, Michael S. Schmidt and Nicholas Fandos wrote that the FBI officials “sought to determine whether Mr. Trump was knowingly working for Russia or had unwittingly fallen under Moscow’s influence.”

The same day the Times story was published, the lead author on the piece, Adam Goldman, was interviewed by CNN. Goldman referred to Trump’s interview with NBC’sLester Holt in the days after the Comey firing as something that supposedly pushed the FBI officials over the edge. Goldman declared, “The FBI is watching him say this, and they say he’s telling us why he did this. He did it on behalf of Russia.”

But Trump said nothing of kind. What he actually said — as the Times itself quoted Trump, from the NBCinterview —was: “[W]hen I decided just to do it, I said to myself – I said, you know this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.” The Times article continued: “Mr. Trump’s aides have said that a fuller examination of his comments demonstrates that he did not fire Mr. Comey to end the Russia inquiry. ‘I might even lengthen out the investigation, but I have to do the right thing for the American people,” Mr. Trump added. ‘He’s the wrong man for that position.’”

Goldman was evidently trying to sell the idea of Trump as a suspected agent of Russia.

Goldman also gave an interview to The New Yorker’s Isaac Chotiner, in which the interviewer pressed him on the weakest point of the Trump-as-Russian-agent theory. “What would that look like if the President was an unwitting agent of a foreign power?” asked Chotiner.

The Times correspondent, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of the alleged Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election, responded: “It is hard to say what that would look like.” Goldman then reiterated the concept. “People were very careful to tell me that: ‘It is wittingly or unwittingly.’” And in answer to a follow-up question, Goldman referred to evidence he suggested might be held by the FBI that “perhaps suggests that the President himself may be acting as a foreign agent, either wittingly or unwittingly….”

The idea that American citizens were somehow at risk of being led by an agent of the Russian government “wittingly or unwittingly” did not appear spontaneously. It had been pushed aggressively by former CIA Director John O. Brennan both during and after his role in pressing for the original investigation.

When Brennan testified before the House Intelligence Committee in May 2017, he was asked whether he had intelligence indicating that anyone in the Trump campaign was “colluding with Moscow.” Instead of answering the question directly, Brennan said he knew from past experience that “the Russians try to suborn individuals, and they try get them to act on their behalf either wittingly or unwittingly.” And he recalled that he had left the government with “unresolved questions” about whether the Russians had been successful in doing so in regard to unidentified individuals in the case of the 2016 elections.

Brennan’s notion of “unwitting collaboration” with Russian subversion is illogical. Although a political actor might accidentally reveal information to a foreign government that is valuable, real “collaboration” must be mutually agreeable. A policy position or action that may benefit a foreign government, but is also in the interest of one’s own government, does not constitute “unwitting collaboration.”

The real purpose of that concept is to confer on national security officials and their media allies the power to cast suspicion on individuals on the basis of undesirable policy views of Russia rather than on any evidence of actual collaboration with the Russian government.

The “witting or unwitting” ploy has its origins in the unsavory history of extreme right-wing anti-communism during the Cold War. For example, when the House Un-American Activities Committee was at its height in 1956, Chairman Francis E. Walter declared that “people who are not actually Communist Party members are witting or unwitting servants of the Communist cause.”

The same logic – without explicit reference to the phrase — has been used to impugn the independence and loyalty of people who have contacts with Russia.

It has also been used to portray some independent media as part of a supposedly all-powerful Russian media system.

The revelation that it was turned against a sitting president, however briefly, is a warning signal that national security bureaucrats and their media allies are now moving more aggressively to delegitimize any opposition to the new Cold War.

Gareth Porter is an independent investigative journalist and historian writing on U.S. national security policy. His latest book, “Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare,” was published in 2014. Follow him on Twitter: @GarethPorter.

February 14, 2019 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Democrats are the McCarthyites

By Margaret Kimberley | Black Agenda Report | February 6, 2019

The unceasing torrent of Russiagate lies turns Democrats into war hawks and causes liberals to spout nonsense that was once consigned to the fringe right wing. It’s worse than the old McCarthyism.

A recent poll indicated that Democrats are more likely than Republicans to hold pro-war views. That revelation is hardly surprising considering the degree to which their party has promoted the trope of Donald Trump as a Russian government asset. This strategy is a focal point for them and a weapon to be used against the Republicans instead of the political opposition their voters need.

The ongoing investigation popularly known as Russiagate is a cynical hoax perpetrated by the Democratic Party leadership and their friends in corporate media. Russiagate distracts the public from taking a hard look at the Democratic Party corruption and resulting missteps that put Donald Trump in the White House. It also serves the interests of the bi-partisan surveillance state, which feared that Trump pronouncements indicated fundamental changes in foreign policy which they could not abide.

These allegations have Trump on the ropes, but mostly because of the relentless repetition of lies about the investigation. The litany of indictments paraded by the media involve crimes like tax fraud and payments to porn stars. None of the indictments point to collusion between the Russian government and the Trump campaign. Because no such connections have been made the media continue whipping up hysteria in an effort to keep the tale alive. The campaign is more shrill than ever because the hollowness of the case is clear to anyone who is really paying attention.

Comparisons have been made with McCarthyite “Red Scare” of the 1950s. But it can be argued that Russiagate is even worse. Bizarre assertions that were once consigned to the fringe right wing are now repeated on a daily basis by influential corporate media personalities and nearly all Democratic Party politicians.

The most prolific Russiagate practitioner is Rachel Maddow of MSNBC. She has ridden that horse so successfully that she now has the highest rated program on cable news. But she may have reached a moment which prompted the famous question asked at the army/McCarthy hearings. “At long last have you no sense of decency?”

Her assertion that Russia might be able to hack into the power grid and freeze Americans to death is quite dangerous . “What would you do if you lost heat indefinitely as the act of a foreign power on the same day that the temperature in your front yard matched the temperature in Antarctica? I mean, what would you and your family do?” It doesn’t matter that experts declared that the claim was highly improbable if not impossible. There is now no depth that cannot be reached in the effort to bamboozle Democrats and keep them stupid and needlessly fearful.

Prestigious newspapers like the New York Times are equally guilty of passing off lies as the truth. The Times reported that Trump and his associates had more than 100 interactions with Russians before inauguration day in 2017. But the story falls apart on even cursory inspection. The Times includes unproven claims of contacts with Wikileaks when it isn’t even a Russian organization. Roger Stone is the latest to be indicted because of his own stupidity, having claimed contacts with Wikileaks that never even took place.

But even as the case for collusion falls apart, the McCarthyite media find new ways to keep the narrative running. Russian press coverage of Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard’s presidential campaign is called a “campaign of support” for her candidacy. NBC called Russian reporting the “propaganda machine.” The real issue is that Gabbard dares to question U.S. foreign policy dictates. She met with Syrian president Assad and opposes the coup attempt against Venezuela. But stopping such heretical acts from taking place is a central feature of the Russiagate scare.

So insane is the conspiracy mongering that clear damage to Russian government aspirations are called “wins for Putin.” The Trump administration’s unilateral withdrawal from the 30-year old INF missile treaty is not something that Vladimir Putin would ever want. The decades long effort to limit nuclear proliferation gives both countries security knowing that the other is restricted in the number and placements of nuclear weapons. Yet this very obvious reality is now turned on its head, and truth is twisted and disappeared.

The worst possible outcome of Russiagate is that it increases the likelihood of armed conflict between the United States and Russia. The same people who see MSNBC, CNN and national newspapers as divine oracles can be led to support any government act, no matter how dangerous it may be. Liberals who might once have opposed a hot war would now be the first to support it.

The Russiagate pimps are stoking fear and hatred. They spread outright lies and ignorance and they are doing so because of base motives. The Democratic Party rank and file ought to be demanding answers about the 2016 defeat and the previous loss of 900 legislative seats around the country. But they have been so badly misled that they don’t know that they should be asking anything at all. Even people who call themselves progressives are worshipping prosecutorial excess from the Robert Mueller investigation team and applauding surveillance state killers bloviating on cable news programs.

McCarthyism is back and it is being led by liberals. The entire world is endangered because of their leaders’ lies and cover ups and their determination to follow blindly. The outcome will be continued political defeat at home and an increased likelihood of what was once unimaginable, war between two nuclear powers.

Margaret Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgendaReport.com.

February 6, 2019 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Progressive Hypocrite, Russophobia | , , , , | 1 Comment

Weapons ending up with terrorists is OK, as long as Obama did it: The world according to CNN

RT | February 5, 2019

A “bombshell” CNN report has revealed that US-made weapons found their way to Al-Qaeda-linked fighters in Yemen. But is anyone surprised? And where was CNN when the Obama administration armed hardcore jihadists in Syria?

The CNN investigation revealed how American-made weapons ended up in the hands of “al Qaeda-linked fighters, hardline Salafi militias, and other factions waging war in Yemen,” vis-a-vis the US’ coalition partners Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Some of these weapons have also been seized by Iranian-backed militias, CNN claims.

The hardware, referred to as “Beautiful military equipment” by President Trump, was supplied to Saudi Arabia and the UAE, who have backed the embattled Yemeni government in its three-year civil war against Houthi rebels. However, CNN claims that Saudi Arabia and the UAE have funnelled the arms to pro-government factions, including the islamist Giants Brigade and the Al-Qaeda-linked Abu Abbas brigade.

The shifting frontlines in Yemen ensured that many of these weapons – including wire-guided TOW missiles and mine-resistant armored vehicles (MRAPs) – ended up seized by Houthi militants and Iranian proxy forces. More American weapons still ended up for sale in Yemen’s teeming arms bazaars, where they fetch a higher price than the rusted AK-47s more common to the region.

CNN lays responsibility squarely at the feet of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and the Trump administration, which refused to cancel its multibillion dollar arms deals with the Saudis last year, for fear of losing “all of that investment being made into our country.”

The report paints a depressing, but familiar picture. Picking sides in foreign wars has historically proven disastrous for the United States, yet successive administrations have made the same mistakes again and again. The Reagan administration armed Saddam Hussein in his war with Iran, going as far as arranging the sale of anthrax to the Iraqi leader. Both Jimmy Сarter and Ronald Reagan propped up the Afghan mujahideen in their fight against the Soviets in the 1980s. In both cases, US forces would be shot at with the same weapons just two decades later.

Covering for Obama

More recently, in 2014 Barack Obama announced that the US would hand-select and arm ‘moderate rebels’ in Syria, stepping into the country’s bloody civil war. That too would prove disastrous, with troves of US arms ending up in the hands of Al-Nusra and ISIS.

But where was CNN when Obama asked Congress for $500 million to train, arm, and “empower the moderate Syrian opposition?”

CNN was reporting the news verbatim from Obama’s mouth, repeating the phrase “moderate rebels” without the ironic quotation marks that have become necessary since. Obama’s assertion that the rebels offered the “best alternative to terrorists and a brutal dictator” was not questioned, unlike Trump’s continuation of the longstanding US policy of arming the Saudis.

Obama called for funding in June 2014, but Syrian militias had already received support from the CIA for two years at that stage. CNN’s reporting on the covert arms pipeline was scant, didn’t question the credentials of the recipients, and mostly repeated the line of US intelligence officials: “That is something we are not going to dispute, but we are not going to publicly speak to it.”

Few questions were asked as Congress authorized the military support that September, and none were asked a year later as Obama resupplied his chosen rebels in Syria. Instead, Obama’s declaration of support for “the moderate Syrian opposition” was taken at face value and left unquestioned.

The reality in Syria

As CNN repeated the White House line on Syria, the network published just one report hinting that things might be amiss: an investigation by Amnesty International that found Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) militants were armed to the teeth with US-made weapons. The weapons were acquired by IS from local forces armed by the Obama administration, and then used to “relentlessly” target civilians with “small arms, artillery fire and huge quantities of improvised explosive devices.”

While CNN was assuaging the public, the situation on the ground in Syria was anything but moderate. US arms were quickly sold on the black market by ‘moderate rebels’ who either retired from the fight or wanted to turn a quick buck. With morale low, some of these fighters literally handed their weapons to Al-Nusra jihadists in exchange for safe passage away from the frontlines, while more were stolen by the Islamists.

Moreover, one Al-Nusra commander codenamed Abu Al Ezz told the German Koelner Stadt-Anzeiger newspaper that his group, and not so-called ‘moderate rebels’, received TOW missiles directly from the US. “The missiles were given to us directly,” he said, adding: “The Americans are on our side.” The commander went on to detail how his fighters had received training from US instructors, and financial support from Saudi Arabia and Israel for capturing specific objectives in Syria.

The Trump administration ended the arms supply program to the Syrian rebels in 2017, a decision that CNN called“a big win for Russia.” The idea that ending material support for terrorists might just be a good thing was not raised, and CNN described the program as “a lifeline” to anti-government forces.

CNN even stuck by its straight-faced use of the term ‘moderate rebels’, despite multiple other news outlets publishing reports of US weapons falling into terrorist hands.

Two months before the 2016 election, CNN absolved Obama of all his sins in Syria by publishing an interview in which the then-president said the situation there “haunts” him constantly. The network blamed external factors for the deteriorating situation in Syria, and ended with a quote from Obama’s press secretary, who said that every one of the former president’s decisions “was squarely within the national security interest of the United States and even advanced our national security interests.”

CNN’s latest exclusive report is a well-researched piece of journalism, fleshed out with on-the-ground reporting from war-torn Yemen. However, given the network’s history in reporting US arms programs, it was much more likely motivated by a desire to score points against Trump than the pursuit of cold truth, no matter who is in charge.

February 5, 2019 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Regime Change In Venezuela: Army Defectors, Russian Mercenaries And Disappearing Gold

South Front | January 31, 2019

Over the past few days, the intensity of anti-government protests in Venezuela has declined despite attempts of the US-led bloc to warm them up through both public and clandestine measures. However, the conflict continues to develop amid the acute standoff in the media sphere between the Maduro government and its opponents backed by the US-led bloc.

On January 29, CNN released an interview with two “Venezuelan army defectors” who appealed to US President Donald Trump to arm them to defend “freedom” in Venezuela. They claimed to be in contact with hundreds of willing defectors via WhatsApp groups and called on Venezuelan soldiers to revolt against the government of President Nicolas Maduro.

“As Venezuelan soldiers, we are making a request to the US to support us, in logistical terms, with communication, with weapons, so we can realize Venezuelan freedom,” one of the alleged defectors, Guillen Martinez, told CNN. Another one, Hidalgo Azuaje, added: “We’re not saying that we need only US support, but also Brazil, Colombia, Peru, all brother countries, that are against this dictatorship.”

During the entire clip, these persons were presented in a manner alleging that they had just recently defected and are now calling on others to follow their step. However, therein lies the problem. The badges on their uniform say FAN – Fuerza Armada Nacionales. This is an outdated pattern, which has been dropped. Now, Venezuela’s service members have a different badge – FANB, which means Fuerza Armada Nacional Bolivariana. So, either the “Venezuelan army defectors” somehow lost the letter B from their uniform, or the entire interview is a staged show involving former Venezuelan service members, who have been living for a long time outside the country, or in the worst case – actors.

The interview came amid increasing US political, media and sanction pressure on the Maduro government. White House National Security Adviser John Bolton was even spotted with a mysterious note about the deployment of 5,000 US troops to Colombia, the US ally which borders Venezuela. In this situation, a large-scale military uprising or at least formation of some opposition within the army would become a useful tool in a wider effort to overthrow the country’s government. On the other hand, the use of such CNN-styled content shows that so far the US and its proxies have achieved little success in buying the support of Venezuelan service members.

On January 29, Venezuelan lawmaker Jose Guerra claimed via Twitter that a Boeing 777 of Russia’s Nordwind Airlines landed in Caracas on January 28 to spirit away 20 tons of gold bars, worth some $840 million, from the country’s central bank. When asked how he knew this, Guerra provided no evidence. By January 30, these items of breaking news had rocked the headlines of most of the mainstream media.

Another version, which was also quite popular among pro-opposition media, is that the plane, which reportedly made the trip directly from Moscow, moved in a group of Russian private military contractors to support the Maduro government. This version is fueled by reports claiming up to 400 Kremlin-linked private military contractors may have arrived in Venezuela.

The developing crisis is also accompanied by the growth of citizen journalism. Bellingcat members already created a Twitter page named “In Venezuela”, which provides field news about the crisis from Toronto, Canada. It’s easy to expect some “open source intelligence investigations” revealing crimes of the Maduro government against peaceful protesters very soon if the conflict escalates further.

Roughly speaking, the mainstream media presents the audience with the following story: The Maduro government is about to fall and is already moving the country’s gold reserves somewhere via Russian planes. At the same time, Vladimir Putin sent his mercenaries to rescue Maduro and to keep the corrupt regime in power in order to secure Russia’s economic and political interests. This, as well as the oppressive nature of the regime, are the only reason why the forces of good have not yet achieved victory.

Fortunately, there is the shining knight of democracy, Juan Guaido, who was democratically appointed as the Interim President of Venezuela from Washington. He, his Free Venezuelan Army consisting of hundreds of WhatsApp defectors and a group of unbiased US/NATO-funded citizen journalists and investigators are ready to stand against the Maduro-Putin alliance and to defend freedom and democracy in Venezuela… with a bit of help from the Trump administration for sure.

There are no doubts that modern Venezuela is allied with Russia and Moscow will employ its existing influence to resolve the crisis and thus defend its investments and oil assets. Furthermore, Maduro and his supporters showed that they are not going to give in to the US-led pressure. At the same time, The level of MSM hysteria, including an open disinformation campaign against the Maduro government and attempts to demonize it through various means, including its ties with Moscow, show that the Washington establishment is serious in its regime change efforts and may even be ready to instigate a Syria-style “proxy war” in the country in order to achieve own goals.

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

CNN Goes ‘Undercover’ To Manufacture Consent For Coup Attempt In Venezuela

By Kevin Gosztola | ShadowProof | January 29, 2019

A CNN “exclusive” report from inside Venezuela aired multiple times on the network on January 28. It is a prime example of how influential media outlets in the U.S. effectively create propaganda for the opposition, which now is receiving funds from President Donald Trump’s administration.

For the four-minute report, CNN correspondent Nick Paton Walsh went “undercover” amidst what the network described as the “deepening crisis in Venezuela” in order “to capture the desperation gripping the nation.”

The segment highlighted hyperinflation at grocery chains, Venezuelans lined up in queues for fuel and food, particularly in Caracas, and opposition demonstrations on January 23, when opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself president of the country.

“This was the day when change was meant to come,” Walsh stated.

It suggested President Nicolas Maduro’s government has given “handouts” to Venezuelans for years to buy their loyalty, but now “handouts” are no longer enough. Opponents like to equate social programs to “handouts” because corporate elites favor de-nationalization and privatization of services.

Walsh interviewed a rank-and-file officer in the Venezuela military and granted him anonymity. The officer stated, “I would say 80 percent of soldiers are against the government. Some even go to demonstrations. But the big fishes, the senior officers, are the ones eating, getting rich while the bottom we have it hard.”

Video showed the opposition throwing stones at a military airfield in a standoff that apparently has lasted “for months.” One part of the barricade was on fire.

Sitting with his back against what appeared to be a concrete barricade, like he was part of the opposition hurling objects, Walsh declared, “They may be throwing stones here, but what they really need is the army to switch sides.”

Walsh offered no comment on what it would mean for democracy in Venezuela if the military played an instrumental role in helping Guaido and a U.S.-led group of countries oust Maduro.

Another part of the report featured street children in Caracas. A 14 year-old boy recounted how his brother was killed in July by a member of a gang. He said he has to go through the garbage for food and beg so he does not go hungry.

Walsh did not show a cause-and-effect relationship, yet the boy’s poverty was wryly attributed to a “socialist utopia that now leaves nearly every stomach empty.”

On the surface, the report may have seemed balanced and neutral because CNN spoke to citizens caught in the middle of the political crisis. Yet, there was no clips of the tens of thousands of Maduro supporters who marched through Caracas the same day that Guaido claimed he was the country’s interim president.

CNN also omitted the role of U.S. sanctions and other measures in making Venezuela’s economic recovery nearly impossible.

According to Mark Weisbrot, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), sanctions did not create hyperinflation in the country. However, they have made it incredibly difficult for the government to restructure their debt for a recovery.

In 2017, weeks before the Trump administration imposed new sanctions, a former top State Department official predicted they would cause the government to “default on their bonds and a collapse of internal investment and oil production.” They would spur “civil unrest, refugee flows across their borders, and a cutoff of Venezuelan financial support to Cuba and Haiti that could lead to migration flows to the United States.” (Note: It was estimated in June 2018 that about 35,000 refugees were crossing from Venezuela to Colombia each day.)

The same day that CNN aired their report the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned the country’s state-owned oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PdVSA). The company is a “primary source of Venezuela’s income and foreign currency,” including U.S. dollars and Euros, according to the Department.

National security adviser John Bolton said the sanctions would block $7 billion in assets and result in the loss of $11 billion in proceeds from exports over the next year.

Even after the Trump administration announced oil sanctions, CNN still largely ignored the potential effect of sanctions when it aired this “undercover” report another time.

Oil sanctions are likely to intensify the suffering for Venezuelans, not make their lives better. In the 1990s, Iraq faced sanctions from the United Nations on their oil exports as well as restrictions on other foreign trade. To many, it was “one of the decade’s great crimes” because the sanctions contributed to the deaths of 500,000 Iraqi children.

In Iran, the poor bear the brunt of sanctions on oil that were re-imposed by the Trump administration. Financial Times reported in October on millions of Iranians, who were already stretched as “the value of the rial” had “plunged more than 70 per cent against the US dollar over the past year.”

“The sharp drop has pushed up import costs and stoked inflation, eroding purchasing power and leaving the most impoverished struggling to pay for basic goods such as meat, dairy products, and fruit,” FT noted.

As journalist Gregory Shupak previously highlighted for Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting (FAIR), “When Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in November 2017 proposed a meeting with creditors to discuss a restructuring of the country’s public debt, the Trump administration warned U.S. bondholders that attending this meeting could put them in violation of U.S. economic sanctions against Venezuela, which can be punished with 30 years in jail and as much as $10 million dollars in fines for businesses.”

“That same month, the U.S. government added further sanctions that prevent Venezuela from doing what governments routinely do with much of their debt, which is ‘roll it over’ by borrowing again when a bond matures. The sanctions also made it difficult if not impossible for Venezuela to undertake debt restructuring, a process wherein interest and principal payments are postponed and creditors receive new bonds, which the sanctions explicitly prohibit.”

Additionally, Francisco Rodriguez noted for Foreign Policy in 2018, “Ninety-five percent of Venezuela’s export revenue comes from oil sold by the state-owned oil company. Cutting off the government’s access to dollars will leave the economy without the hard currency needed to pay for imports of food and medicine. Starving the Venezuelan economy of its foreign currency earnings risks turning the country’s current humanitarian crisis into a full-blown humanitarian catastrophe.”

This is not the first time that the opposition in Venezuela has destroyed the economy to help it win power. Back in 2002, the same year that President Hugo Chavez faced a coup backed by the U.S. government, his opponents “called for a massive strike in the country’s oil sector.”

“The strike brought oil production to a standstill and caused a double-digit recession in an attempt to get Chavez to resign,” Rodriguez recalled. “This event single-handedly convinced Venezuelans that they could not trust a political movement that was willing to destroy the economy in order to attain power. In a recall referendum held two years later, voters resoundingly backed Chavez.”

None of this history seems to matter to CNN anchors, who subscribe to the Washington bipartisan foreign policy consensus on Venezuela. Nor do they mention that it is not only Maduro’s security forces that commit violence. The opposition was involved in lynchings, burning people alive, and erecting barricades that cause deadly accidents in 2017. Some opposition leaders, including exiles like Lorent Saleh, have ties to neo-fascists.

When CNN anchor Jim Sciutto introduced the report, he mentioned Guaido had again urged the people of Venezuela to “hit the streets to demand new elections” in an effort to oust Maduro. It is easy to see how playing the report after this statement might help gin up sympathy for Guaido’s calls to action.

But apparently there is reason to believe the opposition may have the support of leaders from several Latin American and Western countries but still be struggling to win over the people.

Walsh noted the country is not seeing daily mass street protests. Guaido’s message may be resonating with some of the middle class, but it is not a message that inspires those in the slums, who have their own “poverty-based fight.”

In other words, it is likely that lower classes in Venezuela remain skeptical of the opposition because they fear it will mean inviting outside corporate interests to raid government assets and natural resources so they may enrich themselves. This would potentially lead to cuts or an end to social welfare programs that they utilize to help them survive.

This skepticism toward the opposition among Venezuelans is not something CNN wants to feature in its limited coverage of the attempted coup. But it should be viewed as a key reason to doubt the consensus around support for the opposition, which news networks are working to manufacture.

January 31, 2019 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | Leave a comment

‘Fake news’ is okay if it’s about #RussiaGate: Top 7 fake ‘collusion’ stories the media pushed

RT | January 21, 2019

BuzzFeed’s ‘bombshell’ claim last week that Donald Trump told ex-lawyer Michael Cohen to lie to congress is just the latest in a long line of ‘Russiagate’ stories that have later turned out to be false.

But BuzzFeed’s rubbished article is part of a phenomenon of what could be termed ‘acceptable fake news’ — fake news that gets a pass from the media because it serves a certain narrative. In this case, it furthers the ‘Russiagate’ narrative, which the mainstream media has been pushing breathlessly for two years. Lacking hard proof that Trump ‘colluded’ with Russia to win the 2016 election, they have clung to any shred of fake evidence they can find.

Last week, one astute Twitter user compiled a list of a whopping 42 Russiagate stories which were billed as bombshells but which ended up needing to be retracted or corrected. Here are seven of the most scandalous instances.

1. MSNBC pushed line that WikiLeaks released ‘fake’ Clinton emails

When WikiLeaks published the emails belonging to Hillary Clinton aide John Podesta in 2016, MSNBC sought to actively encourage its viewers to believe the emails were doctored by Russia.

They based that spurious claim on the fact that a fake transcript of a Clinton speech to Goldman Sachs was drifting around Twitter. The fake transcript had not been published by WikiLeaks, however. Rather, it was the creation of a pro-Clinton troll who had intended to trick Trump supporters into believing it was real so he could later embarrass them for their gullibility. MSNBC reporters who used the fake Twitter transcript to tarnish WikiLeaks’ authentic documents never corrected their false claims.

2. WaPo claims Russia ‘hacked’ the Vermont power grid

In one of the most infamous cases of a botched Russia-related story, the Washington Post claimed that Russia had hacked the Vermont power grid. In its zeal to deliver bombshell proof that Russia was attempting to attack the US, the Post reporters didn’t even bother to contact the utility company which could have told them that there had been no hacking or penetration of the power grid at all. The Post admitted later in an editor’s note that the story was fake.

3. CNN fires three journalists over botched story

It’s not often journalists who publish fake Russia-related ‘bombshells’ face real consequences, but last June, three CNN journalists, including the executive editor of a shiny new ‘investigative’ branch had to resign following the retraction of a false story which claimed Congress was investigating a Russian investment fund “with ties” to Trump’s team. The story quoted a single anonymous source and CNN later admitted that its reporters failed to follow “some standard editorial procedures” before publishing it.

4. Oops? CNN gets date on email wrong, causes mass panic

In a rush to prove that the Trump campaign had advance knowledge of and access to hacked DNC emails published by WikiLeaks, CNN (again) got the date of an email wrong. CNN claimed “multiple” sources had told them the email about the documents had been sent to the Trump campaign on September 4, but in reality, it had been sent on September 14 — a day after the WikiLeaks documents were made public — not, as CNN had claimed, nine days before.

5. ABC’s dud on Michael Flynn and ‘contact’ with Russians

Veteran ABC journalist Brian Ross was suspended after reporting last December that Trump had ordered former adviser Michael Flynn to contact Russian officials during the presidential campaign. It turned out, Trump had made this request of Flynn after he had won the election — not an unusual request for someone about to become the president of the US. Ross left ABC for good a while later after a career littered with embarrassing reporting blunders.

6. Russian supersonic tech or…crickets?

MSNBC reported last year that Russia was likely responsible for a supersonic attack on US diplomats stationed in the Cuba embassy. One ‘expert’ appeared on the channel stating that possible Russian “sophisticated microwaves” targeted the diplomats, while a reporter claimed Russian guilt had been “backed up” by interceptions of Russian communications. Meanwhile, intelligence sources told the New Yorker that no such evidence existed. When the Associated Press later released an audio recording, two US scientists deciphered that the sounds the diplomats had heard were more than likely the sounds of a species of Caribbean crickets during mating season.

7. Guardian claims Manafort had ‘secret meetings’ with Assange

WikiLeaks raised more than $55,000 in donations to sue the Guardian after the British newspaper published a story alleging (without corroborated evidence) that Julian Assange had held secret meetings with former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort at the Ecuadorean embassy in London, where Assange has been living since 2012. The story which WikiLeaks claims is completely false — and which has also been questioned by other journalists — was written by Luke Harding, a Guardian reporter who has been accused before of fabricating stories and who went AWOL after the report was received with serious skepticism.

Unfortunately, the regularity with which these Russiagate stories have turned out to fake still hasn’t raised any red flags with establishment journalists, who seem more eager to bolster a narrative than to uncover actual facts.

January 21, 2019 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , , | Leave a comment

Marie Colvin, Homs and Media Falsehoods about Syria

By Rick Sterling | Dissident Voice | January 20, 2019

Introduction

In April 2014 I was part of an international delegation which visited Syria for five days. The delegates came from many different countries. Among the notables were the Irish Nobel Laureate Mairead Maguire, a Syrian-British heart surgeon and Julian Assange’s father. We spent time in Damascus, then traveled by bus to Latakia and then Homs. In each city we had meetings with political, religious and social leaders but also had time to wander about and talk with people on the streets.

In Latakia, I met Lilly Martin, an American woman who married a Syrian and has lived there, raising a family for the past twenty-five years. She told me how wrong the western media coverage was. Contrary to media claims, she said protests in Latakia were violent from the start. After the first outbreak of violence, Syrian police and military were ordered to not carry weapons. Protesters continued to burn and destroy government offices with incidents of knifing and shooting unarmed police.

Peaceful Homs Street (Photo:  Rick Sterling)

When we visited Homs I was struck by how normal it looked. The streets were full of people and the city looked fine. It was dramatically different than the images portrayed in western media. It was only when we were driving out of Homs that we passed an area where there was widespread destruction and battle damage. There was a sharp contrast between most of the city and the few neighborhoods where battle had raged.

Homs (Photo: Rick Sterling)

The American journalist Marie Colvin died in February 2012 in one of those neighborhoods. It was called Baba Amr. Ten days after her death, the militants and remaining civilians had all departed Baba Amr. It’s unfortunate that Marie Colvin did not talk with Lilly Martin or visit the majority of Homs where the war was not raging. It could have provided much needed balance to her perspective.

Marie Colvin and Homs

According to many of her colleagues, Marie Colvin was charming and courageous, ambitious and fun to be with. She had a knack for including personal details, descriptions and emotions that engaged the reader. Unfortunately, Colvin’s reports and interviews from Syria were inaccurate and a huge distortion of the situation.

It is useful to examine Colvin’s reporting now, seven years later, because there is a wave of new articles, books and movies about her and how she died in Syria.

Colvin and photographer Paul Conroy were smuggled into Syria from Lebanon in February 2012. They spent some days in the town of Al Buwaydah and then were taken into the city of Homs using a drainage culvert to avoid Syrian Army checkpoints. Their guides and minders for the trip were from the Farouq Battalion associated with the Free Syrian Army (FSA).

Beginning in the Fall 2011, militants from the Farouq Battalion set up checkpoints, killed security and soldiers and gradually took control of the Homs neighborhood called Baba Amr. They called it a “liberated zone”. By the time Marie Colvin and other journalists arrived, most of the civilians had fled the fighting to stay with friends and family in other parts of the city.

Colvin and Conroy spent a few days in Baba Amr but then left through the tunnel when it was rumored that Syrian forces were going to attack. After learning that the attack did not take place, the journalists made the difficult journey back into Baba Amr. The second morning after returning, Marie Colvin and French photographer Remi Olchik died as the Syrian forces launched mortar and missile attacks.

Biased and Inaccurate Reporting from Syria

Marie Colvin’s reports and interviews from Syria were broadcast widely in the UK and USA. She wrote an article titled “A vet is only hope for Syrian wounded“. The article begins “Wounded civilians arriving at a makeshift clinic in the Syrian city of Homs are relying on a vet to save their lives because there is no doctor to treat them.” As documented in Conroy’s book, they were not in Homs; they were in the town Buwaydah when they observed a vet working as a medic. Actually, there were hundreds of doctors performing medical duties and treating civilians and soldiers injured in the conflict in Homs.

Colvin’s major story for the Sunday Times was titled “Final dispatch from Homs, the battered city“.  It begins  by describing a “widows basement” with 300 “frightened women and children trapped in the horror of Homs”.  The report of 300 women and children is an exaggeration. Another journalist estimated half that number which is likely an exaggeration itself, since the photos and video show fewer than 50 women and children.

Colvin continued her report saying, “The widows’ basement reflects the ordeal of 28,000 men, women and children clinging to existence in Baba Amr.” This is a huge falsehood; there was a tiny fraction of that number of civilians remaining in the neighborhood. Paul Conroy wrote as follows: “It became increasingly unbelievable that there were an estimated 28,000 people still living in Baba Amr. I hadn’t seen a single one.” (page 188, “Under the Wire”)

The night before her death, Marie Colvin did live interviews on BBC, Channel 4 and CNN. The CNN interview began by showing video of a baby dying from a shrapnel wound. CNN believed Marie Colvin was an eye-witness to the baby’s death. Anderson Cooper asked Colvin what it was like to be in the room. Marie Colvin replied that the room was chaotic and the baby’s death heartbreaking. She dramatized the situation by speaking about the baby’s grandmother being a volunteer in the room when the baby arrived. However, Colvin was not in the room at all. Marie Colvin and the media activists were shown the video on a laptop computer by their FSA guide. (page 155, “Under the Wire”).

In her CNN interview Colvin described Baba Amr as “28,000 civilians, men, women and children, hiding, being shelled, defenseless…. There are no military targets here…. So it’s a complete and utter lie that they (Syrian military) are only going after terrorists…. The Syrian Army is simply shelling a city of cold, starving civilians.” In reality, Baba Amr was the primary base for militants of the Farouq Battalion. If there was an “utter lie”, it was pretending that this was primarily a civilian neighborhood.

The Syrian Reality Which Colvin Did Not Report

Like most western coverage of Syria, Colvin’s reporting did not provide important context such as the following:

* How the conflict began in Homs. An eyewitness reported “From the start, the protest movements were not purely peaceful. From the start I saw armed demonstrators marching along in the protests, who began to shoot at the police first. Very often the violence of the security forces has been a reaction to the brutal violence of the armed rebels.”

* How Baba Amr was taken over. In October 2011 militants from the Farouq Battalion set up checkpoints within Baba Amr, attacked and killed Syrian Army soldiers and other security forces, and killed or expelled government supporters. The process was similar to what was documented by a civilian in Aleppo: “Nine days from my window in Aleppo“.

* Attacks on infrastructure. In December 2011, militants blew up the pipeline to Homs’ oil refinery, a major source of oil for the country.

In mid January, an Arab League report documented the results of their investigation. They said:

The Observer Mission witnessed acts of violence being committed against Government forces and civilians that resulted in several deaths and injuries. Examples of these acts include the bombing of a civilian bus, killing eight persons and injuring others, including women and children, and the bombing of a train carrying diesel oil. In another incident in Homs, a police bus was blown up, killing two police officers. A fuel pipeline and some small bridges were also bombed.

Militants in Baba Amr destroyed government tanks and used their own tank to attack government forces.

Abu Sa’eed, Free Syrian Army Unit Commander

On 2 February 2012, FSA militants attacked a government checkpoint, killing ten soldiers and taking another 19 as prisoners. That was evidently the last straw for the government. The next day, February 3, the intense bombardment of Baba Amr began.

Promoting External Intervention

Marie Colvin’s reports from Baba Amr had a political goal of spurring Western intervention. This is made clear in emails to her Sunday Times editor. “It is sickening that the Syrian regime is allowed to keep doing this …. I think again to focus on Baba Amr, 28,000 defenceless under shelling….” (pp 196-197, “Under the Wire”).

Her reports were missing crucial facts, sensationalized the suffering on one side, ignored the suffering on the other side and demonized the government which was the target for overthrow.

Amateur Video Homs

In her interview with CNN, Colvin used the video of the dying little baby to urge western intervention. “That baby probably will move more people to think, ‘What is going on, and why is no one stopping this murder in Homs that is happening every day?”

In her final article for the Sunday Times Colvin says, “In Baba Amr, the Free Syrian Army (FSA)…. have virtually unanimous support from civilians who see them as their defenders.” This claim is highly dubious. The vast majority of civilians had left Baba Amr. All that were left were family members of FSA militants and others who had nowhere to go.

The bias in Marie Colvin’s reports and interviews was not unique. On the contrary, nearly all NATO and Gulf state reporting on Syria has been biased. Stephen Kinzer would later write “The media are misleading the public on Syria.” Patrick Cockburn would later write that “Nearly everything you have read about Syria and Iraq could be wrong“.

How Marie Colvin Died

It is claimed that Marie Colvin was intentionally targeted by the Syrian government. This is unlikely. Her death brought opprobrium on Damascus and helped the militant opposition. A few months after Marie Colvin’s death, a prominent British journalist reported that the same Syrian rebels tried to get him and his team killed. “I’m quite clear the rebels deliberately set us up to be shot by the Syrian Army. Dead journos are bad for Damascus.”

It is also claimed that Syrian intelligence determined the location of Marie Colvin by identifying a satellite phone signal used in her interviews. This is false. Colvin told her editor at the Sunday Times that the Thuraya satellite phones did not work. For her Skype interviews she used the same antenna uplink used night and day by media activists in Baba Amr.

Marie and Remi were working in a battle zone, guided and effectively embedded with armed insurgents. Their deaths were another tragic consequence of the war.

Ten days after Colvin’s death, the militants and remaining civilians withdrew from Baba Amr. There was no massacre, just a street parade and celebration in other parts of Homs.

Syrian Journalists Killed (Photo: Rick Sterling)

The deaths of Marie Colvin and Remi Olchik sparked many tributes and widespread publicity. Largely unknown in the West, hundreds of Syrian journalists have also died in the conflict. In a sense, they are all victims of the proxy war on Syria. In another sense, the equivalence is not fair. The war has been encouraged by some and imposed on others.

Rick Sterling is an investigative journalist who grew up in Canada but currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area of California. He can be reached at rsterling1@gmail.com.

January 20, 2019 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | 1 Comment

MSM Begs For Trust After Buzzfeed Debacle

By Caitlin Johnstone | January 20, 2019

Following what the Washington Post has described as “the highest-profile misstep yet for a news organization during a period of heightened and intense scrutiny of the press,” mass media representatives are now flailing desperately for an argument as to why people should continue to place their trust in mainstream news outlets.

On Thursday Buzzfeed News delivered the latest “bombshell” Russiagate report to fizzle within 24 hours of its publication, a pattern that is now so consistent that I’ve personally made a practice of declining to comment on such stories until a day or two after their release. “BOOM!” tweets were issued by #Resistance pundits on Twitter, “If true this means X, Y and Z” bloviations were made on mass media punditry panels, and for about 20 hours Russiagaters everywhere were riding the high of their lives, giddy with the news that President Trump had committed an impeachable felony by ordering Michael Cohen to lie to Congress about a proposed Trump office tower in Moscow, a proposal which died within weeks and the Kremlin never touched.

There was reason enough already for any reasonable person to refrain from frenzied celebration, including the fact that the story’s two authors, Jason Leopold and Anthony Cormier, were giving the press two very different accounts of the information they’d based it on, with Cormier telling CNN that he had not personally seen the evidence underlying his report and Leopold telling MSNBC that he had. Both Leopold and Cormier, for the record, have already previously suffered a Russiagate faceplant with the clickbait viral story that Russia had financed the 2016 election, burying the fact that it was a Russian election.

Then the entire story came crashing down when Mueller’s office took the extremely rare step of issuing an unequivocal statement that the Buzzfeed story was wrong, writing simply, “BuzzFeed’s description of specific statements to the special counsel’s office, and characterization of documents and testimony obtained by this office, regarding Michael Cohen’s congressional testimony are not accurate.”

According to journalist and economic analyst Doug Henwood, the print New York Times covered the Buzzfeed report on its front page when the story broke, but the report on Mueller’s correction the next day was shoved back to page 11. This appalling journalistic malpractice makes it very funny that NYT’s Wajahat Ali had the gall to tweet, “Unlike the Trump administration, journalists are fact checking and willing to correct the record if the Buzzfeed story is found inaccurate. Not really the actions of a deep state and enemy of the people, right?”

This is the behavior of a media class that is interested in selling narratives, not reporting truth. And yet the mass media talking heads are all telling us today that we must continue to trust them.

“Those trying to tar all media today aren’t interested in improving journalism but protecting themselves,” tweeted NBC’s Chuck Todd. “There’s a lot more accountability in media these days than in our politics. We know we live in a glass house, we hope the folks we cover are as self aware.”

More accountability in media than in politics, Chuck? Really? Accountability to whom? Your advertisers? Your plutocratic owners? Certainly not to the people whose minds you are paid exorbitant sums to influence; there are no public elections for the leadership of the mass media.

“Mueller didn’t do the media any favors tonight, and he did do the president one,” griped the odious Chris Cuomo on CNN. “Because as you saw with Rudy Giuliani and as I’m sure you’ll see with the president himself, this allows them to say ‘You can’t believe it! You can’t believe what you read, you can’t believe what you hear! You can only believe us. Even the Special Counsel says that the media doesn’t get it right.’”

“The larger message that a lot of people are going to take from this story is that the news media are a bunch of leftist liars who are dying to get the president, and they’re willing to lie to do it, and I don’t think that’s true” said Jeffrey Toobin on a CNN panel, adding “I just think this is a bad day for us.”

“It does reinforce bad stereotypes about the news media,” said Brian Stelter on the same CNN panel. “I am desperate as a media reporter to always say to the audience, judge folks individually and judge brands individually. Don’t fall for what these politicians out there want you to do. They want you to think we’re all crooked. We’re not. But Buzzfeed now, now the onus is on Buzzfeed.”

CNN, for the record, has been guilty of an arguably even more embarrassing Russiagate flub than Buzzfeed‘s when they wrongly reported that Donald Trump Jr had had access to WikiLeaks’ DNC email archives prior to their 2016 publication, an error that was hilariously due to to the simple misreading of an email date by multiple people.

The mass media, including pro-Trump mass media like Fox News, absolutely deserves to be distrusted. It has earned that distrust. It had earned that distrust already with its constant promotion of imperialist wars and an oligarch-friendly status quo, and it has earned it even more with its frenzied promotion of a narrative engineered to manufacture consent for a preexisting agenda to shove Russia off the world stage.

The mainstream media absolutely is the enemy of the people; just because Trump says it doesn’t mean it’s not true. The only reason people don’t rise up and use the power of their numbers to force the much-needed changes that need to happen in our world is because they are being propagandized to accept the status quo day in and day out by the mass media’s endless cultural engineering project. They are the reason why wars go unopposed, why third parties never gain traction, why people consent to money hemorrhaging upward to the wealthiest of the wealthy while everyone else struggles to survive. The sooner people wake up from the perverse narrative matrix of the plutocratic media, the better.

January 20, 2019 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | 1 Comment

Russia-gate Evidence, Please

By Ray McGovern | Consortium News | January 15, 2019

For those interested in evidence — or the lack of it— regarding collusion between Russia and the presidential campaign of Donald Trump, we can thank the usual Russia-gate promoters at The New York Times and CNN for inadvertently filling in some gaps in recent days.

Stooping to a new low, Friday’s Times headline screamed: “F.B.I. Opened Inquiry Into Whether Trump Was Secretly Working on Behalf of Russia.” The second paragraph noted that FBI agents “sought to determine whether Mr. Trump was knowingly working for Russia or had unwittingly fallen under Moscow’s influence.”

Trump had been calling for better relations with Russia during his presidential campaign. As journalist Michael Tracy tweeted on Sunday, the Times report made it “not a stretch to say: the FBI criminally investigating Trump on the basis of the ‘national security threat’ he allegedly poses, with the ‘threat’ being his perceived policy preferences re: Russia, could constitute literal criminalization of deviation from foreign policy consensus.”

On Monday night CNN talking heads, like former House Intelligence Committee chair Mike Rogers, were expressing wistful hope that the FBI had more tangible evidence than Trump’s public statements to justify such an investigation. Meanwhile, they would withhold judgment regarding the Bureau’s highly unusual step.

Evidence?

NYT readers had to get down to paragraph 9 to read: “No evidence has emerged publicly that Mr. Trump was secretly in contact with or took direction from Russian government officials.” Four paragraphs later, the Times’ writers noted that, “A vigorous debate has taken shape among former law enforcement officials … over whether FBI investigators overreacted.”

Brennan: “I don’t do evidence.” (White House photo)

That was what Republican Rep. Trey Gowdy was wondering when he grilled former CIA director John Brennan on May 23, 2017 on what evidence he had provided to the FBI to catalyze its investigation of Trump-Russia collusion.

Brennan replied: “I don’t do evidence.”

The best Brennan could do was repeat the substance of a clearly well-rehearsed statement: “I encountered and am aware of information and intelligence that revealed contacts and interactions between Russian officials and U.S. persons involved in the Trump campaign … that required further investigation by the Bureau to determine whether or not U.S. persons were actively conspiring, colluding with Russian officials.”

That was it.

CNN joined the piling on Monday, quoting former FBI General Counsel James Baker in closed-door Congressional testimony to the effect that FBI officials were weighing “whether Trump was acting at the behest of [the Russians] and somehow following directions, somehow executing their will.” The problem is CNN also noted that Lisa Page, counsel to then FBI Acting Director Andrew McCabe, testified that there had been “indecision in the Bureau as to whether there was sufficient predication to open [the investigation].’ “Predication” is another word for evidence.

Within hours of Comey’s firing on May 9, 2017, Page’s boyfriend and a top FBI counterintelligence official, Peter Strzok texted her: “We need to open the case we’ve been waiting on now while Andy [McCabe] is acting [director].” After all, if Trump were bold enough, he could have appointed a new FBI director and who knew what might happen then. When Page appeared before Congress, she was reportedly asked what McCabe meant. She confirmed that his text was related to the Russia investigation into potential collusion.

Comey v. Trump Goes Back to Jan. 6, 2017

The Times and CNN, however unintentionally, have shed light on what ensued after Trump finally fired Comey. Apparently, it finally dawned on Trump that, on Jan. 6, 2017, Comey had treated him to the time-honored initiation-rite-for-presidents-elect — with rubrics designed by former FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.

It seems then-FBI Director James Comey rendered a good impersonation of Hoover that day when he briefed President-elect Trump on the scurrilous “Steele dossier” that the FBI had assembled on Trump. Excerpts from an interview Trump gave to the Times (below) after the firing throw light on what Trump says was at least part of his motivation to dump Comey.

To dramatize the sensitivity of the dossier, Comey asked then-National Intelligence Director James Clapper and the heads of the CIA and NSA to depart the room at the Trump Tower, leaving Comey alone with the President-elect. The Gang of Four had already briefed Trump on the evidence-impoverished “Intelligence Community Assessment.” That “assessment” alleged that Putin himself ordered his minions to help Trump win. The dossier had been leaked to the media, which withheld it but Buzzfeed published it on Jan. 10.?

‘This Russia Thing’

Evidently, it took Trump four months to fully realize he was being played, and that he couldn’t expect the “loyalty” he is said to have asked of Comey. So Trump fired Comey on May 9. Two days later he told NBC’s Lester Holt:

“When I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should’ve won.’”

Comey: Pulled a Hoover on Trump? (Carciature by DonkeyHotey)

The mainstream media and other Russia-gater aficionados immediately seized on “this Russian thing” as proof that Trump was trying to obstruct the investigation of alleged Russian collusion with the Trump campaign. However, in the Holt interview Trump appeared to be reflecting on Comey’s J. Edgar Hoover-style, one-on-one gambit alone in the room with Trump.

Would Comey really do a thing like that? Was the former FBI director protesting too much in his June 2017 testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee when he insisted he’d tried to make it clear to Trump that briefing him on the unverified but scurrilous information in the dossier wasn’t intended to be threatening. It took a few months but it seems Trump figured out what he thought Comey was up to.

Trump to NYT: ‘Leverage’ (aka Blackmail)

In a long Oval Office interview with the Times on July 19, 2017, Trump said he thought Comey was trying to hold the dossier over his head.

“… Look what they did to me with Russia, and it was totally phony stuff. … the dossier … Now, that was totally made-up stuff,” Trump said. “I went there [to Moscow] for one day for the Miss Universe contest, I turned around, I went back. It was so disgraceful. It was so disgraceful.

“When he [James B. Comey] brought it [the dossier] to me, I said this is really made-up junk. I didn’t think about anything. I just thought about, man, this is such a phony deal. … I said, this is — honestly, it was so wrong, and they didn’t know I was just there for a very short period of time. It was so wrong, and I was with groups of people. It was so wrong that I really didn’t, I didn’t think about motive. I didn’t know what to think other than, this is really phony stuff.”

The dossier, paid for by the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign and compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele, relates a tale of Trump allegedly cavorting with prostitutes, who supposedly urinated on each other before the same bed the Obamas had slept in at the Moscow Ritz-Carlton hotel. [On February 6, 2018, The Washington Post reported that that part of the dossier was written Cody Shearer, a long-time Clinton operative and passed it along to Steele. Shearer ignored a request for comment from Consortium News. [Shearer had been a Consortium advisory board member who was asked to resign and left the board.]

Trump told the Times: “I think [Comey] shared it so that I would — because the other three people [Clapper, Brennan, and Rogers] left, and he showed it to me. … So anyway, in my opinion, he shared it so that I would think he had it out there. … As leverage.

“Yeah, I think so. In retrospect. In retrospect. You know, when he wrote me the letter, he said, ‘You have every right to fire me,’ blah blah blah. Right? He said, ‘You have every right to fire me.’ I said, that’s a very strange — you know, over the years, I’ve hired a lot of people, I’ve fired a lot of people. Nobody has ever written me a letter back that you have every right to fire me.”

McGovern lays out more details during a 12-minute interview on Jan. 10 with Tyrel Ventura of “Watching the Hawks.”


Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. A CIA analyst for 27 years and Washington area resident for 56 years, he has been attuned to these machinations. He is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS).

January 15, 2019 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Russophobia | , , , , , | 1 Comment