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Chomsky on Regime Change in Nicaragua

By Roger Harris | CounterPunch | August 3, 2018

With patented angst, Noam Chomsky opined on President Daniel Ortega’s Nicaragua to an agreeing Amy Goodman: “But there’s been a lot of corruption, a lot of repression. It’s autocratic, undoubtedly.”

Earlier in their DemocracyNow! interview, the main talking points were established via a video clip of a dissident former official from Ortega’s Sandinista Party: Ortega’s “entire government has been, in essence, neoliberal. Then it becomes authoritarian, repressive.”

Left out of this view is why the US has targeted Nicaragua for regime change. One would think that a neoliberal regime, especially if it were authoritarian and repressive, would be just the ticket to curry favor with Washington.

In Chomsky’s own words, Nicaragua poses a threat of a good example to the US empire:

Since Ortega’s return election victory in 2006, Nicaragua had achieved the following, according to NSCAG, despite being the second poorest country in the hemisphere:

+ Second highest economic growth rates and most stable economy in Central America.

+ Only country in the region producing 90% of the food it consumes.

+ Poverty and extreme poverty halved; country with the greatest reduction of extreme poverty.

+ Reaching the UN Millennium Development Goal of cutting malnutrition by half.

+ Free basic healthcare and education.

+ Illiteracy virtually eliminated, down from 36% in 2006.

+ Average economic growth of 5.2% for the past 5 years (IMF and the World Bank).

+ Safest country in Central America (UN Development Program) with one of the lowest crime rates in Latin America.

+ Highest level of gender equality in the Americas (World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report 2017).

+ Did not contribute to the migrant exodus to the US, unlike neighboring Honduras, El Salvador, and Guatemala.

+ Unlike its neighbors, kept out the drug cartels and pioneered community policing.

Nicaragua targeted by the US for regime change

Before April 18, Nicaragua was among the most peaceful and stable countries in the region. The otherwise inexplicable violence that has suddenly engulfed Nicaragua should be understood in the context of it being targeted by the US for regime change.

Nicaragua has provoked the ire of the US for the good things its done, not the bad.

Besides being a “threat” of a good example, Nicaragua is in the anti-imperialist ALBA alliance with Venezuela, Bolivia, Cuba, and others. The attack on Nicaragua is part of a larger strategy by the US to tear apart regional alliances of resistance to the Empire, though that is not the whole story.

Nicaragua regularly votes against the US in international forums such as challenging retrograde US policies on climate change. An inter-ocean canal through Nicaragua is being considered, which would contend with the Panama Canal. Russia and China invest in Nicaragua, competing with US capital.

The NICA Act, passed by the US House of Representatives and now before the Senate, would initiate economic warfare designed to attack living conditions in Nicaragua through economic sanctions, as well as intensify US intelligence intervention. The ultimate purpose is to depose the democratically-elected Ortega government.

Meanwhile, USAID announced an additional $1.5 million “to support freedom and democracy in Nicaragua” through non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to overthrow the democratically elected government and “make this truly a hemisphere of freedom.” That is, freedom for the US empire.

Holding Nicaragua to a higher standard than our own government

Although Chomsky echoes the talking points of the USAID administrator Mark Green about “Ortega’s brutal regime,” he can’t quite bring himself to accept responsibility for regime change. Chomsky despairs, “it’s hard to see a simple way out at this point. It’s a very unfortunate situation.”

Chomsky is concerned about corruption, repression, and autocracy in Nicaragua, urging the democratically elected president to step down and run for re-election. Need it be mentioned that Chomsky chastised leftists who did not “absolutely” support Hillary Clinton? It is from this moral ground that the professor looks down on Nicaragua.

These charges of corruption and such are addressed by long-time solidarity activist Chuck Kaufman:

+ The World Bank, IMF, and EU countries have certified Nicaragua for its effective use of international loans and grants; funds were spent for the purposes they were given, not siphoned off into corruption.

+ Kaufman asks, “why a police force that in 39 years had not repressed the Nicaraguan people would suddenly go berserk,” while videos clearly show the violence of the more militant opposition.

+ Ortega won in 2006 with a 38% plurality, in 2011 with 63%, and 72.5% in 2016. The Organization of American States officially accompanied and certified the vote. Kaufman notes, “Dictators don’t win fair elections by growing margins.”

Alternatives to Ortega would be worse

Those who call for Ortega’s removal need to accept responsibility for what comes after. Here the lesson of Libya is instructive, where the replacement of, in Chomsky’s words, the “brutal tyrant” and “cruel dictator” Qaddafi has resulted in a far worse situation for the Libyan people.

Any replacement of Ortega would be more, not less, neoliberal, oppressive, and authoritarian. When the Nicaraguan people, held hostage to the US-backed Contra war, first voted Ortega out of office in 1990, the incoming US-backed Violeta Chamorro government brought neoliberal structural adjustment and a moribund economy.

The dissident Sandinistas who splintered off from the official party after the party’s election defeat and formed the MRS (Sandinista Renovation Movement) are not a progressive alternative. They are now comfortably ensconced in US-funded NGOs, regularly making junkets to Washington to pay homage to the likes of Representative Iliana Ros-Lehtinen and Senator Marco Rubio to lobby in favor of the NICA Act. Nor do they represent a popular force, garnering less than 2% in national elections.

When the MRS left the Sandinista party, they took with them almost all those who were better educated, came from more privileged backgrounds, and who spoke English. These formerly left dissidents, now turned to the right in their hatred of Ortega, have many ties with North American activists, which explains some of the confusion today over Nicaragua.

The world, not just Ortega, has changed since the 1980s when the Soviet Union and its allies served as a counter-vailing force to US bullying. What was possible then is not the same in today’s more constrained international arena.

Class war turned upside down

Kevin Zeese of Popular Resistance aptly characterized the offensive against the democratically elected government of Nicaragua as “a class war turned upside down.” Nicaragua was the most progressive country in Central America with no close rival. Yet some North American left intellectuals are preoccupied with Nicaragua’s shortcomings while not clearly recognizing that it is being attacked by a domestic rightwing in league with the US government.

Noam Chomsky is a leading world left intellectual and should be acclaimed for his contributions. His incisive warning about the US nuclear policy is just one essential example. Nevertheless, he is also indicative of a tendency in the North American left to accept a bit too readily the talking points of imperialist propaganda, regarding the present-day Sandinistas.

There is a disconnect between Chomsky’s urging Nicaraguans to replace Ortega with new elections and his longtime and forceful advocacy against US imperialist depredations of countries like Nicaragua. Such elections in Nicaragua would not only be unconstitutional but would further destabilize a profoundly destabilized situation. Given the unpopularity and disunity of the opposition and the unity and organizational strength of the Sandinistas, Ortega would likely win.

Most important, the key role of Northern American solidarity activists is to end US interference in Nicaragua so that the Nicaraguans can solve their own problems.

The rightwing violence since April in Nicaragua should be understood as a coup attempt. A significant portion of the Nicaraguan people have rallied around their elected government as seen in the massive demonstrations commemorating the Sandinista revolution on July 19.

For now, the rightwing tranques (blockades) have been dismantled and citizens can again freely circulate without being shaken down and threatened. In the aftermath, though, Nicaragua has suffered unacceptable human deaths, massive public property damage, and a wounded economy with the debilitating NICA Act threatening to pass the US Senate.

Roger Harris is on the board of the Task Force on the Americas, a 32-year-old anti-imperialist human rights organization.

August 4, 2018 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Progressive Hypocrite | , , , , , | 1 Comment

NY Times Pours Linguistic Gasoline on North Korea-US Negotiations

By K.J. Noh | Dissident Voice | July 10, 2018

On the heels of the historic June 12 Trump-Kim Singapore Summit that de-escalated tensions between North Korea and the US, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made his third visit to NK to move the negotiations for denuclearization and security on the peninsula forward. He met with his North Korean counterpart, Vice Chair of the Party Central Committee, Kim Young Chol, on July 6 and 7, for intensive negotiations. At the end of the meeting, on leaving Pyongyang, Secretary Pompeo declared that the summit had been conducted in good faith and that he had “made progress on almost all central matters”. Without divulging details, he stated there was more work to be done, which would be continued by working groups on both sides and that a follow up meeting had been scheduled.

The North Korean Foreign Ministry released a more sobering assessment, stating that despite high expectations after the summit they found “regrettable” the US failure to approach the negotiations in a balanced and constructive manner, and critiquing the “opposing winds” that recapitulate the “tired old process” (CVID, disclosure, verification first) that could lead to failure, and that have ignored or misinterpreted their unilateral gestures of good will, forbearance, and their desire for phased, mutual, step-wise measures based on the creation of “objective conditions for trust”.

Clearly, after the euphoria of the Singapore summit, this is a drilling down onto the details on process, timing, specifics, and reciprocity necessary for the successful implementation of the Singapore Summit’s four enumerated commitments: normalization, peace, denuclearization, and repatriation of remains. Clearly there is much to bridge in terms of procedure, protocol, sequencing, as well as a need to overcome mutual distrust and historical antagonism.

The North Korean statement is a quiet but firm dressing down of the Bolton Approach that seems to have been upfront in the recent negotiation, that seeks to rapidly frontload the process with North Korean concessions on disarmament, after which US concessions and security guarantees could be provided. The North points to this “tired old approach” as lacking simultaneity, mutuality, and trust-building measures, and points out it has clearly failed in the past. They peg it—in polite diplomatic language—as the definitionally insane practice of doing the same thing over and over again while expecting different outcomes. They take great pains to point out that Trump’s approach was the promise of a bold, new approach to denuclearization, mutually agreed-upon at the summit, and they hint that “working level groups”, and “oppositional winds” might be working in a way that contravenes what they understand to have been proposed and agreed to by Trump. There is, in the statement, a question to Washington as to whether its charges are faithfully implementing its own stated desires and will, as well as an inquiry as to whether there is congruence and internal alignment (or change of tactics) within the administration. It is also a not-so-subtle hint that if the Bolton faction is ascendant, then the bets are likely to be called off.

It’s important to note here that the North Korean Foreign Ministry statement, while clearly critical and inquiring, is very measured, relative to past statements from the leadership, and there is little overblown rhetoric there. If anything, the language is careful and circuitous, and the recrimination is largely self-directed: they may have been “naïve to the point of foolishness in their hopes and expectations”, and they express their worries of “great disappointment and tragedy”. They critique the “erroneous thinking” that assumes that “our forbearance” will accommodate the “demands based on such a strong-arming mindset” and consider “unhelpful” the “hurriedness that has seized” the US that elides the need for confidence-building measures to overcome “deep-rooted mistrust”. Nevertheless, they mention that they still “faithfully maintain their trust” in Trump and make clear their intentions to continue to denuclearize. They finish with an almost wistful tone: they warn of deep disappointment to the international society and global peace and security, and that there is no guarantee that a tragic outcome will not follow from this one-sided approach.

Trust the New York Times to misrepresent the above statement, the better to pour linguistic gasoline over the still unextinguished of pyres of recent North Korea-US brinksmanship. There’s nothing like headlining a linguistic firebomb to torch any fragile, combustible agreements or relations that might be in the process of negotiation or exploration: “North Korea Criticizes ‘Gangster-Like’ U.S. Attitude After Talks With Mike Pompeo.”

By attributing “Gangster-like” invective to North Korea, the Times refreshes the “irrational, out-of-control, over- the- top, can’t-be-negotiated-with” framing that has prevented, sabotaged and derailed negotiation in the past. It also puts the Trump administration further on the back foot, reprising the illogical trope that the US had demeaned its global standing just by meeting with North Korea, and is now further demeaned by tolerating being insulted by it. Although early media outlets were circumspect in their characterization of the disagreement, focusing appropriately on the disappointment and regret by North Korea in the divergence in the talks from agreed upon approaches in Singapore, after the NY Times published this incendiary headline, the “gangster” trope was then picked up by the BBC, CNN, Bloomberg, even DemocracyNow! and is now the standard media sound bite about the meeting. The administration is now in the awkward position of defending against the NY Times epithet rather than discussing its work for peace and denuclearization.

The phrase the NY Times is referring to in the statement is “강도적인 비핵화요구” . In literal translation, this would be “robber-like”, but in this context would be more accurately translated as “strong arming, or high pressure demands for denuclearization.”1 The North has no problem using strong language in its statements, but this statement hardly conforms to that type. As noted above, it’s a pointed critique of the “cancerous” Bolton approach—tempered with self-criticism and an appeal to faithfully implement the new approaches and attitudes of the Singapore summit. It’s hardly the incendiary firebomb the NY Times would like it to be.

Further reading of the statement clarifies this:

But, if the US, sized by a sense of impatience, tries to enforce on us, the old ways asserted by previous administrations, this will not give us any help in solving the problem.

If the objective conditions conducive to denuclearization in accordance with our wills are not established, then it’s possible that the currents of positive development in developing bilateral relations in the beginning could become confused [turbulent].

Should opposing winds start to blow, this could bring great disappointment to international society that desires peace and security, as well as to the US and NK; and if that happens, then both sides would start to explore other options; there is no guarantee that this would not lead to tragic consequences.

[However] We still faithfully maintain our trust in President Trump.

The US should reflect seriously whether, in opposition to the will of its [own] leaders, permitting these opposing forces (“winds”) meets the aspirations and expectations of the people of the world, and whether it meets the interests of its own county.

This not a minor exegetical divergence. The upfront voicing of a legitimate disagreement with an approach—at the beginning of a long, complex, negotiation fraught with mistrust—and an appeal to return to the agreed-upon spirit and intent of the summit are a far cry from reductively headlining and encapsulating the disagreement to a deal-breaking, incendiary cri-de-coeur of violent criminality and thuggishness. On the contrary, the North Korean position is clear and reasoned:

Dispelling deep-rooted mistrust, and building trust between the DPRK and the U.S.; seeking to resolve the problem in completely new way—by boldly breaking away from past methods and being unconstrained by conventional methods that have only resulted in failure; prioritizing trust-building while solving one-by-one problems that can be solved through a step-by-step process, [based on the] principle of simultaneous [reciprocal] actions: this is the fastest shortcut to denuclearization.

Perhaps the storied NY Times has no one on their large staff capable of rendering a nuanced, contextual interpretation of North Korean statements—even for the most delicate of delicate negotiations. Perhaps this is part of their baked-in, irredeemable, click-baiting journalistic incompetence. But taken in context with a past record of journalistic gangsterism—namely criminally irresponsible lies and misrepresentation agitating for violent wars of aggression—it’s understandable it might jump to see gangsters and gangsterism everywhere.

*****Full Translation of NK Statement (Author’s Translation)7/7/2018 Ministry of Foreign Affairs

조선민주주의인민공화국 외무성 대변인담화

Pyongyang, July 7 (KCNA) – Statement of the Ministry of the Foreign Affairs of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

력사적인 첫 조미수뇌상봉과 회담이 진행된 이후 국제사회의 기대와 관심은 조미수뇌회담 공동성명의 리행을 위한 조미고위급회담에 쏠리였다.

After the first historic summit meeting was held between the DPRK and the U.S., international society has focused its expectation and attention on the high-level DPRK-U.S. talks for the implementation of the Joint Statement of the DPRK-U.S. summit.

우리는 미국측이 조미수뇌상봉과 회담의 정신에 맞게 신뢰조성에 도움이 되는 건설적인 방안을 가지고 오리라고 기대하면서 그에 상응한 그 무엇인가를 해줄 생각도 하고있었다.

We expected that the U.S. side would bring [to the talks] constructive proposals that would help trust-building in accordance with the spirit of the DPRK-U.S. summit meeting.

We, on our part, were also thinking of offering things to match this.

그러나 6일과 7일에 진행된 첫 조미고위급회담에서 나타난 미국측의 태도와 립장은 실로 유감스럽기 그지없는것이였다.

However, the the attitude and position that appeared in the US Side during the first high level talks held on July 6th and 7th was truly regretful.

우리측은 조미수뇌상봉과 회담의 정신과 합의사항을 성실하게 리행할 변함없는 의지로부터 이번 회담에서 공동성명의 모든 조항들의 균형적인 리행을 위한 건설적인 방도들을 제기하였다

Our side, during the talks, put forward constructive proposals in order to seek a balanced implementation of the Joint Statement, out of our firm willingness faithfully implement of the spirit and the agreed-upon provisions of the DPRK-U.S. summit meeting and talks.

조미관계개선을 위한 다방면적인 교류를 실현할데 대한 문제와 조선반도에서의 평화체제구축을 위하여 우선 조선정전협정체결 65돐을 계기로 종전선언을 발표할데 대한 문제,비핵화조치의 일환으로 ICBM의 생산중단을 물리적으로 확증하기 위하여 대출력발동기시험장을 페기하는 문제,미군유골발굴을 위한 실무협상을 조속히 시작할데 대한 문제 등 광범위한 행동조치들을 각기 동시적으로 취하는 문제를 토의할것을 제기하였다.

These included proposing wide-ranging, simultaneous, mutual, proactive steps, such as realizing multilateral exchanges for improved relations between the DPRK and the U.S; making a public declaration to the end of war on the occasion of the 65th anniversary of the signing of the Korean Armistice Agreement, in order to build a peace regime on the Korean Peninsula; as a single element of the denuclearization process, dismantling [our] high thrust jet engine test grounds as concrete proof of the suspension of ICBM production; and making the earliest start on working-level talks for repatriating POW/MIA remains.

회담에 앞서 조선민주주의인민공화국 국무위원회 위원장 김정은동지께서 트럼프대통령에게 보내시는 친서를 위임에 따라 우리측 수석대표인 김영철 당중앙위원회 부위원장이 미국측 수석대표인 폼페오국무장관에게 정중히 전달하였다.

Prior to the talks, Kim Yong Chol, vice-chairman of the Central Committee of the Workers’ Party of Korea, our chief delegate from our side to the talks, was tasked to convey, with due respect, to U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo, a personal letter from the Chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the DPRK, Kim Jong Un to President Trump.

국무위원회 위원장동지께서는 싱가포르수뇌상봉과 회담을 통하여 트럼프대통령과 맺은 훌륭한 친분관계와 대통령에 대한 신뢰의 감정이 이번 고위급회담을 비롯한 앞으로의 대화과정을 통하여 더욱 공고화되리라는 기대와 확신을 표명하시였다.

Chairman Kim Jong Un expressed his hope and conviction that the excellent personal relations and his feelings of trust forged with President Trump at the Singapore summit would be further consolidated through the process of this and other future dialogues.

그러나 미국측은 싱가포르수뇌상봉과 회담의 정신에 배치되게 CVID요,신고요,검증이요 하면서 일방적이고 강도적인 비핵화요구만을 들고나왔다.

But, contrary to the spirit of the [agreed upon provisions of] the Singapore summit, the U.S. side came out only with unilateral and strong-arm demands for denuclearization, that is, calling only for CVID, declaration and verification.

정세악화와 전쟁을 방지하기 위한 기본문제인 조선반도평화체제구축문제에 대하여서는 일절 언급하지 않고 이미 합의된 종전선언문제까지 이러저러한 조건과 구실을 대면서 멀리 뒤로 미루어놓으려는 립장을 취하였다.

The U.S. side never mentioned the issue of establishing a peace regime on the Korean peninsula which is essential for preventing the deterioration of the situation and preventing war. It took the position that it could delay the agreed-upon statement to end the war with sundry conditions and excuses.

종전선언을 하루빨리 발표할데 대한 문제로 말하면 조선반도에서 긴장을 완화하고 공고한 평화보장체제를 구축하기 위한 첫 공정인 동시에 조미사이의 신뢰조성을 위한 선차적인 요소이며 근 70년간 지속되여온 조선반도의 전쟁상태를 종결짓는 력사적과제로서 북남사이의 판문점선언에도 명시된 문제이고 조미수뇌회담에서도 트럼프대통령이 더 열의를 보이였던 문제이다.

The issue of announcing the declaration of the end of war at the earliest possible date, is the [key] priority process [necessary] to defuse tension and establish a lasting peace regime on the Korean peninsula. It is the priority factor in building trust between the DPRK and the U.S. This issue was also stipulated in Panmunjom Declaration as the historical task to terminate the nearly 70-year-old condition of war on the Korean peninsula. President Trump, too, was more enthusiastic about this issue at the DPRK-U.S. summit talks.

미국측이 회담에서 끝까지 고집한 문제들은 과거 이전 행정부들이 고집하다가 대화과정을 다 말아먹고 불신과 전쟁위험만을 증폭시킨 암적존재이다.

The issues the U.S. side insisted on till the very end at the talks are a cancerous [i.e. destructive] entity [position], which previous administrations also had stubbornly insisted on, that sabotaged the dialogue process, and increased distrust and the danger of war.

미국측은 이번 회담에서 합동군사연습을 한두개 일시적으로 취소한것을 큰 양보처럼 광고했지만 총 한자루 페기하지 않고 모든 병력을 종전의 자기 위치에 그대로 두고있는 상태에서 연습이라는 한개 동작만을 일시적으로 중지한것은 언제이건 임의의 순간에 다시 재개될수 있는 극히 가역적인 조치로서 우리가 취한 핵시험장의 불가역적인 폭파페기조치에 비하면 대비조차 할수 없는 문제이다.

The U.S. side, during the talks, made a great publicity about suspension of one or two joint military exercises as a tremendous concession. But the temporary suspension of single exercise-type action is a highly reversible step which can be resumed immediately at any moment as all of its military force remains in its previously positioning, with not a single rifle removed. This is incomparable with the irreversible steps taken by us to explode and dismantle our nuclear testing site.

회담결과는 극히 우려스러운것이라고 하지 않을수 없다.

We cannot but be extremely worried about the outcomes of the talks.

미국측이 조미수뇌상봉과 회담의 정신에 부합되게 건설적인 방안을 가지고 오리라고 생각했던 우리의 기대와 희망은 어리석다고 말할 정도로 순진한것이였다.

One could say we were naïve to the point of foolishness in our expectation and hope that the US would come forth with a constructive proposals in accordance with the spirit of the US-NK summit meeting.

낡은 방식으로는 절대로 새것을 창조할수 없으며 백전백패한 케케묵은 낡은 방식을 답습하면 또 실패밖에 차례질것이 없다.

Tired, old methods can never create new outcomes. Only failure comes from following proven-to-fail, worn out methods.

조미관계력사상 처음으로 되는 싱가포르수뇌회담에서 짧은 시간에 귀중한 합의가 이룩된것도 바로 트럼프대통령자신이 조미관계와 조선반도비핵화문제를 새로운 방식으로 풀어나가자고 하였기때문이다.

Because President Trump himself proposed that US-NK relations and denuclearization of the peninsula be resolved in a new fashion, for the first time in US-NK relations, a valuable agreement was reached in a very short time.

쌍방이 수뇌급에서 합의한 새로운 방식을 실무적인 전문가급에서 줴버리고 낡은 방식에로 되돌아간다면 두 나라 인민의 리익과 세계의 평화와 안전을 위한 새로운 미래를 열어나가려는 수뇌분들의 결단과 의지에 의하여 마련되였던 세기적인 싱가포르수뇌상봉은 무의미해지게 될것이다.

The historic Singapore summit—achieved by the determination and the will of its top leaders to open a new future for the peace and benefit of the whole world—will become pointless, if working-level groups renege on the mutually agreed new approach agreed at the summit, and return to the old methods.

이번 첫 조미고위급회담을 통하여 조미사이의 신뢰는 더 공고화되기는커녕 오히려 확고부동했던 우리의 비핵화의지가 흔들릴수 있는 위험한 국면에 직면하게 되였다.

These first DPRK-U.S. high-level talks, rather than consolidating trust, have brought us face-to-face with a dangerous situation where our unshakable will for denuclearization might waiver.

우리는 지난 몇달동안 할수 있는 선의의 조치들을 먼저 취하면서 최대의 인내심을 가지고 미국을 주시하여왔다.

In the past few months, we exercised maximum forbearance and observed the U.S. while initiating as many goodwill measures as we could.

그러나 미국은 우리의 선의와 인내심을 잘못 리해한것 같다.

But, it seems that the U.S. misunderstood our goodwill and forbearance.

미국은 저들의 강도적심리가 반영된 요구조건들까지도 우리가 인내심으로부터 받아들이리라고 여길 정도로 근본적으로 잘못된 생각을 하고있다.

The U.S. is fundamentally mistaken in its reasoning if it goes so far as to conclude that its demands—reflecting its strong-arm mindset—would be accepted by us out of our forbearance.

조미사이의 뿌리깊은 불신을 해소하고 신뢰를 조성하며 이를 위해 실패만을 기록한 과거의 방식에서 대담하게 벗어나 기성에 구애되지 않는 전혀 새로운 방식으로 풀어나가는것,신뢰조성을 앞세우면서 단계적으로 동시행동원칙에서 풀수 있는 문제부터 하나씩 풀어나가는것이 조선반도비핵화실현의 가장 빠른 지름길이다.

Dispelling deep-rooted mistrust, and building trust between the DPRK and the U.S. seeking to resolve the problem in completely new way—by boldly breaking away from past methods and being unconstrained by conventional methods that have only resulted in failure; prioritizing trust-building while solving one-by-one problems that can be solved through a step-by-step process, [based on the] principle of simultaneous [reciprocal] actions: this is the fastest fastest shortcut to denuclearization.

그러나 미국측이 조바심에 사로잡혀 이전 행정부들이 들고나왔던 낡은 방식을 우리에게 강요하려 한다면 문제해결에 아무런 도움도 주지 못할것이다.

But, if the US, sized by a sense of urgency [impatience], tries to enforce on us, the old ways asserted by previous administrations, this will not give us any help in solving the problem.

우리의 의지와는 별개로 비핵화실현에 부합되는 객관적환경이 조성되지 못한다면 오히려 좋게 시작된 쌍무관계발전의 기류가 혼탕될수 있다.

If the objective conditions conducive to denuclearization in accordance with our wills are not established, then it’s possible that the currents of positive development in developing bilateral relations in the beginning could become confused [turbulent].

역풍이 불기 시작하면 조미량국에는 물론 세계평화와 안전을 바라는 국제사회에도 커다란 실망을 안겨줄수 있으며 그렇게 되면 서로가 필경 다른 선택을 모색하게 되고 그것이 비극적인 결과에로 이어지지 않으리라는 담보는 어디에도 없다.

Should opposing winds start to blow, this could bring great disappointment to an international society that desires peace and security, as well as to the US and NK; and if that happens, then both sides would start to explore other options; there is no guarantee that this would not lead to tragic consequences.

우리는 트럼프대통령에 대한 신뢰심을 아직 그대로 간직하고있다.

We still faithfully maintain our trust in President Trump.

미국은 수뇌분들의 의지와는 달리 역풍을 허용하는것이 과연 세계인민들의 지향과 기대에 부합되고 자국의 리익에도 부합되는것인가를 심중히 따져보아야 할것이다.

The U.S. should reflect seriously whether, in opposition to the will of its [own] leaders, permitting these opposing forces (“winds”) meets the aspirations and expectations of the people of the world, and whether it meets the interests of its own country.

주체107(2018)년 7월 7일
평 양(끝)

Juche Year 107 (2018), July 7th
PyongYang (end)

  1. KCNA seems to have used this word, but its translations often contain context-free and connotation-blind malapropisms, that should be taken with a grain of salt; for example, it states, “captivated in a fidget” when it means “seized by impatience.”

K.J. Noh is a long time activist, writer, and teacher. He is a member of Veterans for Peace and works on global justice issues. He can be reached at: k.j.noh48@gmail.com.

July 10, 2018 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The War Against Alternative Information

By Rick Sterling | Consortium News |  January 1, 2017

The U.S. establishment is not content simply to have domination over the media narratives on critical foreign policy issues, such as Syria, Ukraine and Russia. It wants total domination. Thus we now have the “Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act” that President Obama signed into law on Dec. 23 as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2017, setting aside $160 million to combat any “propaganda” that challenges Official Washington’s version of reality.

The new law mandates the U.S. Secretary of State to collaborate with the Secretary of Defense, Director of National Intelligence and other federal agencies to create a Global Engagement Center “to lead, synchronize, and coordinate efforts of the Federal Government to recognize, understand, expose, and counter foreign state and non-state propaganda and disinformation efforts aimed at undermining United States national security interests.” The law directs the Center to be formed in 180 days and to share expertise among agencies and to “coordinate with allied nations.”

The legislation was initiated in March 2016, as the demonization of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Russia was already underway and was enacted amid the allegations of “Russian hacking” around the U.S. presidential election and the mainstream media’s furor over supposedly “fake news.” Defeated Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton voiced strong support for the bill: “It’s imperative that leaders in both the private sector and the public sector step up to protect our democracy, and innocent lives.”

The new law is remarkable for a number of reasons, not the least because it merges a new McCarthyism about purported dissemination of Russian “propaganda” on the Internet with a new Orwellianism by creating a kind of Ministry of Truth – or Global Engagement Center – to protect the American people from “foreign propaganda and disinformation.”

As part of the effort to detect and defeat these unwanted narratives, the law authorizes the Center to: “Facilitate the use of a wide range of technologies and techniques by sharing expertise among Federal departments and agencies, seeking expertise from external sources, and implementing best practices.” (This section is an apparent reference to proposals that Google, Facebook and other technology companies find ways to block or brand certain Internet sites as purveyors of “Russian propaganda” or “fake news.”)

Justifying this new bureaucracy, the bill’s sponsors argued that the existing agencies for “strategic communications” and “public diplomacy” were not enough, that the information threat required “a whole-of-government approach leveraging all elements of national power.”

The law also is rife with irony since the U.S. government and related agencies are among the world’s biggest purveyors of propaganda and disinformation – or what you might call evidence-free claims, such as the recent accusations of Russia hacking into Democratic emails to “influence” the U.S. election.

Despite these accusations — leaked by the Obama administration and embraced as true by the mainstream U.S. news media — there is little or no public evidence to support the charges. There is also a contradictory analysis by veteran U.S. intelligence professionals as well as statements by Wikileaks founder Julian Assange and an associate, former British Ambassador Craig Murray, that the Russians were not the source of the leaks. Yet, the mainstream U.S. media has virtually ignored this counter-evidence, appearing eager to collaborate with the new “Global Engagement Center” even before it is officially formed.

Of course, there is a long history of U.S. disinformation and propaganda. Former CIA agents Philip Agee and John Stockwell documented how it was done decades ago, secretly planting “black propaganda” and covertly funding media outlets to influence events around the world, with much of the fake news blowing back into the American media.

In more recent decades, the U.S. government has adopted an Internet-era version of that formula with an emphasis on having the State Department or the U.S.-funded National Endowment for Democracy supply, train and pay “activists” and “citizen journalists” to create and distribute propaganda and false stories via “social media” and via contacts with the mainstream media. The U.S. government’s strategy also seeks to undermine and discredit journalists who challenge this orthodoxy. The new legislation escalates this information war by tossing another $160 million into the pot.

Propaganda and Disinformation on Syria

Syria is a good case study in the modern application of information warfare. In her memoir Hard Choices, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrote that the U.S. provided “support for (Syrian) civilian opposition groups, including satellite-linked computers, telephones, cameras, and training for more than a thousand activists, students and independent journalists.”

Indeed, a huge amount of money has gone to “activists” and “civil society” groups in Syria and other countries that have been targeted for “regime change.” A lot of the money also goes to parent organizations that are based in the United States and Europe, so these efforts do not only support on-the-ground efforts to undermine the targeted countries, but perhaps even more importantly, the money influences and manipulates public opinion in the West.

In North America, representatives from the Syrian “Local Coordination Committees” (LCC) were frequent guests on popular media programs such as “DemocracyNow.” The message was clear: there is a “revolution” in Syria against a “brutal regime” personified in Bashar al-Assad. It was not mentioned that the “Local Coordination Committees” have been primarily funded by the West, specifically the Office for Syrian Opposition Support, which was founded by the U.S. State Department and the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

More recently, news and analysis about Syria has been conveyed through the filter of the White Helmets, also known as Syrian Civil Defense. In the Western news media, the White Helmets are described as neutral, non-partisan, civilian volunteers courageously carrying out rescue work in the war zone. In fact, the group is none of the above. It was initiated by the U.S. and U.K. using a British military contractor and Brooklyn-based marketing company.

While they may have performed some genuine rescue operations, the White Helmets are primarily a media organization with a political goal: to promote NATO intervention in Syria. (The manipulation of public opinion using the White Helmets and promoted by the New York Times and Avaaz petition for a “No Fly Zone” in Syria is documented here.)

The White Helmets hoax continues to be widely believed and receives uncritical promotion though it has increasingly been exposed at alternative media outlets as the creation of a “shady PR firm.” During critical times in the conflict in Aleppo, White Helmet individuals have been used as the source for important news stories despite a track record of deception.

Recent Propaganda: Blatant Lies?

As the armed groups in east Aleppo recently lost ground and then collapsed, Western governments and allied media went into a frenzy of accusations against Syria and Russia based on reports from sources connected with the armed opposition. CNN host Wolf Blitzer described Aleppo as “falling” in a “slaughter of these women and children” while CNN host Jake Tapper referred to “genocide by another name.”

War damage in the once-thriving Syrian city of Aleppo

The Daily Beast published the claims of the Aleppo Siege Media Center under the title “Doomsday is held in Aleppo” and amid accusations that the Syrian army was executing civilians, burning them alive and “20 women committed suicide in order not to be raped.” These sensational claims were widely broadcast without verification. However, this “news” on CNN and throughout Western media came from highly biased sources and many of the claims – lacking anything approaching independent corroboration – could be accurately described as propaganda and disinformation.

Ironically, some of the supposedly “Russian propaganda” sites, such as RT, have provided first-hand on-the-ground reporting from the war zones with verifiable information that contradicts the Western narrative and thus has received almost no attention in the U.S. news media. For instance, some of these non-Western outlets have shown videos of popular celebrations over the “liberation of Aleppo.”

There has been further corroboration of these realities from peace activists, such as Jan Oberg of Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research who published a photo essay of his eyewitness observations in Aleppo including the happiness of civilians from east Aleppo reaching the government-controlled areas of west Aleppo, finally freed from areas that had been controlled by Al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate and its jihadist allies in Ahrar al-Sham.

Dr. Nabil Antaki, a medical doctor from Aleppo, described the liberation of Aleppo in an interview titled “Aleppo is Celebrating, Free from Terrorists, the Western Media Misinformed.” The first Christmas celebrations in Aleppo in four years are shown here, replete with marching band members in Santa Claus outfits. Journalist Vanessa Beeley has published testimonies of civilians from east Aleppo. The happiness of civilians at their liberation is clear.

Whether or not you wish to accept these depictions of the reality in Aleppo, at a minimum, they reflect another side of the story that you have been denied while being persistently force-fed the version favored by the U.S. State Department. The goal of the new Global Engagement Center to counter “foreign propaganda” is to ensure that you never get to hear this alternative narrative to the Western propaganda line.

Even much earlier, contrary to the Western mythology of rebel “liberated zones,” there was strong evidence that the armed groups were never popular in Aleppo. American journalist James Foley described the situation in 2012 like this:

“Aleppo, a city of about 3 million people, was once the financial heart of Syria. As it continues to deteriorate, many civilians here are losing patience with the increasingly violent and unrecognizable opposition — one that is hampered by infighting and a lack of structure, and deeply infiltrated by both foreign fighters and terrorist groups. The rebels in Aleppo are predominantly from the countryside, further alienating them from the urban crowd that once lived here peacefully, in relative economic comfort and with little interference from the authoritarian government of President Bashar al-Assad.”

On Nov. 22, 2012, Foley was kidnapped in northwestern Syria and held by Islamic State terrorists before his beheading in August 2014.

The Overall Narrative on Syria

Analysis of the Syrian conflict boils down to two competing narratives. One narrative is that the conflict is a fight for freedom and democracy against a brutal regime, a storyline promoted in the West and the Gulf states, which have been fueling the conflict from the start. This narrative is also favored by some self-styled “anti-imperialists” who want a “Syrian revolution.”

The other narrative is that the conflict is essentially a war of aggression against a sovereign state, with the aggressors including NATO countries, Gulf monarchies, Israel and Jordan. Domination of the Western media by these powerful interests is so thorough that one almost never gets access to this second narrative, which is essentially banned from not only the mainstream but also much of the liberal and progressive media.

For example, listeners and viewers of the generally progressive TV and radio program “DemocracyNow!” have rarely if ever heard the second narrative described in any detail. Instead, the program frequently broadcasts the statements of Hillary Clinton, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power and others associated with the U.S. position. Rarely do you hear the viewpoint of the Syrian Ambassador to the United Nations, the Syrian Foreign Minister or analysts inside Syria and around the world who have written about and follow events there closely.

“DemocracyNow!” also has done repeated interviews with proponents of the “Syrian revolution” while ignoring analysts who call the conflict a war of aggression sponsored by the West and the Gulf monarchies. This blackout of the second narrative continues despite the fact that many prominent international figures see it as such. For example, the former Foreign Minister of Nicaragua and former President of the UN General Assembly, Father Miguel D’Escoto, has said, “What the U.S. government is doing in Syria is tantamount to a war of aggression, which, according to the Nuremberg Tribunal, is the worst possible crime a State can commit against another State.”

In many areas of politics, “DemocracyNow!” is excellent and challenges mainstream media. However in this area, coverage of the Syrian conflict, the broadcast is biased, one-sided and echoes the news and analysis of mainstream Western corporate media, showing the extent of control over foreign policy news that already exists in the United States and Europe.

Suppressing and Censoring Challenges

Despite the widespread censorship of alternative analyses on Syria and other foreign hotspots that already exists in the West, the U.S. government’s new “Global Engagement Center” will seek to ensure that the censorship is even more complete with its goal to “counter foreign state and non-state propaganda and disinformation.” We can expect even more aggressive and better-financed assaults on the few voices daring to challenge the West’s “group thinks” – smear campaigns that are already quite extensive.

In an article titled “Controlling the Narrative on Syria”, Louis Allday describes the criticisms and attacks on journalists Rania Khalek and Max Blumenthal for straying from the “approved” Western narrative on Syria. Some of the bullying and abuse has come from precisely those people, such as Robin Yassin-Kassab, who have been frequent guests in liberal Western media.

Reporters who have returned from Syria with accounts that challenge the propaganda themes that have permeated the Western media also have come under attack. For instance, Canadian journalist Eva Bartlett recently returned to North America after being in Syria and Aleppo, conveying a very different image and critical of the West’s biased media coverage. Bartlett appeared at a United Nations press conference and then did numerous interviews across the country during a speaking tour. During the course of her talks and presentation, Bartlett criticized the White Helmets and questioned whether it was true that Al Quds Hospital in opposition-held East Aleppo was attacked and destroyed as claimed.

Bartlett’s recounting of this information made her a target of Snopes, which has been a mostly useful website exposing urban legends and false rumors but has come under criticism itself for some internal challenges and has been inconsistent in its investigations. In one report entitled “White Helmet Hearsay,” Snopes’ writer Bethania Palmer says claims the White Helmets are “linked to terrorists” is “unproven,” but she overlooks numerous videos, photos, and other reports showing White Helmet members celebrating a Nusra/Al Qaeda battle victory, picking up the bodies of civilians executed by a Nusra executioner, and having a member who alternatively appears as a rebel/terrorist fighter with a weapon and later wearing a White Helmet uniform. The “fact check” barely scrapes the surface of public evidence.

The same writer did another shallow “investigation” titled “victim blaming” regarding Bartlett’s critique of White Helmet videos and what happened at the Al Quds Hospital in Aleppo. Bartlett suggests that some White Helmet videos may be fabricated and may feature the same child at different times, i.e., photographs that appear to show the same girl being rescued by White Helmet workers at different places and times. While it is uncertain whether this is the same girl, the similarity is clear. 

The Snopes writer goes on to criticize Bartlett for her comments about the reported bombing of Al Quds Hospital in east Aleppo in April 2016. A statement at the website of Doctors Without Borders says the building was “destroyed and reduced to rubble,” but this was clearly false since photos show the building with unclear damage. Five months later, the September 2016 report by Doctors Without Borders says the top two floors of the building were destroyed and the ground floor Emergency Room damaged yet they re-opened in two weeks.

The many inconsistencies and contradictions in the statements of Doctors Without Borders resulted in an open letter to them. In their last report, Doctors Without Borders (known by its French initials, MSF) acknowledges that “MSF staff did not directly witness the attack and has not visited Al Quds Hospital since 2014.”

Bartlett referenced satellite images taken before and after the reported attack on the hospital. The images do not show severe damage and it is unclear whether or not there is any damage to the roof, the basis for Bartlett’s statement. In the past week, independent journalists have visited the scene of Al Quds Hospital and report that that the top floors of the building are still there and damage is unclear.

The Snopes’ investigation criticizing Bartlett was superficial and ignored the broader issues of accuracy and integrity in the Western media’s depiction of the Syrian conflict. Instead the article appeared to be an effort to discredit the eyewitness observations and analysis of a journalist who dared challenge the mainstream narrative.

U.S. propaganda and disinformation on Syria has been extremely effective in misleading much of the American population. Thus, most Americans are unaware how many billions of taxpayer dollars have been spent on yet another “regime change” project. The propaganda campaign – having learned from the successful demonizations of Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi and other targeted leaders – has been so masterful regarding Syria that many liberal and progressive news outlets were pulled in. It has been left to RT and some Internet outlets to challenge the U.S. government and the mainstream media.

But the U.S. government’s near total control of the message doesn’t appear to be enough. Apparently even a few voices of dissent are a few voices too many.

The enactment of HR5181, “Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation,” suggests that the ruling powers seek to escalate suppression of news and analyses that run counter to the official narrative. Backed by a new infusion of $160 million, the plan is to further squelch skeptical voices with operation for “countering” and “refuting” what the U.S. government deems to be propaganda and disinformation.

As part of the $160 million package, funds can be used to hire or reward “civil society groups, media content providers, nongovernmental organizations, federally funded research and development centers, private companies, or academic institutions.”

Among the tasks that these private entities can be hired to perform is to identify and investigate both print and online sources of news that are deemed to be distributing “disinformation, misinformation, and propaganda directed at the United States and its allies and partners.”

In other words, we are about to see an escalation of the information war.

Rick Sterling is an independent investigative journalist. He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area and can be reached at rsterling1@gmail.com

March 15, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , | Leave a comment

The Escalating War on Syria and Need for International Law

By Rick Sterling | Dissident Voice | April 7, 2017

On Tuesday 4 April there were reports of children and other civilians killed by chemical poisoning in the town of Khan Sheikhoun, Syria. There were contradictory reports, some saying they smelled the gas; others claiming it caused immediate death like odorless sarin.

On Wednesday 5 April, President Trump blamed the Syrian government despite conflicting reports and contradictory information and accusations. He said, “Yesterday’s chemical attack in Syria [was] against innocent people including women, small children and even beautiful little babies. Their deaths was an affront to humanity. These heinous actions by the Assad regime cannot be tolerated … my attitude toward Syria and Assad has changed very much.”

On Thursday, 6 April, Trump ordered a ‘targeted military strike’ on Syria with 50 tomahawk missiles attacking the primary Syrian air base near Homs. This base is used to support the combat with ISIS in eastern Syria and Nusra/Al Qaeda in Idlib province.

As I will show below, it is likely the deaths in Khan Sheikhoun were caused by an armed opposition faction, not the Syrian government. The goal was precisely what has happened: a media firestorm leading to direct U.S. aggression against Syria.

What Happened and How?

On April 4 news broke of a ‘chemical weapon’ attack in Syria. Western media and governments quickly blamed the Syrian government. Just as quickly, neoconservatives such as Sen. John McCain recalled the 2013 crisis when Pres Obama ultimately decided not to attack Syria. Israeli PM Netanyahu chimed in with a not-too-subtle renewed call for war on Syria. He tweeted that it’s time for the international community to “fulfill its obligations from 2013.”

Basic facts include:

– On 22 March, the government controlled town of Khattab was over-run by militants with some civilians kidnapped and taken to the nearby opposition controlled town of Khan Sheikhoun.

– On 4 April, up to 80 persons, including many children, died at Khan Sheikhoun. Some showed signs of chemical poisoning. Photographs, videos, analyses and other sources are documented at “A Closer Look At Syria”.

– one of the videos features a UK born and raised Dr. Shajul Islam.  He received his UK medical license in 2012 but had the license suspended due to reports he was involved in the kidnapping in Syria of journalist John Cantlie.

– Many of the video scenes depict an area set into a limestone quarry with apparent caves and storage depots. There are flat bed trucks with bodies scattered on the ground in this semi-industrial area.  Other videos show scenes in medical clinic.

– Photographs show “White Helmet” individuals handling bodies without gloves which is very strange if they died or were dying from chemical poison.

Who is responsible?

There are three theories about what happened:

– The western government narrative is that the Syrian “regime” is responsible. They fired illegal chemical weapons into the town, primarily killing innocent civilians and many children.

– The Syrian army acknowledges firing air strikes but deny using chemical weapons at this or any time. This area was the base for militant attacks against government areas in Hama province in the preceding weeks. The Russian Ministry of Defense says that militants had a weapons production factory including chemical weapon ingredients, and that may have been hit and caused the chemical weapon deaths.

– A third theory is the kidnapped civilians from Khattab were killed or poisoned by the militants as part of a staged event.

Evidence Pointing to the Militants

Looking at the facts, history and overall circumstances, it is far more likely the armed opposition is responsible for this event. Here is why:

(1) The incident and publicity help the opposition and hurt the government.

Crime investigations usually begin with the question: Who has a motive? In this case, it’s strikingly clear that the armed opposition and their supporters benefit from this event. They have used the story to further demonize the Assad government and make renewed calls for US and “the world” to intervene.

The Syrian government is making steady advances in many parts of the country. They have no reason to use chemical weapons; they have every reason to NOT use chemical weapons. They know very well that the armed opposition has immediate access to major media.

Accusations that the Syrian government intentionally attacks civilians is contradicted by their policies and actions. As demonstrated last December in Aleppo, civilians are welcomed from opposition areas into government controlled areas. Even Syrian militants are welcomed after they sign an agreement to lay down arms.

It is also relevant to consider timing. There is a pattern of sensational events helpful to the armed opposition occurring simultaneous with critical international meetings or actions. In this case, the events in Khan Sheikhoun occurred the day before an important conference on Syria in Brussels. The conference titled “Supporting the future of Syria and the region” has been effectively sidetracked by news about the chemical weapons attack and the Syrian government being blamed.

(2) Extremists were responsible for the August 2013 Chemical Weapon attack in Damascus. 

Western supporters of the armed opposition were quick to blame the Syrian government for the chemical attack in Ghouta on 21 August 2013. However, subsequent investigations by the most credible investigative journalists and researchers concluded the Syrian government was probably NOT responsible. Seymour Hersh and Robert Parry concluded the attack was most likely carried out by militants with support from Turkey. The in-depth examination titled Who Ghouta concluded “The only plausible scenario that fits the evidence is an attack by opposition forces.” An MIT study made a detailed trajectory analysis, concluded that the missile could not have been fired from government territory and warned “Faulty intelligence could have led to an unjustified US military action.”

(3) Armed Opposition Groups have a history of Staging Incidents

From the start, the Syrian conflict has included an information war. Hillary Clinton boasted of “training for more than a thousand activists, students and independent journalists.” In December 2012, NBC journalist Richard Engel was reportedly kidnapped and abused by “shabiha” supporters of the Syrian government. Engel and his film crew were “liberated” by Free Syrian Army rebels after a gunfight with the Assad supporting kidnappers. In reality, the entire episode from kidnapping to rescue was a hoax designed to demonize Assad supporters and glorify the “rebels”. The true story emerged years later after the actual events were leaked. When it was going to be made public, Engel finally admitted the truth.

(4) Supporters of the armed opposition have a history of fabricating stories which demonize the Syrian Government.

In February 2014, it was announced that a defecting Syrian military photographer, who was anonymous but code named “Caesar”, had 55 thousand photos showing the torture and murder of 11 thousand innocent Syrian civilians. This news received sensational media attention with live interviews on CNN and front page coverage throughout the western world. The news relied on the judgment of legal prosecutors who “verified” the story and produced a “Caesar Report”. This was released the day before the start of Geneva negotiations. It effectively disrupted the talks and facilitated the “rebels” refusal to negotiate and walk away. In reality, the “verification” and report were commissioned by the government of Qatar which has been a major funder of the armed opposition. Since then it has been discovered that nearly half the 55 thousand photos show the opposite of what was claimed: they show dead Syrian soldiers and victims of explosions NOT tortured civilians. That is just one of the findings confirming the fraud involved in this sensational story. A concise expose of “Caesar” is here.

How the Public has been Misinformed on Syria

Historian and journalist Stephen Kinzer has said, “Coverage of the Syrian war will be remembered as one of the most shameful episodes in the history of the American press.” Here are a few examples showing the bias, half-truths and outright false statements regarding the events at Khan Sheikhoun:

– The PBS Newshour typically features two guests who are questioned by the host. The problem is that their guests consistently share the same basic viewpoint. On 4 April, one guest was from the Soros funded Physicians for Human Rights. She claimed, “We know that sarin has been used before by the Assad regime.” In fact that has NOT been confirmed by any credible organization. On the contrary, the most thorough investigations point to sarin being used by the armed opposition NOT the Syrian government. The other guest was Andrew Tabler from the neoconservative Israeli associated “Washington Institute”.  His editorial from last Fall makes clear what he wants: “The case for (finally) bombing Assad.” The discussion on Syria at PBS Newshour is consistently biased.

– The New York Times feature story on 4 April was “Worst Chemical Attack in Years in Syria; U.S. Blames Assad“. One of the authors, Michael Gordon, was an influential proponent for “weapons of mass destruction in Iraq” that justified the 2003 invasion. But that has apparently not hurt his career. In this story on Syria, he and co-author Anne Barnard claim that “American intelligence agencies concluded” the 2013 attack was carried out by the Syrian government. That is false. The intelligence agencies did NOT agree and the “assessment” came from the White House not the intelligence agencies. It is astounding that they either do not know this or they are intentionally misleading the public. Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity explained the significance in their memorandum “A Call for Syria – Sarin Proof”.

– DemocracyNow! is a popular television/radio show. It is widely considered to be “progressive” but is also highly biased in its presentation on Syria. It almost solely promotes the perspective of those who support the armed opposition and/or western intervention in Syria. On April 5, they interviewed Dr. Rola Hallam. She is infamous for being the key player in the documentary “Saving Syria’s Children” which purports to show a chemical weapon attack in Aleppo but was actually staged. The “documentary” was then broadcast at a critical time trying to influence the 2013 vote in British parliament for an attack on Syria. On April 6, DemocracyNow! interviewed another “Syrian” who lives in the West and promotes western intervention: Lina Sergie Attar. Viewers of DemocracyNow! have no idea that the majority of Syrians support the government and especially the national Army in their struggle against invasion and terrorism.

Public understanding about what’s happening in Syria has been seriously confused by the bad analysis of prominent analysts. Some have suggested that Israel was content to live with Assad. Former Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Oren clarified the truth as he said “we always wanted Bashar Assad to go, we always preferred the bad guys who weren’t backed by Iran to those who were backed by Iran.” In short, Israel prefers Al Qaeda or ISIS or, better yet, the conflict to continue so that both sides are destroyed.

Before the conflict began, in 2010, Secy of State Hillary Clinton made demands to Damascus that all revolved around Israeli interests. She wanted Syria to end its alliance with Hezbollah, to reduce its interactions with Iran and to come to an agreement with Israel. In contrast with what some analysts have said, Israeli interests have been a major factor driving and maintaining the conflict. With the liberation of Aleppo and prospect of a victory by Syria and allies, Israeli demands to escalate the war have probably increased.

Some of the world’s most famed political analysts have contributed to the confusion and lack of resistance as the war on Syria has continued. For example, Noam Chomsky on Democracy two days ago said “The Assad regime is a moral disgrace, the Russians with them.” Evidently he believes all or most of the accusations which have been said about the ‘regime’. In sharp contrast with Chomsky’s assessment, it’s remarkable that Syria has held together as well as it has in the face of attack by some of the most powerful and richest countries on earth. Over 100,000 Syrians have given their lives defending their country against the onslaught. Russia has supported their ally in compliance with international law, continually trying to work with the U.S. coalition as a “partner” against terrorism. Evidently Chomsky is unaware or does not believe the extent of lies that have been created around Syria. Evidently he does not recognize the distorted and shameful media coverage mentioned by Kinzer. Everyone makes mistakes but Chomsky’s poor analysis here is a whopper. If he was to visit Syria and talk with real Syrians I think his perception would be dramatically changed just as described by the PBS Frontline crew here. With consummate hypocrisy, both Syrian and Russian governments are now demonized by western neoconservatives and liberals who have done little or nothing to stop their own government’s collusion with terrorists raining havoc and destruction in Syria.

The need to restore International Law

International law has been undermined and replaced by “humanitarian law”. This has contributed to the current disastrous situation whereby the U.S. and NATO are waging aggression under a humanitarian pretext.

International law regarding attacks on sovereign states is clear: it is illegal unless authorized by the UN Security Council or in legitimate self defense. It is clear that Syria poses no threat to any of its neighbors or any other nation. It is also clear that Syria has been the victim for six long years of aggression by foreign states which have funded and promoted a proxy army of fanatics and mercenaries from around the world.

As the former Nicaraguan Foreign Minister and President of the UN General Assembly, Father Miguel D’Escoto, has said: “What the U.S. government is doing in Syria is tantamount to a war of aggression, which, according to the Nuremberg Tribunal, is the worst possible crime a State can commit against another State.”

There has been a sustained attempt to derail Trump’s campaign pledge to stop the US “regime change” policy. This has been accompanied by a semi-hysterical demonization of Syria’s ally Russia. Liberals have been willing accomplices in this campaign which serves the interests of the U.S. military security complex, Israel and Saudi Arabia.

It looks like the foreign policy hawks and neocons have succeeded. Yesterday’s attacks on Syria mark an escalation in the war of aggression and violation of international law against Syria. This could lead to WW3 unless there is sufficient outcry and opposition.

Rick Sterling is an investigative journalist. He lives in the SF Bay Area and can be contacted at rsterling1@gmail.com.

April 7, 2017 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Amnesty International Stokes Syrian War

By Rick Sterling | Consortium News | February 11, 2017

Amnesty International (AI) has done some good investigations and reports over the years, which has won the group widespread support. However, less well recognized, Amnesty International has also carried out faulty investigations with bloody and disastrous consequences.

One prominent example is in Iraq, where AI “corroborated” the false story that Iraqi soldiers were stealing incubators from Kuwait, leaving babies to die on the cold floor. The deception was planned and carried out in Washington to influence the U.S. public and Congress.

A more recent example is from 2011 where false accusations were being made about Libya and Muammar Gaddafi as Western and Gulf powers sought to overthrow his government. AI leaders joined the campaign claiming that Gaddafi was using “mercenaries” to threaten and kill peacefully protesting civilians. The propaganda was successful in muting criticism of what became an invasion and “regime change.”

Going far beyond a United Nations Security Council resolution to “protect civilians,” NATO launched sustained air attacks and toppled the Libyan government leading to chaos, violence and a flood of refugees. AI later refuted the “mercenary” accusations but the damage was done.

Now, on Feb. 7, Amnesty International released a new report titled “Human Slaughterhouse: Mass Hangings and Extermination at Saydnaya Prison,” which accuses the Syrian government of executing thousands of political prisoners, a set of accusations that has received uncritical treatment in the mainstream news media.

Like the Iraq/Kuwait incubator story and the Libyan “mercenary” story, the “Human Slaughterhouse” report is coming at a critical time. It accuses and convicts the Syrian government of horrible atrocities against civilians – and AI explicitly calls for the international community to take “action.” But the AI report is deeply biased and amounts to a kangaroo-court conviction of the Syrian government.

AI’s Standards Ignored

The Amnesty International report violates the organization’s own research standards. As documented by Professor Tim Hayward here, the Secretary General of Amnesty International, Salil Shetty, claims that Amnesty does its research in a very systematic, primary, way where we collect evidence with our own staff on the ground. And every aspect of our data collection is based on corroboration and cross-checking from all parties, even if there are, you know, many parties in any situation because of all of the issues we deal with are quite contested. So it’s very important to get different points of view and constantly cross check and verify the facts.”

But the Amnesty report fails on all counts: it relies on third parties, it did not gather its information from different points of view, and it did not cross-check with all parties. The report’s conclusions are not based on primary sources, material evidence or AI’s own staff; the findings are solely based on the claims of anonymous individuals, mostly in southern Turkey from where the war on Syria is coordinated.

Amnesty gathered witnesses and testimonies from only one side of the conflict: the Western- and Gulf-supported opposition. For example, AI consulted with the Syrian Network for Human Rights, which is known to seek NATO intervention in Syria. AI “liased” with the Commission for International Justice and Accountability, an organization funded by the West to press criminal charges against the Syrian leadership. These are obviously not neutral, independent or nonpartisan organizations.

If AI were doing what its Secretary General claims the organization always does, AI would have consulted with organizations within or outside Syria to hear different accounts of life at Saydnaya Prison. Since the AI report has been released, the AngryArab has published the account of a Syrian dissident, Nizar Nayyouf, who was imprisoned at Saydnaya. He contradicts many statements in the Amnesty International report, the type of cross-checking that AI failed to do for this important study.

Amnesty’s accusation that executions were “extrajudicial” is exaggerated or false. By Amnesty’s own description, each prisoner appeared briefly before a judge and each execution was authorized by a high government leader. We do not know if the judge looked at documentation or other information regarding each prisoner. One could argue that the process as described was superficial, but it’s clear that even if AI’s allegations are true, there was some kind of judicial process.

Amnesty’s suggestion that all Saydnaya prisoners are convicted is false. Amnesty quotes one witness who says about the court: “The judge will ask the name of the detainee and whether he committed the crime. Whether the answer is yes or no, he will be convicted.” But this assertion is contradicted by a former Saydnaya prisoner who is now a refugee in Sweden. In this news report, the former prisoner says the judge “asked him how many soldiers he had killed. When he said none, the judge spared him.” This is evidence that there is a judicial process of some sort and there are acquittals.

The Amnesty report includes satellite photographs with captions which are meaningless or erroneous. For example, as pointed out by Syrian dissident Nizar Nayyouf, the photo on page 30 showing a Martyrs Cemetery is “silly beyond silly.” The photo and caption show that the cemetery doubled in size. However, this does not prove hangings of prisoners who would never be buried in a “martyrs cemetery” reserved for Syrian army soldiers. On the contrary, it confirms the fact which Amnesty International otherwise ignores: Syrian soldiers have died in large numbers.

The Amnesty report falsely claims — based on data provided by one of the groups seeking NATO intervention — “The victims are overwhelmingly ordinary civilians who are thought to oppose the government.” While it’s surely true that innocent civilians are sometimes wrongly arrested, as happens in all countries, the suggestion that Saydnaya prison is filled with 95 percent “ordinary civilians” is preposterous. Amnesty International can only make this claim without facing ridicule because AI and other Western organizations have effectively “disappeared” the reality of Syria.

Missing Facts

Other essential facts, which are completely missing from the Amnesty report, include:

–Western powers and Gulf monarchies have spent billions of dollars annually since 2011 to recruit, fund, train, arm and support with sophisticated propaganda a violent campaign to overthrow the Syrian government;

–As part of this operation, tens of thousands of foreign fanatics have invaded Syria and tens of thousands of Syrians have been radicalized and paid by Wahhabi monarchies in the Gulf to overthrow the government;

–More than 100,000 Syrian Army and National Defense soldiers have been killed defending their country. Most of this is public information yet ignored by Amnesty International and other mainstream media in the West. This “regime change” operation has been accompanied by a massive distortion and cover-up of reality.

–Without providing evidence, Amnesty International accuses the highest Sunni religious leader in Syria, Grand Mufti Ahmad Badreddin Hassoun, of authorizing the execution of “ordinary civilians.” While the Grand Mufti is a personal victim of the war’s violence – his son was murdered by terrorists near Aleppo – he has consistently called for reconciliation. Following the assassination of his son, Grand Mufti Hassoun gave an eloquent speech expressing forgiveness for the murderers and calling for an end to the violence.

What does it say about Amnesty International that it makes specific personal accusations, against people who have personally suffered, yet provides no evidence of guilt?

In the report, Amnesty uses sensational and emotional accusations in place of factual evidence. The title of the report is “Human Slaughterhouse.” And what goes with a “slaughterhouse”? A “meat fridge.” So, the report uses the expression “meat fridge” seven separate times, presumably in an attempt to strengthen the central metaphor of a slaughterhouse.

Even the report’s opening quotation is hyperbolic: “Saydnaya is the end of life – the end of humanity.” The report is in sharp contrast with fact-based objective research and investigation; it appears designed to manipulate emotions and thus create new public support in the West for another escalation of the war.

Yet, Amnesty International’s accusations that the Syrian government is carrying out a policy of “extermination” are contradicted by the fact that the vast majority of Syrians prefer to live in government-controlled areas. When the “rebels” were finally driven out of East Aleppo in December 2016, 90 percent of civilians rushed into areas under government control.

In recent days, civilians from Latakia province who had been imprisoned by terrorists for the past three years have been liberated in a prisoner exchange. [This video shows Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his wife meeting with some of the civilians.]

A Video

The Amnesty report is accompanied by a three-minute propaganda cartoon that reinforces the narrative that Syrian civilians who protest peacefully are imprisoned and executed. Echoing the theme of the report, the animation is titled “Saydnaya Prison: Human Slaughterhouse.” Amnesty International appears to be in denial that there are tens of thousands of violent extremists in Syria, setting off car bombs, launching mortars and otherwise attacking civilian areas every day.

Given the national crisis – with so many violent jihadists to confront – it makes little sense that Syrian security or prison authorities would waste resources on non-violent civilians although that does not mean that the Syrian government has clean hands either. Mistakes and abuses surely happen in this war like all wars.

But the AI report is more like the propaganda that has surrounded the Syrian conflict from the beginning, lacking in balance and reminiscent of the “perception management” used to justify the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the West’s assault on Libya in 2011. AI’s hyperbole is also contradicted by the fact that Syria has many opposition parties that compete for seats in the National Assembly and campaign openly for public support from both the right and left of the Baath Party.

AI’s claim that Syrian authorities brutally repress peaceful protests further ignores the Syrian reconciliation process. For the past several years, armed opposition militants have been encouraged to lay down their weapons and peacefully rejoin society, a program largely unreported in Western media because it contradicts the “black hat” narrative of the Syrian government. [A recent example is reported here.]

The Amnesty report cites the “Caesar” photographs as supporting evidence for its “slaughterhouse” accusations but ignores the fact that nearly half those photographs show the opposite of what was claimed. The widely publicized “Caesar photographs” was a Qatari-funded hoax designed to sabotage the 2014 Geneva negotiations as documented here.

While the Amnesty report makes many accusations against the Syrian government, AI ignores the violation of Syrian sovereignty being committed by Western and Gulf countries. It is a curious fact that big NGOs such as Amnesty International focus on violations of “human rights law” and “humanitarian law” but ignore the crime of aggression, also called the crime against peace.

According to the Nuremberg Tribunal, aggression is “the supreme international crime, differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.” Former Nicaraguan Foreign Minister and former President of the U.N. General Assembly, Father Miguel D’Escoto, is someone who should know. He says, “What the U.S. government is doing in Syria is tantamount to a war of aggression, which, according to the Nuremberg Tribunal, is the worst possible crime a State can commit against another State.” Amnesty International ignores this reality.

Background and Context

The co-author of this Amnesty International report is Nicolette Waldman (Boehland), who was uncritically interviewed on DemocracyNow! on Feb. 9. The background and previous work of Waldman shows the inter-connections between influential Washington “think tanks” and the billionaires’ foundations that fund “non-governmental organizations” – NGOs – that claim to be independent but are clearly not.

Waldman previously worked for the “Center for Civilians in Conflict,” which is directed by leaders from George Soros’s Open Society, the Soros-funded Human Rights Watch, Blackrock Solutions and the Center for a New American Security (CNAS).

CNAS may be the most significant indication of political orientation since it is led by Michele Flournoy, who was expected to become Secretary of Defense if Hillary Clinton had won the election. CNAS has been a leading force behind neoconservative and liberal-interventionist plans to escalate the war in Syria. While past work or associations do not always define new or future work, in this case the sensational and dubious accusations seem to align with those political goals. [Soros’s Open Society has also provided funds to Amnesty International.]

So what to make of Amnesty International’s new report? The once widely respected human rights organization has, in the recent past, let itself be used as a propaganda tool to justify Western aggression against Iraq and Libya, which seems to be the role that AI is playing now in Syria.

The Amnesty International report is a mix of hearsay accusations and sensationalism that tracks with the Western propaganda themes that have surrounded the Syrian war from the start. Because of Amnesty’s undeserved reputation for independence and accuracy, the report has been picked up and broadcast widely. Liberal and supposedly progressive media outlets have joined in dutifully echoing the questionable accusations.

Little or no skepticism is applied when the target is the Syrian government, which has faced years of foreign-sponsored aggression. If this report justifies another escalation of the conflict, as Amnesty International seems to want, the group will again be serving as a rationalizer for Western aggression against Syria, just like it did in Iraq and Libya.


Rick Sterling is an investigative journalist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. He can be reached at rsterling1@gmail.com

February 11, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , , , , , | 1 Comment