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The Cult of Authority

By CJ Hopkins | CounterPunch | March 7, 2018

On a recent episode of “Intercepted,” Glenn Greenwald, James Risen, and Jeremy Scahill, three celebrity journalists employed by a billionaire to provide the masses with fearless, adversarial journalism, debated, for approximately fifty-seven minutes, whether Donald Trump might be guilty of treason. This debate was prompted by the negative response to Risen’s first investigative piece for The Intercept, “Is Donald Trump a Traitor?,” a lengthy rehashing of the official narrative the corporate ruling classes have been relentlessly disseminating for the last eighteen months. Dedicated readers of The Intercept had wondered aloud on social media how, exactly, this repetition of the evidence-free “Trump is a Putin Puppet” narrative qualified as fearlessly adversarial. Some had even gone so far as to suggest that Risen, a legend in the world of investigative and national security journalism,had been a bit reckless, ethically speaking, in throwing around words like “treason” and “traitor,” and in allowing his status as a journalistic legend to lend further credence to the most ridiculous official propaganda campaign since the “Saddam is stockpiling WMDs for al Qaeda to attack America with” hoax.

In any event, The Intercept, its brand identity under attack, sprang into action and arranged this debate. Scahill and Risen were live in New York, possibly at First Look’s Fifth Avenue studios, with Greenwald participating remotely from his home in the mountains above Rio de Janiero. Following a solemn introduction by Scahill, and after kowtowing to each other at considerable length, Greenwald and Risen get down to the work of defining the word “treason.” This takes twenty minutes. They then move on to ascertaining whether Greenwald believes, and will admit on camera, that “Russia intervened” in the 2016 elections. Mercilessly pressed on this point by Risen, he finally confesses that he probably believes that the Russians likely “did some things.” This takes up another twenty minutes. The rest of the episode is dedicated to establishing that Greenwald is not a Trump-loving pinko (despite his occasional appearances on FOX), and that Risen agrees that the general public (not to mention fearless, adversarial journalists) should not just accept whatever intelligence agencies tell them without supporting evidence. Scahill then wraps up the episode by joking about Greenwald getting paid in rubles and Risen getting paid by the CIA, and noting how “interesting” it is to be a fearless, adversarial journalist at a serious operation like The Intercept, where extremely affluent, award-winning colleagues are allowed to respectfully disagree about whether the President of the United States should be tried and executed for treason because some Russians bought some Facebook ads and said mean things about Hillary Clinton.

I realize you’ll probably want to break off now and go watch this thrilling debate yourself, but bear with me for just another few minutes, because this essay isn’t really about the debate, or The Intercept, or even First Look Media. Believe it or not, I’m a fan of Glenn Greenwald, who is one of the very few celebrity journalists who has had the guts to consistently challenge the ridiculous “Russiagate” narrative from the start. And just because The Intercept is owned by a neoliberal oligarch who backed a fascist coup in the Ukraine, micro-financed a few Indians to death, and employs a personal security detail of ex-Secret Service agents and State Department types who will fly him to safety in his private jet in the event of imminent zombie apocalpyse, that doesn’t mean The Intercept staff doesn’t publish important investigative journalism.

No, what struck me as I was suffering through this debate was how utterly divorced from reality it was, whatever “reality” might mean anymore. Watching Greenwald, Risen, and Scahill sitting there, like rational people, “debating” whether Donald Trump might be part of some convoluted Russian conspiracy to destroy America and Western democracy, I felt like I was finally having one of those apocryphal LSD flashbacks. It was as if I was watching these respected journalists debating whether the face of Jesus may have actually appeared on a breakfast taco at a daycare center in Beeville, Texas.

Now, I mean no offense to The Intercept, or Jesus, or even breakfast tacos. I’m simply trying to point out how, after eighteen months of relentless repetition, we have all been barraged with so much ridiculous “Russiagate” and “Collusion” propaganda that it is almost impossible to step back from it enough to recognize how ridiculous it is. Fundamentally. The basic premise of the narrative. Imagine for a moment, if you can, that you had never heard about “Russiagate,” and listen to the story concept as if you were hearing it for the very first time. Ready? OK, here it comes … “Donald Trump conspired with Putin to brainwash Americans with Internet ads into electing him President of the United States so he could help the Russians take over the world!” How is this story concept any more credible than the one where a radical Jewish prophet who’s been dead for over two thousand years, but who rules the universe with his omnipotent father, appeared on a taco in Beeville, Texas?

Well … OK, I’ll tell you how it’s more credible. It’s credible because “authoritative sources” say it is credible, over and over, and treat it as a “serious” story, in spite of how blatantly ridiculous it is. It’s not just the corporate media that does this. It’s also fearless, adversarial, “authoritative” organizations like The Intercept. I wish there were a more sophisticated theory I could set forth to explain this phenomenon, but, sadly, it really is that simple.

In any authoritarian society, social group, culture, or … cult, those with the power can make up pretty much any official narrative they want and get the members of the group to believe it, or at least conform their behavior to it. The social hierarchy does all the work. Cults provide the clearest example. The leaders come up with some ludicrous narrative (e.g., Helter SkelterThe House of DavidBody Thetans from Outer SpaceTransubstantiation, et cetera) which is reified by the “inner circle,” who conform their behavior and speech to this narrative, and then pressure the outer members to do likewise. Gradually, everyone gets the message: if you don’t want to be excommunicated, you had better believe, or pretend to believe, the official narrative of the cult. It isn’t a question of deception, belief, gullibility, or even intelligence. It is a question of power, social pressure, and fear of ostracization and exile. Anyone invested in any type of social group that functions along authoritarian lines is susceptible to this type of pressure, regardless of how savvy or intelligent they are.

Which brings me back to The Intercept and this debate about whether Trump is a traitor. If you have an hour to kill, try this experiment. Watch the debate, ignore what they’re saying, and pay attention to how they say it and the effect that is generated by how they say it. (You can also do this with any mainstream media political debate-type show, but assuming you’re as predisposed as I am to identify with The Intercept’s brand, it will be more instructive if you use this debate). What you’ll be watching is a simulation of “seriousness,” “authoritativeness,” and “credibility,” and a demonstration of how “respectable” journalists discuss a “legitimate, newsworthy” story (as opposed to, you know, a conspiracy theory).

In other words, you will be watching a performance … a performance intended to convince its audience that (a) the nonsense being “debated” is a “serious” story worthy of debate by serious, grown-up, authoritative journalists, (b) that there exists such a creature as a “serious, grown-up authoritative journalist,” and (c) that these serious, grown-up journalists, and the “authoritative sources” they rub elbows with, inhabit an exclusive “authoritative” realm populated by “serious people” deserving of our trust and deference.

As it just so happens, in this authoritative realm, where serious people (a/k/a “grown-ups”) are dealing with “real,” “adult” type matters that are none of our business, and which we wouldn’t understand, everyone is extremely well-paid. That’s one way you can tell they are serious. That, and various other hallmarks of “seriousness” and “respectability,” like their overuse of a certain type of adjective (i.e., the type I’ve been having fun with in this essay), important-sounding but meaningless adjectives like “major,” “serious,” “authoritative,” “well-respected,” “legitimate,” and so on. “Serious” people use these adjectives to refer to other “serious” people, or the views or statements of other “serious” people. The more ridiculous the propaganda they are pressuring you to take seriously is, the more they tend to overuse these words. Most of them do not do this consciously. They do it instinctively. They do it out of fear of being excommunicated from the Cult of Authority.

Which might explain why The Intercept has brought a legend like Risen on board to report the ridiculous Russiagate story from the viewpoint of serious, authoritative people, i.e., to balance out Greenwald’s “collusion rejectionism.” After all, at this point, the only people who continue to doubt that Donald Trump is somehow in league with Vladimir Putin and his plot to dominate the entire world by brainwashing folks with Facebook ads are Russian bots, Nazis, traitors, and other such non-authoritative persons. Given all the money they’re paying their journalists, First Look Media can hardly afford to allow them to be confused with that lot. Before too long, they would find themselves deranked, and would be reduced to writing for nothing. And who could possibly take them seriously then?

C. J. Hopkins is an award-winning American playwright, novelist and satirist based in Berlin. His plays are published by Bloomsbury Publishing (UK) and Broadway Play Publishing (USA). His debut novel, ZONE 23, is published by Snoggsworthy, Swaine & Cormorant. He can reached at cjhopkins.com or  consentfactory.org.

March 7, 2018 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Progressive Hypocrite, Russophobia, Timeless or most popular | , , , | 1 Comment

Correcting Eva Golinger and Jeremy Scahill on Venezuela

By Stansfield Smith | Dissident Voice | August 18, 2017

As the class struggle heated up in Venezuela this year, fueled by interventionist threats by the pro-US Organization of American States (OAS) bloc, many former supporters of the Bolivarian revolution have remained sitting on the fence. Fed up with these fair-weather friends and their critiques which recycle corporate news propaganda, some defenders of Venezuela such as Shamus Cooke, Greg Wilpert, Maria Paez Victor, have come with articles clarifying the stakes and calling the so-called “left” to account.

Among the disaffected is Venezuelan-American lawyer Eva Golinger, the author of The Chávez Code: Cracking US Intervention in Venezuela and self-described friend and advisor to Hugo Chávez.

The day after Trump threatened to militarily intervene in Venezuela, Jeremy Scahill posted his interview with Eva Golinger on The Intercept, one reinforcing some corporate press distortions of Venezuela under President Maduro. Golinger hardly goes as far in this anti-Maduro campaign as Scahill, who more clearly fits what Shamus Cooke characterized as “the intellectually lazy ‘pox on both houses’ approach that has long-infected the U.S. left.”

To her credit, Golinger does emphasize the real class issue ignored by “pox on both your houses” liberals like Scahill: Washington’s and the Venezuelan right-wing’s goal is to crush the heart and backbone of the Chavista revolution, “the grassroots, the social movements, the workers, the community organizers, the people who are actually the ones trying, struggling to hold on to anything that’s left of this movement that they have been building and empowering themselves with now over the past fifteen years or so.”

And, counter to claims of Maduro “authoritarianism,” she correctly notes in her recent article:

Imagine if protestors were to use lethal weapons against security forces in the U.S., even killing some of them. In Venezuela, the anti-government protestors have even burned innocent bystanders to death because they suspected them of being ‘chavistas’. Were that to happen in the U.S., the repression and forceful action by the state would far exceed the leniency exercised by the Venezuelan government in the face of these deadly demonstrations.

Yet within her valuable analysis, and precisely because of her valuable analysis, both in the interview and in her article Golinger makes some statements that require correction.

(a) Golinger writes:  “The demonstrations arose from the massive discontent throughout the country as food shortages, lack of access to medications, skyrocketing inflation and erosion of democratic institutions have intensified since Maduro won office by a slim margin in 2013.”

In fact, the violent demonstrations arose as part of a coordinated effort by OAS General Secretary Luis Almagro, the US government, and the right wing MUD opposition to generate a chaos in the streets that demanded OAS “humanitarian intervention’ to restore order and displace the Maduro government. While there is massive discontent due to food and medication shortages and inflation, those most affected by this, the working classes and poor, are not the ones participating in the anti-government protests.

(b) Golinger defends Attorney General Luisa Ortega, [“the judicial maneuvering by the country’s highest court to silence critics should cease.”] who was eventually removed by unanimous vote of the Constituent Assembly after recommendation by the Supreme Court. The issue was not simply being a critic; Ortega had failed to prosecute violent protesters and their financial backers, and lied to the public.

(c) Golinger writes: “A growing number of Venezuelans who supported Hugo Chávez and his policies have distanced   themselves from his successor, dismayed by the country’s turn from a once vibrant participatory democracy towards a closed one-party state, intolerant of critics.”

She, as with other fair-weather friends, sees a divide between the Maduro and Chavez eras, when, in fact, the fundamental problems of oil dependence, corruption, bureaucracy existed throughout this period, in part overshadowed by Chavez’ charisma and high oil prices.

That the majority of opposition MUD parties are participating in the coming October regional elections clearly proves Venezuela is not a “one-party state, intolerant of critics.”

(d)  She writes: “President Maduro’s convening of a constituent assembly to rewrite the nation’s constitution has been vehemently rejected by the opposition and has caused severe internal rifts within his own movement.”

Events have shown “severe internal rifts” to be false. The July 30 vote was a major victory for the Chavistas and a major defeat for the right wing. Now the violence has mostly ended and opposition parties say they will participate in the upcoming elections.

(e) Scahill dishonestly claimed the July 30 vote for the Constituent Assembly “was held after an order issued by Maduro. Why that was necessary was baffling even to former supporters of Chavez, as the Bolivarian movement has often celebrated its constitution as a revolutionary and meticulous document. For many seasoned observers, the whole affair reeked of an effort to consolidate power.”

Scahill’s “seasoned observers” is a euphemism for “professional corporate media propagandists.”

To clarify, Venezuela’s constitution Article 348 states:

The initiative for calling a National Constituent Assembly may emanate from the President of the Republic sitting with the Cabinet of Ministers; from the National Assembly by a two-thirds vote of its members; from the Municipal Councils in open session, by a two-thirds vote of their members; and from 15% of the voters registered with the Civil and Electoral Registry.

In other words, rather than being an act that violated the constitution, a little fact-checking would show Maduro’s action followed the constitution to the letter.

(f)  Scahill claims: “The vote for the assembly was boycotted by many Venezuelans and when the official results were announced, it was clear that the tally had been tampered with.”

Like the claims of “no doubt” Russia interfered with the US election, Scahill’s “it was clear” comes with no evidence attached.

Golinger, who is not as hostile as Scahill, still says:  “There’s a lot of indication that it wasn’t a free and fair vote — that the tallies are not accurate.” But she likewise gives no evidence for this “indication”.

In fact, international election observers have vouched for the validity of the vote, and the agreement of opposition parties to run in the upcoming regional elections implies they accept the integrity of the National Electoral Council.

(g) Golinger says the government chose the candidates for the Constituent Assembly, so it would have won regardless of how many voted. In fact, people were free to nominate anyone, and in the end, there were 6120 candidates for 545 seats. She does not mention that Chavista candidates won for the simple reason that the opposition boycotted the Assembly election, having planned to have overthrown Maduro by then.

(h) Scahill asserts: “Maduro’s forces have also conducted raids to arrest opposition figures and both government forces and opposition forces have been involved in lethal actions during protests. It must be pointed out that Maduro controls the country’s military and intelligence forces and those far outgun all of the combined masses of government opponents.”

Is he actually surprised that a country has armed forces that can outgun the civilian population? Scahill does not mention that army and police members have also been charged with killing opposition protesters.

(i) Golinger makes a series of misleading statements comparing the present Constituent Assembly process to the one that took place under Chavez. The Chavez one “was put to a vote after he was elected, to whether or not people actually wanted to proceed. More than 70 percent of those participating said yes. Then they elected the members. Then it was done in this extremely open, transparent way. You know, there were drafts of the constitution passed around and discussed in communities. And then it was put to another vote to actually ratify it by the people on a national level. So I mean, we’re missing almost all of those steps this time around and it lasted four months, it had a mandate of four months. And it wasn’t all-supreme, that it could be a legislator and an executor and an enforcer, which is what we’re seeing now.”

No mention that the Chavez era turnout to convoke an Assembly brought out 37.8% of the population (92% voted yes, not 70%). This July 30 voter turnout was higher, 41.5%.  No mention that now, just as before, proposed changes to the constitution must be made public, discussed and voted on by national referendum. No mention that the present Assembly is all-supreme — even over Maduro — unlike the previous Assembly, because this is what the present constitution states, not the case before.

Article 349:

The President of the Republic shall not have the power to object to the new Constitution. The existing constituted authorities shall not be permitted to obstruct the Constituent Assembly in any way.

It is hard to believe Eva Golinger does not know this. She claims the present process is a “major rupture” from the Chavez era, when, in fact, the government and Constituent Assembly are simply following the Chavez 1999 constitution.

(j) She says: “I wish that they hadn’t moved forward with this rewriting of the constitution and creating this sort of supra government, because it does make it more difficult to find a solution to the crisis.”

We see that the opposite is the case. The vote for the Constituent Assembly has made it easier to find a solution.

Maduro did not act in an authoritarian manner. He did not quell the violent protests by declaring a national emergency and resorting to police and military repression. He did not use death squads, or torture, jail and exile the opposition. Instead he called for a Constituent Assembly, and with the mass show of support in the election, the violence has died down, and most of the opposition has returned to the electoral field.

We should call this for what it is: a humanitarian example for other governments when faced with social unrest.

With the July 30 Assembly vote, the US, the OAS Almagro bloc, and the opposition MUD have suffered a serious defeat, as even the hostile New York Times has noted. This gives the progressive forces an opening to resolve the serious problems the country faces. The extent it will make use of this opportunity to break out of the unresolved social, political and economic conflicts of the last few years remains to be seen.


Stansfield Smith, Chicago ALBA Solidarity, is a long time Latin America solidarity activist, and presently puts out the AFGJ Venezuela Weekly.

August 18, 2017 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , , | 3 Comments

“Socialists” Supporting NATO and U.S. Empire

Ashley Smith and the ISO

By Rick Sterling | Dissident Voice | September 5, 2016

At the recent annual convention of Veterans for Peace, VFP Vice President Jerry Condon said: “The US peace movement has been demobilized by disinformation on Syria.”

Disinformation and propaganda on Syria takes three distinct forms. The first is the demonization of the Syrian leadership. The second is the romanticization of the opposition. The third form involves attacking anyone questioning the preceding characterizations.

There is a recent article which exemplifies all three of these forms. It is titled “Anti-Imperialism and the Syrian Revolution” by Ashley Smith of the International Socialist Organization (ISO). It’s a remarkable piece of misinformation and faulty analysis. Because it is clear and well written, it is likely to mislead people who are not well informed on the facts regarding Syria. Hence the importance of critically reviewing it.

Technique 1: Demonize the enemy … “the Syrian regime and its brutal dictator”

Smith starts off posing the question: Are you with the Syrian revolution or the brutal Assad dictatorship? The way he frames it, it’s not a difficult choice: yay for the revolution!

Like these false options, Ashley Smith’s article is a fairy tale devoid of reality. His bias is shown as he criticizes the Left for ignoring “Assad’s massacre of some 400,000 Syrians”. Included in this death count are 100-150 thousand Syrian soldiers and allies. Ashley blames Assad instead of the armed opposition for killing Syrian soldiers!

Another example of false propaganda is the discussion of the chemical weapons attack that took place on August 21, 2013 in outer Damascus. Neoconservatives speak of this event as “proving” Assad’s brutality – “killing his own people” – as well as the “failure” of President Obama to enforce his “red line”. Ashley aligns with the neocons as he says “Barack Obama came under pressure to intervene militarily in Syria after the regime carried out a chemical weapons attack in a suburb of Damascus in 2013, but he backed a Russian-brokered resolution that protected Assad.”

In reality, the Damascus sarin gas attack was carried out by an opposition group with the goal of forcing the U.S. to directly attack the Syrian government. Soon after the event, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity issued a statement reporting “the most reliable intelligence shows that Bashar al-Assad was NOT responsible for the chemical incident”. Later on, Seymour Hersh wrote two lengthy investigations pointing to Jabhat al Nusra with Turkish support being culpable. Investigative journalist Robert Parry exposed the Human Rights Watch analysis blaming the Syrian government as a “junk heap of bad evidence”. In the Turkish parliament, Turkish deputies presented documents showing that Turkey provided sarin to Syrian “rebels”. A detailed examination and analysis of all fact based stories in online at whoghouta.blogspot.com. Their conclusion is that “The only plausible scenario that fits the evidence is an attack by opposition forces.”

Ashley Smith accuses the Syrian government of widespread torture. His main example is the case of Syrian Canadian Maher Arar who was arrested by US authorities in collusion with Canadian authorities, then rendered to Syria for interrogation in 2002. Arar was beaten during the initial weeks of his interrogation in Syria. After ten months imprisonment, Syrian authorities determined he was not a terrorist and sent him back to Canada. Arar received an official apology and $10 Million from the Canadian government.

The most highly publicized accusation of rampant torture and murder by Syrian authorities is the case of “Caesar”. The individual known as “Caesar” was presented as a defecting Syrian photographer who had 55,000 photos documenting 11,000 Syrians tortured by the brutal Assad dictatorship. At the time, among mainstream media only the Christian Science Monitor was skeptical, describing it as “a well timed propaganda exercise”. In the past year it has been discovered that nearly half the photos show the opposite of what is claimed. The Caesar story is essentially a fraud funded by Qatar with ‘for hire’ lawyers giving it a professional veneer and massive mainstream media promotion.

While western media routinely refers to Assad as a dictator, in fact, he is elected and popular with the majority of Syrians. Although not wealthy, Syria was largely self-sufficient with a semi-socialist state apparatus including free health-care, free education and large industries 51% owned by the state. You do not see pervasive western fast food, banks, and other corporate entities in Syrian cities. In the wake of protests, the government pushed through reforms which ended the one party system. There are now political parties across the political spectrum. These are a genuine ‘moderate opposition’. The June 2014 election confirmed Assad’s popularity despite the denials of those who have never been there.

Technique 2: Romanticize the opposition … “the Syrian Revolution”

Ashley Smith echoes mainstream media which portrays the conflict as a “civil war” which began with peaceful democratic loving Syrian revolutionaries beaten by a brutal regime.

In reality there was a violent faction from the start. In the first protests in Deraa seven police were killed. Two weeks later there was a massacre of 60 security forces in Deraa. In Homs, an eye-witness recounted the situation:

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.

In the first two months, hundreds of police and security forces were killed.

Ashley and company listen to Americans and British citizens and mistakenly believe they are listening to real Syrians. Some of these people left Syria at age 3. Some of them have never lived in Syria. Thus you have fantasy portrayals such as “Burning Country: Syrians in Revolution and War”. A more realistic picture is given by a Syrian who still lives in Aleppo. He writes under the name “Edward Dark” and describes how he and his friends quickly regretted the take-over of Aleppo by armed groups in summer 2012. He describes one friend’s reaction as the reality was hitting home: “How could we have been so stupid? We were betrayed!”. And another says: Tell your children someday that we once had a beautiful country, but we destroyed it because of our ignorance and hatred.” Edward Dark is a harsh critic of President Assad and Baath Party. He is also naive regarding the role of US Ambassador Robert Ford. But his description of early protesters and the arrival of armed opposition rings true and more authentic than the portrayal of Yassin-Kassab and Al Shami.

In fact, many of the idealized “Syrian revolutionaries” promoted by the authors of “Burning Country” are trained and paid agents of the US and UK. The Aleppo Media Center which produces many of the videos is a US creation. The White Helmets which purport to be Syrian, independent and unarmed first responders, are a creation of the US and UK. The banner boys from Kafranbel are another western funded operation. In her book about her time as Secretary of State, Clinton boasts of providing “training for more than a thousand activists, students, and independent journalists” (p. 464).

Why do the enemies of Syria create such organizations? Partly as a way to channel money and support to the armed opposition. Also to serve as propaganda tools to confuse the situation and generate support for the real goal: regime change. For example, White Helmets mostly work in areas dominated by the Syrian Al Qaeda. Unlike legitimate organizations such as the Red Crescent, they never work in areas controlled by the government. And they are also active on the propaganda front, continually pushing for US/NATO intervention via a  “no fly zone”. The misinformation of Ashley Smith and ISO confuses unwitting people and helps the enemies of Syria in their drive for regime change.

In contrast with the romanticized delusions of Ashley Smith and the authors of “Burning Country”, the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency gave an accurate assessment in August 2012:

“EVENTS ARE TAKING A CLEAR SECTARIAN DIRECTION.  THE SALAFIST, THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD AND AQI ARE THE MAJOR FORCES DRIVING THE INSURGENCY IN SYRIA.”

Technique 3: Attack Those who Question the Dogma … “You’re an Assad supporter!”

Ashley Smith does not criticize the NATO and Gulf states that are violating international law and the UN charter by funding and supplying a proxy army to attack Syria. Instead, he criticizes left groups who oppose the aggression. That is a sign of how far off track ISO is. They did the same thing regarding Libya and have evidently learned nothing from that disaster. Ashley Smith should go and tour Libya now to savor the “revolution” he promoted.

Ashley Smith’s theme with respect to Syria (peaceful popular uprising against brutal dictator) is the same theme promoted by neoconservatives and the mainstream media. When they encounter a different perspective, they cry out, “You are an Assad supporter!”. Never mind that many genuine progressives do not say that. What we say is that it’s for the Syrian people to determine their government, not foreigners.

Smith criticizes the British Stop the War coalition for having “adapted to Assad supporters” and for “giving a platform to allies of the dictatorship”, specifically “regime apologist Mother Superior Agnes Mariam”. Smith is misinformed on this issue also, but it is doubly revealing. In fact, Mother Agnes was hosted on the tour by Syria Solidarity Movement. When she was in London, she was invited to speak at a Stop the War rally. To his great discredit, the keynote speaker Jeremy Scahill, who is closely aligned with ISO, threatened to withdraw from the conference if Mother Agnes spoke. Scahill has done great journalistic work exposing Blackwater and Drone Warfare. However, that does not excuse the complicity leading to blackmail regarding a Palestinian Lebanese nun who has shown immense courage in promoting reconciliation and peace in Syria.

However, that action is typical of some misguided “socialist” groups, the Muslim Brotherhood and their allies. Mother Agnes was verbally attacked and abused by these groups throughout her tour, which otherwise met with great success. Mother Agnes has lived in Syria for over twenty years. She consistently says that Syria needs reform, but you don’t do that by destroying it.

Ashley Smith goes on to criticize the US Peace Council for recently sending a delegation to Syria and having the audacity to talk with “Assad and his henchmen”. He sounds like the right wing hawks who denounced Jane Fonda for going to North Vietnam in the 1970’s. Smith displays a dogmatic and closed-minded view; what kind of “international socialism” does he represent?

Smith criticizes Green Party candidates Jill Stein and Ajamu Baraka for “remaining silent about Putin’s and Assad’s atrocities”. This is another measure of how far off track the ISO is. They evidently are not aware of international law or they don’t care about it. The Assad government has a right to defend itself against terrorist attacks which are sponsored, funded and supplied by foreign governments.

Syria also has a right to request help from Russia and Iran. But with tunnel-vision dogma, Ashley Smith and ISO do not care. They seem to be supporting instead of opposing imperialist aggression, violations of international law, and the death and destruction these have led to.

Ashley disparages the Syrian government and people who have continued to fight against the forces of sectarianism promoted by NATO, Israel and the Gulf monarchies. Ashley and ISO would do well to send some people to see the reality of Syria. They would find it very different than their fevered imagination or what they have been led to believe by fake Syrians and Muslim Brotherhood dogmatists.

Genuine progressives are not “Assad supporters”. Rather, we are opponents of imperialist aggression and supporters of international law — which says it’s the right of Syrians to determine who leads them. That would mean real Syrians, not those raised in or paid by the West.

Ashley Smith’s Inaccurate Overall Analysis

Ashley Smith gives a very inaccurate analysis of the overall geopolitical situation in Syria and beyond.

He says “The US has been seeking a resolution that might push Assad aside, but that above all maintains his regime in power”. He goes on to say ‘U.S. policy from the beginning has been to preserve the core of Assad’s state.” Ashley believes “the U.S. has retreated in general from outright regime change as its strategy in the Middle East”.

This is absurd. In reality the US and allies Israel and Saudi Arabia have been pushing for ‘regime change’ in Syria for over a decade. In 2005 CNN host Christiane Amanpour expressed the situation bluntly:

Mr. President, you know the rhetoric of regime change is headed towards you from the United States. They are actively looking for a new Syrian leader. They’re granting visas and visits to Syrian opposition politicians. They’re talking about isolating you diplomatically and, perhaps, a coup d’etat or your regime crumbling. What are you thinking about that?

In 2007, Seymour Hersh wrote about the destabilization efforts in his article “The Redirection.”

In 2010, Secretary of State Clinton spoke of “changing Syria’s behavior” and threatened “President Assad is making decisions that could mean war or peace for the region …. We know he’s hearing from Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas. It is crucial that he also hear directly from us, so that the potential consequences of his actions are clear.”

Secretary Clinton appointed Robert Ford to become US Ambassador to Syria. Ford was previously the chief political officer in Baghdad for Ambassador John Negroponte. Who is John Negroponte? He was Ambassador to Honduras overseeing the Nicaraguan Contras and El Salvador death squads in the 1980’s. Negroponte’s arrival in Iraq in 2004 led to ‘the El Salvador option’ (sectarian death squads) in Iraq.

Since the conflict in Syria began in 2011 the US has spent many billions of dollars trying to overthrow the Syrian government or force it to change policy. The supply of sophisticated and deadly weaponry continues. In April 2016 it was reported that the US recently supplied 994 TONS of sophisticated rocket launchers, anti tank and other heavy weapons to “moderate rebels” who ally with the Syrian Al Qaeda ( Jabhat al Nusra recently renamed Jabhat Fatah al Sham).

Ashley’s theory that the US is intent on “preserving” the Syrian state and the US has “given up” on regime change is not supported by the facts.

Ashley continues the faulty analysis by saying “the U.S. is solely and obsessively focused on defeating this counterrevolutionary force (ISIS) in Iraq and Syria” and “the Obama administration has struck a de facto alliance with Russia”.

This is more theory without evidence. The US coalition was doing little to stop ISIS and looked the other way as ISIS went across the open desert to attack and occupy Palmyra. They were similarly looking the other way as ISIS sent hundreds of trucks filled with oil from eastern Syria into Turkey each day. It was not until Russia entered the scene in support of Syria one year ago, that the US coalition got embarrassed into actually attacking ISIS. As to a “de facto alliance”, this is what Russia has implored the US to do, largely without response. In the past two weeks the U.S. has threatened Russian and Syrian planes not to attack US ground forces inside Syria and refused to come to agreement with Russia that “moderate rebels” working with acknowledged terrorists are not “moderate” and can be targeted.

The Obama administration is trying to prevent the collapse of the regime change project by stalling and delay. Perhaps they wish to keep the project alive for a more aggressive US policy. Hillary Clinton continues to talk about a “no fly zone”. Her allies in Congress have recently initiated HR5732 which will escalate economic and financial sanctions against Syria and assess the implementation of a “no fly zone”.

Ashley Smith suggests that large portions of the US left have been avidly supporting “oppressive regimes” such as Syria and Iran. He mocks those on the left who suggested the Iranian ‘green movement’ was US-influenced. His mockery is exposed as ignorance by none other than Hillary Clinton herself. In her book “Hard Choices” she recounts how they arranged for Twitter to postpone a system upgrade which would have taken the social media giant offline at a critical time, right after the 2009 Iranian election. Hillary and her group at the State Dept were actively promoting the protests in Iran.

Dangerous Times Ahead

Some middle east analysts have made the faulty analysis that Israel is not involved in the aggression against Syria. In reality, Israeli interests are at the core of the US policy against Syria. The Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. was explicit: “Israel wanted Assad gone since start of civil war”. He also said “bad guys supported by Iran” are worse than “bad guys not supported by Iran”.  In other words, Israel prefers chaos and Al Qaeda to a stable independent Syria.

Saudi Arabia is the other key U.S. ally seeking overthrow in Syria. With its close connections to the oil industry, military industrial complex and Wall Street, Saudi Arabia has enormous influence in Washington. It has been mercilessly bombing Yemen for the last 18 months and continues funding and promoting the proxy war against Syria.

Both Saudi Arabia and Israel seek the same thing: breaking the resistance alliance which runs from Iran through Syria to Lebanon. They are in alliance with US neoconservatives who still dream of “a new American Century” where the US fights multiple wars to enforce its exceptional and sole supremacy. Along with some other countries, these are the forces of reaction violating international law and promoting the war against Syria.

The tide is turning against the forces pushing for ‘regime change’ in Syria. But they have not yet given up and may even escalate. Now is when progressives in the West need to raise our voices in opposition to this aggression. Jill Stein and Ajamu Baraka can hopefully bring much more attention to this critical issue. Bernie Sanders and his supporters need to speak out against Hillary Clinton’s statements and plans.

There are good people in ISO which does good work in many areas. We hope they will re-examine their assumptions, beliefs and actions regarding Syria. In the dangerous times ahead, we need them to be resisting the drive to war in Syria, not condoning or supporting it.

Rick Sterling is a retired aerospace engineer who now does research/writing on international issues. He can be reached at rsterling1@gmail.com.

September 5, 2016 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pierre Omidyar: giving until it hurts

By David Matthew Carr | December 7, 2013

The new media venture from billionaire philanthropist Pierre Omidyar will enlist the muck-raking talents of Glen Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill. Omidyar’s record of promoting and funding “free-market solutions” to social problems is a good indicator of what the limitations of the project will be.

Pierre Omidyar is a Punahou school alumnus who holds a bachelor’s degree in computer science. He is also the multibillionaire philanthropist behind Hawaii-based Civil Beat, a Right-Libertarian, pro-business, pay-walled media website that focuses its critique on the shortcomings of democratic governance and the public sector. Omidyar’s Civil Beat offers analysis which seems to exist in a strange land without class conflict, where the ruling-class and the working-class struggle shoulder to shoulder against the forces corrupting liberal democracy. As a result, the editorial slant is marked by a distinct disconnect from the every-day lives of non-billionaire philanthropists, those who don’t stand to gain from the schemes of Omidyar, the “classless angel.”

Omidyar’s latest project is to launch a media group whose roster of reporters will include the muckraking talents of Glen Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill. To assess the potential for this new project, it is important to know his basic ideological outlook, which we can find in the projects he has participated in.

After striking it rich by helping to establish ebay, Omidyar decided to engage in targeted philanthropy to promote opportunity and a better world. He believes he earned his billions without taking anything from society, so his philanthropic impulse cannot be traced to a sense of guilt regarding his fortune. In fact it’s the other way around: “To Omidyar, ‘giving back’ implies that, before philanthropy, you were taking away. Not so, says Omidyar, who believes that people succeed when they create value for society.”

One of Omidyar’s “value creating” projects has been to invest heavily in the micro-loan industry, through groups like Kiva which allows investors to profit off of loans to the poor, especially in impoverished regions of India. The ideology behind this business venture saw free markets magically lifting all boats where government funding did not. The actual results were often financial collapse, leaving the borrowers prey to lenders demanding repayment. “It is tough to find a household in this village in an impoverished district of Andhra Pradesh that is not deeply in debt to a for-profit microfinance company.”

The Omidyar Network states on its website that it “is a philanthropic investment firm dedicated to harnessing the power of markets to create opportunity for people to improve their lives.” Omidyar is often identified as an “economist,” perhaps explaining his profoundly distorted idea of what markets do and how capitalism works. For him, markets seem to act as avenues which unleash people-power and democracy, especially when noble-minded entrepreneurs are navigating them.

But the misguided nature of Omidyar’s philanthropy comes into sharpest focus when looking at his projects around education. He has given ten million dollars to the Skoll Foundation, a major backer of “Teach For America“, which specializes in placing undertrained Ivy League idealists in classrooms in underperforming neighborhoods. They commit to two years on the job after graduation, and are (perhaps unwittingly) deployed as part of an end run around teachers unions. TFA promotes legislation that seeks to undermine tenure, and “reward good teachers” while making it easier to fire “bad” ones. They promote charter schools as inherently superior to public ones, and advocate for a business-model-of-education with school principals acting more like CEOs than head teachers.

Opponents of Teach For America have pointed out, that TFA is an “incubator for the privatization movement”:

TFA plays a key role in developing and connecting personnel, political support, and financial backing for neoliberal and market based policies, specifically charter school reform, the deregulation of teacher education, and accountability policies.

While TFA uses the rhetoric of justice and equity, these reforms in fact stifle democratic processes and are used to justify budget cuts and the takeover of public institutions by privately funded and privately run companies.

Jeff Skoll was Omidyar’s business partner and the first President of ebay. Skoll was a major funder of the movie “Waiting For Superman” which featured Michelle Rhee as its protagonist, giving her a national platform to attack teachers’ unions and promote her privatization agenda which has resonated with both Republicans and Democrats carrying out austerity-governance. Diane Ravitch’s description of the movie (and related education “reform” films) shows how it is a perfect fit for Omidyar’s vision of entrepreneurial genius coming to the rescue of a world mired in public sector programs that are alleged to have “failed”:

The message of these films has become alarmingly familiar: American public education is a failed enterprise. The problem is not money. Public schools already spend too much. Test scores are low because there are so many bad teachers, whose jobs are protected by powerful unions. Students drop out because the schools fail them, but they could accomplish practically anything if they were saved from bad teachers. They would get higher test scores if schools could fire more bad teachers and pay more to good ones. The only hope for the future of our society, especially for poor black and Hispanic children, is escape from public schools, especially to charter schools, which are mostly funded by the government but controlled by private organizations, many of them operating to make a profit

The Omidyar Network is behind “Teach For All,” the globalized version of the Teach For America model. A look at the Board of Teach For All, provides a clear illustration of both its detachment from the educational field, and the corporate world view it embodies. Its members include top brass from Rolls Royce, Visa, Goldman Sachs, the founder of Teach For America, and Dr. Rufus Black a “theologian and ethicist” who is presumably there to provide rationalizations for their atrocious attacks on working teachers, students, unions, and communities.

Especially appalling is the push by Omidyar and other corporate education “reformers” to link teacher assessments to their students’ scores on standardized tests, and then to utilize those assessments in determining whether a teacher retains employment or not. This correlates to the “business model of education.” A profile on the Omidyar Network states that “[t]he model of investing in social change organizations requires that measurable good flows from the investment, just as accounting methods tell executives whether a for-profit investment is producing profits.” This is the lens through which corporate reformers like Bill Gates, the Broad Foundation, and Omidyar see the world. Numerical data will reflect the “measurable good” provided by a teacher, but the data will be detached from factors like poverty, student access to nutrition, problems at home, the level at which particular schools are funded and the educational resources they have access to, etc. These aspects will be abstracted out, as is the fashion in the neoliberal economics that underpin Omidyar’s crusades to create social value. Teachers with students who are learning English as a second language, who have learning disabilities, or who face issues stemming from poverty, still the main determinant in negative educational outcomes, are assessed as “failing” if their students’ scores are low.

Omidyar, and the other billionaire philanthropists who push top down, non-democratic crusades to empower the people, genuinely believe they possess the knowledge that the “best minds” have to offer. One problem is that their money gives them the right to engage in these projects whether or not they have any kind of relevant expertise, or even a grasp on reality. The corporate-philanthropist take on reality amounts to little more than ideology; specifically capitalist:

Property rights are the keys to economic security, identity, and wealth creation. … Societies that enforce these rights benefit from greater economic growth, transparency, and political stability, as they encourage investment, promote the rule of law, and give people a stake in the future.

Any grounding of capitalism in history shows that, while it unleashed productive powers never before dreamed of, it cannot be a truly liberating force for humanity. Beyond whatever role it had in overturning feudal social relations, it came with inherent problems of its own, and the concept of “property rights” is one of them. From the English enclosures carried out by the landed gentry, enabled by laws created by the parliaments they owned, to the hangings of thousands of “vagrants” who had become criminalized via this process, capitalism’s beginnings were brutal by design. Property rights as enshrined in law has mainly to do with preserving the ownership of the “means of production” in a very few hands while the masses own little more than their own labor power, which they must sell to a boss. For every gain made via capitalist production, so to have these inequalities of the class system been reproduced. The hangings were part of a ruling class pedagogy, because people had to be taught to respect the new restrictive capitalist property relations which made it so hard for them to survive. With this in mind, its hard to get on board with Omidyar’s goal of creating value for society, when the system of value production he promotes as a panacea is the same one that reinforces the process of alienation.

The idea that property rights make people free should be especially offensive when Omidyar targets former colonies for philanthropic rehabilitation. With Teach For India, we see a project promoting markets as the savior of Indian social infrastructure. Unfortunately, the impact of the market system on India has a deeply disturbing history, completely relevant to Omidyar’s present efforts. In his book Late Victorian Holocausts, Mike Davis has illuminated the incredible human toll markets unleashed on the subcontinent under British colonial rule: “Davis’ primary focus in fleshing out his story is the crown jewel of Britain’s colonial empire: India. Drought was the precipitating cause of the hardship faced by the Indian people. However, Davis demonstrates with statistics and anecdotes that it was the unregulated “free market” system imposed on India by Britain that led to the deaths of tens of millions in the mid-1870s and late 1880s.”

Aside from his ideologically dubious philanthropy, Omidyar has also drawn outrage closer to his present Oahu home from the residents of the island of Kauai, where he has proposed to develop a mixed residential and low-density hotel resort. “Despite 5,000+ petition signers, strong, visible community opposition, and several attempts to dialog directly with Mr. Omidyar, the Oahu resident and billionaire founder of eBay has thus far declined to personally dialog with concerned Kauai Community leaders.” It should be noted that Kauai’s population is roughly 68,000, so 5,000 signatures is proportionally significant. A member of Save Hanalei River Ridge, wrote to Omidyar, complaining that:

To introduce multi-million-dollar homes sitting on top of the ridge looking down on Black Pot, would break the hearts of the thousands of people who live here and also those who come to visit and enjoy the tranquility and beauty of the River and the Bay. A resort development on this massive scale on the Hanalei River Ridge opens the door to letting it become more like Laguna Beach and less like Hanalei; this Garden of Eden that so well defines Kauai.

Despite the fact that his projects consistently put him at odds with the poor and working-class, Omidyar still sees himself as a benefactor of the people. The new venture, he explains “was fueled by his ‘rising concern about press freedoms in the United States and around the world’.” Natasha Vargas-Cooper hit what is perhaps a more telling note about Omidyar’s interest in independent media when she wrote of Glen Greenwald in a profile of him for The Advocate. She believes that Greenwald’s “obsession with surveillance and privacy issues have made him into an ideological pillar of the rather sterile, unfriendly world of civil libertarian politics, a group not known for its warmth and humanism.” Omidyar’s union-busting politics, his focus on private sector saviors, his backing of disruptive land developments, and his misnomered “social entrepreneurship” put him in that world.

Reading Omidyar’s description of how his private sector experience will create success for his new media outlet, one would be justified in suspecting the blind spot toward working-class issues, so glaring in Civil Beat, will be replicated in the new venture: “Companies in Silicon Valley invest a lot in understanding their users and what drives user engagement. … That process got me thinking about what kind of social impact could be created if a similar investment was made in something entirely new, built from the ground up. Something that I would be personally and directly involved in outside of my other efforts as a philanthropist.” Omidyar’s idea of a community of readers empowered by truth is again seen through a commodified lens: “Users,” (themselves a product to deliver to advertisers and others who can utilize information they generate about themselves) are driven to engage with his product, in this case news.

For the working-class, Omidyar’s pursuit of freedom of both information and markets cannot be seen as inherently progressive. His top-down billionaire philanthropist/savior antics are as insulting as Andrew Carnegie’s public infrastructure campaigns, which created public libraries and parks from the private fortune he’d amassed repressing wages and workers’ movements. In Omidyar’s world a classless civil society fights the powers that impede the market’s ability to liberate human potential. In the real, historically grounded world there is an employing class and a working-class that “have nothing in common”. No billionaire media mogul is ever going to be in the service of working people, no matter how much rhetoric about freedom of speech is deployed in the promotion of his or her product.

David Carr is an organizer with LaborFest Hawaii and a History instructor at Leeward Community College.

December 7, 2013 Posted by | Economics, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mother Agnes Mariam: In Her Own Words

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By Sharmine Narwani | Mideast Shuffle | November 29, 2013

American national security journalist Jeremy Scahill and leftist British columnist Owen Jones announced recently that they would not share a platform with a Palestinian-Lebanese nun at the Stop The War Coalition’s November 30 UK conference.

Neither Scahill nor Jones provided any reason for their harsh “indictment” of Mother Agnes Mariam, who has worked tirelessly for the past few years on reconciliation in war-torn Syria, where she has lived for two decades.

The journalists – neither of whom have produced any notable body of work on Syria – appear to have followed the lead of a breed of Syria “activists” who have given us doozies like “Assad is about to fall,” “Assad has no support,” “the opposition is peaceful,” “the opposition is unarmed,” “this is a popular revolution,” “the revolution is not foreign-backed,” “there is no Al Qaeda in Syria,” “the dead are mostly civilians,” and other such gems.

For some of these activists, anything short of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s departure is no solution of any kind. Mother Agnes Mariam, whose Mussalaha (Reconciliation) movement inside Syria works specifically on mediation, dialogue and the promotion of non-violence, is unmoved by black-and-white solutions: Reconciliation, after all, is a series of political settlements forged on both local and national levels. There are only compromises there, not absolute gain. She doesn’t actually care who leads Syria and who wins or loses, providing the choice comes from a Syrian majority.

Yet the smear “Assad apologist” persists in following Mother Agnes on her visits to foreign capitals to gain support for Massalaha and its methods. It puts her at risk on the ground in Syria and inhibits her ability to open communications with those who would otherwise welcome the relief she brings.

When Scahill and Jones announced they would not share a platform with Mother Agnes at the STWC conference, she withdrew so as not to undermine the event’s anti-war unity objective. But instead of bringing this incident to a close, a maelstrom has erupted around the actions of the two journalists: “Who are they to pass judgement? Why would reporters seek to censor any voice?”

Award-winning British journalist and author Jonathan Cook perhaps put it best in his piece entitled “Bowing before the inquisitors on Syria”:

“Scahill and Jones have not done something principled or progressive here. They are trying to stay ‘onside’ with the corporate media, the main political parties and the Syria war-mongers. In short, they are looking out for their careers…They are looking to keep their credibility within a wider political system that, they otherwise seem to acknowledge, is deeply compromised and corrupt. In this episode, they are not chiefly worrying about countering moves towards an attack or saving Syrian lives, even while they claim this is exactly what their participation is about.”

Both journalists are outspoken against the censorship of information by the “establishment media” so it is particularly galling to see them succumb to the bullying narratives that have so dominated Syria coverage in the mainstream. In their own domain and area of expertise they don’t trust establishment voices, so why trust them in any other arena? This rather obvious contradiction has turned the tables on Scahill/Jones – if anything, generating interest in Mother Agnes and what she has to say.

Time to give her that platform back – no need for others to filter your information, you can judge for yourself below. And because so much of this debate has taken place on Twitter and the blogosphere, I invited “tweeps” from all sides of the Syrian divide to pose some questions too:

So without further ado, here is Mother Agnes Mariam, in her own words:

Did the Stop The War Coalition ask you to withdraw from their anti-war conference or did you choose to do so of your own volition?

I was invited to this conference, then I was informed about people that were against my coming and threatening to blow it up because of me. I preferred to immediately withdraw for the sake of this conference. Now, to tell you the truth I also have fear that this conference will not be useful, because these people attending are not applying non-violence principles. Non-violence principles means to be open to all adversaries. We can deal with people who don’t think like us. A non-violent approach is to dialogue precisely with people who are different. For a peace conference to begin like this, I felt like it is not a peace conference.

Have you ever heard of Jeremy Scahill and Owen Jones before this?

No, not at all. Who are they? Didn’t even notice who the people were. I heard about this from my organizer – that some people opposed even my presence. I understand everybody – I have been in dialogue with precisely the kind of people who opposed my presence. But it is the first time I hear their names, so no, I don’t know them. I’m not a person in the “scene.” (laughs)

What do you think of the attempt to censor views on Syria – and does your own experience this week have any correlation with how the mainstream media has covered Syria for almost three years?

You know, before working in reconciliation, I thought the so-called “democratic world” was really protecting freedom of expression and political choices. I am not involved with politics but they are ‘framing’ me; politicizing me. Am very shocked to learn that in this democratic world it is forbidden to think differently, talk differently and act differently from people who proclaim themselves as the ‘absolute reference’ for public opinion. This is a campaign of defamation. I am threatened by them: not by Jabhat al-Nusra, with whom I sometimes have good relations, or Al Qaeda – but by French media, by prominent leaders and CEOs of catholic NGOs, and by reporters. Am really astonished at how a reporter can become a prosecutor and a judge and can issue the sentence, and I am afraid that he can apply this sentence because today I see he works in total impunity.

Some media outlets and activists have accused you of brokering a civilian evacuation in rebel-held Moadamiya, only to hand them over to the Syrian authorities. What actually happened?

It was a purely humanitarian endeavor. Our (Mussalaha) team receives calls from all over Syria asking us to investigate people who have disappeared, to find out conditions for their release, to mediate on prisoner exchanges, to get food supplies to populations in need, how to transport humanitarian aid to hot areas, how to bring medical equipment to dangerous areas, how to arrange ceasefires, how to help violent opponents to shift to non-violence. We help to implement a non-violent spirit – we work with everybody, all sides, to do this.

This particular evacuation was requested by the civilian population itself in Mouadamiya. We have Mussalaha team members from Mouadamiya who are mediators. We were addressing the humanitarian issue in Moadamiya for many months before this, to try to make reconciliation from a violent opposition to a non-violent opposition. And when I saw photos of starving children on the Facebook – like in Biafra – I went to the Syrian Minister of Social Affairs Kinda al-Chammat to say this was not acceptable and that we should do something. Then we made contact with all the world health groups and international NGOs – we had talks with them to provide food. A caravan of more than 20 trucks was ready to enter Moadamiya, but it was forbidden to enter. It is difficult to say by who – I think it was from the army that was besieging this rebel stronghold, but also from the warlords that fix enormous prices to provide the entrance of food. Minister Chammat was really open to finding a solution, I said if they are not giving us the green light, I will go myself to take the 18 children who were under threat of dying. So we were entrusted to negotiate with the notables and the families in Moadamiya. Our mediators (also from Moadamiya) were surprised when whole families expressed the wish to be evacuated – because they are the families of the rebels, and to ask to be evacuated means they will be relying on the government. When we heard this we thought it was an easier and safer solution because if you bring in food but the violence continues, those civilians will be harmed anyway.

You know, under the Geneva Convention, it is illegal to transform a residential area into a battleground and if you do that you cannot keep civilians there like human shields. So the evacuation was motivated first by the desire of the families (not all, you know). The first project was to evacuate 100-200 women and children without any of their belongings, because there was a big fear that undisciplined members from either side would breach the ceasefire. It was delicate. Then on the very day, Minister Chammat, seeing hundreds of women and children arriving, told us “let as many who want to leave come out, because we cannot make discrimination,” so she made it open for that day. The government agreed to let us go alone; we were not escorted. All this was done in negotiations between the ministry and the governor of rural Damascus. Our responsibility was to bring the civilians to the barricade, but when we went there the rebels did not allow the women to proceed. I concluded, through contacts with the families that they were willing to come out, but we had to negotiate directly with the rebels. So I took a white flag into the area called no man’s land. I was followed by two of our mediators and by Sister Carmel – and it was heroic from her because she is a fearful person but she didn’t want me to go alone. There were tens of young rebel men, some armed, others not. And we were taken on a tour to see the destruction of the city and they asked us to come to the military council. (A video of Mother Agnes inside Moadamiya can be viewed here) They gave us security assurance. The commander arrived and they asked me to make a statement, which they recorded by video. But then we were detained, they wanted us to remain like ransom in exchange to let the women go out. We were hearing many noises and even gunfire while we were waiting. Then a real battle broke out – it was a big danger for everybody. We noticed that among them there was no unity, each would say their own thing. Finally, another leader came and agreed to the evacuation. Many of the leaders of fighters wanted their own families to leave. Others who don’t have families didn’t care. All we did was to answer a humanitarian request from rebel families.

In total, we evacuated 6,600 women and children – we have all their names, they are all registered. More than 200 are not registered because they left immediately with relatives. Also 650 young men came on their own to surrender. The army considered them as fighters. A few were badly wounded and they were taken to hospital. The (media) criticism was based on fake stories because the opposition (not the ones in Moadamiyada) do not want to accept the success of reconciliation based on mediation between the government and rebels. And because – after the success of the Moadamiya evacuation – ten other points in Syria have asked for the same mediation. Yesterday, for example, we had another evacuation – from Beit Sahm I believe – who were evacuated temporarily until the violence ceases. These critics said many were killed, abducted, raped when they came out of Moadamiya. Yes, there have been some errors and undisciplined acts. For instance, nine of the women were robbed. Volunteers from the ‘popular committees’ robbed their gold. We have done this evacuation in three separate days. On the first day we had 20 boys that were arrested, but we launched a campaign about this and they have been released. There are only two young boys now who are detained. We are still following up to secure them. The rebels with whom we have negotiated have entrusted us with their families, and they are the families of leaders and fighters, not just normal families. Until today, the two boys who disappeared after the Moadamiya evacuations are a problem for me and my credibility with the rebels. I am struggling with the authorities to find these boys right now.

The other major attack against you stems from a report you wrote about the aftermath of an alleged chemical weapons (CW) attack in Ghouta. You are accused of whitewashing the incident, blaming rebels for it and even charging children of “faking death.” How do you respond to these charges?

I have been accused of denying CW attacks, of protecting the Syrian regime and of accusing the rebels of launching those attacks. I have never said this. In the forward of a study I did on this, I affirm: I am not an expert. I am not talking on a military basis, or a forensic or medical basis. I just questioned some videos. It started because I was asked by the parents – survivors of a terrible massacre in the Latakia mountains – to help find some children abducted with women after the massacre. Some had recognized their children in the pictures of the chemical attacks. They delegated me to look into this for them. I was tracking those children in the videos – without this task I would not have had any incentive to look at the videos. My work at the monastery was in iconography and restoration (preservation) – I am very used to using my eyes to look for tiny details. I noticed discrepancies in the videos. I came to look at them for one thing (the abducted children) and in the process I discovered these videos were fake. When I went to Geneva to the commissioners in the Human Rights Council, I told them about my findings in relation to the missing children and the videos, and they said they would be interested to have something written. I do not incriminate anybody in this study. I do not pretend to decide if there was a CW attack or not. There were discrepancies and I am simply asking questions. The study was done in a hurry – we even said it was a beta version. Now I am finalizing the study that will introduce even more evidence. Those videos – numbers 1, 6, 11, 13 among the 13 videos claimed by the US intelligence community as authenticated and verified to be presented to Congress as genuine evidence of CW attacks – are fake, staged and pre-fabricated. Nobody thus far is answering my charges – they are incriminating me without answering. My goal in this is to find the children; that’s my only goal. If they were used for staging, are they alive? Where are they now? If they are alive they must be returned to their families. If they are dead, we want to see their bodies to bury them so their parents can mourn them and we want to know how they were put to death and where. I am asking to see the graves where 1,466 alleged corpses are buried in Ghouta and to take from the pit samples to conduct an honest inquiry. Because I doubt that there is such a pit.

Question from Twitter user ‏‪@MortenHj‬: “Can she elaborate on how she conduct her talks between the warring sides? How do they acknowledge her; promise safety?”

Normally, we are called by the rebel sides who invite us for some settlements. Usually Syrian fighters either want to shift to non-violence, surrender and continue their lives, or they want us to mediate an exchange between abductees and detainees. We mediate among the responsible parties in government, like the ministry of justice and ministry of social affairs – it depends, since each case has its own context. We do it on a neutral basis – we are mediators, not part of the conflict. We want to ease the fate of civilians and we consider the fate of the Syrian rebels. We do not care about foreign fighters. Those foreign fighters are legally not allowed to enter or be in Syria. But we have special care for the Syrian fighters. We consider them as victims. A 17 or 18-year-old boy who is to be jailed, his mother is crying, what am I to do?

We talk via phone or Skype, sometimes we visit them as I did in many places. Sometimes the leader of a rebel group come to see me in a disguised way. Our (more detailed) talks are preferably face to face to build trust and transparency.

Sometimes you have rebels who request the release of their people who have been captured, others want to surrender – they don’t want anymore to participate in the armed struggle. Sometimes the liberal factions ask for help against the radical factions. I always say that between Syrians there is not a real wall. There is not a watertight impervious wall, so we receive many requests. We have had meetings with Jabhat al Nusra (JaN). When they are Syrians they can be flexible, when they are radical (foreigners) they will not talk to you, they will kill you. It’s like the Baggara tribe of around 3 million – they have relatives in Liwa al-Tawhid and JaN too. Half the tribe are loyalists, half are opposition. And this is a hope for the future. Everybody can talk to everybody. Once in Raqqa they put me on the phone with the emir because they wanted dialysis equipment for their hospital and so we mediated and the ministry of health sent 3 dialysis machines for the sake of the civilian population. I am always astonished how my people in the reconciliation committee know everybody.

Question from Twitter user @Kreasechan – What does she think should happen to those in command positions in the regime who have committed or commissioned war crimes and crimes against humanity?

I will tell you something. All this ‘apparatus of incriminations’ is politicized. If you can read between the lines of the report of the international Commission of Inquiry, you will see that the Syrian government has a hierarchy so it is easy to incriminate the government as a whole. But the rebels don’t have a hierarchy – you have 2,000 different battalions. Every time you see violence by rebels, large scale ones with hundreds of civilians now killed every week on a sectarian basis… If you study the more than 100,000 dead in Syria, you will be surprised to see that more than 45% of them are from the army and security forces. Then you have 35% of civilians among those dead, more than half of whom are killed by opposition. Then you have 15-20% of dead who are rebels. So it is not true to say the government is the only one perpetrating things against human rights. The Commission of Inquiry will have to work without political pressure to implement a good inquiry where everyone will be heard, because we are scandalized that light is shed on one side, but not on the other side. I know by saying this, they will incriminate me. But in reality, I am on side of the victims – I care that they will be heard. If you don’t hear from every side, these victims will continue to be under violence with impunity. We must ask accountability from everybody. Those incriminated by a fair, unbiased inquiry will have to pay their crimes, even those who have instigated and financed sectarian crimes.

Question from Twitter user @Paciffreepress – Do you love Assad, Mother Agnes?

I live in Syria and I have a burden on my shoulders for Syria. I believe beheading Syria from its government is a dangerous aggression when the UN still continues to consider the government of Assad to be the legal government. I rely on the UN position, which is the legal position. I consider that the dismantling of any State is a crime against humanity because it deprives the citizens of their citizenship and from their legality. They become pariahs. The Syrian people should decide through fair elections.

Question from Twitter user @r3sho – What is her opinion about Kurdish autonomy in Syria?

I am with the Syrian people – they will choose their own way, even if they want to make a federation or whatever. I am personally against the division of Syria, but federalism is up to the people. In my view, dividing a country is an aggression, but if the country decides to be a federation, it is a legal thing. They are free to do so.

Question from Twitter user ‏@broodmywarcraft: what does she have to say to those who call her a stooge for Assad?

I am a stooge only for peace, not for Assad. I am for peace through reconciliation. I am for dialogue and I am for discussing issues with everybody who wants to discuss peace. If any Syrian, on any side of this horrible conflict wishes to discus peace or work toward peace through reconciliation, I am ready to help.

Question from Twitter user ‏@bangpound: Does she still think the children were faking it in Ghouta?

They were not faking it. I never said that at all. I believe that they were either under anesthesia or that they were killed. But as the videos are fake, my terrible question is what were they doing with them?

Question from Twitter user ‏@Nouraltabbaa: If she is trying to perform a Mussalaha why is she meeting with Ali Kayyali and other militias but not the opposition fighters?

For some hard cases, I have to go beyond the civil administration to negotiate with the warlords. We go there officially as a reconciliation committee, accompanied by some Muslim clerics. I have to mediate with the opposition and the government and the popular committees. I have to mediate with everyone.

Question from Twitter user ‏@HRIMark: What effect is the campaign of defamation and threats against her having on her and her work?

It affects my life. I cannot go back to my monastery. I was saved by the Free Syrian Army (FSA). They informed me about orders to abduct and kill me by foreign parties. They helped me to go out from Qara and they protected our monastery and they have not, to this day, given me the green light to return. A lot of them were workers in our monastery.

Question from Twitter user ‏‪@Net_News_Global‬: Ask her, if she thinks, that there was, besides murderous propaganda, a real CW attack.

We have witnesses and ‘social sensors’ everywhere in Damascus. Until today we have received 88 claims of death in Moadamiya (from the August 21 attack).

We are told they were not killed because of sarin, that they were killed because of heavy shelling from the army and from suffocation from heavy shelling. The deceased were together in a shelter and they suffocated from this. Moadamiya people told us this. One of the reasons that I would like to see the graves is because 1,466 deaths is a real “social tsunami” in the Syrian society where everybody knows everybody and everybody is related. In the case of East Ghouta, we did not even have one case show up. We did not know of one single person who is dead. You know, to have relatives claiming this – the brother, the friend – nobody did. We did not have the “echo” of the death of 1,466 people. We are asking for a neutral inquiry with the presence of witnesses from both sides, where they will open the pits, see the victims, they will take samples randomly – where they took it, how they took it, etc. Samples should be sent to 5 labs under the same conditions and precautions. Until then there is a question mark on everything. I cannot say yes, I cannot say no.

Question from Twitter user ‏‪@tob_la‬: How would she describe her relationship with Syrian intelligence services?

There is no relationship. This is despite the wild allegations of some people who believe that the heads of the Syrian intelligence meet with me, a simple nun, on a daily basis. Do you believe that these people would spare such time?

I have no “relations” with such authorities. As mediators we have to deal with these people when necessary. And without my mediation task I don’t have anything to do with them.

Question from Twitter user ‏‪@MortenHj‬: What does she view as the biggest problem facing the refugees, especially children, with the approaching winter. How can anyone support?

This is a very big problem. We need warm clothes, blankets urgently. During my trip in the US – from California – they are sending me a container with a special kind of textile that is very warm. “Oakley” warm clothing. We can provide for the local diaspora or NGOs to come collect these things from anywhere in the world and send them in containers to Syria. We are trying to do a big push for winter now. We’re also getting some tents. I will be going back to the US where an NGO will be providing us with something that resembles tents, but is rectangular. We are planning to get thousands of these – one per family. You have whole neighborhoods that are destroyed. Instead of displacing residents outside their areas, I would like to return them to their home, even if it is destroyed, and put them on their land in a refurbished structure. Like this, slowly by slowly they can rebuild their homes.

Question by Twitter user ‏@edwardedark: Could you please ask her why the Vatican has not been more outspoken on the plight of Christians in Syria?

I don’t know – maybe because the Vatican and all of us we are in solidarity with all the civilian population in Syria and we don’t want to emphasize a sectarian dimension because we viewed this as artificial. Christians have shared the same fate as Muslims in Syria – everybody faced the same violence. Monsignor Mamberti and the Pope are finally expressing their sadness for the sectarian nature that the conflict is taking, I think because now there is too much targeting of Christians now in Maaloula, Sadad, Qara, Deir Atieh, Nabek and other places. Every day Christian buses, schools are being targeted. In Bab Touma, Bab Sharqi, Jaramana, Kasa’a, Malki…

Now the Vatican is talking. Mgr. Mamberti is saying loudly and clearly that The Holy See cares about unity, sovereignty, and the place of the minorities so they will not be isolated, cornered, or forgotten. The Holy See is promoting reconciliation, dialogue and a peaceful settlement of the crisis. They are against the arming of any side. They want more creativity for peace and not creativity for war. What I found outstanding about the Monsignor’s recent comments is that he said the Syrian people should isolate the foreigners, distance themselves and denounce them. This is a very clear statement against foreign intervention. Then he opened the issue of humanitarian aid and the dialogue between religions – interfaith dialogue. This is not the task of experts, but the task of everybody, the believers. So there is a real change in language from the Vatican. The Holy See is no longer shy about Syria – and to tell you the truth, it is time. What is left for the Christians in Syria otherwise?

~

Follow Sharmine Narwani on Twitter, Facebook, and Al Akhbar English

Mother Agnes is now on Twitter https://twitter.com/MotherAgnesMari

December 1, 2013 Posted by | False Flag Terrorism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Activist Group Issues Statement on Mother Agnes and the Campaign Against Her

By Richard Edmondson | Fig Trees and Vineyards | November 26, 2013

The Solidarity Collective, a group of activists endeavoring to promote greater unity among the various alignments and groupings that make up the political left, has released a statement on the smear campaign being waged against Mother Agnes Mariam of the Cross. Taken to task in the statement are leftwing journalists Jeremy Scahill and Owen Jones over their threat to back out of a London antiwar conference this weekend should they have to share a platform with Mother Agnes. Calling their “no platform” position “totally unacceptable,” the Collective deplores the attacks upon the Syrian nun and says it fully supports her right to be heard.

“We fully support the brave move by the London Catholic Worker group based at Guiseppe Conlon House who have invited Mother Agnes to a meeting during their retreat,” the statement reads. “It is only when we are fully informed on the Syrian conflict by those who live daily with the consequences that we will be be in a position to make decisions.”

Back in early September, when a US attack on Syria appeared imminent, I published an article entitled US Jews Back War on Syria But ‘Downplay’ Israel Angle. At that time AIPAC, the ADL, and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations had all issued statements supporting a military strike on Syria, but as I noted—and as a Jewish media outlet also noted—none of the statements mentioned Israel. It was as if Israel’s role in all this were being deliberately downplayed. I posted that article on September 5. One day later, on September 6, RT published an interview with Mother Agnes in which she discussed her belief that videos uploaded to the Internet in the immediate wake of the August 21 chemical weapons attack in Syria had been fabricated. Three days after that, on September 9, came the formal release of the ISTEAMS report providing convincing evidence this was indeed the case.

Just as it has been clear for a long time that prominent Jews would like to see the US go to war in Syria, so also has it been obvious to me for a while now that the attacks on Mother Agnes are Zionist motivated. And apparently this is growing obvious to others as well. The Solidarity Collective’s statement in fact discusses the role played by one Zionist in particular:

A marvellous smear campaign as designed by Michael D Weiss has done much to further the cause of promoting her [Mother Agnes] as an Assad apologist and all round devious character. Incidentally some of the highlights of his CV are as follows: former director of Zionist pressure group Just Journalism whose stated concerns included ‘how Israel and Middle East issues are reported in UK media’, former fellow at Neo-Conservative war lobby think-tank  Henry Jackson Society, he is a lead rebel advocate with Now Lebanon and also the author of proposals for US intervention for the Syrian opposition.

Weiss’ loathsome attack on Mother Agnes, in which he refers to her sarcastically as a “humble, pot-smoking emissary of God,” can be found here.

A little bit more from the Solidarity Collective’s statement is also instructive:

Much of the slander is sustained by her self proclaimed mission to provide what she believes are the true narratives of the conflict which are routinely, she says, misrepresented in global media. One such incident is the August 21st 2013 chemical attack in Damascus. The accepted truth as ‘assessed’ by the US government is that the attack was carried out by the Assad Regime. There was a threat of mass-resignation of CIA workers who refused to have their names attached to the document published pertaining to this ‘fact’. Mother Agnes as well as some credible impartial sources insist that it is much more likely that this was a rebel attack.

You can access the full statement here. A few days ago I wrote an article in which I commented that Mother Agnes “has considerably undermined the Western narrative on events in Syria,” and that obviously this has “upset a lot of plans and made a lot of people mad.” Judging from the timing of the events of early September, as I related above, this would seem to be the case.

November 27, 2013 Posted by | Deception, False Flag Terrorism, Full Spectrum Dominance, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Solidarity and Activism, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mother Agnes and the Self Destruction of the Political Left

By Richard Edmondson | Fig Trees and Vineyards | November 23, 2013

Leftist luminaries Jeremy Scahill and Owen Jones attempted to cast aspersions upon Mother Agnes, but instead they have brought discredit not only upon themselves, but upon the conference at which they are to speak in London next Saturday. We should not be surprised at the way all this has turned out.

As I reported previously, Scahill and Jones announced they would not take part in an antiwar conference organized by the Stop the War Coalition should they have to share the same platform with Mother Agnes Mariam of the Cross, a Syrian nun who has worked tirelessly to bring about an end to the bloodshed in her country. As yet, no explanation or elaboration has been offered by the pair as justification for their laying down of such an ultimatum. But for her own part, Mother Agnes has taken steps to ensure they will not have to undergo the abhorrent ordeal of appearing with her. She has pulled out of the conference.

In the war in Syria, or more precisely in the way the war has been reported, radically different narratives have been presented, narratives that are, and have been, almost completely counter to one another. In one view, that reported by Western mainstream media, Syrian President Bashar Assad is a brutal, criminal dictator intent on killing his own people, while those fighting to bring his government down are freedom fighters (although following the posting of a video showing one of the freedom fighters eating a human organ, the media shifted slightly and began allowing that “some” of the insurgents were extremists). By contrast, the picture presented by Russian and other foreign media, and on blogs like this one, is that Assad has the support of a sizeable portion of the Syrian people and that the conflict has little or nothing to do with democracy. Instead it is aimed at effecting regime change to the benefit of Gulf oil monarchies as well as the West and Israel. Also in this view, Assad, while not perfect, is not nearly as ogreish and demonic as he is made out to be in the Western media.

It comes down to who has the greater credibility—the Western, and principally US, media, which promoted the war in Iraq on the basis of false claims about weapons of mass destruction, or Russian media outlets like RT, who have no record of peddling lies in an effort to justify wars. You would think that for leftists the choice would be clear. But for some reason, Scahill, a reporter for The Nation, and Jones, who has a column in The Independent, have taken a position that possibly would suggest they accord the Western media the greater credibility—at least insofar as the Syrian war in general, and Mother Agnes in particular, are concerned.

Those favoring US intervention in Syria no doubt had their hopes raised by the August 21 chemical weapons attack. An all out escalation into a regional and possibly even global conflict seemed imminent, but the hopes of warmongers were dashed through some clever statesmanship by Vladimir Putin and also after Mother Agnes released a 50-page report introducing evidence that some of the videos uploaded immediately after the attack had been staged and scripted and suggesting that the attack might have been carried out not by the Syrian government but by the opposition. You can read the full report here. Decide for yourself whether you think it’s credible.

My own take on it all is that through her report, as well as through her presence, her holiness, and her actions—including the evacuation of more than 5,000 people from a besieged town in October—Mother Agnes has considerably undermined the Western narrative on events in Syria. And that obviously has upset a lot of plans and made a lot of people mad.

“Why did the invitation from Stop the War to a nun working to stop war raise objections?” asks William M. Boardman in an article posted Thursday. Boardman goes on to comment, “It’s hard to find any evidence that Mother Agnes has committed anything worse than what others consider thought-crimes and politically incorrect obeservations, some of which are actually correct.”

So was somebody pressuring Scahill and Jones to disassociate themselves from Mother Agnes? Did they think doing so would advance their careers? Did Scahill think it would win him additional appearances on the Rachel Maddow Show or CBS Evening News? Is Jones hoping for more exposure on Sky News and the BBC? I don’t have an answer to these questions. I would note only that intoxication of power is not something leftists are especially immune to any more so than anyone else. The main problem is succumbing to such impulses at the expense of someone making a genuine effort to achieve peace.

When faced with a choice between taking a stand based upon principle and one based upon convenience, the left seems to opt more and more for the latter these days, and it is attitudes such as this that are leading it, much like Western society as a whole, toward self destruction. So what should the organizers of the conference do? Here is my suggestion: Re-extend the invitation to Mother Agnes. Do so publicly. She may decline. But you will at least regain some credibility. Should she accept, all the better. And if Jones and Scahill wish to pull out as a result, even better yet. Their presence at the podium at this point is probably more of a liability than an asset in any event. Proceeding under the present conditions—with Scahill and Jones on the bill and the curtain in effect drawn on any participation by Mother Agnes—will cheapen and devalue the event.

November 24, 2013 Posted by | Corruption, False Flag Terrorism, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , , | Leave a comment

Owen Jones & Mother Agnes. A lesson on conciliatory “leftists”.

By Phil Greaves | notthemsmdotcom | November 17, 2013

Following the news that Mother Agnes Miriam, a nun who heads the Musalaha (reconciliation) initiative in Syria, was due to speak at the Stop The War conference in London, two journalists also due to speak at the event, Jeremy Scahill and Owen Jones, decided to withdraw participation unless Mother Agnes was removed from the speaking list. At the time of writing, neither “journalist” has offered to explain their act of public censure and decision to bolster Zionist-led smear campaigns; aside from a few tweets expressing their “concern” over sharing a platform with an evil Assad-supporting nun. It seems baseless conspiracy theories are more than acceptable in the higher echelons of “professional” journalism, as long as the target of said conspiracy is a supporter of an enemy state of the west and Israel.

The justification for this blatant act of censorship came in the form of a crass campaign of smear and character assassination. One primarily led by outright Israeli/Neo-Conservative propagandist-extraordinaire Michael D. Weiss, a former Director of a now defunct Zionist pressure group called Just Journalism, whose stated goals included focusing on “how Israel and Middle East issues are reported in the UK media.” Weiss, also a former fellow at the Neo-Conservative war-lobby “think-tank” the Henry Jackson Society, is now a lead rebel advocate pimping his “expertise” at Saudi Arabia/Hariri propaganda outlet NOW Lebanon – all whilst writing up US military intervention proposals for the Syrian opposition. It is also no coincidence that Mr. Weiss was a lead proponent of the fairy-tale narratives of one Liz OBagy, an utter fraud sanitizing the image of the rebels on behalf of a US State Department funded rebel lobbying group and the equally hawkish Neo-Conservative PR outlet The Institute for the Study of War. Needless to say, Weiss, and his cabal of pro-rebel Hariri propagandists and Zionist apologists are more than pleased at Jones and Scahill’s somewhat orchestrated decision to pressure Stop the War into dropping Mother Agnes.

Mother Agnes, according to the plethora of pro-rebel US and Zionist media accounts, is an evil “Assad apologist”. As a result of Agnes’ support of the Syrian government and calls for peaceful reconciliation, the Al Qaeda apologists rife within western and Israeli media took it upon themselves to instigate a campaign of hatred-filled smear and baseless accusation.

Since the onset of the Syrian conflict, Mother Agnes has made efforts to combat the skewed narratives emerging from corrupt western, Israeli, and Gulf Oil and Gas media – not least regarding the controversial issue of the alleged chemical weapons attacks in Ghouta, Damascus. Contrary to the smears, Agnes doesn’t deny people died during the incident, nor offer a complete alternative narrative. Her questions surrounding the event are entirely focused on the many inconsistencies and inaccuracies within the “official narrative” and the dubious YouTube videos touted as impartial evidence. It seems the CIA were also less than convinced of the US governments “assessment”; so much so that a mass resignation was threatened if their name was attached to John Kerry’s dodgy dossier. Furthermore, a considerable open source collaborative effort to determine the perpetrator of the alleged chemical weapons attack has drawn the logical, and somewhat scientific conclusion that only the rebels could have been responsible. In addition, the much politicised UN report that attempted to point the finger at the Syrian army has also come under much scrutiny from highly qualified avenues for its poor methodologies and misleading conclusions. Regardless of all the  above, the fact Mother Agnes actually resides in Syria, is the head of an organisation that has mediated between warring factions and enabled the safe evacuation of civilians, and consistently calls for peaceful reconciliation and dialogue, doesn’t count for much in the eyes of rabid western pundits eager to demonize anyone that dare question, or offer a counter narrative to their fabrication-laden fantasies on Syria.

The self-described “leftist” UK political commentator Owen Jones, has written virtually nothing on the Syrian conflict. His understanding of events is largely based on the dominant narratives portrayed in western media. No doubt, like any self-respecting petty bourgeois leftist of London, Jones gets his information from the wests supposed liberal establishment newspapers, who in recent years have stood proudly alongside right-wing media in cheerleading for disastrous western-led wars of aggression. The conflict in Syria has been no exception, the Guardian’s totally skewed coverage,  that lends more from Whitehall/CIA/Mossad talking points than it does reality, has been well documented and debunked. Accordingly, Jones’ ideas on Syria fall in line with this narrative: yes, the “Islamist rebels” are BAD guys (meaning there are some GOOD moderate guys that nobody can find yet, or, in Owen’s case even name), but Assad is a dictator, a war criminal, “barbarous”, “he needs to go”. Any reflection on cause and effect; the long and relevant historical context of US-led subversion and instigation of terrorist insurgencies in the name of “revolution”; or the underlying geopolitical dynamics that helped to create and exacerbate the extremist-led insurgency is far too much nuance for Jones’ simplistic binary narratives: Assad is BAD, and anyone that supports the Syrian government or refuses to support its ouster through coercion or violence is also BAD, by definition. And what then, do Jones’ simplistic definitions mean for the millions of Syrians that still support their President and government? Well, like the nun, they are obviously evil and severely misguided. I mean, what would they know? Living in Syria and all. This stance of vulgar superiority is indicative of the vast undercurrent of western bourgeois Orientalism which still oozes from the pores of western media and its decrepit “journalists” when their stance on “others” threatens to detriment their self-imposed “credibility”.

The informative blog Interventions Watch, explores Jones’ apparent moral confusion further:

Jones is a member and supporter of the Labour party, and thinks other lefties should be as well. As is hardly a secret, Labour is a party that plays host to plenty of major war criminals and apologists for those war criminals, but that apparently isn’t enough for him to want to part ways with them. Indeed, he has in the past quite happily appeared on platforms with John Prescott, who was deputy Prime Minister at the time of the aggression against Iraq – not just an apologist for war crimes then, but an active participant in them.

Yet this predicament seems completely lost on Jones. In one instance, he is a paid-up member of a UK political party that played a lead role in no less than genocide; in an act of military and economic aggression on Iraq totally against International Law, not to mention morality. He sits beside these politicians and pleads with leftist thinkers to join them and “change them from within”. A million or so Iraqi lives can be forgotten, there’s a few good eggs in this elitist manifestation of conciliatory Mensheviks, join us! But when it comes to possibly sharing a stage with a nun from Syria who happens to support her government & army in its fight against a foreign-funded, foreign instigated, foreign-led, and extremist dominated terrorist insurgency, Jones wont be part of it.

This bourgeois trait of selective free-speech through groupthink coercion is indicative of just how corrupt the western media system truly is. Supposed “leftist” anti-war commentators now feel they are an authority to dictate and pressure who should be able to participate in public events, and wilfully swallow the smears of Zionist propagandists rather than do their own research, or, heaven forbid, judge people on the content of what they are actually saying.

Evidently, Jones’ moral outrage is selective at best, one could convincingly argue its nothing more than careerist popularism – with a dash of orientalist superiority for good measure. Sure, sit next to war-criminals of “our” variety, you wont get smeared with the dreaded “apologist” brush in the elitist media you participate and benefit from – hell, most of their “barbarous” crimes are long forgotten, so not much to worry about. But sit next to a nun that supports a current enemy of the west? Forget it.

Stop the War have just released a statement confirming that Mother Agnes has “withdrawn” from the conference. Cheers to Zionist apologists of the apartheid state, propagandists of an Al Qaeda insurgency in Syria, and Owen Jones.

November 19, 2013 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Timeless or most popular, Wars for Israel | , , , , , | Comments Off on Owen Jones & Mother Agnes. A lesson on conciliatory “leftists”.

‘Investigative Journalist’ Scahill Takes Swipe at Mother Agnes

By Richard Edmondson | Fig Trees and Vineyards | November 17, 2013

Jeremy Scahill, the “investigative journalist” who once publicly expressed his belief in the official 9/11 story, says he won’t take part in an international antiwar conference scheduled for later this month if he has to share the same platform with Syrian nun Mother Agnes.

“I’ve informed organizers of @STWuk that I will not participate in their conference if Mother Agnes is on the platform,” Scahill tweetetd on Friday.

“@STWuk” is the Stop the War Coalition, which will hold the all-day conference in London on November 30, and which had apparently extended an invitation for Mother Agnes to speak, along with roughly a dozen or so other speakers.

The conference is to include a session on “The Syrian war in context,” and obviously Mother Agnes, who has struggled so hard to end the bloodshed in her country, would have provided a valuable perspective for all in attendance. But she will now no longer speak. In response to the controversy surrounding her participation, she has withdrawn. Blessed are the peacemakers.

Scahill, it seems, isn’t the only speaker in the lineup with an apparent disliking for the Syrian mother superior. British writer Owen Jones, a columnist for The Independent, reportedly also threatened to withdraw should she not be axed from the program.

Mother Agnes is head of the Syrian organization Musalaha (reconciliation). In October she played a key role in the evacuation of more than 5,000 people, mainly women and children, from the besieged town of Moadamiya. An account of the evacuation can be found here. In order for the operation to succeed, it was necessary for Mother Agnes to gain the trust both of government troops as well elements of the Free Syrian Army who were holding the town. Remarkably she seems to have pulled it off. Click here to watch a video of her sharing a dish of olives with one of the rebel leaders and some of her evacuees.

But it isn’t her relationship with the Western-backed mercenaries that has gotten her in trouble. In fact, had she been their vocal champion, she probably wouldn’t be near the controversial figure she is today. But Mother Agnes has seriously undermined the Western narrative of Bashar Assad as a brutal dictator intent on “killing his own people.” In September she published a report suggesting that insurgents, rather than the Assad government, were responsible for the August 21 chemical attack and that videos uploaded immediately after that attack had been staged and doctored. And for her trouble she has been maligned as an “apologist” for the Syrian government and worse. In September the New York Times published a highly-critical piece on her which is analyzed here by blogger Stephen Lendman.

Scahill, an author and frequent contributor to The Nation, is taking heat for his postion. Owen seems to be taking heat as well. Both are heavily criticized in an article by blogger Phil Greaves:

Following the news that Mother Agnes Miriam, a nun who heads the Musalaha (reconciliation) initiative in Syria, was due to speak at the Stop The War conference in London, two journalists also due to speak at the event, Jeremy Scahill and Owen Jones, decided to withdraw participation unless Mother Agnes was removed from the speaking list. At the time of writing, neither “journalist” has offered to explain their act of public censure and decision to bolster Zionist-led smear campaigns; aside from a few tweets expressing their “concern” over sharing a platform with an evil Assad-supporting nun. It seems baseless conspiracy theories are more than acceptable in the higher echelons of “professional” journalism, as long as the target of said conspiracy is a supporter of an enemy state of the west and Israel.

Another blogger, Joe Emersberger, has issued the following appeal to Scahill:

Dear Jeremy,

I read your book “Dirty Wars” and admired it greatly. It led to me to obtain a great deal of respect for your courage and political judgement.

You tweeted that you “informed organizers of @STWuk that I will not participate in their conference if Mother Agnes is on the platform.”

If you haven’t already, I think you shoud provide a very clear public explanation for your publicly announced stance.

There are extremely nasty allegations being circulated about Mother Agnes based on zero evidence.

For example, this piece accuses Mother Agnes of helping the Asaad regime assassinate journalists in Syria.

To avoid lending any credibility to toxic crap like this, I think you should elaborate on your position regarding Mother Agnes.

Joe Emersberger

So far as I’m aware, Scahill has not issued the “clear public explanation” that Emersberger has called for.

In a letter dated November 16, the day after Scahill posted his tweet, Mother Agnes notified the Stop the War Coalition of her decision to withdraw from the conference. Here is what she wrote:

My dear friends,

It has come to my attention that my participation in your conference has become a matter of serious contention, even prompting some other speakers to consider withdrawing. This is apparently due to a campaign of cruel and unsubstantiated accusations which seek to work against my efforts and those of the Mussalaha (Reconciliation) Initiative in Syria.

The basis of our work toward peace is reconciliation and forgiveness. This means extending an olive branch to some who may initially refuse it, and accepting an olive branch from others who are despised, even by our friends.

In the case of Syria, I am guided by the terrible events of human provenance that are reaping misery and death without end in sight. I and my fellow members of the Mussalaha movement feel compelled to find a path toward national redemption that applies the principles of reconciliation and forgiveness that is different from either the way of the sword or even the nonviolent exclusion of other Syrians, whatever their views or affiliations may be. This is by its nature a difficult path but I am a cleric and am guided by my love for all. We are all children of God.

Some may feel that an injustice will be done if I speak at your conference. Others may think that injustice will be done if I do not. Because my participation in your conference may be used by some to distract from your valuable efforts towards peace, non-violence and reconciliation, I believe it best to withdraw from participation.

I thank you for your sincere invitation, and wish to offer my blessings for a successful conference that brings together a multitude of people of good will who will work together for peace and justice through mutual cooperation and I hope we shall at a future date have an opportunity to meet and discuss this issue and the wider work of the Mussalaha in Syria.

Mother Agnes Mariam of the Cross

The letter is available in pdf format here. During the early part of November Mother Agnes has been on a speaking tour of the US. Click here to read a report by blogger Madison Ruppert of a speech she gave in Los Angeles.

In the video below, uploaded in 2010, you will see Scahill sharing his views on 9/11:

“I believe that the United States was attacked by Al Qaeda on 9/11 by men who flew airplanes into those buildings,” says Scahill.

I would recommend Scahill watch the newly-released documentary September 11: The New Pearl Harbor. One of the things he will learn is that the “men who flew airplanes into those buildings” could barely pilot a twin engine plane.

In the above video you will also notice Mr. Scahill, the investigative reporter, discussing, almost angrily, his belief that efforts to determine the truth of what happened on 9/11 are “destructive” to “an honest dialog in this country about US policy,” and then going on to describe such efforts as “insulting to the people who died on 9/11.” Again, I would recommend he go here and watch a discussion by licensed clinical psychologists on cognitive dissonance and 9/11 denial.

See Also:

Mother Agnes of Syria: A Living Saint

Evidence of the Most Disgraceful War Crimes Imaginable

Potential US War on Syria Based on a Snuff Movie

Evident Propaganda Manipulation: Mother Agnes Issues Report on Syria Chemical Attack

Understanding Reality Manipulations in the Syrian Crisis

Also See: Short Film Clips of Mother Agnes online:

On the Rebel Uprising

On the Information War

On Syrian Secular Society

On the Mussalaha Movement

November 18, 2013 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular, Video, Wars for Israel | , , , | 5 Comments

Dirty Wars and Self-Indulgence

By Douglas Valentine | Dissident Voice | June 7, 2013

Let me begin with some background not covered in the film.  Dirty War derives from “La Salle Guerre”, the term the French applied to their counter-terror campaign in Algeria, circa 1954-1961. Algeria wanted independence, and France resisted.

Like subject people everywhere, the Algerians were badly outgunned and resorted to guerrilla tactics including “selective terrorism,” a hallmark of the Viet Minh, who fought the French until 1954, when America claimed Vietnam as its rightful property. Viet Minh tactics were derived largely from Mao’s precepts for fighting a People’s War.

Selective terrorism meant the murder of low-ranking officials – collaborators – who worked closely with the people; policemen, mailmen, teachers, etc. The murders were gruesome – a bullet in the belly or a grenade lobbed into a café – designed to achieve maximum publicity and demonstrate to the people the power of the nationalists to strike crippling blows against their oppressors.

Whether the Great White Fathers are French or American or English, they agree that putting down a People’s War means torturing and slaughtering the people – despite the fact that most people are not engaged in terrorism or guerrilla action and have no blood on their hands.

As John Stockwell taught us years ago, Dirty War means destabilizing a targeted nation through covert methods, the type the CIA has practiced around the world for 66 years.  Destabilizing means “hiring agents to tear apart the social and economic fabric of the country.

“What we’re talking about is going in and deliberately creating conditions where the farmer can’t get his produce to market; where children can’t go to school; where women are terrified inside their homes as well as outside; where government administered programs grind to a complete halt; where the hospitals are treating wounded people instead of sick people; where international capital is scared away and the country goes bankrupt.”

Economic warfare – strangling nations like Cuba, Iraq and Iran in Medieval fashion – is a type of Dirty Warfare beloved by the Great White Fathers who control the world’s finances. Though no less deadly than atomic bombs, or firebombing Dresden, it is easier to sell to the bourgeoisie.

You’ll hear no mention of this in Scahill’s film, nor will you hear any references to Phil Agee, or the countless others who have explained Dirty War to each generation of Americans since World War Two.

You will not hear about psychological warfare, the essence of Dirty War.

America’s first was terror guru was Ed Lansdale, the advertising executive who made Levi’s blue jeans a national craze in the 1930’s.   He applied his sales skills to propaganda in the OSS and after WW II, concocted a new generation of psywar tactics as an agent of the Office of Policy Coordination assigned to the Philippines under military cover.  Lansdale’s bottomless black bag of dirty tricks included a “skull squadron” death squad that roamed the countryside, torturing and murdering Communist terrorists.

One of Lansdale’s counter-terror “psywar” tactics was to string a captured Communist guerrilla upside down from a tree, stab him in the neck with a stiletto, and drain his blood. The terrorized Commies fled the area and the terrified villagers, who believed in vampires, begged the government for protection.

Lansdale referred to his sadism as “low humor,” an excuse borrowed liberally by American officialdom during the Abu Ghraib prison scandal.

Lansdale formalized “black propaganda” practices to vilify the Communists: one of his Filipino commando units would dress as rebels and commit atrocities, and then another unit would arrive with cameras to record the staged scenes and chase the “terrorists” away.

Lansdale brought his black propaganda and passion for atrocity to Saigon in 1954, along with a goon squad of Filipino mercenaries packaged as “Freedom Company.”

Under Lansdale’s guidance, Freedom Company sent Vietnamese commandoes into North Vietnam, under cover as relief workers, to activate stay-behind agent nets and conduct all manner of sabotage and subversion.  Disinformation was a Lansdale specialty, and his agents spread lurid tales of Vietminh soldiers’ disemboweling pregnant Catholic women, castrating priests, and sticking bamboo slivers in the ears of children so they could not hear the Word of God.

In the South, with the help of the American media, Lansdale re-branded the heroic Vietminh as the beastly Viet Cong.

Lansdale’s greatest innovation, still used today, was to conduct all manner of espionage and terror under cover of “civic action.”  As a way of attacking Viet Minh agents in the South, Lansdale launched “Operation Brotherhood,” a Filipino paramedical team patterned on the typical Special Forces A team. With CIA money, Operation Brotherhood built medical dispensaries that the CIA used as cover for terror operations, as depicted in the book and movie The Quiet American.

Levis never went out of fashion, nor did Lansdale’s dirty tricks. Think Saddam Hussein killing babies in their incubators. Such disinformation invariably works on an American public looking for any excuse to rationalize its urge for racist genocide.

Think Argo and Zero Dark Thirty and every Rambo and Bruce Willis films.

Only Americans were fooled by the propaganda, and the Vietnamese quickly caught on.  So the CIA in 1956 launched the Denunciation of Communists campaign, which compelled the Vietnamese people to inform on Commies or get tortured and murdered.  The campaign was managed by CIA agents who could arrest, confiscate land from, and execute Communists and their sympathizers on the CIA’s master list. In determining who was a Communist, the CIA used a three-part classification system: A for dangerous party members, B for less dangerous party members, and C for loyal citizens.

As happened later in the Phoenix program, the threat of an A or B classification was used to extort innocent civilians, while category A and B offenders were put to work building houses and offices for CIA officers and their lackeys. And, of course, the puppet Vietnamese President used his CIA created, funded and trained security forces to eliminate his political rivals.

As Lansdale confessed, “it became a repressive tool to liquidate any opponent.”

“This development was political,” Lansdale observes. “My first inkling came when several families appeared at my house one morning to tell me about the arrest at midnight of their men-folk, all of whom were political figures. The arrests had a strange aspect to them, having come when the city was asleep and being made by heavily armed men who were identified as ‘special police’.”

Lansdale complained, but he was told that a “U.S. policy decision had been made. We Americans were to give what assistance we could to the building of a strong nationalistic party that would support Diem. Since Diem was now the elected president, he needed to have his own party.”

How We Got To Scahill’s Dirty War

By 1962, as the US expanded its Dirty Wars in the Far East and South America, the military replaced its Office of Special Operations with an up-dated Special Assistant for Counter-insurgency and Special Activities (SACSA).  SACSA assigned unconventional warfare forces to the CIA and regular army commanders, who initially resisted.

The development of psychological warfare and special operations is explained in Michael McClintock’s Instruments of Statecraft. For the CIA politics behind it, see Burton Hersh’s The Old Boys.

In 1965 Lansdale went back to Vietnam to run the Revolutionary Development Cadre Program as the CIA’s “second station” with a staff of CIA officers, Green Beanies, and Daniel Ellsberg. Vietnam was a laboratory and the CIA was experimenting with Pacification, aka “the Other War.”

In 1967, the CIA created the Phoenix program to coordinate everyone in its Dirty War.  Phoenix combined existing counterinsurgency programs in a concerted effort to neutralize the civilians running the shadow government.  Neutralize means to kill, capture, or make to defect.  Central to Phoenix was that it targeted civilians. “By analogy,” said Ogden Reid, a member of a congressional committee investigating Phoenix in 1971, “if the Union had had a Phoenix program during the Civil War, its targets would have been civilians like Jefferson Davis or the mayor of Macon, Georgia.”

Under Phoenix, due process was nonexistent.  South Vietnamese civilians whose names appeared on CIA blacklists were kidnapped, tortured, detained without trial, or murdered on the word of an informer. Phoenix managers imposed a quota of 1,800 neutralizations per month on the saps running the program in the field, opening it up to abuses by corrupt security officers, policemen, politicians, and racketeers. One CIA officer described Phoenix as, “A very good blackmail scheme for the central government. `If you don’t do what I want, you’re VC.”‘

Because Phoenix assassinations (totaling 25,000+) were often conducted at night while its victims were home sleeping, Phoenix proponents describe the program as a “scalpel” designed to replace the “bludgeon” of My Lai-style search and destroy operations, air strikes, and artillery barrages that indiscriminately wiped out entire villages and did little to “win the hearts and minds” of the people.  But that was just propaganda and Phoenix was, among other things, an instrument of counter-terror – the psywar tactic in which enemy agents were brutally murdered along with their families and neighbors as a means of terrorizing the people into a state of submission. Such horrendous acts were, for propaganda purposes, often made to look as if they had been committed by the enemy.

This practice is at the heart of the film I will be reviewing.

As noted, conventional soldiers hated Phoenix. General Bruce Palmer, commander of the U.S. Ninth Infantry Division in 1968, objected to the “involuntary assignment of U.S. Army officers to the program. I don’t believe that people in uniform,” he said, “who are pledged to abide by the Geneva Conventions, should be put in the position of having to break those laws of warfare.”

Palmer’s was such a charming sentiment.  By 2004, Obama advisor Lt. Col. David Kilcullen, in an article for Small Wars Journal, was calling for a “global Phoenix Program.”  Tom Hayden wrote an article for The Nation about Kilcullen in 2008 titled “Reviving Vietnam War Tactics”.

Fact is, Phoenix never went out of fashion.  As McClintock notes, “Counterinsurgency and indeed all aspects of special warfare doctrine had developed a reasonable level of political sophistication by the mid-1970s, acknowledging the necessity of combining military and civil initiatives.”

By 1975 SACSA had expired, the nation had internalized its humiliating defeat in Vietnam, and the CIA, wounded by the Church Committee hearings, went underground. The age of counter-terror began.  Central and South America were the new laboratories.   The CIA forged secret alliances with proxy nations like Israel and Taiwan, whose agents taught Latin American landowners how to organize criminals into death squads which murdered and terrorized labor leaders, Human Rights activists, and all other enemies of the Great White Fathers.

To compensate for the reduction in size of its paramilitary Special Operations Division, the CIA formed its Office of Terrorism. Meanwhile, the military branches beefed up their terror capabilities, all of which glommed together in December 1980 in the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC).  Steve Emerson chronicles this development in detail in Secret Warriors (1988).

JSOC’s mission, conducted on the Phoenix model with the CIA, is identifying and destroying terrorists and terror cells worldwide. Paramilitary personnel are often exchanged between JSOC and CIA.

By the early 1980s, CIA and military veterans of the Phoenix program were running counter-insurgency and counter-terror ops worldwide.

General Paul Gorman, who commanded U.S. forces in Central America in the mid-1980′s, defined this advanced form of Dirty War as “a form of warfare repugnant to Americans, a conflict which involves innocents, in which non-combatant casualties may be an explicit object.”  (Toledo Blade 1 Jan 1987)

All of which brings me to my review.

Dirty Wars

Dirty Wars is a post-modern film by Jeremy Scahill, about himself, starring himself in many poses.

The film owes more to Sergio Leone and Kathryn Bigelow than Constantinos Gavras. Scahill certainly is no Leslie Cockburn: there is no Tony Poe telling how the CIA facilitates heroin shipments; no Richard Secord suing him for unraveling the financial intrigues of the CIA’s secret operators. The CIA is rarely mentioned.

There is no reference to the Guerra Sucia in Argentina.

Scahill is no Franz Fallon documenting the devastating psychological effects of racism on society. There are no cameos by Jean-Paul Sartre advocating violent retribution on Hollywood, no mingling with the Taliban in their caves as they conspire against their Yankee oppressors at the Sundance Film Festival.

We get the first taste of his self-indulgent idiocy when he says it is “hard to tell” when the Dirty War began. He does tell us, however, that he is on the “front lines” of the war on terror.

Scahill (hereafter JS) brags that he wasn’t going to find the front lines in Kabul, although he could have, if he knew where to look. Instead he just looks around furtively on his way to the scene of a war crime. We see a close-up of his face.

The endless close-ups artfully convey the feeling that our hero is utterly alone, on some mythic journey of self-discovery, without a film crew or interpreters. There is no evidence that anyone went to Gardez to make sure everyone was waiting and not toiling in the fields or tending the flocks, or whatever they do. And we’ll never find out what the victims do. The stage isn’t big enough for JS and anyone else.

This is a major theme throughout the story – JS is doing all this alone and the isolation preys on him. He bears this heavy burden alone, with many soulless looks.

Initially, there is no mention that journalist Jerome Starkey reported what happened in Gardez. JS is too busy establishing himself as the courageous super-sleuth. As we drive along the road, he reminds us how much danger he is in.  Two journalists were kidnapped here, he says. This area is “beyond” NATO control. He must get in and out before nightfall or the Taliban will surely kill him like the Capitalist dog he is.

In my drinking days, we referred to this type of behavior as grandiosity. Telling everyone how you defied death, so the guys would talk about your exploits in the bars, and the girls would fall at your feet. For JS, this formula is working – a visit to his Facebook page reveals scores of “Millennial girls” wringing their hands and fretting for his safety as he strides across America’s secret battlefields in search of the truth. His carefully crafted Wiki bio furthers the legend.

Using the material gathered by Starkey (whom he eventually acknowledges), JS shows that in February 2010, American soldiers murdered five people in Gardez, including two pregnant women, and tried to cover it up by digging the bullets out of the targeted man’s body. He interviews the surviving family members. They weep. Violin music plays.  They seem more like props than human beings.

JS ingenuously asks various Afghan and American officials, why the cover-up? The officials suggest that the targeted man was working for the Taliban – and if you play that double-game, you risk your family and friends. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff tells JS they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. He says there will be no investigation.

Cut to Capitol Hill where, by his own account, JS has greatness thrust upon him. “It is imperative,” he tells Chairman John Conyers, “that Congress investigates this shadow war to examine its legality.”

What, one wonders, was Conyers thinking? Forty-two years earlier, after hearing testimony from Bart Osborn and Michael Uhl about the Phoenix program, Conyers and three other U.S. representatives stated their belief that “The people of these United States … have deliberately imposed on the Vietnamese people a system of justice which admittedly denies due process of law …. In so doing, we appear to have violated the 1949 Geneva Convention for the protection of civilian peoples.”

His testimony, JS tells us, “throws him into the public arena,” ever so reluctantly. He revisits his Blackwater testimony and shows pictures of himself with numerous celebrities on TV.

B-takes of Scahill walking among the common folk in Brooklyn, plotting his next move.  Haunted by the horror of Gardez, he files FOIA requests and discovers that William McRaven is head of the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC). He’s stunned. He’s been a national security reporter for over a decade, and he’s never heard of JSOC before.  It’s covert. The story has been hidden in the shadows, he says.

This was the turning point of the film for me. For a National Security correspondent, this is an admission akin to a botanist saying he’d never heard of flowers. It’s an admission that fairly sums up the sorry state of reporting in America today. Has JS ever read a book?

JS discovers that Gardez is not an isolated incident, and that JSOC rampages across Afghanistan with “unprecedented authority.” He talks to a former JSOC soldier about its activities in Iraq, where it had hit lists and conducted night raids. This revelation, and the fact that McRaven took responsibility for Gardez, leads JS to conclude that JSOC is responsible for Gardez. It certainly wasn’t Congress, which according to JS, has no control over JSOC. JSOC money comes from rich donors.

JS learns that JSOC is not only in Afghanistan, but that it operates worldwide, and that its hit lists get bigger all the time. And we hear, for the first time, the catchy phrase, “the world is a battlefield.”

At this point JS decides, with the help of The Nation brain trust, to investigate JSOC in Yemen where CIA drones are wiping out people by the score.

B-take of JS sipping tea thoughtfully. He’s going to talk to the most powerful man in South Yemen. We view the scene of a drone strike: 46 killed, including five pregnant women. A woman in a black veil says her entire family, save one daughter, were wiped out. Violin music. But there’s no cover-up here. In fact, Obama personally kept the journalist in prison who reported the strike.

What will Obama do to JS?

Once again, we fear for JS. Luckily he lives to talk to Rachel Maddow and Morning Joe. The greatness thrust upon him forces him onto TV shows everywhere. There he is with Amy Goodman!

More close-ups. We count the pores on his nose, the hairs in his eyebrows. We feel the fear. He gets a strange call. Someone tells him JSOC tortures people without telling the CIA or regular army, which are too busy torturing people to care.

As he studies the hit lists, he comes across radical America Muslim, Anwar al-Awlaki. After talking to Tony Schaffer, he realizes JSOC targets Muslims and that is why, along with the US invasion of Iraq, Awlaki is pissed off. Awlaki is an American but is inciting people to revolution in Yemen, so Yemen allows the CIA to kill him.

Note – the CIA is mentioned maybe twice in the film. Apparently it is so covert it escaped his notice.

We see JS in an exotic location. An airplane lands. JS is back in the USA. He’s been traumatized by what he’s seen. He tells anyone who will listen that the US cannot kill its way to peace, as if peace is the objective. The war on terror, he concludes, is creating enemies, which of course is the objective.

Before the American people can rally to JS’s clarion call, Obama sends some guys to kill Osama bin Laden. This is too much of a coincidence to ignore. Was it done to subvert his investigation? In any event, McRaven and JSOC are now heroes. He meets a knowledgeable person who tells him the Dirty War will go on forever. He tells us about signature strikes that kill people randomly (but not that the CIA conducts them) and that the war on terror is out of control.

Pictures of JS pointing to countries on a map where JSOC operates. He decides to visit Somalia, where JSOC is snatching bodies and taking them to ships in the Arabian Sea, and outsourcing its Dirty War to mercenaries. He visits mercenaries wearing camo fatigues. There are no other journalists here, it is too dangerous. Someone hands JS a flak jacket.  Someone tells him they bury traitors alive. The tension soars. He’s surrounded by armed men. There’s a gunshot. He ducks behind sandbags.

We wonder who arranged for JS to meet these guys? Where did he get an interpreter? What’s the quid pro quo?

JS goes to a hospital morgue and look at a mutilated body. After which he wants to go home. But he learns that Awlaki’s son has been killed and reluctantly he returns to Yemen.

I liked this part of the film. It seemed genuine. We see home videos of Awlaki’s son doing youthful happy things. JS tries to understand why the US would deliberately kill a 16 year old kid? Which is a good question. Perhaps America is ruled by a murderous Cult of Death.

We see pictures of young girls smiling, and we revert back to the contrived scenes and monologue that drag the documentary down into gratuitous self-promotion. JS says he never had any idea where the story would lead, as if all this happened magically, like a rabbit pulled out of a hat.

The film ends and I wonder what he could have produced if he hadn’t melodramatized and spent so much time and film on close-ups. I wonder what he could have done if he’d read a few history books.

Ultimately, the film is so devoid of historical context, and so contrived, as to render it a work of art, rather than political commentary. And as art, it is pure self-indulgence.

And in this sense, it is a perfect slice of modern American life.

Douglas Valentine can be reached at dougvalentine77@gmail.com

June 8, 2013 Posted by | Deception, False Flag Terrorism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment