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Taking the World to the Brink

By Rick Sterling | Consortium News | April 10, 2018

Western neoconservatives and hawks are driving the international situation to increasing tension and danger. Not content with the destruction of Iraq and Libya based on false claims, they are now pressing for a direct US attack on Syria.

As a dangerous prelude, Israeli jets flying over Lebanese airspace fired missiles against the T4/Tiyas Airbase west of Palmyra following reports on Sunday of a chemical weapons attack in Douma, a suburb of Damascus under rebel control.

As reported at Tass, the Chief of Russia’s General Staff, Valery Gerasimov, predicted the alleged use of chemicals almost a month ago. The report from March 13 says, “Russia has hard facts about preparations for staging the use of chemical weapons against civilians by the government forces. After the provocation, the US plans to accuse Syria’s government forces of using chemical weapons … furnish the so-called ‘evidence’ … and Washington plans to deliver a missile and bomb strike against Damascus’ government districts.”

Gerasimov noted that Russian military advisors are staying in the Syrian Defense Ministry’s facilities in Damascus and “in the event of a threat to our military servicemen’s lives, Russia’s Armed Forces will take retaliatory measures to target both the missiles and their delivery vehicles.”

The situation is clearly fraught with the risk of sliding into international conflict between the two biggest nuclear weapons powers with all that that implies. Civilization itself is being put in peril so that the West can continue supporting sectarian armed groups seeking to overthrow the Assad government, in violation of international law and the UN Charter.

The most powerful country in the world is now led by a real estate, hotel and entertainment mogul without political experience. Behind the scenes, there is an entrenched foreign policy establishment determined to maintain and reclaim U.S. unilateral “leadership” of the world. American leaders fear that the U.S. is losing influence, prestige and power around the world. Israel and Saudi Arabia are seeing their designs on regional dominance failing.

East Ghouta, Damascus

East Ghouta is a district of farms and towns on the north-east outskirts of Damascus. For the past six years, various armed factions controlled the area. On a nearly daily basis, they launched mortar and hell cannon missile attacks into Damascus, and have killed thousands of civilians. This author personally witnessed two such mortar attacks in April 2014.

By the end of March most of East Ghouta had been retaken by the government. With the peaceful evacuation of armed militants, civilians flooded into the humanitarian corridors and then government camps for the displaced. The campaign was proceeding quickly with minimal loss of life as the Russian Reconciliation officers negotiated agreements which allowed the militants to keep small weapons and be transported to Idlib in the north.

Journalist Vanessa Beeley documented the situation including the happiness and relief of many civilians as they finally made it to safety. One described the feeling as “like being reborn”. Robert Fisk of Britain’s Independent newspaper was on site and reported what he saw first hand in stories titled Watching on as Islamist fighters are evacuated from war-torn Eastern Ghouta and Western howls of outrage over the Ghouta siege ring hollow.

As reported at the Russian Reconciliation Centre, by the end of March, 105,857 civilians had moved into government controlled areas while 13,793 militants, plus 23,433 family members had been transported north. Those who wanted to stay, including former fighters, were welcomed. They could rejoin Syrian society with the same rights and obligations as other Syrians.

The last remaining opposition stronghold was the town of Douma, controlled by the Saudi-funded Jaish al Islam. Negotiations were prolonged because Jaish al Islam did not want to go to Idlib, which is dominated by another militant opposition group, Jabhat al Nusra also known as Hayat Tahrir al Sham. It is the al Qaeda affiliate in Syria.

The Chemical Incident

On Saturday, April 7, video and stories claiming a chemical weapons attack in Douma were broadcast. The video showed dozens of dead children. On Sunday the story grabbed western mainstream media headlines. U.S. President Trump quickly came to a conclusion: “President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad. Big price to pay”.

There has been no objective investigation. The media claims are based on statements and videos from members of the Syrian American Medical Society (SAMS) and the White Helmets. Both organizations receive significant funding from the US government and are not neutral as aid organizations should be. They both call for Western intervention in Syria.

Chemical weapons have emerged as the quick and easy justification for aggression. One year ago, in April 2017, it was the incident at Khan Shaykoun. That resulted in a US attack on a Syrian air base just days later. As reported here by Consortium News‘ late founder, Robert Parry, the subsequent investigation discovered that dozens of victims had shown up in hospitals in diverse locations and up to 100 kms away from the scene of the crime before the event happened. Indicative of apparent bias by the investigators, this red flag pointing to fraud was not probed further. If it was just a few victims or just one location, it might be a mistake in time record-keeping. However in this case there were dozens of discrepancies in multiple locations, clearly raising the possibility of fraud.

Now we have the incident in Douma. The armed opposition is in retreat. They are losing the war and are desperate. They have tried since 2012 to pressure the U.S. and NATO to intervene directly on their side. The rebels have access to chemical weapons in East Ghouta and they have a motive. They also have thousands of prisoners. This group put hundreds of prisoners, primarily women and children, in cages on the streets of Douma.

Who Benefits?

The timing of the chemical weapons incidents is also noteworthy. As documented here, one year ago on March 30, 2017, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said U.S. policy was no longer focused on getting Assad out. Five days later the chemical incident at Khan Sheikhoun happened, followed quickly by blaming the Syrian government without evidence, then the U.S. attack on a Syrian air base and a then restoration of the demand that “Assad must go.”

On March 29 this year, Trump said that U.S. forces will withdraw from Syria “very soon.” This was followed by outcries from the media and political establishment. Once again, following Saturday’s incident, the U.S. is again threatening to intervene. The chemical weapons incidents have consistently resulted in the reversal of a proposed change in hostility toward Syria.

Neoconservatives and the supporters of ‘regime change’ foreign policy have various theories why the Assad government would perpetrate a chemical weapons attack. Senator John McCain says the Syrian President was “emboldened” by Trump’s call to withdraw. Juan Cole, an academic who promoted the assaults on Libya in 2011, has a different theory. He says “Chemical weapons are used by desperate regimes that are either outnumbered by the enemy or are reluctant to take casualties in their militaries. Barrel-bombing Douma with chem seems to have appealed to the regime as a tactic for this reason. It had potential of frightening the Douma population into deserting the Army of Islam.”

In contrast with his theory, chemical weapons were used extensively by the U.S. in Vietnam and Iraq when they were far from desperate. As evidenced in the flow of civilians into government held areas, most of the civilian population are happy to get away from the sectarian and violent Army of Islam (“Jaish al Islam”). Cole seems to be basing his theories on inaccurate western media coverage just as he did regarding Libya where sensational claims about a looming massacre in Benghazi were later shown to be fraudulent.

It’s clear who benefits from sensational media coverage about a chemical weapons incident: those who seek to want the U.S. to intervene militarily. Every time there is an incident, and well before an investigation has even begun, it is seized on by governments and organizations who’ve sought regime change in Syria since the start of the war, and perhaps even earlier.

Manipulating Public Opinion

NBC chief foreign correspondent Richard Engel, exposed as part of hoax

The manipulation of western opinion about the Syrian conflict using fake events is not theory; it has been proven. A good example is the fake kidnapping of NBC reporter Richard Engel in December 2012. Engel and his media team were reportedly kidnapped and threatened with death by “shabiha” supporters of the Syrian president. After days in captivity the American team was supposedly rescued by Free Syrian Army “rebels” after a shootout. In 2015 it was confirmed this was a hoax perpetrated by the FSA and their American supporters. The entire charade was carried out by the “rebels”. The goal was to demonize the Assad government and its supporters, and to romanticize and increase support for the armed opposition. Neither Engel nor NBC confessed to the reality until it was about to be exposed years later, pointing to duplicity and collusion in the deception.

Four and half years ago, on August 21, 2013, the most famous chemical weapons incident occurred. The Syrian government was immediately accused of launching a sarin attack which killed hundreds of children and civilians. Over the next six months investigations were carried out. The conclusions of Seymour Hersh, Parry and the research site whoghouta.com concluded that the attack was almost certainly not from the government but actually from one of the ‘rebel’ factions with support from Turkish intelligence services. Two Turkish parliamentary deputies held a press conference and publicly revealed some of the evidence. The intent then, as now, was to provide justification and provocation for the US and NATO to bomb Syrian government installations.

The Drums are Pounding

Today there is the imminent possibility of a major attack based on the allegations of a clearly biased source, with international law and legal due process tossed aside. Why is violence being threatened before there is a serious, independent investigation of the chemical incident? If the accusations against Syria are true, why not let it be investigated, especially now that the area was liberated on Monday and safe access can be provided?

The drums of war are pounding. After over one year of incessant Russia bashing and disinformation, is the public ready to go to war with Russia over Syria? Neoconservative hawks and their Israeli and Saudi allies do not seem alarmed by this prospect. Their plans and predictions for Iraq, Libya and Yemen were delusional fantasies with the price paid in blood by the people of those countries and in treasure by Americans as well. Sadly, there has not been any accountability for the media and political establishment that promoted and launched those wars. Now they want to escalate the aggression by attacking Syria, causing vastly more blood to flow and risking confrontation with a country which can fight back.

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

April 10, 2018 Posted by | Deception, Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, War Crimes | , , , | 1 Comment

When is there Going to be Accountability for US Wars and Aggression?

US makes new claims of WMD in Syria

By Rick Sterling | Dissident Voice | February 3, 2018

It’s WMD all over again.

Anonymous “US officials” are once again accusing a targeted “regime” of using “chemical weapons” and threatening that the U.S. military may have to “hold it accountable”. Once again, western media is broadcasting these accusations and threats without skepticism or investigation.

The Washington Post story is titled “Trump administration: Syria probably continuing to make, use chemical weapons”.  Jane’s Defence Weekly quotes a U.S. official saying “They clearly think they can get away with this …”

Jerusalem Online says “A US official says Syrian President Assad’s forces may be developing new types of chemical weapons, which which could reach as far as the US…”

The Reuters story in the New York Times says “US officials have said the Syrian government may be developing new types of chemical weapons, and President Donald Trump is prepared to consider further military action…. President Bashar al Assad is believed to have secretly kept part of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile…”

The Washingon Post article concludes with the threat, “If the international community does not take action now . . . we will see more chemical weapons use, not just by Syria but by non-state actors such as ISIS and beyond,” the first official said. “And that use will spread to U.S. shores.”

Based on a review of facts from recent history, it is very likely the story is false and is being broadcast to deceive the public in preparation for new military aggression. Anyone who thinks that politicians don’t consider timing and marketing needs to only recall the statement of a GW Bush official that “from a marketing point of view, you don’t introduce new products in August.” The “product” was the PR campaign to get the American public to accept the invasion of Iraq.

When is there going to be some accountability for the US military industrial complex and their political and media enablers and promoters?

The invasion of Vietnam with over 500 thousand US soldiers was preceded by the phony Gulf of Tonknin incident where a US ship was supposedly attacked by a North Vietnamese vessel. It was untrue and President Johnson knew it. The resolution was passed unanimously (416-0) in the House and only Wayne Morse and Ernest Gruening had the integrity and insight to oppose it in the Senate. Was anyone ever held accountable for the lie that led to over 58 thousand dead US soldiers and millions of dead Vietnamese? No.

The 1991 attack on Iraq and subsequent massacre of Iraqi soldiers and civilians was preceded by the fabricated testimony of the Kuwaiti Ambassador’s daughter pretending to be a nurse who had witnessed Iraqi soldiers stealing incubators and leaving Kuwaiti babies on the floor. Were the marketing officials Hill & Knowlton and politicians such as Tom Lantos who managed this deceit ever held accountable? No.

In 2003 the US launched the invasion of Iraq leading to the death of over a million Iraqis based on the false and fabricated evidence provided by the CIA and uncritically promoted by the mainstream media. For example,  Michael Gordon and Thomas Friedman promoted and lauded the invasion at the NYTimes. Were they held to account?  No, they carry right on to today.

In 2011 the US led NATO attacks on Libya with the stated purpose to “protect civilians” from massacre. This was explained and encouraged by journalists and pundits such as Nicholas Kristof and Juan Cole. NATO officials bragged about their operation. After the brief western euphoria, it became clear that the campaign was based on lies and the real result was an explosion of extremism, massacres and chaos which continues to today. Accountability? None. One rarely hears about Libya today. Out of sight, out of mind.

In August of 2013 we heard about a massive sarin gas attack on the outskirts of Damascus. Human Rights Watch and others promoting a western attack quickly accused the Syrian government. They asserted that Assad had crossed Obama’s “red line” and the US needed to intervene directly. Subsequent investigations revealed the gas attack was not carried out by the Syrian government. It was perpetrated by a Turkish supported terrorist faction with the goal of pressuring the Obama administration to directly attack Syria. Two Turkish parliamentarians presented evidence of Turkey’s involvement in the transfer of sarin. Some of the best and most time-proven US investigative journalists, including the late Robert Parry and Seymour Hersh, researched and discovered the evidence points to Turkish supported “rebels” not Syria. Despite the factual evidence exposing the “junk heap” of false claims, mainstream media and their followers continue to assert that Assad committed the crime.

In April 2017 it was the same thing: US and allies made accusations which were never proven and ultimately discredited. The UN/OPCW investigation team never visited the scene of the crime. They discovered the curious fact that dozens of victims in multiple locations showed up at hospitals with symptoms of chemical injuries before the attack happened. This is strong evidence of fraud but that investigation was not pursued. With or without awareness of the deceit, Trump ordered missile strikes on a Syrian air base which killed 13 people including four children. Accountability? None.

Recently it has become clear that dark forces in the US government ad military do not intend to stop their efforts to destroy Syria. Despite confusion and contradictory claims in the US administration, a core fact is that the US is training and supplying a sectarian military militia inside northern Syria against the wishes of the Syrian government. The US said they were in Syria to get rid of ISIS but now that ISIS is largely gone, the US military says it is not leaving. On the contrary, the US military helped escort ISIS fighters from Raqqa to al Bukamal and the US is now training ISIS fighters to be reincarnated as yet another anti-Assad “rebel” force.

As always, US aggression needs some measure of political support. To gain that, they need a justification. Thus it’s WMD all over again. Once again. the “bad guys” are using chemical weapons on their own people. Supposedly the Syrian government is incredibly stupid … they just keep on using chemical weapons and giving the US a justification to act as judge, jury and executioner.

Most of the American public is too busy, distracted or overwhelmed with problems to investigate U.S. government claims. Mainstream media, including some alternative media, are failing badly. They are supposed to be holding government to account, critically questioning the assertions, investigating the facts, exposing contradictions and falsehoods. Along with the politicians and government, they have some responsibility for the ongoing wars and aggression. They all should be accountable. When is that going to happen?

Rick Sterling can be contacted at rsterling1@gmail.com.

February 3, 2018 Posted by | Fake News, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | , | 1 Comment

The Great Libya War Fraud

Media Lens | October 4, 2016

National newspapers were ‘unimpressed by Jeremy Corbyn’s victory’ in the Labour leadership election, Roy Greenslade noted in the Guardian, surprising no-one. Corbyn secured almost 62% of the 506,000 votes cast, up from the 59% share he won in 2015, ‘with virtually no press backing whatsoever’.

In reality, of course, Corbyn did not just lack press backing. He won in the face of more than one year of relentless corporate media campaigning to politically, ethically, professionally, psychologically and even sartorially discredit him. That Corbyn survived is impressive. That he won again, increased his vote-share, and took Labour Party membership from 200,000 to more than 500,000, is astonishing.

None of this moves journalists like the BBC’s political editor, Laura Kuenssberg, who commented: ‘there’s been no big new idea or vision this week that Labour can suddenly rally round’.

Polly Toynbee explained: ‘I and many Guardian colleagues can’t just get behind Corbyn’. Why? ‘Because Corbyn and McDonnell, burdened by their history, will never ever earn the trust of enough voters to make any plans happen.’

Toynbee fails to recognise the nature and scale of the problem. In supporting Corbyn, the public is attempting to shape a genuinely democratic choice out of the sham choices of corporate-owned politics. This awesome task begins with the public waking up to the anti-democratic role of the corporate media in defending, of course, corporate-owned politics. So-called ‘mainstream media’ are primarily conduits for power rather than information; they are political enforcers, not political communicators. To the extent that the public understands this, change is possible.

Supported by non-corporate, web-based media activism, Corbyn has already smoked out these media to an extent that is without precedent. Many people can see that he is a reasonable, compassionate, decent individual generating immense grassroots support. And they can see that all ‘mainstream’ media oppose him. It could hardly be more obvious that the corporate media speak as a single biased, elitist voice.

The Benghazi Massacre – No Real Evidence

The smearing of Corbyn fits well with the similarly uniform propaganda campaign taking the ‘threat’ of Iraqi ‘WMD’ seriously in 2002 and 2003. Then, also, the entire corporate media system assailed the public with a long litany of fraudulent claims. And then there was Libya.

Coming so soon after the incomplete but still damning exposure of the Iraq deception – with the bloodbath still warm – the media’s deep conformity and wilful gullibility on the 2011 Libyan war left even jaundiced observers aghast. It was clear that we were faced with a pathological system of propaganda on Perpetual War autopilot.

The pathology has been starkly exposed by a September 9 report into the war from the foreign affairs committee of the House of Commons. As with Iraq, this was no mere common-or-garden disaster; we are again discussing the destruction of an entire country. The report summarised:

The result was political and economic collapse, inter-militia and inter-tribal warfare, humanitarian and migrant crises, widespread human rights violations, the spread of Gaddafi regime weapons across the region and the growth of ISIL in North Africa.

The rationale for ‘intervention’, of course, was the alleged threat of a massacre by Gaddafi’s forces in Benghazi. The report commented:

The evidence base: our assessment

Despite his rhetoric, the proposition that Muammar Gaddafi would have ordered the massacre of civilians in Benghazi was not supported by the available evidence… Gaddafi regime forces targeted male combatants in a civil war and did not indiscriminately attack civilians. More widely, Muammar Gaddafi’s 40-year record of appalling human rights abuses did not include large-scale attacks on Libyan civilians. (Our emphasis)

And:

Professor Joffé [Visiting Professor at King’s College London] told us that:

the rhetoric that was used was quite blood-curdling, but again there were past examples of the way in which Gaddafi would actually behave… The evidence is that he was well aware of the insecurity of parts of the country and of the unlikelihood that he could control them through sheer violence. Therefore, he would have been very careful in the actual response… the fear of the massacre of civilians was vastly overstated.’

Analyst and author Alison Pargeter agreed with Professor Joffé, concluding that there was no ‘real evidence at that time that Gaddafi was preparing to launch a massacre against his own civilians’. Related claims, that Gaddafi used African mercenaries, launched air strikes on civilians in Benghazi, and employed Viagra-fuelled mass rape as a weapon of war, were also invented.

These are astonishing comments. But according to the Lexis-Nexis media database, neither Professor Joffé nor Pargeter has been quoted by name in the press, with only the Express and Independent reporting that ‘available evidence’ had shown Gaddafi had no record of massacres; a different, less damning, point.

As disturbingly, the report noted:

We have seen no evidence that the UK Government carried out a proper analysis of the nature of the rebellion in Libya… It could not verify the actual threat to civilians posed by the Gaddafi regime….

In other words, the UK government’s relentless insistence on the need to support freedom-loving rebels against a genocidal tyranny were invented ‘facts’ fixed around policy.

That the war was a crime is hardly in doubt. Lord Richards (Baron Richards of Herstmonceux), chief of the defence staff at the time of the conflict, told the BBC that Cameron asked him ‘how long it might take to depose, regime change, get rid of Gaddafi’. British historian Mark Curtis describes the significance:

Three weeks after Cameron assured parliament in March 2011 that the object of the intervention was not regime change, he signed a joint letter with President Obama and French President Sarkozy committing to “a future without Gaddafi”.

That these were policies were illegal is confirmed by Cameron himself. He told Parliament on 21 March 2011 that the UN resolution “explicitly does not provide legal authority for action to bring about Gaddafi’s removal from power by military means”.

Cameron, then, like Blair, is a war criminal.

The ‘Moral Glow’ From a ‘Triumphant End’

The foreign affairs committee’s report is awesomely embarrassing for the disciplined murmuration of corporate journalists who promoted war.

At a crucial time in February and March 2011, the Guardian published a long list of news reports boosting government propaganda and opinion pieces advocating ‘intervention’ on the basis of the West’s supposed ‘responsibility to protect’, or ‘R2P’. Guardian columnist, later comment editor (2014-2016), Jonathan Freedland, wrote an article titled: ‘Though the risks are very real, the case for intervention remains strong.’

Brian Whitaker, the Guardian’s former Middle East editor, wrote: ‘the scale and nature of the Gaddafi regime’s actions have impelled the UN’s “responsibility to protect”.’

Menzies Campbell, former leader of the Liberal Democrats, and Philippe Sands, professor of law at University College London, wrote in the Guardian: ‘International law does not require the world to stand by and do nothing as civilians are massacred on the orders of Colonel Gaddafi…’

An Observer leader agreed: ‘The west can’t let Gaddafi destroy his people.’ And thus: ‘this particular tyranny will not be allowed to stand’.

No doubt with tongue firmly in Wodehousian cheek, as usual, Boris Johnson wrote in the Telegraph :

The cause is noble and right, and we are surely bound by our common humanity to help the people of Benghazi.

David Aaronovitch, already haunted by his warmongering on Iraq, wrote an article for The Times titled: ‘Go for a no-fly zone over Libya or regret it.’ He commented:

If Colonel Gaddafi is permitted to murder hundreds or thousands of his citizens from the air, and we stand by and let it happen, then our inaction will return to haunt us… We have a side here, let’s be on it. (Aaronovitch, ‘Go for a no-fly zone or regret it,’ The Times, February 24, 2011)

Later, a Guardian leader quietly celebrated:

But it can now reasonably be said that in narrow military terms it worked, and that politically there was some retrospective justification for its advocates as the crowds poured into the streets of Tripoli to welcome the rebel convoys earlier this week.

Simon Tisdall commented in the same newspaper: ‘The risky western intervention had worked. And Libya was liberated at last.’

An Observer editorial declared: ‘An honourable intervention. A hopeful future.’

The BBC’s Nick Robinson observed that Downing Street ‘will see this, I’m sure, as a triumphant end’. (BBC, News at Six, October 20, 2011) Robinson appeared to channel Churchill:

Libya was David Cameron’s first war. Col. Gaddafi his first foe. Today, his first real taste of military victory.

The BBC’s chief political correspondent, Norman Smith, declared that Cameron ‘must surely feel vindicated’. (BBC News online, October 21, 2011) In Washington, the BBC’s Ian Pannell surmised that Obama ‘is feeling that his foreign policy strategy has been vindicated – that his critics have been proven wrong’. (BBC News online, October 21, 2011)

The BBC’s John Humphrys asked: ‘What apart from a sort of moral glow… have we got out of it?’ (BBC Radio 4 Today, October 21, 2011)

Andrew Grice, political editor of the Independent, declared that Cameron had ‘proved the doubters wrong.’ Bitterly ironic then, even more so now, Grice added: ‘By calling Libya right, Mr Cameron invites a neat contrast with Tony Blair.’

An editorial in the Telegraph argued that Gaddafi’s death ‘vindicates the swift action of David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy in halting the attack on Benghazi’. Telegraph columnist Matthew d’Ancona (now writing for the Guardian) agreed: ‘It is surely a matter for quiet national pride that an Arab Srebrenica was prevented by a coalition in which Britain played an important part…’

An Independent leader observed:

Concern was real enough that a Srebrenica-style massacre could unfold in Benghazi, and the UK Government was right to insist that we would not allow this.

The Times, of course, joined the corporate herd in affirming that without ‘intervention’, there ‘would have been a massacre in Benghazi on the scale of Srebrenica’. (Leading article, ‘Death of a dictator,’ The Times, October 21, 2011)

But even voices to the left of the ‘mainstream’ got Libya badly wrong. Most cringe-makingly, Professor Juan Cole declared:

The Libya intervention is legal and was necessary to prevent further massacres… If NATO needs me, I’m there.

Robert Fisk commented in the Independent that, had ‘Messrs Cameron, Sarkozy and Obama stopped short after they saved Benghazi’, disaster could have been avoided.

Ironically, in an article ostensibly challenging the warmongers’ hysterical claims, Mehdi Hasan wrote in the New Statesman:

The innocent people of Benghazi deserve protection from Gaddafi’s murderous wrath.

Even Noam Chomsky observed:

The no-fly zone prevented a likely massacre… (Chomsky, ‘Making the Future: Occupations, Interventions, Empire and Resistance,’ Hamish Hamilton e-book, 2012, p.372)

To his credit, then Guardian columnist Seumas Milne (now Corbyn’s director of communications and strategy) was more sceptical. He wrote in October 2011:

But there is in fact no evidence – including from other rebel-held towns Gaddafi re-captured – to suggest he had either the capability or even the intention to carry out such an atrocity against an armed city of 700,000.

We were labelled ‘useful idiots’ for challenging these and other atrocity claims in a June 2011 media alert here, here and here.

Media Reaction to the Report

The media reaction to the MPs’ demolition of their case for war made just five years earlier inevitably included some ugly evasions. A Guardian editorial commented of Libya:

It is easy in retrospect to lump it in with Iraq as a foreign folly…

It is indeed easy ‘to lump it in’, it is near-identical in key respects. But as a major war crime, not a ‘folly’.

… and there are important parallels – not least the failure to plan for stabilisation and reconstruction.

The preferred media focus being, as usual, so-called ‘mistakes’, lack of planning; rather than the fact that both wars were launched on outrageous lies, ended in the destruction of entire countries, and were driven by greed for resources. With impressive audacity, the Guardian preferred to cling to deceptions exposed by the very report under review:

But it is also important to note differences between a gratuitous, proactive invasion and a response to a direct threat to the citizens of Benghazi, triggered by the spontaneous uprising of the Libyan people. Memories of Srebrenica spurred on decision-makers. (Our emphasis)

In fact, propagandistic use of Srebrenica from sources like the Guardian ‘spurred on decision-makers’. The whole point of the MPs’ report is that it found no ‘real evidence‘ for a massacre in Benghazi. Similarly, the Guardian’s ‘spontaneous uprising’ is a debunked version of events peddled by government officials and media allies in 2011, despite the fact that there is ‘no evidence that the UK Government carried out a proper analysis of the nature of the rebellion in Libya’. In fact, the MPs’ report makes a nonsense of the Guardian’s claims for a humanitarian motive, noting:

On 2 April 2011, Sidney Blumenthal, adviser and unofficial intelligence analyst to the then United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, reported this conversation with French intelligence officers to the Secretary of State:

According to these individuals Sarkozy’s plans are driven by the following issues:

a. A desire to gain a greater share of Libya oil production,
b. Increase French influence in North Africa,
c. Improve his internal political situation in France,
d. Provide the French military with an opportunity to reassert its position in the world,
e. Address the concern of his advisors over Qaddafi’s long term plans to supplant France as the dominant power in Francophone Africa.

The Guardian apologetic continued:

Perhaps most critically, western intervention – fronted by France and the UK, but powered by the US – came under a United Nations security council resolution for the protection of civilians, after the Arab League called for a no-fly zone.’

But this, again, is absurd because the resolution, UNSCR 1973, ‘neither explicitly authorised the deployment of ground forces nor addressed the questions of regime change’, as the MPs’ report noted. NATO had no more right to overthrow the Libyan government than the American and British governments had the right to invade Iraq.

In 2011, it was deeply disturbing to us that the barrage of political and media propaganda on Libya received far less challenge even than the earlier propaganda on Iraq. With Guardian and BBC ‘humanitarian interventionists’ leading the way, many people were misled on the need for ‘action’. In a House of Commons vote on March 21, 2011, 557 MPs voted for war with just 13 opposing. Two names stand out among the 13 opponents: Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell.

Predictably, last month’s exposure of the great Libya war fraud has done nothing to prompt corporate journalists to rethink their case for war in Syria – arguments based on similar claims from similar sources promoting similar ‘humanitarian intervention’. Indeed, as this alert was being completed, the Guardian published an opinion piece by former Labour foreign secretary David Owen, calling for ‘a no-fly zone (NFZ), with protected land corridors for humanitarian aid’ in Syria, because: ‘The humanitarian imperative is for the region to act and the world to help.’

In February 2003, the Guardian published a piece by the same David Owen titled: ‘Wage war in Iraq for the sake of peace in the Middle East.’ In 2011, Owen published an article in the Telegraph, titled: ‘We have proved in Libya that intervention can still work.’ He had himself ‘called for… intervention’ that February.

The Perpetual War machine rolls on.


Media Lens is a UK-based media watchdog group headed by David Edwards and David Cromwell. The second Media Lens book, Newspeak: In the 21st Century by David Edwards and David Cromwell, was published in 2009 by Pluto Press.

October 4, 2016 Posted by | Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Meet Professor Juan Cole, Consultant to the CIA

By JOHN WALSH | August 30, 2011

Juan Cole is a brand name that is no longer trusted.  And that has been the case for some time for the Professor from Michigan.  After warning of the “difficulties” with the Iraq War, Cole swung over to ply it with burning kisses on the day of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.  His fervor was not based on Saddam Hussein’s fictional possession of weapons of mass destruction but on the virtues of “humanitarian imperialism.”

Thus on March 19, 2003, as the imperial invasion commenced, Cole enthused on his blog: “I remain (Emphasis mine.) convinced that, for all the concerns one might have about the aftermath, the removal of Saddam Hussein and the murderous Baath regime from power will be worth the sacrifices that are about to be made on all sides.”  Now, with over 1 million Iraqis dead, 4 million displaced and the country’s infrastructure destroyed, might Cole still echo Madeline Albright that the price was “worth it”?  Cole has called the Afghan War “the right war at the right time” and has emerged as a cheerleader for Obama’s unconstitutional war on Libya and for Obama himself.

Cole claims to be a man of the left and he appears with painful frequency on Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now as the reigning “expert” on the war on Libya.  This is deeply troubling – on at least two counts. First, can one be a member of the “left” and also an advocate for the brutal intervention by the Great Western Powers in the affairs of a small, relatively poor country?  Apparently so, at least in Democracy Now’s version of the “left.”  Second, it appears that Cole’s essential function these days is to convince wavering progressives that the war on Libya has been  fine and dandy.  But how can such damaged goods as Cole credibly perform this marketing mission so vital to Obama’s war?

Miraculously, Cole got just the rehabilitation he needed to continue with this vital propaganda function when it was disclosed by the New York Times on June 15 that he was the object of a White House inquiry way back in 2005 in Bush time.   The source and reason for this leak and the publication of it by the NYT at this time, so many years later, should be of great interest, but they are unknown.   Within a week of the Times piece Cole was accorded a hero’s welcome on Democracy Now, as he appeared with retired CIA agent Glenn Carle who had served 23 years in the clandestine services of the CIA in part as an “interrogator.”   Carl had just retired from the CIA at the time of the White House request and was at the time employed at the National Intelligence Council, which authors the National Intelligence Estimate.

It hit this listener like a ton of bricks when it was disclosed in Goodman’s interview that Cole was a long time “consultant” for the CIA, the National Intelligence Council and other agencies.  Here is what nearly caused me to keel over when I heard it (From the Democracy Now transcript.):

AMY GOODMAN: So, did you know Professor Cole or know of him at the time you were asked? And can you go on from there? What happened when you said you wouldn’t do this? And who was it who demanded this information from you, said that you should get information?

GLENN CARLE: Well, I did know Professor Cole. He was one of a large number of experts of diverse views that the National Intelligence Council and my office and the CIA respectively consult with to challenge our assumptions and understand the trends and issues on our various portfolios. So I knew him that way. And it was sensible, in that sense, that the White House turned to my office to inquire about him, because we were the ones, at least one of the ones—I don’t know all of Mr. Cole’s work—who had consulted with him. (Emphases mine.)

That seems like strange toil for a man of the “left.”  But were the consultations long drawn out and the association with the CIA a deep one?   It would appear so.  Again from the transcript:

AMY GOODMAN: Well, the way James Risen (the NYT reporter) writes it, he says, “Mr. Carle said [that] sometime that year, he was approached by his supervisor, David Low, about Professor Cole. [Mr.] Low and [Mr.] Carle have starkly different recollections of what happened. According to Mr. Carle, [Mr.] Low returned from a White House meeting one day and inquired who Juan Cole was, making clear [that] he wanted [Mr.] Carle to gather information on him. Mr. Carle recalled [his] boss saying, ‘The White House wants to get him.’”

GLENN CARLE: Well, that’s substantially correct. The one nuance, perhaps, I would point out is there’s a difference between collecting information actively, going out and running an operation, say, to find out things about Mr. Cole, or providing information known through interactions.  (Emphasis mine.)  I would characterize it more as the latter.

And later in the interview Carle continues:

On the whole, Professor Cole and I are in agreement. The distinction I make is it wasn’t publicly known information that was requested; it was information that officers knew of a personal nature about Professor Cole, which is much more disturbing. There was no direct request that I’m aware, in the two instances of which I have knowledge, for the officers actively to seek and obtain, to conduct—for me to go out and follow Professor Cole. But if I knew lifestyle questions or so on, to pass those along. (Emphasis mine.)That’s how I—which is totally unacceptable.

It would seem then that the interaction between the CIA operatives and Cole was long standing and sufficiently intimate that the CIA spooks could be expected to know things about Cole’s lifestyle and personal life.  It is not that anyone should give two figs about Cole’s personal life which more than likely is every bit as boring as he claims.  But his relationship with the CIA is of interest since he is an unreconstructed hawk.  What was remarkable to me at the time is that Goodman did not pick up on any of this. Did she know before of Cole’s connections?  Was not this the wrong man to have as a “frequent guest,” in Goodman’s words, on the situation in the Middle East?

This is not to claim that Cole is on a mission for the CIA to convince the left to support the imperial wars, most notably at the moment the war on Libya.  Nor is this a claim that the revelation about the White House seeking information on Cole was a contrived psy-ops effort to rehabilitate Cole so that he could continue such a mission.  That cannot be claimed, because there is as yet no evidence for it.  But information flows two ways in any consultation, and it is even possible that Cole was being loaded with war-friendly information in hopes he would transmit it.

Cole is anxious to promote himself as a man of the left as he spins out his rationale for the war on Libya.  At one point he says to Goodman (3/29), “We are people of the left. We care about the ordinary people. We care about workers.”  It is strange that a man who claims such views dismisses as irrelevant the progress that has come to the people of Libya under Gaddafi, dictator or not.  (Indeed what brought Gaddafi down was not that he was a dictator but that he was not our dictator.)  In fact Libya has the highest score of all African countries on the UN’s Human Development Index (HDI) and with Tunisia and Morocco the second highest level of literacy.  The HDI is a comparative measure of life expectancy, literacy, education and standards of living for countries worldwide.

Whither the Left on the Question of Intervention? 

None of this is all too surprising given Cole’s status as a “humanitarian” hawk.  But it is outrageous that he is so often called on by Democracy Now for his opinion.  One of his appearances there was in a debate on the unconstitutional war in Libya, with CounterPunch’s estimable Vijay Prashad taking the antiwar side and Cole pro-war.  It would seem strange for the left to have to debate the worth of an imperial intervention.  Certainly if one goes back to the days of the Vietnam War there were teach-ins to inform the public of the lies of the U.S. government and the truth about what was going on in Vietnam.  But let us give Democracy Now the benefit of the doubt and say that the debate was some sort of consciousness raising effort.  Why later on invite as a frequent guest a man who was the pro-war voice in the debate?  That is a strange choice indeed.

This writer does not get to listen to Democracy Now every day.  But I have not heard a full-throated denunciation of the war on Libya from host or guests.  Certainly according to a search on the DN web site, Cynthia McKinney did not appear as a guest nor Ramsey Clark after their courageous fact finding tour to Libya.  There was only one all out denunciation of the war – on the day when the guests were Rev. Jesse Jackson and Vincent Harding who was King’s speechwriter on the famous speech “Beyond Vietnam” in 1967 in which King condemned the U.S. war on Vietnam.  Jackson and the wise and keenly intelligent Harding were there not to discuss Libya but to discuss the MLK Jr. monument.  Nonetheless Jackson and Harding made clear that they did not like the U.S. war in Libya one bit, nor the militarism it entails.

If one reads CounterPunch.org, Antiwar.com or The American Conservative, one knows that one is reading those who are anti-interventionist on the basis of principle.  With Democracy Now and kindred progressive outlets, it’s all too clear where a big chunk of the so-called “left” stands, especially since the advent of Obama.   In his superb little book Humanitarian Imperialism Jean Bricmont criticizes much of the left for falling prey to advocacy of wars, supposedly based on good intentions.  And Alexander Cockburn has often pointed out that  many progressives are actually quite fond of “humanitarian” interventionism.   Both here and in Europe this fondness seems to be especially true of Obama’s latest war, the war on Libya .  It is little wonder that the “progressives” are losing their antiwar following to Ron Paul and the Libertarians who are consistent and principled on the issue of anti-interventionism.

Democracy Now, quo vadis?  Wherever you are heading, you would do well to travel without Juan Cole and his friends.

John V. Walsh can be reached at John.Endwar@gmail.com

After wading through Cole’s loose prose and dubious logic to write this essay, the author suspects that the rejection of Cole by the Yale faculty was the result of considerations that had little to do with neocon Bush/Cheney operatives.

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August 30, 2011 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Militarism, Progressive Hypocrite, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment