Tag Archives: James Corbett

“Russia hacked the election” and other fake news — whatever happened to journalism?

Update: Please note that the original article begins after the asterisk

Listen carefully to what Obama says in his final press conference delivered on January 18th [I have highlighted the relevant section]:

So with respect to WikiLeaks, I don’t see a contradiction.  First of all, I haven’t commented on WikiLeaks, generally. The conclusions of the intelligence community with respect to the Russian hacking were not conclusive as to whether WikiLeaks was witting or not in being the conduit through which we heard about the DNC emails that were leaked.

From the official transcript available at the White House archive.

I have also embedded a youtube upload of the full speech below so that you can watch how he delivers this statement beginning at 8:00 mins, with a prolonged hesitation after saying “The conclusions of the intelligence community with respect to the Russian hacking were not conclusive as to whether WikiLeaks was witting or not…”

Because what does he intend when he says “witting or not” – “witting or not” of what precisely? Wikileaks has never denied being “the conduit through which we heard about the DNC emails” – so why does Obama say any of this? And, more importantly, why does he then conclude this statement saying “…the DNC emails that were leaked.” Weren’t the DNC emails allegedly hacked? Wasn’t that the whole point?

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When I posted the previous article, not for a moment did I anticipate this already stale (nearly six months old) and contrived accusation of Russian hacking might be reheated and making the headlines well into the new year. Nor could I have envisaged that in the interim no fewer than two ‘intelligence reports’ would be issued to serve as flimsy support for otherwise groundless claims. Two reports with extremely serious sounding titles and elaborate illustrations, but not a single shred of evidence between them. Although that last part comes as no surprise at all, of course.

But before considering these twin tissues, not of lies, but of unsupported assertions, it is helpful to first remind ourselves what is to be understood when we read that “Russia hacked the election”. Because in spite of the seeming inference contained in those excitable words, the accusation falls far short of any literal suggestion that the Russians hacked into electronic voting machines or otherwise meddled directly in America’s electoral process.

Instead, the fragile claim is only that ‘the Kremlin’ (read Putin) hacked into the Democratic National Committee and thereafter released evidence to wikileaks exposing, amongst other things, how DNC staffers were manipulating the primaries to ensure Clinton prevailed against Bernie Sanders. Thus the outrage might be neatly encapsulated as follows:

Back in July it was quite evident that this fantasy about dastardly Russian interference had been concocted in order to misdirect everyone from the incriminating substance of the emails as such. And up to a point the distraction worked wonderfully well, even if the leak still did result in the embarrassing and untimely resignation of DNC chairperson Debbie Wasserman Schultz. Indeed, as the election neared, this evidence-free story was quietly sidelined, since Clinton’s victory had then appeared a nailed-on certainty.

But now, in the wake of Clinton’s shock defeat, the same unfounded insinuations that provided such a convenient decoy, with Putin standing in as a readymade scapegoat, have been rehashed again. Promoted by a neo-con establishment suddenly desperate to play the Russia card once more, we witness a choreographed outcry from the likes of Brennan and McCain, and the frenzied release of these half-baked ‘intelligence reports’.

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Released December 29th, the Joint Analysis Report is the collaborative product of the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI. A jumbled concordance to the existing fable about the misadventures of hacker groups “Cozy Bear” and “Fancy Bear”, it introduces us to an exciting new protagonist named “Grizzly Steppe” (actually the chosen moniker for the report itself!), but first comes the disclaimer:

This report is provided “as is” for informational purposes only. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) does not provide any warranties of any kind regarding any information contained within.

Jeffrey Carr, who is a cybersecurity expert and author of Inside Cyber Warfare, writes:

The FBI/DHS Joint Analysis Report (JAR) “Grizzly Steppe” was released yesterday as part of the White House’s response to alleged Russian government interference in the 2016 election process. It adds nothing to the call for evidence that the Russian government was responsible for hacking the DNC, the DCCC, the email accounts of Democratic party officials, or for delivering the content of those hacks to Wikileaks.

He concludes:

If the White House had unclassified evidence that tied officials in the Russian government to the DNC attack, they would have presented it by now. The fact that they didn’t means either that the evidence doesn’t exist or that it is classified.

If it’s classified, an independent commission should review it because this entire assignment of blame against the Russian government is looking more and more like a domestic political operation run by the White House that relied heavily on questionable intelligence generated by a for-profit cybersecurity firm [i.e., CrowdStrike] with a vested interest in selling “attribution-as-a-service”.

Click here to read Carr’s full analysis.

Grizzly Steppe appeared to most experts as more of a Grizzly Misstep but never mind because we didn’t have to wait long for the next instalment: the considerably longer, still glossier and top-heavily titled “Office of the Director of National Intelligence Statement on Declassified Intelligence Community Assessment of Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent U.S. Elections” which was released on January 6th.

This final (presumably…?) ‘assessment’ is a good deal fatter but no less flimsy when it comes to verifiable substance than the preceding ‘report’. In fact quite sensationally, it presents nothing of any relevance or further significance whatsoever – but then what did we honestly expect?

After weeks of bombshell headlines based on statements from anonymous intelligence officials, western media finally had an official intelligence report to support their bombshell headlines. Unsurprisingly, all headlines look very similar, with the Guardian even changing the title of their main story after realising it was not menacing enough.

The problem is that, much like the old stories, the new ones do not contain any evidence to support the claims, because the report itself does not have anything in that regard.

writes Ricardo Vaz, reprinted by Off-Guardian, continuing:

The report says that the “evidence” remains highly classified. These outlets are just being fed the same (non-)information in a new package, and reporting it as “remarkably blunt” (WaPo) and “damning and surprisingly detailed” (NYT) does not change the fact that there are no facts to back this thesis that there was a campaign orchestrated by the Russian state which decided the American presidential elections. Repeating the same accusation time and again is not a way of proving it, and given their track record, we cannot just take intelligence agencies at their word. 1

Click here to read Ricardo Vaz’s in-depth critique.

Or here is investigative journalist James Corbett’s take (and his own disclaimer):

The propaganda surrounding the “Russia hacked the election” meme is, quite frankly, beneath the intelligence of The Corbett Report community. But this hodgepodge of evidence-free assertions is still driving the 24/7 fake news cycle, so today James rolls up his sleeve and shows the latest propaganda for what it is.

The silliness justly deserves to be ridiculed but still when the world’s most powerful nation is butting heads with its nuclear-armed rival we had better take stock. As we enter into exceptionally turbulent times, the mind-numbing absurdity of current affairs ought not to obscure this. So surely the most troubling aspect in the ongoing farce is the leading part played by our lamentable media, whose remaining purpose has now been reduced to the repackaging and peddling of an authorised narrative – no matter how nonsensical or deficient in factual basis.

As Glenn Greenwald recently said in an interview (January 5th) on Democracy Now! “the same people pretending to be crusaders against fake news… are themselves disseminating it more aggressively than anyone else”.

Reminding us of what he described as “two of the most humiliating debacles in American journalism over the last several years”, Greenwald said:

The first was on November 24th, when they claimed, based on a newly formed anonymous group, that there has been a very widespread, successful effort to implant Kremlin propaganda in the American discourse. And they accomplish this by giving credence to this secret list that this anonymous group of cowards had created in which they claim that a whole range of American media outlets and websites, such as the Drudge Report and other libertarian critics of Hillary Clinton on the right and long-standing left-wing critics of the Democratic Party, like Naked Capitalism and Truthout and Truthdig on the left—they decree them to be tools of Kremlin propaganda. And The Washington Post created this huge story, that went all over the place, based upon giving credence to this list and saying that Russian propaganda had been viewed more than 200 million times in the United States. Journalists all over Twitter, throughout the American media, mindlessly spread it, aggressively endorsed it. It became a huge story. And over the course of the next two weeks, the story completely collapsed, and there’s now a major editor’s note at the top of the article disclaiming the key source, saying that they did not intend to in any way vouch for the validity of the findings of the source on which the entire story was based.

But even more embarrassing was this weekend, when the Post trumpeted this story on Friday night that Vladimir Putin and Russia had hacked into the electric grid of the United States through a Vermont utility, which caused Vermont officials like the governor and Senator Pat Leahy to issue statements saying Vladimir Putin is trying to endanger the safety and the welfare of Vermonters by stealing their heat in the winter. The whole story, from start to finish, turned out to be a complete fabrication. There was no invasion of the American electric grid. The malware that was found on one laptop had nothing to do with Russia. The story was completely false. And again, the American media, in this hysteria, kept spreading and endorsing it.

And in both cases, the retractions were barely noted. So you have millions of people being misled into this hysteria, into this view that Russia is this grave threat, and when the story journalistically collapses, they barely hear about it.

Click here to watch the full interview or read the full transcript on the Democracy Now! website.

The longevity of all this ‘fake news’ about Russian hacking helps lay to rest the opinion that the fourth estate is merely in a state of crisis. Bereft of any vital signs, we must regretfully acknowledge that it has finally expired altogether; suffocated beneath the weight of its own self-importance. The demise of mainstream journalism is seemingly complete.

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Additional:

Glenn Greenwald also made a recent appearance on BBC’s Newsnight on Wednesday 11th. He had been invited principally to discuss the latest revelations against the Kremlin in light of the release of memos purporting to show that Russia is in possession of compromising material on Trump – which is plausible but once again no credible evidence is being presented. The exchange of words he had with presenter Emily Maitlis was certainly memorable:

Here is a short extract (the transcription is mine):

Maitlis [from 1:20 min]: But hang on a sec, [this latest allegation] was taken seriously by the CIA – by the Central Intelligence Agency. Doesn’t that elevate it above gossip?

Greenwald: Right, so the CIA is an agency that has repeatedly got caught lying in the past. It is designed to disseminate propaganda. And they’re currently in open warfare with the person who was just elected President of the United States. They were behind Hillary Clinton’s campaign. So I agree that once the CIA briefs the President and President-elect on this document it becomes newsworthy to report that fact, but the mere fact that the CIA tried to enshrine this document in a cloud of authenticity or credibility doesn’t for me as a journalist convince me at all that the claims are true. I want to see evidence first that the claims are true.

Maitlis: Hang on a second – you’re calling the CIA partisan. Are you basically suggesting that if Donald Trump then goes on to ignore everything that the CIA tells him that’s no great loss to America?

Greenwald: No, I didn’t say anything even remotely like that. What I said was that the CIA –

Maitlis [interrupting]: You said that the CIA was partisan – that it was pitted against the President-elect.

Greenwald: Well, that’s absolutely true. The former head of the CIA, Michael Morell, went to the New York Times and endorsed Hillary Clinton. George Bush’s CIA head, General [Michael] Hayden went to the Washington Post and did the same thing. They both accused Trump of being a recruit of Vladimir Putin.

Maitlis: So in that case whatever they tell him he would have to take with a pinch of salt because he would see them as a partisan organisation. Is that what you’re essentially suggesting?

Greenwald: I would say that any rational human being with even minimal history of the United States and the CIA would take everything that the CIA says with a huge grain of salt. I would call it actually a dose of rational scepticism. Given how many times in the past that agency has lied and been in error. You know of course don’t you that the Iraq War was started because that agency said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and was in alliance with al-Qaeda. Something that turned out to be tragically untrue. So of course people would treat those claims sceptically.

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1 From an article entitled “CIA, FBI and NSA produce joint report, jointly prove nothing”, written by Ricardo Vaz, originally published in Invesig’Action, reprinted by Off-Guardian on January 14, 2017. https://off-guardian.org/2017/01/14/34734/ 

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“no-fly zone” means escalation of war, and this time it will be against Russia… are you ready for that?

Update:

It is abundantly clear from our dark alliance with Saudi Arabia and our conduct in support of jihadists in Syria that our current leaders have learned nothing from Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya as we prepare to plunge head-long into the abyss of a world war.

The warning comes from former Democrat presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich in an article published on October 21st by Counterpunch.

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On every occasion it goes like this. Firstly, a pretext – an outright and convenient lie that justifies invasion. A lie to be repeated again and again until it sticks; so better to make it sound plausible (although even plausibility is not as important as it might first appear). Then the military offensive and a regime change – the true intention. And lastly, there follows an absolute collapse of law and order and the breakdown of civil society in a once stable, perhaps even relatively prosperous nation. The repeated outcome is a failed state and a puppet regime, overrun with Jihadist terrorists, but not to worry – the only cameras left at this stage of events will be the ones used for targeting drone-strikes.

So here’s a quick recap:-

Afghanistan – fifteen years ago the pretext was Bin Laden, of course, wanted dead or alive. Then, once the place had been bombed to hell, with the Saudi-backed Taliban overthrown thanks to the assistance of warlords of the so-called ‘Northern Alliance’, a pro-western government led by Hamid Karzai was briskly installed. (Tremendous news if you happened to be building oil pipelines – remember Unocal? – or for those in the business of smuggling opium.)

Iraq – here it was ‘babies out of incubators’ first time around (a since discredited story about a non-existent atrocity scripted and staged by PR firm Hill & Knowlton 1) and then came those still more infamous missing WMDs which the weapons inspectors led by the exemplary Hans Blix simply couldn’t uncover any evidence of, but which, as Bush Jr. joked later, “gotta be somewhere”. He even had the temerity to say it during the annual Radio and Television Correspondents Dinner. And the press just lapped it up, as he knew they would:

The WMDs were a fiction, of course, as Bush was later forced to admit more soberly 2, but so what – those admissions came much too late to change anything. A million people had died already and millions of other disposable lives are still being quietly destroyed thanks to the use of chemical agents like white phosphorous and the misleadingly named ‘depleted uranium’ (DU). Read more here.

With Libya, there was a different Commander-in-Chief and a new twist: the UN’s ‘responsibility to protect’ invoked to deal with freshly concocted stories of regime-supplied Viagra and mass rape. A more nonsensical fiction than before – but never mind that, the press dutifully lapped it up.

Gone too was ‘shock and awe’ (at least in name). The bombs tearing up Libyan lives were more lovingly delivered since dropped under the guise of a “humanitarian intervention”. A “no-fly zone” that Russia and China very reluctantly sanctioned (having eventually succumbed to hysterical and sustained criticism across the western media) which immediately paved the way to more expansive (and wholly unsanctioned) “kinetic action” as Nato supplied air cover to the bloodthirsty Salafist militias on the ground.

The slaughter of innocents by those same ‘moderate’ al-Qaeda affiliated terrorists, and especially the widespread lynching of black Africans, was barely reported upon in the western press – the greater truth is unlikely to ever come out. But you can read more about it here – and here in an earlier post.

Today we have more of the same in Syria – once again, the intention was always regime change and indeed there is rather more candour in admitting this than on past occasions. However, the movable official narrative and the facts on the ground quickly diverge thereafter.

The West and its Middle East allies have covertly backed a mix of al-Qaeda factions from the very earliest days of the Syrian conflict, precisely as they did in Libya. In both instances, when it comes to western-backing, use of the term ‘moderate’ is next to meaningless. Here is an article I posted in August 2012  as news of Islamist infiltration was first beginning to leak into mainstream articles. And here is a more intensively documented piece put together a year ago and closely detailing our clandestine support of al-Qaeda factions and their splinter group ISIS.

The ‘moderate rebels’ are mixed in with al-Qaeda terrorists, the official story now openly confesses – an incremental shift from outright denial to open admission of terrorist ‘links’ that accidentally provides a measure of just how far the mask of the West’s legitimacy has fallen. It has shifted out of desperation, as the strategy for overthrowing Assad and the Syrian government began to falter.

So the clamour again is for another “no-fly zone”; a more overtly aggressive act of war-making, necessarily portrayed as an act of peace. That “no-fly zone” always means ‘war’ is unarguable as I have already pointed out on a number of occasions during the lead up to the bombing campaign in Libya (here is one post). But why trust me, when you can hear it straight from the horse’s mouth:

The issue is not complicated. As today’s leaks show Hillary Clinton laid it out back in 2013 when she said, “To have a no-fly zone you have to take out all of the air defenses, many of which are located in populated areas. So our missiles, even if they are standoff missiles so we’re not putting our pilots at risk— you’re going to kill a lot of Syrians.”

The quoted reminder is courtesy of a piece by Chris Nineham of the Stop the War Coalition. His article, published on Tuesday 11th, continues more alarmingly:

Or, just last month, General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff admitted, “right now, for us to control all of the air space in Syria would require us to go to war against Syria and Russia; that’s a pretty fundamental decision”.

‘Fundamental’ is putting it lightly – but let’s go on with Nineham’s excellent analysis of the likely consequences for the Syrians (I’ll come back to consider the prospect of apocalyptic madness in a moment):

The situation in Aleppo and other parts of Syria is desperate. The idea of a no-fly zone can seem attractive because people rightly want there to be an effective humanitarian response. But as these two quotes outline, a no-fly zone would need to be secured by Western forces against opposition from Syria and Russia. Air defenses would have to be taken out and Syrian and Russian planes shot down. In the end a no-fly zone in Syria would work the same as the no-fly zone in Libya did, as a corridor for western military bombing. […]

People say the situation in Syria can get no worse, but they are wrong. As Emily Thornberry, Shadow Foreign Secretary explained today in parliament, “in a multi-playered, multi-faceted civil war such as Syria, the last thing we need is more parties bombing”. Such action will inflame and escalate an already desperate situation leading not just to more agony on the ground in Syria, but almost certainly to the break up of the country.

It is quite amazing that the views of MPs like Boris Johnson and Andrew Mitchell are taken seriously at all on issues of foreign policy. Andrew Mitchell voted for the Iraq War, for the intervention in Libya and twice for bombing in Syria. Johnson too has voted for every war he has been able to. If the daily reports of carnage and chaos in the news are not enough to convince people of the catastrophic effects of these escapades, they have been roundly condemned as chaotic disasters in a series of official reports, including Chilcot, the Select Committee Report on Libya, and the House of Commons Defence Committee report on the intervention in Syria. 3

Click here to read Nineham’s full article.

But here’s the mystery – it’s not really a mystery, but let’s pretend for just a moment. When the modus operandi becomes this transparent, how come it still works as effectively as it does? How do good people fall into the belief time and again that the next bombing campaign will be different – will result in a better outcome and not perpetuate the carnage of this monstrous “war on terror”?

And how do our western powers manage to stake a claim to having any kind of humanitarian agenda whatsoever, especially when simultaneously they are aiding the despotic regime of Saudi Arabia in its genocidal bombing of Yemen? Are we supposed to believe that the powers-that-be – our marvellous military-industrial complex – really love Syrians so much more than Yemenis?

There’s actually no mystery at all. The war party is extremely adept at playing on and manipulating our good conscience. It operates by unabashed deceit and by virtue of the largesse of foundation funding – these two go hand-in-hand in fact. If you want some names of our deceivers then read this earlier article and this one too. In short, beware the pressure groups and NGOs – take care to follow the money. But most importantly of all, beware the corporate media. The corporate media has taken us into each and every one of these disastrous wars and without its relentless, monotonous and insidious manufacturing of our consent there would be no “war on terror” at all:

In the video embedded above, independent journalist James Corbett exposes Channel 4 news as they are caught lionising the very same criminal gang (literally the same men) who filmed themselves beheading a twelve-year old boy.

For it is an easily corroborated fact that the West and its allies have a long and sustained history of manipulating gangs and insurgents, and most notably Islamist factions, to achieve their desired geostrategic objectives, yet this irrefutable truth must never be widely disseminated. Amnesia is vital, therefore, and thankfully the media is highly dependable when it comes to aiding our forgetting. But then, every atrocity the West commits is simply a cock-up; our enemies alone commit all the war crimes (with the singular exception of the crimes of Tony Blair).

Meanwhile, compliance of the press is likewise assured whenever it comes to pushing buttons readying us for the next war. Allowing an occasional embarrassing truth to dribble out now and again serves to regain some public trust – just enough to convince us of how the media maintains a vital role in holding power accountable rather than simply operating as a propaganda arm for the establishment. In this regard Blair serves the cause as a wonderful decoy too – his own unprosecuted crimes taking much of the heat off Cameron, Sarkozy and Obama.

Moreover, to those who in any way sponsor our perpetual “war on terror” yet talk freely and hypocritically about the ‘war crimes’ of others please do reflect on the Nuremberg rulings which deem every war of aggression “the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.” 4

But here is the truly startling difference today: these purveyors of war appear to have become more irresponsible and reckless than ever before. Indeed, it seems that many in our press corps are finally losing a grip on reality. Inevitable perhaps, once groupthink takes such a hold of you.

This “no-fly zone” in Syria, if launched, means war not just against Syria and its already deeply committed ally Iran, but also and unavoidably against Russia. Yet voices across parliament and throughout the media are cheering on this unthinkable act. Do these same low-grade politicos and media hacks feel so assured of their place hunkered down in some impenetrable secret bunker, tucked up with the Strangeloves? Or do they feel rather unconcerned about the catastrophic potential of a war with Russia, imagining it will somehow remain contained like all our other ongoing wars – faraway and in someone else’s backyard? In short, are they blasé or just plain stupid? I confess to feeling contempt either way. Contempt combined with a growing sense of bewilderment and dread.

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1 Nayirah al-Ṣabaḥ (Arabic: نيره الصباح‎), called “Nurse Nayirah” in the media, was a fifteen-year-old Kuwaiti girl, who gave false testimony before the Congressional Human Rights Caucus on October 10, 1990, stating that she had witnessed Iraqi soldiers take babies out of incubators in a Kuwaiti hospital, take the incubators, and leave the babies to die. The testimony was widely publicized, and was cited numerous times by United States senators and President George H.W. Bush. In 1992, it was revealed that Nayirah was the daughter of Saud Al-Sabah, the Kuwaiti ambassador to the United States, and that her testimony was scripted as part of a PR campaign run by Hill & Knowlton for the Kuwaiti government. Her story was initially corroborated by Amnesty International.

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3 From an article entitled “Don’t believe the Start the War Coalition – Ask Libyans About No-Fly Zones” written by Chris Nineham, published by Stop the War Coalition on October 11, 2016. http://www.stopwar.org.uk/index.php/news-comment/2208-don-t-believe-the-start-the-war-coalition-ask-libyans-about-no-fly-zones

4 http://avalon.law.yale.edu/imt/judnazi.asp#common

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Seymour Hersh on Obama’s “red line” and the role of the media

Seymour Hersh has got some extreme ideas on how to fix journalism – close down the news bureaus of NBC and ABC, sack 90% of editors in publishing and get back to the fundamental job of journalists which, he says, is to be an outsider.

So begins a Guardian article based around an interview which world-renowned investigative reporter Seymour Hersh gave at City University in London’s summer school last July. Hersh, who according to the article “is adamant that Obama is worse than Bush” believes that “confidence of the US press to challenge the US government collapsed post 9/11”:

“Do you think Obama’s been judged by any rational standards? Has Guantanamo closed? Is a war over? Is anyone paying any attention to Iraq? Is he seriously talking about going into Syria? We are not doing so well in the 80 wars we are in right now, what the hell does he want to go into another one for. What’s going on [with journalists]?” he asks.

A Pulitzer Prize-winner himself, Hersh says:

“Too much of it seems to me is looking for prizes. It’s journalism looking for the Pulitzer Prize. It’s a packaged journalism, so you pick a target like – I don’t mean to diminish because anyone who does it works hard – but are railway crossings safe and stuff like that, that’s a serious issue but there are other issues too.

“Like killing people, how does [Obama] get away with the drone programme, why aren’t we doing more? How does he justify it? What’s the intelligence? Why don’t we find out how good or bad this policy is? Why do newspapers constantly cite the two or three groups that monitor drone killings. Why don’t we do our own work?

“Our job is to find out ourselves, our job is not just to say – here’s a debate. Our job is to go beyond the debate and find out who’s right and who’s wrong about issues. That doesn’t happen enough. It costs money, it costs time, it jeopardises, it raises risks. There are some people – the New York Times still has investigative journalists but they do much more of carrying water for the president than I ever thought they would … it’s like you don’t dare be an outsider any more.”1

More recently, Hersh has challenged the Obama administration’s claims that they knew the Assad regime was responsible for the gas attack on the Damascus suburb of Ghouta on August 21st. In an article published in December’s London Review of Books, he argues the Obama administration “cherry-picked intelligence to justify a strike against Assad”, adding that al-Nusra had “mastered the mechanics of creating sarin and was capable of manufacturing it in quantity.”

On December 9th, Hersh was interviewed by Democracy Now! regarding his latest allegations. He first explained the more technical details behind how he knew that Obama “was willing to go to war, wanted to throw missiles at Syria, without really having a case and knowing he didn’t have much of a case”:

The fact is that the United States has a very, very sophisticated sensor system that we’ve put up, just as we also had in Iran, which helped us to conclude — I wrote about this for years at The New Yorker — that we pretty much were pretty sure there was no secret underground facility in Iran, even though the press still talks about that possibility. We looked at it hard. We have sensors that were very, very good. America has great technical capability. And the same thing happened inside Syria. We have sensors. […]

Nobody keeps sarin. It’s a very volatile, acidic poison that degrades quickly. You keep the chemicals that make sarin. They’re what are called precursors. There’s two chemicals, when mixed, poof, alacadabra, you have sarin. So, the Syrian arsenal, the reason you can get rid of it pretty easily, as the report heard they’re doing it, is because there’s two inert substances that could be disposed independently. One is even an alcohol. You could just flush it. But the point being that the sensors monitor not only when the—when sarin or the chemicals are moved; more importantly, they’re capable of monitoring when the Syrian army begins to mix the stuff. And once they mix the stuff, it’s—as I wrote, it’s a use-it-or-lose-it process. You have to use it quickly, because it degrades quickly. It doesn’t stay long in the shells; it erodes the shells. And not only that, the Israelis are right there with us on this sensor system. And so, it’s like a fire alarm, early warning system. You know, it’s—an alarm goes off, and the Israelis know about it, as we know about it, right away. […]

So, this system said nada, nothing, on the 21st, the 22nd [of August]. I write about the fact there’s internal reports. It wasn’t until the 23rd, when the American internal—the secret government and, you know, the secret intelligence community began writing internal reports for the secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, saying that we’ve got a problem here in Syria. For days, we didn’t know, because—and what does that mean? What that means is that if—if chemical warfare was used on the 21st, it didn’t come from that arsenal, because there was no warning of any mixing. That doesn’t mean something else could have happened, that some renegade group got some and did something. But the main warning system we had was quiet. That’s a clue. That’s a big clue that at least you should consider something other than the Syrian army when you begin an investigation.

Asked why this new evidence is significant today, given that “Obama chose not to strike Syria because the American people just overwhelmingly said no”, Hersh interrupts:

He didn’t—I’m telling you, he didn’t do it because the American people said no. He knew it because he didn’t have a case. And there was incredible opposition that will be, one of these days, written about, maybe in history books. There was incredible operation from some very, very strong-minded, constitutionally minded people in the Pentagon. That’s the real story. I don’t have it; I could just tell you I know it. […]

But the fact of the matter is that this president was going to go to a war because he felt he had to protect what he said about a red line. That’s what it was about, in the military’s point of view. And that’s not acceptable. You don’t go to war, you don’t throw missiles at a country, when there’s no immediate national security to the United States. And you don’t even talk about it in public. That’s wrong, and that was a terrible thing to do.

And that’s what this story is really about. It’s about a president choosing to make political use of a war crime and not do the right thing. And I think that’s—to me, Amy [Goodman], that’s a lot more important than where it was published and who told me no and who told me yes. I know the press likes to focus on that stuff, but that’s not the story. The story is what he was going to do, and what it says maybe about him, what it says about that office, what it says about the power, that you can simply—you can create a narrative, which he did, and you know the mainstream press is going to carry out that narrative.

Coming back to the role of the media, Hersh adds:

I mean, it’s almost impossible for some of the mainstream newspapers, who have consistently supported the administration. This is after we had the WMD scandal, when everybody wanted to be on the team. It turns out our job, as newspaper people, is not to be on the team. You know, we’ve got a world run by a lot of yahoos and wackos, and it’s our job as reporters to do the kind of work and make it hard for the nincompoops that run the world to get away with some of the stuff we’re doing. That’s what we should be doing more and more of. And that’s just—you know, I don’t think there’s any virtue in it; it’s just the job we have.

Click here to read a full transcript or watch the interview on the Democracy Now! website.

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Update:

On December 22nd, in light of Seymour Hersh’s revelations, James Corbett and Professor Michel Chossudovsky published their own analysis of the media’s role in manipulating public opinion in favour of war on Syria. A video of their full report is embedded below, as are their opening and concluding remarks:

The architects of our modern system of manufactured consent and official propaganda have long known the importance of the mass media in framing public opinion on any given event. To the pathocrats who blazed the trail toward our modern era of information warfare and opinion control, facts themselves were malleable, subject not to objective reality but to the way they were perceived and internalized by a credulous public. As Ivy Lee, the man that the Rockefellers hired to invent the modern PR industry after the Ludlow massacre, put it:

“It is not the facts alone that strike the popular mind, but the way in which they take place and in which they are published that kindle the imagination…Besides, what is a fact? The effort to state an absolute fact is simply an attempt to… give you my interpretation of the facts.”

This disdain for the public and the psychopathic ease with which elected officials lie to their electorate is nowhere more apparent than when a democracy attempts to rally its citizens to support a war of aggression abroad.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the Syrian war coverage of the mainstream media is not its underlying bias—that was always to be expected—but how remarkably ineffective that coverage has been in convincing the public of the need for military intervention in the country. After nearly three years of relentless propaganda attempting to convince the public of the virtue of the terrorist insurgency and the incomparable evil of Assad, the seemingly inevitable march toward war in the wake of the Ghouta chemical weapons attack faltered after public opinion overwhelmingly came down on the side of non-interventionist policies.

Perhaps reading public sentiment, many mainstream outlets even took to pointing out the media bias on the war and trying to retroactively position themselves against military intervention. This has to be credited to a remarkable, global, grassroots phenomenon of independent citizen media breaking through the layers of propaganda to provide true, cogent analysis of the situation on the ground in Syria. In the face of generations swayed by the mass media manipulation of Ivy Lee and his ideological progeny, this alternative media movement is setting the foundation for an alternative paradigm in which Lee’s cynical rhetorical question “What is a fact?” has a very different answer than that which the ruling classes would want us to believe.

Click here to read the full report at Global Research.

1 From an article entitled “Seymour Hersh on Obama, NSA and the ‘pathetic’ American media” published in the Guardian Media Blog on September 27, 2013. http://www.theguardian.com/media/media-blog/2013/sep/27/seymour-hersh-obama-nsa-american-media

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Bin Laden’s timely demise

Osama Bin Laden is finally dead. It’s official. Although, of course, you may recall some earlier pronouncements to similar effect. Indeed, investigator James Corbett has recently catalogued at least eight earlier instances (with links to the relevant articles) when heads of state, high-ranking government officials, and intelligence agencies have spoken of Bin Laden’s demise:

“Given Bin Laden’s documented kidney problems and consequent need for dialysis, government officials, heads of state and counterterrorism experts have repeatedly opined that Osama Bin Laden has in fact been dead for some time. These assertions are based on Bin Laden’s failing health in late 2001 and visible signs of his deteriorating condition, as well as actual reports of his death from the same time frame.

In July of 2001, Osama Bin Laden was flown to the American Hospital in Dubai for kidney treatment. According to French intelligence sources, he was there met by the local CIA attache. When the agent bragged about his encounter to friends later, he was promptly recalled to Washington.

On the eve of September 11, Osama Bin Laden was staying in a Pakistani military hospital under the watchful eye of Pakistan’s ISI, the Pakistani equivalent of the CIA with deep ties to the American intelligence community.”

On January 18, 2002, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf announced quite bluntly: “I think now, frankly, he is dead.”

 On July 17, 2002, the then-head of counterterrorism at the FBI, Dale Watson, told a conference of law enforcement officials that “I personally think he [Bin Laden] is probably not with us anymore,” before carefully adding that “I have no evidence to support that.”

In October 2002, Afghan President Hamid Karzai told CNN that “I would come to believe that [Bin Laden] probably is dead.”

In November 2005, Senator Harry Reid revealed that he was told Osama may have died in the Pakistani earthquake of October that year.

In September 2006, French intelligence leaked a report suggesting Osama had died in Pakistan.

On November 2, 2007, former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto told Al-Jazeera’s David Frost that Omar Sheikh had killed Osama Bin Laden.

In March 2009, former US foreign intelligence officer and professor of international relations at Boston University Angelo Codevilla stated: “All the evidence suggests Elvis Presley is more alive today than Osama Bin Laden.”

In May 2009, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari confirmed that his “counterparts in the American intelligence agencies” hadn’t heard anything from Bin Laden in seven years and confirmed “I don’t think he’s alive.”

Why then has this week’s pronouncement been accepted as credible? Well, as Corbett points out, the big difference this time round is not that we have proof at last, but that news of Bin Laden’s death comes direct from the White House:

Now in 2011, President Obama has added himself to the mix of people in positions of authority who have pronounced Osama Bin Laden dead. Some might charge that none of the previous reports had any credibility, but as it is now emerging that Osama’s body was buried at sea less than 12 hours after his death with no opportunity for any independent corroboration of his identity, the same question of credibility has to be leveled at this latest charge. To this point, the only evidence we have been provided that Osama Bin Laden was killed yesterday are some images on tv of a burning compound and the word of the man currently occupying the oval office.”

Complete article available at The Corbett Report.

Now if the man occupying the White House still had the name Bush, then there can be little doubting that this story would have come under far greater scrutiny than it is receiving. The sketchiness and strangeness of many details, and importantly, the lack of a body, or as yet, even any photos of a body, would surely have raised more eyebrows under Bush. And still we have only excuses for why none of this evidence has been presented. In other words, we have Obama’s word.

Of course we know Bush lied – both of them. George W. told us there were WMDs in Iraq, just as his father had sworn, a decade earlier, that Saddam’s forces were throwing babies out of incubators and leaving them to die on the hospital floors of Kuwait. Both these stories turned out to be complete fabrications, although they still passed sufficiently under the mainstream radar to help ignite two different wars. But Obama is different. He’s not Bush, and he’s not even Clinton. He actually inhales. So if he says they killed Bin Laden then that’s good enough for me, right? After all, it’s not as if he’s in need of any more wars…

Whether more solid evidence emerges to prove the story of Bin Laden’s death, we must wait and see (though I wouldn’t hold your breath), whilst bearing in mind that it wasn’t long for the first major deception to appear – a badly photo-shopped fake image of his corpse – quickly passed off as authentic by almost every national newspaper. The Guardian (May 2nd) just happened to be a little wiser and more cautious:

“Osama bin Laden corpse photo is fake: Image of bloodied man picked up by British newspapers has been circulating online for two years”

An image apparently showing a dead Osama Bin Laden broadcast on Pakistani television and picked up by British newspaper websites is a fake.

The bloodied image of a man with matted hair and a blank, half-opened eye has been circulating on the internet for the past two years. It was used on the front pages of the Mail, Times, Telegraph, Sun and Mirror websites, though swiftly removed after the fake was exposed on Twitter.

It appears the fake picture was initially published by the Middle East online newspaper themedialine.org on 29 April 2009, with a warning from the editor that it was ‘unable to ascertain whether the photo is genuine or not’.”

Click here to read full article by Amelia Hill.

So Bin Laden is finally dead, apparently. What’s the likely upshot? Does this mark some kind of closure to the war on terrorism? Can we now move away from a policy of secret detainment and legitimised use of torture? Can we end the wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan? Might we also begin to reverse the anti-civil rights measures and systems of surveillance purportedly in place to save us from terrorist attacks? Can we all sleep more comfortably in our beds? Well, sadly, the most frequent answers we’re getting are simply no, no, and no again.

Let’s begin with Pakistan. Of the many mysteries still hanging over Bin Laden’s assassination, one of the strangest is that his hide-out was located just a few hundred yards from Pakistan’s prestigious military academy in Abbottabad. So how was it that Pakistan’s own intelligence service had failed to notice him? Indeed, how had it taken the US so long? Or was there some kind of a conspiracy afoot? A report from The Telegraph on May 2nd turns up some interesting documents:

 “WikiLeaks: Osama bin Laden ‘protected’ by Pakistani security – Pakistani security forces allegedly helped Osama bin Laden evade American troops for almost 10 years, according to secret US government files.

American diplomats were told that one of the key reasons why they had failed to find bin Laden was that Pakistan’s security services tipped him off whenever US troops approached.

Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISID) also allegedly smuggled al-Qaeda terrorists through airport security to help them avoid capture and sent a unit into Afghanistan to fight alongside the Taliban.

The claims, made in leaked US government files obtained by Wikileaks, will add to questions over Pakistan’s capacity to fight al-Qaeda.” […]

According to a US diplomatic dispatch, General Abdullo Sadulloevich Nazarov, a senior Tajik counterterrorism official, told the Americans that “many” inside Pakistan knew where bin Laden was.

The document stated: ‘In Pakistan, Osama Bin Laden wasn’t an invisible man, and many knew his whereabouts in North Waziristan, but whenever security forces attempted a raid on his hideouts, the enemy received warning of their approach from sources in the security forces.’”

Click here to read the full article by Tim Ross.

So is this actually true? Well, it’s in a document – so that bit’s true. Obviously, we don’t know if the information is true, however, and in light of what has happened since, the release of these documents has, to put it mildly, been a little inconvenient for Pakistan. On the other hand, of course, for those seeking justification for Obama’s military incursions into Pakistan, the release of these documents is a godsend.

And here is another article from The Telegraph, also May 2nd, and based on “information” contained in other leaked documents, which asks whether: “The killing of the world’s most wanted man as a direct result of information obtained from Guantanamo detainees such as KSM [Khalid Sheikh Mohammed] will reignite the debate over whether torture is a legitimate interrogation technique in the ‘war on terror’”:

“WikiLeaks: Osama bin Laden killed after tip-offs from Guantanamo – The mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, who was interrogated using “torture” techniques, gave the United States the breakthrough that resulted in the killing of Osama bin Laden.”

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), who was repeatedly subjected to methods including ‘waterboarding’ and stress positions, provided the CIA with the name of bin Laden’s personal courier, according to US officials.

A second source – also an al-Qaeda ‘leader’ held at Guantanamo Bay – then confirmed the courier’s identity, sparking an intense manhunt that resulted in the dramatic final raid.

Secret documents seen by The Daily Telegraph disclose that this second source – the terrorist operations chief, Abu Faraj al-Libi – played a key role in finding ‘safe havens’ for bin Laden and lived in the military town where he was finally found.”

Click here to read the full article by Tim Ross.

So does this mean we now need even more secret detainment and torture? Bin Laden’s death making the world still more brutal and barbaric…

As for the world being a safer place – and quite aside from the already flourishing speculation about “almost certain” and “highly likely” reprisals – if previous newspaper reports are to be understood correctly, then this might have been the very worst thing that ever happened – if, that is, the “information” contained in these documents (also recently released by wikileaks) is to be believed. Here’s one from February 1st, published in The Vancouver Sun:

‘Al-Qaida on brink of using nuclear bomb’

Al-Qaida is on the verge of producing radioactive weapons after sourcing nuclear material and recruiting rogue scientists to build “dirty” bombs, according to leaked diplomatic documents.

A leading atomic regulator has privately warned that the world stands on the brink of a “nuclear 9/11”.

Security briefings suggest that jihadi groups are also close to producing “workable and efficient” biological and chemical weapons that could kill thousands if unleashed in attacks on the West.

Thousands of classified American cables obtained by the WikiLeaks website and passed to The Daily Telegraph detail the international struggle to stop the spread of weapons-grade nuclear, chemical and biological material around the globe.

At a Nato meeting in January 2009, security chiefs briefed member states that al-Qaida was plotting a program of “dirty radioactive IEDs”, makeshift nuclear roadside bombs that could be used against British troops in Afghanistan.


Click here to read the full article by Heidi Blake and Christopher Hope (of The Daily Telegraph).

 And a day later, another article about the leaks appeared in the Daily Mail:

 “World ‘on brink of nuclear 9/11’ as Al Qaeda plans large ‘dirty’ bomb”

Al Qaeda is attempting to stockpile ‘dirty’ radioactive explosives that could be used to target British troops or for a larger urban attack, it has emerged.

New diplomatic documents released by WikiLeaks show that U.S. intelligence personnel have been informed of terrorist attempts to acquire dangerous amounts of uranium and plutonium.

The cables warn of a large trafficking operation of chemical weapons material and threats of a ‘nuclear 9/11’ unless the West intervenes swiftly.

Security chiefs briefed a Nato meeting in January 2009 that Al Qaeda was planning a programme of ‘dirty radioactive improvised explosive devices (IEDs)’.

The IEDs could be used against coalition forces in Afghanistan but would also contaminate the surrounding land with nuclear waste for years to come.”  1

Click here to read full article.

And now we have this – right on time – published April 26th in The Telegraph:

“Wikileaks: Al-Qaeda plotted chemical and nuclear attack on the West: Guantanamo interrogators have uncovered a determined attempt by al-Qaeda to attack Western countries using chemical or nuclear weapons, according to the top-secret files.”

One of the terrorist group’s most senior figures warned that al-Qaeda had obtained and hidden a nuclear bomb in Europe that would be detonated if Osama bin Laden was killed or captured.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the al-Qaeda mastermind currently facing trial in America over the 9/11 atrocities, was involved in a range of plans including attacks on US nuclear plants and a “nuclear hellstorm” plot in America.”

“According to the US WikiLeaks files, a Libyan detainee, Abu Al-Libi, “has knowledge of al-Qaeda possibly possessing a nuclear bomb”. Al-Libi, the operational chief of al-Qaeda and a close associate of Osama bin Laden before his detention, allegedly knew the location of a nuclear bomb in Europe that would be detonated if bin Laden were killed or captured.”

Click here to read full article by Holly Watt:

Now just think about this story for a moment – if a nuclear bomb were already planted in Europe or the US, would al-Qaeda then just “sit on it”, waiting for their enemy to strike whilst simultaneously hoping they don’t get too lucky; discovering the bomb before they get to Bin Laden? Or would they just have pressed the button long ago, in fact shortly after acquiring it, making sure to perpetrate the greatest terrorist attack in history, bar none? All of these leaks just seem too good to be true – at least, for anyone looking to perpetuate the “war on terror” and put an extra squeeze on Pakistan.

But there are also other doubts about the killing of Bin Laden. For instance, and given that the Americans had apparently been on his tail for months, if not years, why hadn’t they planned an operation to capture him alive? Especially as it seems he’d been holed up in this compound without phone or internet connection for years – so a sitting duck, basically – and that Bin Laden wasn’t even armed when they reached him.

By killing instead of capturing him, they’ve missed the chance to interrogate the man who was formerly at the helm of al-Qaeda, and remains accused of planning the 9/11 attacks. So why didn’t they put him on trial? On top of which, bringing Bin Laden to justice might have eased a little of the sting from any anti-American backlash. It would have demonstrated to the world that America really can occupy the moral high-ground. Yet instead of this, it seems that they couldn’t kill and bury Bin Laden fast enough, which inevitably looks suspicious.

Whatever the final truth – and information, let alone truth, seems to be in such short supply at present – Bin Laden’s demise couldn’t have been better timed for the US administration. Coming immediately in the wake of Obama’s reshuffling of his war-room staff last week, it has already helped him to legitimise America’s continuing role in what is now a whole decade of bloody imperialist interventions. At another stroke, it has established Obama’s newly nominated Secretary of Defense and former CIA chief, Panetta, as the latest in a long line of all-American heroes. And aside from being a helpful distraction from Obama’s many current domestic difficulties and failings, not to mention the deepening crisis in Libya, it will no doubt help rally support for the President, delivering a vital shot in the arm at the start of his re-election campaign.

As it happens, Bin Laden’s death also comes on the eve of the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, the event that brought him such infamy in the first place, and so we must hope that his end brings with it, an end to this post-9/11 era. Worryingly, however, there remains no end in sight for the “war on terror” – a war, or rather wars, that supposedly began with the singular object of finding Bin Laden “dead or alive” – the manhunt is now officially over, and yet, and aside from the unedifying spectacle of street celebrations, it actually feels like nothing has changed…

Of course, the many people cheering and waving flags at Ground Zero were already eager to believe that Bin Laden was killed by US special forces, just as Obama said; and obviously it’s always easier selling propaganda to the willing. Hardly surprisingly, in Pakistan, the public reaction has been quite different. The same story linking their own country directly to al-Qaeda, the Pakistani people have every reason to be suspicious of a frame-up and fearful of what comes next, especially given what happened to the last place that had “harboured” Bin Laden. If recent history has taught us anything, then it’s that we should be doubtful too.

The simple fact is that we are all swimming against constant currents of propaganda – currents that certainly strengthened in the wake of 9/11. And if you don’t notice these currents, then, as the joke goes, that just shows how really effective they are. Those cheering did so because they want to believe that U-S-A has won, or is winning. It has not, and it is not. And for just so long as this ridiculous and endless “war on terror” goes on, everyone has lost and will continue losing — everyone except for the corporate profiteers, that is.

But since Bin Laden is officially dead, the mission is accomplished, right? – which means it’s high time to stop the fighting and bring the troops home. And if not now, Obama, then when?

1 What the document fails to say is that the land in Afghanistan has in all likelihood already been contaminated “with nuclear waste for years to come” thanks to our use of so-called “depleted uranium”. This is certainly the case in Iraq:

US rejects Iraq DU clean-up”:

“The US says it has no plans to remove the debris left over from depleted uranium (DU) weapons it is using in Iraq. It says no clean-up is needed, because research shows DU has no long-term effects. It says a 1990 study suggesting health risks to local people and veterans is out of date.”

Click here to read full article by Alex Kerby, BBC News Monday 14th April, 2003.

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Filed under Afghanistan, al-Qaeda & DAESH / ISIS / ISIL, analysis & opinion, depleted uranium, obituary, Pakistan, September 11th, Uncategorized, USA