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Build Back Bilderberg-style! ‘continuity of government’ central concern for plutocrats gathered in Washington DC

I am very sorry to announce that Bilderberg is back on the globalist schedule. Following a three year time-out since its previous meet up during June 2019 in Montreux, Switzerland – an event I covered in extensive detail over a series of seven articles – and on the back of last month’s reconvened WEF Davos conference, Bilderberg gathered for a 66th year; its newest location, the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Washington D.C.

Encamped about a mile to the south of the White House, a short ride from CIA HQ in Langley, Virginia and a just hop across the Potomac River from The Pentagon, this more shadowy sister summit to Davos had arrived in the capital with plenty to discuss. And with so much going on around the world, Bilderberg conspicuously extended its regular list of ‘key topics’ from the usual ten to a far more impressive fourteen. Although in truth there are basically just three major issues preoccupying the transatlanticist ruling class and all involve wars of one kind or another.

Bilderberg agenda 2022 as Venn Diagram

The schematic above is my reinterpretation of this year’s official Bilderberg agenda in the form of a Venn diagram.

With the faltering collapse of US global hegemony, top of their published list are the interrelated concerns over what to do to halt the re-emergence of competing superpowers Russia and China. I wrote an extended article on the subject of escalation against both China and Russia last December entitled “the coming wars with Russia, China and Iran – why the stakes are raised in the last days of the unipolar order” in which I made the following concluding points:

America’s long-term geostrategic repositioning through the stealth expansion of Nato directly up to the borders of Russia and China is now combined with its ever more bellicose political posturing. Repeatedly under the threat of attack, loose defensive alliances have tightened between Russia, China and Iran, so a coordinated response becomes all the more likely. Should the West or Israel (with US consent) take the decision to declare “pre-emptive” war against any one of the three sovereign powers, the realistic expectation is wider war. Given the probable magnitude of a three-pronged retaliation and the genuine potential for a thermonuclear exchange, the prospect of wars against Russia, China and Iran is therefore absolutely unthinkable.

A century ago a detached and callous ruling class led a largely innocent and unwitting generation into the bloody technological hellhole of no-man’s land to slaughter one another for the glory of king and country and, importantly, for the sake of empire. Back then and ever since, we have rightly talked of “lions led by donkeys”. Astonishingly, the donkeys are back in charge again, except that this time around besides an imbecilic and unprincipled political class, we also have an atrophied antiwar opposition, a moribund fourth estate and an endlessly diverted populous, so the worry is that we may be dealing with donkeys virtually all the way down.

So forgive me when I hammer this point: war is in the air again, and not just any old war. WAR with Russia! WAR with Iran! WAR with China! WAR with all three simultaneously!

I make no apologies for my vulgar use of capitals. We all need to shout about this. What’s the alternative?

When Russia illegally invaded Ukraine in February, the stakes were immediately raised of course. In the months that have followed and with the imposition of tough sanctions we have also seen the schism between the West and the rest of the world widen and widen. Furthermore, as the sanctions predictably backfired, the situation for the West (and Europe especially) looks increasingly shambolic with already raging inflation and the likely prospect of fuel shortages. In fact to ameliorate the self-imposed economic damage being caused by its sanctions regime, Europe has quietly sought ways to circumvent their own blockade – this would be laughable were it not for the seriousness.

During this same period events on the ground have also been going badly for Ukraine as the mainstream media is finally starting to confirm, and in response, we are now seeing moves to switch attention and geostrategic policy away from Russia and back on to China; the White House once again stirring up tensions over its longstanding dispute with Taiwan – something I also addressed in greater depth in December’s post.

We must keep in mind that the US is the most militarised power on Earth. It spends more on “defence” than the next ten nations combined! (Far more than both Russia and China together.) Having very recently pulled an occupying force out of Afghanistan, at the present time it remains deeply embroiled in the Saudi war against Yemen, in Somalia and, by proxy, in aiding Ukraine with weapons supplies, training and intelligence. The US also illegally occupies approximately a third of the oil-rich north-eastern territory of Syria. Worldwide there are at least 750 US military bases occupying zones in over 80 countries: a network spanning the Indian and Pacific Ocean and extending into South Korea, Japan and the Philippines.

US bases worldwide

In 2016, investigative reporter and independent filmmaker John Pilger released a new documentary entitled The Coming War on China saying “The aim of this film is to break a silence: the United States and China may well be on the road to war, and nuclear war is no longer unthinkable”:

In notes attached to the film, Pilger writes:

When I first went to Hiroshima in 1967, the shadow on the steps was still there. It was an almost perfect impression of a human being at ease: legs splayed, back bent, one hand by her side as she sat waiting for a bank to open. At a quarter past eight on the morning of 6 August, 1945, she and her silhouette were burned into the granite. I stared at the shadow for an hour or more, unforgettably. When I returned many years later, it was gone: taken away, ‘disappeared’, a political embarrassment.

Another shadow now looms over all of us. This film, The Coming War on China, is a warning that nuclear war is not only imaginable, but a ‘contingency’, says the Pentagon. The greatest build-up of Nato military forces since the Second World War is under way on the western borders of Russia. On the other side of the world, the rise of China as the world’s second economic power is viewed in Washington as another ‘threat’ to American dominance.

To counter this, in 2011, President Obama announced a ‘pivot to Asia’, which meant that almost two-thirds of all US naval forces would be transferred to Asia and the Pacific, their weapons aimed at China.

Today, some 400 American military bases encircle China with missiles, bombers, warships and nuclear weapons. They form an arc from Australia north through the Pacific to Japan, Korea and across Eurasia to Afghanistan and India. It is, says one US strategist, ‘the perfect noose’.

As the crisis in Ukraine consumes public attention, geopolitical analyst and East Asian specialist Brian Berletic highlights other events unfolding in the background that are potentially leading to a much worse crisis:

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Meantime, the ruling class has opened up its third front on the domestic populations of the West under the guise of the most open of open ‘conspiracy theories’ – a conspiracy that proudly announces itself on an official WEF website and that brazenly dares to speak its own name: “The Great Reset”.

This blueprint for a hi-tech future that ensures perpetual austerity and mass surveillance is today proselytised and peddled on the basis of ‘fairness’ and ‘sustainability’. As independent researcher and activist Alison McDowell writes:

We’re living in tumultuous times with polarizing political theater and pandemic providing ample cover for the roll out of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. From the World Economic Forum’s outpost at San Francisco’s Presidio, the tentacles of dispossession triggered by Klaus Schwab’s “Great Reset” are rapidly encircling the globe.

We are witnessing the culmination of a century of machinations by western social engineers. We see predatory philanthropy using such euphemistic framing as “Living Cities,” “Healthy Cities,” “Resilient Cities,” and “Build Back Better” to package the profoundly anti-human and anti-life initiatives coming out of Davos as aspirational goals for “smart” living.

The oligarch class asks us to play along and overlook the fact that all of this smartness rests on a foundation of continued growth, fossil-fuel expansion, child labor, toxic waste, and space pollution. They demand we overlook the insatiable energy requirements needed to run the augmented reality Internet of Things illusion. That we put out of our minds the existence of vast data centers cooled 24/7 with the water of a thirsty, poisoned world.

They’ve outdone themselves propagandizing youth to cheer on transnational global capital’s plans to implement a final “green” solution. Though my hope is after months of digital alienation people’s spirits will stir in time to derail the intentions of this cruel biocapitalist regime to push us away from our rightful connection to natural systems and one another and into isolated virtual realms. The spell of faux ICT sustainability must be broken.

Alison McDowell’s presentation embedded above was part of an online forum, “Politics In And Out Of Europe”, hosted by Rutgers University’s Center for European Studies on Monday October 26th 2020. There were two panels followed by an hour of discussion. Alison McDowell was the second presenter, and framing remarks and response was provided by Naomi Klein.

Click here to read the same article interspersed with slides from the full presentation and comments published on Alison Hawver McDowell’s official website Wrench in the Gears on October 27th 2020.

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At Montreux three years ago, China and Russia were already in the Bilderberg crosshairs (listed third and fourth respectively of the ten ‘key topics’), but away from the Alps this year’s backdrop has significantly darkened. From 2019’s rather optimistic tone of “A Stable Strategic Order” and “What Next for Europe?” we move instead to talk of “Geopolitical Realignments”, “Disruption of the Global Financial System” and “NATO Challenges” for which we are impelled to read more straightforwardly “sanctions and war”. This is what happens when empires fall, the Anglo-American oligarchs now desperate to prop up theirs by any means necessary.

As spectacular evidence of the rapid decline in US regional power, this week leaders across Latin America boycotted the ninth Summit of the Americas that was held in Los Angeles. Mexican president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, said the move was in solidarity with Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua who were not invited to attend:

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Yet arguably the most striking item in this year’s ‘key topics’ is literally tucked away at the very heart of their list: number 7: “Continuity of Government and the Economy”. For those unfamiliar with the term ‘continuity of government’ (COG) I have supplied a description below which is actually the opening paragraph to the current Wikipedia entry on the subject:

Continuity of government (COG) is the principle of establishing defined procedures that allow a government to continue its essential operations in case of a catastrophic event such as nuclear war. [highlight retained]

It seems Bilderberg are surreptitiously warning that the lights are blinking red. And sooner than we might suppose, as the crises start to pile up, and people across the entire world (including the most prosperous regions in Europe and North America) are made desperate for food and energy, drastic contingency measures will need to be instituted. States of emergency. Martial law. Or worse. How else do we translate this most central item on last weekend’s Bilderberg agenda?

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A council of war

This year’s press release is characteristically terse and last minute (doubtless to keep the crowds at bay) and reliably the corporate media with so many close ties to Bilderberg have mostly failed to mention any of it. In fact this year’s British media cohort included Bilderberg stalwart Zanny Minton Beddoes, editor-in-chief of The Economist accompanied by colleague and defence editor, Shashank Joshi as well as Gideon Rachman, the chief foreign affairs commentator at The Financial Times. One reliable exception to the general rule of media silence was maverick journalist Charlie Skelton, and he trotted out a brief report smuggled inside the Guardian. Writing on Saturday [June 4th] as the meeting kicked off, Skelton begins:

Bilderberg is back with a vengeance. After a pandemic gap of two years, the elite global summit is being rebooted in a security-drenched hotel in Washington DC, with a high-powered guest list that includes the heads of Nato, the CIA, GCHQ, the US national security council, two European prime ministers, a healthy sprinkle of tech billionaires, and Henry Kissinger.

Skelton’s tidy overview of this year’s list of participants is worth fleshing out a little bit more. For instance, the two aforementioned European PMs were Mark Rutte of the Netherlands (a perennial Bilderberg attendee) and, more noteworthy, Sanna Marin of Finland. Strictly off-the-record, devoid of public oversight or media scrutiny, Marin was doubtless engaged in frequent discussions with head of Nato, Jens Stoltenberg about the terms and conditions for membership (generally about 3% of GDP channelled into weapons procurement). This is how open democracy functions today in Finland as in the rest of the western world.

Skelton writes:

The summit is heaving with experts in Russia and Ukraine, including the assistant secretary of defense for international security affairs, Celeste Wallander, and ex-deputy national security adviser Nadia Schadlow, who has a seat on the elite steering committee of Bilderberg.

The conference room is rigged up with video screens for shy dignitaries to make a virtual attendance, and it’s highly likely that Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskiy will Zoom in for a T-shirted contribution to the talks. Just a few days beforehand, Zelenskiy met with a Bilderberg and US intelligence representative Alex Karp, who runs Palantir, the infamous CIA-funded surveillance and data analysis company.

Palantir, which was set up by billionaire Bilderberg insider Peter Thiel, has agreed to give “digital support” to the Ukrainian army, according to a tweet by the country’s deputy prime minister.

The participant list is rife with military advisers, one of which is a former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, and some hefty cogs from the Washington war machine. Among the heftiest is James Baker, head of the ominous sounding office of net assessment.

Another very high profile politician on the list is Canadian Deputy PM Chrystia Freeland, a member of the WEF’s Board of Trustees and a person many see as the power behind the throne of the Trudeau government. The granddaughter of a prominent Ukrainian Nazi collaborator, Freeland was banned by Moscow in 2014. Given her background it isn’t very hard to understand Freeland’s virulent Russophobia or why she was behind the organisation of the so-called Lima Group with its goal of overthrowing Venezuela’s socialist president Nicolas Maduro. At Bilderberg she came to rub elbows with Ukrainian ambassador to the US, Oksana Markarova, and the CEO of Naftogaz, the state-owned Ukrainian oil and gas company.

The Grayzone’s Max Blumenthal spoke with comedian Jimmy Dore about his own attempt to investigate last weekend’s meeting in Washington DC:

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Within the ranks of this year’s participants there were also three senior politicians from the UK. With Boris Johnson days numbered (as I predicted as far back as December 2020!), and Bilderberg’s prodigious historic record as kingmakers (something I have previously documented – a summary also provided below), could it be that Foreign Affairs Committee chairman, Tom Tugendhat who marks his second appearance at Bilderberg is finally being groomed for higher office? It is also curious that Michael Gove made a Bilderberg debut. Gove memorably stabbed Boris Johnson in the back in a bid for power during the 2016 Tory leadership contest that he eventually lost to Theresa May. So are we about to see him throw his hat into the ring once again?

Less high profile was the attendance of Labour’s David Lammy. Nominally on the left of the party, his Bilderberg appearance coincides with an invitation of the no less outwardly progressive Democrat Senator, Kyrsten Sinema as well as the reappearance of Mary Kay Henry, who by day is the international president of Service Employees International Union.

We must be aware that Bilderberg (and Davos too) functions along cross-party lines, seeking constantly to straddle some kind of dreamed up political ‘centre’. The ruling class is able to do this by being reactionary and progressive at one and the same time: reactionary in promoting their special interests and protecting the status quo, yet genuinely progressive not only by adapting to the times but in quite deliberately shaping our collective future.

For this secondary reason, a burgeoning contingent go there as representatives of the ever-more powerful tech sector; this year’s roll call featured Bilderberg everpresents Eric Schmidt (chairman of Google), Reid Hoffman (co-founder of Inflection AI and partner of Greylock), and Peter Thiel (co-founder of PayPal and Palantir Technologies), who were also joined by Yann LeCun (vice-president and chief AI scientist at Facebook); Demis Hassabis (CEO and founder of DeepMind) and Kevin Scott (chief technology officer at Microsoft Corporation)

Of course, the crises we face are a direct consequence of comparatively recent policies. The stagflation was caused by economic mismanagement that stems from the bailouts and misguided policy of QE that was used to tackle the 2008 financial collapse and then pursued more vigorously since the lockdowns and additional bailouts following the covid pandemic. However neoliberal failures can actually be traced further back to the deindustrialisation of western societies.

Meanwhile, the looming prospect of energy and (potentially) food shortages is mostly due to the geopolitical boomerang of sanctions that were intended to cause a regime change in Moscow – sanctions that have evidently failed in every regard. Leaving such details aside, however, late-stage capitalism has been in crisis for at least three decades and the plutocrats at Davos and Bilderberg are perfectly well aware of this fact. So the underlying purpose of WEF’s “Great Reset” is to manage the technologically-driven socioeconomic changes, accepting that change is unavoidable, in order to ensure maximal benefit for the corporations and the oligarchs who own them.

Reminding us of the close ties between Bilderberg and Davos, Skelton points to this matter succinctly:

Bilderberg is sometimes dismissed as a talking shop or crazed imagining of conspiracy theorists. But in reality it is a major diplomatic summit, attended this year as ever by extremely senior transatlantic politicians, from the US commerce secretary to the president of the European Council.

Many consider it an older, less flashy Davos, staged annually by the World Economic Fund. The two events have a good bit in common: namely, three WEF trustees at this year’s conference, and Klaus Schwab, the grisly head of Davos, is a former member of Bilderberg’s steering committee. His “Great Reset” looms large over the Washington conference, with “Disruption of the Global Financial System” at the heart of the agenda.

Concluding his article:

[H]olding court at the hotel bar will be Klaus Schwab’s mentor, Henry Kissinger.

Incredibly, Kissinger, 99, has been attending Bilderbergs since 1957.

The prince of realpolitik has been the ideological godfather of Bilderberg for as long as anyone can remember. And he’s recently co-authored a book, The Age of AI, with Bilderberg steering committee member Eric Schmidt, the former head of Google, and this year’s Washington conference is noticeably rammed with AI luminaries, from Facebook’s Yann LeCun to DeepMind’s Demis Hassabis.

Bilderberg knows that however the global realignments play out, and whatever a reset global financial system looks like, the shape of the world will be determined by big tech. And if the endgame is “Continuity of Government”, as the agenda suggests, that continuity will be powered by AI.

Whatever billionaire ends up making the software that runs the world, Bilderberg aims to make damned sure that it has its hand on the mouse.

Click here to read Charlie Skelton’s full article entitled “Bilderberg reconvenes in person after two-year pandemic gap: The Washington conference, a high-level council of war, will be headlined by Jen Stoltenberg, Nato’s secretary general” published in the Guardian on June 4th.

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As a further insight into the comings and goings at this year’s meeting, here is my categorised guide to the more mentionable delegates:

First, the three intelligence chiefs alluded to in Skelton’s article are Jake Sullivan, director of National Security Council; William Burns, director of CIA; and Jeremy Fleming, director of GCHQ. They were joined by the director of France’s external intelligence agency, General Directorate for External Security (DGSE), Bernard Émié; Jen Easterly, the director of US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and seasoned Bilderberger, the former chief of MI6 (2009–2014), John Sawers.

Beside the Prime Ministers of Finland and the Netherlands, the political contingent also included Dutch minister of foreign affairs, Wopke Hoekstra; Belgian minister for energy, Tinne Van der Straeten, alongside Polish MEP, Radoslaw Sikorski, the husband of fellow attendee, Anne Applebaum, member of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and a rabid neo-con commentator who routinely calls for war on Russia in her columns for the Washington Post and The Atlantic magazine. In addition there were two top level EU representatives: vice-president of European Commission, Margaritis Schinas and president of European Council, Charles Michel, who is Bilderberg returnee – first invited in 2018 when he was Belgian Prime Minister.

Lastly, a mention to a handful of the usual suspects in attendance: Henry and Marie-Josée Kravis and their close associate David Petraeus (chairman of KKR Global Institute); the chairman of Goldman Sachs International, José Manuel Barroso (no globalist shindig runs without top-level representation from ‘the squid’)… oh, and also just along for the craic, the one and only (presumably) King of the Netherlands!

Click here to read the reliably incomplete official list of participants as published on the Bilderberg website.

Correction:

In the original version it was incorrectly stated that the CIA HQ is at Arlington, Virginia when the correct location is a few miles north at Langley, Virginia.

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List of western leaders previously groomed by Bilderberg:

Gerald Ford attended Bilderberg 1964, 1966 appointed as US President 1974

Margaret Thatcher attended Bilderberg (at least 1975, 1977, 1986) became Prime Minister 1979

Bill Clinton attended Bilderberg 1991 became US President 1993

Tony Blair attended Bilderberg 1993 became Prime Minister 1997

Paul Martin attended Bilderberg 1996 became Prime Minister of Canada 2003

Stephen Harper attended Bilderberg 2003 became Prime Minister of Canada 2006

Angela Merkel attended Bilderberg 2005 became Chancellor of Germany (Nov) 2005

Emmanuel Macron attended Bilderberg 2014 became President 2017 *

* All dates published by wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Bilderberg_participants#United_Kingdom

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Filed under analysis & opinion, Charlie Skelton, China, John Pilger, Russia, Ukraine, USA

voices of reason at a time of war: Michael Tracey, Noam Chomsky & Vijay Prashad

There’s a chap called Tobias Ellwood who’s spent the past week doggedly promoting his latest idea to save Western civilization. “From a military perspective,” Ellwood explained during a recent speaking engagement, it’s never been more urgent to impose a “humanitarian sea corridor” off the coast of Ukraine. This would involve an outright naval intervention by NATO in the Black Sea — with the objective being to prevent Russia from seizing control of the strategically important city of Odesa. Perhaps upon commencement of this mission, Ellwood suggested, listless denizens of “The West” will finally come to appreciate the existential stakes of the conflict now before us, and “accept that we are actually in a 1938 period, but actually worse.” The double “actually” was presumably included for maximum emphasis.

Notably, Ellwood is not some random crank. He is “actually” a Member of Parliament in the United Kingdom, and the chairman of the impressively-titled Defence Select Committee. In that latter capacity, he seeks to exert influence over the Defence policy of Her Majesty’s Government, which is currently led by his Conservative Party colleague Boris Johnson.

This is the opening paragraph of an alarming report by American independent journalist Michael Tracey who managed to receive an invite to a private event recently hosted by the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI), which describes itself as “the world’s oldest and the UK’s leading defence and security think tank”. The same piece continues:

During the private event, hosted by a Think Tank which unilaterally and hilariously decreed his comments “off the record,” Ellwood described the plan he envisaged for how this new phase of military intervention in Ukraine would unfold. It should be up to the UK to “create a coalition of the willing,” he declared — borrowing the terminology once used for countries that participated in the US invasion of Iraq, which memorably included the UK. Ellwood evidently detected no ignominy at all in this historical association.

On the subject of Ukraine, Ellwood’s view is that the UK and Europe must stop waiting around for the US to get its act together, and instead proactively initiate the kind of muscular, unapologetic military action that is currently needed against Russia. The lesson of last year’s Afghanistan withdrawal, Ellwood charged — as well as Joe Biden’s purported Ukraine-related dithering — has been to “expose America to be very, very hesitant indeed.” He explained: “I see the United States almost catching up with where, from a military perspective, a vanguard may actually go.”

Note that Ellwood’s plan certainly does not assume that the US would somehow just sit out whatever forthcoming war the UK may instigate. With the US as the real firepower behind NATO, that’s obviously not feasible. Instead, his idea would simply be for the UK to place itself at the “vanguard” of precipitating the new military action, after which the US would inevitably be engulfed as well. Time is of the essence, Ellwood contends, because China has ominously joined with Russia to set about “dismantling the liberal world order” — a development Ellwood believes will elevate the conflict to a magnitude on par with the Peloponnesian War of Greek antiquity. “China will exploit the war in Ukraine to hasten America’s inevitable decline,” he warned.

Out of these ashes, at least according to Ellwood’s apparent calculus, will rise the UK: “If we want Putin to fail,” Ellwood declared, “then we need to conclude this in months. We need to vow to press forward.” He added, “I underline how critical it is: if Odesa falls, then I’m afraid it’s going to be very, very difficult for us to turn this around.” (Note his use of the pronoun “us,” as though it should be understood that the UK is already an official combatant.)

Click here to read Michael Tracey’s full report entitled “The UK is Trying to Drag the US into World War III” published on April 14th on substack.

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Michael Tracey is certainly not alone in raising concerns over the looming threat of what was until now considered absolutely unthinkable – the prospect of World War III and nuclear annihilation. Noam Chomsky recently gave two interviews and in the first he also addresses the matter head-on:

Right at this moment, you hear heroic statements by people in Congress or foreign policy specialists saying we should set up a no-fly zone, for example, to defend Ukraine. Fortunately, there’s one peacekeeping force in the government. It’s called the Pentagon. They are so far vetoing the heroic statements by congressmen showing off for their constituents about how brave they are, pointing out that a no-fly zone not only means shooting down Russian planes, but it means attacking Russian anti-aircraft installations inside Russia. Then what happens? Well, actually, the latest polls show about 35 percent of Americans are listening to the heroic speeches from Congress and advisors. Thirty-five percent say they think we should enter into the war in Ukraine, even if it threatens to lead to a nuclear war. The end of everything. The country that launches the first strike will be destroyed.

Continuing:

I don’t know if you saw it. But a couple of days ago, there was a very important interview by one of the most astute and respected figures in current U.S. diplomatic circles, Ambassador Chas Freeman. A very important interview [which is also embedded below]. He pointed out that the current U.S. policy, which he bitterly criticized, is to “fight Russia to the last Ukrainian,” and he gave us an example: President Biden’s heroic statement about the war criminal Putin—[Biden’]s counterpart as a war criminal. And Freeman pointed out the obvious: the U.S. is setting things up so as to destroy Ukraine and to lead to a terminal war.

In this world, there are two options with regard to Ukraine. As we know, one option is a negotiated settlement, which will offer Putin an escape, an ugly settlement. Is it within reach? We don’t know; you can only find out by trying and we’re refusing to try. But that’s one option. The other option is to make it explicit and clear to Putin and the small circle of men around him that you have no escape, you’re going to go to a war crimes trial no matter what you do. Boris Johnson just reiterated this: sanctions will go on no matter what you do. What does that mean? It means go ahead and obliterate Ukraine and go on to lay the basis for a terminal war.

Those are the two options: and we’re picking the second and praising ourselves for heroism and doing it: fighting Russia to the last Ukrainian.

Click here to read the full article entitled “Noam Chomsky on How To Prevent World War III” published by Current Affairs magazine on April 13th based on an interview with editor-in-chief Nathan J. Robinson.

Here is ‘The Grayzone’ interview with retired senior diplomat Chas Freeman released on March 22nd that Noam Chomsky references above:

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The following day, Chomsky was interviewed by The Intercept’s Jeremy Scahill who asked whether there is any aspect of the response by the US, Nato or the European Union that he believes is appropriate. Chomsky replied:

I think that support for Ukraine’s effort to defend itself is legitimate. If it is, of course, it has to be carefully scaled, so that it actually improves their situation and doesn’t escalate the conflict, to lead to destruction of Ukraine and possibly beyond sanctions against the aggressor, or appropriate just as sanctions against Washington would have been appropriate when it invaded Iraq, or Afghanistan, or many other cases. Of course, that’s unthinkable given U.S. power and, in fact, the first few times it has been done — the one time it has been done — the U.S. simply shrugged its shoulders and escalated the conflict. That was in Nicaragua when the U.S. was brought to the World Court, condemned for unlawful use of force or to pay reparations, responded by escalating the conflict. So it’s unthinkable in the case of the U.S., but it would be appropriate.

However, I still think it’s not quite the right question. The right question is: What is the best thing to do to save Ukraine from a grim fate, from further destruction? And that’s to move towards a negotiated settlement.

There are some simple facts that aren’t really controversial. There are two ways for a war to end: One way is for one side or the other to be basically destroyed. And the Russians are not going to be destroyed. So that means one way is for Ukraine to be destroyed.

The other way is some negotiated settlement. If there’s a third way, no one’s ever figured it out. So what we should be doing is devoting all the things you mentioned, if properly shaped, but primarily moving towards a possible negotiated settlement that will save Ukrainians from further disaster. That should be the prime focus.

Chomsky continued:

We can’t look into the minds of Vladimir Putin and the small clique around him; we can speculate, but can’t do much about it. We can, however, look at the United States and we can see that our explicit policy — explicit — is rejection of any form of negotiations. The explicit policy goes way back, but it was given a definitive form in September 2021 in the September 1st joint policy statement that was then reiterated and expanded in the November 10th charter of agreement.

And if you look at what it says, it basically says no negotiations. What it says is it calls for Ukraine to move towards what they called an enhanced program for entering NATO, which kills negotiations; — this is before the invasion notice — an increase in the dispatch of advanced weapons to Ukraine, more military training, the joint military exercises, [and] weapons placed on the border. We can’t be sure, but it’s possible that these strong statements may have been a factor in leading Putin and his circle to move from warning to direct invasion. We don’t know. But as long as that policy is guiding the United States, it’s basically saying, to quote Ambassador Chas Freeman, — it’s saying: Let’s fight to the last Ukrainian. [That’s] basically, what it amounts to.

So the questions you raised are important, interesting, just what is the appropriate kind of military aid to give Ukrainians defending themselves enough to defend themselves, but not to lead to an escalation that will just simply lead to massive destruction? And what kinds of sanctions or other actions could be effective in deterring the aggressors? Those are all important, but they pale into insignificance in comparison with the primary need to move towards a negotiated settlement, which is the only alternative to destruction of Ukraine, which of course, Russia is capable of carrying out.

Click here to watch the same interview and read the full transcript at The Intercept website.

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On Good Friday (April 15th) as the Russian invasion of Ukraine entered Day 50, Democracy Now! spoke with Vijay Prashad, author and director of the Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research and co-author with Chomsky of a forthcoming book The Withdrawal: Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and the Fragility of U.S. Power. Here is one excerpt from that interview, which is also embedded below:

Of course I criticize Putin for invading Ukraine, Amy. That goes without saying, because he has violated the U.N. Charter. It is a brutal war, as I said when I first started speaking. But I think that’s hardly the question, whether I condemn Mr. Putin or not. The issue is that we’re living in a world where, for a lot of people, it looks like it’s an upside-down world.

It’s not just the question of the treaties you mentioned. The United States government has not signed the international laws of the seas, and yet it prosecutes so-called freedom of navigation missions against not only China in the South China Sea, using this U.N. Charter, which it’s not a signatory of, but it has been provoking clashes with Russia in the Black Sea, in the Baltic Sea and in the Arctic Sea, again, using these so-called freedom of navigation missions.

Let’s take the question of the International Criminal Court. When special prosecutor Fatou Bensouda opened a file to investigate war crimes in Afghanistan — and, by the way, she was really clear: She said war crimes conducted by everybody — by the Taliban, by the Afghan National Army, by the United States, by other NATO countries, and so on. When she did that, the United States government threatened her, told her that neither she nor her family would ever get a visa to come to the United States, and so on. The U.S. put enormous pressure on the International Criminal Court to shut down that investigation. That’s incredible. This is an investigation of war crimes which are detailed in the U.S. government’s own documents, which have been released by the WikiLeaks foundation, whose founder, Julian Assange, is sitting in Belmarsh prison, is being treated as a criminal, whereas the war criminals in Afghanistan are going free and threatening, with Mafia-like tactics, the special prosecutor at the ICC.

Meanwhile, again, in an afternoon — to quote the Indian high official, in an afternoon, the United States is able to get these bodies, established by international law, which the United States is not a signatory to — the U.S., in an afternoon, is able to get them to open a file and start talking about war crimes. Over a million people killed in Iraq, and no investigation of war crimes. None. Over a million people. Half a million children killed in Iraq during the 1990s sanctions regime, not even the word “genocide.” The West is walking all over the word “genocide,” is reducing the power of an important category of an important convention, the 1951 Convention Against Genocide. This extraordinary, casual weaponization of human rights and the word “genocide” by the West is going to be something that we are going to face in the times ahead, when other countries are going to say, “Well, we can do anything if we are backed by Washington, D.C.” This is extraordinarily perilous.

And I hope people open their eyes to the very cynical way in which Washington, D.C., is approaching this terrible war taking place in Ukraine, a war that has to end with a ceasefire and negotiations. And you’re not going to easily get a ceasefire and negotiations if you’re going to loosely, as Mr. Biden did in Poland at Warsaw castle, loosely call for regime change in Russia. That is not going to help you bring people to the table, whether it’s in Belarus or it’s in Antalya, Turkey. It’s not going to bring Ukraine and Russia to the table. It’s not going to stop Russia’s war. If the Russians think that the United States has a total agenda to annihilate the Russian government, I’m afraid they are not going to get a ceasefire. You’re going to just get more atrocities in Ukraine. And that’s something that the people of the world should not stand for.

Click here to watch the same interview and to read the full transcript at the Democracy Now! website.

*

Returning to Michael Tracey’s excellent piece, I find it truly astonishing how many of the formerly anti-war liberals and anti-war left are now cheerleading for Nato intervention in Ukraine and apparently unaware of the incredible threat posed by an escalating conflict between the world’s two largest nuclear powers. At a recent rally in London a representative of Unison, one of the UK’s largest trade unions, read aloud a message she’d received from the head of the Federation of Trade Unions in Ukraine which included a demand to “secure our Ukrainian sky.”

Similar calls for ‘No Fly Zone’s have been a common feature of liberal demands for “humanitarian interventions” and were used to legitimise Nato’s attack on Libya. In this instance, Nato intervention means nothing less than World War III, and yet elements within the trade union movement, across the ‘liberal media’ and the realigned Labour Party under Keir Starmer seem totally oblivious to these incalculable dangers.

Tracey writes:

Addressing a pro-war rally in London last weekend was Alex Sobel, a Labour Party MP who serves in the Shadow Cabinet of Keir Starmer, the current Opposition Leader. When I asked Sobel to clarify his policy grievance against Boris Johnson, he told me: “There’s been a lack of military assistance. And there’s been a lack of support within NATO more broadly, in terms of military assistance.” This can be translated as: Boris Johnson, NATO, and the US have not been militarily aggressive enough in Ukraine! That’s the criticism!

Expressing his reluctance to countenance any kind of negotiated resolution to the war, Sobel told me: “The Russians only understand force, they do not understand peace.” This is a weirdly common allusion to a supposed genetic predisposition of Russians that makes them inherently… warlike? Sounds very similar to when James Clapper, the top Intelligence Official in the Obama Administration, would go around intoning that Russians were “almost genetically-driven to co-opt” and “penetrate.”

Much of the UK media shares the view that Boris Johnson has exhibited insufficient “force” in his dealings with Russia. This includes The Observer newspaper — understood to be the UK’s leading bastion of respectable left/liberal opinion — which threw caution to the wind last weekend and published an official unsigned editorial institutionally endorsing “direct intervention” in Ukraine by NATO. In particular, the editorial promoted the very same naval blockade plan touted by Tobias Ellwood — the aforementioned Conservative MP who might otherwise be considered the newspaper’s ideological foe. “Declare the unoccupied city of Odesa off-limits,” the Observer editorial demands of Johnson, “and warn Russia to cease coastal bombardments or face serious, unspecified consequences.” Wariness to start World War III has now turned into a timid “excuse” for inaction, the editorial writers allege.

Continuing:

[B]ehold the recent activism of Owen Jones, the noted left-wing journalist whose “beat” appears to be a never-ending series of exhortatory instructions to some amorphous assemblage he calls “The Left.” Jones is now of the view, amazingly, that supporting the “armed struggle” of Ukraine is the only proper “anti-war” position. So here we have another “anti-war” leftist who happens to be in favor of provisioning tanks, fighter jets, missiles, and grenades into an active warzone, for the purpose of facilitating warfare. As is also the case in the US, these UK left/liberals often find it unpleasant to straightforwardly label themselves “pro-war” — so they have been forced to play word-games galore to avoid acknowledging reality. And the reality is that the policy action they’re advocating must necessarily be enacted by some combination of Boris Johnson, the US military-industrial complex, and NATO — all of whom have now been enlisted to carry out these leftists’ desired war aims.

The most vivid manifestation of this increasingly incoherent left-wing viewpoint could be observed a few days ago at the pro-war march and rally in Whitehall, the governmental corridor of Central London. I found out about the rally because it was endorsed and promoted by Owen Jones on Twitter. Upon arrival, I discovered that leading the march was another left-wing journalist, Paul Mason, who organized the action in concert with a strange Trotyskist faction called the Alliance for Workers’ Liberty. “We support Ukraine’s war and demand the West provides weapons,” the group’s pamphlet declares, along with a bitter condemnation of NATO for “steadfastly refusing to fight.”

Mason had many magical moments as rally leader, but his most comical interlude was when he stopped along the march route to bellow, via bullhorn, in the general direction of the UK Ministry of Defence — shouting for the workers inside to come out and join. I asked Mason if he reckoned this was the first “anti-war” and/or “left-wing” rally in British history for which the Ministry of Defence (of a Conservative government!) was considered a natural ally — but he caustically refused to talk, instead denouncing me as a “Putin shill.” (Direct quote.) Clever guy, that Paul. Supremely confident in his convictions, surely, and quick with the novel insult.

A former employee of the BBC and Channel 4, Mason offered up an inventive rationalization for his pro-war advocacy when it was his turn to clasp the microphone that afternoon. “In a war like this, our natural demand for peace — our natural fear of military action — has to take second place,” he proclaimed. Because don’t you know, according to Mason, this particular war is actually being waged on behalf of the vaunted “Working Class”!

“It is in the interest of working class people to support Ukraine in this war,” Mason beseeched from the rally pulpit, expressing his hope to mobilize the whole of the British Labour Movement behind the pro-war cause. “I know how hard that is for many of us, who’ve stood outside here in so many other wars and said — you know, screw your hypocrisy over Iraq, and Afghanistan, and the rest,” Mason acknowledged. “It’s hard. But the only way to get arms into the hands of the Ukrainian people right now… is to keep the pressure on the government.”

So there you have it, clear as day: the object of this left-wing “anti-war” rally was to “keep the pressure” on the ruling Conservative Government… to continue ramping up weapons shipments to Ukraine. For use in… intensifying warfare. As Mason barreled forward with his speech, the Ukraine flag shimmered triumphantly in the sunlight atop Boris Johnson’s Cabinet Office, located right across the street at 70 Whitehall — a moving symbol of cross-ideological unity.

I found that a very simple line of questioning posed to the assembled leftist demonstrators — merely asking them whether they viewed the event they were partaking in as a “pro-war” rally, or an “anti-war” rally — tended to elicit spells of bewildered anger. When asked this question, a number of the pamphleteers insisted to me that the rally was in fact “anti-war” in nature, even though they were distributing placards featuring the injunction to “Arm Ukraine” — a task which would necessarily have accomplished by the US, UK, and other governments, in conjunction with NATO. One of the chants fervently screamed on the march went as follows: “Put an end to Putin’s reign! Arm, arm, arm, Ukraine!” That’s the new mantra of the British anti-war movement! If nothing else, one has to appreciate this audacious innovation in the fluidity of language.

Click here to read Michael Tracey’s full report entitled “The UK is Trying to Drag the US into World War III” published on April 14th on substack.

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Filed under analysis & opinion, Britain, campaigns & events, Jeremy Scahill, Noam Chomsky, Russia, Ukraine

voices of reason at a time of war: Ilhan Omar, Joe Glenton & Thomas Massie

On Tuesday 8th, as US Congress considered imposing a ban on Russian oil in its sanctions war, Democracy Now! spoke with Minnesota Congressmember, Ilhan Omar, who reminded us of the historical precedent after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in the 1980s. Under a CIA programme codenamed Operation Cyclone the US had armed, trained and financed the Mujahideen Islamist insurgency prior to and during the Soviet intervention opening the way for the Taliban and al-Qaeda:

“It’s heartbreaking to see what’s happening in Ukraine. We obviously want to help the Ukrainians defend themselves, but I have cautioned my colleagues on what, you know, could be the catastrophe that awaits us if we continue to send billions of dollars in military aid to Ukraine instead of really thinking about what kind of weapons we’re sending. You know, if we continue to give small arms and ammunition, those can ultimately get in the hands of the wrong people and can have a lasting effect. We have to be able to learn something from history. We did this in Afghanistan when Afghanistan was fighting against the Soviet, and we ultimately saw what happened with the resources that we gave, the support that we gave in that country, and who we ultimately ended up propping up. And so, I do hope that my colleagues, obviously, learn from history and that we respond in a measured way.”

*

Regarding the imposition of economic sanctions, Omar said:

“It’s hard to see a principle at play here. If our issue is that we don’t want to buy oil from a powerful country that is conducting a devastating war on its weaker neighbour, I just don’t see Saudi Arabia hardly being a principled solution. We know that MBS [Mohammed bin Salman] is obviously going to try to take advantage of this opportunity to once again whitewash his reputation and present himself as a reformer, and we shouldn’t fall for that. The truth is, our dependency on oil means that we depend on tyrants, and that has always been true. So, if we are, obviously, serious about what we need to do in regards to the Ukraine context, we should be supporting and defending democracy and human rights, and we should certainly move away — then we should certainly move away from our dependency on fossil fuels and not be cozying up once again to another tyrant.”

Adding:

“I mean, we are sanction-happy as a nation. And, you know, ultimately, it is important for us to support some sanctions on Putin and his allies to make sure that they feel the pain and the consequences of their actions. But what I do want the American people and everyone around the world to understand is that as we urge, you know, Russians who are antiwar, that these sanctions that we are cheering for and implementing will ultimately have an impact on the very people that we want to rise up and make sure that they are speaking against this illegal, immoral and unjust war on a sovereign country.”

Omar also questioned the growing demand for a ‘no-fly zone’:

“A no-fly zone is not something that, you know, is just implemented. It’s something that has to be militarily defended. And that ultimately means the United States and our NATO allies will be a part and parcel to this war. And when we get involved in this war, it’s not that less Ukrainians are going to die. More Ukrainians are going to die. And we have to be able to have an honest conversation about what an escalation in this war could ultimately mean, not just for Ukrainians but for the rest of the world.”

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

***

On the same day, ex-soldier Joe Glenton spoke frankly to Double Down News about the media war porn which now escalating is the risk of nuclear war over Ukraine. A full transcript is provided:

“I’m not a stranger to war. I served in Afghanistan which was itself a particularly brutal conflict, but it is like a bar fight compared to what can happen if the nuclear powers escalate the war which is currently playing out in Ukraine.

“It feels like the most dangerous situation in my lifetime: a nuclear threat; a threat to everybody is very apparent. It feels like we’re teetering on the edge of that and yet we have people who seem to be viewing it as a kind of football match who are painting their faces and cheerleading where all kinds of particularly war-horny takes have been emerging about no-fly zones, about different forms of intervention.”

*

Joe Glenton continuing: “Particular sets of journalists are always fairly war horny. They have an ambient level of war horniness because they think war is glamorous and cool.

“War is appealing for some journalists, particularly the journalists who haven’t experienced it, because with war can go a particular boost to your career – a higher level of attention, more Twitter followers, more likes on Twitter. And I think that is a bad metric by which to measure the need for war.”

“I can remember people talking about Donald Trump: how he could start a nuclear war on Twitter. Many of those same people of the blue tick species are using the platform to lobby for a no-fly zone that could lead to nuclear war. The kind of people who would formulate themselves as the grown-ups in the room are treating the risk of nuclear war as if it is just a kind of tit-for-tat in Westminster or in Washington DC.

“This is not just Labour source says – This is not just handbags in the House of Commons. This is not that. This is bigger.

“Nuclear war doesn’t mean anything good for the world. You could survive potentially, but you wouldn’t want to.

“We actually had some training about this when I was in the army. We have to get togged up in our NBC (nuclear biological chemical) warfare suits with respirators, and we’d be made to run up and down and occasionally there would be CS gas, and we’d be told how to survive a nuclear apocalypse.

“The slogan was used in the videos, which were all from the ’80s would “survive to fight”. So you survive the nuclear apocalypse: the positive blast wave comes and you all lay down (assuming you see it coming), and then you stay down for a bit, because then the negative blast wave comes back and that passes over you, and then you are alive to fight – and all I could think about during these training processes was fight over what? Fight over the mutant wastelands become f—king Mad Max and cut around in your Nissan Micra, or a Ford Escort with a gun on top – what is there left?

“That’s the notion of Mutually Assured Destruction: that everybody is destroyed. I mean that’s the underpinning thing: everybody dies!

“The problem with Twitter and Twitter war hysteria and all the social media stuff. It guides you towards just rapid urgent reaction. It’s very often a kind of appeal to emotion: that something must be done instantly. And clearly things need to be done, because people are dying in Ukraine. But I do think we need to be cautious. We need to be exercising reason rather than emotion.

“I understand why there are a set of people who are kind of like “let’s bomb the 40-mile convoy”. I understand why that is an appealing idea that we can just go and stop that happening, but we need to steer away from the immediate emotional payoff and be reasoned. Doing that is an act of war on top of the war that’s already going, and it would potentially escalate this. It would bring into conflict one nuclear power with another nuclear power, and there is a bigger picture; the biggest picture of all, which we have to consider here.

“World War One kicked off when one guy was murdered and that led to 20 million deaths, because it triggered a series of events which led to gigantic slaughter. When you look at wars historically there are domino effects and there are so many moving parts in the conflict in Ukraine and each part has its own range of moving parts. So we have to be extremely careful when we’re talking about how we intervene and what can be done.

“In our search for clarification and clarity, it may be the case there’s more to be learned from the cold war warriors than there is from the kind of keyboard warriors. It’s definitely worth revisiting what people said who are involved in the periods of extreme tension between the old Soviet bloc and the West.”

[Excerpt of Ronald Reagan speech] “To preserve our civilization in this modern age, a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. [from 4:25 mins]

Joe Glenton: “I’m absolutely down with the Ukrainian right to resist invasion. It’s a war of aggression. Russia have invaded. It’s not their country and they should get out and I respect the Ukrainian right to resist. I think we have to. I think that’s the moral position. The Russians should go and leave the Ukrainians to decide their own future.

“Of course, it’s more complex than just that. There are lots of different moving parts. Nato has expanded East [and] that for Putin is used by him to say “Nato is kind of pushing into our sphere of influence”, and he talks about ‘buffer zones’. At the same time that does not justify what Putin does, and he doesn’t justify the Putin regime.

“We’ve heard a lot of stuff about the Azov Battalion and that the National Guard neo-Nazi elements [which] to some degree were integrated into the Ukrainian armed forces. But the idea espoused by some on the left that because there are neo-Nazis in Ukraine somehow everyone in Ukraine is in neo-Nazi is just wrong. There are also other forces in Ukraine. There are various anarchists and progressive left libertarian militias who resist Russian occupation and fascist forces in Ukraine.”

“I think if we’re interested in people’s safety and security, I think we have to look past this seductive thing. To kind of look to Nato, or look to Russia and try and find on the Nato side all kind of liberal democratic values, or on the Russian side anti-imperialist or anti-fascist thing. I think we have to look for another narrative, which doesn’t internalise ‘Nato good’ or ‘Russia good’.

“We have to have a much more sophisticated analysis of what’s going on here. I have no illusions as some census commentators do that Nato is kind of wooferendum or FBPE with guns and missiles. It’s not what it is.

“Nato’s interest is stability in the sense that it’s stability for western capitalism. The bosses club. Wealthy nations, who are the original founder members, and then increasingly, it’s other countries who’ve sought Nato membership. If they’re countries which are in the kind of what would have been the Soviet sphere of influence, I can understand their rationale for wanting to be involved in that, because they’ve been occupied by the Soviets. But again, I find myself just increasingly calling for kind of nuance.

“I have the dubious honour of having a Nato medal. It’s a little thing with a blue ribbon and it says in English and French “in the service of Peace and Freedom” and always jumped out at me because I left it with my little cousin with my granddad’s medal, which is a Great War medal which says “the war to end all wars” and in both cases that’s not very accurate.

“My experience of Nato is in Afghanistan. I was involved in the early stages of the Nato mission in Afghanistan. I understand and recognised Nato’s part in bringing huge amounts of violence in Afghanistan against Afghan people. I have comrades particularly who served in the Royal Air Force who were in Italy attaching bombs to the fighters which would fly over and bomb Libya and destroy Libya. We can see the results in both those countries of Nato’s mission.

“I suppose I find myself in a weird position where I’m not a fan of Nato or of Putin’s regime. I don’t see the need to pick between these two polls. While everyone’s posturing and virtue signalling and doing their uptakes on Twitter, the people who are dying here are working class Russian conscripts and members of the Ukrainian military and Ukrainian civilians. That’s the tragedy in all this.

“There’s an element almost of smugness – like Brits and Americans, of all the people on the planet, Brits and Americans are kind of smugly looking on, going: “oh, he’s going to get bogged down – he’s going to get bogged down in the country – get caught up in insurgency with people who don’t want him.” It’s like why are you laughing about this? You’ve literally just done this. The Kabul airlift was last year to 20 years when you got booted out, and historically this has happened all over the world. So I’m not sure why you’re being so smug about it.

“Condoleezza Rice was asked if you invade a sovereign country it’s a war crime…

[Excerpt of Condoleezza Rice interviewed recently on Fox News] “When you invade a sovereign nation that is a war crime… Well it is certainly against every principle of international law and international order.” [from 7:50 mins]

Joe Glenton: “You’ve done all those things yourself and never been held accountable, and yet you can just go on TV and say that. At the level of just sheer neck to do that. I guess part of it is how these people have been reconditioned. We kind of saw it with George Bush where now he’s a harmless old man who just paints a bit, rather than a war criminal. We see with Alastair Campbell, out there Tweeting away about how terrible Vladimir Putin is, and he helped make the case for Iraq. And it astonishes me that these people are still allowed on television and are not pariahs. They can just kind of nod along like they didn’t do the same thing themselves easily within living memory.

“But this is happening in a civilized part of the world…

[Clip of CBS News correspondent recently reporting from Kiev] “But this isn’t a place, with all due respect, um you know, like Iraq or Afghanistan that has seen conflict raging for decades. You know, this is a relatively civilized, uh relatively European – I have to choose those words carefully too – A city where you wouldn’t expect that, or hope that it’s going to happen.”

JG: “How could this happen here?

[Clip from a different mainstream news report] “This is not a developing third world nation. This is Europe.”

JG: “But there’s no reflection on like why in those places which are ‘uncivilized’; why there is conflict there, or war there; why there is authoritarianism and dictatorship there; and in many cases, it’s because they were colonised – government were imposed because they’ve been brutally oppressed; because different sides have been played off against each other, funded by foreign powers. I find myself in a strange position of liking something before it was cool: being anti-war – and now all of a sudden loads of people who’ve never uttered a word about Yemen, or Palestine, or Afghanistan, are invoking like Tony Benn-type speeches.”

[Excerpt from a speech by Tony Benn] “Responsibility we have too for our fellow citizens and for the human race wherever the war takes place, and now we’re on the eve of nuclear warfare and that would be the end of the human race.”

JG: “It could be a kind of entry point for people to question wars more generally, because the things which are happening in Ukraine now were done in Iraq – in some cases worst things over a much longer period. I mean we’re six/seven days into this illegal invasion by a foreign power and that is what happened in Iraq.”

“We had a weird spectacle of some very mainstream media channels almost celebrating how do you make a Molotov cocktail in five easy steps.”

[Clip from another recent news story] “Really glad you’re able to join us, because we want to show you something that’s pretty extraordinary actually. They’ve sort of grated the styrofoam and they’re now putting it into the bottles. The styrofoam works to make the Molotov cocktail sticky: to help it stick to vehicles to other targets as well… you can see them grating it. It’s really quite extraordinary.” [from 10:05 mins]

Note that: similar news footage was shown at the time of the Maidan as I reported in a previous article from 2014.

JG: “I have friends who are from Derry in Northern Ireland and they’re doing that kind of you know that kind of monkey meme where it’s awkward. Like people who lived through British occupation [and] who would be out throwing Molotov cocktails and rocks at occupying troops, who were like “oh, this is cool now”. And I think you could take that lesson and extrapolate it and you could look at Palestine. You could look at people resisting occupation in Afghanistan and Iraq, and a lot of those people are like: “what? why was it not okay where we did it?” And I think that it’s a fair point to make.

“Why is it that now it’s celebrated in what are news pieces? Why is it suddenly tolerable, even good and moral, to do that?

[Sky News clip] “Hello yeah we’ve come to um to join the Ukrainian army or whatever they’re called – what are they called Tom?” [from 11:00 mins]

JG: “We’ve seen a steady procession of characters turning up at the Ukrainian embassy. Jim Bros with no military training going: “I want to go and fight in Ukraine, fight Putin for the for the Instagram likes”! But I don’t know maybe like I understand there are other examples in the past of people going to Spain to fight Franco. I understand the motivation. I would suggest if you have no military training it’s probably a bad idea. I would stay at home and do like your back and buyers or whatever. And there’s a broader point, I think there to be made, about I really agree with the solidarity that people are showing Ukraine. I approve of them kicking Russian teams at Champions League. I’m kind of down with a lot of the sanctions and stuff, but I can’t help but question where that was for Iraq, where that is for Yemen, where that is for Palestine?

“There’s someone we really need to stop and look at there: about why these degrees of solidarity and sanction are being applied to Russia. They never tried to do that with Tony Blair and George Bush in the Iraq War, and I think we have to have a little bit of self-reflection about why that is.

“We’ve seen it just in the last seven days: the lack of nuance and the presence of misinformation, one-sided media and it’s more important than ever to support independent media and alternative voices which can highlight the nuances of big political events that are going on around the world.”

***

“They [the Ukrainian people] have a right to self-defence, but the American people shouldn’t be conscripted. Not only should their kids not be conscripted to put boots on the ground, but their tax dollars shouldn’t be conscripted to engage in that war, and, by the way, just kind of summing this all up —

“This shouldn’t be a custody battle for Ukraine. It shouldn’t be whether they’re going to be part of the European Union or the Soviet Union. It’s they should have the right – the people of Ukraine have the right – to self-determination and what that means is without undue influence from the West or from Russia and that’s what I would like to see as an outcome here.” [from 11:45 mins]

This is the view of libertarian Republican Thomas Massie, who was just one of three members of Congress to oppose the March 2nd ‘Stand with Ukraine’ resolution that called for the US and its allies “to deliver additional and immediate defensive security assistance to help Ukraine address the armored, airborne, and other threats Ukraine is currently facing from Russian forces.” The Senate also passed a similar resolution last month in support of Ukraine ahead of the invasion. 1

As a consequence of holding firm to an anti-interventionist ‘America first’ position, Massie has since been subjected to widespread condemnation and attacks, and has been branded a friend to Russia. On the eve of another vote in Congress which called for a massive package of weapons to Ukraine and Nato, he told Max Blumenthal in an interview for The Grayzone again on March 8th:

“First of all, I support the right of the Ukrainian people to determine their destiny, to have a sovereign country free from invasion. But this bill I feel was counter to the purposes of supporting the people of Ukraine… the bill calls for basically overthrowing the government of Belarus. I mean why should that be in a resolution supporting the Ukrainian people? Why should we expand this conflict to Belarus? Yes, it’s true that Russia has come through Belarus, but did they have much say in it? So that shouldn’t have been in the resolution.”

In fact the resolution explicitly “commits [the US] to ensuring the illegitimate dictator of Belarus, Alexander Lukashenko, is held accountable for permitting the use of Belarusian territory for, and committing Belarusian forces to, Putin’s unprovoked renewed full-scale invasion against Ukraine.”2

Thomas Massie continues:

“But probably the most troubling part of this resolution was it called for open-ended military assistance. It didn’t say only equipment. It didn’t say that there wouldn’t be a no-fly zone. I mean because people are calling for no-fly zone voted for that resolution, I have to assume that resolution would support such a thing; the way that it was worded, or even boots on the ground, which we should never have there.” [from 1:00 mins]

*

Asked whether a no-fly zone would be “a recipe for conventional war”, Massie continues:

“A no-fly zone would mean American pilots shooting down Russian pilots in jets, and the next step – I mean there aren’t many escalations above that – but certainly it leads to (and if it weren’t an American plane it would be a Nato plane) and now that country would be the target of Russia presumably. Probably a missile launch that would drag twenty other countries into the conflict expanding this globally. This is not a global conflict at the time and we should do everything we can to keep it localised and not become a global crisis.” [from 2:00 mins]

Max Blumenthal points out that polls appear to show about 73% of Americans now support a no-fly zone even though most probably don’t understand the full implications. He asks Massie how this compares to the mood in Congress and whether we are edging towards nuclear conflict with Russia. Massie replies:

“Well I hope we’re not edging closer, but there’s a vote to send more money to Ukraine and to our Nato allies. In fact it’s to finance troops in Eastern Europe. Two things can’t simultaneously be true: if the news reports that are coming back would lead you to believe that Russia is getting crushed; they’re being devastated by Ukraine, and Ukraine alone. It can’t be a fact that Russia is a paper tiger and they’re being destroyed by the Ukrainian army and National Guard and at the same time we need to send billions of dollars more in weapons and troops to Nato to subsidise the defence of socialist countries.

“I mean that should be polled. We should ask the American people: do you think with 30 trillion dollars of debt that you should be funding the defence of socialist countries in Europe?” [from 2:50 mins]

Max Blumenthal corrects him, saying “you mean like subsidising the social democracy of Germany or the Western European countries, but the Eastern European countries certainly are not socialist. I mean this seems to be a geopolitical play and the arms industry is benefitting.”

On the question of sanctions, Massie says:

“Well there’s two kinds of sanctions. There are those that are meaningless: for instance, Netflix on their own has decided to cancel subscription. It’s in Russia. It might be a good thing, I don’t know it. Might be good for the Russians, but, you know, in all honesty, it was their glimpse into the Western world, and how capitalism works, and how we live. And so shutting that off – they probably shut it off because the credit cards were shut off and they probably weren’t getting any money – so there’s the virtual signalling kind of sanctions that Biden and some private companies have undertaken. And then there are the crippling sanctions. Okay, but who are they crippling?

“They’re not crippling Putin per se. He’ll find a market for his oil. They’re crippling the people here in this country first of all. We’re going to see higher prices. The low income people are being pinched the most by inflation. We’ve got gasoline is about to go to five dollars a gallon at the pump, and it’s not going to stop there.

“And there are lots of other things we bring from Russia like fertilizer; over a billion dollars. Try not putting a billion dollars of fertilizer on the fields in America this year and see what that does to food prices and supply chain issues. So if you think all of these things through there’s two kinds of sanctions: the sanctions that would Russia but it would cripple us as well: it’s kind of mutually assured sanctions economic devastation.” [from 4:00 mins]

Finally, Blumenthal asks “are you able to form any coalition or partnership with the progressives in Congress against escalating this war”, pointing to the example of Ilhan Omar’s outspoken opposition to the sanctions on oil. Massie replies:

“I would have hoped to get some to vote against that resolution, but we didn’t get any. I thought that the true progressives were against war and I have formed coalitions with them in the past – opposing the war in Afghanistan for instance, and getting that to come to an end. I haven’t seen it yet. I don’t know when we’ll see it. I have seen them become strong supporters of the right to keep and bear arms though in Ukraine at least, so I’m encouraged by that coalition. […]

“I mean there’s people who can’t see through their partisan lens. Madison Cawthorne’s objection to war is genuine and my objection towards war’s genuine, but I’m gonna admit to you right now, there are some Republicans who object to it solely because it’s what Biden wants to do, and that’s a problem. And there are Republicans who actually want war. I mean you’ve seen them call for war. You’ve seen them call for assassination of… [Max Blumenthla interjects: “Lindsey Graham?”] Yeah, not mentioning names, those are his initials! Uh calling for assassination, that’s insane. Calling for no-fly zone, that’s not wise. That’ll escalate it. So if there is a coalition, it’s for war and it’s on the left and the right and it’s disappointing.” [from 8:20 mins]

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1 From an article entitled “House passes resolution backing Ukraine; Three Republicans vote ‘no’” written by Cristina Marcos, published in The Hill on March 2nd. https://thehill.com/homenews/house/596601-house-passes-resolution-backing-ukraine

2 https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/house-resolution/956/text

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voices of reason at a time of war: Jeremy Corbyn, Chris Hedges & Phyllis Bennis

Ukraine and Georgia’s NATO aspirations not only touch a raw nerve in Russia, they engender serious concerns about the consequences for stability in the region. Not only does Russia perceive encirclement, and efforts to undermine Russia’s influence in the region, but it also fears unpredictable and uncontrolled consequences which would seriously affect Russian security interests. Experts tell us that Russia is particularly worried that the strong divisions in Ukraine over NATO membership, with much of the ethnic-Russian community against membership, could lead to a major split, involving violence or at worst, civil war. In that eventuality, Russia would have to decide whether to intervene; a decision Russia does not want to have to face. […]

Dmitri Trenin, Deputy Director of the Carnegie Moscow Center, expressed concern that Ukraine was, in the long-term, the most potentially destabilizing factor in U.S.-Russian relations, given the level of emotion and neuralgia triggered by its quest for NATO membership . . . Because membership remained divisive in Ukrainian domestic politics, it created an opening for Russian intervention. Trenin expressed concern that elements within the Russian establishment would be encouraged to meddle, stimulating U.S. overt encouragement of opposing political forces, and leaving the U.S. and Russia in a classic confrontational posture.

From a classified US diplomatic cable dated February 1st 2008 addressed to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, NATO-European Union Cooperative, National Security Council, Russia Moscow Political Collective, Secretary of Defense, and Secretary of State subsequently released by Wikileaks and featured in Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Chris Hedges’ latest article “Chronicle of a war foretold”.

Chris Hedges writes:

The conflict in Ukraine echoes the novel “Chronicle of a Death Foretold” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.  In the novel it is acknowledged by the narrator that “there had never been a death more foretold” and yet no one was able or willing to stop it. All of us who reported from Eastern Europe in 1989 knew the consequences of provoking Russia, and yet few have raised their voices to halt the madness.  The methodical steps towards war took on a life of their own, moving us like sleepwalkers towards disaster.

Once NATO expanded into Eastern Europe, the Clinton administration promised Moscow that NATO combat troops would not be stationed in Eastern Europe, the defining issue of the 1997 NATO-Russia Founding Act on Mutual Relations. This promise again turned out to be a lie. Then in 2014 the U.S. backed a coup against the Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych who sought to build an economic alliance with Russia rather than the European Union. Of course, once integrated into the European Union, as seen in the rest of Eastern Europe, the next step is integration into NATO.  Russia, spooked by the coup, alarmed at the overtures by the EU and NATO, then annexed Crimea, largely populated by Russian speakers. And the death spiral that led us to the conflict currently underway in Ukraine became unstoppable.

The war state needs enemies to sustain itself. When an enemy can’t be found, an enemy is manufactured. Putin has become, in the words of Senator Angus King, the new Hitler, out to grab Ukraine and the rest of Eastern Europe. The full-throated cries for war, echoed shamelessly by the press, are justified by draining the conflict of historical context, by elevating ourselves as the saviors and whoever we oppose, from Saddam Hussein to Putin, as the new Nazi leader.

I don’t know where this will end up. We must remember, as Putin reminded us, that Russia is a nuclear power. We must remember that once you open the Pandora’s box of war it unleashes dark and murderous forces no one can control. I know this from personal experience. The match has been lit. The tragedy is that there was never any dispute about how the conflagration would start.

Click here to read Chris Hedges full article published by Scheerpost on February 24th.

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Yesterday Independent journalist Katie Halper invited Chris Hedges to talk about the build-up to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and his experience on the ground reporting from Eastern Europe during the fall of the Soviet Union. They were also joined by Phyllis Bennis of the Institute of Policy Studies who helped found the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights, and serves on the national board of Jewish Voice for Peace, and whose books include Before & After: US Foreign Policy and the War on Terror (2003):

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Embedded below is a short statement from former Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn released today by Double Down News:

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Update and correction:

The upload of the Katie Halper show above does not include any contribution from Phyllis Bennis although she did appear in the original livestream broadcast. I shall endeavour to find the full interview and append it to this post and meanwhile I have decided to include an excerpt of Bennis’ latest article below:

If we start the clock in February 2022, the main problem is Russia’s attack on Ukraine. If we start the clock in 1997, however, the main problem is Washington pushing NATO — the Cold War-era military alliance that includes the United States and most of Europe — to expand east, breaking an assurance the U.S. made to Russia after the Cold War.

Many foreign policy experts and peace advocates have called for ending the anachronistic alliance ever since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. But NATO remains and has only encroached toward Russia further, resulting in new NATO countries — bristling with NATO arms systems — right on Russia’s borders.

Russia sees that expansion — and its integration of neighboring countries into  U.S.-led military partnerships —  as a continuing threat. Ukraine is not a member of NATO. But in the past the U.S. and other NATO members have urged its acceptance, and Russia regards Ukraine’s drift toward the West as a precursor to membership.

None of that makes Russia’s invasion of Ukraine legal, legitimate, or necessary. President Biden was right when he called Russia’s war “unjustified.” But he was wrong when he said it was “unprovoked.” It’s not condoning Putin’s invasion to observe there certainly was provocation — not so much by Ukraine, but by the United States.

In recent weeks, the Biden administration made important moves towards diplomacy. But it undermined those crucial efforts by increasing threats, escalating sanctions, deploying thousands of U.S. troops to neighboring countries, and sending tens of millions of dollars worth of weapons to Ukraine — all while continuing to build a huge new U.S. military base in Poland just 100 miles from the Russian border.

Click here to read the article by Phyllis Bennis entitled “Respond to Putin’s Illegal Invasion of Ukraine with Diplomacy not War” published on February 25th by Foreign Policy in Focus (FPIF).

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Stop the War panel discusses Ukraine, Nato and “warmonger in waiting” Keir Starmer

As the clouds of war continue to gather over Ukraine, the British government, alongside the US, is ramping up the threat of war. Even the Ukrainian foreign minister is calling for calm. Yet in the most cynical move of his career so far Boris Johnson has used the threat of war to distract from the implosion of his premiership.

The government is using the crisis as an opportunity to prove itself as America’s most loyal European ally. This is in stark contrast to other European countries – France and Germany in particular – who are keen to see a diplomatic solution prevail rather than a new European war. The British media, in its usual gung ho fashion, has barely mentioned the concerted efforts of our European allies to prevent war, but here we are joined by a number of experts to share an alternative view.

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Meanwhile as drumbeat to war intensifies, opposition Labour leader Keir Starmer seized the opportunity to attack Stop the War. In a backwards-directed pro-war opinion piece in yesterday’s Guardian, Starmer evokes “the failures of appeasement and the spectre of Munich”, concluding his article with the deliberately opaque Atlanticist appeal for “a rule-based system” and a more bilious nationalistic call that emotively sets up on equal pedestals the post-war institutions of Nato and the NHS:

Nato is just one part of the rules-based international system that allows for collective action, but it is a vital one. It should be supported, and its resolve strengthened, not undermined by ill thought-out opposition. That is why Labour’s support for Nato remains as unwavering today as it was when we played an instrumental part in its formation. And that is why I regard both the Ns – Nato and the NHS – as legacies of that transformational Labour government that we need to be proud of and to protect.

In response to Starmer, Stop the War’s Andrew Murray says:

“He has drawn attention I think to one useful thing: Stop the War opposed the war in Afghanistan; it imposed the invasion of Iraq; it opposed the intervention in Libya. All of those were supported by whoever was leader of the Labour Party at the time, and on all those occasions Stop the War was proved to be right, and the leader of the Labour Party was proved to be wrong, and I have every confidence that the same will be true today. But what he has said is a warning that he is backing the government despite his job title being leader of the opposition.” [3:55 mins]

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Other speakers at the event:

  • Christine Buchholz (Die Linke – German MP 2009 – 2021) 10:50 mins
  • Diane Abbott MP (recorded statement) 19:20 mins
  • Nina Potarska (Ukraine National Coordinator – Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom) 21:45 mins
  • Professor Richard Sakwa (Professor of Russian and European politics at Kent University) 30:25 mins
  • Medea Benjamin (CodePink) 41:20 mins
  • Jeremy Corbyn MP 49:15 mins
  • Chris Nineham (Stop the War) hosts the event

Click here to read the original statement on the Stop the War Coalition (StWC) website.

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‘you want evidence? but I just told you the evidence!’ the day the US State Department went full Alex Jones

On Thursday [Feb 3rd] Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby ‘informed reporters’ of US intelligence claims that Russia is planning to “produce a very graphic propaganda video, which would include corpses and actors”. Later in the day, State Department spokesman, Ned Price, reiterated the same unsubstantiated claim (in a statement issued at the start of the clip embedded below).

In response, Associated Press reporter, Matt Lee, asked if the State Department could provide solid evidence of any Russian plans for simulated mass casualty false flag attack using ‘crisis actors’, pointing out how by making strange accusations of this kind, he was crossing into territory typically held by (as he put it) the “nutty conspiracy theory crowd”:

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The performance of Ned Price is so cringeworthy that his clash with Matt Lee quickly went viral. “Evidence?” he says, at one point, “I just delivered it!” Adding, if I may paraphrase for the sake of brevity: “But we can’t provide any details because of ‘sources & methods’ and ‘deterrence’ – well, that’s how deterrence works, right?” This is so childish that it would be completely hilarious were the situation not so serious.

Having been repeatedly lied into wars throughout this century, you might have imagined there would be a little more reticence in reporting this bizarre story as factual, but instead the mainstream has dutifully played along. As Novara Media’s Michael Walker reminds us:

It isn’t like the US is a stranger to misinformation. In 2016, it was reported that the Pentagon had paid UK PR firm Bell Pottinger $540 million to run a covert propaganda campaign following the invasion of Iraq. They created news packages in the style of Arabic news agencies and also made fake al-Qaeda terrorist videos that could be used to track the people who viewed them.

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Leaving aside the plain silliness, we ought to consider the likely purpose behind these latest accusations. Of course, one answer is that the US just wishes to throw more mud at the Kremlin door in order to maintain tensions over Ukraine. There are however more serious implications.

The most troubling is that such widely publicised claims may open the way to the deliberate escalation of the Ukrainian-Russian standoff by means of covert attacks carried out by US or Nato Special Forces, with these accusations of Russian false flags offering plausible deniability for any subsequent provocation. But beyond this, there are potentially alternative forms of provocation that may already be in the pipeline.

For instance, under the unflinching headline “Russia-Ukraine: US warns of ‘false-flag’ operation”, BBC news put together a piece that very confusingly muddles “such specific intelligence determinations” (i.e., these latest unsubstantiated false flag claims) with alleged cyber-attacks that are already happening.

Here is the central passage of the BBC article as it appears without edits:

Ukraine on Friday accused Russia of being behind a cyber-attack on dozens of official websites.

Before the sites went offline, a message appeared warning Ukrainians to “prepare for the worst”. Access to most of the sites was restored within hours.

The US and Nato condemned the attack and have offered support to Ukraine. Russia has not commented on the hack.

Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Friday about what he said were Russia’s plans.

“It has pre-positioned a group of operatives to conduct what we call a false-flag operation, an operation designed to look like an attack on them or Russian speaking people in Ukraine as an excuse to go in,” he said.

The operatives were trained in urban warfare and using explosives to carry out acts of sabotage against pro-Russian rebels, US officials said.

Ukraine’s Defence Ministry said similar acts were being prepared against Russian troops stationed in the breakaway Transdnistria region of Moldova.

“Russia has not commented on the hack” is meant to be read as a tacit admission of guilt, of course. Then – without a break in the flow – the piece immediately switches back to what Pentagon spokesman John Kirby has told reporters about coming false flags – reportedly also “on Friday” although this actually took place on Thursday (follow the link at the top – in answer to a question at about 30 mins). In this BBC account, sabotage on the ground is thus directly conflated with cyber-sabotage, when either one might be the tripwire that unleashes a wider war.

Meanwhile, in the Guardian’s report entitled “Russia plans ‘very graphic’ fake video as pretext for Ukraine invasion, US claims”, the latest accusations are once again repeated unchecked. Although the article does finish on a more cautionary note:

Last weekend, Reuters and CNN cited senior US officials claiming Russia had moved blood supplies close to the border, indicating a potential imminent military attack. Ukraine’s deputy defence minister, Hanna Maliar, denounced the blood supply claim, calling it a provocation designed “to spread panic and fear in our society”.

On Thursday, Maliar told the Guardian she had checked that claim with Ukrainian intelligence agencies, which had their own sources.

“It simply wasn’t true. We found no information to back this up, we did not see any blood supplies moved to the front or even in the civilian hospitals around the front,” she said, in an interview at a military airfield at Boryspil, outside Kyiv.

“It’s really important to look at the sources. These sources were anonymous, and I don’t think it’s right to use anonymous sources that cannot be checked,” she said.

And yes, to fill in the blanks, the US is presenting more “evidence” based solely on anonymous sources that cannot be checked. Why would this case be any truer than the last time?

The same people who deceived the world with stories of babies out of incubators in Kuwait; WMDs in Iraq which Bush later teased us “have got to be somewhere”; Viagra pills for soldiers in Libya; and the long discredited claims about chlorine gas at Douma (with graphic images of real corpses); are asking us to trust them again. The corporate media plays along as it always has done and always will, but we don’t have to be fooled yet again, do we?

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A full transcript of the exchange between Ned Price and Matt Lee is also reproduced below.

Ned Price: “We have previously noted our strong concerns regarding Russian disinformation and the likelihood that Moscow might create seek to create a false flag operation to initiate military activity. Now we can say that the United States has information that Russia is planning to stage fabricated attacks by Ukrainian military or intelligence forces as a pretext for a further invasion of Ukraine. One possible option the Russians are considering, and which we made public today, involves the production of a propaganda video: a video with graphic scenes of false explosions depicting corpses, crisis actors pretending to be mourners, and images of destroyed locations, or military equipment; entirely fabricated by Russian intelligence.

“To be clear, the production of this propaganda video is one of a number of options that the Russian government is developing as a fake pretext to initiate and potentially justify military aggression against Ukraine. We don’t know if Russia will necessarily use this, or another option in the coming days. We are publicising it now, however, in order to lay bare the extent of Russia’s destabilising actions towards Ukraine, and to dissuade Russia from continuing this dangerous campaign and ultimately launching a military attack.

“Russia has signalled it’s willing to continue diplomatic talks as a means to de-escalate, but actions such as these suggest otherwise. We will continue to diligently work together with our allies and partners to expose Russian disinformation and other hybrid tactics used against Ukraine. We continue to work to prevent any effort Moscow might make to justify further military action in Ukraine. We again urge Russia to stop its destructive and destabilising disinformation campaign, to de-escalate tensions, and to engage in diplomacy and dialogue for a peaceful solution. Thank you.”

Matt Lee: “Thanks. Okay well that’s quite a mouthful there. So you said actions such as these “suggest” otherwise; “suggest” meaning that “they suggest they’re not interested in talks and they’re going to go ahead with some kind of [action]” What action are you talking about?”

Ned Price: “One: the actions I’ve just pointed to. The fact that Russia continues to engage in disinformation campaigns.”

Matt Lee: “You made an allegation that they might do that. Have they actually done it?”

Ned Price: “What we know, Matt, is what I have just said: that they have engaged in this activity. [he overrides Matt Lee’s interjection and continues] because obviously this is not, this is not the first time we’ve made these reports public. You’ll remember that just a few weeks ago…”

Matt Lee: “Well, I’m sorry. Made what report public?”

Ned Price: “If you let me finish I will tell you what report we made public. Uh, we told you a few weeks ago that we have information indicating Russia also has already pre-positioned a group of operatives to conduct a false flag operation in Eastern Ukraine. So that Matt, to answer your question, is an action that Russia has already taken.

Matt Lee: “No, it’s an action that you say that they have taken, but you have shown no evidence to confirm that. And I’m going to get to the next question here, which is what is the evidence that they planned – I mean this is like crisis actors – really, this is like Alex Jones territory you’re getting it too now!”

“What evidence do you have to support the idea that there is some propaganda film in the making?”

Ned Price: “Matt, this is derived from information known to the US government: intelligence information that we have declassified. I think you know…”

Matt Lee [interrupting]: “Okay, well where is it? Where is this information?

Ned Price: “It is intelligence information that we have declassified.”

Matt Lee: “Well, where is it? Where’s the declassified information?

Ned Price: “I just delivered it.”

Matt Lee: “No, you made a series of allegations.”

Ned Price: “Would you like us to print out the topper? Because you will see a transcript of this briefing that you can print out for yourself.”

Matt Lee: “It’s not evidence, Ned! That’s just you saying it. That’s not evidence, I’m sorry.”

Ned Price: “What would you like, Matt?”

Matt Lee: “I would like to see some proof that you can show that shows that the Russians are doing this…

Ned Price: “You have been doing this for quite a while. You know that when we declassify intelligence, we do so – it’s about protecting sources and methods.” [dialogue is hard to follow]

Matt Lee: “I remember a lot of things [including that ‘Kabul is not going to fall’]. So where is the declassified information other than you coming out here and saying it?”

Ned Price: “Matt, I’m sorry you don’t like the format.”

Matt Lee: “It’s not the format! It’s the content!

Ned Price: “I’m sorry you don’t like the content. I’m sorry you –

Matt Lee: “It’s not that I don’t like it!”

Ned Price [continuing]: “I’m sorry you are doubting the information that is in the possession of the US government.

“What I’m telling you is that this is information that’s available to us. We are making it available to you in order – for a couple reasons: one is to attempt to deter the Russians from going ahead with this activity; two, in the event we’re not able to do that – in the event the Russians do go ahead with this – to make it clear as day, to lay bare the fact that this has always been an attempt on the part of the Russian Federation to fabricate a pretext.”

Matt Lee: “Yeah, but you don’t have any evidence to back it up, other than what you’re saying. It’s like you’re saying ‘we think we have information the Russians may do this’, but you won’t tell us what the information is…

Ned Price [interrupting]: That is the idea behind deterrence, Matt! That is the idea behind deterrence! It is hoped that the Russians don’t go forward with this.”

Matt Lee [continuing]: “… you say I just gave it to you.”

Ned Price: “You seem not to understand the idea of deterrence. We are trying to deter the Russians moving forward with this type of activity. That is why we’re making it public today.

If the Russians don’t go forward with this, that is not ipso facto an indication that they never had plans to do so.”

Matt Lee: “But then it’s unprovable! I mean, my god!

“What is the evidence that you have that suggests that that the Russians are even planning this? I mean I’m not saying that they’re not, but you just come out and say this and expect us just to believe it without you showing a shred of evidence that it’s actually true, other than when I ask – or when anyone else asks – what’s the information, you said: ‘well, I just gave it to you’, which was just you making a statement.”

Ned Price: “Matt, you said yourself, you’ve been in this business for quite a long time. You know that when we make information – uh, intelligence information – public, we do so in a way that protects sensitive sources and methods. You also know that we do so – we declassify information – only when we’re confident in that information.

“If you doubt – if you doubt the credibility of the US government, of the British government, of other governments, and want to, you know, find solace and information that the Russians are putting out.

Matt Lee [laughing]: “Solace?!!!”

Ned Price [continuing]: “…that is for you to do.

Matt Lee: “I’m not asking what the Russian government is putting out. And what is this supposed to mean…?”

Ned Price then turns to another reporter, who says:

“Officials are describing very specific scenes, but do they actually have a video?”

Ned Price: “The fact that we are able to go into such great detail. Obviously I’m not going to spell out what is in our possession, but I will leave it to you – I will leave that to your judgment, your imagination.”

Matt Lee: “There are no facts that you’ve spelled out.”

Another reporter: “Do you have evidence that this was intended to come out in the coming days?”

Ned Price: “We’ve said then for some time now that the Russians have positioned forces. They have undertaken preparations that if Putin decides to move forward with an invasion, they’re positioned to do so. They are poised to do something in the coming days.”

Matt Lee: “Just one last thing, quickly. I’m not buying into Russian propaganda, but I’m also not going to buy into…

Ned Price [interrupting]: “I’m not asking you to.”

Matt Lee: “… an accusation. [continuing] Yes you are! You’re saying the proof is that I just said it. So let me just appeal to you on behalf of all of us, and the American people, and the people of the world, and the Russian people, and the Ukrainian people:

“One piece of evidence to suggest that the Russians are planning to use crisis actors to stage a false mass casualty event to use as a pretext. Just one piece, okay.

“And not you, or [John] Kirby, or Jen {Psaki], or Jon Finer, or Jake [Sullivan] saying: ‘this is what is so’, and then you turning around and saying: ‘well because we said it it’s a fact’. So one piece – one piece of verifiable evidence.”

Ned Price: “Let me make make a couple broad points. I acknowledge this will probably be unsatisfactory to you in the moment, but here’s what I think you know – what I certainly know– uh, what everyone here knows.

“There are a hundred thousand Russian troops encircling Ukraine right now; approaching Ukraine’s borders – close to the borders – there are thousands of Russian troops with the potential for some 30 000 Russian troops to stream in to Belarus. All of these forces are positioned – could well be positioned – if Putin makes that decision to engage on Ukraine in a coordinated assault.

“We also know that the Russians have resorted to these tactics in the past. Have developed a remarkably similar playbook in 2014: amassed troops, engaged in 2014. It is the historical facts. Engaged in disinformation and propaganda to paint Ukraine as the aggressor. Fabricated a pretext for an invasion and went in.

“So with what we know from eight years ago – with what we have seen – you and I both have seen, everyone have seen – with what we have heard eight years ago, in the ensuing eight years, and in recent weeks – it seems to me that it should not be outlandish that the Russians may be engaging in this activity.”

Matt Lee: “But not being outlandish doesn’t mean that you have any proof that that has happened, or being planned.”

Ned Price [interrupting]: “The second point, the second point…”

Matt Lee [continuing]: “Hold on, you can’t just – That all of that may very well be true, probably is true. Okay, but it doesn’t provide any evidence of what you’re alleging now, which is that they’re planning this fake mass casualty event with quote-unquote ‘crisis actors’, which is something that, you know, in the US we rarely hear outside of the kind of, you know, nutty conspiracy theory crowd.”

Ned Price: “Well to be to be clear, we’re not alleging what the United States is doing. This is information available to us about what the Russians are up to. I understand your point, but I just wanna…”

Matt Lee: “You do? Because I mean you’re treading into some serious waters here. And if you can’t provide any evidence other than: ‘well I said so, and so it’s a fact’; that’s a problem.”

Ned Price: “Matt, there’s a second point. This is derived from intelligence: intelligence in which we have confidence.”

Matt Lee [interrupting]: “The same confidence you had in WMDs in Iraq?”

Ned Price: “Otherwise we would not be making it public in the way we are. But here’s the other point: intelligence and evidence – these are two separate things. It is no…”

Matt Lee: “But you’re saying it’s a fact, and that that you have proof, and then you can’t offer any proof to just show this fact…

[clearly exasperated] I’ll drop it. I think we should move on.

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the coming wars with Russia, China and Iran? why the stakes are raised in the last days of the unipolar order

While Britain’s political class is distracted by a Downing Street party, the world is at the most dangerous strategic juncture since the Cuban missile crisis in 1962.

These are the sobering thoughts of Daily Telegraph’s International Business Editor, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, as expressed in the opening paragraph in his latest article entitled “The West’s nightmare: a war on three fronts”.

Under the strapline “There has never been a more unsettling strategic landscape in my lifetime – we must turn our attention to the prospect of conflict”, the same piece then continues:

The West faces escalating threat of conflict on three fronts, each separate but linked by unknown levels of collusion: Russia’s mobilisation of a strike force on Ukraine’s border, China’s “dress rehearsal” for an attack on Taiwan, and Iran’s nuclear brinksmanship.

Each country is emboldening the other two to press their advantage, and together they risk a fundamental convulsion of the global order.

You have to go back yet further to find a moment when Western democracies were so vulnerable to a sudden change in fortunes. Today’s events have echoes of the interlude between the Chamberlain-Daladier capitulation at Munich in 1938 and consequences that followed in rapid crescendo from Anschluss to the Hitler-Stalin Pact.

Click here to find Ambrose Evans-Pritchard’s article published on December 9th behind The Telegraph paywall.

Meanwhile, in the Washington Post, regular columnist Michael McFaul, Director of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies and a Hoover fellow at Stanford University teamed up with Oleksiy Honcharuk, former Ukrainian Prime Minister under current President Volodymyr Zelensky, and member of the Atlantic Council’s Eurasia Center in an article headlined “The best response to Russia’s threats is a closer relationship with Ukraine”, which states:

Since 1939, the specter of an all-out conventional war in Europe between two major militaries has never been greater.

Click here to read the full article published by the Washington Post on Dec 1st.

It is quite easy, of course, to write off commentators like Evans-Pritchard and McFaul as alarmists, since what they are speculating on – even forecasting – is more or less unthinkable. War with Russia. War with Iran. War with China. War with all three simultaneously! This is absolute madness, and nothing good could possibly come from a war with any of these three rising powers.

However, if we accept Evans-Pritchard’s account this build up to the terrifying potential of full-fledged global conflict becomes very nearly inevitable, as an unavoidable response to the expansionism of Putin and Xi and/or the belligerence of the Iranians. To have stood by and done nothing, he compares directly with appeasement of Nazism – all three rivals to western hegemony duly compared to the most wicked and unassuageable enemy of humanity in modern times. Such unabashed reduction ad Hitlerum is always deemed permissible when enemies under scrutiny are ours!

Setting aside the partisanship, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard is both a well-informed and (for what it’s worth) a respectable mainstream commentator and so his concerns surrounding this growing crisis and the tripartite nature of the envisioned threat surely demand our attention, even when the background he paints overlooks countless and crucial pieces that are required to the complete the picture.

When he says straightforwardly “there has never been a more unsettling strategic landscape in my lifetime” and then announces “we must turn our attention to the prospect of conflict” I don’t believe he is exaggerating purely for effect. This is not mere hyperbole. It represents an honest appraisal of the rapidly escalating geopolitical tensions and of the commensurable threat the West is at least potentially facing. Where his analysis fails, however, is in correctly apportioning blame for these crises and in his surprising lack of informed historical context.

In the case of Russia, for instance, he makes no mention of the West’s broken promise to Gorbachev that in exchange for Russia’s consent to German reunification, Nato would not move an inch eastward. Instead it has since expanded 700 miles right up to Russia’s doorstep. This is critical. Without recognising this Nato expansion eastwards, we instantly lose all sense of Russia’s justified fear of invasion – eighty years ago under codename Operation Barbarossa the Nazis launched a massive Blitzkreig attack through the Baltic States and Ukraine: an entirely unprovoked attack that laid waste to towns and cities and was beaten back at the cost of some 25 million Russian lives. The Russian people have not forgotten this.

On December 5th, The Grayzone’s Aaron Maté spoke with Richard Sakwa, Professor of Russian and European politics at the University of Kent, and author of Frontline Ukraine: Crisis in the Borderlands and just released Deception: Russiagate and the New Cold War:

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Their discussion took place shortly after UN Secretary of State Anthony Blinken had ended talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov and on the eve of the Biden-Putin summit.

Richard Sakwa reminds us:

“This is the second time this year that we’ve seen a war theatre emerging with Russian troop movements, Ukrainian troop movements and so on. The immediate issue clearly is concern on both sides that there’s going to be a forcible attempt to resolve the Donbass question: that is the secessionist republics in that part of Ukraine.

“But the larger context is like a Russian doll – a Matryoshka doll – in which that conflict is nested in a larger one, which in the immediate context is the model of Ukrainian state building since 1991, where a certain Russophone population was objecting to a particular vision of Ukrainian statehood – a lot of authors have pointed this out over the years – and it came to a crunch in 2014. And so then we had the counter movement in Crimea and Donbass.

“But even bigger than that is the failure since 1991 to establish what the Russians would certainly call an inclusive and equitable security order. And that of course is what was being discussed at the OSCE Security Conference just these last few days when Blinken and Sergei Lavrov, the Russian Foreign Minister met.” [from 0:50 mins]

Regarding Russia’s true motives, Sakwa continues:

“The idea that Putin is, as an article in the New Statesman (this week’s issue) puts it, ‘the agent of chaos’ and the fomenter of instability is the complete mistake; it’s in fact the opposite. Russia constantly wants stability; it wants a framework for order. And more than that, it is committed still to that international system, and the international law established after 1945…

“Certainly the Russians would argue that it’s the West that has become revisionist; it’s the West that wants to destabilise the order by advancing a military alliance almost to Russia’s borders. And the idea that Putin needs some sort of external adventure in order to consolidate his position at home is also mistaken.

“I think that there’s a whole stack of arguments involved here, including of course the view that what’s going on in Ukraine is a Russian invasion or Russian attack, when there’s the internal domestic – let’s perhaps not call it a civil war but civil contestation about the vision of Ukrainian statehood. It’s homemade.

“And so what we see in this second Cold War is the constant projection of internal contradictions in Ukraine, and indeed in the Western Atlantic power system, onto Russia, which leads to a very mistaken view of the dynamics and motivations of the Russian leadership today, which leads of course to mistaken policies, which leads then to the intensification of the conflict and leads us to the danger of an inadvertent war. This is why the context is just so important…

Any basic realist view would suggest that Russia has national interest, it has concerns. And any power in Moscow would be concerned about a military alliance coming up to its borders. Even if Nato doesn’t expand, as Putin has been saying over the last few months, Ukraine de facto is being armed with very offensive weapons – the Javelin and other things – which of course even Barack Obama refused to give because he warned that this would only intensify and exacerbate the conflict.” [from 5:00 mins]

Moving away from Russia and the Ukrainian crisis, Evans-Pritchard also says nothing of the West’s more recent broken promise to Iran in the form of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which was painstakingly negotiated between Iran and the P5+1 (five permanent members of the UN Security Council and the European Union) and eventually signed off in July 2015.

However, within the term of the very next US administration under Donald Trump, the US unilaterally withdrew from the agreement doubtless at the behest of Trump’s great friend Netanyahu. Thus, having struck a deal that removed crippling economic sanctions by assent to a rigorous inspection regime to ensure nuclear non-proliferation, this hard-won reward was snatched away and with it the disincentive to pursue a nuclear weapons programme was lost. Nevertheless Iran is back at the negotiating table in Vienna, even while the prospect of a revised deal looks increasingly unlikely:

On Sunday {Dec 5th], amid reports that the talks might collapse, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett called on the countries in Vienna to “take a strong line” against Iran. According to Channel 12 news in Israel, Israeli officials are urging the US to take military action against Iran, either by striking Iran directly or by hitting an Iranian base in Yemen. Regardless of the outcome of the negotiations, Israel says that it reserves the right to take military action against Iran.

This is the assessment of Medea Benjamin and Ariel Gold, who are respectively cofounder and national co-director of Codepink, in an article entitled “Israel Is Hell-Bent on Sabotaging US Nuclear Negotiations With Iran”, that also reminds us:

Israeli threats aren’t just bluster. Between 2010 and 2012, four Iranian nuclear scientists were assassinated, presumably by Israel. In July 2020, a fire, attributed to an Israeli bomb, caused significant damage to Iran’s Natanz nuclear site. In November 2020, shortly after Joe Biden won the presidential election, Israeli operatives used remote control machine guns to assassinate Iran’s top nuclear scientist. Had Iran retaliated proportionately, the US might have backed up Israel, with the conflict spiraling into a full-blown US-Middle East war.

In April 2021, as diplomatic efforts were underway between the Biden administration and Iran, sabotage attributed to Israel caused a blackout at the Natanz. Iran described the action as “nuclear terrorism.”

Ironically described as Iran’s Build Back Better plan, after each of Israel’s nuclear facility sabotage actions, Iranians have quickly gotten their facilities back online and even installed newer machines to more rapidly enrich uranium. As a result, American officials recently warned their Israeli counterparts that the attacks on Iranian nuclear facilities are counterproductive. But Israel replied that it has no intention of letting up.

Obviously if the original deal had not been so rashly torn up by Trump there is every reason to presume Iran would have stayed disarmed, but instead, with so much sabre-rattling out of Israel and America, there is every incentive to follow North Korea’s lead and join the nuclear club. As the same piece points out:

Stakes are high for the talks to succeed. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed this month that Iran is now enriching uranium up to 20 percent purity at its underground facility at Fordo, a site where the JCPOA forbids enrichment. According to the IAEA, since Trump pulled the US out of the JCPOA, Iran has furthered its uranium enrichment to 60 percent purity (compared with 3.67% under the deal), steadily moving closer to the 90 percent needed for a nuclear weapon. In September, the Institute for Science and International Security issued a report that, under the “worst-case breakout estimate,” within a month Iran could produce enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon.

Click here to read the full article by Medea Benjamin and Ariel Gold published by Jacobin magazine on December 12th.

Nor does Evans-Pritchard give proper context to the question of Taiwan, which first separated from the mainland when the governing Kuomintang (KMT) and its leader Chiang Kai-shek had fled there following their catastrophic defeat to the communists. Both sides soon after advocated a “One-China Policy” although each disputed the right of the other to rule over a future reunited China. Prior to 1971, it had actually been the Taiwanese Republic of China (ROC) that held the seat on the UN Security Council.

Then, when the great reformer Deng Xiaoping came to power in the late 1970s, he proposed an updated constitutional arrangement of “One Country Two Systems”, according to which partial autonomy would be granted, permitting Taiwan to operate an unfettered free-market economy and an independent military although under mainland sovereignty. This offer was formally rejected by Taiwan, but still a “One-China Policy” has been long-standing and officially recognised by successive American presidents – at least until now.

To quote from the current Wikipedia entry:

Today, ROC is the de facto government of Taiwan; whereas the PRC is the de facto government over Mainland China. However, each government claims to be the legitimate government of all China de jure.

In short, Taiwanese independence remains a highly contentious issue on both sides of the strait.

Stepping back therefore we should acknowledge that China has both political and strategic interest in Taiwan and the sovereignty issue remains an exceedingly complex one. Likewise, Russia has historical and cultural ties to the people of the breakaway republics of the Donetsk and Luhansk, who are still embattled and fighting for independence against Ukrainian Nationalists (including neo-Nazis) in response to oppressive measures introduced in the immediate aftermath of the Maidan coup of 2014.

So although it is easy to characterise each of these conflicts as revanchist on the part of the Russian and Chinese regimes, which then in turn validates the prevailing argument that we must not repeat the historical error of appeasement, this is actually a dangerous misrepresentation of the full picture. It denies the basic fact that all nations have interests, and that some of interests are non-negotiable.

Returning to Evans-Pritchard’s cited example of the Cuban missile crisis in 1962, which involved an American response to a perceived as a Soviet threat that was in turn a Soviet retaliation after the US moved its missiles to Turkey, we see that both sides considered the danger posed by the other as a just cause for nuclear brinksmanship.

In 2016, John Pilger released his 60th documentary film The Coming War on China which is embedded below. In the notes on the official website, Pilger writes:

This film, The Coming War on China, is a warning that nuclear war is not only imaginable, but a ‘contingency’, says the Pentagon. The greatest build-up of Nato military forces since the Second World War is under way on the western borders of Russia. On the other side of the world, the rise of China as the world’s second economic power is viewed in Washington as another ‘threat’ to American dominance.

To counter this, in 2011, President Obama announced a ‘pivot to Asia’, which meant that almost two-thirds of all US naval forces would be transferred to Asia and the Pacific, their weapons aimed at China.

Today, some 400 American military bases encircle China with missiles, bombers, warships and nuclear weapons. They form an arc from Australia north through the Pacific to Japan, Korea and across Eurasia to Afghanistan and India. It is, says one US strategist, ‘the perfect noose’.

In secrecy, the biggest single American-run air-sea military exercise in recent years – known as Talisman Sabre – has rehearsed an Air-Sea Battle Plan, blocking sea lanes in the Straits of Malacca, cutting off China’s access to oil, gas and other raw materials from the Middle East and Africa.

It is largely this fear of an economic blockade that has seen China building airstrips on disputed islands and reefs in the South China Sea. Last year, Chinese nuclear forces were reportedly upgraded from low to high alert.

This is not news, or it is news distorted or buried. Instead, there is a familiar drumbeat identifying a new enemy: a restoration of the psychology of fear that embedded public consciousness for most of the 20th century. The aim of The Coming War on China is to help break the silence. As the centenaries of the First World War presently remind us, horrific conflict can begin all too easily. The difference today is nuclear.

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All of today’s escalating crises have been – and continue to be – inflamed, in the most part deliberately, by Western interference. The Ukrainian Maidan was initially sparked by the actions of the European Union although the violent protests that ended in the toppling of elected President Viktor Yanokovych and installation of Western puppet Arseniy Yatsenyuk were directed by Washington as a notorious leaked phone call between Victoria Nuland and US Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt revealed.

Having helped to orchestrate a coup, America continues to supply arms and offer military and intelligence support to the Ukrainian nationalists in their war against the peoples of the Donetsk and Luhansk regions. Meanwhile Nato sails its warships provocatively on the Black Sea, while occasionally buzzing the still disputed territory of Crimea. Likewise, America and Britain now regularly send their warships to the South China Sea for large-scale exercises. Why are the British and American navies patrolling waters so far from their own shores? What other purpose than provocation?

On December 1st, the German newspaper Die Welt published an opinion piece by its Chief Foreign Policy Correspondent Clemens Wergin under the headline “The West must finally treat Moscow like the pariah regime it is acting as”, in which it boldly asserts in the language of this new Cold War era that: “Moscow is trying, as in Soviet times, to force parts of Eastern Europe under its thumb.” Yet in reality, most of the former Soviet Bloc countries including Croatia, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Romania, are now fully-fledged members of Nato.

Richard Sakwa says:

“Ultimately the question is ‘what is the US strategic goal’? It should be peace. It should be some sort of framework in which Russia is part of the solution, instead of which being constantly externalised as an enemy… There’s a marvellous book which I’m sure you know [by] William Hill called No Place for Russia which describes how since 1991 desperate attempts by Yeltsin and then Putin to establish an inclusive security order – and indeed Medvedev with his ideas in 2008 – so the idea is that you can’t negotiate with Moscow because it doesn’t want to deal, or that any negotiation effectively is appeasement.

“It is sort of crazy talk. That means there can be no diplomacy. There can be no engagement, no dialogue, no working on common issues, though Biden of course after the Geneva Summit has established a working party on cyber issues and on strategic security, which is very welcome, and so there is talk going on, but in an atmosphere of fundamental distrust.” [from 10:35 mins]

In fact these crises are happening because the world’s superpowers are butting heads, just as they did during the first Cold War. And throughout that first Cold War the public was constantly informed about the Soviet Union’s abysmal human rights record and their tremendous eagerness to invade the West. The first claim is provably true, of course, but the follow-up claim was false; a cheap propaganda trick that instilled fear and maximised the expansion of the military-industrial complex.

Nor do the Russians or Chinese have plans to invade us tomorrow, but threatened by western expansion up to their borders, both are now preparing to defend their national interests. The latest threats of pre-emptive strikes on Ukraine and Taiwan are reactive. Thus Evans-Pritchard’s parallels with the Cuban Missile Crisis are entirely valid. And keep in mind that in 1962 the world only narrowly escaped disaster thanks to courage of Soviet submarine commander Vasily Arkhipov, who overrode a decision to launch a nuclear strike that otherwise might have ended civilisation and annihilated much of the life on this planet.

Meanwhile, the Iranians are not, as Evans-Pritchard states in his article, on the immediate brink of testing a bomb, but instead, and unlike their Israeli adversaries, lack any nuclear capability. Nevertheless another Israeli attack on an Iranian nuclear facility – especially if it is a civilian one that causes widespread radioactive contamination – might yet be the trigger that ignites a war to end all wars.

As John Pilger describes in his notes to The Coming War on China:

When I first went to Hiroshima in 1967, the shadow on the steps was still there. It was an almost perfect impression of a human being at ease: legs splayed, back bent, one hand by her side as she sat waiting for a bank to open. At a quarter past eight on the morning of 6 August, 1945, she and her silhouette were burned into the granite. I stared at the shadow for an hour or more, unforgettably. When I returned many years later, it was gone: taken away, ‘disappeared’, a political embarrassment.

Another shadow now looms over all of us.

As a youth I was a member of CND and also subscribed to their in-house magazine which carried the apt title Sanity to helpfully distinguished the group’s unilateralist disarmament position from the multilateralist principle of deterrence known as ‘Mutually Assured Destruction’ or MAD. Today instead of MAD we have a more frank if utterly absurd discussion that considers nuclear first-strike to be an option; crazy nonsense that mostly comes from the neo-con factions inside the US and Israel. These are the Strangeloves; not merely psychopaths, but madmen with a death wish, because adopting such a strategy is far, far madder than MAD ever was! How did our democratic systems fail so badly as to enable these certifiable lunatics ever to come to power? (That’s a question for another day.)

Writing for the Quincy Institute journal Responsible Statecraft, British policy analyst and Orwell Prize-winning journalist, Anatol Lieven, goes so far as to describe Washington’s antagonist relationship with Russia, including the tit-for-tat diplomatic expulsions as “absurd and reckless”. An article published on December 1st begins:

Official U.S. behavior towards Russia is suffering from a pretty acute case of what might charitably be called obsessive-compulsive disorder. As a result of this affliction, it has often lost touch not only with basic strategic common sense, but with the overall goals and strategy of the current U.S. administration.

The latest manifestation of this has been the U.S. refusal to extend the visas of Russian diplomats in Washington, which this week naturally and inevitably led to a new round of tit for tat expulsions of U.S. diplomats from Moscow. As a result of an escalating cycle of retaliation in recent years, the U.S. embassy in Moscow is now the only U.S. diplomatic presence in that country, and the number of its staff is barely one tenth of its previous figure.

While being unwilling to seek any real compromises with Russia, President Biden and his team are clearly anxious to avoid new crises if possible; and there are the most obvious and sensible reasons for this desire. The administration has made meeting the challenge (whether real or imagined) from China the core of its entire global strategy. Any new confrontation with Russia would be a colossal distraction from this strategy, and would in fact be a magnificent strategic gift to Beijing.

In these strategic circumstances, the obvious course for America would be to carry out the “opening to China” of the 1970s in reverse, and aim for a grand strategic compromise with Russia that would neutralize U.S.-Russian tensions and split Moscow from Beijing. Even if such a move is beyond the vision and moral courage of U.S. leaders today, at the very least one would expect that U.S. policy would avoid all purely gratuitous and unnecessary gestures of hostility towards Russia, especially when these are absolutely bound to provoke an equal Russian response.

Yet since the Biden administration took office, efforts to defuse tension with Russia have been interspersed with episodes of insulting language, symbolic affronts and meaningless but deeply provocative statements. It is as if the U.S. establishment simply cannot control itself when it comes to jabbing at Russia.

Concluding:

The result is to damage or eliminate precisely those lines of communication which it is essential to keep open if minor incidents are to be prevented from escalating into major and unnecessary crises.

If these moves were part of a U.S. considered strategy, they would be deeply foolish and reckless; but at a time when the U.S. leadership actually wants to reduce tension with Moscow, they verge on the insane.

Click here to read Anatol Lieven’s full article entitled “Tit for tat diplomatic expulsions by Russia and America are absurd and reckless: At a time when Washington wants to reduce tension with Moscow, these acts verge on the insane” published in Responsible Statecraft.

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America’s long-term geostrategic repositioning through the stealth expansion of Nato directly up to the borders of Russia and China is now combined with its ever more bellicose political posturing. Repeatedly under the threat of attack, loose defensive alliances have tightened between Russia, China and Iran, so a coordinated response becomes all the more likely. Should the West or Israel (with US consent) take the decision to declare “pre-emptive” war against any one of the three sovereign powers, the realistic expectation is wider war. Given the probable magnitude of a three-pronged retaliation and the genuine potential for a thermonuclear exchange, the prospect of wars against Russia, China and Iran is therefore absolutely unthinkable.

A century ago a detached and callous ruling class led a largely innocent and unwitting generation into the bloody technological hellhole of no-man’s land to slaughter one another for the glory of king and country and, importantly, for the sake of empire. Back then and ever since, we have rightly talked of “lions led by donkeys”. Astonishingly, the donkeys are back in charge again, except that this time around besides an imbecilic and unprincipled political class, we also have an atrophied antiwar opposition, a moribund fourth estate and an endlessly diverted populous, so the worry is that we may be dealing with donkeys virtually all the way down.

So forgive me when I hammer this point: war is in the air again, and not just any old war. WAR with Russia! WAR with Iran! WAR with China! WAR with all three simultaneously!

I make no apologies for my vulgar use of capitals. We all need to shout about this. What’s the alternative?

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Under UN Resolution 2758, passed on 25 October 1971, the People’s Republic of China (PRC) was recognised as “the only legitimate representative of China to the United Nations, and to expel forthwith the representatives of Chiang Kai-shek from the place they unlawfully occupy at the United Nations and in all organizations related to it.” An earlier General Assembly Resolution 1668 passed in 1961 had ensured this change in recognition had required a two-thirds majority of all voting members.

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Filed under analysis & opinion, China, did you see?, Iran, Israel, John Pilger, Russia, Ukraine, Uncategorized, USA

Free Assange | The Belmarsh Tribunal

On the eve of Wikileaks publisher Julian Assange’s extradition proceedings, which are set to recommence tomorrow [Wed 27th Oct] in London’s High Court, and in light of the extraordinary recent revelations of a CIA plot to kidnap and assassinate Assange while he sought political asylum inside the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, last Friday [Oct 22nd] the Progressive International convened for the first physical Belmarsh Tribunal to put the case against Assange and the US ‘War on Terror’ on trial:

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Speakers included:

Former President of Ecuador, Rafael Correa;

Labour MPs, Apsana Begum, Richard Burgon & John McDonnell;

Former Labour leader and independent MP, Jeremy Corbyn;

Die Linke MEP, Özlem Demirel & former member of the Bundestag for Die Linke, Heike Hänsel;

Spokesperson for the Solidarity Party of Afghanistan, Selay Ghaffar;

Intelligence whistleblowers Daniel Ellsberg (Pentagon Papers), Annie Machon (MI5) & Edward Snowden (NSA);

Member of Greek Parliament & co-founder of DiEM25, Yanis Varoufakis;

Former Australian Senator, Scott Ludlam;

Political writer, journalist, filmmaker and historian, Tariq Ali;

Investigative journalist for La Repubblica, Stefania Maurizi;

Human rights lawyers Renata Ávila & Ben Wizner, who is a civil liberties advocate with the ACLU; and,

British Israeli architect, Eyal Weizman, who is the director of the research agency Forensic Architecture at Goldsmiths, University of London.

The event was chaired by Croatian philosopher, author and political activist, Srećko Horvat and was streamed live by Novara Media. The partial transcript provided below is courtesy of yesterday’s Democracy Now! broadcast which can also be read and watched here in full.

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Stella Moris [partner of Julian Assange – from 1:55:50 min]:

We’re meeting five days before Julian’s — before the U.S. appeal at the High Court here in London. And I want to remind everyone that Julian won the case on January 4th, and the Trump administration, two days before leaving office, lodged the appeal. And Julian’s bail application was refused, so he’s been in prison, in Belmarsh prison, for over two-and-a-half years. …

In the last few weeks, the mask has fallen in relation to the case against Julian. It’s fallen because there was an article — well, it’s been progressively falling over the years. There is no case, as others have said. This is just a naked political persecution. But there was an article published by Yahoo News just a few weeks ago, a 7,500-word investigation with over 30 sources, named and unnamed, high-level sources from current and past U.S. administrations, from the National Security Council, from the CIA, and that story revealed that the extrajudicial assassination of Julian in London was discussed at the highest levels of the U.S. government, that the seventh floor of the CIA in Langley, which is the director’s office, requested sketches and options for how to kill Julian inside the Embassy of Ecuador. They talked about kidnapping him, too, about rendition, rendition, extraordinary rendition, which is what the CIA developed to kidnap people and take them across jurisdictions to disappear them and then put them in a black site somewhere. And the embassy was essentially a black site towards the end. I felt that anything could happen there.

Julian’s lawyers were targeted by name, not just incidentally spied on. There are emails telling the security company to target Gareth Pierce, to target Aitor Martínez, to target Julian’s legal team, and their documents were stolen. And Baltasar Garzón’s office was broken into, just as the CIA was planning to murder Julian. And our 6-month-old baby’s nappy was instructed to be stolen so that they could use that, analyze the DNA to check whether Julian was the father.

This is flagrant criminality. We’re dealing with criminals who have instrumentalized the law, instrumentalized the extradition arrangements with this country and their good relationships with this country to politically persecute an innocent man, a journalist for doing his job.

Ewen MacAskill [Pulitzer-winning journalist – from 1:08:30 min]:

Another whistleblower that I owe much to is Edward Snowden. I went to Hong Kong in 2013 with Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras and spent over a week holed up with Snowden in our hotel room in Hong Kong.

Whistleblowers are essential to good journalism. They allow reporters to get behind the walls of secrecy, the walls of secrecy built up by officials and press officers. The whistleblowers reveal abuses and wrongdoing within governments, companies, the military, intelligence agencies. These whistleblowers should be rewarded for their courage; instead, too often they end up facing prosecution or jail.

There’s been a war being waged against journalism and free speech that’s been going on since at least 9/11. It’s not a general war. It’s specific to national security and the intelligence agencies. The intelligence agencies are waging it to try and dissuade future leakers within the agencies, and try and dissuade the journalists covering the national security beat. And this is what Assange has been caught up in.

What Assange has been accused of is fundamentally no different from the normal interaction between whistleblowers and journalists on the national security beat. There’s no fundamental difference between what Julian Assange was doing and what I was doing. And when I was in Hong Kong with Snowden, I spent a week with him discussing the ins and outs of his work at the National Security Agency. I spent a week going through tens of thousands of secret documents. And he passed me a memory stick with tens of thousands of secret documents on it. I mean, how is that fundamentally different from the relationship between the whistleblower Chelsea Manning and the publisher Julian Assange? …

If Julian is to be prosecuted, then there’s a equally good case for the editor and journalists in The Guardian or New York Times, Der Spiegel, El País, La República and all the other organizations involved in this coverage being prosecuted, too.

Obama, in spite of his liberal background, failed to stand up to the pressure from the intelligence agencies, and he used the draconian 1917 Espionage Act and other laws against whistleblowers and journalists. In fact, Obama was responsible for more prosecutions and action against journalists and whistleblowers than all the other presidents in the U.S. combined.

Tariq Ali [from 8:00 min]:

Julian exposed another set of wars. Basically, he exposed the so-called war on terror, which began after 9/11, has lasted 20 years, has led to six wars, millions killed, trillions wasted. That is the only balance sheet of that war. Nowhere has it redeemed itself or done any good, as we’ve seen most recently in Afghanistan.

So, what do you say to people like Chelsea Manning and Julian, who’s the principal target of the legal and judicial brutalities taking place, when they reveal stuff, which everyone knows it’s true, since some of it is on video — Americans bombing Iraqi families, totally innocent — totally innocent — laughing about it and are recorded killing them? That’s a big joke. Well, it isn’t a big joke for the millions who have died in the Arab world since these 20 years of war began. And Julian, far from being indicted, should actually be a hero. He’s not the first. And if they think that punishing him in this vindictive and punitive way is going to change people’s attitudes to coming out and telling the truth, they’re wrong. …

Julian is unfortunate to be captured by this particular state and its different apparatuses in order to appease the United States of America. He should never have been kept in prison for bail. He should not be in prison now awaiting a trial for extradition. He should be released. And I hope that acts like the Belmarsh Tribunal will help to bring that nearer.

Selay Ghaffar [Solidarity Party of Afghanistan – from 14:30 min]:

Dear comrades and friends, I am thrilled and honored to join you on this historical tribunal. All Afghans, particularly the families of the war victims, expect the Belmarsh Tribunal to heal their wounds by holding the United States accountable for the thousands of innocent Afghans’ lives they destroyed and the future they stole. And I salute the Progressive International for this remarkable initiative.

In the wake of the U.S. humiliating withdrawal from Afghanistan, everybody asks this question: How did the two decades of the U.S. military occupation of Afghanistan, under the pretext of fighting terrorism, ended with the Taliban terrorists gaining a swift and easy victory in Afghanistan?

Well, so far, in my opinion, only one person, by the name Julian Assange, possibly had the answer to this mystery. In 2011, he unmasked the truth through a set of documents called the Afghan War Diary, where he exposed the tyrannical U.S. policy in Afghanistan and said that one of the goals behind sustaining the war was to wash money out of the tax bases of the U.S. and Europe through Afghanistan and back into the hands of the transnational security elite.

Two decades of U.S. occupation brought us nothing but ruin and loss of lives. And while the mainstream media tried to portray a rosy picture of Afghanistan, the leaks by Assange, in contrary, revealed bloody atrocities committed by the U.S. and NATO occupying forces. For instance, in 2007, the U.S. Special Forces dropped six 2,000-pound bombs on a compound where they believed a high-value individual was hiding; however, locals reported that up to 300 civilians had been killed in this raid. None of the media reported that incident.

According to reliable sources, about 241,000 Afghans have been killed by crossfire between the U.S. forces and the Taliban, of whom 48,000 civilians have been killed by U.S. occupation forces in a number of unknown incidents. But in my belief, the real number is much, much higher, as many incidents are not reported and not documented.

Well, the U.S. occupation has also inflicted invisible wounds. In 2009, the former Afghan Ministry of Public Health reported that fully two-thirds of Afghans suffer from mental health problems. The war has exacerbated the effects of poverty, malnutrition, poor sanitation, a lack of access to healthcare, and environmental degradation on Afghans’ health. Therefore, U.S. and NATO allies are responsible and accountable for all the past 20 years’ misery of our tormented people, particularly our ill-fated women.

Thank you again for giving me the opportunity to be among you all today in this tribunal. And I hope Julian Assange will be free soon. Thank you.

Jeremy Corbyn [from 18:25 min]:

Julian Assange has paid a very, very, very high price for his lifelong determination to expose the truth. Why? Is it because he has some idea that he can make himself famous by exposing the truth? Or is it something much stronger and much more moral than that, the belief that by exposing the truth, you can save lives, you can stop wars, and you can make sure that democracies function properly by holding all public officials, elected or unelected, to public account?

And that’s why the role of Julian Assange in all of this is so important. His information exposed the dishonesty surrounding the claims on Iraq. His information exposed the dishonesty of the continuing reporting of Iraq after 2003 with hidden information about the numbers of people that had died from “friendly fire” in Iraq, but also the dangers to all journalists, to everyone who believes in free speech, of the concept of the embedded journalist, embedded on an aircraft carrier, sent into a barracks or whatever else, to produce reports that are to the liking of the military.

So, those of us who want to live in a peaceful world and do not believe that a repeat of Iraq will do anything other than bring about even worse consequences than the Iraq War did are here because we want to support Julian Assange in the bravery that he’s shown and the price that he’s already paid for that bravery of ensuring that the whole world knows the truth about it.

Yanis Varoufakis [economist & Greek MP – from 49:20 min]:

A young man in Australia, a long, long time ago, well before we ever knew about WikiLeaks, had an idea: the idea of using Big Brother’s technology to create a large digital kind of mirror to turn to the face of Big Brother so as to enable us to be able to watch him watching us — a bit like turning the mirror to the face of the Medusa. WikiLeaks is based on that idea.

I remember spending a very long night with Julian in the Ecuadorian Embassy in Knightsbridge, when he called upon me to help him decipher and transcribe a conversation between officials of the International Monetary Fund. Having spent, in the previous year, a very long time negotiating with them, listening to them on that tape that Julian had procured, through WikiLeaks, through this blind, digital post box, was such a splendid experience. It was so liberating, because I could suddenly hear with my own ears the very same officials effectively agreeing with everything that the good people of Greece were saying, that we were saying, that I had been saying to them.

Now, of course, WikiLeaks has done far more important work than simply revealing that the International Monetary Fund knew that they were committing crimes against the Greek people and other peoples, in Latin America and so on, while perpetrating them. WikiLeaks and Julian, as we know, have been persecuted for revealing to the world, especially to liberals, Democrats, Tories, social democrats — revealing to them the crimes against humanity perpetrated by our own elected leaders, in our name, behind our backs. This is why they are now killing Julian Assange.

So, our message as the Belmarsh Tribunal must not simply be one of support for Julian or a call to have him released. No, we are a tribunal. We are trying the criminals that are killing Julian, as we speak, for crimes against humanity, not just for the crime of slowly murdering Julian Assange. You are criminals, and we are going to pursue you to the end of the Earth and back for the crimes you are committing all over the world against humanity while also murdering slowly Julian Assange and other whistleblowers who are revealing your crimes.

Edward Snowden [from 2:09:15 min]:

It’s difficult to be here. I struggle to understand how we can be here, after so many years there has been. There have been so many stories told. There’s been so much criticism. There has been so much deception. And where has it brought us? Has this been constructive? Is this a victory for us, for the state, for humanity, for our rights?

When I came forward in 2013, I said the reason that I came forward was that we have a right to know that which is done to us and that which is done in our name by our governments. That was already under threat. And when you look at the world since, it seems that that trend is accelerating. Do we still have that right? Do we have any rights if we don’t defend them? Well, today we see someone who has stood up to defend that right, who has aggressively championed that right, at an extreme cost. And it’s time for us to defend his rights.

What we are witnessing is a murder that passes without comment. And I want to say that it is difficult for me to comprehend the spectacle of the press of a nation, the “developed world,” aiding and abetting, with full knowledge, a crime not only against this man, but against our public interest. However, at this moment that we are, we all see this. We all feel it. It’s no less familiar than the shoes on my feet.

Everywhere we look, from Afghanistan to economics, from pandemic to pervasive surveillance, the obvious has been made unspeakable. And it has become unspeakable because the truth of our circumstances could be taken as evidence in the defense of the actions of the out of favor. And in the eyes of the American state, few represent this class, a greater object of hatred, than the person of Julian Assange. He has been charged as a political criminal — something that I understand quite well, but he has been charged as the purest sort of political criminal, for having committed the transgression of choosing the wrong side.

The charges, which are — they are absolutely an unadorned legal fiction. We are told to believe that the state has these powers over what can be said and what can’t be said, the things that can and cannot be said. But what happens if we permit that? Where does that lead? What are we? Can we be said to be free, if even our power to express ourselves, to understand the facts of our world, can be fenced off from us, and we look beyond, through the gauze, through the veil, at what could be the facts of the world, but we’re not permitted to acquire them?

Julian Assange did not accept that. And the charges against him reduce to an allegation to commit the crime of journalism in the first degree, which is to say, when we look at it applied elsewhere, the same sort of publication of classified material that we see in The New York Times or The Washington Post, aggravated by a conspiracy to accomplish the same, which is simply uncovering an uncomfortable truth. But something distinguishes Julian Assange from the greatest newspapers of our day, and that is his independence. Julian Assange is not a person who will be told no lightly.

I remember, in the case of 2013, when I came forward and revealed evidence of mass surveillance, which the government of my country had constructed the apparatus of mass surveillance, an entire scheme that spanned the globe, with the participation of Australia, New Zealand, Canada and, of course, the United Kingdom. And when the newspapers of all of these countries began publishing these things, one of the papers who held the archived material originally included The Guardian, who was headquartered in the United Kingdom, still is. And I remember reading a story — of course, I wasn’t there for it personally; I’m getting this secondhand — who knows what we can rely on, the state of journalism as it is today? But they were approached by the British state, who said, “OK, OK, you’ve had your fun. You’ve done enough. Now it’s time to stop.” And they had to send their archival material away to the United States, to a partner publication, because they no longer believed that they were safe to continue publishing. And they were right. Agents in the British state went to The Guardian. They destroyed their laptop computers. They’ve got it all on film, the putting angle grinders to computer chips, trying to erase any trace that these stories had been written from within the confines of the newsroom.

Now, Julian was not deterred by that, and he never would be. When you perform the level of surveillance against a person that has clearly been performed, and is being performed even today, certainly in prison, against Julian Assange, you understand at least something about their character. You understand what the breaking point is. You know what it will take to make them bend. And he didn’t bend. He will break before he does. He has consistently and continuously dared to speak the unspeakable, in the face of opposition, in the face of power. And that is a remarkable and rare thing. That is the reason that Julian Assange sits in prison today.

If you love the truth, as I think everyone here does — you wouldn’t be listening to this, you wouldn’t be watching this, you wouldn’t be participating in this, you wouldn’t care about this, unless something in you told you that something important was happening here. And if you do care, as I think you do, you are a criminal of the same category as Julian Assange. In the eyes of the state, what differentiates you, what divides you from him, that is only the degree. We share the same guilt. Each of us share in the crime. And we are unindicted co-conspirators in his quest to raise a lantern in the halls of power.

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black ops in the Black Sea: Johnson’s dangerous provocation in the ‘New Cold War’

In light of yesterday’s outlandish provocation in the Black Sea, when British Navy destroyer, HMS Defender, weapons loaded and with a BBC correspondent conveniently aboard, quite deliberately sailed into Crimean territorial waters close to the Russian base at Sevastopol, Craig Murray posted two articles which I have reprinted unabridged below – in the second, Murray explains in detail how the UK action was in clear breach of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

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Sometimes it is worth stating the obvious. The United Kingdom does not have a coast in the Black Sea. British warships are not infesting the Black Sea out of a peaceful intent, and there is no cause for them to be entering disputed waters close to anybody’s coast. This is not a question of freedom of navigation under the UN Convention of the Law of the Sea. There is nowhere that a British warship can be heading from the UK under the right of innocent passage that would require it to pass through coastal waters by Crimea. The Black Sea is famously a cul-de-sac.

There is certainly a right to pass to the Ukrainian port of Odessa – but that in now way requires passing close to Crimea. This is therefore not “innocent passage”. There is a right of passage through the Kerch strait, which Russia has to date respected. Russia has not just a right but a duty to enforce sea lanes for safe navigation through the strait, exactly as the UK does off Dover.

I expect we will now be in for a mad frenzy of Russophobia, yet again. I shall comment further once I have more details of why and exactly where Russia was firing warning shots. But just remember this, it was not Russian warships near the British coast, it was British warships in an area where they had no business other than ludicrous, British nationalist, sabre-rattling.

The UK needs to lose its imperial delusions. Sending gunboats to the Crimea is as mad as – well, sailing an aircraft carrier expressly to threaten the Chinese. There are those who see this activity as evidence of the UK’s continued great power status. I see it as evidence of lunacy.

Click here to read the original article entitled “Black Ops in the Black Sea” published yesterday by Craig Murray.

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The pre-positioning of the BBC correspondent on HMS Defender shatters the pretence that the BBC is something different to a state propaganda broadcaster. It also makes plain that this propaganda exercise to provoke the Russian military was calculated and deliberate. Indeed that was confirmed by that BBC correspondent’s TV news report last night when he broadcast that the Defender’s route “had been approved at the very highest levels of the British government.”

The Prime Minister does not normally look at the precise positions of British ships. This was a deliberate act of dangerous belligerence.

The presence of a BBC correspondent is more than a political point. In fact it has important legal consequences. One thing that is plain is that the Defender cannot possible claim it was engaged in “innocent passage” through territorial waters, between Odessa and Georgia. Let me for now leave aside the fact that there is absolutely no necessity to pass within 12 miles of Cape Fiolent on such passage, and the designated sea lane (originally designated by Ukraine) stays just out of the territorial sea. Look at the definition of innocent passage in Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea:

screenshot-1612

Very plainly this was not innocent passage. It was certainly 2 (d) an act of propaganda, and equally certainly 2 (c), an exercise in collecting information on military defences. I would argue it is also 2 (a), a threat of force.

So far as I can establish, the British are not claiming they were engaged in innocent passage, which is plainly nonsense, but that they were entering territorial waters off Crimea at the invitation of the government of Ukraine, and that they regard Crimea as the territory of Ukraine and Crimean territorial waters as Ukrainian territorial waters.

I want to impress on you how mad this is. The whole point of “territorial sea” is that, legally, it is an integral part of the state and that the state’s full domestic law applies within the territorial sea. That is not the case with the much larger 200 mile exclusive economic zone or sometimes even larger continental shelf, where the coastal state’s legal jurisdiction only applies to specific marine or mineral resources rights.

Let me put it this way. If somebody is murdered on a ship within twelve nautical miles of the coast, the coastal state has jurisdiction and its law applies. If somebody is murdered on a ship more than twelve miles off the coast, the jurisdiction and law of the flag state of the ship applies, not the law of any coastal state in whose exclusive economic zone the ship is.

In international law, the twelve mile territorial sea is as much part of the state as its land. So to sail a warship into Crimean territorial seas is exactly the same act as to land a regiment of paratroops in the Crimea and declare you are doing so at the invitation of the Government of Ukraine.

There is no dispute that Russia is in de facto control of the Crimea, irrespective of British support for the government of Ukraine’s claim to the region. It is also true that Russian annexation of the Crimea was not carried out in an accordance with international law. However, it is not, in practice, likely to be reversed and the situation needs to be resolved by treaty or by the International Court of Justice. In the interim, the UK government legal position can only be that Russia is an “occupying power”. It is impossible that the UK government legal position is that Ukraine is in “effective control” of the territory.

We need to see the legal advice provided by FCO legal advisers. It is simply not the practice in international law to ignore the existence of an occupying power which is a recognised state, and act with armed forces on the authority of a government not in effective control. The difference in British attitude towards Russia as an occupying power and towards Israel is tellingly different.

The legality of the British action is, at very best, moot. In realpolitik, it is an act of brinkmanship with a nuclear power and further effort to ramp up the new Cold War with Russia, to the benefit of the military, security services and armaments companies and the disbenefit of those who need more socially useful government spending. It is further an act of jingoist populism for the neo-liberal elite to distract the masses, as the billionaires’ incredible wealth continues to boom.

NATO will shortly commence a naval exercise in the Black Sea. As not all the member states of NATO are quite as unhinged as Johnson, it is to be hoped it will refrain from this kind of extra layer of provocation. There is a large part of me that says they cannot possibly be mad enough to attempt to intervene in Ukraine with military force, or at least its threat. But then I look at Johnson and Biden, and worry. This can all go horribly wrong.

Click here to read the same post entitled “Warmongering British Actions in the Black Sea” as it originally appeared today on Craig Murray’s official website.

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To mark ten year’s blogging, this is the fifth of my re-uploads from the WoC archive. Originally posted on April 22nd 2014, never let a good Ukrainian crisis go to waste… was one of a number of articles in which I reported on how the Ukrainian crisis had been deliberately provoked on behalf of western corporate interests, leading us into what the late Stephen Cohen, Professor Emeritus of Russian Studies and Politics, warned was already becoming a “New Cold War”.

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On Thursday [April 17th] Democracy Now! welcomed back Stephen Cohen, Professor Emeritus of Russian Studies and Politics at New York University and Princeton University, to discuss the deepening crisis in Ukraine. Cohen, a specialist on Russia and the Soviet Union, is the author of numerous books on the subject including his latest Soviet Fates and Lost Alternatives: From Stalinism to the New Cold War. He was asked “Are we seeing the beginning of a new Cold War?” and “what exactly is happening right now in Ukraine?” Cohen’s response began as follows:

Those are big questions. We are not at the beginning of the Cold War, a new one; we are well into it—which alerts us to the fact, just watching what you showed up there, that hot war is imaginable now, for the first time in my lifetime, my adult lifetime, since the Cuban missile crisis, hot war with Russia. It’s unlikely, but it’s conceivable. And if it’s conceivable, something has to be done about it.

You did two things on your introduction which were very important. Almost alone among American media, you actually allowed Putin to speak for himself. He’s being filtered through the interpretation of the mass media here, allegedly, what he said, and it’s not representative. The second thing is, let us look just what’s happening at this moment, or at least yesterday. The political head of NATO just announced a major escalation of NATO forces in Europe. He did a Churchillian riff: “We will increase our power in the air, in the sea, on the land.” Meanwhile, as negotiations today begin in Geneva, we’re demanding that Russians de-escalate. And yet, we, NATO, are escalating as these negotiations begin.

So, if you were to say what is going on in Ukraine today—and, unfortunately, the focus is entirely on eastern Ukraine. We don’t have any Western media—in eastern Ukraine. We don’t have any Western—any Western media in western Ukraine, the other half of the country. We’re not clear what’s going on there. But clearly, things are getting worse and worse. Each side has a story that totally conflicts with the other side’s story. There seems to be no middle ground. And if there’s no middle ground in the public discourse, in the Russian media or the American media, it’s not clear what middle ground they can find in these negotiations, though personally, I think—and people will say, “Oh, Cohen’s a Putin apologist”—but it seemed to me that the proposals the Russians made a month ago for resolving the conflict are at least a good starting point. But it’s not clear the United States is >going to accept them.

I will come back to some of Cohen’s further points in a moment, but first I’d like to just try to understand why, as Cohen points out, there is such a lack of media coverage across Ukraine and in particular in the western half of the country.

Below is a video (I can’t find a still frame) recorded in mid-March featuring a statement by Vitali Klitschko as he warned of an impending catastrophe in Crimea should it vote to join Russia in the recent referendum. Klitschko has since been sidelined, of course, but what strikes me as odd is that he was standing in front of a board much like the kind of sponsorship boards we see behind interviews of Premier League footballers. Similar except that the ex-sportsman here was backed by just one logo. You can see that it reads “Ukraine Crisis Media Center”:

Now if you type “Ukraine Crisis Media Center” into the Google image search you will find many other Ukrainian political figures giving statements in front of that same logo board. So just who are the “Ukraine Crisis Media Center”?

Well, they have a website and you can search for details there, but in fact you will find very few and none at all about their own sponsors. Instead, what you will read is this:

Ukrainian Crisis Media Center is launched to provide the international community with objective information about events in Ukraine and threats to national security, particularly in the military, political, economic, energy and humanitarian spheres. During this crisis period, the Center on a 24/7 basis will provide support to all the media who cover events in Ukraine.

Having failed to find further information on their website, I decided to email the organisation [on Thursday April 3rd] and asked the following:

I cannot find any information on your site about where financial support for the media center comes from. Without information on who is backing the venture how can we be sure that your coverage is wholly impartial?

I have not received a reply.

In the meantime, I also searched the web for insight from other places – and came across a glowing report published in Kyiv Post which began as follows:

Much like the EuroMaidan Revolution itself, the Ukraine Crisis Media Center sprang to life with speed, spontaneity, creativity, competence – and a strong sense of mission.

Although the center has been open only since March 4, its third floor headquarters in the Hotel Ukraine on 4 Institutska St. is already a required daily stop for dozens of Ukrainian and foreign journalists.

Continuing:

The group came together at Razumkov Center in Kyiv on March 2.

Nataliya Popovych, the president of Kyiv’s PRP Group, an affiliate of the global Webber Shandwick company, is among the founders.

Popovych said that the Kremlin is fast on its feet in spreading lies about Ukraine, whose government is often slow to respond to allegations and counter untruths.

Well, here’s one of the details I was searching for – so who is Nataliya Popovych?

Nataliya started career in Leo Burnett, one of the leading advertising agencies in the world, and continued in Romyr & Associates, Canadian government and public relations firm. After getting Master degree and probation in USA, Nataliya has become a head of PRP Ukraine, a Weber Shandwick Affiliate Company in Ukraine, and in a year became the President of PRP Group, Weber Shandwick partner on CIS markets.

And PRP? You probably won’t be surprised to learn that they are a PR company:

PRP is more than an integrated solutions agency. It is a creative concept. It is a strategy. It is the management of reputations in a new era. It is the ability to communicate and create goodwill. It is integrated solutions which engage audiences into the lives of companies and brands.

That’s taken from their current LinkedIn profile and the profile of Nataliya Popovych is from PR Congress.

But back to the article in the Kyiv Post:

She [Nataliya Popovych] considers Ukrainians to be loving, peaceful and tolerant people and, while she didn’t consider herself a follower of iconic and controversial nationalist hero Stepan Bandera (1909-1959), she is now “proud to be called a Banderite.”1

And for those who don’t know who Stepan Bandera was, then here are a few extracts taken from a detailed and rather generous biography written by Professor of History at Yale University, Timothy Snyder, and published by The New York Review of Books around the time Viktor Yushchenko (President after the “Orange Revolution”) was voted out of office in 2010:

The incoming Ukrainian president will have to turn some attention to history, because the outgoing one has just made a hero of a long-dead Ukrainian fascist. By conferring the highest state honor of “Hero of Ukraine” upon Stepan Bandera (1909-1959) on January 22, Viktor Yushchenko provoked protests from the chief rabbi of Ukraine, the president of Poland, and many of his own citizens. It is no wonder. Bandera aimed to make of Ukraine a one-party fascist dictatorship without national minorities. During World War II, his followers killed many Poles and Jews. Why would President Yushchenko, the leader of the democratic Orange Revolution, wish to rehabilitate such a figure? Bandera, who spent years in Polish and Nazi confinement, and died at the hands of the Soviet KGB, is for some Ukrainians a symbol of the struggle for independence during the twentieth century. […]

Consistent as the rehabilitation of Bandera might be with the ideological competition of the mid-twentieth century, it makes little ethical sense today. Yushchenko, who praised the recent Kiev court verdict condemning Stalin for genocide, regards as a hero a man whose political program called for ethnic purity and whose followers took part in the ethnic cleansing of Poles and, in some cases, in the Holocaust. Bandera opposed Stalin, but that does not mean that the two men were entirely different. In their struggle for Ukraine, we see the triumph of the principle, common to fascists and communists, that political transformation sanctifies violence. It was precisely this legacy that east European revolutionaries seemed to have overcome in the past thirty years, from the Solidarity movement in Poland of 1980 through the Ukrainian presidential elections of 2005. It was then, during the Orange Revolution, that peaceful demonstrations for free and fair elections brought Yushchenko the presidency. In embracing Bandera as he leaves office, Yushchenko has cast a shadow over his own political legacy.2

All of which helps to explain something else that has been puzzling me… why every other story about what’s happening in Ukraine is entitled “Ukraine Crisis: something or other” – the reason being that “Ukraine Crisis” is more or less the brand name that Nataliya Popovych and other “Ukrainian nationalists” have adopted — a list of the founders of the “Ukraine Crisis Media Center” is available at the end of the same Kyiv Post article.3

So what is this new political brand promoting?

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The “war on terror” is dead, long live the new cold war!

Returning to Stephen Cohen, here is what he had to say about the rise of this new cold war:

As a historian, I would say that this conflict began 300 years ago, but we can’t do that. As a contemporary observer, it certainly began in November 2013 when the European Union issued an ultimatum, really, to the then-president, elected president, of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, that “Sign an agreement with us, but you can’t have one with Russia, too.” In my mind, that precipitated this crisis, because why give a country that has been profoundly divided for centuries, and certainly in recent decades, an ultimatum—an elected president: “Choose, and divide your country further”? So when we say today Putin initiated this chaos, this danger of war, this confrontation, the answer is, no, that narrative is wrong from the beginning. It was triggered by the European Union’s unwise ultimatum.

Now flash forward to just one month ago, about the time I was with you before. Remember that the European foreign ministers—three of them, I think—went to Kiev and negotiated with Yanukovych, who was still the president, an agreement. Now, the Russians were present at the negotiation, but they didn’t sign it. But they signed off on it. They said, “OK.” What did that agreement call for? Yanukovych would remain president until December—not May, when elections are now scheduled, but December of this year. Then there would be a presidential election. He could run in them, or not. Meanwhile, there would be a kind of government of national accord trying to pull the government together. And, importantly, Russia would chip in, in trying to save the Ukrainian economy. But there would also be parliamentary elections. That made a lot of sense. And it lasted six hours.

The next day, the street, which was now a mob—let’s—it was no longer peaceful protesters as it had been in November. It now becomes something else, controlled by very ultra-nationalist forces; overthrew Yanukovych, who fled to Russia; burned up the agreement. So who initiated the next stage of the crisis? It wasn’t Russia. They wanted that agreement of February, a month ago, to hold. And they’re still saying, “Why don’t we go back to it?” You can’t go back to it, though there is a report this morning that Yanukovych, who is in exile in Russia, may fly to eastern Ukraine today or tomorrow, which will be a whole new dimension.

But the point of it is, is that Putin didn’t want—and this is reality, this is not pro-Putin or pro-Washington, this is just a fact—Putin did not want this crisis. He didn’t initiate it. But with Putin, once you get something like that, you get Mr. Pushback. And that’s what you’re now seeing. And the reality is, as even the Americans admit, he holds all the good options. We have none. That’s not good policymaking, is it?

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

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The United States spent over a decade hunting down Osama Bin Laden at financial a cost running into multiple trillions and a human cost of more than a million lives, yet since his demise the jihadist cause that Bin Laden once spearheaded is stronger than ever. Forces of al-Qaeda and other near identical jihadist factions now hold control of a large region of Iraq and Syria that exceeds the area of Britain, whilst other Islamist gangs run amok throughout Libya. Thus, after a decade of dirty wars executed by means of “shock and awe” air strikes, the perpetual overhead threat of drones and the knock at the door that ends with secret rendition to faraway torture sites, the “war on terror” has been lost. “Terror” reigns supreme as the victor: terror from all sides that is.

But then, it is hard to imagine any foreign policy that could have manufactured and spread terrorism more effectively than the policies enacted during this decade-long “war on terror”. Blowback? Up to a point. But, we must not forget that all of the many al-Qaeda factions that have gained so much territory could never have done so without our help. Whether indirectly, with the establishment of the power vacuum in Iraq, or more purposefully, with Nato bombers opening the way for the Islamist insurgency in Libya. But mostly, the gains of al-Qaeda are thanks to the very generous funding of one of America and Britain’s closest allies, that bastion of freedom and democracy, Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Bin Laden, and the nation known to have the closest ties to those accused of the 9/11 attacks. Attacks that provided the very springboard from which the “war on terror” was launched all those years ago. These are the facts and none can be refuted, so make of them what you will – if it was a plot for a film it would seem ludicrously far-fetched.

Of course, the “war on terror” lost a great deal of its public appeal with the bludgeoning of Iraq, and so under Obama we’ve had “humanitarian interventions”. But this new gloss has also flaked away, with the majority of people in the West absolutely sick of war. That said, the wars go on regardless – wreaking havoc but still satisfying the insatiable thirst for blood demanded by our military-industrial-financial complex.

None of these wars have had anything to do with stamping out terrorism or, surely more laughably, the West’s desire to bring “freedom and democracy”. The United States’ covert backing of al-Qaeda is nothing new and neither is the West’s more brazen support of al-Qaeda’s primary sponsor Saudi Arabia? If the wars were about either terrorism or “freedom and democracy”, then the Saudi regime would surely have topped the charts of “the axis of evil”.

In truth, the game never changed. And sadly it is a game (at least to those currently holding power) – as Zbigniew Brzezinski, one of America’s leading geopolitical strategists, makes clear not least with the title of his notorious book on Eurasian geostrategy, “The Grand Chessboard”. In it he wrote:

In brief, for the United States, Eurasian geostrategy involves the purposeful management of geostrategically dynamic states and the careful handling of geopolitically catalytic states, in keeping with the twin interests of America in the short-term: preservation of its unique global power and in the long-run transformation of it into increasingly institutionalized global cooperation. To put it in a terminology that hearkens back to the more brutal age of ancient empires, the three grand imperatives of imperial geostrategy are to prevent collusion and maintain security dependence among the vassals, to keep tributaries pliant and protected, and to keep the barbarians from coming together.4

This neo-imperialist game is much the same as the older imperialist game, in which only the strategies have been updated. It is about control of territory, of energy resources, of financial systems, and it has (and always did) amount to a series of proxy wars against the competing interests of competing powers. Traditionally Russia have been the great adversary, but now there is China too. So the Cold War that officially concluded with the fall of the Berlin Wall in October 1989… ended only in name. With the Ukrainian crisis (or should that be “Ukraine Crisis”) the chill that remained has become considerably icier. Treacherously so. But our military-industrial-financial complex needs perpetual war just to keep the racket going, or, when that ceases to be an option (as it now has), to maintain the illusion of an imminent threat against us. Bin Laden is dead, so a new Cold War is just the ticket. On top of which, as Brzezinski also explained in his book:

“Ukraine, a new and important space on the Eurasian chessboard, is a geopolitical pivot because its very existence as an independent country helps to transform Russia. Without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be a Eurasian empire.”

Here’s Stephen Cohen again:

The real debate going on in NATO—the real debate, because this is a distraction—is what Rasmussen said in your earlier clip—he’s the political head of NATO—that we’re building up, as we talk, our forces in eastern Europe. Now, understand what’s going on here. When we took in—”we” meaning the United States and NATO—all these countries in eastern Europe into NATO, we did not—we agreed with the Russians we would not put forward military installations there. We built some infrastructure—air strips, there’s some barracks, stuff like that. But we didn’t station troops that could march toward Russia there. Now what NATO is saying, it is time to do that. Now, Russia already felt encircled by NATO member states on its borders. The Baltics are on its borders. If we move the forces, NATO forces, including American troops, to—toward Russia’s borders, where will we be then? I mean, it’s obviously going to militarize the situation, and therefore raise the danger of war.

And I think it’s important to emphasize, though I regret saying this, Russia will not back off. This is existential. Too much has happened. Putin—and it’s not just Putin. We seem to think Putin runs the whole of the universe. He has a political class. That political class has opinions. Public support is running overwhelmingly in favor of Russian policy. Putin will compromise at these negotiations, but he will not back off if confronted militarily. He will not.

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A trade war opens the way for new trade deals

The new cold war isn’t only a military escalation, it also potentially marks the beginning of a new trade war. But due to reliance on Russia imports (especially when it comes to energy) EU sanctions on Russia will be difficult, and so one way forward could involve loosening trade restrictions between the EU and the US.

The following passages are taken from a press release by the European Council following the recent EU-US Summit in Brussels. It begins:

Recent events in Ukraine have confirmed that strong cooperation between the European Union and the United States on peace and security is of critical importance.

Continuing under the next heading “Economy and global challenges” as follows:

Reinforcing economic growth and job creation remains central on both sides of the Atlantic. The EU and the United States have taken important steps to stabilise financial conditions and overcome the crisis. The EU remains committed to building a deep and genuine economic and monetary union, including a banking union. […]

The EU and US leaders renewed their commitment to a strong Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). this should go beyond a free trade agreement and reaffirm Europe and the United States’ shared values of democracy, individual freedom, the rule of law and human rights, and a common commitment to open societies and economies. [bold highlights maintained from original source]

And what is TTIP? Here are additional notes at the end of the same press release:

The EU and US have decided to take their economic relationship to a higher level by agreeing to launch negotiations on a comprehensive trade and investment agreement. It aims to remove trade barriers in a wide range of economic sectors to make it easier to buy and sell goods and services between the EU and the US.

In fact, I have already touched on the subject of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) as well as its sister treaty the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) . Both of these “free-trade agreements” appear to have alternative and conflicting names and acronyms and in the case of TTIP it is also known as the Transatlantic Free Trade Area, abbreviated as TAFTA, which is how it appeared in that earlier post. Why trade agreements need to have multiple names becomes more apparent when you realise what this commitment to “freeing up regulations” will mean. Here are a few extracts from a detailed analysis published by Der Spiegel International and entitled “Corporation Carte Blanche: Will US-EU Trade Become Too Free?”:

Lori Wallach had but 10 minutes to speak when she stepped up to podium inside Room 405 at George Washington University, located not too far away from the White House. Her audience was made up of delegates currently negotiating the trans-Atlantic free trade agreement between the United States and the European Union.

They had already spent hours listening to presentations by every possible lobbying group — duty bound to hear myriad opinions. But when Wallach, a trade expert for the consumer protection group Public Citizen, took the stage, people suddenly started paying attention. The 49-year-old Harvard lawyer, after all, is a key figure in international trade debates.

“The planned deal will transfer power from elected governments and civil society to private corporations,” she said, warning that the project presents a threat of entirely new dimensions. [bold emphasis added]

How will TTIP help to transfer even more power out of democratic control and into the hands of the major corporations? Well, let us count the ways:

After the third round of negotiations, an unusually broad alliance of anti-globalization groups, NGOs, environmental and consumer protection groups, civil rights groups and organized labor is joining forces to campaign against TTIP.

These critics have numerous concerns about the treaty – including their collective fear that the convergence of standards will destroy important gains made over the years in health and nutrition policy, environmental protection and employee rights. They argue the treaty will make it easier for corporations to turn profits at the public’s expense in areas like water supply, health or education. It would also clear the path for controversial technologies like fracking or for undesired food products like growth hormone-treated meat to make their way to Europe. Broadly worded copyrights would also restrict access to culture, education and science. They also believe it could open the door to comprehensive surveillance.5

Click here to read the full article in Der Spiegel.

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Fracking for freedom (and digging for victory)

I have already highlighted at the end of an earlier and rather more extended post how energy giants Chevron and Exxon Mobil have been getting ready to move their operations to Ukraine with the intention of exploring both conventional and “unconventional” resources (otherwise known as “fracking”). On Saturday’s Keiser Report, Max Keiser spoke to freelance journalist JP Sottile of Newsvandal.com, who also occasionally writes for the Guardian, about not only how Big Oil, but also Big Agra, have their eyes fixed on Ukraine. Sottile names the people and corporations hoping to take advantage of Ukraine’s exceptional fertile lands. Here are some excerpts of what he had to say [from about 13 mins in]:

“One of the bones of contention with Russia, Europe, and its transit point Ukraine, is Russia’s domination of the natural gas market in Europe. So I thought it was very interesting when the deal was announced that Chevron was involved in developing shale gas in Ukraine. Now that would have been with the previous government of Yanukovych – and I believe that that led to a lot of the pressure coming out of Moscow for Yanukovych to reject the economic deal between Ukraine and Europe, and that then of course led to a cascading number of events, which led to the deposing of Yanukovych and the ‘crisis in Ukraine’ as it is now called.”

Beyond the oil and gas, Sottile has also looked closely into the interests of agricultural giants Cargill and Monsanto, who are keen to exploit Ukraine’s riches closer to the surface:

US-Ukraine Business Council is an investor in the US-Ukraine Foundation where Ms [Victoria] Nuland was speaking on December 13th [about how the US had already spent $5 billion helping Ukraine realise its “European aspirations”] and also on December 13th, that was the day that Cargill invested in a Black Sea port to help open the Russian market to its agriculture. Well, Cargill is also heavily invested in Ukraine in a company called Ukrlandfarming. The just bought a two hundred thousand dollar stake in Ukrlandfarming. In fact they bought that stake – or it was announced – on the very day, January 12th of this year, that fifty thousand Ukrainians flooded Kiev to protest the government of Yanukovych.

They are all connected through Freedom House – a guy there who worked with Ms Nuland, who is Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, she had a Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, a guy named David Kramer. David Kramer serves on – he’s actually head of Freedom House – Freedom House is one of the organisations that the United States uses to stoke democracy movements around the world. It is actually responsible, along with the National Endowment for Democracy, for funding many of the opposition forces there in Ukraine. And David Kramer also serves on the US-Ukraine Business Council. If you go the US-Ukraine Business Council – which is a very interesting organisation – on the executive board of the US-Ukraine Business Council you’ll find Cargill, Monsanto, John Deere, CNH International (which is a farming equipment and tractor-making company), Eli Lilly and DuPont Pioneer – DuPont Pioneer being the genetically modified organisms and agricultural wing of DuPont. And they all serve together under the guidance of a guy named Morgan Williams. Morgan Williams is CEO and President of US-Ukraine Business Council, and he has been a fixer for Archer Daniels Midland, Cargill, [and] other big agricultural companies in Ukraine for the last fifteen to twenty years.

There is an expression from my part of the world that goes: “where there’s muck, there’s brass”. Well, as Sottile’s investigations reveal, there’s loads of muck in Ukraine and not just in oil and gas deposits. Perhaps, as he suspects, the bigger prize is the land itself. Either way, the vultures are already circling. Except that they are more predatory than the much maligned vulture. Rather than waiting for a crisis to happen they have been directly involved in fomenting one, and now, as their “Ukraine Crisis” escalates, they won’t be planning to let it to go to waste.

Click here to read more about this in JP Sottile’s article entitled “Ukraine, Chevron, Condi Rice and Shale Gas… join the dots” published by The Ecologist magazine on March 18th.

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John Pilger on war with China, the West’s loss of perception, and how “many journalists have simply given up”

“When I first went to Hiroshima it was just over twenty years after the bomb was dropped and it had an extraordinary effect on me. I saw on the steps of a bank in the middle of Hiroshima, the shadow of a woman. She’d been sitting there, apparently preparing her lunch, sitting on the steps when the flash happened. The bomb dropped on August 6th 1945 and her image was burnt into the steps of the bank.

“I remember looking at this image of this woman – you could see her shape, her arms, almost her relaxed position – and the impact that had on me was quite profound actually. And it obviously had an impact on many people because they got rid of it. They got rid of the shadow. Japan under US pressure got rid of this extraordinary shadow and it’s not there anymore.

“Now I would suggest that that shadow represents something ahead of us unless we start understanding the true dangers of the recklessness of our own governments.” — John Pilger

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On today’s season finale special episode of Going Underground, Afshin Rattansi speaks to award-winning journalist and film-maker John Pilger in an extended interview about the current state of global affairs as it enters what Pilger describes as a state of world war: the ‘Coming War on China’ that he had warned about in an earlier documentary (embedded within the transcript below) has already arrived he says.

He also discusses his concern with John Bolton being at the ear of Donald Trump amidst the collapse of the global nuclear arms control framework that saw the end of the INF Treaty and the beginning of a new arms race with Russia; a situation where Washington’s goal is to break up the Russian Federation under Putin. He likewise sees a growing risk of war between other nuclear superpowers, most especially Pakistan and India.

Pilger also talks about western sanctions imposed on Venezuela and Iran and how they are deliberately bringing suffering to the citizens of those countries; how Brexit has provided a distraction from the most pressing issues at home (such as austerity and the NHS) and abroad; and finally, he provides an update on the condition of Wikileaks founder and publisher Julian Assange, after he visited him recently in Belmarsh prison:

The full transcript of the interview is my own [interview begins at 2:30 mins]:

Afshin Rattansi: John thanks for coming back on. Boris Johnson [is] in Germany today. All eyes on the G7 at the end of the week: Russia not invited, China not considered by the IMF to be an advanced economy, but they will be talking about China apparently – we are being led to believe that Hong Kong is the centre of this weekend’s negotiations or talks.

John Pilger: Yes – what are these talks about? Excluding two of the most interesting developed powers in the world, China and Russia. I mean you know the truth is – what nobody is talking about – is there is a world war. It’s not a shooting war. But it could easily become a world war. There is a war already on China.

There has been a war of attrition against Russia for some years now: breaking up the Russian Federation is an American objective. Maintaining the supremacy of the US in all areas of human affairs – economic affairs, cultural affairs – is what particularly this regime in Washington is committed to. All regimes have been committed to.

It’s now reaching a head because they see a challenge in China. A challenge, and undoubtedly it’s an economic challenge, but it’s not a military challenge. This Nineteenth Century view of the world that permeates Washington and has returned to this country, the United Kingdom, has now created a war situation with China.

Very few know that China has now changed its nuclear posture from low alert – that is separating the warheads from missiles – to high alert – putting them together, the same as the United States. That’s something China didn’t do for many, many years, but they are clearly worried there now.

AR: You’re documentary was “The Coming War on China”, but you’re saying it is a war: we’ve seen colour revolutions thwarted – some successful against Putin in Russia. Is Hong Kong – millions of pounds have gone in from the National Endowment for Democracy – does Beijing understand what Hong Kong is?

JP: Oh yes. Yes, I think Beijing understands perfectly. The reason there is a rebellion in China is complex, of course, the people in Hong Kong do have a grievance. There is an inequality. But really what has happened is that manufacturing has moved to the mainland. The interference in Hong Kong, the subversion in Hong Kong by the US through the National Endowment for Democracy, through its local agents… and by all the others who make regular pilgrimages to John Bolton. Of course they are part of the war on China.

That’s not to take away from the fact that there are grievances within China – within Hong Kong – but Hong Kong didn’t sign up for two countries, two systems. It signed up for one country and two systems. And I find it almost grotesque the whole idea [that] the Union Jack should be draped over the speaker’s chair in the assembly in Hong Kong, when it was the Union Jack over hundred that represented an oppressive system.

I went to Hong Kong several times to write about the oppression of the police under the British. A corrupt police force led by British officers. A brutal police force. There was never any democracy.

AR: Even up to the 1990s?

JP: Right up to the 1990s. What there was – Hong Kong has been a business island. Well one could say that perhaps China is a business nation. And the mainland has usurped this special role of Hong Kong.

AR: So why here are we treated to endless images – as you say, no doubt some of these protesters have justification for opposing what is going on in Hong Kong – but yet the Gilets Jaunes protests are probably not going to be discussed in Biarritz this weekend at the G7?

JP: Because never before have people been called upon to think within such a narrow spectrum. And we could sit here all day talking about the iniquities of the media and so on, but it’s even wider than the media. There is a spectrum in which we are, if you like, allowed to think.

The news is dominated by Hong Kong and yet 29 miles from England there’s France, and this extraordinary rebellion of the Yellow Jackets, which has produced the most equally extraordinary violence from the state, has been virtually ignored. The same is true of Kashmir. I mean Kashmir was a fleeting moment, if you like, allowed into our perception. And here is a country bigger than Belgium, bigger than Portugal – 30 million people – where people are denied everything by the Indian state: denied food, freedom of movement, freedom of expression. India’s been doing this for a very, very long time. But India is our friend – the world’s greatest democracy and so…

AR: Trump says he’s being even-handed on it. China, of course, which has an interest there – another nuclear power apart from the other two – has taken it up at the Security Council.

JP: It’s our perception, I suppose, that we’re thinking about here… the way people are concerned that we’re going to run out of medicines after October 31st. We have no perception of the way the people of Iran are suffering under the sanctions that deny cancer drugs almost entirely because of these sanctions.

We have no perception of the way the people of Venezuela are suffering under sanctions. We have absolutely zilch understanding of how the people of Gaza continue to suffer in their open prison, as that has been obliterated almost from the news agenda and by extension from our perception. So within this spectrum – this narrow spectrum – the manipulation of people is probably the most extraordinary I’ve know in my career as a journalist.

AR: But obviously it’s not a physiological problem amongst journalists in newsrooms around the world that they can’t understand say Brexit no deal – there’s going to be problems here with medicines and food – and not understanding Yemen.

JP: I think journalists have given up. Many journalists have simply given up. There is a so-called mainstream, which is a misnomer: it’s not a mainstream at all, it’s an agency of extreme economic policies, policies that produce 4.1 million children in poverty in Britain.

AR: Four million children, two million under the age of five in Britain.

JP: Yes. And the kind of suffering that has come out of these extreme policies – called neoliberalism or whatever you want to call it – is echoed through our media in the same way that the whole absence of a warning that these virulent campaigns against China and Russia (particularly against the nuclear armed countries) could actually lead to something.

The abandonment by the United States of the INF treaty – the most important anti-nuclear war treaty ever signed – and here we had yesterday, I think it was, the US now testing again these intermediate-range nuclear weapons. And Russia, Putin, saying well yes of course we’re in an arms race again. The dangers of this. The dangers of accidentally, mistakenly beginning a nuclear war are not known to most people. That’s left out of this spectrum.

AR: Some say the INF treaty had to be revised because China was always opposing and violating the terms… in which the INF treaty was originally negotiated between Gorbachev and…

JP: That would come out of Washngton. And even if that treaty did need revision, then revise it. I remember those discussions and I interviewed a number of the American negotiators, extraordinary men… who sat down and negotiated with the Russians these complex treaties. They were serious people. We are not dealing with serious people.

AR: Some school textbooks in this country still say that Hiroshima and Nagasaki were the prices to pay for ending the Second World War. You went there.

JP: You only have to read the US Air Force bombing survey and it’s very clear that that wasn’t the case.

When I first went to Hiroshima it was just over twenty years after the bomb was dropped and it had an extraordinary effect on me. I saw on the steps of a bank in the middle of Hiroshima, the shadow of a woman. She’d been sitting there, apparently preparing her lunch, sitting on the steps when the flash happened. The bomb dropped on August 6th 1945 and her image was burnt into the steps of the bank.

I remember looking at this image of this woman – you could see her shape, her arms, almost her relaxed position – and the impact that had on me was quite profound actually. And it obviously had an impact on many people because they got rid of it. They got rid of the shadow. Japan under US pressure got rid of this extraordinary shadow and it’s not there anymore.

Now I would suggest that that shadow represents something ahead of us unless we start understanding the true dangers of the recklessness of our own governments.

AR: Well, John Bolton, the National Security Advisor, who advises Trump we are led to believe, says that all options should be on the table against dictators like Maduro, against people in Iran who lead their government – attacking all these different places.

JP: I’ve interviewed John Bolton. John Bolton comes as close to being a political lunatic as you can get.

AR: He had friendly conversations with Boris Johnson here just the other week.

JP: Often political lunatics can have a very friendly conversation with others if they recognise similarities. But Bolton particularly is a man absolutely salivating it appears – and I don’t think I’ve ever said this about any politician of this kind – for a war. Or for an attack. Or for an overthrow. Or for a coup. That he is in the position he is in is the most terrifying thing.

AR: In foreign policy terms you see the European Union, which completely backs John Bolton’s view on Venezuela – Britain and Brussels completely aligned with Washington saying Juan Guaidó is the real leader of Venezuela. The EU is an arm of Nato?

JP: Well, you see the problem with the whole Brexit nonsense – this utterly almost internecine struggle of wills following the referendum in 2016 – is how much it excludes. There is no public debate, certainly no parliamentary debate – probably there never would have been – no public debate on the fact that the European Union is an agency of Nato. And Nato is, almost by definition, certainly by example, a nuclear war fighting provocative organisation. All this is supported by the EU. It should be part of our debate about the EU. I have no doubt there are great virtues in some things about the EU.

AR: Of course it’s the kind of thing Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour Party here in Britain, used to talk about. Is there reason why he perhaps has been on the fence – or is regarded as being on the fence about Lexit versus Brexit, because he understands that?

JP: Jeremy Corbyn seems to have become so overwhelmed by Brexit, whereas the country – this country – in which so many people are suffering is as a result of this hideous ideology “austerity”. One only has to drive outside London as I’ve done in making the film I’ve made about the National Health Service. And drive into rather nice places like Wiltshire and see the boarded up towns. This needs a Labour leader.

Now Jeremy Corbyn has presented himself as that Labour leader, but Brexit seems to have overwhelmed every party, anyone who steps anywhere near Parliament or this subject – it’s a very important subject, of course. No deal or not no deal. But what is most important is whether the National Health Service will survive, not Brexit, but will survive the ideological attacks on it. Whether people will survive this hideous mutation of welfare called Universal Credit.

In Durham, a father of three killed himself because he had no money anymore, it hadn’t come through under Universal Credit. The suffering of people in this developed country, which is now the sixth or seventh richest country in the world, is obscene.

AR: This is a week when the Childhood Trust has said that in Britain children are eating toilet paper to stave off hunger. Is this in a sense, when you talk about the United States or Germany, is this the Achilles heel? Because, of course, Bernie Sanders, Tulsi Gabbard, there are people heading to 2020 to overthrow, democratically, Donald Trump, who seem to have a different vision. And is the 2008 crisis the context: the foreign policy, the home policy, the starvation?

JP: I mean I think Sanders and the rest of them are social democrats rushing to catch up with a kind of social democracy which has been in Europe and is now being rapidly extinguished. But their foreign policy doesn’t change. We had two of the leading socialists – at least they are members of the Democratic Socialists of America – vote for Donald Trump’s 738 billion arms budget recently in Congress. That should concern us in the outside world, that Sanders and the others – which they interestingly call “the left” in the United States – okay, but they’re social democrats – whether they bring some form of civilised life to a country where now up to half the population are suffering some form of impoverishment (in the United States).

AR: You certainly won’t hear them defending Julian Assange of Wikileaks. If anything they might arguably be seen as part of those people who consider Wikileaks a Russian cut-out of an organisation. You met Julian Assange in Belmarsh prison not far from this studio. Chelsea Manning of course is refusing to testify against Julian Assange. She’s in solitary in the United States. Tell me first of all about Julian’s health.

JP: Can I just say very quickly, first you know we’ve been talking about censorship by omission on a huge scale. A federal court ruled that there was no Russian connection with Julian Assange. That he had constitutional rights to do as he did as a journalist and as a publisher, and that has been completely ignored.

Julian’s own condition is, how do I put it, very dangerous. When I last saw him about ten days ago I was shocked because he’d lost more weight. He was isolated. They seemed to be imposing a regime that must be punitive on him of isolation. He’s in the health wing – what they call the ‘healthcare wing’ or ‘hospital wing’ – of Belmarsh prison, but he’s in a single cell and he told me that I see people walking by and I’d like to talk to them but I can’t.

Category A prisoners, murderers and others who have committed serious crimes, are allowed to fraternise; Julian is not allowed to fraternise. He’s not even allowed to telephone his American lawyers and he’s facing extradition to the United States. He had to wait two and a half months to see an optician and then when he got his glasses one of the lens didn’t work.

He’s being denied the right – the right – to prepare his own defence. He’s denied access to documents. Access to the library. A laptop. His lawyer, his solicitor Gareth Peirce spoke to the governor on the fourth of June about this and received no reply. What’s going on?

We understand if there is no basic justice in the treatment of somebody like this, who is in prison because he infringed bail – that is just about the merest – it’s not a crime actually – it is about the merest thing that the law can nail you for (and that is infringing your bail). He is there also, of course, because he is facing US extradition. But primarily he is there for this minor offence and he has been treated in the way that political prisoners are treated all over the world. That’s a moniker that won’t be appreciated, but it applies.

AR: Have his previous partners, the Guardian newspaper in London, The New York Times, have they helped to seal his fate?

JP: Yes they have helped to seal his fate. Mind you they’re worried. They’re worried because in the federal court ruling it was made clear by the judge in this very considered judgement that newspapers like The New York TimesThe New York Times and the Guardian published the war logs in 2010 – the war logs from Iraq, the war logs of Afghanistan that Wikileaks had been the conduit for, had passed to them – they published them first, before Wikileaks.

In law, and that’s what he [the judge] was saying, they are as liable. But they are also, as Julian is – and this was the point he was making – are protected by the US Constitution. Now the US Constitution is being torn up by the Trump administration. That’s why Julian, basically, is in the trouble he is.

All these charges that he’s meant to be facing in the United States are concocted. They’re ridiculous. They don’t apply. They are charges against a journalist and a publisher, but they would apply equally against the editor-in-chief of the Guardian, the editor of The New York Times, and the editor of El País, the editor of Der Spiegel, the editor of The Sydney Morning Herald. They know this and they’re worried.

But they’re in such cahoots, they collude so deeply with the establishment of their country, and that now means the intelligence agencies – they have the power now in western societies – they collude so deeply with them that they dare not speak up. I suggest that as this whole grotesque charade against Julian Assange goes on, they should speak up pretty quickly.

Not all of the views expressed are necessarily views shared by ‘wall of controversy’.

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