Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Gellhorn for Robert Parry

Robert Parry Wins 2017 Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism 

by John Pilger


28 June 2017 
 
John Pilger made the following remarks in presenting the 15th Martha Gellhorn Prize to the American journalist Robert Parry at a dinner in London on 27 June 2017...


There are too many awards for journalism. Too many simply celebrate the status quo. The idea that journalists ought to challenge the status quo - what Orwell called Newspeak and Robert Parry calls 'groupthink' - is becoming increasingly rare.

More than a generation ago, a space opened up for a journalism that dissented from the groupthink and flourished briefly and often tenuously in the press and broadcasting.

Today, that space has almost closed in the so-called mainstream media. The best journalists have become - often against their will - dissidents.

The Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism recognises these honourable exceptions. It is very different from other prizes. Let me quote in full why we give this award:

'The Gellhorn Prize is in honour of one of the 20th century's greatest reporters. It is awarded to a journalist whose work has penetrated the established version of events and told an unpalatable truth - a truth validated by powerful facts that expose what Martha Gellhorn called "official drivel". She meant establishment propaganda.'

Martha was renowned as a war reporter. Her dispatches from Spain in the 1930s and D-Day in 1944 are classics. But she was more than that. As both a reporter and a committed humanitarian, she was a pioneer: one of the first in Vietnam to report what she called 'a new kind of war against civilians': a precursor to the wars of today.

She was the reason I was sent to Vietnam as a reporter. My editor had spread across his desk her articles that had run in the Guardian and the St Louis Post-Dispatch. A headline read, 'Targeting the people.' For that series, she was placed on a black-list by the US military and never allowed to return to South Vietnam.

She and I became good friends. Indeed, all my fellow judges of the Martha Gellhorn Prize - Sandy and Shirlee Matthews, James Fox, Jeremy Harding - have that in common. We keep her memory.

She was indefatigable. She would call very early in the morning and open up the conversation with one of her favourite expressions - 'I smell a rat'.

When, in 1990, President George Bush Senior invaded Panama on the pretext of nabbing his old CIA buddy General Noriega, the embedded media made almost no mention of civilian suffering.

My phone rang. 'I smell a rat', said a familiar voice.

Within 24 hours Martha was on a plane to Panama. She was then in her 80s. She went straight to the barrios of Panama City, and walked from door to door, interviewing ordinary people. That was the way she worked - in apartheid South Africa, in the favelas of Brazil, in the villages of Vietnam.

She estimated that the American bombing and invasion of Panama had killed at least 6,000 people.

She flew to Washington and stood up at a press conference at the Pentagon and asked a general: 
'Why did you kill so many people then lie about it?'

Imagine that question being asked today. And that is what we are honouring this evening. Truth-telling, and the courage to find out, to ask the forbidden question.

Robert Parry is a very distinguished honourable exception.

I first heard of Bob Parry in the 1980s when he broke the Iran-Contra scandal as an Associated Press reporter. This was a story as important as Watergate. Some would say it was more important.

The administration of Ronald Reagan had secretly and illegally sold weapons to Iran in order to secretly and illegally bankroll a bloodthirsty group known as the Contras, which was then trying to crush Nicaragua's Sandinista government - on behalf of the CIA. You could barely make it up.

Bob Parry's career has been devoted to finding out, lifting rocks - and supporting others who do the same.

In the 1990s, he supported Gary Webb, who revealed that the Reagan administration had allowed the Contras to traffic cocaine in the US. For this, Webb was crucified by the so-called mainstream media, and took his own life. Lifting the big rocks can be as dangerous as a war zone.

In 1995, Parry founded his own news service, the Consortium for Independent Journalism. But, really, there was just him. Today, his website consortiumnews.com reflects the authority and dissidence that marks Parry's career.

What he does is make sense of the news - why Saudi Arabia should be held accountable; why the invasion of Libya was a folly and a crime; why the New York Times is an apologist for great power; why Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have much in common; why Russia is not our enemy; why history is critical to understanding.

For his journalism, Robert Parry is the winner of the 2017 Martha Gellhorn Prize. He joins the likes of Robert Fisk, Iona Craig, Patrick Cockburn, Mohammed Omer, Dahr Jamail, Marie Colvin, Julian Assange, Gareth Porter and other honourable exceptions.

Syria Gas: First the Bald Accusation, Then the Missile Strike, Then the Investigation (maybe)

US Targets Syria, Iran and Russia Using Same Debunked “Chemical Weapons” Narrative

by Whitney Webb - MintPress News 


June 28, 2017

Monday, award-winning journalist Seymour Hersh exposed the U.S.’ justification for bombing the Syrian government in April as having been based on a lie. But the U.S. is still using the same debunked justification to target not only the Syrian government, but also Russia and Iran.


On Monday, Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Seymour Hersh – best known for breaking some of the biggest stories of the Vietnam and Iraq wars – managed to prove the Trump administration’s decision to bomb Syrian government territory was based on false pretenses, entirely unsupported by U.S. military intelligence.

The bombing, which saw 49 Tomahawk missiles hit a largely defunct Syrian airbase, was a response to the Trump administration’s claim that the Syrian government had carried out a sarin gas attack on civilians in the al-Nusra Front-controlled town of Khan Sheikoun in Syria’s Idlib Province last April. But as Hersh revealed, Trump issued the order to target the airbase even though the entire U.S. intelligence community had already told him that they had no evidence that the Syrian government had used a chemical weapon in Idlib.

In addition, a senior adviser to the U.S. intelligence community told Hersh that he is concerned that Trump will respond with military force every time there is even an accusation of the Syrian government using chemical weapons, regardless of the presence of evidence.

“The issue is, what if there’s another false flag sarin attack credited to hated Syria? Trump has upped the ante and painted himself into a corner with his decision to bomb. And do not think these guys are not planning the next faked attack,” the adviser told Hersh.
“Trump will have no choice but to bomb again, and harder. He’s incapable of saying he made a mistake.”

The Trump administration proved the adviser’s concerns to be correct less than a day after Hersh’s exposé was published. On Monday night, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer announced that the U.S. had “identified potential preparation for another chemical weapons attack by the Assad regime that would likely result in the mass murder of civilians, including innocent children.”

Spicer also noted that the alleged activity taking place was “similar to preparations the regime made before its April 4, 2017 chemical weapons attack.” The White House also warned that the Syrian government will pay a “heavy price” if another similar attack takes place.

The Trump administration’s claims regarding these “preparations” lack credibility, as no evidence to support its claims about the April gas attack has been presented to date. In addition, according to The Associated Press, numerous state department officials who are normally involved in coordinating such statements were apparently unaware of the White House’s warning.

The Associated Press also noted that the warning did not appear to have been discussed in advance with other national security agencies, even though the Pentagon, U.S. intelligence agencies and the State Department are typically consulted before the White House issues any declarations that could have a major impact on U.S. foreign policy.

The Syrian government has denied the White House’s latest accusations, suggesting that they foreshadow a coming diplomatic campaign against Syria at the United Nations. Russia also responded by calling the U.S. threats to Syria’s government “unacceptable.”

Recent statements by Nikki Haley, the U.S. representative at the United Nations, paint a worrisome picture for the likely outcome of the situation. In a Monday night tweet, Haley stated that “any further attacks done to the people of Syria will be blamed on Assad, but also on Russia & Iran who support him killing his own people.”

Haley’s tweet suggests that any attack in which Syrian civilians are killed, whether it is committed by the Islamic State or the U.S. itself, could be blamed on Assad. The U.S. recently used chemical weapons in Syria and killed over 400 Syrian civilians just last month with no international outcry.

Her tweet also suggests that Russia and Iran could be targeted in the aftermath of such an attack as well. According to Hersh’s sources, this is part of the plan. In a conversation obtained by Hersh, a U.S. security adviser revealed that the U.S. has long had ulterior motives in Syria that go far beyond the borders of that country: “There has been a hidden agenda all along. This is about trying to ultimately go after Iran.”

It seems that the possibility of a false flag chemical weapons attack taking place in Syria is no longer an “if,” but a “when.” With intense U.S. military reconnaissance already taking place along the Syrian coast and U.S. allies falling into place to support any action the U.S. may take, existing tensions in Syria are about to become even more heated.

Whitney Webb is a MintPress contributor who has written for several news organizations in both English and Spanish; her stories have been featured on ZeroHedge, the Anti-Media, 21st Century Wire, and True Activist among others - she currently resides in Southern Chile.
More articles by Whitney Webb

Are Trump's "Chemical Attack" Charges Another Prelude to Broadened Syria War?

Is Trump's 'Warning' to Syria a Prelude to Another Strike?

by TRNN


June 28, 2017

The US has issued a new threat to Syria over chemical weapons. On Monday, the White House said it believes Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, is preparing a new chemical weapons attack and that he would pay a heavy price if one takes place. That statement appeared to catch the Pentagon off guard, but on Tuesday, military officials said the US had picked up chemical weapons activity at the same airbase that the US bombed in April. Syria and Russia have rejected the claim and call it a provocation. The US has been ramping up military operations inside Syria, recently shooting down a Syrian warplane and increasingly targeting Iranian-backed forces. The Washington Post reports that Senior White House Officials are "focused as much on Iran as on the Islamic state."

Award-winning author and journalist Max Blumenthal says that with its recent military escalation in Syria and its backing of Saudi Arabia, the Trump administration might be de-prioritizing the fight against ISIS in order to confront Iran.



Max Blumenthal is an award-winning journalist and bestselling author whose articles and video documentaries have appeared in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The Daily Beast, The Nation, The Guardian, The Independent Film Channel, The Huffington Post, Salon.com, Al Jazeera English and many other publications. His most recent book is Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel. His other book, Republican Gomorrah: Inside The Movement That Shattered The Party, is a New York Times and Los Angeles Times bestseller. 

Understanding Without a TV Guide: Watching the Forever War

America at War Since 9/11: Reality or Reality TV?

by Rebecca Gordon - TomDispatch


June 27, 2017

The headlines arrive in my inbox day after day: “U.S.-led airstrikes in Syria killed hundreds of civilians, U.N. panel says.” “Pentagon wants to declare more parts of world as temporary battlefields.” “The U.S. was supposed to leave Afghanistan by 2017. Now it might take decades.” There are so many wars and rumors of war involving our country these days that it starts to feel a little unreal, even for the most devoted of news watchers. And for many Americans, it’s long been that way. For them, the meaning of war is closer to reality TV than it is to reality.

On a June day, you could, for instance, open the New York Times and read that “airstrikes by the American-led coalition against Islamic State targets have killed hundreds of civilians around Raqqa, the militant group’s last Syrian stronghold, and left 160,000 people displaced.”

Or you could come across statistics two orders of magnitude larger in learning from a variety of sources that famine is stalking 17 million people in Yemen. That is the predictable result of a Saudi Arabian proxy war against Iran, a campaign supported by the U.S. with weaponry and logistical assistance, in which, according to Human Rights Watch, the U.S. may well be complicit in torture.

You could contemplate the fact that in Iraq, a country the United States destabilized with its 2003 invasion and occupation, there are still at least three million internally displaced people, according to the U.N. High Commission for Refugees; or that more than 411,000 Iraqis remain displaced from their homes in Mosul alone since the Iraqi army launched a U.S.-backed offensive to drive ISIS out of that city last October.

Yes, it’s possible to click on those links or to catch so many other Internet or TV news reports about how such American or American-backed wars are damaging infrastructure, destroying entire health care systems, uprooting millions, and putting at risk the education of whole generations thousands of miles away. But none of it is real for most of us in this country.

Tomgram: Rebecca Gordon, All War All the Time, or War American-Style

At 36% to 37% in the latest polls, Donald Trump’s approval rating is in a ditch in what should still be the “honeymoon” period of his presidency. And yet, compared to Congress (25%), he’s a maestro of popularity. In fact, there’s just one institution in American society that gets uniformly staggeringly positive votes of “confidence” from Americans in polls and that’s the U.S. military (83%). And this should be the greatest mystery of them all.

That military, keep in mind, hasn’t won a significant conflict since World War II. (In retrospect, the First Gulf War, which once seemed like a triumph beyond compare for the globe’s highest-tech force, turned out to be just the first step into the never-ending quagmire of Iraq.) In this century, the U.S. military has, in fact, stumbled from one “successful” invasion to another, one terror-spreading conflict to the next, without ever coming up for air. Meanwhile, the American taxpayer has poured money into the Pentagon and the rest of the national security state in amounts that should boggle the mind. And yet, the U.S. hasn’t been able to truly extricate itself from a single country it's gotten involved in across the Greater Middle East for decades. In the wake of its ministrations, nations have crumbled, allies have been crippled, and tens of millions of people across a vast region of the planet have been uprooted from their homes and swept into the maelstrom. In other words, Washington’s version of imperial war fighting should be seen as the record from hell for a force regularly hailed here as the “finest” in history. The question is: finest at what?

All of this is on the record. All of this should be reasonably apparent to anyone half-paying attention and yet the American public’s confidence in the force fighting what Rebecca Gordon has termed “forever wars” is almost off the charts. For that, you can undoubtedly blame, in part, the urge of the military high command never again to experience a citizen’s army roiled by antiwar protests and in near revolt as in the Vietnam era. As a result, in 1973, the draft was ended and in the decades that followed the public was successfully demobilized when it came to American war. George W. Bush’s classic post-9/11 suggestion that Americans respond to the horror of those falling towers by visiting Disney World and enjoying “life the way we want it to be enjoyed” caught that mood exactly. But the explanation undoubtedly goes deeper yet, as TomDispatch regular Gordon, author of American Nuremberg, suggests today. Tom 

America at War Since 9/11: Reality or Reality TV?

by Rebecca Gordon


How could it be real? Most of us no longer have any idea what war is like for the people who live through it. No major war has been fought on U.S. territory since the Civil War ended in 1865, and the last people who remembered that terrible time died decades before the turn of this century. There is no one around to give us a taste of that reality -- except of course for the refugees that the Trump administration is now doing its best to keep out.

In addition, Americans who once were mobilized to support their country’s wars in distant lands (remember Victory Gardens or war bond drives?) are simply told to carry on with their lives as if it were peacetime. And the possibility of going to war in an army of citizen draftees has long been put to rest by America’s “all-volunteer” military.

As the U.S. battlefield expands, the need becomes ever greater for people in this country to understand the reality of war, especially now that we have a president from the world of “reality” TV. During the second half of the twentieth century, Congress repeatedly ceded its constitutional power to declare war to successive executive administrations. At the moment, however, we have in Donald Trump a president who appears to be bored with those purloined powers (and with the very idea of civilian control over the military). In fact, our feckless commander-in-chief seems to be handing over directly to that military all power to decide when and where this country sends its troops or launches its missiles from drones.

Now that our democratic connection to the wars fought in our name has receded yet one more step from our real lives and any civilian role in war (except praising and thanking “the warriors”) is fading into the history books, isn’t it about time to ask some questions about the very nature of reality and of those wars?

War From the Civilian Point of View


We think of wars, reasonably enough, as primarily affecting the soldiers engaged in them. The young men and women who fight -- some as volunteers and some who choose military service over unemployment and poverty -- do sometimes die in “our” wars. And even if they survive, as we now know, their bodies and psyches often bear the lifelong scars of the experience.

Indeed, I’ve met some of these former soldiers in the college philosophy classes I teach. There was the erstwhile Army sniper who sat in the very back of the classroom, his left leg constantly bouncing up and down. The explosion of a roadside bomb had broken his back and left him in constant pain, but the greatest source of his suffering, as he told me, was the constant anxiety that forced him on many days to walk out halfway through the class. Then there was the young man who’d served in Baghdad and assured me, “If anyone fought in Afghanistan or Iraq, and they say they came back whole, they’re either lying or they just haven’t realized yet what happened to them.”

And there were the young women who told the class that, in fear, they’d had to move out of their homes because their boyfriends came back from the wars as dangerous young men they no longer recognized. If we in this country know anything real about war, it’s from people like these -- from members of the military or those close to them.

But we only get the most partial understanding of war from veterans and their families. In fact, most people affected by modern wars are not soldiers at all. Somewhere between 60 and 80 million people died during World War II, and more than 60% of them were civilians. They died as victims of the usual horrific acts of war, or outright war crimes, or crimes against humanity. A similar number succumbed to war-related disease and famine, including millions in places most Americans don’t even think of as major sites of that war’s horrors: China, India, French Indochina, and the Dutch East Indies. And, of course, close to six million Poles, most of them Jews, along with at least 16 million Soviet civilians died in the brutal Nazi invasion and attempted occupation of major parts of the Soviet Union.

And that hardly ends the tally of civilians devastated by that war. Another 60 million people became displaced or refugees in its wake, many forever torn from their homes.

So what is war like for the people who live where it happens? We can find out a reasonable amount about that if we want to. It’s not hard to dig up personal accounts of such experiences in past wars. But what can we know about the civilians living through our country’s current wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, or Yemen? There, too, personal accounts are available, but you have to go searching.

Certainly, it’s possible, for instance, to learn something about the deaths of 200 people in a school hit by a single U.S. airstrike in the Syrian city of Raqqa. But that can’t make us feel the unendurable, inescapable pain of a human body being crushed in the collapse of that one school. It can’t make us hear the screams at that moment or later smell the stench of the decomposing dead. You have to be there to know that reality.

Still, daily life in a country at war isn’t all screams and stench. A lot of the time it’s just ordinary existence, but experienced with a kind of double awareness. On the one hand, you send your children to school, walk to the market to do your shopping, go out to your fields to plow or plant. On the other, you know that at any moment your ordinary life can be interrupted -- ended, in fact -- by forces over which you have no control.

That’s what it was like for me during the months I spent, as my partner likes to say, trying to get myself killed in somebody else’s country. In 1984, I worked for six months in the war zones of Nicaragua as a volunteer for Witness for Peace (WFP). In 1979, the Sandinista movement had led a national insurrection, overthrowing the U.S.-backed dictator Anastasio Somoza. In response, the U.S. had funded counterrevolutionaries, or “contras,” who, by the time I arrived, had launched a major military campaign against the Sandinistas. Under CIA direction, they had adopted a military strategy of sabotaging government services, including rural health clinics, schools, and phone lines, and terrorizing the civilian population with murders, kidnappings, torture, and mutilation.

My job was simple: to visit the towns and villages that they had attacked and record the testimony of the survivors. In the process, for instance, I talked to a man whose son had been hacked into so many pieces he had to bury him in the field where he had been left. I met the children of a 70-year-old man a week after the contras flayed him alive, slicing the skin off his face. I talked to the mayor of a town in northern Nicaragua, whose parents were kidnapped and tortured to death by the contras.

The original dream of WFP was somewhat more grandiose than collecting horror stories. American volunteers were to provide a “shield of love” for Nicaraguans threatened by the U.S.-supported contras. The theory was that they might be less inclined to attack a town if they knew that U.S. citizens were in the area, lest they bite the hand that was (however clandestinely) feeding them. In reality, the Sandinistas were unwilling to put guests like me at risk that way, and -- far from being a shield -- in times of danger we were sometimes an extra liability. In fact, the night the contras surrounded Jalapa, where I was staying for a few weeks, the town’s mayor sent a couple of soldiers with guns to guard the house of “the American pacifists.” So much for who was shielding whom. (On that particular night, the Nicaraguan army confronted the contras before they made it to Jalapa. We could hear a battle in the distance, but it never threatened the town itself.)

All that day, we’d been digging to help build Jalapa’s refugio, an underground shelter to protect children and old people in case of an aerial attack. Other town residents had been planting trees on the denuded hillsides where Somoza had allowed U.S. and Canadian lumber companies to clear-cut old-growth forest. This was dangerous work; tree planters were favorite contra targets. But most people in town were simply going about their ordinary lives -- working in the market, washing clothes, fixing cars -- while the loudspeakers on the edge of town blared news about the latest contra kidnappings.

This is what living in a war zone can be like: you plant trees that might take 20 years to mature, knowing at the same time that you might not survive the night.

Keep in mind that my experience was limited. I wasn’t a Nicaraguan. I could leave whenever I chose. And after those six months, I did go home. The Nicaraguans were home. In addition, the scale of that war was modest compared to the present U.S. wars across the Greater Middle East. And Nicaraguans were fortunate to escape some of the worst effects of a conflict fought in an agricultural society. So often, war makes planting and harvesting too dangerous to undertake and when the agricultural cycle is interrupted people begin to starve. In addition, it was short enough that, although the contras intentionally targeted schools and teachers, an entire generation did not lose their educations, as is happening now in parts of the Greater Middle East.

Many rural Nicaraguans lacked electricity and running water, so there was no great harm done when “se fue la luz” -- the electricity was cut off, as often happened when the contras attacked a power generator. Worse was when “se fue el agua” -- the water in people’s homes or at communal pumps stopped running, often as a result of a contra attack on a pumping station or their destruction of water pipes. Still, for the most part, these were unpleasant inconveniences in a rural society where electricity and running water were not yet all that common, and where people knew how to make do without.

Imagine instead that you live (or lived) in a major Middle Eastern city -- say, Ramadi, Fallujah, Mosul, or Aleppo (all now partially or nearly totally reduced to rubble), or even a city like Baghdad that, despite constant suicide bombings, is still functioning. Your life, of course, is organized around the modern infrastructure that brings light, power, and water into your home. In the United States, unless you live in Flint, Michigan, it’s hard to grasp what it might be like not to have potable water dependably spilling out of the faucet.

Suppose you got up one morning and your phone hadn’t charged overnight, the light switches had all stopped working, you couldn’t toast your Pop-Tarts, and there was no hope of a cup of coffee, because there was no water. No water all that day, or the next day, or the one after. What would you do after the bottled water was gone from the stores? What would you do as you watched your kids grow weak from thirst? Where would you go, when you knew you would die if you remained in the familiar place that had so long been your home? What, in fact, would you do if opposing armed forces (as in most of the cities mentioned above) fought it out in your very neighborhood?

Reality or Reality TV?


I’ve been teaching college students for over a decade. I now face students who have lived their entire conscious lives in a country we are told is “at war.” They’ve never known anything else, since the moment in 2001 when George W. Bush declared a Global War on Terror. But their experience of this war, like my own, is less reality, and more reality TV. Their iPhones work; the water and light in their homes are fine; their screens are on day and night. No one bombs their neighborhoods. They have no citizenly duty to go into the military. Their lives are no different due to the “war” (or rather wars) their country is fighting in their name in distant lands.

Theirs, then, is the strangest of “wars,” one without sacrifice. It lacks the ration books, the blackouts, the shortages my parents’ generation experienced during World War II. It lacks the fear that an enemy army will land on our coasts or descend from our skies. None of us fears that war will take away our food, electricity, water, or most precious of all, our Wi-Fi. For us, if we think about them at all, that set of distant conflicts is only an endless make-believe war, one that might as well be taking place on another planet in another universe.

Of course, in a sense, it’s inaccurate to say we’ve sacrificed nothing. The poorest among us have, in fact, sacrificed the most, living in a country willing to put almost any sum into the Pentagon and its wars, but “unable” to afford to provide the basic entitlements enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: life, food, clothing, housing, education, not to speak, these days, of infrastructure. What could a U.S. government do for the health, education, and general wellbeing of its people, if it weren’t devoting more than half the country’s discretionary spending to the military?

There’s something else we haven’t had to sacrifice, though: peace of mind. We don’t have to carry in our consciousness the effects of those wars on our soldiers, on our military adversaries, or on the millions of civilians whose bodies or lives have been mangled in them. Those effects have been largely airbrushed out of our mental portrait of a Pax Americana world. Our understanding of our country’s endless wars has been sanitized, manipulated, and packaged for our consumption the way producers manipulate and package the relationships of participants on reality TV shows like The Bachelor.

If Vietnam was the first televised war, then the 1991 Gulf War against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was the first video-game-style war. Who could forget the haunting green images of explosions over Baghdad on that first night (even if they've forgotten the 50 “decapitation” strikes against the Iraqi leadership that killed not one of them but dozens of civilians)? Who could forget the live broadcasts streamed from video cameras attached to “smart” bombs -- or the time two of them demolished what turned out to be a civilian air raid shelter, killing more than 200 people hiding inside? Who could forget those live reports from CNN that gave us the illusion that we were almost there ourselves and understood just what was seemingly unfolding before our eyes?

In fact, a University of Massachusetts study later found that “the more people watched TV during the Gulf crisis, the less they knew about the underlying issues, and the more likely they were to support the war.” And even if we did understand the “underlying issues,” did we understand what it’s like to find yourself trapped under the rubble of your own house?

During almost 16 years of war since the attacks of 9/11, the mystification on the “home front” has only grown, as attention has wandered and some of our ongoing wars (as in Afghanistan) have been largely forgotten. Our enemies change regularly. Who even remembers al-Qaeda in Iraq or that it became the Islamic State? Who remembers when we were fighting the al-Qaeda-inspired al-Nusra Front (or even that we were ever fighting them) instead of welcoming its militants into an alliance against Bashir al-Assad in Syria? The enemies may rotate, but the wars only continue and spread like so many metastasizing cancer cells.

Even as the number of our wars expands, however, they seem to grow less real to us here in the United States. So it becomes ever more important that we, in whose name those wars are being pursued, make the effort to grasp their grim reality. It’s important to remind ourselves that war is the worst possible way of settling human disagreements, focused as it is upon injuring human flesh (and ravaging the basics of human life) until one side can no longer withstand the pain. Worse yet, as those almost 16 years since 9/11 show, our wars have caused endless pain and settled no disagreements at all.

In this country, we don’t have to know that in American wars real people’s bodies are torn apart, real people die, and real cities are turned to rubble. We can watch interviews with survivors of the latest airstrikes on the nightly news and then catch the latest episode of ersatz suffering on Survivor. After a while, it becomes hard for many of us to tell (or even to care) which is real, and which is only reality TV.

Rebecca Gordon, a TomDispatch regular, teaches in the philosophy department at the University of San Francisco. She is the author of American Nuremberg: The U.S. Officials Who Should Stand Trial for Post-9/11 War Crimes. Her previous books include Mainstreaming Torture: Ethical Approaches in the Post-9/11 United States and Letters from Nicaragua.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, John Dower's The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II, as well as John Feffer's dystopian novel Splinterlands, Nick Turse’s Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead, and Tom Engelhardt's Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

Copyright 2017 Rebecca Gordon

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

A Democratic Spew Party: Getting Past the Pea Soup

The Technicolor Swan

by James Howard Kunstler - Clusterfuck Nation


June 26, 2017

When I think of the Democratic Party these days, the image instantly comes to mind of little Linda Blair playing the demon-possessed child in the classic horror movie, The Exorcist (1973), most particularly the scene in which she spews a stream of pea soup-like projectile vomit into the face of kindly old Max von Sydow, as Father Merrin, the priest come to rescue her.

The pea soup represents the sort of ideology that the Democratic Party has spewed out in recent years — a toxic mush of racial identity politics, contempt for men, infantile entitlement tantrums, corporate whoring, and a demonic quest for war with the Russian Federation. Father Merrin, the priest, stands for incorruptible American men, who have been, at last, killed off by this barrage of diabolical idiocy.

Can you think of a single figure in the Democratic faction who dares to oppose the lethal nonsense this party has been sponsoring and spewing? Who are its leaders? Chuck Schumer in the Senate — a mendacious errand boy for Wall Street? Nancy Pelosi in the House, who wears her cluelessness like a laminate of pancake makeup. Got anyone else? Uncle Joe (Biden)? That’s rich. Bernie? (Looks like his wife is about to be indicted on a federal bank fraud rap for running a small Vermont college into the ground. Whoops.)

Who else you got? Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York. I live near Albany, the state capital, and I can assure you that Governor Cuomo is ripely loathed and detested by anyone who has had actual dealings with him. Insiders tell me he makes Nixon look like Mr. Rogers. And this is apart from the fact that he seems to stand for nothing.

I registered as a Democrat in 1972 — largely because good ole Nixon was at the height of his power (just before his fall, of course), and because he was preceded as party leader by Barry Goldwater, who, at the time, was avatar for the John Birch Society and all its poisonous nonsense. The Democratic Party was still deeply imbued with the personality of Franklin Roosevelt, with a frosting of the recent memory of John F. Kennedy and his brother Bobby, tragic, heroic, and glamorous. I was old enough to remember the magic of JFK’s press conferences — a type of performance art that neither Bill Clinton or Barack Obama could match for wit and intelligence — and the charisma of authenticity that Bobby projected in the months before that little creep shot him in the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel. Even the lugubrious Lyndon Johnson had the heroic quality of a Southerner stepping up to abolish the reign of Jim Crow.

Lately, people refer to this bygone era of the 1960s as “the American High” — and by that they are not talking about smoking dope (though it did go mainstream then), but rather the post World War Two economic high, when American business might truly ruled the planet. Perhaps the seeming strength of American political leaders back then was merely a reflection of the country’s economic power, which since has been squandered and purloined into a matrix of rackets loosely called financialization — a criminal magic act whereby wealth is generated without producing anything of value.

Leaders in such a system are bound to be not just lesser men and women but something less than human. Hillary Clinton, for instance, lost the 2016 election because she came off as demonic, and I mean that pretty literally.

To many Americans, especially the ones swindled by the magic of financialization, she was the reincarnation of the little girl in The Exorcist. Donald Trump, unlikely as it seems — given his oafish and vulgar guise — was assigned the role of exorcist. Unlike poor father Merrin, he sort of succeeded, even to his very own astonishment. I say sort of succeeded because the Democratic Party is still there, infested with all its gibbering demons, but it has been reduced politically to impotence and appears likely to soon roll over and die.

None of this is to say that the other party, the Republicans, have anything but the feeblest grip on credibility or even an assured continued existence. First of all there is Trump’s obvious plight as a rogue only nominally regarded as party leader (or even member). Then there is the gathering fiasco of neither Trump nor his party being able to deliver remedies for any of the ills of our time that he was elected to fix. The reason for that is simple: the USA has entered Hell, or at least a condition that looks a lot like it. This is not just a matter of a few persons or a party being possessed by demons. We’ve entered a realm that is populated by nothing but demons — of our own design, by the way.

Our politics have become so thoroughly demonic, that the sort of exorcism America needs now can only come from outside politics. It’s coming, too. It’s on its way. It will turn our economic situation upside down and inside out. It’s a Technicolor swan, and you can see it coming from a thousand miles out.

Wait for it. Wait for it.

The Political Expediency of Bombing Syria

Hersh: Trump Ignored Intel Before Bombing Syria

by TRNN


June 27, 2017

In an exclusive interview, veteran investigative reporter Seymour Hersh discusses his new report that President Trump bombed a Syrian military airfield in April despite warnings that U.S. intelligence had found no evidence that the Assad regime used a chemical weapon.


 

Seymour (Sy) Myron Hersh born April 8, 1937, is an American Pulitzer Prize winning investigative journalist and author based in Washington, DC. He is a regular contributor to The New Yorker magazine on military and security matters. His work first gained worldwide recognition in 1969 for exposing the My Lai Massacre and its cover-up during the Vietnam War, for which he received the 1970 Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting. His 2004 reports on the US military's mistreatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison gained much attention. Hersh received the 2004 George Polk Award for Magazine Reporting given annually by Long Island University to honor contributions to journalistic integrity and investigative reporting. This was his fifth George Polk Award, the first one being a Special Award given to him in 1969. 

The Class War Chronicles: Plutocrat Ascendancy

The War against Workers and the Poor - Plutocracy: Class War from Metanoia Films

by Kim Petersen - Dissident Voice


June 27th, 2017

In 2017 the United States finds itself with a billionaire president who defeated, as adjudged by electoral college votes, the multimillionaire Hillary Clinton. In fact, high political office in the US has become a stepping stone to personal enrichment. Barack Obama is cashing in now with exorbitant book deals and speaking fees.

It is highly illustrative of the divide between the working masses and the 1%-ers of Wall Street who effectively own the American political system.

The politicians know the voters want change, but they also know who butters their bread. Empty campaign promises are followed by endless betrayals.

While the common folk fight asymmetrical US wars far from American shores, the fat cat Wall Street investors profit from the violence. It is nothing new.

In the introduction to Scott Noble’s Plutocracy: Class War we find 19th century president Rutherford B. Hayes writing in his diary that the United States had become a government “of corporations, by corporations and for corporations.”

Noble is a brilliant thinker and excellent filmmaker. Working with the tightest of budgets he has produced several significant documentaries on power relations and the human condition – all available at Metanoia Films for free viewing. Metanoia’s recent release is the third installment of the Plutocracy series. It is set around the period of the First World War, a time of unprecedented labor unrest and state repression.

Class War begins in Ludlow, Colorado with the massacre instigated by the robber baron J.D. Rockefeller using the Colorado National Guard. Troops machine gunned a tent city housing striking coal miners and their families then set fire to the camp. Eleven children, two women and ten miners were killed. The Ludlow Massacre epitomizes how government has used violence at the behest of wealthy industrialists against the working class.


 
Source: Top Documentary FilmsClass War tells the tale of the 
Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), known as the Wobblies. 


The Wobblies were an anarcho-syndicalist union open to all skill levels, races, and sexes. Such progressivism was met with state violence, including the use of torture. Frightened of their appeal to poor workers, several states banned Wobblies from public speaking.

As activist Brian Jones explains in the film, the Wobblies were “unwilling to accept terms of exploitation.” They devised innovative tactics such as sit-down strikes and revolving picket lines. This was an unacceptable challenged to the owner class. The organs of the state, police, security forces, and the so-called justice system were bent to the cause of the robber barons.

Class War tells of Joe Hill, an IWW-union organizer and popular singer, song-writer. Among his songs was “Preacher and Slave” – a response to the Salvation Army preaching docility to workers. Eventually Hill was tried for the murder of a grocer and executed by firing squad. The evidence implicating Hill was flimsy at best. According to the film, the more likely culprit was a petty criminal named Magnus Olsen, who went on to serve as a bodyguard for the gangster Al Capone.

Class War tells many stories of men and women who resisted the oppression of the age. Along with Joe Hill, we learn of Mother Jones, Lucy Parsons, Helen Keller, Frank Little, Emma Goldman, Alexander Berkman, Rosa Luxemburg, Anna Louise Strong and more. The fight for the dignity of labor was vast.

When a movement becomes large, the age-old tactic is to divide it. The advent of WWI provided the state with such a divisive tool. The IWW was anti-war, but president Woodrow Wilson secured the volte-face of the American Federation of Labor whose union head Samuel Gompers was offered a government advisory position. Gompers was anti-IWW and an anti-socialist. This eased the government’s push for US entry into WWI. In his book The Great Class War 1914-1918, historian Jacques R. Pauwels compellingly paints WWI as a class-war instrument.

Anti-war socialist Eugene Debs noted that workers were the chattel for wars. He captured the public sentiment such that, in 1916, one group of Nebraska citizens petitioned for a constitutional amendment whereby any politician casting a vote for war would be required to volunteer for war duty. Needless to say, the petition failed.

Graeme MacQueen of the Center for Peace Studies notes in the film that WWI was engineered by European aristocrats and capitalists. Competing and collapsing empires sought to secure resources, territory, slaves, and markets. At the time, the conflict was openly praised by leaders as a “romantic adventure.” The reality was more akin to a “slaughterhouse.”

A split occurred among women’s groups and socialists in opposition to war. This split was brought about by – as Christopher Simpson, author of The Science of Coercion comments – “feel good propaganda,” as well as the slandering of anti-war people as cowards and traitors. In Illinois, a German immigrant and socialist named Robert Prayger was lynched after being falsely accused of being a German spy.

Propaganda, disinformation, and false flags were part of the imperialist repertoire. The ocean liner RMS Lusitania carrying munitions from New York to England was sunk by a German U-boat. Americans on board were sacrificed; American conscription was enacted. In Oklahoma, on August 1917, a coalition of desperately poor sharecroppers and tenant farmers opposed to conscription and the war began a march on Washington. It was called the Green Corn Rebellion. Notably the coalition was multi-racial, made up of blacks, whites, and Mukogee people. The rebellion was violently halted by posses organized by business leaders and state officials.

The Wobblies were entrenched as enemy number one. Two leaders (Frank Mooney and Warren Billings) were framed for a bombing in San Francisco and spent 20 years in prison. IWW offices were raided and union leaders arrested under the Espionage Act — which prohibited any attempts to interfere with the war effort. Among others imprisoned under the legislation were socialist leader Eugene Debs and anarchist leader Ricardo Flores Magon.

Following the horrifying Prospector mine disaster in Butte, Montana, IWW leader Frank Little arrived and urged Americans to “fight the capitalists but not the Germans.” He was lynched by “capitalists interests” the next day. Little’s murder was especially brutal: he was tied to the bumper of a car wearing only his underwear and dragged down the street for several miles, then strangled to death. No suspects were charged by authorities, some of whom were considered complicit.

State actors and right-wing vigilante groups such as the Klu Klux Klan and American Protective League (APL) terrorized unionists and socialists, culminating in the Red Scare. The Sedition and Immigration Acts of 1918 sought to further curb the actions of dissidents, allowing for the deportation of anarchists and other “undesirables.” It was during this period that the Bureau of Investigation (later the FBI) became a force to be reckoned with. A new “radical” division headed up by a young J. Edgar Hoover engaged in a campaign of terror against poor immigrants. Their tactics included assault, false imprisonment, unconstitutional search and seizure, the use of agent provocateurs, and ultimately deportation.


 
Women munition workers turning copper bands for artillery shells 
during the First World War at Royal Shell Factory (Source: Pinterest)


Worker rights could be viewed as a backdrop to WWI. The war caused an industrial boom. The cotton crop decimations led to the migration of African Americans northward. They were met with hostility and later race riots. Unlike most liberal and quasi-left analyses of racism, the film does not blame “white people” as a group. Instead it draws attention to the ways in which poor workers were turned against each other in their desperate attempts to survive in a capitalist economy.

The year 1919 was a high point for strikes. Class War winds up in Seattle where workers staged a general strike for the right to a living wage, worker safety, and free speech. Labor sought to avoid harming others through the strike and issued passes for necessary work (e.g., doctors and nurses). Nonetheless, the workers’ vision for a just society was again put down by the state.

Class War documents how the government has always sided with money against the worker. The state’s arsenal against unions and labor has included war, propaganda, disinformation, agents provocateurs, violence, false flags, state agents (police, FBI, vigilantes, the attorney general, courts), and the so-called justice system.

The film presents a plethora of information, with first-rate narration, at an appropriate pace for it to sink in. There are plenty of fascinating snippets of little known history, and there are also some inspirational sequences to offset the often grim subject matter. Class War is a necessary backgrounder to understanding our present situation. The viewer will be able to identify obvious parallels with current events.

Filmmaker Scott Noble hopes to bring the Plutocracy documentary series to the present day. I hope to see that. Metanoia Films is currently raising funds to complete subsequent entries in this worthy series. You can donate here.

Kim Petersen is a former co-editor of Dissident Voice. He can be reached at: kimohp@gmail.com. Twitter: @kimpetersen.
Read other articles by Kim.

The original source of this article is Global Research

Gorilla Radio with Chris Cook, Robert Jensen, Nathalie Chambers, Janine Bandcroft June 28, 2017

This Week on GR

by C. L. Cook - Gorilla-Radio.com


June 28, 2017

In the sweetest scene of the richest play the English stage offers on the theme of useless, destructive division amongst peoples, Juliet asks, ‘What’s in a name? A rose by any name would smell as sweet. So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d.’

And well that may be for Shakespeare's lovers, but when it comes to the feud dividing the oppositional forces in the less than United States these days, politics on the "left" seems more, ‘a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, [and] signifying nothing’ where merely finding the right names for the warring rose factions is fraught with confused dissension.

Robert Jensen is an educator, essayist, activist, and self-described radical. Professor in the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin, and proud board member of the Third Coast Activist Resource Center.

Jensen is too a former journalist, still writing on such subjects as foreign policy, politics, economics, and ecology, and author whose book titles include: 'Plain Radical: Living, Loving, and Learning to Leave the Planet Gracefully', 'Arguing for Our Lives: A User’s Guide to Constructive Dialogue', 'We Are All Apocalyptic Now: On the Responsibilities of Teaching, Preaching, Reporting, Writing, and Speaking Out', 'All My Bones Shake: Seeking a Progressive Path to the Prophetic Voice', 'Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity', 'The Heart of Whiteness: Confronting Race, Racism and White Privilege', 'Citizens of the Empire: The Struggle to Claim Our Humanity', 'Writing Dissent: Taking Radical Ideas from the Margins to the Mainstream', and his latest is the newly released, 'The End of Patriarchy: Radical Feminism for Men'.

Robert Jensen in the first half.


And; campaigns to fill the vacant seat of former Saanich councillor, Vic Derman are gaining steam, with a by-election rumoured to be called for sometime in the Fall. The popular, long-serving Derman died last St. Patrick's Day, and among those that would succeed him is Blenkinsop Valley farmer, Nathalie Chambers. It was with Derman's encouragement Chambers and husband, David resurrected the Chambers' family farm, and with help from the community, and The Land Conservancy, ensured Madrona Farm would be a keystone property in maintaining an active agricultural presence within a rapidly diminishing Saanich farmscape.

Nathalie Chambers and hoeing the rows in rural Saanich in the second half.

And; CFUV broadcaster, Janine Bandcroft will be here with a Left Coast Events to bring us up to speed with what's good going in and around here update at the bottom of the hour. But first, Robert Jensen and How Radicals Are Offering Realistic Solutions to Our Spiraling Political Problems.

Chris Cook hosts Gorilla Radio, airing live every Wednesday, 1-2pm Pacific Time. In Victoria at 101.9FM, and on the internet at: http://cfuv.ca.  He also serves as a contributing editor to the web news site, http://www.pacificfreepress.com. Check out the GR blog at: https://gorillaradioblog.blogspot.ca/

G-Radio is dedicated to social justice, the environment, community, and providing a forum for people and issues not covered in the corporate media.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Burying the Messenger: Hersh Syria "Gas Attack" Revelations Deep Sixed

Hersh’s new Syria revelations buried from view 

by Jonathan Cook


26 June 2017

[Updated below]

Veteran investigative journalist Seymour Hersh, the man who exposed the Mai Lai massacre during the Vietnam War and the US military’s abuses of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib in 2004, is probably the most influential journalist of the modern era, with the possible exception of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the pair who exposed Watergate.

For decades, Hersh has drawn on his extensive contacts within the US security establishment to bring us the story behind the official story, and to disclose facts that have often proved deeply discomfiting to those in power and exploded the self-serving, fairy-tale narratives the public were expected to passively accept as news. His stature among journalists was such that, in a sea of corporate media misinformation, he enjoyed a small island of freedom at the elite, and influential, outlet of the New Yorker.

Paradoxically, over the past decade, as social media has created a more democratic platform for information dissemination, the corporate media has grown ever more fearful of a truly independent figure like Hersh. The potential reach of his stories could now be enormously magnified by social media. As a result, he has been increasingly marginalised and his work denigrated. By denying him the credibility of a “respectable” mainstream platform, he can be dismissed for the first time in his career as a crank and charlatan. A purveyor of fake news.

Nonetheless, despite struggling to find an outlet for his recent work, he has continued to scrutinise western foreign policy, this time in relation to Syria. The official western narrative has painted a picture of a psychotic Syrian president, Bashar Assad, who is assumed to be so irrational and self-destructive he intermittently uses chemical weapons against his own people. He does so, not only for no obvious purpose but at moments when such attacks are likely to do his regime untold damage. Notably, two sarin gas attacks have supposedly occurred when Assad was making strong diplomatic or military headway, and when the Islamic extremists of Al-Qaeda and ISIS – his chief opponents – were on the back foot and in desperate need of outside intervention.

Dangerous monsters


Hersh’s investigations have not only undermined evidence-free claims being promoted in the west to destabilise Assad’s goverment but threatened a wider US policy seeking to “remake the Middle East”. His work has challenged a political and corporate media consensus that portrays Russia’s Vladimir Putin, Assad’s main ally against the extremist Islamic forces fighting in Syria, as another dangerous monster the West needs to bring into line.

For all these reasons, Hersh has found himself increasingly friendless. The New Yorker refused to publish his Syria investigations. Instead, he had to cross the Atlantic to find a home at the prestigious but far less prominent London Review of Books.

Back in 2013 his contacts within the security and intelligence establishments revealed that the assumption Assad had ordered the use of sarin gas in Ghouta, outside Damascus, failed to stand up to scrutiny. Even Barack Obama’s national intelligence director, James Clapper, was forced to admit privately that Assad’s guilt was “not a slam dunk”, even as the media widely portrayed it as precisely that. Hersh’s work helped stymie efforts at the time to promote a western military attack to bring down the Syrian government.

His latest investigation questions whether Assad was responsible for another alleged gas attack – this one at Khan Sheikhoun in April. Again a consensual western narrative was quickly constructed after social media showed dozens of Syrians dead, apparently following the dropping of a bomb by Syrian aircraft. For the first time in his presidency, Donald Trump received wall-to-wall praise for launching a military strike on Syria in response, even though, as Hersh documents, he had no evidence on which to base such an attack, one that gravely violated international law.

Hersh’s new investigation was paid for by the London Review of Books, which declined to publish it. This is almost as disturbing as the events in question.

What is emerging is a media blackout so strong that even the London Review of Books is running scared. Instead, Hersh’s story appeared yesterday in a German publication, Welt am Sonntag. Welt is an award-winning newspaper, no less serious than the New Yorker or the LRB. But significantly Hersh is being forced to publish ever further from the centres of power whose misinformation his investigations are challenging.

Imagine how effective Woodward and Bernstein would have been in bringing down Richard Nixon had they been able to publish their Watergate investigations only in the French media. That is the situation we have reached now with Hersh’s efforts to scrutinise the west’s self-serving claims about Syria.

US-Russian cooperation


As for the substance of Hersh’s investigation, he finds that Trump launched 59 Tomahawk missiles at a Syrian air base in April “despite having been warned by the US intelligence community that it had found no evidence that the Syrians had used a chemical weapon.”

In fact, Hersh reveals that, contrary to the popular narrative, the Syrian strike on a jihadist meeting place in Khan Sheikhoun on April 4 was closely coordinated beforehand between Russian and US intelligence agencies. The US were well apprised of what would happen and tracked the events.

Hersh’s sources in the intelligence establishment point out that these close contacts occurred for two reasons. First, there is a process known as “deconfliction”, designed to avoid collisions or accidental encounters between the US, Syrian and Russian militaries, especially in the case of their supersonic jets. The Russians therefore supplied US intelligence with precise details of that day’s attack beforehand. But in this case, the coordination also occurred because the Russians wanted to warn the US to keep away a CIA asset, who had penetrated the jihadist group, from that day’s meeting.

“This was not a chemical weapons strike,” a senior adviser to the US intelligence community told Hersh.

“That’s a fairy tale. If so, everyone involved in transferring, loading and arming the weapon … would be wearing Hazmat protective clothing in case of a leak. There would be very little chance of survival without such gear.”

According to US intelligence, Hersh reports, the Syrian air force was able to target the site using a large, conventional bomb supplied by the Russians. But if Assad did not use a chemical warhead, why did many people apparently die at Khan Sheikhoun from inhalation of toxic gas?

The US intelligence community, says Hersh, believes the bomb triggered secondary explosions in a storage depot in the building’s basement that included propane gas, fertilisers, insecticides as well as “rockets, weapons and ammunition, … [and] chlorine-based decontaminants for cleansing the bodies of the dead before burial”. These explosions created a toxic cloud that was trapped close to the ground by the dense early morning air.

Medecins Sans Frontieres found patients it treated “smelled of bleach, suggesting that they had been exposed to chlorine.” Sarin is odourless.

Hersh concludes that the:

evidence suggested that there was more than one chemical responsible for the symptoms observed, which would not have been the case if the Syrian Air Force – as opposition activists insisted – had dropped a sarin bomb, which has no percussive or ignition power to trigger secondary explosions. The range of symptoms is, however, consistent with the release of a mixture of chemicals, including chlorine and the organophosphates used in many fertilizers, which can cause neurotoxic effects similar to those of sarin. 

Political suicide


Hersh’s main intelligence source makes an important contextual point you won’t hear anywhere in the corporate media:

What doesn’t occur to most Americans is if there had been a Syrian nerve gas attack authorized by Bashar [Assad], the Russians would be 10 times as upset as anyone in the West. Russia’s strategy against ISIS, which involves getting American cooperation, would have been destroyed and Bashar would be responsible for pissing off Russia, with unknown consequences for him. Bashar would do that? When he’s on the verge of winning the war? Are you kidding me?

When US national security officials planning Trump’s “retaliation” asked the CIA what they knew of events in Khan Sheikhoun, according to Hersh’s source, the CIA told them “there was no residual delivery for sarin at Sheyrat [the airfield from which the Syrian bombers had taken off] and Assad had no motive to commit political suicide.”

The source continues:

No one knew the provenance of the photographs [of the attack’s victims]. We didn’t know who the children were or how they got hurt. Sarin actually is very easy to detect because it penetrates paint, and all one would have to do is get a paint sample. We knew there was a [toxic] cloud and we knew it hurt people. But you cannot jump from there to certainty that Assad had hidden sarin from the UN because he wanted to use it in Khan Sheikhoun.

Trump, under political pressure and highly emotional by nature, ignored the evidence. Hersh’s source says:

The president saw the photographs of poisoned little girls and said it was an Assad atrocity. It’s typical of human nature. You jump to the conclusion you want. Intelligence analysts do not argue with a president. They’re not going to tell the president, ‘if you interpret the data this way, I quit’.

Although Republicans, Democrats and the entire media rallied to Trump’s side for the first time, those speaking to Hersh have apparently done so out of fear of what may happen next time.

The danger with Trump’s “retaliatory” strike, based on zero evidence of a chemical weapons attack, is that it could have killed Russian soldiers and dragged Putin into a highly dangerous confrontation with the US. Also, the intelligence community fears that the media have promoted a false narrative that suggests not only that a sarin attack took place, but paints Russia as a co-conspirator and implies that a UN team did not in fact oversee the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile back in 2013-14. That would allow Assad’s opponents to claim in the future, at a convenient time, yet another unsubstantiated sarin gas attack by the Syrian government.

Hersh concludes with words from his source that should strike fear into us all:

The issue is, what if there’s another false-flag sarin attack credited to hated Syria? Trump has upped the ante and painted himself into a corner with his decision to bomb. And do not think these guys [Islamist groups] are not planning the next faked attack. Trump will have no choice but to bomb again, and harder. He’s incapable of saying he made a mistake.

UPDATE:

As was to be expected, there has been a backlash against Hersh’s investigation. If one thing is clear about the Khan Sheikhoun incident, it is that, in the absence of an independent investigation, there is still no decisive physical evidence to settle yet what happened one way or another. Therefore, our job as observers should be to keep a critical distance and weigh other relevant issues, such as context and probability.

So let us set aside for a moment the specifics of what happened on April 4 and concentrate instead on what Hersh’s critics must concede if they are to argue that Assad used sarin gas against the people of Khan Sheikhoun.

1. That Assad is so crazed and self-destructive – or at the very least so totally incapable of controlling his senior commanders, who must themselves be crazed and self-destructive – that he has on several occasions ordered the use of chemical weapons against civilians. And he has chosen to do it at the worst possible moments for his own and his regime’s survival, and when such attacks were entirely unnecessary.

2. That Putin is equally deranged and so willing to risk an end-of-times conflagration with the US that he has on more than one occasion either sanctioned or turned a blind eye to the use of sarin by Assad’s regime. And he has done nothing to penalise Assad afterwards, when things went wrong.

3. That Hersh has decided to jettison all the investigatory skills he has amassed over many decades as a journalist to accept at face value any unsubstantiated rumours his long-established contacts in the security services have thrown his way. And he has done so without regard to the damage that will do to his reputation and his journalistic legacy.

4. That a significant number of US intelligence officials, those Hersh has known and worked with over a long period of time, have decided recently to spin an elaborate web of lies no one wants to print, either in the hope of damaging Hersh in some collective act of revenge against him, or in the hope of permanently discrediting their own intelligence services.
Critics do not simply have to believe one of these four points. They must maintain the absolute veracity of all four of them.

Alberta's "Golden Ponds": Cost of Tar Sands Tailing Ponds Clean-Up Exceeds All Possible Royalties

New Report Highlights Risks of Continued Expansion of Oil Sands Tailing Ponds

by ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE and NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL


June 26, 2017

New report highlights the risks of continued expansion of oil sands tailings ponds and the rising liability for cleanup that Albertans face

OttawaThe volume of oil sands tailing ponds are now over 1 trillion litres, while the cost of cleanup is now greater than total lifetime royalty revenues collected by Alberta from oil sands companies, according to a new report released today by Canada’s Environmental Defence and the U.S.’s Natural Resources Defense Council.

The report shows that while Alberta’s Tailings Management Framework is supposed to lead to a reduction in the volume of liquid tailings as soon as possible, plans by the oil sands industry indicate that tailings could continue to increase for another 20 years.

“Alberta’s rules managing oil sands tailings should not let companies continue expanding tailings ponds or allow more than half a century for the land to be reclaimed,” said Anthony Swift, Natural Resources Defense Council. 
“Albertans are at risk of being left holding the bag, having to pay for cleaning up the mess after oil sands companies have packed up and gone.”

The two environmental groups and Daniel T’seleie of the K'ahsho Got'ine Dene First Nation are also making a submission to the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC), the NAFTA environment tribunal, to request an investigation into whether the Canadian government is failing to enforce the Fisheries Act by allowing oil sands tailings ponds to leak into Alberta water bodies.

The environmental groups and Mr. T’seleie argue that there is abundant evidence that oil sands tailings ponds are leaking toxic chemicals into the Athabasca River and surrounding groundwater, that the government and oil sands companies know about the contamination, and that they are failing to address it.

“Research clearly shows that toxic chemicals are leaking from tailings ponds, contaminating rivers and groundwater in Alberta,” said Dale Marshall, Environmental Defence.
“This is a clear violation of the federal Fisheries Act. The tar sands industry needs to be forced to clean up its act and change the way it deals with toxic waste.”

“When the cumulative impacts of climate change and industry pollution limit our ability to hunt, fish, and gather on our lands, it fundamentally impacts our culture, language, spirituality, and identity as Indigenous Peoples,” said Daniel T’seleie.

Download the report on Alberta’s tailings ponds here.


Download the submission to the Commission for Environmental Cooperation here.


View clocks illustrating the growth of tailings ponds and rising cleanup costs here.


About ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE (www.environmentaldefence.ca): Environmental Defence is Canada's most effective environmental action organization. We challenge, and inspire change in government, business and people to ensure a greener, healthier and prosperous life for all. Environmental Defence has climate change, toxics, land-use and water programs across Canada.

About the NATURAL RESOURCES DEFENSE COUNCIL (www.nrdc.org): NRDC is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 2 million members and online activists.

Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City; Washington, D.C.; Los Angeles; San Francisco; Chicago; Bozeman, Montana; and Beijing.

-30-

For Immediate Release:
For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Allen Braude, Environmental Defence,
abraude@environmentaldefence.ca

Jake Thompson, Natural Resources Defense Council,
jthompson@nrdc.org
 

What's Left: Understanding America's Radically Changing Political Discourse

How Radicals Are Offering Realistic Solutions to Our Spiraling Political Problems

by Robert Jensen


June 25, 2017

Students will sometimes ask me — often hesitantly, out of fear of offending — if it's true what they've heard, that I'm a liberal.

"Don't you ever call me a liberal again!" I tell them, feigning outrage.

"I'm a leftist and a radical feminist." 

Once they realize I'm not angry, I explain the important differences between left and liberal.

A distinction between left and liberal may seem esoteric or self-indulgent given the steady ascendancy of right-wing ideas in U.S. politics. Is now the time for this conversation? Liberals ask leftists to put aside differences toward the goal of resisting the reactionary right, and I'm all for pragmatic politics (coalitions are necessary and potentially creative) to mount challenges to dangerous policies. (Donald Trump, Mike Pence and Paul Ryan pose serious threats on ecological, social and economic fronts.)

But strategies should be based on a clear understanding of shared values. And with a carnival-barker president leading a party so committed to a failed ideology that it's willing to risk ecocide, radical left ideas have never been more compelling. In the face of conservative and liberal failures to deal with our most basic problems, leftists offer reality-based solutions.

Let's start with a general distinction: Liberals typically support existing systems and hope to make them more humane. Leftists focus on the unjust nature of the systems themselves. Two of these key systems are capitalism (an economic system that, to a leftist, celebrates inequality and degrades ecosystems) and imperialism (a global system in which First World countries have long captured a disproportionate share of the world's wealth through violence and coercion).

Liberals don't oppose capitalism or U.S. imperialism, arguing instead for kinder-and-gentler versions. Leftists see the systems as incompatible with basic moral principles of social justice and ecological sustainability.

Things get more complicated with white supremacy (historical and contemporary practices rooted in white or European claims of a right to rule) and patriarchy (men's claim to a natural role over women in systems of institutionalized male dominance). Leftists disagree among themselves about how these systems interact with capitalism and imperialism. Some on the left focus on class inequality and decry "identity politics," which they define as reducing all political questions to race, gender or sexual identity. Others reject putting economic inequality alone at the center of politics and argue for an equal focus on white supremacy or patriarchy.

Complicating things more are leftists who disagree with radical feminist opposition to the sexual-exploitation industries of prostitution, pornography and stripping, arguing that women's participation means the industries can't be challenged and shifting the focus away from why men choose to use women.

What is a leftist?


If this all this is getting a bit bewildering, welcome to left politics. Rather than generalizing about what "real" leftists should believe, I'll summarize my views:

Capitalism is an unjust wealth-concentrating system that is ecologically unsustainable. Either we transcend the pathology of capitalism or dystopian science fiction will become everyday life in the not-so-distant future. There is no credible defense of the obscene inequality or disregard for the larger living world that's inherent in capitalism.

The assertion by the U.S. that it's the world's exemplar and natural leader is a dangerous delusion that must yield to meaningful diplomacy and trade policies based on moral principles. not raw power. There is no hope for global cooperation when the U.S. maintains hundreds of military bases and facilities in other countries, designed not for defense but to assert U.S. dominance.

Liberals and conservatives disagree about how government policy should constrain the sociopathic nature of capitalism, but both embrace capitalist ideology. Liberals and conservatives disagree about how the U.S. should run the world, but neither challenge the country's right to dominate.

What do leftists propose as an alternative to a global capitalist economy undergirded by military might? I'm not a revolutionary utopian, preferring innovative ways to work toward left values. Two examples:

  • The worker cooperative movement helps people establish worker-owned and worker-managed businesses within capitalism, creating spaces for real democracy in the economy. An example in my hometown of Austin is ATX Coop Taxi, owned and managed by the drivers. The most well-known cooperative enterprise is Mondragón, a Spanish federation of cooperatives with thousands of worker-owners. These businesses offer a model for a transition out of capitalism.
  • National health insurance, sometimes known as single-payer or Medicare-for-all, would lower health care costs while rejecting the cruel capitalist assertion that people without money are expendable. Most developed countries have adopted this, but U.S. politicians routinely reject it, even though polls show a majority or a plurality of U.S. voters like the idea. This kind of commitment to collective flourishing challenges obsessions with amoral individualism so common among U.S. capitalists.

Untangling white supremacy


Slain teen Jordan Edwards' brother Vidal Allen led his family up the courthouse steps during a protest in Dallas in May. Balch Springs officer Roy Oliver was fired and charged with murder after fatally shooting Jordan, a teenage passenger in a car trying to leave a house. A growing number of law enforcement agencies, including the U.S. Department of Justice, either deeply discourage or prohibit shooting at a moving car unless someone inside is shooting back.

The history of white supremacy cannot be untangled from the history of capitalism and imperialism, in Europe or the U.S. Ideologies of racial superiority have been used to justify imperialism abroad (the infamous "white man's burden" to civilize the natives), while at home, racism is a key component of the wealthy's divide-and-conquer strategy to suppress worker organizing across racial lines (offer white workers a sense of racial superiority so that they focus their anger at nonwhite people rather than the bosses).

A critique of patriarchy, the oldest of these domination/subordination systems, is at the heart of any credible left politics, though it is the social system most routinely ignored by leftists. The patriarchal claim that such hierarchy is inevitable is one of the most dangerous myths in human history, long used to justify men's control of women's reproductive power and sexuality.

Defending women's reproductive rights, including abortion, is a core principle, and just as central is challenging men's claim to a right to buy and sell objectified female bodies for sexual pleasure. We must confront men who buy women for sex as we act in feminist solidarity with prostituted women (what liberals call "sex workers"), supporting programs that help women and vulnerable men exit the sexual-exploitation industries.

Men's claims to own or control women's sexuality are also at the heart of the oppression of lesbians (who dare to opt out of male dominance in intimate relationships) and gay men (who are targeted for their perceived threat to patriarchy's rigid sexual norms). Lesbian/gay liberation is inseparable from women's liberation.

Liberals and conservatives are all over the political map on racism and sexism, but consistently fail to face the depth of the depravity of white supremacy and patriarchy, or the degree to which those systems continue to define everyday life. Leftists strive to face these realities.

Realistic solutions


What kind of leftist am I? I don't call myself a Marxist, communist, socialist or anarchist, though all of those traditions offer insights along with lessons from their failures. I don't belong to what are called "left sectarian" organizations, which typically remain committed to 19th or 20th-century doctrines and political figures (such as Marxist-Leninist or Maoist groups). I call myself an anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist leftist rooted in a critique of white supremacy and a radical feminist critique of patriarchy. Not the pithiest label, but accurate.

My left politics also focus on the human species' intensifying assault on the larger living world — multiple, cascading ecological crises that we can't afford to ignore. Modern humans' arrogance puts us all at risk. The naïve assumptions of the high-energy and high-technology industrial world — especially the idea that we can solve all problems with more energy-intensive technology — must be abandoned as we struggle to understand how many people can live sustainably on the planet.

There's not a widely used term for going beyond liberal environmentalism's half measures, but some people call it "ecospherism," the understanding that humans must find our place in the ecosphere rather than try to dominate. Ecospherists reject the idea that humans really "own" the Earth and fight to end the accompanying abuse and exploitation of land, water, air and other creatures.

Liberals and conservatives typically ignore ecological realities, but so does much of the left. The overwhelming nature of the challenge scares many into silence, but problems ignored are not problems solved. For example, research on renewable energy is important, but no combination of so-called clean energy sources (and let's remember that wind turbines and solar panels are industrial products, which can't be manufactured cleanly) can power the affluence of the First World. The solution is dramatically lower levels of consumption in the developed world.

Many people in the U.S. disagree with this kind of left/radical feminist analysis. Many people have told me that these views make me unfit to teach at a state university. I welcome serious challenges, but left political positions are too often dismissed as crazy because that's the one thing both liberals and conservatives agree on.

The U.S. is a dramatically right-wing society when compared with other industrialized countries, illustrated by Bernie Sanders' 2016 campaign. He offered no foundational critique of U.S. systems, opting instead for a traditional social democratic platform to make our institutions more humane. Yet in America, such policy proposals were seen by many as revolutionary and Sanders was often dismissed as a wild-eyed radical.

In a recent call to action, Sanders supported a single-payer plan for health care and stated "our current economic model is a dismal failure," but he did not dare use the term capitalism or even hint at a deeper structural critique. His discussion of the ecological crises stopped with a weak call for renewable energy, and there was no mention of racism, sexism or U.S. foreign policy. I realize politicians shape rhetoric to win votes, but let's not pretend this is a left agenda.

(For the record, I'm not a Democrat, but I'm also not purist in electoral politics; I voted for Sanders in the Democratic primary and Hillary Clinton in the general election.)

Sanders' success suggests more people might support a candidate with an even deeper critique of illegitimate structures of authority. If in the short term the best we can hope for is reform of existing systems, we can pursue those reforms with an eye on more radical long-term goals.

It's hard to imagine a decent human future — perhaps any human future at all — if these radical ideas are not part of the mix. "Radical" is often used as a political insult, suggesting people who focus on violence and destruction. But the word simply means "going to the root," and at the root of our contemporary crises of justice and sustainability are capitalism, imperialism, white supremacy, patriarchy, and the human willingness to destroy the world in pursuit of affluence.

Leftists are told that we have to be realistic, and I agree. But how realistic is it to expect solutions to human injustices and ecological crises to emerge from the systems that have created the problems?

If you want to be realistic, get radical.


Robert Jensen is a journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin and the author of The End of Patriarchy: Radical Feminism for Men, and Plain Radical: Living, Loving, and Learning to Leave the Planet Gracefully. Email: rjensen@austin.utexas.edu