Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Myth of the Free Syrian Army?


Glenn Greenwald:

https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2015/04/16/nbcs-conduct-richard-engel-kidnapping-serious-brian-williams-scandal/

Throughout 2012, numerous American factions were pushing for U.S. intervention in Syria to bring down the regime of Bashar Assad, who throughout the War on Terror had helped the U.S. in all sorts of ways, including torturing people for them. But by then, Assad was viewed mostly as an ally of Iran, and deposing him would weaken Tehran, the overarching regional strategy of the U.S. and its allies. The prevailing narrative was thus created that those fighting against Assad were “moderate” and even pro-Western groups, with the leading one dubbed “the Free Syrian Army.”

Whether to intervene in Syria in alliance with or on behalf of the “Free Syrian Army” was a major debate in the West through the end of that year. Then-Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee John Kerry was openly discussing ways for the U.S. to aid the rebels to bring about regime change. Sen. Joe Lieberman was saying: “I hope the international community and the U.S. will provide assistance to the Syrian Free Army in the various ways we can.” Then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, while ruling out direct military intervention, said: “[W]e have to redouble our efforts outside of the United Nations with those allies and partners who support the Syrian people’s right to have a better future.”

A U.N. resolution calling for Assad to step down was supported by NATO states but vetoed by China and Russia, who were concerned that it would be depicted as a “regime change” endorsement to justify Western military intervention. By the following year, John Kerry, by then Obama’s secretary of state, was arguing that direct U.S. military action in Syria against Assad — a full-scale bombing campaign — was a moral and strategic imperative.

As it turns out, the “moderate” “Free Syrian Army” was largely a myth. By far, the most effective fighting forces against Assad were anything but “moderate,” composed instead of various Al Qaeda manifestations and even more extreme elements. After the U.S. and its Gulf allies funded and armed those groups for a while, the U.S. did ultimately go to war in Syria, but more in alliance with Assad than against him.

In December 2012 — as the pro-intervention cause was strengthening — a group of five journalists working for NBC Newsincluding its star international reporter Richard Engel, was kidnapped inside Syria. They were held for five days, threatened with death, treated inhumanely, and forced to record a video in which Engel was made to call for an end to U.S. involvement in Syria. Scrawled on the walls of the room where the video was recorded was graffiti of pro-Assad messages along with well-known Shiite references.

The obvious intent was to make it appear that these NBC journalists had been kidnapped and mistreated by Shiite forces associated with Assad. By all accounts, the kidnappers went to great lengths to make their hostages believe that as well, and they succeeded. Engel and his fellow captives believed (understandably) they had been kidnapped by pro-Assad forces, only to be rescued by brave and kind Sunni rebels who freed them. Once they were released, NBC said at first that the journalists had been “kidnapped and held for five days inside Syria by an unknown group,” but Engel quickly gave numerous interviews unequivocally stating that the captors were aligned with Assad and that he was rescued by anti-Assad forces. That then became unquestioned fact on NBC.

As but one of many appearances, Engel appeared on The Rachel Maddow Show on December 21 and recounted in detail what happened. He described how he was in “a very rebel-friendly area,” traveling with a “rebel commander” and his team, when they were “ambushed” by “government people”: pro-Assad forces. “We knew it was government by what they were saying,” Engel explained.

Engel then described how the rebel commander heroically tried to sacrifice his own life to save the journalists, but to no avail: the “pro-government forces” brutalized, tortured and threatened the reporters and even executed some of the rebels:

And so, we knew we were with pro-government forces. The rebel commander was saying to them, kill me, these guys are journalists, they have nothing to do with it. Kill me, I’m a rebel commander. Let them go …

They drive from there to one of their safe houses, don’t know exactly where, but roughly in this area up here. So it is a farm house. They take the guard, the rebel commander’s guard out of the truck. Kill him. Execute him …

And then they took all of us, including the rebel commander, in the safe house. He continually said let them go. … We were here, they wanted to move us here, to Fou’a. And Fou’a is a place that is very hard core Shia, very loyal to the government. It’s mostly surrounded by the rebels, it is being air-supplied by the Syrian government. … So this is a hand-in-glove relationship between the government and this very nasty militia group.

The ordeal ended, Engel said, only when his pro-government captors accidentally ran into a rebel checkpoint, where the rebels heroically killed some of Assad’s forces and freed the journalists, treating them with great compassion:

I don’t know who are these guys and we talk to them a little bit and it was quite clear they were from the rebel group and they couldn’t have been nicer to us. They were hard fighters, clearly good shots. … And then they brought us back to the headquarters, gave us food and water, let us make a phone call. And then they escorted us personally to the border.

Three days earlier, in a December 18 appearance on Maddow’s show, Engel — after describing how brutal and inhumane his captors were — actually linked them to both Iran and Hezbollah in response to a question from David Gregory:

I think I have a very good idea of who they were. This was a group known as the Shabiha. This is a government militia. These are people who are loyal to President Bashar al Assad. They are Shiite.

They were talking openly about their loyalty to the government, openly expressing their Shia faith. They are trained by Iranian revolutionary guard. They are allied with Hezbollah.

As Huffington Post’s Michael Calderone details, Engel told this story in various ways in numerous different media forums.

There were ample reasons at the time to be suspicious that this was a scam (perpetrated on (not by) Engel and his fellow captives) to blame Assad for the abduction. There was skepticism expressed by some independent analysts — although not on NBC News. The truly brilliant political science professor and blogger As’ad AbuKhalil (who I cannot recommend enough be read every day) was highly skeptical from the start about the identity of Engel’s captors, just as he was about the pro-intervention case in Syria and the nature of the “Free Syrian Army” generally (in August 2012 he told me: “Syria is one of the biggest propaganda schemes of our time. When the dust settles, if it does, it will be revealed”).

On December 18 — the day the Engel story became public — Professor AbuKhalil published an email from “a knowledgeable Western journalist” pointing out numerous reasons to doubt that the kidnappers were aligned with Assad, including the fact that prior kidnappings had been falsely attributed to pro-Assad forces. He argued that the Engel abduction “seems very much like a setup, like the kidnappers wanted him to think he was taken by Shiites.” AbuKhalil himself examined the video and wrote:

I looked at the video and it is so clearly a set up and the slogans are so clearly fake and they intend to show that they were clearly Shi’ites and that they are savages.  If this one is believable, I am posing as a dentist.

Of course, I am not saying that Engel was [in] on this plot. I think that they were really kidnapped but that the kidnappers of the Free Syrian Army typically lied to them about their identity, which has happened before.

Other knowledgeable bloggers raised all sorts of questions about whether Engel’s captors were actually Sunni rebels posing as pro-Assad soldiers.

As it turns out, that seems to be exactly what happened. Last night, Engel posted a new statement on the NBC News website stating that, roughly one month ago, he had been contacted by The New York Times, which “uncovered information that suggested the kidnappers were not who they said they were and that the Syrian rebels who rescued us had a relationship with the kidnappers.” That inquiry from The NYT caused him to re-investigate the kidnapping, and he concluded that “the group that kidnapped us was Sunni, not Shia” and that “the group that freed us” — which he had previously depicted as heroic anti-Assad rebels — actually “had ties to the kidnappers.”

That’s all fair enough. Nobody can blame Engel — a courageous reporter, fluent in Arabic — for falling for what appears to be a well-coordinated ruse. Particularly under those harrowing circumstances, when he and his fellow captives believed with good reason that their lives were in immediate danger, it’s completely understandable that he believed he had been captured by pro-Assad forces. There is no real evidence that Engel did anything wrong in recounting his ordeal.

But the same is most certainly not true of NBC News executives. In writing his new account, Engel does not mention the most important and most incriminating aspect of The New York Times reporting: that NBC officials knew at the time that there was reason to be highly skeptical of the identity of the captors, but nonetheless allowed Engel and numerous other NBC and MSNBC reporters to tell this story with virtually no questioning.

In a very well-reported article this morning, The NYT states that “Mr. Engel’s team was almost certainly taken by a Sunni criminal element affiliated with the Free Syrian Army, the loose alliance of rebels opposed to Mr. Assad.” That rebel group is “known as the North Idlib Falcons Brigade” and is “led by two men, Azzo Qassab and Shukri Ajouj.” Amazingly, NBC executives knew that this was at least very possible even during Engel’s kidnapping, and yet:

NBC executives were informed of Mr. Ajouj and Mr. Qassab’s possible involvement during and after Mr. Engels’s captivity, according to current and former NBC employees and others who helped search for Mr. Engel, including political activists and security professionals. Still, the network moved quickly to put Mr. Engel on the air with an account blaming Shiite captors and did not present the other possible version of events.

In other words, NBC executives at least had ample reason to suspect that it was anti-Assad rebels who staged the kidnapping, not pro-Assad forces. Yet they allowed Engel and numerous other NBC and MSNBC personalities repeatedly and unequivocally to blame the Assad regime and glorify the anti-Assad rebels, and worse, to link the hideous kidnapping to Iran and Hezbollah, all with no indication that there were other quite likely alternatives. NBC refused to respond to The NYT‘s questions about that (The Intercept’s inquiries to NBC News were also not responded to at the time of publication, though any responses will be added (update: an NBC executive has refused to comment)).

The Brian Williams scandal is basically about an insecure, ego-driven TV star who puffed up his own war credentials by fabricating war stories: it’s about personal foibles. But this Engel story is about what appears to be a reckless eagerness, if not deliberate deception, on the part of NBC officials to disseminate a dubious storyline which, at the time, was very much in line with the story that official Washington was selling (by then, Obama was secretly aiding anti-Assad rebels, and had just announced – literally a week before the Engel kidnapping — “that the United States would formally recognize a coalition of Syrian opposition groups as that country’s legitimate representative”). Much worse, the NBC story was quite likely to fuel the simmering war cries in the West to attack (or at least aggressively intervene against) Assad.

That’s a far more serious and far more consequential journalistic sin than a news reader puffing out his chest and pretending he’s Rambo. Falsely and recklessly blaming the Assad regime for a heinous kidnapping of Western journalists and directly linking it to Iran and Hezbollah, while heralding the rebels as heroic and compassionate — during a brewing “regime change” and intervention debate — is on the level of Iraqi aluminum tubes.

At the very least, NBC owes a serious accounting for what happened here, yet thus far refuses to provide one (note how, as usual, the media outlets who love to sanctimoniously demand transparency from others refuse to provide even a minimal amount about themselves). There were — and are — a lot of shadowy interests eager to bring about regime change in Syria and to malign Iran and Hezbollah with false claims. Whether by intent or outcome, that’s what this story did. If it was not only false at the time, NBC executives repeatedly broadcast it, but recklessly disseminated with ample reason to suspect its falsity, that is a huge journalistic scandal.

UPDATE: About this story, Professor AbuKhalil this morning emailed this comment about what happened here at NBC:


This is a culture: they all were part of a charade to promote and champion the Free Syrian Army when that very army was kidnapping innocent Lebanese Shi’ites and killing people on sectarian grounds. They didn’t want to believe it.


He also passed a long an email from a Western correspondent based in the region, asking not to be identified, who said: “Everybody knew that it was a Sunni group tied to the [Free Syrian Army] that had kidnapped [Engel] from the moment it happened: people were talking about it in South Turkey, journalists, opposition people.” That’s essentially what Professor AbuKhalil — and others — said at the time.

On a different note: as I noted above, Engel claimed repeatedly that the anti-Assad rebels killed some of his pro-government captors when rescuing him. He stated the same thing in Vanity Fair article he wrote recounting his kidnapping. But as The New York Times notes today, Engel now acknowledges that he never saw a body.

UPDATE II: In addition to AbuKhalil and the other above-cited sources, The Daily Beast’s Jamie Dettmer expressed serious doubts about the Engel/NBC story almost immediately. Writing on December 22, he said, among other things, that “the NBC version … omits much and is at odds with what security sources involved in the freeing of the group say happened,” and that “the gunmen who seized the crew may also have included rogue members of the rebel [Free Syrian Army] – something top FSA commanders are keen to obscure.” Moreover:

NBC’s security advisers were convinced that there was some FSA involvement in this and contacted wealthy Syrian-American donors of the rebel group, pointing out that Richard had been supportive of the uprising against Assad.

That there was ample reason to doubt Engel’s belief about the identity of his captors is proven by how many people publicly called it into doubt. That NBC’s broadcasts reflected none of this doubt, and instead allowed a one-sided tale that we now know to be false to go unquestioned by the entire network is bad enough. That these executives seemed to have had ample reason to doubt the story themselves makes it far worse than just merely “bad”: it is the type of systematic journalistic deceit and propaganda that we have seen over and over, almost always on the side and in service of the U.S. government’s agenda of endless war.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Another 'AHA!' moment: Ayaan's web of lslamophobic lies

The life, lies and times of Ayaan Hirsi Magan (aka Ali), who lied about her name, her refugee status, her date of birth and her 'forced' marriage until Dutch authorities unearthed the truth and our pathological liar made off to the ole' US of A. Magan/Ali's views on Islam and Muslims are no more interesting or fact-based than most garbage that you would find on any thirteen-in-a-dozen Islamophobic raggy blog but for reasons outlined in the article below, many still consider her an authority on the subject of Islam. In my opinion she's no more than a hyper-ambitious money and status-driven fabulator. Now she's been found fabricating again. Max Blumenthal has the story.

Exposing Anti-Islam Author Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s Latest Deception


While promoting her new book, Heretic, on a March 23 episode of "The Daily Show," Somali-born author and anti-Islam activist Ayaan Hirsi Ali made a staggering claim: "If you look at 70 percent of the violence in the world today, Muslims are responsible," she told host Jon Stewart.

Stewart did not demand any evidence and Hirsi Ali provided no citation. However, she made a strikingly similar statement in a March 20 essay previewing her new book for the Wall Street Journal: "According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies," Hirsi Ali wrote in WSJ’s Saturday Essay, "at least 70% of all the fatalities in armed conflicts around the world last year were in wars involving Muslims."

I contacted the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), a leading British foreign policy think tank, to inquire about the source of Hirsi Ali’s statistic. According to IISS spokesperson Kat Slowe, IISS did not state such a figure in its research.

"I have spoken to a number of our experts and they cannot identify where this statistic may have come from," Slowe told me.

"Their best guess is that the journalist in question [Hirsi Ali] may have access/a subscription to the [IISS] Armed Conflict Database and may have calculated this statistic independently. There are some concerns that it could be misleading as, without Syria (near 200,000 total deaths, and almost half of last year’s global conflict deaths) the figure would look massively different (and of course, this conflict did not have its root in religion)," Slowe added.

Hirsi Ali’s AHA Foundation did not respond to my request for a citation on the statistic, nor did the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute that employs Hirsi Ali as a resident scholar. My email query to Hirsi Ali’s personal account at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government, where she serves as a fellow, also went unanswered.

Around 24 hours after my initial query, Hirsi Ali publicly backed off her claim that Muslims are "responsible" for most of the violence in the world. "Depressing that 70% of fatalities in armed conflicts around the world last year were in wars involving Muslims," she declared on her personal Twitter account.

Hirsi Ali linked to a survey of casualties in global conflicts by IISS’ Hanna Ucko Neill and Jens Wardenaer which made no reference to Muslims or religiously inspired violence. Apparently Hirsi Ali calculated the statistic on her own by using an IISS report that documented conflicts in territories from eastern Ukraine to sub-Saharan Africa to the Middle East to Mexico, where drug gangs fueled widespread killing. The IISS’ Slowe noted that the year’s surge in conflict-related deaths occurred thanks to the fighting in Syria, explaining that Hirsi Ali’s claim was "misleading" because "this conflict did not have its root in religion."

Instead of responding to my question about her statistic, Hirsi Ali’s AHA Foundation forwarded my email query to the Washington Free Beacon, a right-wing publication with its own history of Islamophobic tall tales and hoaxes. In a currently un-bylined article about the query, the Free Beacon accused me of anti-Semitism.


History of fraud
Hirsi Ali’s highly suspect statistic is only the latest deception by one of the world’s most prominent opponents of Islam. While other anti-Muslim activists like Robert Spencer and Pamela Geller have marginalized themselves on the fringes of the far-right, Hirsi Ali remains a darling of the American mainstream media. In Heretic, a polemic recycling many of her past arguments against Islam, she calls for the emergence of a Muslim Martin Luther — the authoritarian 16th-century zealot who called for burning down the synagogues of Jews, whom he compared to a gangrenous disease. With the book's release, Hirsi Ali has been welcomed with open arms by the BBC, CNN’s Anderson Cooper, and a relatively accommodating Jon Stewart. ABC News has even run an excerpt from Heretic, while the New York Times Book Review hosted her for an interview filled with hardball questions about her favorite children’s books.

Hirsi Ali’s power to persuade lies in her dramatic personal story and the public persona she has constructed. She has marketed herself as a expert native informant who has emerged out of the dark heart of radical Islam and into the light of Western civilization. Her tale is an uplifting, comforting one that tells many Westerners what they want to hear about themselves and their perceived enemies. With anti-Muslim attitudes at their peak across Europe and the US, her sweeping critique of Islam as an endemically violent faith has enormous cachet. The only problem is that like her writings on Islam, much of what she has told the public about herself is questionable.

In May 2006, the Dutch television program Zembla thoroughly debunked the dramatic story Hirsi Ali had told to advance her career, concluding that Hirsi Ali had sold the Dutch public "a story full of obscurities."

Born Ayaan Hirsi Magam, she migrated to the Netherlands in 1992, changed her name to Hirsi Ali, and lied to Dutch authorities about her past. Contrary to the story she told the government, she arrived in the Netherlands not from war-torn Somalia, but from Kenya, where she lived in a secure environment and under the protection of the United Nations, which funded her education at a well-regarded Muslim girls’ school. Though she told immigration authorities and the Dutch public she had fled from civil war in Somalia, she left that country before its war broke out. Indeed, she did not live through a war there or anywhere else. Thanks to her fabrications, Hirsi Ali received political asylum in just five weeks.

Hirsi Ali told astonished audiences on Dutch talk shows that her supposedly devout family had forced her to marry a draconian Muslim man, that she had not been present at her own wedding, and that her family had threatened to kill her for offending their religious honor. However, Zembla told a drastically different story. Hirsi Ali’s brother, aunt and former husband each testified that she had indeed been present at her wedding. It turned out that Hirsi Ali’s mother had sent her brother to a Christian school, not exactly an indication of Islamic fanaticism.

"Yeah, I made up the whole thing," Hirsi Ali admitted on camera to a Zembla reporter who confronted her with her lies. "I said my name was Ayaan Hirsi Ali instead of Ayaan Hirsi Magan. I also said I was born in 1967 while I was actually born in 1969."

Hirsi Ali’s claim of honor killing threats also appears to be empty; she remained in touch with her father and aunt after she left her husband. In fact, her husband even came to visit her in the Dutch refugee center where she lived after leaving him. Even though he had paid her way to Europe on the grounds that she would join him in Canada, Hirsi Ali’s husband consented to the divorce she sought. (Watch the full Zembla program on Hirsi Ali.)


Fabrications that toppled a government
In 2003, just a decade after gaining political asylum in the Netherlands, Hirsi Ali was elected to the Dutch parliament on the ticket of the anti-immigrant People's Party for Freedom and Democracy. VVD leadership knew that the story Hirsi Ali told on her immigration forms was a gigantic lie — she had told them as much — but covered up the fraud and even advanced it to propel her career.

"She’s witnessed five civil wars in her youth, and has fled with her family many times. She’s made of iron and steel," the VVD’s Neelie-Smit Kroes said of Hirsi Ali at the time, reciting claims her party knew were false.

A year after joining the Dutch parliament, where she said she attempted to ban Islamic schools in the Netherlands, Hirsi Ali teamed up with Dutch director Theo van Gogh to produce a documentary called Submission. The film portrayed violence against women in Muslim communities as a logical result of Islamic belief, relying on actresses to portray abused women and featuring semi-nude, niqab clad women with Quranic verses scrawled across their torsos. Van Gogh, a filmmaker and columnist who had taken to calling Muslims "goat fuckers," was gunned down soon after the film’s release by a Dutch Islamist radical. Before fleeing the scene, the killer pinned a note to van Gogh’s body threatening Hirsi Ali with death. Hirsi Ali’s persistence in the face of the episode helped earn her hero status across the West, particularly in post-9/11 America, where Time magazine named her one of its 100 Most Influential People in 2005.

Zembla’s revelations of Hirsi Ali’s lies in May 2006 interrupted her ascent and threw the Dutch government into chaos. No one was more damaged than her friend and close party ally, Immigration Minister Rita Verdonk. Nicknamed "Iron Rita" for her ruthless anti-migrant crackdowns and her demagogic appeals to xenophobia, Verdonk was shamed by the revelations of Hirsi Ali’s deceptions. When she announced her intention to strip Hirsi Ali of her citizenship, however, she was skewered in parliament and forced to relent.

Days after Zembla aired its exposé, Hirsi Ali announced her plans to leave parliament and take up a position with the American Enterprise Institute, the Washington-based think thank that housed many of the neoconservatives who helped orchestrate the U.S. invasion of Iraq. In the immediate aftermath of the furor she caused, Verdonk introduced the so-called "Law on Integration," one of Europe’s harshest anti-immigrant bills. Only one member of the Dutch House of Representatives opposed it. However, the governing coalition soon collapsed because of the scandal Hirsi Ali’s deceptions inspired. With a new coalition seated in February 2007, and without Verdonk and Hirsi Ali in power, the government was able to adopt a more tolerant approach to immigrants.


Winning a Harvard fellowship, defending Breivik
Upon her relocation to the US, Hirsi Ali was embraced by a coalition of liberal interventionists, neoconservatives and "New Atheists" like Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris and Bill Maher. With extended appearances on the Christian Broadcasting Network of Pat Robertson, who blamed homosexuality for the 9/11 attacks, self-proclaimed feminist Hirsi Ali won droves of fans among the Christian right. Despite her views on Islam, which she called a "destructive, nihilistic cult of death," or perhaps because of them, she received a fellowship from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government.

As she rose in prominence among America’s intellectual elite, Hirsi Ali’s history of lying tumbled conveniently down the Orwellian memory hole. In promotional material for her best-selling 2007 memoir, Infidel, Hirsi Ali’s publishers at Simon & Schuster have pushed the discredited claim that "Hirsi Ali survived civil war." More recently, conservative pundit Peggy Noonan glossed over the reasons behind Hirsi Ali’s flight from the Netherlands, writing, "Ayaan Hirsi Ali got death threats and eventually fled to America." Few, if any, American outlets have noted that Hirsi Ali left the Netherlands as her public credibility collapsed and her anti-immigrant party fell into crisis.

With support from across the American ideological spectrum, Hirsi Ali sharpened her rhetoric against Muslims. In a candid 2007 exchange with Reason Magazine, she declared that the religion of Islam had to be "defeated." "Once it’s defeated, it can mutate into something peaceful," Hirsi Ali stated. "It’s very difficult to even talk about peace now….There comes a moment when you crush your enemy."

Junketed to Berlin in 2012 to receive the Axel Springer Honorary Award from the right-wing German publisher, Hirsi Ali appeared to blame liberal defenders of multiculturalism for the killing spree committed by the Norwegian extremist Anders Breivik, claiming they left Breivik with "no other choice but to use violence. (Breivik cited Hirsi Ali’s work in his 1,500 page manifesto explaining his plans to commit a series of terrorist attacks across Norway.)

"[T]hat one man who killed 77 people in Norway, because he fears that Europe will be overrun by Islam, may have cited the work of those who speak and write against political Islam in Europe and America – myself among them – but he does not say in his 1500 page manifesto that it was these people who inspired him to kill. He says very clearly that it was the advocates of silence. Because all outlets to express his views were censored, he says, he had no other choice but to use violence." (Her words were met with an extended standing ovation.)

When Brandeis University canceled plans to award Hirsi Ali an honorary degree in April 2014, it appeared that her increasingly vitriolic tirades against Islam and its adherents had caught up with her. But then came the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris, a seemingly clarifying moment that Hirsi Ali and fellow anti-Islam activists seized on as confirmation of their darkest prophecies. Two months later, she released Heretic.

Having rebranded herself a brave "reformer" following in the footsteps of the Selma marchers, Hirsi Ali has found her way back into the mainstream limelight. While American media demonstrates an endless appetite for her polemics about Islam, holding her to account remains taboo.

Source: Alternet

 



 

The Business of Backlash

IJAN is excited to release our new report, The Business of Backlash: The Attack on the Palestinian Movement and Other Movements for Social Justice, which reveals the financing behind the attacks across the United States against those who have been organizing in support of Palestine. This long awaited 124 page report, which synthesizes thousands of pages of tax returns, demonstrates that a small handful of individuals, including right-wing donors Sheldon Adelson, the Koch Brothers, Newton and Rochelle Becker, the Sarah Scaife foundation and the Bradley foundation are responsible for a huge portion of this funding. These same donors, many of whom earned their wealth from or are invested in industries that profit from war and instability in the Middle East, are involved in attacks on other progressive causes.

Download The Business of Backlash here.

H/T: JsF

Friday, March 20, 2015

Ben Carson: GOP Candidate Wannabe on Palestine

Carson also weighed in on the Israeli election and the possibility of establishing a Palestinian state. "We need to look at fresh ideas," he says, which is something that politicians who aren’t familiar with the details over a certain issue like to say. What sort of #innovative think-leadership would Carson bring to the Israel-Palestine conflict?
"We need to look at fresh ideas," said Carson. "I don’t have any problem with the Palestinians having a state, but does it need to be within the confines of Israeli territory? Is that necessary, or can you sort of slip that area down into Egypt? Right below Israel, they have some amount of territory, and it can be adjacent. They can benefit from the many agricultural advances that were made by Israel, because if you fly over that area, you can easily see the demarcation between Egypt and Israel, in terms of one being desert and one being verdant. Technology could transform that area. So why does it need to be in an area where there’s going to be temptation for Hamas to continue firing missiles at relatively close range to Israel?"
"Sort of slip that area down into Egypt" is a fairly cold way to describe a mass removal of a people from their homeland. But sure, it would indeed make this problem much easier for Israel if Palestinians completely abandoned their legitimate territorial claims. He should suggest this to the Palestinian leadership. They’ll be all, "Whoa hey, now there’s some thinkin’ — check out the noggin on this guy!"

Carson doesn’t need to worry all that much, though. Aside from nailing down a few key facts — what countries are in what alliances, which countries share borders, etc. — you don’t need all that much foreign policy knowledge to compete in a GOP presidential primary. You just need to know that aggressively pushing Russia into a corner is always a great idea that can only have positive consequences and never backfire, the proper Middle East policy is to kill everyone who gives America a nasty look, and same deal for all the other countries everywhere else. Leftism in South America must be dealt with — that too. Leftism in our hemisphere is bad. "Stand up to badness" is the general idea.

 

Source: Salon

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Rightwing Zionutter calls for nuking Germany and Iran

File under 'shit you can't make up'. Russia Insider reports an opinion piece by Chen Ben-Eliyahu in "Israel National News", calling for the extensive nuking of Germany and Iran. I kid you not!

The extremist right-wing Israeli newspaper „Israel National News" published an opinion on Tuesday in which it called for Israel to attack Germany and Iran with nuclear bombs. The article claims that only through the nuclear annihilation of Germany and Iran, with 20 or 30 nuclear bombs, can Israelis prevent destruction of the state.

„If Israel does not follow the way of the Torah, it will be almost completely destroyed by a severe punishment and only a few will survive" writes Chen Ben-Eliyahu, the author of the piece, in Hebrew.

Israel must respond in kind in order to prevent this. "We must answer an existential threat with an existential threat"; he writes, "not with speeches to the US-Congress. We must make it clear to the Iranians that Israel will wipe out their nuclear program and Teheran and Isfahan as well.

"If an enemy sets out to destroy you, then you must destroy him first. Twenty or thirty nuclear bombs will get the job done", he explains.

He reminds the Israelis of their near destruction at the hands of the Nazis and calls for revenge on Germany, although the German government is now, next to the US, Israel’s biggest supporter.

Ben-Eliyahu demands a turnaround of the „Final Solution" and writes „twenty to thirty nuclear bombs on Berlin, Munich, Nuremberg, Cologne, Frankfurt, Stuttgart, Dresden, Dortmund and so on will ensure obliteration." And in allusion to the "Thousand Year Reich" he continues, "afterwards the country will be quiet for a thousand years".



This kind of nuttery raises another interesting question. There's a war of words being conducted by the Islamophobia industry with regards to the question whether or not ISIS is Islamic. Well, should I consider Chen Ben-Eliyahu representative of Judaism and Torah? And if I did would I be antisemitic? Think about that for five minutes...

PS. Think this is a 'monkey sandwich' type story? Check the links below.

Russia Insider link:

http://russia-insider.com/en/2015/03/14/4489



Link to "Alles Schall und Rauch" blogger who apparently first picked up the story:

http://alles-schallundrauch.blogspot.ch/2015/03/israel-soll-deutschland-und-iran-atomar.html



Link to the original INN (Hebrew) article (a Google translate confirmed the content):

http://www.inn.co.il/Articles/Article.aspx/13312

Thursday, March 12, 2015

No Neo-Nazis in Ukraine's G'ment, oh no!

Washington's and Brussel's denial that Ukraine's Goverment is made up in large part of antisemitic Neo-Nazi elements would be comical if it wasn't so tragic.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-hughes/the-neo-nazi-question-in_b_4938747.html



http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Ukrainian-Governments-Neo-Nazi-Links-20140826-0004.html

 

Nothing really new there, though: Washington's support for anything from Far Right military juntas in Latin America to the Afghan 'Mujahedin' (and precursors to the Taliban), not to mention the Colonisers in Tel Aviv, are a matter of recorded facts.

Regarding those interventions, here's a bonus laughter track: even Obama girl, fresh out of kintergarten Jen Psaki, can't really keep a straight face!

It's NATO That's Empire-Building, Not Putin

From Russia Insider:
http://russia-insider.com/en/2015/03/12/4402



Just for once, let us try this argument with an open mind, employing arithmetic and geography and going easy on the adjectives. Two great land powers face each other. One of these powers, Russia, has given up control over 700,000 square miles of valuable territory. The other, the European Union, has gained control over 400,000 of those square miles. Which of these powers is expanding?

There remain 300,000 neutral square miles between the two, mostly in Ukraine. From Moscow’s point of view, this is already a grievous, irretrievable loss. As Zbigniew Brzezinski, one of the canniest of the old Cold Warriors, wrote back in 1997, ‘Ukraine… 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.’

This diminished Russia feels the spread of the EU and its armed wing, Nato, like a blow on an unhealed bruise. In February 2007, for instance, Vladimir Putin asked sulkily, ‘Against whom is this expansion intended?’

I have never heard a clear answer to that question. The USSR, which Nato was founded to fight, expired in August 1991. So what is Nato’s purpose now? Why does it even still exist?

There is no obvious need for an adversarial system in post-Soviet Europe. Even if Russia wanted to reconquer its lost empire, as some believe (a belief for which there is no serious evidence), it is too weak and too poor to do this. So why not invite Russia to join the great western alliances? Alas, it is obvious to everyone, but never stated, that Russia cannot ever join either Nato or the EU, for if it did so it would unbalance them both by its sheer size. There are many possible ways of dealing with this. One would be an adult recognition of the limits of human power, combined with an understanding of Russia’s repeated experience of invasions and its lack of defensible borders.

But we do not do this. Instead we have a noisy pseudo-moral crusade, which would not withstand five minutes of serious consideration. Mr Putin’s state is, beyond doubt, a sinister tyranny. But so is Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Turkey, which locks up far more journalists than does Russia. Turkey is an officially respectable Nato member, 40 years after seizing northern Cyprus, which it still occupies, in an almost exact precedent for Russia’s seizure of Crimea. If Putin disgusts us so much, then why are we and the USA happy to do business with Erdogan, and also to fawn upon Saudi Arabia and China?

Contrary to myth, the expansion of the EU into the former communist world has not magically brought universal peace, love and prosperity. Croatia’s economy has actually gone backwards since it joined. Corruption still exists in large parts of the EU’s new south-eastern territories, and I am not sure that the rule of law could be said to have been properly established there. So the idea that the recruitment of Ukraine to the ‘West’ will magically turn that troubled nation into a sunny paradise of freedom, probity and wealth is perhaps a little idealistic, not to say mistaken.

It is all so much clearer if we realise that this quarrel is about power and land, not virtue. In truth, much of the eastward expansion of Nato was caused by the EU’s initial unwillingness to take in backward, bankrupt and corrupt refugee states from the old Warsaw Pact. The policy could be summed up as ‘We won’t buy your tomatoes, but if it makes you happy you can shelter under our nuclear umbrella’. The promise was an empty assurance against a nonexistent threat. But an accidental arrangement hardened into a real confrontation. The less supine Russia was, the more its actions were interpreted as aggression in the West. Boris Yeltsin permitted western interests to rape his country, and did little to assert Russian power. So though he bombarded his own parliament, conducted a grisly war in Chechnya, raised corruption to Olympic levels and shamelessly rigged his own re-election, he yet remained a popular guest in western capitals and summits. Vladimir Putin’s similar sins, by contrast, provide a pretext for ostracism and historically illiterate comparisons between him and Hitler.

This is because of his increasing avowal of Russian sovereignty, and of an independent foreign policy. There have been many East-West squabbles and scrimmages, not all of them Russia’s fault. But the New Cold War really began in 2011, after Mr Putin dared to frustrate western — and Saudi — policy in Syria. George Friedman, the noted US intelligence and security expert, thinks Russia badly underestimated the level of American fury this would provoke. As Mr Friedman recently told the Moscow newspaper Kommersant, ‘It was in this situation that the United States took a look at Russia and thought about what it [Russia] wants to see happen least of all: instability in Ukraine.’


Mr Friedman (no Putin stooge) also rather engagingly agrees with Moscow that overthrow last February of Viktor Yanukovych was ‘the most blatant coup in history’. He is of course correct, as anyone unclouded by passion can see. The test of any action by your own side is to ask what you would think of it if the other side did it.

If Russia didn’t grasp how angry Washington would get over Syria, did the West realise how furiously Russia would respond to the EU Association Agreement and to the fall of Yanukovych? Perhaps not. Fearing above all the irrecoverable loss to Nato of its treasured naval station in Sevastopol, Russia reacted. After 23 years of sullenly appeasing the West, Moscow finally said ‘enough’. Since we’re all supposed to be against appeasement, shouldn’t we find this action understandable in a sovereign nation, even if we cannot actually praise it? And can anyone explain to me precisely why Britain, of all countries, should be siding with the expansion of the European Union and Nato into this dangerous and unstable part of the world?

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

"It's pc gone mad, innit!" Clarkson's Idiots are out in full

Comments made on:
http://www.radiotimes.com/news/2015-03-10/top-gear-series-postponed-after-jeremy-clarkson-punches-producer
... really say it all:


Clive Hill you are absolutely correct. Grow "a set" BBC. Send Mr. Clarkson to Monaco for a "time out", and tell the producer not to piss him off anymore.

 The BBC can afford to lose some snot nosed Producer, they can't afford to lose the big mouth...f

 
Writes a lone dissenter:

Ed Day what a sad world we live in where a man who's openly racist anyway can't simply assault his colleague without his job being jeopardy.

 

First they try to shove an american knockoff in my face, then take away the real top gear. Would like to punch a few producers myself.

 

I realize the Jeremy is a big mouth, but quite honestly that sells this show. If he punched a producer, then WHY was that producer antagonizing their top talent?

 

Bbc get worse and worse. Too many pc idiots and anti English in there. I've stopped watching the biased anti English question time.

 

You can't stop Topgear because of some wussy producer for fcuks sake punch him back he's a grown man.

 

ok so Clarkson punched a producer in the face. why? how? what circumstances? no context whatsoever and it was reported to the company days upon days later if it was such a serious incident why not report it straight away? personally I think the producer in question is sick of his job but doesn't want to go through the whole I cant be bothered with notice and I want to be in the limelight like Clarkson so ill make up a story to get him sacked from the show!

 

Who hasn't punched someone they work with?
Is that all this is about? Big deal I'm sure this "producer" will live!
Why didn't he just punch him back instead of being a 10 year and running off to tell a teacher!


 

Love clarkson, if you don't like him don't watch, maybe jihad john is more your miserable thing

 

Wipe the sand from betwixt your vaginas, and get on with the show...

 

Yes he's not politically correct he has a right not to be , this country has lost the plot with its super high tolerance and extreme polical correctness and to be honest with you the producer must of been a dick because JC is a genuine guy ...


Etcetera, ad nauseam and seemingly without end. These then, are the people coming to "Jezza's" defence. Those charming people...

Or maybe, it's just a joke like on Top Gear:

https://youtu.be/K7CnMQ4L9Pc

Adolf Lieberman goes ISIS

Source:
http://www.newsweek.com/behead-arab-israelis-opposed-state-says-foreign-minister-312276




The minister, leader of the Yisrael Beiteinu party and an outspoken critic of Israel’s Arab population, made the controversial remarks on Sunday in a speech to an election rally held in the western Israeli city of Herzliya ahead of the March 17 vote.

"Those who are with us deserve everything, but those who are against us deserve to have their heads chopped off with an axe," the ultra-nationalist politician said.

 

Watch a storm of protest develop in the West's MSM. Not.

 

Harry's Place will undoubtedly spend an editorial on this, pursuing the issue with the same vigour they do all things Islamic!



Monday, March 09, 2015

Slavoj Žižek: How the United States Rolls

Or: MAD v. NUTS

http://inthesetimes.com/article/17437/how_the_united_states_rolls

 
Towards the end of September, after declaring war on ISIS, President Obama gave an interview to "60 Minutes" in which he tried to explain the rules of U.S. engagement: "When trouble comes up anywhere in the world, they don't call Beijing, they don't call Moscow. They call us. … That's always the case. America leads. We are the indispensable nation."

This also holds for environmental and humanitarian disasters: "When there's a typhoon in the Philippines, take a look at who's helping the Philippines deal with that situation. When there's an earthquake in Haiti, take a look at who's leading the charge and making sure Haiti can rebuild. That's how we roll. And that's what makes this America."

In October, however, Obama himself made a call to Tehran, sending a secret letter to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in which he suggested a broader rapprochement between the U.S. and Iran based on their shared interest in combating Islamic State militants.

When the news of the letter reached the public, U.S. Republicans denounced it as a gesture of weakness that can only strengthen Iran’s arrogant view of the U.S. as a superpower in decline. That’s how the United States rolls: Acting alone in a multi-centric world, they increasingly gain wars and lose the peace, doing the dirty work for others—for China and Russia, who have their own problems with Islamists, and even for Iran—the final result of the U.S. invasion of Iraq was to deliver the country to the political control of Iran. (The U.S. got caught in just such a situation in Afghanistan when their help to the fighters against the Soviet occupations gave birth to the Taliban.)

The ultimate source of these problems is the changed role of the U.S. in global economy. An economic cycle is coming to an end, a cycle that began in the early 1970s with the birth of what Yanis Varoufakis calls the "global minotaur," the monstrous engine that ran the world economy from the early 1980s to 2008. The late 1960s and the early 1970s were not just the times of oil crisis and stagflation; Nixon’s decision to abandon the gold standard for the U.S. dollar was the sign of a much more radical shift in the basic functioning of the capitalist system. By the end of the 1960s, the U.S. economy was no longer able to continue the recycling of its surpluses to Europe and Asia: Those surpluses had turned into deficits. In 1971, the U.S. government responded to this decline with an audacious strategic move: Instead of tackling the nation’s burgeoning deficits, it decided to do the opposite, to boost deficits. And who would pay for them? The rest of the world! How?

By means of a permanent transfer of capital that rushed ceaselessly across the two great oceans to finance America’s deficits: The United States has to suck up a half-billion dollars daily to pay for its consumption and is, as such, the universal Keynesian consumer who keeps the global economy running. This influx relies on a complex economic mechanism: The United States is "trusted" as the safe and stable center, so that all others, from the oil-producing Arab countries to Western Europe to Japan, and now even China, invest their surplus profits in the United States. Since this "trust" is primarily ideological and military, not economic, the problem for the United States is how to justify its imperial role—it needs a permanent state of war, offering itself as the universal protector of all other "normal"—as opposed to "rogue"—states.

However, even before it fully established itself, this world system based on the primacy of the U.S. dollar as the universal currency is breaking down and is being replaced by … what? This is what the ongoing tensions are about. The "American century" is over and we are witnessing the gradual formation of multiple centers of global capitalism: the United States, Europe, China, maybe Latin America, each of them standing for capitalism with a specific twist: the United States for neoliberal capitalism; Europe for what remains of the welfare state; China for authoritarian capitalism; Latin America for populist capitalism. The old and new superpowers are testing each other, trying to impose their own version of global rules, experimenting with them through proxies, which, of course, are other small nations and states.

The present situation thus bears an uncanny resemblance to the situation around 1900 when the hegemony of the British empire was questioned by new rising powers, especially Germany, which wanted its piece of the colonial cake. The Balkans were one of the sites of their confrontation. Today, the role of the British empire is played by the United States. The new rising superpowers are Russia and China, and the Balkans are the Middle East. It is the same old battle for geopolitical influence. The United States is not alone in its imperial stirrings; Moscow also hears calls from Georgia, from Ukraine; maybe it will start hearing voices from the Baltic states …

There is another unexpected parallel with the situation before the outbreak of World War I: In the last months, media continuously warn us about the threat of the World War III. Headlines like "The Russian Air Force's Super Weapon: Beware the PAK-FA Stealth Fighter" or "Russia Is Ready for Shooting War, Will Likely Win Looming Nuclear Showdown with U.S." abound. At least once a week, Putin makes a statement seen as a provocation to the West, and a notable Western statesman or NATO figure warns against Russian imperialist ambitions. Russia expresses concerns about being contained by NATO, while Russia’s neighbors fear Russian invasion. And on it goes. The very worried tone of these warnings seems to heighten the tension—exactly as in the decades before 1914. And in both cases, the same superstitious mechanism is at work, as if talking about it will prevent it from happening. We know about the danger, but we don’t believe it can really happen—and that’s why it can happen. That is to say, even if we don’t really believe it can happen, we are all getting ready for it—and these actual preparations, largely ignored by the big media, are mostly reported in marginal media. From the Centre for Research on Globalization’s blog:
America is on a war footing. While a World War Three Scenario has been on the drawing board of the Pentagon for more than 10 years, military action against Russia is now contemplated at an ‘operational level.’ We are not dealing with a ‘Cold War.’ None of the safeguards of the Cold War era prevail. The adoption of a major piece of legislation by the U.S. House of Representatives on Dec. 4, 2014 (H.R. 758) would provide (pending a vote in the Senate) a de facto green light to the U.S. president and commander in chief to initiate—without congressional approval—a process of military confrontation with Russia. Global security is at stake. This historic vote—which potentially could affect the lives of hundreds of millions of people worldwide—has received virtually no media coverage. A total media blackout prevails. On December 3, the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation announced the inauguration of a new military-political entity which would take over in the case of war. Russia is launching a new national defense facility, which is meant to monitor threats to national security in peacetime, but would take control of the entire country in case of war.
To further complicate matters, the competing new and old superpowers are joined by a third factor: the radicalized fundamentalist movements in the Third World, which oppose all of the superpowers but are prone to make strategic pacts with some of them. No wonder our predicament is getting more and more obscure. Who is who in the ongoing conflicts? How to choose between Assad and ISIS in Syria? Between ISIS and Iran? Such obscurity—not to mention the rise of drones and other arms that promise a clean, high-tech war without casualties (on our side)—gives a boost to military spending and makes the prospect of war more appealing.

If the basic underlying axiom of the Cold War was the axiom of MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction), the axiom of today's War on Terror seems to be the opposite one, that of NUTS (Nuclear Utilization Target Selection), i.e., the idea that, by means of a surgical strike, you can destroy the enemy’s nuclear capacities, while your anti-missile shield protects you from a counter-strike. More precisely, the United States acts as if it continues to trust the MAD logic in its relations with Russia and China, while it is tempted to practice NUTS with Iran and North Korea. The paradoxical mechanism of MAD inverts the logic of the "self-fulfilling prophecy" into the "self-stultifying intention": The very fact that each side can be sure that, in the case it decides to launch a nuclear attack on the other side, the other side will respond with full destructive force, guarantees that no side will start a war. The logic of NUTS is, on the contrary, that the enemy can be forced to disarm if it is assured that we can strike at him without risking a counter-attack. The very fact that two directly contradictory strategies are mobilized simultaneously by the same superpower bears witness to the phantasmagoric character of this entire reasoning.

How to stop our slide into this vortex? The first step is to leave behind all the pseudo-rational talk about "strategic risks" that we are required to assume. We must also jettison the notion of historical time as a linear process of evolution in which, at each moment, we have to choose between different courses of action. It is not just a question of avoiding risks and making the right choices within the global situation, the true threat resides in the situation in its entirety, in our "fate"—if we continue to "roll" the way we do now, we are doomed, no matter how carefully we proceed. We have to accept the threat as our fate. So the solution is not to be very careful and avoid risky acts—in acting like this, we fully participate in the logic which leads to catastrophe. The solution is to fully become aware of the explosive set of interconnections that makes the entire situation dangerous. Once we do this, we should embark on the long and difficult work of changing the coordinates of the entire situation. Nothing less will do.

In a weird precursor to President Obama’s "that’s how we roll," when the passengers of the United Airlines Flight 93 attacked the hijackers on 9/11, the last audible words of Todd Beamer, one of them, were: "Are you guys ready? Let's roll." That’s how we all roll, so let’s roll, we may say—and bring down not only a plane, but our entire planet.