Today is International Woman’s Day: the day to honor women the world over.
I am heading back to my alma mater at Cornell University today for a meeting on Monday evening at the AFricana Center to advocate for a new monument at Cornell for the three civil rights workers. Goodman, Chaney and Schwerner (who went to Cornell.) We feel strongly that there needs to be a more visible memorial on campus to honor their sacrifice and connect new generations of students with their story and the memory of the civil rights movement. Here is an announcement in the Ithaca Times about the campaign and story in the Cornell Daily Sun.
• Listen UP: Podcast of Thursday’s News Dissector Radio Hour, Now reengineered as Mediachannel.org Radio. Interview with Matthew Cecil on his book, Hoover’s FBI and The Fourth Estate: The Campaign To Control the Press And The Bureau’s Image and poet Bob Holman and cast of a new play about the Ukraine.
•JJohn Oliver News Show Coming To HBO: Sneak Peek
•Re so-called Good Job News: Youth Unemployment officially at 15.8%
•My Latest Dissection: RUSSIA TODAY’S BEAST OF BURDEN: Shoot the Messenger and Obscure The Message
By Danny Schechter
James Kirchick is just the neutral reporter the Daily Beast would assign to report on the ideological controversy surrounding the Russian backed RT-TV Channel’s coverage of the crisis in the Ukraine.
The Beast lives up to its name by assigning a hardcore polemical ideologue to uncover what he predictably labels as ideological media bias.
Kirchick is a veteran of the anti-communist wars, now revived as the anti Putin wars, not some neutral journo crusading for democracy.
According to Wikipedia, He is a fellow with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington, prior to this he was writer-at-large for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. He is a graduate of the New Republic, Murdoch’s Weekly Standard and writes for Azure, a magazine that described itself as pro-Zionist and free market.
Ok, just so we know who are dealing with here.
And now, to bolster his “credibility” he presents himself as a victim in his latest article that exposes himself, far more than his target, asserting that his rights as a journalist were somehow compromised because of a gutsy quest for truth.
Here’s his exhibit:
•The Headline: “Watch RT, Putin’s TV Network, Call the Cops on Me”
•The Lead: “That’s what happens, it seems, when you ask some simple questions outside RT’s Washington headquarters.”
•The Polemic: “What would possess an American to work for a Russian propaganda outlet, especially now that the world is on the brink of a potential war in Eastern Europe?
I asked that question of about two dozen people coming in and out of the Washington headquarters of RT, the Kremlin-funded television network that has become infamous in recent days for whitewashing Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. No one would answer me directly. Instead, RT called the local cops on me. …”
Kirchik’s first story in his jihad against RT was to interview Anchor Liz Wahl who resigned flamboyantly on the air denouncing the channel she worked and making her an instant shero among Russia-bashers the world over.
Wahl offered up sweet innocence laced with the veneer of patriotism, declaring, “I’m very lucky to have grown up here in the United States, “ she said. “I’m the daughter of a veteran. My partner is a physician at a military base where he sees every day the first-hand accounts of the ultimate prices that people pay for this country. And that is why personally I cannot be part of a network that whitewashes the actions of Putin. I am proud to be an American and believe in disseminating the truth and that is why after this newscast I’m resigning.”
Cue the National anthem!
Funny, after her declaration of independence, and stagy pledge to quit was broadcast on a network that could have cut her off, none other than former Congressman Ron Paul who was interviewed by Wahl weighed in after she claimed RT censored her interview with him.
He denied it, saying, “I don’t think it was slanted in any way.”
Earlier, another RT on-air personality, Abby Martin, also denounced Putin’s Ukraine policy on the air but was not fired and did not quit.
Later, she turned up on CNN debating Piers Morgan, he of the show about to be cancelled, about how fair and objective most American TV is. She was far better informed on that subject than this departing British host in assessing the US press, and on a network considered by some critics as an “American propaganda outlet.”
In an article about Martin in National Journal, Lucia Graves wrote, “While it’s clear the network maintains a strong pro-Russian bias, Glenn Greenwald on Tuesday defended RT’s coverage, saying it isn’t so different from what we saw on American media outlets in the lead up to the Iraq War. “For all the self-celebrating American journalists and political commentators: Was there even a single U.S. television host who said anything comparable to this in the lead up to, or the early stages of, the U.S. invasion of Iraq?” he wrote.
On Google, a story from CNN on Wahl’s hyped farewell to RT carried Martin’s picture, not hers. Oh well, details, details!
Back to Mr. Kirchick’s heroism in defense of democracy!
Watch the video of how he posed some of his “simple” questions to RT employees outside their office.
What you see is a wise-guy provocateur harassing people entering the building with hostile, if not nasty and self-righteous questions, in an argumentative and aggressively hostile manner.
RT later challenged this image-building exercise of the “man who is not afraid of Putin” with a denial that they called the cops, an “update” that the Daily Beast tacked on to their story.
“RT America did not contact the DC police at any point,” Anna Belkina said in a statement. “The building’s security personnel called in the police after an intruder has been reported inside the building. The police questioned Mr. Kirchick as part of the investigation of that incident.”
Kirchick’s shouted out questions were there to call attention to himself, and score political points, and not to challenge the network that actually offers programs with views that are more diverse than on any US TV news channel. It features programs with Tom Hartmann and even Larry King, both of whom deny they have been censored.
As an occasional commentator on RT News myself, I can and have said the same. I am not surprised that the networks I once worked for, ABC, CNN and CNBC never have me on, while BBC, RT, Press TV and Saudi TV, among others, feature my commentaries without telling me what to say.
Kirchick is less bothered by what gets heard on RT than that it exists at all, and especially because the network has built an audience among Americans disgusted by how controlled and manipulated most US media outlets are.
His real target are RT’s viewers who he bitterly denounces as a “species,” perhaps because they are looking for information you never find on the Daily Beast or many of the outlets he whores for as a self-styled “objective newsman.”
Listen to this: “RT has become the go-to network for a particular species of disillusioned American, fed-up with what the “corporate media” is telling them about the world.”
He doesn’t waste any putdowns either from an arsenal of vituperative broadsides and even—get this— denounces RT employees as “slovenly.”
He then rants on to share what may have been his Yale-bred elitism about his perception of the people the network interviews that includes politicians and commentators of all stripes.
“RT, both in its employment and viewership,” he writes,” seems to attract a particular type of person. You know the man who writes political chain emails IN ALL CAPS or the bag lady shouting on the street corner about the metal device the government has implanted in her head? Under normal circumstances, no one would give them a television show. But these are the people who appear on, and watch, RT.”
Oh, really– another round of clichés to keep the truth from getting in the way of his preconceived perceptions.
Now, now, feel better Mr. Kirchick, time to take your medication, before you melt down, or stir up more hatred and animosity for people who lack your years of slimy experience as a media warrior in the service of a Neocon Empire.
Oh, you have more to ventilate?
“For the past 9 years, RT has provided steady paychecks and frequent media appearances to a veritable insane asylum of the great unwashed and unemployable dredges of the American fringe.”
Whew, I am glad he got that out of his system, until tomorrow, of course, when he will find another way of cursing without cursing, while showcasing superiority to those of us in that other sub-human “species.”
Now, let me get back to my Rolling Stones record:
I’ll never be your beast of burden
I’ll never be your beast of burden
Never, never, never, never, never, never, never be
by the way, do I need to say that I am not a Putin booster, my father was a veteran, I have pledged allegiance to the flag many times, and wrote two books and made a film about media miscoverage of the Iraq War. My critique was based, in part, in my own experience in network TV.
News Dissector Danny Schechter edits Mediachannel.org and blogs at NewsDissector.net. His latest book is Madiba A to Z: The Many Faces of Nelson Mandela. Comments to email@example.com.
•Watch: Dennis Kuncinich On Fox News About the Ukraine
•FAIR’s Peter Hart on Coverage of Ukraine from The FAIR Blog:
Russia, Ukraine and ‘US Prestige’
Given the US media’s general fondness for the Ukrainian protesters who wound up driving President Viktor Yanukovych from office, it was inevitable that Russian President Vladimir Putin’s military response in the Crimea–an autonomous region of Ukraine populated largely by ethnic Russians–would generate some intense criticism. And so it did.
But alongside the denunciations of Putin came waves of criticism for US President Barack Obama for being too weak to make Putin stop.
On NBC Nightly News (3/1/14), Meet the Press anchor David Gregory announced:
There is U.S. prestige on the line…. The president just Friday afternoon said there would be costs to this kind of intervention. So what are the costs? Why is it that Russia seems to disregard these warnings from the administration?
It was a theme that Gregory hit on his own show on Sunday (3/2/14). “Does NATO draw a line here to try to check any further aggression beyond Crimea into the eastern part of Ukraine?” Gregory wondered. He also posed this question to Secretary of State John Kerry:
On Friday, the president said, “There’ll be a cost to intervention.” What does it say to you that Vladimir Putin has ignored the United States for 10 days?
To Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, Gregory posed a question from the hawkish right:
How did we get here? Do you agree with some of your colleagues who say it’s the weakness of President Obama and the United States right now that has emboldened President Putin of Russia?
Introducing the roundtable discussion, Gregory said:
This is a conversation about Obama’s leadership, pure and simple. This is a major test for whether the rest of the world, particularly bad actors, take him seriously when he says to not do something, Chuck Todd.
NBC’s Todd concurred:
This is not the first time with Putin. Putin acts, Obama warns. Putin acts, Obama warns. This is a pattern that he can’t afford to stay in here and just continue to warn. You heard John Kerry, more warnings.
The focus on Obama’s supposed weakness in the face of Putin’s strength meant that some statements flew by without comment–like when Kerry said that “you just don’t invade another country on phony pretext in order to assert your interests.” Because really, what kind of country does that?
The tendency was evident elsewhere in the press. The Washington Post editorial page (3/1/14):
The United States now faces a naked act of armed aggression in the center of Europe by a Russian regime that is signaling its intent to steamroller this US president and his allies. Mr. Obama must demonstrate that can’t be done.
•WSWS: World Socialist Web Site: The fascist danger in Ukraine
A politically sinister propaganda offensive is underway in the media to either deny the involvement of fascists in the US-backed coup in Ukraine or present their role as a marginal and insignificant detail.
The New York Times, for example, asserted, “Putin’s claim of an immediate threat to Ukrainian Russians is empty,” while Britain’s Guardian dismissed as a “fancy” claims that events in Crimea were an attempt to “prevent attacks by bands of revolutionary fascists,” adding that “the world’s media has [not] yet seen or heard from” such forces.
This is an obscene cover-up.
The reality is that, for the first time since 1945, an avowedly anti-Semitic, pro-Nazi party controls key levers of state power in a European capital, courtesy of US and European imperialism. The unelected Ukrainian government, headed by US appointee Arseniy Yatsenyuk, includes no fewer than six ministers from the fascist Svoboda party.
Less than a year ago, the World Jewish Congress called for Svoboda to be banned. But the party’s founder and leader, Oleh Tyahnybok, who has spoken repeatedly of his determination to crush the “Russkie-Yid mafia that controls Ukraine,” was feted by US and European Union officials as they prepared last month’s coup.
Following the 2010 conviction of John Demjanjuk as an accomplice in the murder of nearly 30,000 people in the Nazi concentration camp at Sobibor, Tyahnybok called him a hero. Tyahnybok’s deputy, Yuriy Mykhalchyshyn, founded a think tank called the Joseph Goebbels Political Research Center.
Svoboda was the major political force in the Maidan protests that overthrew Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych. In return for providing the shock troops for the coup, it has been given control of vital ministries.
Svoboda co-founder Andriy Parubiy acted as “security commandant” in the protests, directing attacks by the Right Sector—an alliance of fascists and extreme right-wing nationalists, including the paramilitary Ukrainian National Assembly-Ukrainian National Self Defense (UNA-UNSO). Dressed in uniforms modelled on Hitler’s Waffen SS, its members boast of fighting Russia in Chechnya, Georgia and Afghanistan.
Parubiy is now secretary of the National Security and Defence Council, overseeing the Defence Ministry and the armed forces. Dmytro Yarosh, leader of the Right Sector, is his deputy.
Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Sych is another leading Svoboda figure, as is Oleh Makhnitsky (prosecutor-general), Serhiy Kvit (Education Minstry), Andriy Makhnyk (Ecology Ministry) and Ihor Shvaiko (Agriculture Ministry).
Others reportedly connected to UNA-UNSO are Dmytro Bulatov (youth and sports minister) and the “activist” journalist Tetyana Chernovol, who was named chair of the government’s anti-corruption committee.
•NY Times: Charlie Savage Reports on Edward Snowdens disclosure that he tried to work reform yhje the NSA first:
WASHINGTON — Edward J. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who leaked a trove of documents revealing the agency’s surveillance operations, said he raised his concerns to more than 10 officials, “none of whom took any action to address them,” before he decided to give the documents to journalists.
Mr. Snowden’s comments, in written answers to questions by members of the European Parliament that were released on Friday, amplified previous assertions that he initially tried to raise concerns internally about surveillance collection he believed went too far.
An N.S.A. spokeswoman declined to comment, but the agency has previously said its internal investigation, including interviews with co-workers, found no evidence that he had brought concerns to the attention of anyone.
But in his written testimony, Mr. Snowden insisted that he had, adding that his efforts had elicited two types of responses. Some people, he said, responded with “well-meaning but hushed warnings not to ‘rock the boat’ ” for fear of retaliation like being investigated by the F.B.I. as a suspected leaker.
“Everyone in the intelligence community is aware of what happens to people who report concerns about unlawful but authorized operations,” he wrote.
•Alice Slater writes to the Editor of the NY Times on Natural Gas as a Diplomatic Tool
Does the Times really believe that America should be “heralding the rise of a new era of energy diplomacy” by beefing up our oil and gas sales to Europe and boasting about our huge potential to export carbon-laden filthy fuel to Russia’s fossil fuel customers as a way to curb Putin? Is this a rational solution to the disturbing events in Ukraine? Pour more carbon into the environment and watch the earth’s ecosystems collapse! Pick your poison—nuclear war or catastrophic climate change!! The follow up editorial to this tone deaf reporting, “Natural Gas as a Diplomatic Tool”, is even more cynical, arguing for speeding up export applications and easing restrictions, knowing it would take years and costs billions of dollars. Advising that “American officials should use natural gas exports as one component of diplomacy” is like selling smallpox laden blankets to the indigenous people of America. It’s a death sentence for our planet and the billions should be spent instead on a Manhattan Project for solar, wind, geothermal and hydro energy which can power the whole planet by 2050 and undercut so many of the geopolitical resource-driven motives for war.
•Related: And This Just In
CLG: Ukraine signs $10 billion shale gas deal with Chevron –Agreement with Chevron, to extend for 50 years, foresaw an initial investment of 350 million by the U.S. major in exploratory work over two or three years 05 Nov 2013 Ukraine signed a 10 billion shale gas production-sharing agreement with U.S. Chevron on Tuesday, another step in a drive for more energy independence from Russia. The deal to develop its western Olesska field followed a similar shale gas agreement with Royal Dutch Shell in January and boosts Ukraine’s leadership at a time of fraught relations with Moscow over gas supplies. “The agreements with Shell and Chevron…will enable us to have full sufficiency in gas by 2020 and, under an optimistic scenario, even enable us to export energy,” President Viktor Yanukovich told investors shortly before the signin
I am off to Mythica NY and back to Cornell for the weekend. Please check out the updated Mediachannel.org. Comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
Saluting Little Steven
What an evening: The annual gala of the WE ARE FAMILY foundation run by producer Nile Rodgers and Nancy Hunt was as packed and spirited as ever fusing social concern and good times. Tonights humanitarian award winner was my old pal Steven Van Zandt, aka Little Steven and in an earlier life in the E Street Bannd, “Miami Steve. He was being honored for building a school in Africa for a We Are Family project, and, of course, organizing Artists United Against Apartheid and writing and co-producing the anti-apartrheid anthem Sun City.
Selections of the video were played before Nile and his Chic band, with original Sun City Artists, Steven, Nona Hendrix, Afrika Bambaatta and Melle Mel (of the rap pioneers the Furious 5) banged out a spirited version that got everyone on their feet and dancing along. Except for forgetting a few words here and they improved on the original. Steven spoke about his motivation and spoke out against racism in our country. There were video tributes by Bruce Sprimgsteen Peter Gabriel, a very funny Bono, Jackson Browne and Hall & Oates. Johnathan Demme who directed the SUN CITY Video also joined in. I was, as you would imagine when Steven praised me and filmmaker Hart Perry who filmed the making of documentary and who was there last night. There was also a tribute to Nelson Mandela. What a great evening. I am sure the show is still going on as I wrote.
Please do yourself a favor and visit the website of WeAreFamilyFoundation.org and their related projects TED Teen X and Three Dot Dash. I have been supportive of their efforts to groom GTLs–Global Teen Leaders over the years and was proud to direct the original We Are Family film of the recording sessions held right after 9/11 to appeal for tolerance and understanding.
•Watch this video to learn more about their mission.
In our world
•Author John le Carre Warns of the Threat to Democracy by Intelligence Agencies
•Robert Parry, Consortium News: Who’s Delusional, Putin or Kerry?
Exclusive: Official Washington and its compliant mainstream news media operate with a convenient situational ethics when it comes to the principles of international law and non-intervention in sovereign states. The rules apply only when they’re convenient, explains Robert Parry.
When Secretary of State John Kerry denounces Russia’s intervention in Crimea by declaring “It is not appropriate to invade a country and at the end of a barrel of gun dictate what you are trying to achieve. That is not Twenty-first Century, G-8, major-nation behavior,” you might expect that the next line in a serious newspaper would note Kerry’s breathtaking hypocrisy.
But not if you were reading the New York Times on Wednesday, or for that matter the Washington Post or virtually any mainstream U.S. newspaper or watching a broadcast outlet.
Yet, look what happens when Russia’s President Vladimir Putin does what the U.S. news media should do, i.e. point out that “It’s necessary to recall the actions of the United States in Afghanistan, in Iraq, in Libya, where they acted either without any sanction from the U.N. Security Council or distorted the content of these resolutions, as it happened in Libya. There, as you know, only the right to create a no-fly zone for government aircraft was authorized, and it all ended in the bombing and participation of special forces in group operations.”
Despite the undeniable accuracy of Putin’s observation, he was promptly deemed to have “lost touch with reality,” according to a Washington Post’s editorial, which called his press conference “rambling” and a “bizarre performance” in which his words have “become indistinguishable from the propaganda of his state television network.”
You get the point. If someone notes the disturbing U.S. history of military interventions or describes the troubling narrative behind the “democratic” coup in Ukraine – spearheaded by neo-Nazi militias who overthrew a duly elected president – you are dismissed as crazy.
Yet, it has been the Post, Times and other U.S. news outlets which have led the way in developing a propaganda narrative at odds with the known reality. For instance, the violent February clashes in Kiev are now typically described as the Ukrainian police having killed some 80 protesters, though the original reporting had that death toll including 13 policemen and the fact that neo-Nazi militias were responsible for much of the violence, from hurling firebombs to shooting firearms.
That history is already fast disappearing as we saw in a typical New York Times report on Wednesday, which reported: “More than 80 protesters were shot to death by the police as an uprising spiraled out of control in mid-February.”
Those revised “facts” better fit the preferred narrative of innocent and peaceful demonstrators being set upon by thuggish police without provocation. But that isn’t what the original reporting revealed. Either the New York Times should explain how the earlier reporting was wrong or it should respect the more nuanced reality.
To do so, however, would undercut the desired narrative. So, it’s better to simply accuse anyone with a functioning memory of being “delusional.” The same with anyone who mentions the stunning hypocrisy of the U.S. government suddenly finding international law inviolable.
The history of the United States crossing borders to overthrow governments or to seize resources is a long and sordid one. Even after World War II and the establishment of the Nuremberg principles against “aggressive war,” the U.S. government has routinely violated those rules, sometimes unilaterally and sometimes by distorting the clear meaning of U.N. resolutions, as Putin noted.
Those violations of international law have done nothing to diminish the official reputations of presidents who broke the rules. Despite the slaughters of millions of people from these U.S. military adventures, no U.S. president has ever been punished either by U.S. judicial authorities or by international tribunals.
In 1983, President Ronald Reagan, one of the most honored political figures in modern American history, ordered the invasion of the tiny Caribbean island of Grenada to overthrow its leftist government amid a political crisis that U.S. hostility had helped stir up. Reagan’s pretext was to protect American students at the St. George’s Medical School, though the students were not in any physical danger.
The U.S. invasion killed some 70 people on the island, including 25 Cuban construction workers. Nineteen U.S. soldiers also died. Though Reagan’s clear violation of international law was noted around the globe, he was hailed as a hero by the U.S. media at home and faced no accountability from the United Nations or anyone else.
When I went to Grenada to report on the invasion for the Associated Press, an article that I co-wrote about abuses committed by American troops, including the ransacking of the personal libraries of prominent Grenadians (in search of books such as Karl Marx’s Das Kapital), was spiked by my AP editors, presumably because it clashed with the feel-good U.S. public reaction to the invasion.
Last week, as I was reviewing documents at the Reagan Presidential Library at Simi Valley, California, I found a number of papers about how the Reagan administration used propaganda techniques to manipulate the American people regarding Grenada.
The files belonged to Walter Raymond Jr., a top CIA expert in propaganda and psychological operations who had been reassigned to Reagan’s National Security Council staff to oversee the creation of a global psy-op structure including one aimed at the U.S. public.
On Nov. 1, 1983, just a week after the invasion, White House public-relations specialist David Gergen advised Reagan’s image-molder Michael Deaver on steps to orchestrate the “follow-up on Grenada” to impress the American people, including making sure that the phased U.S. withdrawals were “well publicized, the bigger the groups the better. When units of the fleet leave, that also ought to be done with fanfare.”
The P.R. choreography called, too, for using the “rescued” students as props. Gergen wrote: “Students Meet with Liberating Forces: Everyone sees this as a key event, and it needs to be done before RR [Reagan] leaves for the Far East. … Students Visit the Wounded: Many of the wounded would probably welcome a thank you visit from a student delegation.”
In a handwritten comment on the last suggestion, Raymond praised the idea: “Happy Grenada theme.”
More Recent Violations
Secretary Kerry might argue that Grenada was so Twentieth Century, along with such events as the Vietnam War, the invasion of Panama in 1989 and the Persian Gulf conflict of 1990-91, which involved the slaughter of Iraqi soldiers and civilians even after the Iraqi government agreed to withdraw from Kuwait in a deal negotiated by then-Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. [For details, see Robert Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege.]
However, if one were to take up Secretary Kerry’s challenge and just look at the Twenty-first Century and “G-8, major-nation behavior,” which would include the United States and its major European allies, you’d still have a substantial list of U.S. violations: Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, Libya and others. France and Great Britain, two other G-8 countries, have engaged in military interventions as well, including France in Mali and other African conflicts.
On Aug. 30, 2013, Secretary Kerry himself gave a belligerent speech justifying U.S. military action against Syria over murky accounts of a chemical weapons attack outside Damascus, a war that was only averted by Putin’s diplomatic efforts in convincing President Bashar al-Assad to agree to eliminate Syria’s chemical weapons.
Plus, throughout his presidency, Barack Obama has declared, over and over, that “all options are on the table” regarding Iran’s nuclear program, a clear threat of another U.S. bombing campaign, another crisis that Putin has helped tamp down by assisting in getting Iran to the bargaining table.
Indeed, it appears that one reason why Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, a neocon holdover, has been so aggressive in trying to exacerbate the Ukraine crisis was as a form of neocon payback for Putin’s defusing the confrontations with Syria and Iran, when Official Washington’s still-influential neocons were eager for more violence and “regime change.” [See Consortiumnews.com’s “What Neocons Want from Ukraine Crisis.”]
In virtually all these threatened or actual U.S. military assaults on sovereign nations, the major U.S. news media has been enthusiastically onboard. Indeed, the Washington Post and the New York Times played key roles in manufacturing public consent for George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq in 2003 under the false pretext of eliminating its non-existent weapons of mass destruction.
By promoting dubious and false allegations, the Post and Times also have helped lay the groundwork for potential U.S. wars against Iran and Syria, including the Times making the bogus claim that the Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack east of Damascus was launched by Syrian government forces northwest of the city. Months later, the Times grudgingly admitted that its reporting, which helped bring the U.S. to the brink of another war, was contradicted by the fact that the Sarin-laden missile had a much more limited range. [See Consortiumnews.com’s “The Mistaken Guns of Last August.”]
However, when Russia has a much more understandable case for intervention – an incipient civil war on its border that involves clear U.S. interference, the overthrow of an elected president and the participation of neo-Nazi militias – the U.S. government and its compliant mainstream media lock arms in outrage.
•Investigative reporter Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories for The Associated Press and Newsweek in the 1980s. You can buy his new book, America’s Stolen Narrative, either in print here or as an e-book (from Amazon and barnesandnoble.com).
•Institute for Public Accuracy: AP reports: “President Barack Obama declared on Thursday that a referendum in 10 days on the future of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula would violate international law, and the United States moved to impose visa restrictions and financial sanctions on Russians and Ukrainians for the moves Moscow already has made into Crimea.
“Speaking from the White House, Obama said any decisions on the future of Crimea, a pro-Russia area of Ukraine, must include the country’s new government.
“’The proposed referendum on the future of Crimea would violate the constitution and violate international law,’ Obama said, hours after government officials in Crimea set a March 16 date for a referendum on whether the region should become part of Russia.”
•Another View from John Quigley, Professor emeritus of international law at Ohio State University, Quigley dealt with conflicts between Ukraine and Russia arising from the breakup of the USSR on behalf of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
Today the Cambridge Journal of International and Comparative Law published his piece: “Finding a Way Forward for Crimea,” which states: “The Russians of Crimea see themselves as being in a posture not unlike that of the Albanians of Kosovo, as that group perceived itself, in 1999. That situation led to military intervention that secured separation. While differences may surely be found between the two situations, the Russians of Crimea do, in the main, fear for their future within Ukraine.
“The Crimea parliament voted on March 6 to separate from Ukraine and to join Russia. It in fact indicated that the separation is effective immediately. Nonetheless, it has scheduled a referendum vote for the population of Crimea for March 16. The ballot will ask voters to choose whether to join Russia, or to remain in the autonomy status in Ukraine under the Ukraine constitution. The vote may well go strongly in favor of affiliation with Russia. The Government of the Russian Federation has not indicated whether it would accept Crimea, but in the Russian Duma, parliamentarians are indicating they will address the issue.
“The majlis — the legislative body representing the Tatars of Crimea — has indicated it does not recognize the recent actions of the Crimea parliament as legitimate. The Tatars may boycott the referendum. They oppose affiliation with Russia. If Crimea does affiliate with Russia, the Government of Russia will need to move proactively to assure the Tatars that their status will be protected.
“Affiliation with Russia, if it comes about, is likely to be regarded by the Western powers as a product of Russian aggression. They might deem the affiliation invalid, an outcome that could result in uncertainty as to Crimea’s status and potential difficulties for its inhabitants.
“Self-determination is a concept whose implementation in the international community has been inconsistent. Given the history of the territory, the population of Crimea has a plausible claim to self-determination. If Crimea remains within Ukraine, it may be an irritant between Russia and Ukraine for a long time to come. It could well be to the interest of Ukraine that Crimea affiliate with Russia. The Government of Ukraine does not see the matter that way, to be sure. It regards the action of the Crimea parliament and the scheduled referendum as unlawful under the Ukraine constitution. It will also point out that Russia has agreed to respect the territorial integrity of Ukraine.
“Whatever the outcome, it is important that the Western powers, Ukraine, and Russia all refrain from regarding the Crimea question through the lens of geopolitics at the world level. The issue should not be whether President Putin or President Obama emerges a winner. The focus should be on the welfare of the population of Crimea.”
The Nation: Bernie Sanders says he is “prepared to run for president of the United States.” That’s not a formal announcement—a lot can change between now and 2016. But Sanders has begun talking with savvy progressive political strategists, and says his instincts tell him that America is ready for a “political revolution.”
•The Hill: House opts against condemning Issa
The House on Thursday rejected a Democratic resolution that condemned Oversight & Government Affairs Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) for shutting down a committee hearing without letting any Democrat speak.
With dozens of Democrats standing by her, Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) proposed the resolution Thursday morning, a day after Issa held a combative hearing with a former IRS official involved in the IRS targeting scandal.
After former official Lois Lerner refused to answer his questions, Issa ended the hearing, and left ranking member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) pleading to be heard.
•Thats The News Dissector Blog Today. Your comments welcome to email@example.com. Please visit the updated Mediachannel.org site.
•TUNE IN: Today 5-6 PM News Dissector Radio returns to Progressive Radio Network (PRN.fm) with a new media focus in sync with the articles and essays you find on Mediachannel.org. Today’s show will interview Matthew Cecil, a professor at Wichita State, who has written the brilliant “Hoover’s FBI and the Fourth Estate, a study of how the FBI ran a campaign to control the press and the Bureau’s image, often with the enthusiastic complicity of well known journalists. Also we will talk to Bob Holman, a poet who also runs the Bowery Poetry Café. Bob is doing a play commenting on the latest news from the Ukraine at the La Mama theater. Its called Captain John Smith Goes to the Ukraine.
•Yr News Dissector Commenting on Proposed US Sanctions on Russia on Press TV.
“A political analyst says US President Barack Obama’s threat over imposing sanctions and isolating Russia over the crisis in Ukraine would not work.
Danny Schechter mentioned the famous quote “be tough on Russia” and said “being tough on Russia for them means imposing sanctions, doing the same sort of things they did on Iran, except for with a lot more bellicose rhetoric.”
“It didn’t really work on Iran; it’s not really going to work there. In fact, the Germans and the British have rejected that idea of penalizing, you know trying to stigmatize, penalize people in Russia,” Schechter told Press TV on Wednesday…..See The Rest online at the URL above.
•Yesterday, I told you about a blast at Putin by popular Russia Today (RT) host Abby Martin. Now, there has been another defection at the Russian financed network. : A news Anchor Resigns With a blast the network.
Former Assistant Treasury Secretary Paul Craig Roberts has been critical of some of the critics including Martin and Glenn Greenwald, writing:
My criticism of Greenwald and Martin has nothing to do with their integrity or their character. I doubt the claims that Abby Martin grandstanded on “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine” in order to boost her chances of moving into the more lucrative “mainstream media.” My point is quite different. Even Abby Martin and Greenwald, both of whom bring us much light, cannot fully escape Western propaganda.
For example, Martin’s denunciation of Russia for “invading” Ukraine is based on Western propaganda that Russia sent 16,000 troops to occupy Crimea. The fact of the matter is that those 16,000 Russian troops have been in Crimea since the 1990s. Under the Russian-Ukrainian agreement, Russia has the right to base 25,000 troops in Crimea.
Apparently, neither Abby Martin nor Glenn Greenwald, two intelligent and aware people, knew this fact. Washington’s propaganda is so pervasive that two of our best reporters were victimized by it.
As I have written several times in my columns, Washington organized the coup in Ukraine in order to promote its world hegemony by capturing Ukraine for NATO and putting US missile bases on Russia’s border in order to degrade Russia’s nuclear deterrent and force Russia to accept Washington’s hegemony.
Russia has done nothing but respond in a very low-key way to a major strategic threat orchestrated by Washington.
It is not only Martin and Greenwald who have fallen under Washington’s propaganda. They are joined by Patrick J. Buchanan. Pat’s column calling on readers to “resist the war party on Crimea” opens with Washington’s propagandistic claim: “With Vladimir Putin’s dispatch of Russian Troops into Crimea.” http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article37847.htm
No such dispatch has occurred. Putin has been granted authority by the Russian Duma to send troops to Ukraine, but Putin has stated publicly that sending troops would be a last resort to protect Crimean Russians from invasions by the ultra-nationalist neo-nazis who stole Washington’s coup and established themselves as the power in Kiev and western Ukraine.
So, here we have three of the smartest and most independent journalists of our time, and all three are under the impression created by Western propaganda that Russia has invaded Ukraine.
It appears that the power of Washington’s propaganda is so great that not even the best and most independent journalists can escape its influence.
What chance does truth have when Abby Martin gets kudos from Glenn Greenwald for denouncing Russia for an alleged “invasion” that has not taken place, and when independent Pat Buchanan opens his column dissenting from the blame-Russia-crowd by accepting that an invasion has taken place?
The entire story that the presstitutes have told about the Ukraine is a propaganda production. The presstitutes told us that the deposed president, Viktor Yanukovych, ordered snipers to shoot protesters. On the basis of these false reports, Washington’s stooges, who comprise the existing non-government in Kiev, have issued arrest orders for Yanukovych and intend for him to be tried in an international court.
In an intercepted telephone call between EU foreign affairs minister Catherine Ashton and Estonian foreign affairs minister Urmas Paet who had just returned from Kiev, Paet reports: “There is now stronger and stronger understanding that behind the snipers, it was not Yanukovych, but it was somebody from the new coalition.” Paet goes on to report that “all the evidence shows that the people who were killed by snipers from both sides, among policemen and then people from the streets, that they were the same snipers killing people from both sides . . . and it’s really disturbing that now the new coalition, that they don’t want to investigate what exactly happened.” Ashton, absorbed with EU plans to guide reforms in Ukraine and to prepare the way for the IMF to gain control over economic policy, was not particularly pleased to hear Paet’s report that the killings were an orchestrated provocation. You can listen to the conversation between Paet and Ashton here: http://rt.com/news/ashton-maidan-snipers-estonia-946/
What has happened in Ukraine is that Washington plotted against and overthrew an elected legitimate government and then lost control to neo-nazis who are threatening the large Russian population in southern and eastern Ukraine, provinces that formerly were part of Russia. These threatened Russians have appealed for Russia’s help, and just like the Russians in South Ossetia, they will receive Russia’s help.
•Tom Hayden: Haven’t the Republicans, the neo-conservatives and the mainstream media been telling us all these years that America won the Cold War? They spoke too soon. From the residue of the old Soviet Union, a new nationalist, nuclear-armed, resource-rich Russia has risen to challenge Western claims of triumphalism. The new Cold War is upon us, and the American elites have no suggestions except to fight it again.
If asked to take sides, I stand with Pussy Riot. To understand their creative subversion, watch the HBO documentary Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer. But Pussy Riot is a minority thus far, employing a kind of shock and awe on the level of culture. They are backed often by the American elites who would never allow Pussy Riot in, say, South Carolina
*Daily Beast: Why Neocons Love the Strongman
This is just the crisis to make themselves seem relevant again within the GOP—even if they’re undermining the commander in chief at a pivotal moment.
Say this for Rudy Giuliani: He gave away the game with his now-infamous admiring comments on Fox News two days ago about Vladimir Putin. “He makes a decision and he executes it, quickly,” the former mayor said. “Then everybody reacts. That’s what you call a leader. President Obama, he’s got to think about it. He’s got to go over it again. He’s got to talk to more people about it.”
Giuliani, once a genuinely moderate Republican (go look up his mayoral immigration record) and a man whom aides used to describe a long time ago as the one figure capable of pulling the national GOP back toward the center (I swear, I had those conversations), has served for some time now as little more than a right-wing standup comic—and a staggeringly hypocritical one at that. I’ll never forget his St. Paul convention speech, when he defended Sarah Palin by mocking Barack Obama and the Democrats for not thinking her hometown was “cosmopolitan enough.” This from a man who, while ostensibly campaigning against Hillary Clinton in 1999 and 2000 to represent all of New York state in the U.S. Senate, I think literally never spent a single night upstate. Zoom—as soon as the event in Albany or Schenectady was over, it was on the plane and right back to the emotional safety of the Upper East Side.
A standup comic often serves as his audience’s id, and so it is in this case. The neocons, on some emotional level, prefer Putin to Obama. He’s rugged. He goes shirtless. He knows his way around a Kalashnikov. He “wrestles bears and drills for oil,” as Palin put it Monday night, also on Fox. Palin, of course, is a pretty id-dy figure in her own right. She and Giuliani can say what some others who live and operate in Washington may feel constrained from saying. But every time John Bolton and Charles Krauthammer and Lindsey Graham and others carry on about Obama’s weakness, they’re also implying that he’s not half the man Putin is. And in neocon world, it always comes down to who’s the manlier man (although this makes Osama bin Laden a manlier man than Bush or Cheney, and Obama a manlier man than all of them, but never mind).
•Institute for Public Accuracy: As Tensions with Russia Rise, Obama’s Nuclear Budget Unprecedented
Greg Mello is executive director of the Los Alamos Study Group, which just released the statement: “President Requests Unprecedented Spending on Nuclear Weapons Maintenance, Design, Production.” They report: “The Department of Energy budget request (FY2015) includes a requested $8.315 billion for nuclear ‘weapons activities’ in the National Nuclear Security Administration, a semi-autonomous component of DOE. … This is a 7 percent increase from the current year. The request is far higher, in constant dollars, than the $8.13 billion spent in 1985 for comparable work at the height of President Ronald Reagan’s surge in nuclear weapons spending, which was also the highest point of the Cold War.”
Mello said today: “The U.S. and other nuclear powers are supposed to be getting rid of their nuclear weapons. That’s their obligation under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. But the U.S. is modernizing its nuclear weapons — both warheads and delivery systems. A lot of this work isn’t necessary to simply maintain the warheads until their retirement. It’s to keep them forever, improve and replace them, and make sure the factories are in place to make more of them.
“As the current conflict in Ukraine illustrates, the world can’t depend on transient ‘good feelings’ between countries to avoid confrontations, which could lead to nuclear crises. Situations can arise and confusions can occur. Rhetoric can trap leaders into actions they wouldn’t normally choose. And the number of potential causes of serious inter-state conflict is growing. Access to scarce resources of all kinds is a growing problem, including basic necessities including oil, natural gas, water, and food. So the nuclear powers need to get serious about making good on their promises to get rid of their nuclear weapons — before the next crisis.
“In President Obama’s budget there are actually some reductions in the number of modernization programs, and there are delays — for example, the cruise missile warhead has been delayed three years, so wiser heads may hopefully prevail on that, and not build it. But there’s a real spike in overall spending.
“In addition to having big modernization ambitions, the rising budgets are partly because there are incredible inefficiencies in the warhead business. Contractors have been very successful at larding up their operations over the years, basically finding ways to spend what pork-barrel politicians could get for them. Former Sen. Pete Domenici is an example of someone who never saw a nuclear dollar he didn’t like. Today, there are thousands of mid-level PhDs making more than federal cabinet secretaries and top generals and admirals — far more than typical civil servants. The privatization fad that started in the 1980s and, in the warhead complex, took another big step under G.W. Bush, and has led to taxpayers being on the hook far more than they should be for NNSA programs. Taxpayers even contribute cold cash into the cushy pension plans of rich contractors like Bechtel, to the tune of hundreds of millions each year, under loose contracts written to obscure accountability and deliver cash and intellectual property to the corporations involved.”
•Pam Martens: When Robert Rubin Calls The Fed In 2007
Mark Karlin, BuzzFlash at Truthout: Yesterday, a New York federal judge let Chevron off the hook for toxic oil pollution that is still causing death, illness and pollution in Ecuador. It is another example of how multi-billion dollar corporations can afford to shop around for courts and judges who side with the 1%.
News of Note
•Guardian: Indonesians Respond to The Act Of Killing
•Thanks to Hysterical Lobbying by the Philadelphia Police Obama’s DOJ Attorney General Nominee Debo Adegbile was rejected bY Congress for the crime of working with the NAACP To defend Mumia Abu Jamal—By Noelle Hanrahan and Stephen Vittoria write:
Mark Twain once wrote that, “There are lies. There are damned lies. And then there are statistics.” With apologies to Mr. Clemens but when it comes to Mumia Abu-Jamal “There are lies. There are damned lies. And then there’s the State of Pennsylvania and the City of Philadelphia” – the so-called City of Brotherly Love. It’s a metropolis the march of history documents as one of the most ruthlessly racist cities in America – and never has that been more apparent than during the current disingenuous backlash on the Debo Adegbile nomination process. It’s been nothing less than a “flash mob” attack on a distinguished attorney and the man he defended.
When Adegbile headed the NAACP’s Legal Defense Fund and was part of Abu-Jamal’s legal team, we believe the Sixth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was still in force – it reads:
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.
No story. No controversy. Nothing. An attorney defended his client. But the great lovers of America somersault into your living rooms ranting about how diabolical and abhorrent this lawyer truly is as they charge him with the unspeakable act of defending his client. Clearly this isn’t about the right to counsel. It’s about race and it’s about class. Remember, law is politics by other means.”
•Thanks for being here. Call in today on our PRN.fm radio show at 5pm. Suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please visit the updated mediachannel.org. I will be heading to the annual We Are Family Foundatiom gala tonight honoring Little Steven Van Zandt I will tell you about it tomorrow.
•Must Watch—Essence Magazine Speech on Black Beauty
This week, Oscar Winner Lupita Nyong’o won the Essence Magazine Black Women In Hollywood Breakthrough Performance Award. In a beautiful speech at the ceremony, she said: “What is fundamentally beautiful is compassion for yourself and for those around you. That kind of beauty enflames the heart and enchants the soul…” At 30 years old, Nyong’o credits other #Black / #African women, including her mother and Oprah Winfrey , for inspiring her to believe that anything is possible., and thanks them for breaking barriers in their lives and empowering the next generation to do the same.
•I had an interesting go around with Russian State Television Monday doing an interview about how differently or not US police would respond to a demonstration that turned violent like the one in Kiev. We talked about Occupy’s experience with the NY Police and compared it to what happened in the Ukraine which was turned into a bloody massacre–although I conceded I didn’t rely know who did the shooting. I spent more of my time assessing and critiquing media coverage. I wonder what will get on the air, if anything.
•Now: AP: Putin talks tough but cools tensions over Ukraine
MOSCOW (AP) – Stepping back from the brink of war, Vladimir Putin talked tough but cooled tensions in the Ukraine crisis Tuesday, saying Russia has no intention “to fight the Ukrainian people” but reserves the right to use force.
As the Russian president held court in his personal residence, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met with Kiev’s fledgling government and urged Putin to stand down.
“It is not appropriate to invade a country, and at the end of a barrel of a gun dictate what you are trying to achieve,” Kerry said. “That is not 21st-century, G-8, major nation behavior.”
Although nerves remained on edge in the Crimean Peninsula, with Russian troops firing warning shots to ward off Ukrainian soldiers, global markets jumped higher on tentative signals that the Kremlin was not seeking to escalate the conflict. Kerry brought moral support and a $1 billion aid package to a Ukraine fighting to fend off bankruptcy.
Lounging in an arm-chair before Russian tricolor flags, Putin made his first public comments since the Ukrainian president fled a week and a half ago. It was a signature Putin performance, filled with earthy language, macho swagger and sarcastic jibes, accusing the West of promoting an “unconstitutional coup” in Ukraine. At one point he compared the U.S. role to an experiment with “lab rats.”
•”What Russia Did Is Wrong:” RT Host Abby Martin Condemns Russian Incursion Into Crimea – On RT
By Glenn Greenwald
March 04, 2014 “Information Clearing House – “The Intercept” – The vast bulk of the commentary issuing from American commentators about the Russian military action in Ukraine involves condemning exactly that which they routinely advocate and which the U.S. itself routinely does. So suffocating is the resulting stench that those who played leading roles in selling the public the attack on Iraq and who are still unrepentant about it, such as David “Axis of Evil/The Right Man” Frum, have actually become the leading media voices condemning Russia on the ground that it is wrong to invade sovereign countries; Frum thus has no trouble saying things like this with an apparently straight face: “If Russia acts the outlaw nation, can it be expected to be treated as anything but an outlaw?”
•Peter Hitchems: Why Russians Are ‘Paranoid’
Russia is portrayed as a bogeyman, and its people as either oppressed or as tools of a new Hitler.
•Patrick J. Buchanan: Resist the War Party on Crimea
Our war hawks are breathing fire. Russophobia is rampant and the op-ed pages are ablaze here.
•BaselineScenario.com, Ukrainian Chess By Peter Boone and Simon Johnson
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Kiev on Tuesday. The Obama administration is feeling real pressure from across the political spectrum to “do something”, but the US has no military options and little by way of meaningful financial assistance it can offer to Ukraine. The $1 billion in loan guarantees offered today by Mr. Kerry means very little.
Millions of people have a great deal to lose if the situation gets out of control, and the Russian leadership is behaving in an unpredictable manner. The sharp drop in the Russian stock market index on Monday morning, alongside an emergency hike in interest rates by the Central Bank, demonstrates that Russia’s financial elite was also caught completely off guard.
Mr. Kerry can and has made threats, but it would be better to join the Europeans in helping to calm the situation. There is a completely reasonable and peaceful path to a solution available, but only if everyone wants to avoid a major conflict.
The alternative to peace will be ugly. Many Russians believe that the Maidan uprising will negatively the rights of ethnic Russians in Ukraine. The fact that the new authorities in Kiev quickly sought to repeal Russian as an official second language inflamed these fears (the interim president, Oleksandr Turchynov, vetoed the proposed law on Sunday). Russian President Vladimir Putin will not stand by quietly if ethnic Russians protest and such protests lead to violence. The borders of Ukraine may be redrawn, and the ensuing conflict would be painful for all involved.
Russia will pay a high cost for its unilateral intervention in Crimea. Many in western Ukraine have been further alienated, while some Russian-speaking Ukrainians and ethnic Russians in Eastern Ukraine will not like the bullying tactics. But the big Russian choice lies ahead: Putin can heed “calls” to bring his military further into Eastern Ukraine (a threat articulated in public by one of his aides in September), or he can work with the EU, the US, and all Ukrainians to seek out a more democratic outcome.
Which way this situation develops will depend on three factors.
First, Ukraine’s established politicians have spent the last two decades playing off the US and Russia, and extracting resources from both sides. Corruption among this group is pervasive; in no sense have they managed Ukraine for its people.
The genuine Ukrainian street revolution is against the political elite most closely aligned with Yanukovych. But do not get too starry eyed about new democrats already taking over – the people now holding the reins of power have been prominent before.
Second, the Russians have what they see as legitimate security concerns. They are Ukraine’s largest trading partner, they transport a lot of natural gas across Ukraine through soviet-built pipelines, and their Black Sea Fleet – based in Crimea – is seen as a major strategic asset. The Russians sell their gas cheaply to Ukraine. They have repeatedly forgiven large arrears on payments and ignored gas gone missing in transit. It is naïve to think Russian interests can now be ignored in a “winner take all” victory for the opposition.
Third, with the ouster of President Viktor Yanukovych, pro-Russian forces lost a big round. But the current pro-western forces are unlikely to remain strong and undivided. The pro-Western 2004 “Orange Revolution” rapidly collapsed with accusations of corruption and betrayal amongst partners – leading ultimately to Yanukovych’s election in 2010.
The appointment in recent days of three rich Ukrainian businessmen to the Ministry of the Interior and to key gubernatorial positions suggests the fight against corruption will be uphill.
Mr. Kerry should push for more representative government in Ukraine. There need to be elections, including for the presidency (currently scheduled for May) and for parliament. And there needs to be a negotiation – involving Europe, the U.S., and Russia, as well as Ukrainians – over how these elections will be managed so they are fair and can ensure all ethnic groups in Ukraine are represented in future government. This could involve constitutional reform, to be approved by a national referendum.
Some Europeans and Ukrainian officials are suggesting the EU association agreement (EUAA) should be signed immediately. Rapid accession prior to establishing a more representative political process would be a mistake. Implementing the EUAA demands years of legislative work that will bring Ukraine’s laws closer to Europe’s legal framework. Such long-term reforms can’t be managed or promised by a government lacking a broad mandate, and one that only recently toppled an elected President.
Mr. Kerry is not in a position to provide generous loans, and money will not be forthcoming from Europe, but large funds are not needed. The International Monetary Fund can lend the amounts needed to refinance its own debts and to build some foreign exchange reserves as a way to build confidence. Domestic bonds are largely held by domestic banks, and those can be rolled over and refinanced if the authorities work with the banks on a plan.
Most importantly, the Ukrainians should end their dependence on cheap Russian gas by agreeing to pay market prices going forward. They need to pass these prices on to local customers, effectively ending subsidies and reducing the budget deficit. Ukraine needs to stop running budget deficits that can’t be safely financed at home. For now, that means balancing the budget.
All this is not enough to create a more dynamic and prosperous Ukraine, but at least the benefits to corrupt Ukrainian politicians from playing off East and West will have been reduced, and a new representative, elected regime will be in place.
•Truth Out: Ukraine: “Go West, Young Man” (or Dr. Strangelove’s Revenge)
•Video: Ridiculing the AIPAC Policy Conference
•Mark Weisbrot, Guardian: Venezuela is not Ukraine
Venezuela’s struggle is widely misrepresented in western media. This is a classic conflict between right and left, rich and poor. Although there are abuses of power and problems with the rule of law in Venezuela – as there are throughout the hemisphere – it is far from the authoritarian state that most consumers of western media are led to believe.
The current protests in Venezuela are reminiscent of another historical moment when street protests were used by right-wing politicians as part of an attempt to overthrow the elected government. From December of 2002 through February 2003, there was strike of mostly white-collar workers at the national oil industry, along with some business owners. The US media made it look like most of the country was on strike against the government, when, in fact, it was less than one percent of the labor force.
The spread of cell phone videos and social media in the past decade has made it more difficult to misrepresent things that can be easily captured on camera. But Venezuela is still grossly distorted in the major media. The New York Times had to run a correction last week for an article that began with a statement about “The only television station that regularly broadcast voices critical of the government …” As it turns out, all of the private TV stations “regularly broadcast voices critical of the government”. And private media has more than 90% of the TV-viewing audience in Venezuela. A study by the Carter Center of the presidential election campaign period last April showed a 57 to 34% advantage in TV coverage for President Maduro over challenger Henrique Capriles in the April election, but that advantage is greatly reduced or eliminated when audience shares are taken into account.
•Libertarian Party: ‘Obama’s military spending cuts equal military spending increases,’ says Libertarian Party
While the Libertarian Party strongly agrees with the need to downsize the U.S. military, the Obama plan recently announced by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel expands the military.
Both Democratic and Republican politicians routinely deceive taxpayers by portraying slight reductions in the growth of government as “cuts.”
When military spending cuts are involved, Republicans protest loudly, giving credence to the claim that the cuts are real. Both Democrats and Republicans use these theatrics to disguise reckless government overspending — just as they did with the government “shutdown.”
“Elementary school arithmetic instructs us that if you grow spending at a slower rate — it still gets higher. It’s not a reduction; it’s an increase,” said Geoffrey J. Neale, chair of the Libertarian National Committee.
President Obama and Secretary Hagel propose creation of a new $26 billion “Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative” (read: slush fund) while keeping the 2015 Pentagon budget at the same level as 2014. That’s an increase of $26 billion.
•President Requests Unprecedented Spending on Nuclear Weapons Maintenance, Design, Production
Spending Requested Exceeds Reagan’s 1985 Maximum, Goes Up from There; Efficiency of Warhead Complex at Record Low as Billions Are Wasted in Failed Projects, Extreme Salaries, Contractor Subsidies
Albuquerque, NM – Today’s Department of Energy (DOE) budget request for fiscal year (FY2015) includes a requested $8.315 Billion (B) for nuclear “Weapons Activities” in the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), a semi-autonomous component of DOE. This does not include pro-rata administrative costs for NNSA’s warhead program, which come to about $293 million (M). Total warhead spending is thus $8.608 B, not including $504 M in potential additional warhead spending (see below).
This is a 7% increase from the current year (FY2014). The request is far higher, in constant dollars, than the $8.13 B spent in 1985 for comparable work at the height of President Reagan’s surge in nuclear weapons spending, which was also the highest point of the Cold War.
•South Africa/Global Information Network, Media Frenzy At The Blade Runner’s Trial:
•Marc Steiner: I’m delighted to report that this afternoon my friend and brother Marshall “Eddie” Conway was released from prison after almost 44 years as a political prisoner. As part of COINTELPRO’s war against the Black Panthers, Eddie was accused of killing a police officer. There was never any evidence that linked Eddie Conway to this crime. Even one of the prosecutors who sent him to prison later came to believe in Eddie’s innocence. While he was awaiting trial, a known informant was placed in Eddie’s cell and clearly lied about him. Eddie was a victim of COINTELPRO, as was Martin Luther King, Jr., Leonard Peltier, SDS, and everyone who was part of the movement at that time.
As a Panther, Eddie continued to organize in prison. He taught literacy classes, led conflict mediation, and worked with young people. Eddie was a voice of peace for everyone he encountered.
When I saw him walk out of the courtroom today, he looked stunned, surrounded by the people who had loved and supported him the entire time. Eddie has vowed to continue his fight for justice, liberation and reconciliation. I am elated to see him walking the streets of Baltimore again as a free man.
•The Hill: Oldest congressman forced into primary runoff
Rep. Ralph Hall (R-Texas), the oldest member of Congress, has been forced into a potentially perilous runoff in his primary against former U.S. Attorney John Ratcliffe ®.
The Associated Press called that the race will head to a May runoff, with Hall leading Ratcliffe by 45 percent to 30 percent with 27 percent of precincts reporting.
A runoff could be treacherous for the 90-year-old congressman. Ratcliffe has already given his campaign close to a half-million dollars and is promising to donate more, while Hall, caught by surprise in the race, has very little money in the bank.
•Another cold, cold day. May this blog warm your wind up. Thoughts to email@example.com. For moron the role of the media, visit Mediachannel.org.
•March 4: Activist Media Benjamin Assaulted in Egyptian Jail and Deported
CODEPINK Co-founder Medea Benjamin Detained, Brutally Attacked and Deported from Egypt en route to Gaza with International Delegation of Women
On the night of March 3, 2014, co-founder of the peace group CODEPINK Medea Benjamin was on her way to Egypt to join an international delegation of women going to Gaza when she was detained by border police in the Cairo airport, held overnight in a cell, and then brutally tackled (her arm badly injured), handcuffed, and deported to Turkey. During her time in the detention cell she had access to a cell phone, from which she contacted colleagues at CODEPINK about the poor conditions of the cell and chronicled her ordeal via Twitter. When the Egyptian police removed her from the detention center, they used such excessive force she sustained a fracture and torn ligament in her shoulder.
Calling from Istanbul, Benjamin gave the following statement: “I was brutally assaulted by Egyptian police, who never said what I was being accused of. When the authorities came into the cell to deport me, two men threw me to the ground, stomped on my back, pulled my shoulder out of its socket and handcuffed me so that my injured arm was twisted around and my wrists began to bleed. I was then forced to sit between the two men who attacked me on the plane ride from Cairo to Istanbul, and I was (and still am) in terrible pain the whole time.” Doctors in the Cairo airport said she was not fit to travel because of her injury, but the authorities forced her to board anyways.
•Please vist the newly updated Mediachannel.org for coverage of media coverage
•After a few days of this blog being out of commission because content from my site and others with the same host were “migrating” on to another server, the blog is back, and, just in time, for a major international crisis or two.
•As readers know, I have been writing critically about the Oscars and how the movie based on Nelson Mandela’s autobiography was snubbed. The movie only had one nomination–a song written by U2 that runs under the credits, a late edition to the movie and not explicitly political.
I believe the song was nominated to get Bono and the boys to play at the Academy awards ceremony, which they did–and nicely. And no it was not a winner. The statue for best song went to the movie Frozen which just announced a billion $ in grosses for Disney.
I haven’t exactly had a lot of support or media pickup for my one man campaign to call attention to questions I raised about the dissing of Madiba. Happily, even though there was no comment on why Mandela Lomg Walk To Freedom Went down in flames, the Academy did have Brad Pitt, a producer on the winning 12 year’s a Slave introduce the song that was performed with some large images of Mandela.
What was gratifying was that as soon as the song ended, there was a spontaneous and prolonged standing ovation by all the glitterati who rose from their plush seats.
So, Mandela was honored, not by an award, but by people in the movie industry. I saw no reports on that enthusiastic reception anywhere, or what it says ago about the lack of official recognition.
•I was also sad that a documentary about entertainers won that category–while important films about drones, the uprising in Egypt and a genocide in Indonesia were ignored. I guess that shouldn’t be a surprise in La La Land.
•While the blog was inaccessible, I wrote a commentary about the latest in the Snowden Wars
•Mess With Glenn Greewald At Your Own Risk
By Danny Schechter
March 02, 2014 “Information Clearing House – New York, New York: Clearly, there’s an officially sanctioned, if not supported, backlash underway to cast doubt on the those who are disseminating the information that Eward Snowden and other whistleblowers are exposing to the global public.
What better way to respond to the evidence of government overreach and criminality in the spying by the NSA and other agencies than to try to change the subject by smearing the people who are funding the reporting on it to us.
This latest round of the media battle should not be surprising. In fact, it’s all too predictable.
•Read the rest at Information Clearing House with a few of those uber-snarky and hipper than thou comments for which the internet has become all too known for. One Serious Error and Correction on my part. Greenwald’s critic was Mark Ames, not Patrick Ames. Mea Culpa to all readers.
On the first day of the Olympic athlete’s trial for allegedly murdering his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, Oscar
Pistorius’s defense team put the first witness through an excoriating cross-examination.
South Africa’s trial of the century began in the early hours of Monday morning, as the case against Paralympic gold medalist Oscar Pistorius, who is accused of murdering his 29-year-old model girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, got underway in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria, South Africa.
•Americans for Peace Now on The Meeting At the White House Between President Obama and Netnyahu
Prospects for the success of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations were downplayed by Prime Minister Netanyahu at his photo-op with President Obama following their meeting today. Here is what Netanyahu had to say about efforts to achieve peace with the Palestinians:
“Twenty years of peace process were marked by many Israeli steps for peace but we got suicide bombers and rockets in return.”
“It’s about time the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state – we have only been there for 4,000 years.”
“The people of Israel expect me to stand strong against pressure and for the security of Israel.”
Both President Obama, in a carefully-timed interview with Bloomberg’s Jeffery Goldberg, and Secretary of State John Kerry, are reminding Netanyahu in Washington that time is running out, and that he will soon have to make some hard decisions. April 29th is the expiration date of the nine-month period that the Obama administration has allotted for the peace talks to produce an agreement. Sometime before the end of April, the administration is expected to issue its set of principles – the co-called “framework” – for a future agreement.
President Obama, at White House photo-op, twice said that he would like to commend Netanyahu for the way in which he is conducting the negotiations with the Palestinians, “with a level of seriousness and commitment.” An Israel Radio analyst today commented that Obama’s remarks sounded more like a wish than like a sincere assessment of Netanyahu’s real attitude.
•Covering The Crisis: The First Casualty Is Always Truth
Are we getting the full story on the dynamics of the emerging confrontation between Russia and the United States. However contrived the Putin’s rationalizations are for his intervention, and however aggressive Obama and Kerry are about our often violated “principles” of non-intervention are, the fog machine is escalating on all sides to obscure complicated truths, distort history, and insure that the public will never understand the complexities of the run up to this “crisis” and he real economic and political forces in play.
Just a quick list of the factors we need to factor in
l. The Economic background, the vast Ukranian debt, Oil and Gas Suppliers, the country’s desperate economy, and the capacity of the US and the EU to do anything about it.
2. The Internal Political forces —especially the role of the hard right and neo-Nazi groups in Ukraine who claim to be speaking for the country’s liberation. What ever happened to the agreement that was reached with EU observers present that set up a scenario for power-sharing and elections. Who elected the new president and were Ukraine’s own Constututional principles observers?
3. The External forces including American Neo-cons who want more polarization, Political sucide bombers on the Republican right who are already making war noises, and the conflicts between the EU, The US and Russia, all of whom insist on citing different political precedents. China has yet to be heard from.
3. The Role that ethnic allegiances are playing.
4. The US propensity to impose sanctions that will only invite counter sanctions and have yet to work.
5. Do the Ukrainians who wanted to ally with the EU years ago realize how bankrupt it is today, Even the American representative there was overheard saying “Fuck the EU,” not exactly a prescription for close cooperation.
6. The role of the press and its tendency to become a cheerleader for war.
7. The destabilizing consequences of an actual war erupting.
8. And this list barely touches the surface…..
•AP Last night: WASHINGTON (AP) – The U.S and major allies strained on Monday to rally a strong Western front to persuade Russia to step back from a military takeover of Ukraine’s strategic Crimea region. But several acknowledged there are few options beyond already-threatened economic and diplomatic penalties, and critics said administration efforts were too little, too late after years of pressing for friendlier relations with Moscow.
A stern-faced President Barack Obama labeled the Russian advance in Crimea a violation of international law. He urged Congress to approve an aid package for the Ukrainian government, and repeated earlier threats that the U.S. would take steps to hobble Russia’s economy and isolate it diplomatically if President Vladimir Putin does not back down.
The Pentagon announced late Monday it was suspending engagements with the Russian military, and a senior U.S. official said the U.S. would not move forward with meetings designed to deepen the trade relationship between the two countries. Lacking authorization to speak publicly about the trade meetings, the official requested anonymity.
•BBC Last night: Yanukovych ‘asked Russia for troops’
Ukraine’s ousted president asked Moscow for military help to protect civilians, Russia’s UN envoy tells the Security Council.
•Michael Lerner, Tikkun: “One thing I’m sure of is that media accounts available in the United States are so tainted by anti-Russia and U.S. nationalist and capitalist interests that we have no idea of what is really happening in Ukraine.
It is clear that the U.S. involvement is not “out of the blue,” but part of an ongoing campaign to increase NATO power and Western economic penetration of the countries surrounding Russia, stimulating for some Russians reminders of the previous trauma of being attacked by the Nazis and others through the Ukraine, where pro-fascist, anti-communist and anti-Semitic sentiments ran strong and welcomed foreign interventions.”
•Here’s William Deane in OurMissing News.com: Russia will Not Let Ukraine Go West
History tells us so much of what could very well happen in Ukraine. Many a nation goes to war not knowing if
it will win. Some would rather die fighting a losing battle than live under the control of an un-liked foreign nation. There’s no chance the weak and green army of Ukraine could win if Russia decides to take back what to them is historically theirs. To us in the west we see a tiny country that came out of the Soviet block in 1991 as a free and democratic nation.
To the Russians, Ukraine belongs to the Russian Federation forever. Look at a map and see why Russia thinks it can’t do without Ukraine, the first nation brought into what became the Soviet Union in 1922. We don’t hear about it much over here on the other side of the Atlantic, but Russia couples the Nazi 1941 invasion of the USSR with all the western European nations.
You could hear it Saturday in the Russian Senate, with representatives saying, “The European nations are relentless, they weren’t satisfied with Germany’s defeat at Stalingrad.” And now the Ukraine is looking west for possible unification with the European Common Market. That shakes the Russians to the core. Geopolitically, it looks like western Europe would be near the middle of Russia’s west. Ukraine is huge, the size of Texas and it hangs strategically at the Black Sea.
To Putin, he’s peacefully given to Ukraine a bargain for gas this winter and a promise of 15-Billion dollars. The promised gift didn’t seem to change the Ukrainian desire to join the European Common Market. To the Russians, Putin has been very patient with Ukraine.
He waited through the fall and all winter while Independence Square in the capital of Kiev was occupied. But when the demonstrators took over the capitol, forcing their president to escape to the friendly government in Crimea, Putin initiated an armed reaction. He loves Russia, believes Ukraine is forever connected with the mother country and vows he won’t be the one to give into the west, which he feels is interfering with an internal problem, the private business of Russia and Ukraine. Rightly or wrongly that’s President Vladimir Putin’s thought and they are oh so different from those of us in the west–so different we will be going to war, if one side or the other doesn’t give in. The young on the streets of Kiev today told American reporters over and over again, they knew their odds against the powerful Russian army, but expressed a deep commitment to fight for separation from mother Russia.
Russia says Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, now in hiding somewhere in Crimea, requested the Russian troops and Moscow was obligated to answer. We said earlier today, there were 6-Thousand Russian troops in Crimea. That estimate has been upped to 20-Thousand now by CBS News. The immediate question now is will those troops stay in Crimea or move into other parts of eastern Ukraine and then onto the capital of Kiev. It’s important to understand the thinking of both sides. The overpopulated Japanese in 1941 thought we Americans had such a huge mainland, we wouldn’t care about Hawaii and the rest of the Pacific Islands flying the American flag. It’s good to understand your enemy.
•Former CIA Analyst Ray McGovern, Consortium News
Is “regime change” in Ukraine the bridge too far for the neoconservative “regime changers” of Official Washington and their sophomoric “responsibility-to-protect” (R2P) allies in the Obama administration? Have they dangerously over-reached by pushing the putsch that removed duly-elected Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych?
Russian President Vladimir Putin has given an unmistakable “yes” to those questions – in deeds, not words. His message is clear: “Back off our near-frontier!”…
Unless Obama is completely bereft of advisers who know something about Russia, it should have been a “known-known” (pardon the Rumsfeldian mal mot) that the Russians would react this way to a putsch removing Yanukovich. It would have been a no-brainer that Russia would use military force, if necessary, to counter attempts to use economic enticement and subversive incitement to slide Ukraine into the orbit of the West and eventually NATO.
This was all the more predictable in the case of Ukraine, where Putin – although the bête noire in corporate Western media – holds very high strategic cards geographically, militarily, economically and politically.
Moscow’s advantage was not nearly as clear during the short-lived “Prague Spring” of 1968 when knee-jerk, non-thinking euphoria reigned in Washington and West European capitals. The cognoscenti were, by and large, smugly convinced that reformer Alexander Dubcek could break Czechoslovakia away from the U.S.S.R.’s embrace and still keep the Russian bear at bay.
My CIA analyst portfolio at the time included Soviet policy toward Eastern Europe, and I was amazed to see analysts of Eastern Europe caught up in the euphoria that typically ended with, “And the Soviets can’t do a damned thing about it!”
That summer a new posting found me advising Radio Free Europe Director Ralph Walter who, virtually alone among his similarly euphoric colleagues, shared my view that Russian tanks would inevitably roll onto Prague’s Wenceslaus Square, which they did in late August.
Past is not always prologue. But it is easy for me to imagine the Russian Army cartographic agency busily preparing maps of the best routes for tanks into Independence Square in Kiev, and that before too many months have gone by, Russian tank commanders may be given orders to invade, if those stoking the fires of violent dissent in the western parts of Ukraine keep pushing too far….
That said, Putin has many other cards to play and time to play them. These include sitting back and doing nothing, cutting off Russia’s subsidies to Ukraine, making it ever more difficult for Yanukovich’s successors to cope with the harsh realities. And Moscow has ways to remind the rest of Europe of its dependence on Russian oil and gas.
•Norman Solomon: Heard the One About Obama Denouncing a Breach of International Law?
No world leader has done more to undermine international law than Barack Obama.
•Shamus Cooke, Obama’s Far Right Foreign Policy
There has been a virtual U.S. media blackout as to the leadership of the movements in Ukraine, Syria, and Venezuela, and for good reason.
•Andrej Nikolaidis, Guardian: Ukrainians, take it from a Bosnian: the EU flag is just a rag in the wind
If it’s anything like Bosnia, Ukrainians will find the world lining up to help, but they could be paying back the debt for many years
Jorge Luis Borges once said that a true gentleman is interested in lost causes only. If you’re looking for a decent contemporary lost cause, you will surely find it in Ukraine, since if it comes to war, no matter who wins, most of the ordinary people will be losers.
We, the citizens of Bosnia, can tell you a thing or two about being losers. It was April 1992, during the start of Sarajevo’s siege. I was a long-haired teenager, dressed in blue jeans and a shirt with the famous black and white “Unknown Pleasures” print. From the window of my suburban flat, I was watching the Yugoslav People Army’s cannons, located in the Lukavica army camp, firing projectiles on Sarajevo. That army was controlled by Slobodan Milošević, the president of Serbia.
The National Radio was broadcasting Bosnian president Alija Izetbegović’s discussion with Yugoslav army general Milutin Kukanjac. Izetbegovic asked the army to stop the bombing. Kukanjac claimed that not a single shot was fired from his army positions. I remember like it was yesterday that my glass of milk was jumping on the table to the rhythm of cannonballs “not fired” on Sarajevo.
When common people find themselves in the middle of a geopolitical storm – as the citizens of Ukraine do now, or my family back then in Bosnia – the dilemma “is this glass half empty or half full?” is irrelevant: soon, it will be broken.
The people in Bosnia were so full of optimism during the first days, even months, of war. Neighbours were saying that the west would never allow it to happen because “we are Europe”. My aunt went to Belgrade, but refused to take her money from a Sarajevo bank. It will be over in a week; we’ll be back soon, she said. President Izetbegovic, in his TV address to the people, said: “Sleep peacefully: there will be no war.”
Well, we woke up after a four-year nightmare.
•••There’s lots more on these issues at Information Clearing House, Op-ED News, Raw Story and other outlets who don’t parrot mainstream mantras.
It’s your responsibility to try to understand the context of this crisis, and how the people who are supposed to inform us often manipulate us.
I will have more in the days ahead,
•Comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
•Don’t believe the hype about economic recovery. Don’t trust the official stats. From The NY Times today:
•The economy finished 2013 on a weaker footing than first thought, the government said on Friday, heightening concern that the United States is in the midst of another of the periodic slow patches that have dogged the recovery over the last five years.
The Commerce Department now estimates the economy grew at an annual pace of 2.4 percent in October, November and December, down from an initial estimate of 3.2 percent. The revised figure also represents a substantial slowing from the pace of growth in the third quarter, which totaled 4.1 percent. The department is scheduled to provide one more estimate of growth during the fourth quarter on March 27.
The downward revision comes after new data showing lackluster retail sales, inventory adjustments and a slightly less impressive trade balance late last year. Disappointing reports on job creation in December and January have also prompted fear of continued weakness into the spring of 2014.
•And also, don’t trust reporting on many of the conflicts in the world–including Venezuela. Jim Naurekas writes in the FAIR blog this week:
There’s a post from the blog Caracas Chronicles (2/20/14) that’s been making its way around social media, called “The Game Changed in Venezuela Last Night-–and the International Media Is Asleep at the Switch,” written by Francisco Toro. It’s not surprising that it’s being shared widely, because it paints an exceedingly dire picture:
Throughout last night, panicked people told their stories of state-sponsored paramilitaries on motorcycles roaming middle-class neighborhoods, shooting at people and storming into apartment buildings, shooting at anyone who seemed like he might be protesting.
Who is Francisco Toro? He used to report for the New York Times, but stepped down, saying he couldn’t conform to the paper’s conflict-of-interest rules: “Too much of my lifestyle is bound up with opposition activism,” he wrote, adding that “I can’t possibly be neutral” about Venezuelan politics (FAIR Action Alert, 6/6/03).
Despite the Times’ rules, one doesn’t need to be neutral to be a good reporter–in theory; great journalism has been done by the politically engaged. But how trustworthy is Toro’s actual reporting? Are, in fact, “state-sponsored paramilitaries…shooting at anyone who seemed like he might be protesting”? Two days ago, when Toro posted, the death toll stood at six (Reuters, 2/20/14). That’s six deaths too many, certainly, but if paramilitaries were actually shooting at everyone who seemed to be protesting, there would be either very few protesters or the paramilitaries would have to be exceedingly bad shots.
And, in fact, not all the dead are protesters, or killed by pro-government forces. Yesterday, Venezuelanalysis (2/21/14)–a pro-government but independent website–put out a fuller list of people killed in the ongoing clashes, adding up to 10. Three people died after crashing into barricades set up by the opposition, and another person–the brother of a pro-government legislator–was shot while trying to open up a barricaded street. A protester was run over by a motorist trying to drive through a barricade; the driver was reportedly arrested. An intelligence service officer was also arrested in connection with a shooting incident on February 12 that left two people dead–one a protester, the other a government sympathizer.
•Today’s News from Ukraine–Washington Post: Obama warns Russia ‘there will be costs’ for any military intervention in Ukraine
In unscheduled remarks at the White House Friday afternoon, President Obama said the United States is “deeply concerned” about military movements by the Russian federation inside Ukraine, and warned that “there will be costs for any military intervention.” He added that “any violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty… would be deeply destabilizing.”
•Caution is all recommended in understanding what’s happening in Ukraine, as Scott Harris of the excellent Between The Lines Radio points out:
“Ukraine, now close to bankruptcy and with nearly $73 billion in debt, is a divided nation with half the population in the western region identifying with Europe, while Ukrainians in the east and south have closer cultural and linguistic ties to Russia. After President Yanukovych secured a $15 billion bailout deal with Moscow in December, protests escalated. Now with Russian aid suspended, and opposition parties trying to form a new government before elections in May, Ukraine’s new leaders are seeking $35 billion in aid from the International Monetary Fund, the EU and U.S., but that funding, if provided, will come with unpopular strings attached in the form of harsh austerity measures.
Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Eric Draitser, an independent geopolitical analyst and founder of the website StopImperialism.com, who assesses the political upheaval in Ukraine and the growing influence some extreme right-wing and neo-Nazi groups now have as part of the opposition coalition, as the nation confronts a deep economic crisis.
ERIC DRAITSER: The reductionistic view that the U.S. corporate media takes is one that is not simply because they do not understand it, it’s because they’re pushing a particular narrative, and the narrative has a geopolitical dimension at the broadest level, the narrative is an anti-Russian one, that is to say, the Yanukovich government representing some sort of a surrogate for Vladimir Putin and the Russian government, therefore everything that the democratically-elected, albeit corrupt, government of Ukraine did, under President Yanukovich, was bad, was the representation of evil, and anyone in opposition to them is good, is a democracy, is an activist or something like this, but of course the truth is far from that. In fact the opposition is made up of a number of different elements, some of them what I would call more liberally-minded, Western-inclined elements, typified by a few of the opposition leaders — in particular, the well-known celebrity Vitali Klitschko, the former champion boxer, but also some other pretty well-known individuals like the man named Arseny Yatstenyuk who is noted in the Victoria Nuland’s recorded, call it leaked, conversation that she had, in which he was supposed to be the hand-picked successor to lead the Ukrainian government. So, there’s a number of individuals who represent the so-called liberal wing of the opposition.
And these were the ones who were being put forward by the U.S. media in the narrative that they were putting together. However, there is another very insidious element that I would argue is actually in the driver’s seat of the opposition. And these would be the fascist and neo-Nazi elements who have a tremendous amount of sway on the ground — a number of different organizations, some of them organized political parties, others organized street mobs, and various others somewhere in between. And they are the ones you actually see if you look at the footage, coming out of the Maidan Square in Kiev; they’re the ones who have engaged in the violent struggle against the police and so forth, and some groups that listeners need to be aware of — the Right Sector, which is a broad neo-Nazi organization — they were some of the most prevalent in engaging in the violence. The Swoboda or Freedom Party is a neo-Nazi political party that has deep ties to the historic Ukrainian so-called nationalism, going back to their collaboration with the Nazis in World War II. These elements, whether they’re a minority, or a majority, they’re the ones who are really driving events on the ground.
•Here are the latest VIEWS and news from Independent Clearing House:
•RTE: Russian Troops Landing in Crimea: Report
Air Space Had Been Closed
Russian aircraft carrying nearly 2,000 suspected troops have landed at a military air base near the regional capital of the Crimean peninsula, a top Ukrainian official said accusing Moscow of an “armed invasion”.
•Mark MacKinnon, Manufacturing Consent For Military Intervention?
Ukraine Pleads For Help After Russian ‘Invasion’
The new Ukrainian government says it has been invaded by Russia and has appealed for the United States and United Kingdom to protect it, as guaranteed under a 1994 agreement.
•Luke Harding, Fact Or Fiction? Crimean Coup is Payback by Putin for Ukraine’s Revolution
After what Moscow regards as the western-backed takeover of Kiev, the Kremlin’s choreography has been impressive.
•Kenneth Rapoza: Washington’s Man Yatsenyuk Setting Ukraine Up For Ruin
Ukraine’s interim prime minister, Arseniy “Yats” Yatsenyuk, may prove to be arsenic to the beleaguered nation.
•Daily Beast: Russian ‘Blackwater’ Takes Over Ukraine Airports
Josh Rogin reports that the unmarked troops who’ve taken over two airports in Crimea, Ukraine, on behalf of Russia are private security contractors working for Vladimir Putin’s military. The new government in Kiev accuses Moscow of an “armed invasion and occupation,” but it’s more like an internal takeover.
•Robert Parry, Consortium News, Our Shadow Foreign Policy
The National Endowment for Democracy, a central part of Ronald Reagan’s propaganda war against the Soviet Union three decades ago, has evolved into a $100 million U.S. government-financed slush fund that generally supports a neocon agenda often at cross-purposes with the Obama administration’s foreign policy.
NED is one reason why there is so much confusion about the administration’s policies toward attempted ousters of democratically elected leaders in Ukraine and Venezuela. Some of the non-government organizations (or NGOs) supporting these rebellions trace back to NED and its U.S. government money, even as Secretary of State John Kerry and other senior officials insist the U.S. is not behind these insurrections.
So, while President Barack Obama has sought to nurture a constructive relationship with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin especially in hotspots like Iran and Syria, NED has invested in projects in Russia’s close neighbor, Ukraine, that fueled violent protests ousting President Viktor Yanukovych, who won election in 2010 in balloting that was viewed by international observers as fair and reflecting the choice of most Ukrainian citizens.
Thus, a U.S.-sponsored organization that claims to promote “democracy” has sided with forces that violently overthrew a democratically elected leader rather than wait for the next scheduled election in 2015 to vote him out of office.
For NED and American neocons, Yanukovych’s electoral legitimacy lasted only as long as he accepted European demands for new “trade agreements” and stern economic “reforms” required by the International Monetary Fund. When Yanukovych was negotiating those pacts, he won praise, but when he judged the price too high for Ukraine and opted for a more generous deal from Russia, he immediately became a target for “regime change.”
Last September, NED’s longtime president, Carl Gershman, took to the op-ed page of the neocon-flagship Washington Post to urge the U.S. government to push European “free trade” agreements on Ukraine and other former Soviet states and thus counter Moscow’s efforts to maintain close relations with those countries. The ultimate goal, according to Gershman, was isolating and possibly toppling Putin in Russia with Ukraine the key piece on this global chessboard.
“Ukraine is the biggest prize,” Gershman wrote. “The opportunities are considerable, and there are important ways Washington could help. The United States needs to engage with the governments and with civil society in Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova to ensure that the reform process underway not only promotes greater trade and development but also produces governments that are less corrupt and more accountable to their societies. An association agreement with the European Union should be seen not as an end in itself but as a starting point that makes possible deeper reforms and more genuine democracy.
“Russian democracy also can benefit from this process. Ukraine’s choice to join Europe will accelerate the demise of the ideology of Russian imperialism that Putin represents. … Russians, too, face a choice, and Putin may find himself on the losing end not just in the near abroad but within Russia itself.”
In furtherance of these goals, NED funded a staggering 65 projects in Ukraine, according to its latest report. The funding for these NGOs range from tens of thousands of dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars and created for NED what amounted to a shadow political structure of media and activist groups that could be deployed to stir up unrest when the Ukrainian government didn’t act as desired.
•The Business of Show Business is Business
The Wrap: “Organization said that it had raised more than two thirds of the $300 million goal for its Academy Museum fundraising campaign
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on Friday said it made $54 million in net revenue from the Oscars during fiscal 2013.
In an annual report sent to Academy members, the organization noted that the Oscars brought in nearly $94 million in total revenue for the period and cost it nearly $40 million.
The Academy reported $385 million in net assets for the period ending June 30. That represents a 29% increase over the prior fiscal year. The monies includes nearly $41 million in membership dues, income earned from educational and cultural activities and the annual Nicholl screenwriting competition, and general contributions.”
•TGIF. I am told another snowstorm is on the way on Monday. LA fears the Oscars will be drenched. I am trying to upgrade this blog. Your suggestions are welcome. Write email@example.com Visit Mediachannel.org and Madibabook.com
•Gawker: First Footage Shot Inside The Supreme Court
•Oscar Time: The Unbelievable Story Of Why Marlon Brando Rejected His 1973 Oscar For ‘The Godfather’
•Guardian: 12 Years a Slave: could only a Brit really have made it?
•Guardian: Joaquín ‘El Chapo’ Guzman’s supporters march through Mexican city
Just a few reads today:
•Max Blumemthal, Alternet: Are We Supporting Ukrainian Nazis?
Exposing troubling ties in the U.S. to overt Nazi and fascist protesters in Ukraine. White supremacist banners and Confederate flags were draped inside Kiev’s occupied City Hall, and demonstrators have hoisted Nazi SS and white power symbols over a toppled memorial to V.I. Lenin.
As the Euromaidan protests in the Ukrainian capitol of Kiev culminated this week, displays of open fascism and neo-Nazi extremism became too glaring to ignore. Since demonstrators filled the downtown square to battle Ukrainian riot police and demand the ouster of the corruption-stained, pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovich, it has been filled with far-right streetfighting men pledging to defend their country’s ethnic purity.
White supremacist banners and Confederate flags were draped inside Kiev’s occupied City Hall, and demonstrators have hoisted Nazi SS and white power symbols over a toppled memorial to V.I. Lenin. After Yanukovich fled his palatial estate by helicopter, EuroMaidan protesters http://rt.com/news/war-monument-toppled-ukraine-351/ a memorial to Ukrainians who died battling German occupation during World War II. Sieg heil salutes and the Nazi Wolfsangel symbol have become an increasingly common site in Maidan Square, and neo-Nazi forces have established “autonomous zones” in and around Kiev.
An Anarchist group called AntiFascist Union Ukraine attempted to join the Euromaidan demonstrations but found it difficult to avoid threats of violence and imprecations from the gangs of neo-Nazis roving the square. “They called the Anarchists things like Jews, blacks, Communists,” one of its members said. “There weren’t even any Communists, that was just an insult.”
“There are lots of Nationalists here, including Nazis,” the anti-fascist continued. “They came from all over Ukraine, and they make up about 30% of protesters.”
One of the “Big Three” political parties behind the protests is the ultra-nationalist Svoboda, whose leader, Oleh Tyahnybok, has called for the liberation of his country from the “Muscovite-Jewish mafia.” After the 2010 conviction of the Nazi death camp guard John Demjanjuk for his supporting role in the death of nearly 30,000 people at the Sobibor camp, Tyahnybok rushed to Germany to declare him a hero who was “fighting for truth.” In the Ukrainian parliament, where Svoboda holds an unprecedented 37 seats, Tyahnybok’s deputy Yuriy Mykhalchyshyn is fond of quoting Joseph Goebbels — he has even founded a think tank originally called “the Joseph Goebbels Political Research Center.” According to Per Anders Rudling, a leading academic expert on European neo-fascism, the self-described “socialist nationalist” Mykhalchyshyn is the main link between Svoboda’s official wing and neo-Nazi militias like Right Sector.
Right Sector is a shadowy syndicate of self-described “autonomous nationalists” identified by their skinhead style of dress, ascetic lifestyle, and fascination with street violence. Armed with riot shields and clubs, the group’s cadres have manned the front lines of the Euromaidan battles this month, filling the air with their signature chant: “Ukraine above all!” In a recent Right Sector propaganda video [embedded at the bottom of this article], the group promised to fight “against degeneration and totalitarian liberalism, for traditional national morality and family values.” With Svoboda linked to a constellation of international neo-fascist parties through the Alliance of European National Movements, Right Sector is promising to lead its army of aimless, disillusioned young men on “a great European Reconquest.”
•Comments from Institute of Public Accuracy on Ukraine
•David Speedie. Director of the U.S. Global Engagement Program at the Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, Speedie has been interviewing experts in Ukraine. He said today: “In simple terms, half the people in Ukraine look to Russia and the other half look to the West.
“Putin’s show of force is just that — a show of displeasure at the de facto banning of the Russian language in the Ukraine, threats to Russian Orthodox churches and other things we’ve seen threatening to the Russian-speaking people there. It is not on Putin’s agenda to get into any rash military action.
“Unfortunately things are getting white-hot in Crimea with the reported occupation of a regional government building in Simferopol by pro-Russian protesters. Of course, you could say that this is a tit-for-tat for the similar occupations by pro-Europe protesters in Kiev, and obviously Russia has legitimate concerns about the status and security of its Black Sea Fleet, which has a faithfully negotiated lease to be in Crimea until 2042, and on which there is the threat to renege.
“Now is the time for serious political compromise, not for ratcheting up the rhetoric. I don’t think Secretary Kerry’s remarks about ‘Rocky IV’ are helpful. We need to get out of this zero sum thinking of Russia vs the West and navigate these shark infested waters and allow cooler heads to prevail and achieve an interim political accommodation.”
•Francis Boyle is a professor at the University of Illinois College of Law. His books include Foundations of World Order (Duke University Press: 1999). He said today: “While talking about storming the parliament in Simferopol and Russian war maneuvers, [Christiane] Amanpour on CNN this morning invoked the Budapest Agreement saying that Russia must stay out, they have a legal obligation. This is noteworthy because the Budapest Agreement also states that the U.S., Russia, Ukraine, and UK need to immediately jointly ‘consult’ — meaning meet at least at the foreign minister level. [Text below.] See Financial Times “Ukraine’s new premier invokes treaty in bid to resist Russia.”
“These mechanisms of international law are critical because the First World War started this way in 1914 — exactly a century ago. The Serbian terrorist [Gavrilo] Princip assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, the heir to the throne of the Austrian-Hungarian Empire. The Austrian-Hungarian emperor got the backing of the German Kaiser for an ultimatum to Serbia over it. Serbia offered to submit the dispute to the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague, which was rejected by Austria-Hungary. Serbia’s ally the Russian Tsar mobilized the Russian army. Then the Kaiser gave the order to execute their Schleifen Plan, attacking both to their east and west. Ten million people died for nothing.”
•Based in Moscow, Ben Aris is editor of Business New Europe. He said today: “The situation in Ukraine is staring to unravel in an alarming way. The deep divisions in the country are now coming to the fore as the so-called Euromaidan protests in the capital Kiev only reflect the desire of half the country. While analysts believe the chances of a break up of the country remain unlikely, the violent overthrow of the [Viktor] Yanukovych regime has opened old wounds and driven a wedge in the already fragile union of east and west.
“Economically, Ukraine is on the verge of collapse. The national currency has already fallen 20 percent since the start of the year. However, the EU is not going to be able to bail out the country alone. The only long-term solution will be for the Russians to be included in any rescue. Ukraine remains strategically tied to Russia; both in the form of its gas pipelines that deliver Russian gas to European customers, but at a deeper level thanks to the legacy issues that continue to tie much of Ukraine’s industry to Russia’s. Doing a three-way deal will not be easy, but the alternative is to build a new wall in the middle of Europe, reminiscent of the Cold War divide.”
•Tikkun: Tom Hayden Assessing the crisis in Venezuela, February 25, 2014.
It’s difficult to grasp the facts behind the murky fog of Venezuelan crisis. Based more or less on intuitions, but also credible documents, some blame most of the crisis on the CIA. Some national security types, abhorring populism, claim that the Venezuela state is consolidating dictatorial power precisely by winning so many elections! Others, while friendly to Venezuela, blame the Caracas government for failing to address the problems of violent crime and economic malaise.
President Barack Obama may or may not know what various US operatives are doing. We have seen evidence of a “state within the state” before, going back as far as the CIA’s operations against Cuba. In Obama’s time, the president correctly named the 2009 coup in Honduras a “coup”, and then seemed powerless to prevent it. At his first Summit of the Americas, a friendly Obama shook the hand of Hugo Chavez before Obama’s top adviser tried to sabotage the warming of relations.
Call me naive, but I do not believe President Obama wants to see President Maduro overthrown. Chaos would follow. The US would be blamed. Relations with Latin America would freeze below zero. The president probably thinks Maduro should thrash in his own domestic contradictions.
But there’s another US “government”, a secret network that works tirelessly to undermine any Latin American threat to the dominance of American capital and military power. They understand that the president must be provided with “plausible deniability”, and so they keep Obama out of the loop. Sometimes they operate through the CIA, sometimes under Republican-Democratic “democracy promotion” programs, sometimes through third parties such as the Florida-based FTI Consulting. Democratic Party political consultants and pollsters have worked for Venezuela’s opposition. It’s difficult even for a president to keep a grip on it all. And that being the case, transparency disappears for the US Congress and public.
Obama’s public statements this week certainly gave moral support to the street demonstrations. While also including a vague call for “dialogue”, Obama is playing with fire. Obama immediately needs to rein in the entire entourage of US-supported agents of destabilization and issue them a clear cease-and-desist order, or he and the US government will be blamed for what may happen in the weeks ahead. He needs request and support whatever consensus emerges this week from the region’s elected governments and the United Nations.
The American Congress and public are becoming used to street protests overthrowing elected governments regardless of the issue of national sovereignty. “Humanitarian intervention” in the affairs of other nations means willfully ignoring sovereignty where egregious human rights abuses are at stake and no negotiations are possible. The argument is somewhat attractive up to the point where it revives the Law of the Jungle. In the case of Venezuela, not only sovereignty but representative democracy are at stake, in a region which only recently began to shed the US-supported rule of oligarchs and generals.
The forgotten facts amidst the mounting frenzy is that President Maduro won the April 2013 Venezuelan election by slightly under two percent, and his alliance were victors by ten percent in last December’s nationwide municipal elections.
The losers of those Venezuelan elections have turned into Leninists of the Right, seeking to create a counter-revolutionary situation in which the government apparatus crumbles and they seize power. The leaders want martyrs in the streets. In their apocalyptic view, a coup in Venezuela would spiral swiftly into the collapse of the oil-dependent Bolivian, Ecuadoran and Nicaraguan governments, and be a deathblow to Cuba.
If this frightening vision fails, the anti-Maduro forces will regroup and resume their strategy of destabilization on a permanent basis, a virtual civil war in the guise of a political conflict, in hopes that a segment of Maduro’s present voting bloc – estimated at fifty to 56 percent – switches sides in a future election out of simple desire for “normalcy”.
The peace and justice movement in the US, along with Congressional allies, have a potentially-important role in pressuring Obama, and secretaries Kerry and Hegel, to rein in the agents of America’s dirty wars. A Congressional coalition led by the Miami Cuba Lobby is already agitating for Maduro’s demise. Where are the Congressional progressives? Despite frequent denials by US officials, for example, the State Department’s own Inspector General found that the Pentagon and US “democracy programs” supported individuals and groups “actively involved in the brief ouster of the Chavez government” in the 2002 coup attempt.
•Not much time last night to blog. Attended the 20th Anniversary Gala for Shared Interest and economic Development organization active in South Africa. Among the Honorees: Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and daughter, Reverence Mpho Tuu, and Anant Sing, Producer of Mandela Long Walk To Freedom. Comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit Mediachannel.org and Madibabook.com
For Those Who Say The West is Best
•LBN: San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge marked a milestone in 2013 as 46 people leaped to their deaths in what appears to be the deadliest year for suicides at the California landmark, a watchdog group said on Tuesday. The Bridge Rail Foundation, which tracks fatalities at the 4,200-foot-long (1,280-meter) span, said the high number of suicides demonstrates the need for a safety net to be installed to make it more difficult for would-be jumpers to take their own lives there.
•NYT: PHOENIX — Ending a day that cast a glaring national spotlight on Arizona, Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, vetoed a bill on Wednesday that would have given business owners the right to refuse service to gay men, lesbians and other people on religious grounds.
Her action came amid mounting pressure from Arizona business leaders, who said the bill would be a financial disaster for the state and harm its reputation. Prominent members of the Republican establishment, including the former presidential candidate Mitt Romney and Gov. Rick Scott of Florida, sided with the bill’s opponents, who argued that the measure would have allowed people to use religion as a fig leaf for prejudice.
Ms. Brewer announced her veto at a hastily called news conference, after spending the day holed up in the Capitol in private meetings with opponents and supporters. “I call them like I see them, despite the cheers and boos from the crowd,” she said. She added that the legislation “does not address a specific or present concern related to religious liberty in Arizona,” and that it was “broadly worded and could result in unintended and negative consequences.”
Ukraine’s new interim government is presented at Kiev’s main protest camp, following last week’s ousting of President Viktor Yanukovych.
•Harvey Wasserman, The Navy Knew: Why Has Fukushima Fallen Off The News Agenda?
A stunning new report indicates the U.S. Navy knew that sailors from the nuclear-powered USS Ronald Reagan took major radiation hits from the Fukushima atomic power plant after its meltdowns and explosions nearly three years ago.
If true, the revelations cast new light on the $1 billion lawsuit filed by the sailors against Tokyo Electric Power. Many of the sailors are already suffering devastating health impacts, but are being stonewalled by Tepco and the Navy.
The Reagan had joined several other U.S. ships in Operation Tomodachi (“Friendship”) to aid victims of the March 11, 2011 quake and tsunami. Photographic evidence and first-person testimony confirms that on March 12, 2011 the ship was within two miles of Fukushima Dai’ichi as the reactors there began to melt and explode.
•SBS Australia: Vietnam could buy US reactors under a pact given the green light by Barack Obama, after it promised not to pursue nuclear weapons.
President Barack Obama has approved a civilian nuclear pact with Vietnam which could lead to the sale of US reactors to Washington’s energy-hungry former war foe.
The move by the president formally opened a 90-day review process in Congress. If no legislation is passed contravening the accord, it will then come into force.
Under the accord, US officials said, Vietnam committed not to produce radioactive ingredients for nuclear weapons and signed up to US nonproliferation standards, which the White House bills as the strongest in the world.
“I have determined that the performance of the agreement will promote, and will not constitute an unreasonable risk to, the common defence and security,” Obama said in a memorandum to the Energy Department.
Vietnam agreed not to enrich or reprocess uranium, key steps in the manufacture of nuclear weapons, in the deal signed on the sidelines of an East Asia summit in Brunei in October.
It also pledged to seek components for its fuel cycle on the open, international market.
•Gareth Porter, Truthout on Iran: Obama Pins Fate of Nuclear Pact on Documents From an Iranian “Curveball”
One of the issues Obama administration officials are insisting must be resolved to the satisfaction of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) before any nuclear agreement may be concluded involves “possible military dimensions.” That term refers to documents long discredited by German intelligence but which the United States and the IAEA have maintained came from a covert Iranian nuclear weapons program.
But a former senior German official has now revealed that the biggest collection of documents cited as evidence of such a covert Iran program actually came from a member of the Iranian terrorist organization Mujihedin-E-Khalq (MEK) and that German intelligence sought to warn the George W. Bush administration that the source of the documents was not trustworthy.
One of the issues Obama administration officials are insisting must be resolved to the satisfaction of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) before any nuclear agreement may be concluded involves “possible military dimensions.” That term refers to documents long discredited by German intelligence but which the United States and the IAEA have maintained came from a covert Iranian nuclear weapons program.
A former senior German official has now revealed that the biggest collection of documents cited as evidence of such a covert Iran program actually came from a member of the Iranian terrorist organization Mujihedin-E-Khalq (MEK) and that German intelligence sought to warn the George W. Bush administration that the source of the documents was not trustworthy.
The use of those documents to make a case for action against Iran closely parallels the Bush administration’s use of the testimony of the now-discredited Iraqi exile called “Curveball” to convince the US public to support war against Iraq. The parallel between the two episodes was recognized explicitly by the German intelligence service, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), according to Karsten Voigt, who was the German Foreign Office’s coordinator of North American-German relations.
•AP: Israel Bombs Hezbollah Base, Hez Vows To Retaliate
JERUSALEM (AP) — Israel has opened a new front in its attempts to halt weapons smuggling to Hezbollah, striking one of the group’s positions inside Lebanon for the first time since the sides fought a war eight years ago.
•Der Spiegel: The Power Of Ukraine’s Billionaires
The protesters in Kiev were largely responsible for the fall of the Ukrainian president. But his way out of office was paved by two of the country’s most powerful oligarchs.’
•ICH: Peter Lee: Was the Ukraine Coup America’s Main Event at the Sochi Olympics?
It would be…ironic!, if punishing Putin over Syria turned Ukraine into another Syria.
•Israel Shamir, The Brown Revolution of the Ukraine
Kiev is patrolled by armed thugs from the Western Ukraine, by fighters from the neo-Nazi -Right Sector, descendants of Stepan Bandera, the Ukrainian Quisling’s troopers, and by their local comrades-in-arms of nationalist persuasion.
•Coleen Rowley, A New Neocon Push for Syrian War
The propaganda that continues to flourish for war on Syria shows many Americans fail to understand the problems posed by “U.S. Empire-building”.
The situation in Venezuela might be somewhat of a head-scratcher for the uninitiated. This primer should bring you up to date on the essential moving parts of the political and social earthquake….
•AP: US general: Grim Afghan future if no security pact
BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan (AP) – Depicting a grim future for Afghanistan without U.S. help, the top U.S. military officer said Wednesday that Afghanistan’s refusal to sign a security agreement with the United States may make the fight more difficult this year, embolden the enemy and prompt some Afghan security forces to cooperate with the Taliban to “hedge their bets.”
A US court orders Google to remove from its YouTube site a crude anti-Islam film which sparked deadly riots in the Muslim world in 2012.
•British Authorities Arrest Moazzem Begg, a former Guantanamo Prisoner on terror charges. Activists in Britain call it harassment of a critic:
Here is a statement from Scotland Against Criminalizing Communities (SACC) about the arrest:
•SACC calls for the release of Moazzam Begg
26 February 2014 – SACC
SACC calls for the immediate release of Moazzam Begg and the three other people arrested in the West Midlands on Tuesday, supposedly on suspicion of facilitating terrorism overseas. It is perfectly clear that these arrests are intended to frighten Britain’s Muslims away from pursuing objectives that are at odds with government policy.
Former Guantánamo prisoner Moazzam Begg is respected around the world as both a torture survivor and a human rights defender. His arrest brings further discredit on a British government already established as an institutional apologist for torture.
The arrest of a political activist, whatever the charges, is apt to provoke suspicions of a political motive. But terrorism arrests are different. Politics are hard-wired into Britain’s terrorism laws. Through the involvement of MI5, state interests are built into the decision-making that leads to an arrest. So there is no question but that political concerns play a part in every pre-planned terrorism arrest.
Moazzam Begg is Outreach Director of human rights group CAGE (formerly Cage Prisoners). CAGE says that the arrests coincide with a CAGE report on Syria and a major news piece.
The day before he was arrested, Moazzam Begg tweeted “Sometimes knowing too much can be a curse.”
Last December the authorities took away Moazzam Begg’s passport, claiming “royal prerogative” as the legal basis for their action. Before that, he was regularly subjected to “Stop and Question” sessions under Schedule 7 of the Terrorism Act 2000 when he travelled overseas. In November, police questioning had caused him to miss a flight to Turkey, where he was due to attend a conference on human rights abuses in Egypt.
This kind of obstruction and harassment is the traditional lot of human rights defenders who work in undemocratic countries. It is happening in Britain.
After his passport was confiscated, Moazzam Begg wrote:
“I am certain that the only reason I am being continually harassed – something that began long before any visit to Syria – is because CagePrisoners and I are at the forefront of investigations and assertions based on hard evidence that British governments, past and present, have been wilfully complicit in torture.”
Moazzam Begg’s arrest, besides falling into a pattern of government obstruction of any attempt to hold it accountable for torture, is also part of a pattern of intimidation directed against Muslims thought to be sympathetic towards the Syrian revolution. Humanitarian aid convoys heading for Syria are stopped; vehicles, money and goods are confiscated.
Intimidation of this sort became commonplace after the British and US governments abandoned their plans to attack the Assad regime last September. It was just a part of the subsequent adjustment of British policy in the region. As on many occasions before, British policy is multi-faceted, tactically changeable and directed towards the promotion of British elite interests in the Middle East through a policy of divide and rule. Also as on many occasions before, British domestic law is being used as an instrument of foreign policy.
That is not a proper foundation for the rule of law. And it is why we continue to campaign for the repeal of Britain’s unjust and politicised terrorism laws. People should be charged under real law, or not at all.
SACC was, and remains, opposed to US-British military intervention in Syria. British bombs will not serve the interests of the Syrian people, or of regional peace. But we are opposed to tyranny, including the tyranny of the Assad regime, and we recognise the right of oppressed people to resist tyranny.
Richard Haley, Chair of SACC, said:
“We campaigned for Moazzam Begg’s release when he was held in Guantánamo Bay. At that time we knew hardly anything about him. We supported him simply because we could see that he was the victim of an abuse of power. We see the same thing today. But this time we know him quite well, because we have campaigned alongside him for years.
“We know that he is a brave man of the utmost integrity. We know that he is a builder of bridges between people. We know that he is a man of deep religious faith. We know that, through all the complexities of British and foreign politics, he always holds fast to a fundamental regard for human rights. We know that he has given us his support whenever we have asked for it.
“His arrest was political. His release can also be secured by a political decision. We call on the government and the police to ensure that he is released immediately and that his persecution stops.”
•NBC: FBI Never Revealed It Had Al Qaeda Mole Who Met Bin Laden
The FBI had a mole inside al Qaeda who met with Osama bin Laden eight years prior to 9/11 and knew he planned to finance terror attacks, but the bureau declined to tell Congressional investigators…
•And…closer to home: Spike Lee’s Amazing Rant Against Gentrification
Speaking Tuesday night in Brooklyn, blocks away from his company headquarters and his father’s apartment, Spike Lee went off on how the neighborhood has changed.
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Welcome to the News Dissector blog offering news, views and more,
•Common Dreams: Cuts For The Pentagon But Not For The Empire
Progressive analysts note that proposed cuts to boots on the ground-style forces will not weaken US’s global hegemony.
In a speech at the Pentagon Monday, Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel announced new budget proposal to “shrink” military to pre-WWII numbers., AP,
In a speech at the Pentagon on Monday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced a new budget plan that calls for the reduction of total soldiers across the U.S. military. But analysts say that although less troops on the ground in foreign countries would be a welcome development, the news highlights well-known plans for the U.S. to maintain its global military dominance by shifting to a more secretive, nimble, and technologically advanced force structure.
“In essence what you are seeing is the financial part of the changing face of empire,” said Tom Englehardt, noted foreign policy expert and editor of TomDispatch.com, in an interview with Common Dreams.
Hagel’s address follows a leak of the budget announcement published in the New York Times over the weekend.
Phyllis Bennis, fellow at the Institute for Policy Studies, also told Common Dreams that the budget—on the one hand—reflects the “pragmatic recognition” that our military costs are unsustainable, particularly in the midst of huge economic downturn. And, “on the other hand, is a highly ideologically-driven decision rooted in transformation of the nature of war. Wars are not ending [but they] are being transformed from large-scale invasions and occupations—Iraq and Afghanistan—to much smaller scale Special Ops- dominated wars.”
Following “two disastrous interventions which have been very, very costly,” Englehardt added that the cuts reflect “the perfectly obvious and brain-dead thinking in Washington.”
During the address, Hagel detailed the Department of Defense budget proposal for fiscal year 2015 and beyond. The budget calls for troop reductions in every department of the U.S. military, including civilian personnel. The number of active duty Army soldiers will be slashed 13 percent from its current 522,000 soldiers to between 440,000 and 450,000, which would make it the smallest since just before the U.S. entered World War II.
However, special operations forces, he noted, will increase by 6 percent totaling roughly 69,000 personnel.
•Stratfor on Ukraine:
The uprising in Kiev has apparently reached its conclusion. President Viktor Yanukovich and the opposition reached an agreement, negotiated by the Polish, German and French foreign ministers. The parliament is now effectively in charge, deciding who will be ministers and when elections will be held, whether to dismiss judges and so on. It isn’t clear whether the parliament can fire the sitting president without impeachment and trial, but all of this is now moot. What is interestingis that the Polish, French and German foreign ministers negotiated an outcome that, for practical purposes,ignored the Constitution of Ukraine. It sets an interesting precedent. But forUkraine, the constitution didn’t have the patina of tradition that a true constitution requires, and few will miss Yanukovich.
•NY Times: Little Unity Among Opposition in Ukraine
KIEV, Ukraine — Struggling to form a new majority coalition in Parliament, and under excruciating pressure because of a looming economic calamity, Ukrainian lawmakers decided Tuesday to delay for two days the naming of an acting prime minister and a provisional government.
The delay underscored the extreme difficulty that lawmakers face in rebuilding the collapsed government left behind when President Viktor F. Yanukovych fled Kiev on Saturday and was removed from power in a vote supported by some members of his own party.
The three main opposition parties, which share little in common politically, have been in fierce negotiations, not just among themselves, but also with civic activists and other groups representing the many constituencies involved in Ukraine’s three months of uprising.
A main reason for the delay was to allow officials to meet with representatives of civic groups and to present their proposed government on Wednesday in Independence Square, the main site of mass protests, which is known in Ukrainian as Maidan.
•QUESTION: Why So Little Coverage of Neo-Nazi Parties in the Ukrainian Opposition
•Truth-Out: Egypt Gone Bad: An Analysis
In case anyone is inclined to get the sides mixed up, it is the Muslim Brotherhood that is defending democracy in this confrontation, and the media’s use of the euphemism “military-backed government”
The United States expels three Venezuelan diplomats, in response to the expulsion of three of its own consular officials from Caracas just over a week ago.
President Obama tells Afghan leader Hamid Karzai the US may withdraw all its troops by the end of the year if no security deal is signed.
•Workers’ Rights Advocate Speaks Out On Minimum Wage Discharge Petition: Statement from Sarita Gupta, Executive Director of Jobs With Justice
Washington, D.C. – Following the announcement of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s launch of a discharge petition to force a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives on the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013, Jobs With Justice executive director Sarita Gupta issued this statement:
“It’s welcome news that House members are taking decisive action on the long-overdue Fair Minimum Wage Act to compel their colleagues to go on record on such a key issue.
Fundamentally, our economy cannot afford another year of low wages. The House Leadership has been shamefully dragging its feet, while too many people in this country aren’t able to make ends meet. Tens of millions of hardworking people deserve the raise that would come from updating the federal minimum wage to $10.10. And the 80% of Americans who support raising the minimum wage to $10.10 deserve for Congress to take a vote. At least with the discharge petition they will know if their representatives are protecting the interests of big, profitable fast food and retail chains that don’t want to pay a fair wage.”
•James Kwak: Baseline Scenario: Rich People Save; Poor People Don’t
It seems obvious. Yet it’s often lost, both by the scolds who lecture Americans for not saving enough and by the self-appointed personal finance gurus who claim that anyone can become rich simply ye saving more (and following their dodgy investment advice). Saving is sometimes seen as some kind of moral virtue, but from another perspective it’s just the ultimate consumption good: saving now buys you a sense of security, insurance against misfortune, and free time in the future, which are all things that ordinary people don’t have enough of.
Real Time Economics (WSJ) links to a new survey being pushed by America Saves (which appears to be a marketing campaign run by the Consumer Federation of America, which seems not to be evil*). According to the survey, there are significant differences in savings rates and accumulated savings between lower-middle- and middle-income households. And that’s treating all households in the same income bracket as being alike, leaving aside differences in family structure, cost of living, etc.
I’m all for living within your means and saving for retirement and all that. But it’s a myth to say, as America Saves does on its home page, “Once you start saving, it gets easier and easier and before you know it, you’re on your way to making your dreams a reality.” The underlying problems are stagnant real incomes for most people, rising costs (in real terms) for education and health care, increasing financial risk due to the withdrawal of the safety net, and increased longevity (good in some ways, but bad if incomes aren’t rising and you want to retire at 65). That’s why households are showing up at age 64 with less in retirement savings than they had just last decade. And why, if you feel like you’re not saving enough, it’s probably not your fault.
But America Saves itself is supported by a bunch of financial institutions and trade associations like the Investment Company Institute, which have a vested interest in getting people to entrust more money to them.
•The House of Cards Journalists: Bad
•The Wrap: National Enquirer to Issue Apology in NYT Over False Philip Seymour Hoffman Gay Lover Story
The tabloid will also fund an endowment for playwrights as part of a settlement for falsely naming David Bar Katz as Philip Seymour Hoffman’s gay lover
The National Enquirer and its publisher, American Media Incorporated have reached a settlement with playwright David Bar Katz, who they falsely named as Philip Seymour Hoffman’s gay lover.
The tabloid plans on publishing a full-page apology in Wednesday’s New York Times and will fund ”an annual prize of $45,000 for an unproduced play,” according to a report by Jim Dwyer, he confirmed with TheWrap Tuesday.
David Bar Katz’s lawyer Judd Burstein also confirmed Dwyer’s report of the settlement with TheWrap. Burstein had told the Times that the National Enquirer characterized their error as an “honest mistake.”
“It sounds ridiculous,” Mr. Burstein said. “They did a search and found someone named David Katz who appeared to be the son of David’s father. They asked, ‘Are you the David Katz who is the playwright?’
Katz had filed a lawsuit against the paper over a claim that he and Hoffman were gay lovers.
In turns out, the Enquirer had erroneously quoted someone claiming to be Katz. After the playwright called foul, the tabloid deleted the report, however it still remains cached in the site’s archives.
Burstein previously slammed the paper to TheWrap earlier this month.
“The article is just disgusting. Here you have Phil’s family and his friends grieving, and the Enquirer comes along seeking to make a buck through putrid lies,” Burstein, told TheWrap in a statement. “Worse still, it appears that the Enquirer sent out a press release hyping the story so that it could sell more copies of the magazine. I do not know how these people can sleep at night.”
•Yahoo: Was TV Reporter Fired For A Handstand?
Fans start an online push to get Julie Tremmel back on the air, saying she was “living in the moment.”
•Michael Winship Essay: Liberals Face a Hard Day’s Knight?
That’s a pretty pathetic knight up there on the cover of the March issue of Harper’s Magazine. Battered and defeated, his shield in pieces, he’s slumped and saddled backwards on a Democratic donkey that has a distinctly woeful – or bored, maybe — countenance. It’s the magazine’s sardonic way of illustrating a powerful throwing down of the gauntlet by political scientist Adolph Reed, Jr. He has challenged the nation’s progressives with an article in the magazine provocatively titled. “Nothing Left: The Long, Slow Surrender of American Liberals.”
His thesis flies in the face of a current spate of articles and op-ed columns touting a resurgence of progressive politics within the Democratic Party – often pointing to last year’s elections of Senator Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts and Bill de Blasio as mayor of New York City as evidence — although at the same time many of the pieces note that the wave is smashing up against a wall of resistance from the corporate wing of the party.
In a story titled, “Democrats will dive left in 2016 to distance themselves from Obama” – a headline designed to roil Republican fervor as well as impugn the opposition — the conservative Washington Times quoted Adam Green, cofounder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee: “Democrats would be smart in the primary and general election to be more populist and stand up for the little guy more on economic issues.”
In November, Harold Meyerson wrote in the progressive magazine, The American Prospect, “The constituencies now swelling the Democrats’ ranks, Latinos and millennials in particular, have created the space – indeed, the necessity – for the party to move to the left.” And Dan Balz and Philip Rucker reported in The Washington Post earlier this month, “By many measures, the party is certainly seen as more liberal than it once was. For the past 40 years, the American National Election Studies surveys have asked people for their perceptions of the two major parties. The 2012 survey found, for the first time, that a majority of Americans describe the Democratic Party as liberal, with 57 percent using that label. Four years earlier, only 48 percent described the Democrats as liberal…
“Gallup reported last month that 43 percent of surveyed Democrats identified themselves as liberal, the high water mark for the party on that measurement. In Gallup’s 2000 measures, just 29 percent of Democrats labeled themselves as liberals.”
Nonetheless, Adolph Reed, Jr., who teaches political science at the University of Pennsylvania and is a long-time student of these things, makes a compelling case that we’re hearing a death rattle more than a trumpeting call to arms.
In his Harper’s piece, Reed argues that Democrats and liberals have become too fixated on election results, kowtowing to the status quo rather than aiming for long term goals that address the issues of economic inequality. “…During the 1980s and early 1990s, fears of a relentless Republican juggernaut pressured those left of center to take a defensive stance,” he writes, “focusing on the immediate goal of electing Democrats to stem or slow the rightward tide… Each election now becomes a moment of life-or-death urgency that precludes dissent or even reflection.”
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•Quote of the Day: Writer/Actor (Ghostbusters) Harold Ramis, RIP
“I’ve always thought that comedy was just another dramatic expression. I try to measure the amount of truth in a work rather than just looking at the generic distinction between comedy and drama. There’s a lot of bullshit drama out there that leaves you totally cold. And there’s a lot of wasted comedy time too. But when you get something honest, it doesn’t matter what label you give it. Look at a movie like Sideways, which is funny and still so painful. It points to the idea that life is full of ambiguity. Most people live somewhere on the spectrum of anxiety and despair.”
•Tribute/LA Times: Harold Ramis, Chicago actor, writer and director, dead at 69
•NYT: Ukraine Challenged
KIEV, Ukraine — With a manhunt underway for the deposed Ukrainian president, Viktor F. Yanukovych, who was charged on Monday with mass murder, officials in Parliament pushed ahead with the monumental task of rebuilding the collapsed government. The country’s most pressing problem, however, is largely out of their control: a fast-approaching economic disaster that they cannot solve without international assistance.
The new speaker, Oleksandr V. Turchynov, admitted as much, warning in an open letter to the Ukrainian people on Sunday that “Ukraine is now in a pre-default condition and sliding into the abyss.”
On Monday, Parliament accepted the surprise resignation of Ihor Sorkin, the head of the Ukrainian National Bank, and approved a replacement, Stepan Kubiv, who said one of his top priorities would be to secure aid from the International Monetary Fund.
Russia had extended a lifeline of $15 billion in loans and cheap gas, but the Kremlin has suspended that aid in response to the political uncertainty in Ukraine. Russian officials continued their saber-rattling on Monday, with Prime Minister Dmitri A. Medvedev dismissing the current government as backed by “Kalashnikov-toting people in black masks” and saying that the leaders in Parliament were not legitimate.
•Hrag Vartanian, HyperAllegic: Protest Action Erupts Inside Guggenheim Museum
Over 40 protestors staged an action in the Guggenehim museum Saturday, to call attention to the construction of a Guggenheim branch being built in Abu Dhabi by migrant workers. Protestors say numerous reports have found that the workers are being treated inhumanely.
Last night, over 40 protesters staged an intervention inside the Guggenheim Museum in Manhattan during Saturday night’s pay-what-you-wish admission hours. Unfurling mylar banners, dropping leaflets, chanting words, handing out information to museum visitors, and drawing attention with the use of a baritone bugle, the group worked to highlight the labor conditions on Saadiyat Island in the United Arab Emirates, where Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, a franchise of New York’s Guggenheim, is being built.
Staged in the midst of the museum’s newly opened Italian Futurism exhibition, the intervention, a term used by some members of the group to describe the action, received both applause from visitors who seemed excited by the commotion and reactions of confusion from others unsure what was going on.
The intervention began at 6:45pm EST with a bugle call and a loud question: “Who is building the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi?” The whole action continued for roughly 20 minutes, during which time security guards appeared to react slowly to the protesters as hundreds of museum visitors captured images and video of the protests.
The participants, who were a diverse group of artists, professors, students, and activists loosely affiliated with Occupy Museums, Gulf Labor, and various NYU-related groups, timed their protest to take place during the pay-what-you-wish hours of the museum, which normally charges $22 admission for adults. When I asked organizers if they purposely chose their action to coincide with the Italian Futurism exhibition and the Carrie Mae Weems retrospective, they told me that they did not, but that they were delighted for the coincidence since Futurism sought to combine art and politics, while Weems is a champion of those who have been historically excluded from museums.
“This is a new phase of the campaign, we’re moving beyond talk to action, and bringing it home obviously to the Guggenheim,” said Andrew Ross, a NYU professor of sociology, who is involved in the Gulf Labor coalition and the NYU Fair Labor coalition. “There are so many more people involved in this action that were not involved in Gulf Labor until this point. We’re widening the circle of participation, and that will have an impact.”
Gulf Labor is a coalition of artists, academics, and activists who have worked for over a year to ensure that the labor conditions on Saadiyat Island in Abu Dhabi, which will house Guggenheim- and Louvre-branded museums and a NYU-affiliated university, are not exploitative to workers. Many human rights organizations say that the workers who are brought to Saadiyat Island are victimized by the nation’s sponsorship system and face grueling and inhuman conditions on a daily basis.
During our brief conversation, Ross explained how their work raising awareness about workers’ debt, which translates to a type of indentured servitude for migrant workers, is connected to much bigger issues.
“We’re trying to make a connection with chains of debt that are transnational, and in the various locations we’re looking at, Bangladesh, Abu Dhabi, NYU, and the art world, there’s an enormous accumulation of debt in each of these places, and the money is getting extracted by the transnational creditor class,” Ross said. “And artists are more and more [in debt], and in order to practice art, you’re required to take on a big debt burden … so there’s a connection across many continents. Another art world is possible, one that’s more principled and ethical, and that looks out for the human and labor rights of all. Artists should not be asked to exhibit in museums that have been built on the back of abused workers … that’s what it boils down to. When you’re acquired by a museum that does that, that’s unfair. Your complicity is being bought along with the artwork.”
The idea of using art as a way to reimagine the world was at the heart of another participant’s passion for the issue. “Art, among other things, is about doing, living, and imagining a better world,” said artist Nitasha Dhillon of MTL Collective. “Art should not violate human rights, art should not endanger workers lives, and art should not create debt slaves. And definitely not be part of a system that creates debt bondage.”
She sees yesterday’s action as “a call for solidarity and a call for museums to do the right thing.” She added that “it’s important for museum goers to understand what kind of system they are participating in.”
•Causes Without Rebels: From A Commentary From Professor Michael Brenner at Pitt (See Huff Post Blogs for more):
(Last week’s commentary on the fate of American public schools elicited an unusual number of responses. A common thread to these responses was the expressed frustration that the issue has generated so little concern. That is not the only troubling matter that has met with a public reaction incommensurate with its seriousness. The phenomenon is today’s subject.)
There are more reasons for Americans to feel aggrieved today than at any time since the Vietnam War ended nearly 40 years ago. At no time before or since has there been so little effort to remedy those conditions. That contradiction should be our main grievance.
The array of deeply troubling national abuses is extensive and varied. There is the unprecedented assault on personal liberties best exemplified by the de facto repeal of the 4th Amendment to the Constitution. We are subject to massive, indiscriminate surveillance that opens our private communications and movements to governmental scrutiny. This is done with impunity by spy agencies that are encouraged in this intrusion by the President, a bipartisan consensus in Congress, and a judiciary that casts a blind eye on these infringements. Citizens are by law now subject to imprisonment at the whim of the Executive wherever and whenever an arbitrary determination is made that anyone is a threat to national security. Incarceration can be done anonymously without right to appeal – an annulment of habeus corpus. American citizens outside the country are liable to be targeted for assassination on the basis of a similarly arbitrary determination by the President that he or she may take violent action against the United States, its people or its interests. Four citizens already have been so liquidated – only one of whom had association with a hostile organization. The standard of “clear and imminent” threat has been so twisted as to be infinitely elastic.
In the economic sphere, the country has degenerated into a plutocracy wherein the wielders of great wealth dictate the terms of economic policy while exploiting what is for practical purposes immunity from punishment or meaningful regulation. Financial predators triggered the financial collapse of 2008 through egregious actions that were aided and abetted by those with the nominal responsibility to monitor their conduct. They escaped chastisement or suppression of their privileges to exploit and to outright plunder. Their representatives were appointed to the key positions whose supposed mandate was to remedy the situation by President Obama. The result was an emasculated legislation, the Dodd-Franks bill, that carried little potential to rein in abuse. The deliberately lethargic process of implementing its provisions has seen the regulatory authorities work hand-in-glove with Wall Street to eliminate or neutralize whatever potential there was.
The Great Recession of 2008 – 2014 has been used to transfer roughly one trillion dollars in national wealth from 70% of Americans to the top 1%. Inequality is greater today than at any time since the introduction of the progressive income tax nearly a century ago. The inflation discounted earnings of salaried Americans have barely risen since 1970, i.e. virtually all of the expanded wealth created over that period has gone to the owners of capital and not to workers. Tax laws and regulations are riddled with exemptions that allow corporations, and the super-rich, to minimize their obligations to the Treasury. Apple used virtual cyber addresses to pay zero taxes last year. GE received a refund on revenues of $83 billion; so did Boeing on profits of $5.9 billion – over the past five years, it’s aggregate tax bill has been zero.
Prospects are for an aggravation of this condition. Cutbacks in Social Security are now the taken as a given by both the Republicans and most Democrats. The evisceration of trade unions, the freedom given businesses to eliminate benefits and slash wages by hiring more and more part-timers, the scapegoating of public employees as the cause of what ails American competiveness, the resort to outsourcing and expatriation of jobs as the standard business practice – all of these developments together ensure that the fate of the American wage earner is bleak. To aggravate their work life even further, draconian forms of worker control made possible by sophisticated monitoring technology are turning them into regimented chattels.
Looking abroad, we see the United States committed to a strategy of global power projection – political and military – independent of any concrete threat or specific purpose. That entails the maintenance of a vastly inflated Pentagon budget, a vastly inflated intelligence budget, the extension of military bases into over 100 countries, and the subordination of diplomacy to coercion as the operative principle of the nation’s foreign policy. Projection of American power is integral to a loosely conceived but boundless Global War On Terror. Set on achieving absolute security, it leads inexorably to a strategy of prevention that targets anyone or any group that could become a threat. What began as a campaign against al-Qaeda has spiraled into an open-ended war against Islamic radicalism anywhere – even though most of groups have no intention of attacking the United States and none has the means to reach us.
The GWOT has had the effect of legitimizing the radical doctrine of establishing “full spectrum” military dominance in every region of the world. None of these grand ideas have been candidly stated, much less debated. They have led to embarrassing failure almost everywhere. The immediate expression of this strategic vision is the Obama administration’s unrelenting efforts to keep 10,000 American troops in Afghanistan indefinitely. This is in direct contradiction of repeated pledges that the war there would be over by the end of 2014. It also is pursued without any half-way persuasive justification; indeed, there is no public justification made whatsoever. Despite the twelve plus years of serial fiasco that marks American interventions under the aegis of the Global War On Terror, despite the sullying of the country’s good name through torture, mass incarceration and “collateral” killing, our leaders presume deference to their dubious judgment and feel no obligation to pay a decent respect to the opinions of their fellow citizens.
•Attention New Yorkers
Breakfast With Mugabe, the NY Times and Time Out critics’ pick, must end Saturday, March 1. Very few tickets remain!
Don’t miss this critically acclaimed production. Come see the “gripping” Breakfast With Mugabe, inspired by reports that Zimbabwe’s despot, 90 year-old Robert Mugabe, sought treatment from a white psychiatrist. In award-winning playwright Fraser Grace’s imagining of these sessions, it is “colonialism that is put on the couch.”
Every Wednesday after the 8pm performance, we hold Talk Backs. This Wednesday, Professor Ruti Teitel, New York Law Professor and internationally recognized authority on international law, human rights, and transitional law, will join the impressive list of journalists and academics who have moderated previous sessions. So stick around for an informed discussion.
Breakfast With Mugabe at the Lion Theatre on Theatre Row, 410 West 42nd Street.
*Here are a few items for us all to think about. Comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please visit Mediachannel.org and Madibabook.com