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Pádraig Ó Raghaill
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Pádraig Ó Raghaill

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The bleeding hearts and the artists

♬ Hello darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence ♫

A script of obfuscated truth

Somewhat fitting I believe, “left its seeds while I was sleeping” indeed, the “alternative left” have planted many a seed to be assimilated into one’s soul while sleeping. Many do not need to be asleep to be sleeping. The far-right, the fascists, the racist hordes of xenophobes. A bombardment of labels quickly repeated with friends. State-based propaganda has always been a potent poison, that takes on a whole new meaning when the media becomes more than an organ of the state but willingly writes, produces, and publishes propaganda, all on their tod. I have watched a transparent agitprop campaign targeting Russia with beginnings formulated when Russia took control of the Crimea through a democratic referendum https://goo.gl/OvWuao and intensified with the Syrian conflict. Respun into new found McCarthyism during the Presidential Election campaign. Refusing to understand or failing to understand another country also has foreign policy and will logically follow a ‘protectionism’ Machiavellian Realism, https://goo.gl/t5lqz3 when assets and needs are compromised, does not make you right, it just makes you willfully ignorant. An inability to view the world outside of your wee pair of ill-fitting shoes. All the while the very same media cannot work out why their trust capital is at an all-time low.

Same script but different victim

The temptation to dismiss populist discontent as reactionary, especially after the Trump has made into the WhiteHouse, and hope that it will all go away while focusing on the more comforting, “elite serving, political issues” we are used to dealing with is tempting. Despite it would be fatal for the EU to do so. https://goo.gl/AoZEj8 The media’s continual attack labelling anything that does not fit their myopic view of the world as far-right-wing or fascist is and will do more harm than good. Few with a brain want the EU to disintegrate, yet we are on a troubled path and only people that have one’s head in the sand, do not see that.

Put yourself in the shoes of the Greeks, even us Irish, the Brits that voted out, the Italians, the Spanish, even the bloody French. People have joked that it will be the ‘Remanians’ and the Germans holding the bag. While that is an overstatement, there is reasoning in the rhetoric. There needs to be understanding that the economic changes of the past 30 years, let alone the past decade, have disadvantaged, if not directly hurt, the life chances of millions of ordinary Europeans. It is no joking matter. It underpins the rise of right-wing populism; that is just a hard, stone cold fact. So while we jest, be jovial, people have full right to be angry, and it is manifesting in votes.

To remind ourselves of what media and propaganda can do to fuel racism. – Karl Marx in 1870

England now possesses a working class divided into two hostile camps, English proletarians and Irish proletarians. The ordinary English worker hates the Irish worker as a competitor who lowers his standard of life. In relation to the Irish worker, he regards himself as a member of the ruling nation and consequently he becomes a tool of the English aristocrats and capitalists against Ireland, thus strengthening their domination over himself. He cherishes religious, social, and national prejudices against the Irish worker. His attitude towards him is much the same as that of the “poor whites” to the Negroes in the former slave states of the U.S.A. The Irishman pays him back with interest in his own money. He sees in the English worker both the accomplice and the stupid tool of the English rulers in Ireland.

This antagonism is artificially kept alive and intensified by the press, the pulpit, the comic papers, in short, by all the means at the disposal of the ruling classes. This antagonism is the secret of the impotence of the English working class, despite its organisation. It is the secret by which the capitalist class maintains its power.

Bipartisan is how the buggers win every time

Mass migration presented challenges through some terrible unthinking policy. Despite overall, there are no problems that cannot be fixed. General immigration or open bordered Europe presents no problem if inequality breeding, neoliberal policy is thrown into the fires of hell. https://goo.gl/hcG9dI Europe has a financial problem and a mass migration issue caused by war. Populism is taking advantage of people’s fears, using it as a leverage point as no one in a mainstream context of the media is pointing out the actual issue, which is financial. We have a problem with ISIS to the same extent we had a problem with the IRA. Neither were representative of the people en masse.

Trump is an opportunist populist; he too has plugged into the discontent rife in the people. People in America as in Europe are angry; they have suffered extraordinary financial losses and their children face a financially uncertain future. Fear, uncertainty, is the life-giving blood of populism. As I wrote some weeks back to fix populism, we need to address inequality and financial hardship. https://goo.gl/3755sY While people take to the streets protesting this mad bugger’s wall, we must, we need, to understand, that wall was made possible by the wall separating the people that have something from the people that have nothing.

We are at a crossroads; the current political flavours are yet to acknowledge, it is their neoliberal policy that has primed society to embrace more extreme versions of right-wing populism. https://youtu.be/Bkm2Vfj42FY Austerity politics, the EU single currency creating downward labour market pressures. An EU establishment working to the needs and wants of Germany, at the expense of all members not fitting their supply line model. Irresponsible refugee integration policy, that primed a discontent fueled by sporadic terrorism. The EU is an open border cosmopolitan project that needs protecting. However, the EU needs restructuring, and we need to find the core of what the EU was. A common market. We have lost the essence of the EU project, replaced by politics of servitude by member states. Maybe it is time to put some support behind Diem25, https://goo.gl/FZsmk5 as to be honest I am not sure what other alternatives are presented for the EU. As for internal State Governments maybe it is time for the parties to lobby Brussels. We need a stimulus package; we need quantitative easing into the pockets of everyday people. Do you want to fix the EU? You need to fix the financial problem you created with neoliberal policy and immoral austerity politics. https://youtu.be/JQuHSQXxsjM

Image – Pink Floyd outside the wall, image by erichalv
Opening lyrics – Simon and Garfunkel – Sound of silence
We are at a crossroads, the current political flavours are yet to acknowledge, it is their neoliberal policy that has primed society to embrace more extreme versions of right-wing populism. Austerity politics, the EU single currency creating downward labour market pressures. An EU establishment working to the needs and wants of Germany, at the expense of all members not fitting their supply line model. Irresponsible refugee integration policy, th...
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The issue is not Trump it is ourselves by John Pilger

"On the day President Trump is inaugurated, thousands of writers in the United States will express their indignation. "In order for us to heal and move forward...", say Writers Resist, "we wish to bypass direct political discourse, in favour of an inspired focus on the future, and how we, as writers, can be a unifying force for the protection of democracy."

And: "We urge local organisers and speakers to avoid using the names of politicians or adopting 'anti' language as the focus for their Writers Resist event. It's important to ensure that nonprofit organisations, which are prohibited from political campaigning, will feel confident participating in and sponsoring these events."

Thus, real protest is to be avoided, for it is not tax exempt.

Compare such drivel with the declarations of the Congress of American Writers, held at Carnegie Hall, New York, in 1935, and again two years later. They were electric events, with writers discussing how they could confront ominous events in Abyssinia, China and Spain. Telegrams from Thomas Mann, C Day Lewis, Upton Sinclair and Albert Einstein were read out, reflecting the fear that great power was now rampant and that it had become impossible to discuss art and literature without politics or, indeed, direct political action.

"A writer," the journalist Martha Gellhorn told the second congress, "must be a man of action now... A man who has given a year of his life to steel strikes, or to the unemployed, or to the problems of racial prejudice, has not lost or wasted time. He is a man who has known where he belonged. If you should survive such action, what you have to say about it afterwards is the truth, is necessary and real, and it will last."

Her words echo across the unction and violence of the Obama era and the silence of those who colluded with his deceptions.

That the menace of rapacious power - rampant long before the rise of Trump - has been accepted by writers, many of them privileged and celebrated, and by those who guard the gates of literary criticism, and culture, including popular culture, is uncontroversial. Not for them the impossibility of writing and promoting literature bereft of politics. Not for them the responsibility to speak out, regardless of who occupies the White House.

Today, false symbolism is all. "Identity" is all. In 2016, Hillary Clinton stigmatised millions of voters as "a basket of deplorables, racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic - you name it". Her abuse was handed out at an LGBT rally as part of her cynical campaign to win over minorities by abusing a white mostly working-class majority. Divide and rule, this is called; or identity politics in which race and gender conceal class, and allow the waging of class war. Trump understood this.

"When the truth is replaced by silence," said the Soviet dissident poet Yevtushenko, "the silence is a lie."

This is not an American phenomenon. A few years ago, Terry Eagleton, then professor of English literature at Manchester University, reckoned that "for the first time in two centuries, there is no eminent British poet, playwright or novelist prepared to question the foundations of the western way of life".

No Shelley speaks for the poor, no Blake for utopian dreams, no Byron damns the corruption of the ruling class, no Thomas Carlyle and John Ruskin reveal the moral disaster of capitalism. William Morris, Oscar Wilde, HG Wells, George Bernard Shaw have no equivalents today. Harold Pinter was the last to raise his voice. Among today's insistent voices of consumer-feminism, none echoes Virginia Woolf, who described "the arts of dominating other people... of ruling, of killing, of acquiring land and capital".

There is something both venal and profoundly stupid about famous writers as they venture outside their cosseted world and embrace an "issue". Across the Review section of the Guardian on 10 December was a dreamy picture of Barack Obama looking up to the heavens and the words, "Amazing Grace" and "Farewell the Chief".

The sycophancy ran like a polluted babbling brook through page after page. "He was a vulnerable figure in many ways ... But the grace. The all-encompassing grace: in manner and form, in argument and intellect, with humour and cool ... [He] is a blazing tribute to what has been, and what can be again ... He seems ready to keep fighting, and remains a formidable champion to have on our side ... ... The grace ... the almost surreal levels of grace ..."

I have conflated these quotes. There are others even more hagiographic and bereft of mitigation. The Guardian's chief apologist for Obama, Gary Younge, has always been careful to mitigate, to say that his hero "could have done more": oh, but there were the "calm, measured and consensual solutions..."

None of them, however, could surpass the American writer, Ta-Nehisi Coates, the recipient of a "genius" grant worth $625,000 from a liberal foundation. In an interminable essay for The Atlantic entitled, "My President Was Black", Coates brought new meaning to prostration. The final "chapter", entitled "When You Left, You Took All of Me With You", a line from a Marvin Gaye song, describes seeing the Obamas "rising out of the limo, rising up from fear, smiling, waving, defying despair, defying history, defying gravity". The Ascension, no less.

One of the persistent strands in American political life is a cultish extremism that approaches fascism. This was given expression and reinforced during the two terms of Barack Obama. "I believe in American exceptionalism with every fibre of my being," said Obama, who expanded America's favourite military pastime, bombing, and death squads ("special operations") as no other president has done since the Cold War.

According to a Council on Foreign Relations survey, in 2016 alone Obama dropped 26,171 bombs. That is 72 bombs every day. He bombed the poorest people on earth, in Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Syria, Iraq, Pakistan.

Every Tuesday - reported the New York Times - he personally selected those who would be murdered by mostly hellfire missiles fired from drones. Weddings, funerals, shepherds were attacked, along with those attempting to collect the body parts festooning the "terrorist target". A leading Republican senator, Lindsey Graham, estimated, approvingly, that Obama's drones killed 4,700 people. "Sometimes you hit innocent people and I hate that," he said, but we've taken out some very senior members of Al Qaeda."

Like the fascism of the 1930s, big lies are delivered with the precision of a metronome: thanks to an omnipresent media whose description now fits that of the Nuremberg prosecutor: "Before each major aggression, with some few exceptions based on expediency, they initiated a press campaign calculated to weaken their victims and to prepare the German people psychologically... In the propaganda system... it was the daily press and the radio that were the most important weapons.

Take the catastrophe in Libya. In 2011, Obama said Libyan president Muammar Gaddafi was planning "genocide" against his own people. "We knew... that if we waited one more day, Benghazi, a city the size of Charlotte, could suffer a massacre that would have reverberated across the region and stained the conscience of the world."

This was the known lie of Islamist militias facing defeat by Libyan government forces. It became the media story; and Nato - led by Obama and Hillary Clinton - launched 9,700 "strike sorties" against Libya, of which more than a third were aimed at civilian targets. Uranium warheads were used; the cities of Misurata and Sirte were carpet-bombed. The Red Cross identified mass graves, and Unicef reported that "most [of the children killed] were under the age of ten".

Under Obama, the US has extended secret "special forces" operations to 138 countries, or 70 per cent of the world's population. The first African-American president launched what amounted to a full-scale invasion of Africa. Reminiscent of the Scramble for Africa in the late 19th century, the US African Command (Africom) has built a network of supplicants among collaborative African regimes eager for American bribes and armaments. Africom's "soldier to soldier" doctrine embeds US officers at every level of command from general to warrant officer. Only pith helmets are missing.

It is as if Africa's proud history of liberation, from Patrice Lumumba to Nelson Mandela, is consigned to oblivion by a new master's black colonial elite whose "historic mission", warned Frantz Fanon half a century ago, is the promotion of "a capitalism rampant though camouflaged".

It was Obama who, in 2011, announced what became known as the "pivot to Asia", in which almost two-thirds of US naval forces would be transferred to the Asia-Pacific to "confront China", in the words of his Defence Secretary. There was no threat from China; the entire enterprise was unnecessary. It was an extreme provocation to keep the Pentagon and its demented brass happy.

In 2014, Obama's administration oversaw and paid for a fascist-led coup in Ukraine against the democratically-elected government, threatening Russia in the western borderland through which Hitler invaded the Soviet Union, with a loss of 27 million lives. It was Obama who placed missiles in Eastern Europe aimed at Russia, and it was the winner of the Nobel Peace Prize who increased spending on nuclear warheads to a level higher than that of any administration since the cold war - having promised, in an emotional speech in Prague, to "help rid the world of nuclear weapons".

Obama, the constitutional lawyer, prosecuted more whistleblowers than any other president in history, even though the US constitution protects them. He declared Chelsea Manning guilty before the end of a trial that was a travesty. He has refused to pardon Manning who has suffered years of inhumane treatment which the UN says amounts to torture. He has pursued an entirely bogus case against Julian Assange. He promised to close the Guantanamo concentration camp and didn't.

Following the public relations disaster of George W. Bush, Obama, the smooth operator from Chicago via Harvard, was enlisted to restore what he calls "leadership" throughout the world. The Nobel Prize committee's decision was part of this: the kind of cloying reverse racism that beatified the man for no reason other than he was attractive to liberal sensibilities and, of course, American power, if not to the children he kills in impoverished, mostly Muslim countries.

This is the Call of Obama. It is not unlike a dog whistle: inaudible to most, irresistible to the besotted and boneheaded, especially "liberal brains pickled in the formaldehyde of identity politics," as Luciana Bohne put it. "When Obama walks into a room," gushed George Clooney, "you want to follow him somewhere, anywhere."

William I. Robinson, professor at the University of California, and one of an uncontaminated group of American strategic thinkers who have retained their independence during the years of intellectual dog-whistling since 9/11, wrote this last week:

"President Barack Obama... may have done more than anyone to assure [Donald] Trump's victory. While Trump's election has triggered a rapid expansion of fascist currents in US civil society, a fascist outcome for the political system is far from inevitable.... But that fight back requires clarity as to how we got to such a dangerous precipice. The seeds of 21st century fascism were planted, fertilized and watered by the Obama administration and the politically bankrupt liberal elite."

Robinson points out that "whether in its 20th or its emerging 21st century variants, fascism is, above all, a response to deep structural crises of capitalism, such as that of the 1930s and the one that began with the financial meltdown in 2008... There is a near-straight line here from Obama to Trump... The liberal elite's refusal to challenge the rapaciousness of transnational capital and its brand of identity politics served to eclipse the language of the working and popular classes... pushing white workers into an 'identity' of white nationalism and helping the neo-fascists to organise them".

The seedbed is Obama's Weimar Republic, a landscape of endemic poverty, militarised police and barbaric prisons: the consequence of a "market" extremism which, under his presidency, prompted the transfer of $14 trillion in public money to criminal enterprises in Wall Street.

Perhaps his greatest "legacy" is the co-option and disorientation of any real opposition. Bernie Sanders' specious "revolution" does not apply. Propaganda is his triumph.

The lies about Russia - in whose elections the US has openly intervened - have made the world's most self-important journalists laughing stocks. In the country with constitutionally the freest press in the world, free journalism now exists only in its honourable exceptions.

The obsession with Trump is a cover for many of those calling themselves "left/liberal", as if to claim political decency. They are not "left", neither are they especially "liberal". Much of America's aggression towards the rest of humanity has come from so-called liberal Democratic administrations - such as Obama's. America's political spectrum extends from the mythical centre to the lunar right. The "left" are homeless renegades Martha Gellhorn described as "a rare and wholly admirable fraternity". She excluded those who confuse politics with a fixation on their navels.

While they "heal" and "move forward", will the Writers Resist campaigners and other anti-Trumpists reflect upon this? More to the point: when will a genuine movement of opposition arise? Angry, eloquent, all-for-one-and-one-for all. Until real politics return to people's lives, the enemy is not Trump, it is ourselves.

Follow John Pilger on twitter @johnpilger
THIS WEEK THE ISSUE IS NOT TRUMP. IT IS OURSELVES.
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Stunning Admission from Obama on Wikileaks

We knew this already and the transparent agitprop campaign that was primed during the Presidential campaigning was never going to stand up to scrutiny. The more they stretched and falsified the more it was shot full of holes. It may have found traction in the minds of some people. although, most with geopolitical understanding and knowledge of history did not buy it for one moment. It is good to see Obama admitting they indeed, have nothing.

"In his final press conference, beginning around 8 minutes 30 seconds in, Obama admits that they have no evidence of how WikiLeaks got the DNC material. This undermines the stream of completely evidence-free nonsense that has been emerging from the US intelligence services this last two months, in which a series of suppositions have been strung together to make unfounded assertions that have been repeated again and again in the mainstream media."

"Most crucially of all Obama refers to “The DNC emails that were leaked”. Note “leaked” and not “hacked”. I have been repeating that this was a leak, not a hack, until I am blue in the face. William Binney, former Technical Director of the NSA, has asserted that were it a hack the NSA would be able to give the precise details down to the second it occurred, and it is plain from the reports released they have no such information. Yet the media has persisted with this nonsense “Russian hacking” story."

"Obama’s reference to the “the DNC emails that were leaked” appears very natural, fluent and unforced. It is good to have the truth finally told."
In his final press conference, beginning around 8 minutes 30 seconds in, Obama admits that they have no evidence of how WikiLeaks got the DNC material. This undermines the stream of completely evidence-free nonsense that has been emerging from the US intelligence services this last two months, in which a series of suppositions have been …
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Obama Quietly Signs The "Countering Disinformation And Propaganda Act" Into Law

Well there we go folks, lame duck time has been most productive. In one foul swoop, Obama has paved the way for more aggressive spending. Moreover, he has laid the ground works for constructing one ginormous echo chamber. The Ministry of Truth just found her legs.

Below is the article from Zero Hedge

Late on Friday, with the US population embracing the upcoming holidays and oblivious of most news emerging from the administration, Obama quietly signed into law the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which authorizes $611 billion for the military in 2017.

In a statement, Obama said that:

"Today, I have signed into law S. 2943, the “National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017.” This Act authorizes fiscal year 2017 appropriations principally for the Department of Defense and for Department of Energy national security programs, provides vital benefits for military personnel and their families, and includes authorities to facilitate ongoing operations around the globe. It continues many critical authorizations necessary to ensure that we are able to sustain our momentum in countering the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and to reassure our European allies, as well as many new authorizations that, among other things, provide the Departments of Defense and Energy more flexibility in countering cyber-attacks and our adversaries’ use of unmanned aerial vehicles."

Much of the balance of Obama's statement blamed the GOP for Guantanamo's continued operation and warned that "unless the Congress changes course, it will be judged harshly by history," Obama said. Obama also said Congress failed to use the bill to reduce wasteful overhead (like perhaps massive F-35 cost overruns?) or modernize military health care, which he said would exacerbate budget pressures facing the military in the years ahead.

But while the passage of the NDAA - and the funding of the US military - was hardly a surprise, the biggest news is what was buried deep inside the provisions of the Defense Authortization Act.

Recall that as we reported in early June, "a bill to implement the U.S.’ very own de facto Ministry of Truth had been quietly introduced in Congress. As with any legislation attempting to dodge the public spotlight the Countering Foreign Propaganda and Disinformation Act of 2016 marks a further curtailment of press freedom and another avenue to stultify avenues of accurate information. Introduced by Congressmen Adam Kinzinger and Ted Lieu, H.R. 5181 seeks a “whole-government approach without the bureaucratic restrictions” to counter “foreign disinformation and manipulation,” which they believe threaten the world’s “security and stability.”

Also called the Countering Information Warfare Act of 2016 (S. 2692), when introduced in March by Sen. Rob Portman, the legislation represents a dramatic return to Cold War-era government propaganda battles. “These countries spend vast sums of money on advanced broadcast and digital media capabilities, targeted campaigns, funding of foreign political movements, and other efforts to influence key audiences and populations,” Portman explained, adding that while the U.S. spends a relatively small amount on its Voice of America, the Kremlin provides enormous funding for its news organization, RT.

“Surprisingly,” Portman continued, “there is currently no single U.S. governmental agency or department charged with the national level development, integration and synchronization of whole-of-government strategies to counter foreign propaganda and disinformation.”

Long before the "fake news" meme became a daily topic of extensive conversation on such discredited mainstream portals as CNN and WaPo, H.R. 5181 would task the Secretary of State with coordinating the Secretary of Defense, the Director of National Intelligence, and the Broadcasting Board of Governors to “establish a Center for Information Analysis and Response,” which will pinpoint sources of disinformation, analyze data, and — in true dystopic manner — ‘develop and disseminate’ “fact-based narratives” to counter effrontery propaganda.

In short, long before "fake news" became a major media topic, the US government was already planning its legally-backed crackdown on anything it would eventually label "fake news."

* * *

Fast forward to December 8, when the "Countering Disinformation and Propaganda Act" passed in the Senate, quietly inserted inside the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Conference Report.

And now, following Friday's Obama signing of the NDAA on Friday evening, the Countering Disinformation and Propaganda Act is now law.

* * *

Here is the full statement issued by the generously funded Senator Rob Portman (R- Ohio) on the singing into law of a bill that further chips away at press liberties in the US, and which sets the stage for future which hunts and website shutdowns, purely as a result of an accusation that any one media outlet or site is considered as a source of "disinformation and propaganda" and is shut down by the government.

President Signs Portman-Murphy Counter-Propaganda Bill into Law

Portman-Murphy Bill Promotes Coordinated Strategy to Defend America, Allies Against Propaganda and Disinformation from Russia, China & Others

U.S. Senators Rob Portman (R-OH) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) today announced that their Countering Disinformation and Propaganda Act – legislation designed to help American allies counter foreign government propaganda from Russia, China, and other nations – has been signed into law as part of the FY 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) Conference Report. The bipartisan bill, which was introduced by Senators Portman and Murphy in March, will improve the ability of the United States to counter foreign propaganda and disinformation from our enemies by establishing an interagency center housed at the State Department to coordinate and synchronize counter-propaganda efforts throughout the U.S. government. To support these efforts, the bill also creates a grant program for NGOs, think tanks, civil society and other experts outside government who are engaged in counter-propaganda related work. This will better leverage existing expertise and empower our allies overseas to defend themselves from foreign manipulation. It will also help foster a free and vibrant press and civil society overseas, which is critical to ensuring our allies have access to truthful information and inoculating people against foreign propaganda campaigns.

“Our enemies are using foreign propaganda and disinformation against us and our allies, and so far the U.S. government has been asleep at the wheel,” Portman said. “But today, the United States has taken a critical step towards confronting the extensive, and destabilizing, foreign propaganda and disinformation operations being waged against us by our enemies overseas. With this bill now law, we are finally signaling that enough is enough; the United States will no longer sit on the sidelines. We are going to confront this threat head-on. I am confident that, with the help of this bipartisan bill, the disinformation and propaganda used against us, our allies, and our interests will fail.”

“The use of propaganda to undermine democracy has hit a new low. But now we are finally in a position to confront this threat head on and get out the truth. By building up independent, objective journalism in places like eastern Europe, we can start to fight back by exposing these fake narratives and empowering local communities to protect themselves,” said Murphy. “I’m proud that our bill was signed into law, and I look forward to working with Senator Portman to make sure these tools and new resources are effectively used to get out the truth.”

NOTE: The bipartisan Countering Disinformation and Propaganda Act is organized around two main priorities to help achieve the goal of combatting the constantly evolving threat of foreign disinformation from our enemies:

The first priority is developing a whole-of-government strategy for countering THE foreign propaganda and disinformation being wages against us and our allies by our enemies. The bill would increase the authority, resources, and mandate of the Global Engagement Center to include state actors like Russia and China as well as non-state actors. The Center will be led by the State Department, but with the active senior level participation of the Department of Defense, USAID, the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the Intelligence Community, and other relevant agencies. The Center will develop, integrate, and synchronize whole-of-government initiatives to expose and counter foreign disinformation operations by our enemies and proactively advance fact-based narratives that support U.S. allies and interests.

Second, the legislation seeks to leverage expertise from outside government to create more adaptive and responsive U.S. strategy options. The legislation establishes a fund to help train local journalists and provide grants and contracts to NGOs, civil society organizations, think tanks, private sector companies, media organizations, and other experts outside the U.S. government with experience in identifying and analyzing the latest trends in foreign government disinformation techniques. This fund will complement and support the Center’s role by integrating capabilities and expertise available outside the U.S. government into the strategy-making process. It will also empower a decentralized network of private sector experts and integrate their expertise into the strategy-making process.
* * *

And so, with the likes of WaPo having already primed the general public to equate "Russian Propaganda" with "fake news" (despite admitting after the fact their own report was essentially "fake"), while the US media has indoctrinated the public to assume that any information which is not in compliance with the official government narrative, or dares to criticize the establishment, is also "fake news" and thus falls under the "Russian propaganda" umbrella, the scene is now set for the US government to legally crack down on every media outlet that the government deems to be "foreign propaganda."

Just like that, the US Ministry of Truth is officially born.
"Our enemies are using foreign propaganda and disinformation against us and our allies, and so far the U.S. government has been asleep at the wheel. But today... with this bill now law, we are finally signaling that enough is enough; the United States will no longer sit on the sidelines. We are going to confront this threat head-on." - Sen. Rob Portman.
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Taking a magnifying glass to the Syrian War

I have not had a great deal of time so far this year to devote to writing. Stephen Gowans is a Canadian Political analyst & author. His dissection of the Syrian situation is in-depth referenced and overall is one of the better attempts at understanding what did and what did not happen to cause the Syrian War.

Apparently, the US Left has yet to figure out that Washington doesn’t try to overthrow neoliberals. If Syrian President Bashar al-Assad were a devotee of the Washington Consensus–as Counterpunch’s Eric Draitser seems to believe–the United States government wouldn’t have been calling since 2003 for Assad to step down. Nor would it be overseeing the Islamist guerilla war against his government; it would be protecting him.

The Revolutionary Distemper in Syria That Wasn’t
By Stephen Gowans

There is a shibboleth in some circles that, as Eric Draitser put it in a recent Counterpunch article, the uprising in Syria “began as a response to the Syrian government’s neoliberal policies and brutality,” and that “the revolutionary content of the rebel side in Syria has been sidelined by a hodgepodge of Saudi and Qatari-financed jihadists.” This theory appears, as far as I can tell, to be based on argument by assertion, not evidence.

A review of press reports in the weeks immediately preceding and following the mid-March 2011 outbreak of riots in Daraa—usually recognized as the beginning of the uprising—offers no indication that Syria was in the grips of a revolutionary distemper, whether anti-neo-liberal or otherwise. On the contrary, reporters representing Time magazine and the New York Times referred to the government as having broad support, of critics conceding that Assad was popular, and of Syrians exhibiting little interest in protest. At the same time, they described the unrest as a series of riots involving hundreds, and not thousands or tens of thousands of people, guided by a largely Islamist agenda and exhibiting a violent character.

Time magazine reported that two jihadist groups that would later play lead roles in the insurgency, Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham, were already in operation on the eve of the riots, while a mere three months earlier, leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood voiced “their hope for a civil revolt in Syria.” The Muslim Brothers, who had decades earlier declared a blood feud with Syria’s ruling Ba’athist Party, objecting violently to the party’s secularism, had been embroiled in a life and death struggle with secular Arab nationalists since the 1960s, and had engaged in street battles with Ba’athist partisans from the late 1940s. (In one such battle, Hafez al-Assad, the current president’s father, who himself would serve as president from 1970 to 2000, was knifed by a Muslim Brother adversary.) The Brotherhood’s leaders, beginning in 2007, met frequently with the US State Department and the US National Security Council, as well as with the US government-funded Middle East Partnership Initiative, which had taken on the overt role of funding overseas overthrow organizations—a task the CIA had previously done covertly.

Washington had conspired to purge Arab nationalist influence from Syria as early as the mid-1950s, when Kermit Roosevelt, who engineered the overthrow of Iran’s prime minister Mohammad Mossadegh for nationalizing his country’s oil industry, plotted with British intelligence to stir up the Muslim Brothers to overthrow a triumvirate of Arab nationalist and communist leaders in Damascus who Washington and London perceived as threatening Western economic interests in the Middle East.

Washington funnelled arms to Brotherhood mujahedeen in the 1980s to wage urban guerrilla warfare against Hafez al-Assad, who hardliners in Washington called an “Arab communist.” His son, Bashar, continued the Arab nationalists’ commitment to unity (of the Arab nation), independence, and (Arab) socialism. These goals guided the Syrian state—as they had done the Arab nationalist states of Libya under Muammar Gaddafi and Iraq under Saddam. All three states were targeted by Washington for the same reason: their Arab nationalist commitments clashed fundamentally with the US imperialist agenda of US global leadership.

Bashar al-Assad’s refusal to renounce Arab nationalist ideology dismayed Washington, which complained about his socialism, the third part of the Ba’athists’ holy trinity of values. Plans to oust Assad—based in part on his failure to embrace Washington’s neo-liberalism—were already in preparation in Washington by 2003, if not earlier. If Assad was championing neo-liberalism, as Draitser and others contend, it somehow escaped the notice of Washington and Wall Street, which complained about “socialist” Syria and the country’s decidedly anti-neoliberal economic policies.

A Death Feud Heats Up With US Assistance

In late January 2011, a page was created on Facebook called The Syrian Revolution 2011. It announced that a “Day of Rage” would be held on February 4 and 5. [1] The protests “fizzled,” reported Time. The Day of Rage amounted to a Day of Indifference. Moreover, the connection to Syria was tenuous. Most of the chants shouted by the few protesters who attended were about Libya, demanding that Muammar Gaddafi—whose government was under siege by Islamist insurrectionists—step down. Plans were set for new protests on March 4 and March 5, but they too garnered little support. [2]

Time’s correspondent Rania Abouzeid attributed the failure of the protest organizers to draw significant support to the fact that most Syrians were not opposed to their government. Assad had a favorable reputation, especially among the two-thirds of the population under 30 years of age, and his government’s policies were widely supported. “Even critics concede that Assad is popular and considered close to the country’s huge youth cohort, both emotionally, ideologically and, of course, chronologically,” Abouzeid reported, adding that unlike “the ousted pro-American leaders of Tunisia and Egypt, Assad’s hostile foreign policy toward Israel, strident support for Palestinians and the militant groups Hamas and Hezbollah are in line with popular Syrian sentiment.” Assad, in other words, had legitimacy. The Time correspondent added that Assad’s “driving himself to the Umayyad Mosque in February to take part in prayers to mark the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday, and strolling through the crowded Souq Al-Hamidiyah marketplace with a low security profile” had “helped to endear him, personally, to the public.” [3]

This depiction of the Syrian president—a leader endeared to the public, ideologically in sync with popular Syrian sentiment—clashed starkly with the discourse that would emerge shortly after the eruption of violent protests in the Syrian town of Daraa less than two weeks later, and would become implanted in the discourse of US leftists, including Draitser. But on the eve of the signal Daraa events, Syria was being remarked upon for its quietude. No one “expects mass uprisings in Syria,” Abouzeid reported, “and, despite a show of dissent every now and then, very few want to participate.” [4] A Syrian youth told Time: “There is a lot of government help for the youth. They give us free books, free schools, free universities.” (Hardly the picture of the neo-liberal state Draitser paints.) She continued: “Why should there be a revolution? There’s maybe a one percent chance.” [5] The New York Times shared this view. Syria, the newspaper reported, “seemed immune to the wave of uprisings sweeping the Arab world.” [6] Syria was distemper-free.

But on March 17, there was a violent uprising in Daraa. There are conflicting accounts of who or what sparked it. Time reported that the “rebellion in Daraa was provoked by the arrest of a handful of youths for daubing a wall with anti-regime graffiti.” [7] The Independent’s Robert Fisk offered a slightly different version. He reported that “government intelligence officers beat and killed several boys who had scrawled anti-government graffiti on the walls of the city.” [8] Another account holds that the factor that sparked the uprising in Daraa that day was extreme and disproportionate use of force by Syrian security forces in response to demonstrations against the boys’ arrest. There “were some youngsters printing some graffiti on the wall, and they were imprisoned, and as their parents wanted them back, the security forces really struck back very, very tough.” [9] Another account, from the Syrian government, denies that any of this happened. Five years after the event, Assad told an interviewer that it “didn’t happen. It was only propaganda. I mean, we heard about them, we never saw those children that have been taken to prison that time. So, it was only a fallacious narrative.”[10]

But if there was disagreement about what sparked the uprising, there was little disagreement that the uprising was violent. The New York Times reported that “Protesters set fire to the ruling Ba’ath Party’s headquarters and other government buildings…and clashed with police….In addition to the party headquarters, protesters burned the town’s main courthouse and a branch of the SyriaTel phone company.” [11] Time added that protesters set fire to the governor’s office, as well as to a branch office of a second cellphone company. [12] The Syrian government’s news agency, SANA, posted photographs of burning vehicles on its Web site. [13] Clearly, this wasn’t a peaceful demonstration, as it would be later depicted. Nor was it a mass uprising. Time reported that the demonstrators numbered in the hundreds, not thousands or tens of thousands. [14]

Assad reacted immediately to the Daraa ructions, announcing “a series of reforms, including a salary increase for public workers, greater freedom for the news media and political parties, and a reconsideration of the emergency rule,” [15] a war-time restriction on political and civil liberties, invoked because Syria was officially at war with Israel. Before the end of April, the government would rescind “the country’s 48-year-old emergency law” and abolish “the Supreme State Security Court.” [16]

Why did the government make these concessions? Because that’s what the Daraa protesters demanded. Protesters “gathered in and around Omari mosque in Daraa, chanting their demands: the release of all political prisoners…the abolition of Syria’s 48-year emergency law; more freedoms; and an end to pervasive corruption.” [17] These demands were consistent with the call, articulated in early February on The Syrian Revolution 2011 Facebook page “to end the state of emergency in Syria and end corruption.” [18] A demand to release all political prisoners was also made in a letter signed by clerics posted on Facebook. The clerics’ demands included lifting the “state of emergency law, releasing all political detainees, halting harassment by the security forces and combating corruption.” [19]

Releasing political detainees would amount to releasing jihadists, or, to use a designation current in the West, “terrorists.” The State Department had acknowledged that political Islam was the main opposition in Syria [20]; jihadists made up the principal section of oppositionists likely to be incarcerated. Clerics demanding that Damascus release all political prisoners was equal in effect to the Islamic State demanding that Washington, Paris, and London release all Islamists detained in US, French and British prisons on terrorism charges. This wasn’t a demand for jobs and greater democracy, but a demand for the release from prison of activists inspired by the goal of bringing about an Islamic state in Syria. The call to lift the emergency law, similarly, appeared to have little to do with fostering democracy and more to do with expanding the room for jihadists and their collaborators to organize opposition to the secular state.

A week after the outbreak of violence in Daraa, Time’s Rania Abouzeid reported that “there do not appear to be widespread calls for the fall of the regime or the removal of the relatively popular President.” [21] Indeed, the demands issued by the protesters and clerics had not included calls for Assad to step down. And Syrians were rallying to Assad. “There were counterdemonstrations in the capital in support of the President,” [22] reportedly far exceeding in number the hundreds of protesters who turned out in Daraa to burn buildings and cars and clash with police. [23]

By April 9—less than a month after the Daraa events—Time reported that a string of protests had broken out and that Islam was playing a prominent role in them. For anyone who was conversant with the decades-long succession of strikes, demonstrations, riots, and insurrections the Muslim Brotherhood had organized against what it deemed the “infidel” Ba’athist government, this looked like history repeating itself. The protests weren‘t reaching a critical mass. On the contrary, the government continued to enjoy “the loyalty” of “a large part of the population,” reported Time. [24]

Islamists played a lead role in drafting the Damascus Declaration in the mid-2000s, which demanded regime change. [25] In 2007, the Muslim Brothers, the archetypal Sunni political Islamist movement, which inspired Al-Qaeda and its progeny, Jabhat al Nusra and Islamic State, teamed up with a former Syrian vice-president to found the National Salvation Front. The front met frequently with the US State Department and the US National Security Council, as well as with the US government-funded Middle East Partnership Initiative, [26] which did openly what the CIA once did covertly, namely, funnel money and expertise to fifth columnists in countries whose governments Washington opposed.

By 2009, just two years before the eruption of unrest throughout the Arab world, the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood denounced the Arab nationalist government of Bashar al-Assad as a foreign and hostile element in Syrian society which needed to be eliminated. According to the group’s thinking, the Alawite community, to which Assad belonged, and which the Brothers regarded as heretics, used secular Arab nationalism as a cover to furtively advance a sectarian agenda to destroy Syria from within by oppressing “true” (i.e., Sunni) Muslims. In the name of Islam, the heretical regime would have to be overthrown. [27]

A mere three months before the 2011 outbreak of violence in Syria, scholar Liad Porat wrote a brief for the Crown Center for Middle East Studies, based at Brandeis University. “The movement’s leaders,” the scholar concluded, “continue to voice their hope for a civil revolt in Syria, wherein ‘the Syrian people will perform its duty and liberate Syria from the tyrannical and corrupt regime.’” The Brotherhood stressed that it was engaged in a fight to the death with the secular Arab nationalist government of Bashar al-Assad. A political accommodation with the government was impossible because its leaders were not part of the Sunni Muslim Syrian nation. Membership in the Syrian nation was limited to true Muslims, the Brothers contended, and not Alawite heretics who embraced such foreign un-Islamic creeds as secular Arab nationalism. [28]

That the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood played a key role in the uprising that erupted three months later was confirmed in 2012 by the US Defense Intelligence Agency. A leaked report from the agency said that the insurgency was sectarian and led by the Muslim Brotherhood and Al-Qaeda in Iraq, the forerunner of Islamic State. The report went on to say that the insurgents were supported by the West, Arab Gulf oil monarchies and Turkey. The analysis correctly predicted the establishment of a “Salafist principality,” an Islamic state, in Eastern Syria, noting that this was desired by the insurgency’s foreign backers, who wanted to see the secular Arab nationalists isolated and cut-off from Iran. [29]

Documents prepared by US Congress researchers in 2005 revealed that the US government was actively weighing regime change in Syria long before the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011, challenging the view that US support for the Syrian rebels was based on allegiance to a “democratic uprising” and showing that it was simply an extension of a long-standing policy of seeking to topple the government in Damascus. Indeed, the researchers acknowledged that the US government’s motivation to overthrow the secular Arab nationalist government in Damascus was unrelated to democracy promotion in the Middle East. In point of fact, they noted that Washington’s preference was for secular dictatorships (Egypt) and monarchies (Jordan and Saudi Arabia.) The impetus for pursuing regime change, according to the researchers, was a desire to sweep away an impediment to the achievement of US goals in the Middle East related to strengthening Israel, consolidating US domination of Iraq, and fostering open market, free enterprise economies. Democracy was never a consideration. [30] If Assad was promoting neo-liberal policies in Syria, as Draitser contends, it’s difficult to understand why Washington cited Syria’s refusal to embrace the US agenda of open markets and free enterprise as a reason to change Syria’s government.

To underscore the point that the protests lacked broad popular support, on April 22, more than a month after the Daraa riot, the New York Times’ Anthony Shadid reported that “the protests, so far, seemed to fall short of the popular upheaval of revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia.” In other words, more than a month after only hundreds—and not thousands or tens of thousands—of protesters rioted in Daraa, there was no sign in Syria of a popular Arab Spring upheaval. The uprising remained a limited, prominently, Islamist affair. By contrast, there had been huge demonstrations in Damascus in support of—not against—the government, Assad remained popular, and, according to Shadid, the government commanded the loyalty of “Christian and heterodox Muslim sects.” [31] Shadid wasn’t the only Western journalist who reported that Alawites, Ismailis, Druze and Christians were strongly backing the government. Times’ Rania Abouzeid observed that the Ba’athists “could claim the backing of Syria’s substantial minority groups.” [32]

The reality that the Syrian government commanded the loyalty of Christian and heterodox Muslim sects, as the New York Times’ Shadid reported, suggested that Syria’s religious minorities recognized something about the uprising that the Western press under-reported (and revolutionary socialists in the United States missed), namely, that it was driven by a sectarian Sunni Islamist agenda which, if brought to fruition, would have unpleasant consequences for anyone who wasn’t considered a “true” Muslim. For this reason, Alawites, Ismailis, Druze and Christians lined up with the Ba’athists who sought to bridge sectarian divisions as part of their programmatic commitment to fostering Arab unity. The slogan “Alawis to the grave and Christians to Beirut!” chanted during demonstrations in those early days” [33] only confirmed the point that the uprising was a continuation of the death feud that Sunni political Islam had vowed to wage against the secular Arab nationalist government, and was not a mass upheaval for democracy or against neo-liberalism. If indeed it was any of these things, how would we explain that a thirst for democracy and opposition to neo-liberalism were present only in the Sunni community and absent in those of religious minorities? Surely, a democratic deficit and neoliberal tyranny, if they were present at all and acted as triggers of a revolutionary upsurge, would have crossed religious lines. That Alawites, Ismailis, Druze and Christians didn’t demonstrate, and that riots were Sunni-based with Islamist content, points strongly to the insurrection, from the very beginning, representing the recrudescence of the long running Sunni jihadist campaign against Ba’athist secularism.

“From the very beginning the Assad government said it was engaged in a fight with militant Islamists.” [34] The long history of Islamist uprisings against Ba’athism prior to 2011 certainly suggested this was very likely the case, and the way in which the uprising subsequently unfolded, as an Islamist-led war against the secular state, only strengthened the view. Other evidence, both positive and negative, corroborated Assad’s contention that the Syrian state was under attack by jihadists (just as it had been many other times in the past.) The negative evidence, that the uprising wasn’t a popular upheaval against an unpopular government, was inhered in Western media reports which showed that Syria’s Arab nationalist government was popular and commanded the loyalty of the population.

By contrast, anti-government demonstrations, riots and protests were small-scale, attracting far fewer people than did a mass demonstration in Damascus in support of the government, and certainly not on the order of the popular upheavals in Egypt and Tunisia. What’s more, the protesters’ demands centered on the release of political prisoners (mainly jihadists) and the lifting of war-time restrictions on the expression of political dissent, not calls for Assad to step down or change the government’s economic policies. The positive evidence came from Western news media accounts which showed that Islam played a prominent role in the riots. Also, while it was widely believed that armed Islamist groups only entered the fray subsequent to the initial spring 2011 riots—and in doing so “hijacked” a “popular uprising”— in point of fact, two jihadist groups which played a prominent role in the post-2011 armed revolt against secular Arab nationalism, Ahrar- al-Sham and Jabhat al-Nusra, were both active at the beginning of 2011. Ahrar al-Sham “started working on forming brigades…well before mid-March, 2011, when the” Daraa riot occurred, according to Time. [35] Jabhat al-Nusra, the al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria, “was unknown until late January 2012, when it announced its formation… [but] it was active for months before then.” [36]

Another piece of evidence that is consistent with the view that militant Islam played a role in the uprisings very early on—or, at the very least, that the protests were violent from the beginning—is that `”there were signs from the very start that armed groups were involved.” The journalist and author Robert Fisk recalled seeing a tape from “the very early days of the ‘rising’ showing men with pistols and Kalashnikovs in a Daraa demonstration.” He recalls another event, in May 2011, when “an Al Jazeera crew filmed armed men shooting at Syrian troops a few hundred metres from the northern border with Lebanon but the channel declined to air the footage.” [37] Even US officials, who were hostile to the Syrian government and might be expected to challenge Damascus’s view that it was embroiled in a fight with armed rebels “acknowledged that the demonstrations weren’t peaceful and that some protesters were armed.” [38] By September, Syrian authorities were reporting that they had lost more than 500 police officers and soldiers, killed by guerillas. [39] By late October, the number had more than doubled. [40] In less than a year, the uprising had gone from the burning of Ba’ath Party buildings and government officers and clashes with police, to guerrilla warfare, involving methods that would be labeled “terrorism” were they undertaken against Western targets.

Assad would later complain that:

“Everything we said in Syria at the beginning of the crisis they say later. They said it’s peaceful, we said it’s not peaceful, they’re killing – these demonstrators, that they called them peaceful demonstrators – have killed policemen. Then it became militants. They said yes, it’s militants. We said it’s militants, it’s terrorism. They said no, it’s not terrorism. Then when they say it’s terrorism, we say it’s Al Qaeda, they say no, it’s not Al Qaeda. So, whatever we said, they say later.” [41]

The “Syrian uprising,” wrote the Middle East specialist Patrick Seale, “should be seen as only the latest, if by far the most violent, episode in the long war between Islamists and Ba’athists, which dates back to the founding of the secular Ba‘ath Party in the 1940s. The struggle between them is by now little short of a death-feud.” [42] “It is striking,” Seale continued, citing Aron Lund, who had written a report for the Swedish Institute of International Affairs on Syrian Jihadism, “that virtually all the members of the various armed insurgent groups are Sunni Arabs; that the fighting has been largely restricted to Sunni Arab areas only, whereas areas inhabited by Alawis, Druze or Christians have remained passive or supportive of the regime; that defections from the regime are nearly 100 per cent Sunni; that money, arms and volunteers are pouring in from Islamic states or from pro-Islamic organisations and individuals; and that religion is the insurgent movement’s most important common denominator.” [43]

Brutality as a Trigger?

Is it reasonable to believe that the use of force by the Syrian state sparked the guerrilla war which broke out soon after?
It strains belief that an over-reaction by security forces to a challenge to government authority in the Syrian town of Daraa (if indeed an over-reaction occurred) could spark a major war, involving scores of states, and mobilizing jihadists from scores of countries. A slew of discordant facts would have to be ignored to begin to give this theory even a soupcon of credibility.

First, we would have to overlook the reality that the Assad government was popular and viewed as legitimate. A case might be made that an overbearing response by a highly unpopular government to a trivial challenge to its authority might have provided the spark that was needed to ignite a popular insurrection, but notwithstanding US president Barack Obama’s insistence that Assad lacked legitimacy, there’s no evidence that Syria, in March 2011, was a powder keg of popular anti-government resentment ready to explode. As Time’s Rania Abouzeid reported on the eve of the Daraa riot, “Even critics concede that Assad is popular” [44] and “no one expects mass uprisings in Syria and, despite a show of dissent every now and then, very few want to participate.” [45]

Second, we would have to discount the fact that the Daraa riot involved only hundreds of participants, hardly a mass uprising, and the protests that followed similarly failed to garner a critical mass, as Time’s Nicholas Blanford reported.[46] Similarly, the New York Times’ Anthony Shadid found no evidence that there was a popular upheaval in Syria, even more than a month after the Daraa riot.[47] What was going on, contrary to Washington-propagated rhetoric about the Arab Spring breaking out in Syria, was that jihadists were engaged in a campaign of guerilla warfare against Syrian security forces, and had, by October, taken the lives of more than a thousand police officers and soldiers.

Third, we would have to close our eyes to the fact that the US government, with its British ally, had drawn up plans in 1956 to provoke a war in Syria by enlisting the Muslim Brotherhood to instigate internal uprisings. [48] The Daraa riot and subsequent armed clashes with police and soldiers resembled the plan which regime change specialist Kermit Roosevelt had prepared. That’s not to say that the CIA dusted off Roosevelt’s proposal and recycled it for use in 2011; only that the plot showed that Washington and London were capable of planning a destabilization operation involving a Muslim Brotherhood-led insurrection to bring about regime change in Syria.

We would also have to ignore the events of February 1982, when the Muslim Brothers seized control of Hama, Syria’s fourth largest city. Hama was the epicenter of Sunni fundamentalism in Syria, and a major base of operations for the jihadist fighters. Galvanized by a false report that Assad had been overthrown, Muslim Brothers went on a gleeful blood-soaked rampage throughout the city, attacking police stations and murdering Ba’ath Party leaders and their families, along with government officials and soldiers. In some cases, victims were decapitated [49] a practice which would be resurrected decades later by Islamic State fighters. Every Ba’athist official in Hama was murdered. [50]

The Hama events of 1982 are usually remembered in the West (if they’re remembered at all), not for the atrocities carried out by the Islamists, but for the Syrian army’s response, which, as would be expected of any army, involved the use of force to restore sovereign control over the territory seized by the insurrectionists. Thousands of troops were dispatched to take Hama back from the Muslim Brothers. Former US State Department official William R. Polk described the aftermath of the Syrian army assault on Hama as resembling that of the US assault on the Iraqi city of Fallujah in 2004, [51] (the difference, of course, being that the Syrian army was acting legitimately within its own sovereign territory while the US military was acting illegitimately as an occupying force to quell opposition to its occupation.) How many died in the Hama assault, however, remains a matter of dispute. The figures vary. “An early report in Time said that 1,000 were killed. Most observers estimated that 5,000 people died. Israeli sources and the Muslim Brotherhood”—sworn enemies of the secular Arab nationalists who therefore had an interest in exaggerating the casualty toll—“both charged that the death toll passed 20,000.” [52] Robert Dreyfus, who has written on the West’s collaboration with political Islam, argues that Western sources deliberately exaggerated the death toll in order to demonize the Ba’athists as ruthless killers, and that the Ba’athists went along with the deception in order to intimidate the Muslim Brotherhood. [53]

As the Syrian army sorted through the rubble of Hama in the aftermath of the assault, evidence was found that foreign governments had provided Hama’s insurrectionists with money, arms, and communications equipment. Polk writes that:

“Assad saw foreign troublemakers at work among his people. This, after all, was the emotional and political legacy of colonial rule—a legacy painfully evident in most of the post-colonial world, but one that is almost unnoticed in the Western world. And the legacy is not a myth. It is a reality that, often years after events occur, we can verify with official papers. Hafez al-Assad did not need to wait for leaks of documents: his intelligence services and international journalists turned up dozens of attempts by conservative, oil-rich Arab countries, the United States, and Israel to subvert his government. Most engaged in ‘dirty tricks,’ propaganda, or infusions of money, but it was noteworthy that in the 1982 Hama uprising, more than 15,000 foreign-supplied machine guns were captured, along with prisoners including Jordanian- and CIA-trained paramilitary forces (much like the jihadists who appear so much in media accounts of 2013 Syria). And what he saw in Syria was confirmed by what he learned about Western regime-changing elsewhere. He certainly knew of the CIA attempt to murder President Nasser of Egypt and the Anglo-American overthrow of the government of Iranian Prime Minister Mohammad Mossadegh.” [54]

In his book From Beirut to Jerusalem, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman wrote that “the Hama massacre could be understood as, ‘The natural reaction of a modernizing politician in a relatively new nation state trying to stave off retrogressive—in this case, Islamic fundamentalists—elements aiming to undermine everything he has achieved in the way of building Syria into a 20th century secular republic. That is also why,” continued Friedman, that “if someone had been able to take an objective opinion poll in Syria after the Hama massacre, Assad’s treatment of the rebellion probably would have won substantial approval, even among Sunni Muslims.” [55]

The outbreak of a Sunni Islamist jihad against the Syrian government in the 1980s challenges the view that militant Sunni Islam in the Levant is an outcome of the 2003 US invasion of Iraq and the pro-Shi’a sectarian policies of the US occupation authorities. This view is historically myopic, blind to the decades-long existence of Sunni political Islam as a significant force in Levantine politics. From the moment Syria achieved formal independence from France after World War II, through the decades that followed in the 20th century, and into the next century, the main contending forces in Syria were secular Arab nationalism and political Islam. As journalist Patrick Cockburn wrote in 2016, “the Syrian armed opposition is dominated by Isis, al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham.” The “only alternative to (secular Arab nationalist) rule is the Islamists.” [56] This has long been the case.

Finally, we would also have to ignore the fact that US strategists had planned since 2003, and possibly as early as 2001, to force Assad and his secular Arab nationalist ideology from power, and was funding the Syrian opposition, including Muslim Brotherhood-linked groups, from 2005. Accordingly, Washington had been driving toward the overthrow of the Assad government with the goal of de-Ba’athifying Syria. An Islamist-led guerilla struggle against Syria’s secular Arab nationalists would have unfolded, regardless of whether the Syrian government’s response at Daraa was excessive or not. The game was already in play, and a pretext was being sought. Daraa provided it. Thus, the idea that the arrest of two boys in Daraa for painting anti-government graffiti on a wall could provoke a major conflict is as believable as the notion that WWI was caused by nothing more than the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand.

Socialist Syria

Socialism can be defined in many ways, but if it is defined as public-ownership of the commanding heights of the economy accompanied by economic planning, then Syria under its 1973 and 2012 constitutions clearly meets the definition of socialism. However, the Syrian Arab Republic had never been a working-class socialist state, of the category Marxists would recognize. It was, instead, an Arab socialist state inspired by the goal of achieving Arab political independence and overcoming the legacy of the Arab nation’s underdevelopment. The framers of the constitution saw socialism as a means to achieve national liberation and economic development. “The march toward the establishment of a socialist order,” the 1973 constitution’s framers wrote, is a “fundamental necessity for mobilizing the potentialities of the Arab masses in their battle with Zionism and imperialism.” Marxist socialism concerned itself with the struggle between an exploiting owning class and exploited working class, while Arab socialism addressed the struggle between exploiting and exploited nations. While these two different socialisms operated at different levels of exploitation, the distinctions were of no moment for Westerns banks, corporations and major investors as they cast their gaze across the globe in pursuit of profit. Socialism was against the profit-making interests of US industrial and financial capital, whether it was aimed at ending the exploitation of the working class or overcoming the imperialist oppression of national groups.

Ba’ath socialism had long irritated Washington. The Ba’athist state had exercised considerable influence over the Syrian economy, through ownership of enterprises, subsidies to privately-owned domestic firms, limits on foreign investment, and restrictions on imports. The Ba’athists regarded these measures as necessary economic tools of a post-colonial state trying to wrest its economic life from the grips of former colonial powers and to chart a course of development free from the domination of foreign interests.

Washington’s goals, however, were obviously antithetical. It didn’t want Syria to nurture its industry and zealously guard its independence, but to serve the interests of the bankers and major investors who truly mattered in the United States, by opening Syrian labor to exploitation and Syria’s land and natural resources to foreign ownership. Our agenda, the Obama Administration had declared in 2015, “is focused on lowering tariffs on American products, breaking down barriers to our goods and services, and setting higher standards to level the playing field for American…firms.”[57] This was hardly a new agenda, but had been the agenda of US foreign policy for decades. Damascus wasn’t falling into line behind a Washington that insisted that it could and would “lead the global economy.”[58]

Hardliners in Washington had considered Hafez al-Assad an Arab communist, [59] and US officials considered his son, Bashar, an ideologue who couldn’t bring himself to abandon the third pillar of the Ba’ath Arab Socialist Party’s program: socialism. The US State Department complained that Syria had “failed to join an increasingly interconnected global economy,” which is to say, had failed to turn over its state-owned enterprises to private investors, among them Wall Street financial interests. The US State Department also expressed dissatisfaction that “ideological reasons” had prevented Assad from liberalizing Syria’s economy, that “privatization of government enterprises was still not widespread,” and that the economy “remains highly controlled by the government.” [60] Clearly, Assad hadn’t learned what Washington had dubbed the “lessons of history,” namely, that “market economies, not command-and-control economies with the heavy hand of government, are the best.” [61] By drafting a constitution that mandated that the government maintain a role in guiding the economy on behalf of Syrian interests, and that the Syrian government would not make Syrians work for the interests of Western banks, corporations, and investors, Assad was asserting Syrian independence against Washington’s agenda of “opening markets and leveling the playing field for American….businesses abroad.” [62]

On top of this, Assad underscored his allegiance to socialist values against what Washington had once called the “moral imperative” of “economic freedom,” [63] by writing social rights into the constitution: security against sickness, disability and old age; access to health care; and free education at all levels. These rights would continue to be placed beyond the easy reach of legislators and politicians who could sacrifice them on the altar of creating a low-tax, foreign-investment-friendly business climate. As a further affront against Washington’s pro-business orthodoxy, the constitution committed the state to progressive taxation.

Finally, the Ba’athist leader included in his updated constitution a provision that had been introduced by his father in 1973, a step toward real, genuine democracy—a provision which decision-makers in Washington, with their myriad connections to the banking and corporate worlds, could hardly tolerate. The constitution would require that at minimum half the members of the People’s Assembly be drawn from the ranks of peasants and workers.

If Assad was a neo-liberal, he certainly was one of the world’s oddest devotees of the ideology.

Drought?

A final point on the origins of the violent uprising in 2011: Some social scientists and analysts have drawn on a study published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences to suggest that “drought played a role in the Syrian unrest.” According to this view, drought “caused crop failures that led to the migration of as many as 1.5 million people from rural to urban areas.” This, in combination with an influx of refugees from Iraq, intensified competition for scarce jobs in urban areas, making Syria a cauldron of social and economic tension ready to boil over. [64] The argument sounds reasonable, even “scientific,” but the phenomenon it seeks to explain—mass upheaval in Syria—never happened. As we’ve seen, a review of Western press coverage found no reference to mass upheaval. On the contrary, reporters who expected to find a mass upheaval were surprised that they didn’t find one. Instead, Western journalists found Syria to be surprisingly quiet. Demonstrations called by organizers of the Syrian Revolution 2011 Facebook page fizzled. Critics conceded that Assad was popular. Reporters could find no one who believed a revolt was imminent. Even a month after the Daraa incident—which involved only hundreds of protesters, dwarfed by the tens of thousands of Syrians who demonstrated in Damascus in support of the government—the New York Times reporter on the ground, Anthony Shadid, could find no sign in Syria of the mass upheavals of Tunisia and Egypt. In early February 2011, “Omar Nashabe, a long-time Syria watcher and correspondent for the Beirut-based Arabic daily Al-Ahkbar” told Time that “Syrians may be afflicted by poverty that stalks 14% of its population combined with an estimated 20% unemployment rate, but Assad still has his credibility.” [65]

That the government commanded popular support was affirmed when the British survey firm YouGov published a poll in late 2011 showing that 55 percent of Syrians wanted Assad to stay. The poll received almost no mention in the Western media, prompting the British journalist Jonathan Steele to ask: “Suppose a respectable opinion poll found that most Syrians are in favor of Bashar al-Assad remaining as president, would that not be major news?” Steele described the poll findings as “inconvenient facts” which were” suppressed “because Western media coverage of the events in Syria had ceased “to be fair” and had turned into “a propaganda weapon.”[66]

Sloganeering in Lieu of Politics and Analysis

Draitser can be faulted, not only for propagating an argument made by assertion, based on no evidence, but for substituting slogans for politics and analysis. In his October 20 Counterpunch article, Syria and the Left: Time to Break the Silence, he argues that the defining goals of Leftism ought to be the pursuit of peace and justice, as if these are two inseparable qualities, which are never in opposition. That peace and justice may, at times, be antithetical, is illustrated in the following conversation between Australian journalist Richard Carleton and Ghassan Kanafani, a Palestinian writer, novelist and revolutionary. [67]

C: ‘Why won’t your organization engage in peace talks with the Israelis?’
K: ‘You don’t mean exactly “peace talks”. You mean capitulation. Surrendering.
C: ‘Why not just talk?’
K: ‘Talk to whom?’
C: ‘Talk to the Israeli leaders.’
K: ‘That is kind of a conversation between the sword and the neck, you mean?’
C: ‘Well, if there are no swords and no guns in the room, you could still talk.’
K: ‘No. I have never seen any talk between a colonialist and a national liberation movement.’
C: ‘But despite this, why not talk?’
K: ‘Talk about what?’
C: ‘Talk about the possibility of not fighting.’
K: ‘Not fighting for what?’
C: ‘No fighting at all. No matter what for.’
K: ‘People usually fight for something. And they stop fighting for something. So you can’t even tell me why we should speak about what. Why should we talk about stopping to fight?’
C: ‘Talk to stop fighting to stop the death and the misery, the destruction and the pain.’
K: ‘The misery and the destruction the pain and the death of whom?’
C: ‘Of Palestinians. Of Israelis. Of Arabs.’
K: ‘Of the Palestinian people who are uprooted, thrown in the camps, living in starvation, killed for twenty years and forbidden to use even the name “Palestinians”?’
C: ‘They are better that way than dead though.’
K: ‘Maybe to you. But to us, it’s not. To us, to liberate our country, to have dignity, to have respect, to have our mere human rights is something as essential as life itself.

To which values the US Left should devote itself when peace and justice are in conflict, Draitser doesn’t say. His invocation of the slogan “peace and justice” as the desired defining mission of the US Left seems to be nothing more than an invitation for Leftists to abandon politics in favor of embarking on a mission of becoming beautiful souls, above the sordid conflicts which plague humanity—never taking a side, except that of the angels. His assertion that “no state or group has the best interests of Syrians at heart” is almost too silly to warrant comment. How would he know? One can’t help but get the impression that he believes that he, and the US Left, alone among the groups and states of the world, know what’s best for the “Syrian people.” Which may be why he opines that the responsibility of the US Left, “is to the people of Syria,” as if the people of Syria are an undifferentiated mass with uniform interests and agendas. Syrians en masse include both secularists and political Islamists, who have irreconcilable views of how the state ought to be organized, who have been locked in a death feud for more than half a century—one helped along, on the Islamist side, by his own government. Syrians en masse include those who favor integration into the US Empire, and those who are against it; those who collaborate with US imperialists and those who refuse to. In this perspective, what does it mean, to say the US Left has a responsibility to the people of Syria? Which people of Syria?

I would have thought that the responsibility of the US Left is to working people of the United States, not the people of Syria. And I would have imagined, as well, that the US Left would regard its responsibilities to include disseminating a rigorous, evidence-based political analysis of how the US economic elite uses the apparatus of the US state to advance its interests at the expense of both domestic and foreign populations. How does Washington’s long war on Syria affect the working people of America? That’s what Draitser ought to be talking about.

My book Washington’s Long War on Syria is forthcoming April 2017.

NOTES

1 Aryn Baker, “Syria is not Egypt, but might it one day be Tunisia?,” Time, February 4, 2011
2 Rania Abouzeid, “The Syrian style of repression: Thugs and lectures,” Time, February 27, 2011
3 Rania Abouzeid, “Sitting pretty in Syria: Why few go backing Bashar,” Time, March 6, 2011
4 Rania Abouzeid, “The youth of Syria: the rebels are on pause,” Time, March 6, 2011.
5 Rania Abouzeid, “The youth of Syria: the rebels are on pause,” Time, March 6, 2011
6 “Officers fire on crowd as Syrian protests grow,” The New York Times, March 20, 2011
7 Nicholas Blanford, “Can the Syrian regime divide and conquer its opposition?,” Time, April 9, 2011
8 Robert Fisk, “Welcome to Dera’a, Syria’s graveyard of terrorists,” The Independent, July 6. 2016
9 President Assad to ARD TV: Terrorists breached cessation of hostilities agreement from the very first hour, Syrian Army refrained from retaliating,” SANA, March 1, 2016
10 Ibid
11 “Officers fire on crowd as Syrian protests grow,” The New York Times, March 20, 2011
12 Rania Abouzeid, “Arab Spring: Is a revolution starting up in Syria?” Time, March 20, 2011; Rania Abouzeid, “Syria’s revolt: How graffiti stirred an uprising,” Time, March 22, 2011
13 “Officers fire on crowd as Syrian protests grow,” The New York Times, March 20, 2011
14 Rania Abouzeid, “Arab Spring: Is a revolution starting up in Syria?,” Time, March 20, 2011
15 “Thousands march to protest Syria killings”, The New York Times, March 24, 2011
16 Rania Abouzeid, “Assad and reform: Damned if he does, doomed if he doesn’t,” Time, April 22, 2011
17 “Officers fire on crowd as Syrian protests grow,” The New York Times, March 20, 2011
18 Aryn Baker, “Syria is not Egypt, but might it one day be Tunisia?,” Time, February 4, 2011
19 Nicholas Blanford, “Can the Syrian regime divide and conquer its opposition?” Time, April 9, 2011.
20 Alfred B. Prados and Jeremy M. Sharp, “Syria: Political Conditions and Relations with the United States After the Iraq War,” Congressional Research Service, February 28, 2005
21 Rania Abouzeid, “Syria’s Friday of dignity becomes a day of death,” Time, March 25, 2011
22 Rania Abouzeid, “Syria’s Friday of dignity becomes a day of death,” Time, March 25, 2011
23 “Syrie: un autre eclarage du conflict qui dure depuis 5 ans, BeCuriousTV , » May 23, 2016, http://www.globalresearch.ca/syria-aleppo-doctor-demolishes-imperialist-propaganda-and-media-warmongering/5531157
24 Nicholas Blanford, “Can the Syrian regime divide and conquer its opposition?” Time, April 9, 2011
25 Jay Solomon, “To check Syria, U.S. explores bond with Muslim Brothers,” The Wall Street Journal, July 25, 2007
26 Ibid
27 Liad Porat, “The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood and the Asad Regime,” Crown Center for Middle East Studies, Brandeis University, December 2010, No. 47
28 Ibid
29 http://www.judicialwatch.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Pg.-291-Pgs.-287-293-JW-v-DOD-and-State-14-812-DOD-Release-2015-04-10-final-version11.pdf
30 Alfred B. Prados and Jeremy M. Sharp, “Syria: Political Conditions and Relations with the United States After the Iraq War,” Congressional Research Service, February 28, 2005.
31 Anthony Shadid, “Security forces kill dozens in uprisings around Syria”, The New York Times, April 22, 2011
32 Rania Abouzeid, “Syria’s Friday of dignity becomes a day of death,” Time, March 25, 2011
33 Fabrice Balanche, “The Alawi Community and the Syria Crisis Middle East Institute, May 14, 2015
34 Anthony Shadid, “Syria broadens deadly crackdown on protesters”, The New York Times, May 8, 2011
35 Rania Abouzeid, “Meet the Islamist militants fighting alongside Syria’s rebels,” Time, July 26, 2012
36 Rania Abouzeid, “Interview with official of Jabhat al-Nusra, Syria’s Islamist militia group,” Time, Dec 25, 2015
37 Robert Fisk, “Syrian civil war: West failed to factor in Bashar al-Assad’s Iranian backers as the conflict developed,” The Independent, March 13, 2016
38 Anthony Shadid, “Syria broadens deadly crackdown on protesters”, The New York Times, May 8, 2011
39 Nada Bakri, “Syria allows Red Cross officials to visit prison”, The New York Times, September 5, 2011
40 Nada Bakri, “Syrian opposition calls for protection from crackdown”, The New York Times, October 25, 2011
41 President al-Assad to Portuguese State TV: International system failed to accomplish its duty… Western officials have no desire to combat terrorism, SANA, March 5, 2015
42 Patrick Seale, “Syria’s long war,” Middle East Online, September 26, 2012
43 Ibid
44 Rania Abouzeid, “Sitting pretty in Syria: Why few go backing Bashar,” Time, March 6, 2011
45 Rania Abouzeid, “The youth of Syria: the rebels are on pause,” Time, March 6, 2011
46 “Can the Syrian regime divide and conquer its opposition?” Time, April 9, 2011
47 Anthony Shadid, “Security forces kill dozens in uprisings around Syria”, The New York Times, April 22, 2011
48 Ben Fenton, “Macmillan backed Syria assassination plot,” The Guardian, September 27, 2003
49 Robert Fisk, “Conspiracy of silence in the Arab world,” The Independent, February 9, 2007
50 Robert Dreyfus, Devil’s Game: How the United States Helped Fundamentalist Islam, Holt, 2005, p. 205
51 William R. Polk, “Understanding Syria: From pre-civil war to post-Assad,” The Atlantic, December 10, 2013
52 Dreyfus
53 Dreyfus
54 William R. Polk, “Understanding Syria: From pre-civil war to post-Assad,” The Atlantic, December 10, 2013
55 Quoted in Nikolas Van Dam, The Struggle for Power in Syria: Politics and Society under Asad and the Ba’ath Party, I.B. Taurus, 2011
56 Patrick Cockburn, “Confused about the US response to Isis in Syria? Look to the CIA’s relationship with Saudi Arabia,” The Independent, June 17, 2016
57 National Security Strategy, February 2015
58 Ibid
59 Robert Baer, Sleeping with the Devil: How Washington Sold Our Soul for Saudi Crude, Three Rivers Press, 2003, p. 123
60 US State Department website. http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/3580.htm#econ. Accessed February 8, 2012
61 The National Security Strategy of the United States of America, September 2002
62 National Security Strategy, February 2015
63 The National Security Strategy of the United States of America, March 2006
64 Henry Fountain, “Researchers link Syrian conflict to drought made worse by climate change,” The New York Times, March 2, 2015
65 Aryn Baker, “Syria is not Egypt, but might it one day be Tunisia?,” Time, February 4, 2011
66 Jonathan Steele, “Most Syrians back President Assad, but you’d never know from western media,” The Guardian, January 17, 2012
67 “Full transcript: Classic video interview with Comrade Ghassan Kanafani re-surfaces,” PFLP, October 17, 2016, http://pflp.ps/english/2016/10/17/full-transcript-classic-video-interview-with-comrade-ghassan-kanafani-re-surfaces/
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+Pádraig Ó Raghaill I can all but tell you now, that even my dog would not approve their piss poor plan. I am always willing to give an opinion, if you find the article. ☺
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Portrait of a broken personAyn Rand

Comparable to an outer stone on the Pyramids, it’s difficult to get a razor blade between Ayn Rand, Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek.

Neoliberalism is to Enterprise what Fascism is to State.

Ayn Rand was broken, emotionally, ethically, and morally. Her pseudo-philosophy ‘objectivism’ mere drivel of a desolate soul. In worship of a false God, leading her followers a cultism of selfishness – fittingly symbolically crucified in death by the almighty Dollar sign she so worshipped.

“Emotions are the automatic results of man’s value judgments integrated by his subconscious; emotions are estimates of that which furthers man’s values or threatens them, that which is for him or against him—lightning calculators giving him the sum of his profit or loss.”

A product of communism Ayn rejected any form of collectivism the same as Mises & Hayek. To find tyranny only requires extremism, for it is at the fringe where we discover the suffering of humankind.

Ayn Rand’s lack of compassion, emotional capital, replaced with a new capital to match the coldness of her heart – gold and silver.

Our political overlords have sought justification to impose misery, poverty, a marginalisation of the masses for the wealth of the few. https://goo.gl/P7RB4I Neoliberalism is that Fascism, and it is written by the broken, Mises, Hayek, and Rand.

Part two coming soon – In search of a new Golden Age –
Ayn Rand was broken, emotionally, ethically, and morally. Her pseudo-philosophy 'objectivism' mere drivel of a desolate soul. In worship of a false God, leading her followers a cultism of selfishness - fittingly symbolically crucified in death by the almighty Dollar sign she so worshipped.
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Economic globalisation is a core component of neoliberalism economics +MrYbridges It has caused a great deal of problems.
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Trump and the Media by Craig Murray

I am having a few issues finishing some new pieces, like an old car I run well for a while then the bugger dies again. So until I can get a service and see if it is an easily fixed blockage here is another piece from Craig Murray, hope you enjoy, yes, good, happy Sunday

"With no sense of irony, a “liberal” media which rightly excoriates the President of Gambia for failing to accept an election result, continues to do precisely the same thing in the case of Donald Trump. No invective is too strong to be cast against a man whose election the “liberal” media did everything possible to prevent."

"With the happy resignation of Stephen Daisley, a strong contender for worst journalist in the World is now Jonathan Freedland of the Guardian. He takes the irony to an entirely new level. He claims that Trump will destroy the legacy by which smaller nations “long looked to the US to maintain something close to a rules-based international system.” He completely ignores the fact that the greatest single hammer blow against the rules based international system was delivered by Freedland’s idol Tony Blair, when he supported the invasion of Iraq without a Security Council Resolution and in the specific knowledge that, if the matter of force were properly put to the Security Council, it would not merely meet three vetoes but lose a majority vote."

"The UN, and the rule of international law, have never recovered from that hammer blow, which Freedland enthusiastically cheered on. Nor has Freedland apparently noticed that the smaller nations rather detest than worship the USA. It has invaded and bombed them, interfered in their elections, supported right wing coups and armies, run destabilising CIA drug rings in them, and armed and even sometimes led dictatorial death squads. Look at all those US Security Council vetoes and the resolutions that never got to a vote because of threatened US vetoes. Look at all those General Assembly votes that were everyone against the USA, Israel and the poor occupied Marshall Islands. Freedland’s hymn to the Pax Americana is a sick joke. For much of the world, a period of American isolationism would be extremely welcome."

I am thankfully too clear-headed to like Trump because of the extraordinary campaign of vilification to which he has been subjected. Freedland has no shame about repeating the lie that Trump kept Hitler’s speeches by his bedside. I was in a position to know for sure that the “Russian hacking” elements of the extraordinary “Manchurian candidate” rubbish which the entire establishment threw at Trump was definitively untrue. I had the background and training to see that the Christopher Steele dossier was not only nonsense, but a fake, not in fact produced seriatim on the dates claimed. The involvement of the US security services in spreading lies as intelligence to undermine an incoming President will go down as a crucial moment in US history. We have not yet seen the denouement of that story.

But none of that makes Trump a good person. He could be an appalling monster and still be subjected to dirty tricks by other very bad people. There is much about Trump to dislike. His sensible desire for better relations with Russia is matched by a stupid drive to goad China.

Trump’s anti-immigrant rhetoric did tap in to the populist racism which is unfortunately sweeping developed countries at the moment. The very wealthy have succeeded in diverting justified anger at the results of globalisation on to immigrant populations, who are themselves victims of globalisation. By shamelessly tapping in to the deep wells of popular atavism, the elite have managed the extraordinary trick of escaping the wrath their appalling profiteering and extreme levels of wealth should bring. His words on race in his inauguration address were good, but does he really mean them? His anti-Muslim rhetoric remains deeply troubling. His ludicrous boast yesterday that he would end radical Islamic terrorism is precisely indicative of the counter-productive stupidity that feeds it.

I am a free trader and dislike the march of protectionism. But on the other hand, international trade agreements have become routinely not about tariffs but much more about the allocation of resources within the states concerned, mandating a neo-liberal model and giving extraordinary legal status to multinational companies. The collapse of the current model of international trade agreement, if that is what Trump really heralds, has both its positive and negative aspects.

It is of course a major question whether the establishment and his own Republican party allow him to do anything too radical at all. My own suspicion is that after all the huffing and puffing, nothing much is going to change. The key intra-party battle will probably be over the only policy he affirmed in any detail yesterday, the return of New Deal type state infrastructure spending. The idea of a massive state funded programme of national infrastructure, particularly in transport, to get heavy industry back on its feet, is the very antithesis of neo-liberalism. I think yesterday cleared up the question of whether Trump really meant it – he does. Will he be allowed to do it by a party committed to small state and balanced budgets, is a huge question. As Trump is also committed to tax cuts, it implies a massive budget deficit – with which Trump might well be comfortable. If Trump does succeed, it could fundamentally shift the way western governments look at economics, turning back the clock to the happier days before the advent of monetarism.

So that is Trump. Much that is bad but some fascinating things to watch. I suppose the reason I can’t join in the “it’s a disaster” screams, is that I thought it was already a disaster. The neo-liberal, warmongering orthodoxies did not have my support, despite Obama’s suave veneer. The pandering to racist populism of Trump is bad, and we must keep a watch on it. He may turn out not really to be different at all. Like all politicians, personal enrichment will doubtless be high on his agenda. But I do not start from the presumption the world is now a worse place than it was last week. I shall wait and see.
With no sense of irony, a “liberal” media which rightly excoriates the President of Gambia for failing to accept an election result, continues to do precisely the same thing in the case of Donald Trump. No invective is too strong to be cast against a man whose election the “liberal” media did everything possible to …
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Cornwall could be on the verge of a mining revolution as vast reserves of precious lithium found

Brexit just might have found some battery power. Not that the world's sixth biggest economy is really going to battle with Brexit problems anyway but this will put some nickel plated stimulus in the step.

Vast deposits of a precious metal dubbed 'white petroleum' could be extracted from deep underground in Cornwall pushing the county to the forefront of a $70billion industrial revolution.

Lithium, which is vital for rechargeable batteries in just about every device from phones to cars, could be extracted from the granite beneath Cornwall's landscape - making the duchy Europe's only source of the valuable material.

In a major announcement made to the Stock Market this morning, private firm Cornish Lithium will confirm that it has secured the rights to develop the lithium deposits under Cornwall – undertaking the largest, single unified exploration project in the county's history.


Read more at http://www.cornwalllive.com/cornwall-could-be-on-the-verge-of-a-mining-revolution-as-vast-reserves-of-precious-lithium-found/story-30068912-detail/story.html
Vast deposits of a precious metal dubbed 'white petroleum' could be extracted from deep underground in Cornwall pushing the county to the forefront of a $70billion industrial revolution. ...
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Perhaps it is my unwillingness to call the various kingdoms within the geographical area at the time as a UNIFIED china.
They were rather autonomous until a strong assertive leader would assume the "Divine Mandate" and try to unify the various kingdoms ending up in a period of wars with the other various kingdoms.

So, if you follow the historical, even Chinese historical records, the mongols held one of the largest empires in history.

Perhaps it's just me being cantankerous.

http://afe.easia.columbia.edu/mongols/china/china.htm

It is interesting for me to note that among the many other sources I've came across in my endless curiosity many say that the Mongols respected and assumed a tremendous amount of Chinese principles into their rule.

I think it is that attitude that insists that the Mongol rule of China was still China.

But I admit to sometimes being a western idiot.
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Trump's offer to Russia: an end to sanctions for nuclear arms cut

For someone that apparently is unintelligent he seems to make some intelligent moves.

By Guy Faulconbridge and William James | LONDON
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump will propose offering to end sanctions imposed on Russia over its annexation of Crimea in return for a nuclear arms reduction deal with Moscow, he told The Times of London.

Criticizing previous U.S. foreign policy in an interview published on Monday, he described the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003 as possibly the gravest error in the history of the United States and akin to "throwing rocks into a beehive".

But Trump, who will be inaugurated on Friday as the 45th U.S. president, raised the prospect of the first big nuclear arms control agreement with Moscow since the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty signed by President Barack Obama in 2010.

"They have sanctions on Russia — let’s see if we can make some good deals with Russia," the Republican president-elect was quoted as saying by The Times.

"For one thing, I think nuclear weapons should be way down and reduced very substantially, that’s part of it. But Russia’s hurting very badly right now because of sanctions, but I think something can happen that a lot of people are gonna benefit."

The United States and Russia are by far the world's biggest nuclear powers. The United States has 1,367 nuclear warheads on deployed strategic missiles and bombers, and Russia has 1,796 such deployed warheads, according to the latest published assessment by the U.S. State Department.

Under the 2010 New START treaty, Russia and the United States agreed to limit the number of long-range, strategic nuclear weapons they can deploy.

Trump has said he will seek to improve relations with Moscow despite criticism that he is too eager to make an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The United States and other Western powers imposed sanctions on Russia in 2014 over its annexation of the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine and its support for pro-Russia separatists in eastern Ukraine.

Asked whether he would trust German Chancellor Angela Merkel or Putin more, Trump said: "Well, I start off trusting both --but let’s see how long that lasts. It may not last long at all."

His relations with Moscow have faced renewed scrutiny after an unsubstantiated report that Russia had collected compromising information about Trump.

The information was summarized in a U.S. intelligence report which was presented to Trump and Obama this month.

The report concluded Russia tried to sway the outcome of the Nov. 8 election in Trump's favor by hacking and other means. It did not make an assessment on whether Russia's attempts affected the election's outcome.

Trump accused U.S. intelligence agencies of leaking the information from the unverified dossier, which he called "fake news" and phony stuff." Intelligence leaders denied the charge and Moscow has dismissed the accusations against it.

RUSSIAN RELATIONS

In the interview with The Times, Trump was also critical of Russia's intervention in Syria's civil war which, along with the help of Iran, has tilted the conflict in President Bashar al-Assad's favor.

"I think it's a very rough thing," Trump said of Russian intervention in Syria. "Aleppo has been such a terrible humanitarian situation."

The war has killed more than 300,000 people, created the world's worst refugee crisis and aided the rise of the Islamic State militant group.

On NATO, Trump repeated his view that the military alliance was obsolete but said it was still very important for him.

"I took such heat, when I said NATO was obsolete," Trump told The Times, referring to comments he made during his presidential election campaign. "It’s obsolete because it wasn’t taking care of terror. I took a lot of heat for two days. And then they started saying Trump is right."

Trump said many NATO member states were not paying their fair share for U.S. protection.

“A lot of these countries aren’t paying what they’re supposed to be paying, which I think is very unfair to the United States," Trump said. "With that being said, NATO is very important to me. There’s five countries that are paying what they’re supposed to. Five. It’s not much."

Trump said he would appoint his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to try to broker a Middle East peace deal, urged Britain to veto any new U.N. Security Council resolution critical of Israel and criticized Obama’s handling of the deal between Iran and six world powers including the United States which curbed Tehran's nuclear program.

On Britain's vote to leave the European Union, Trump said: “Brexit is going to end up being a great thing” and said he was eager to get a trade deal done with the United Kingdom.
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump will propose offering to end sanctions imposed on Russia over its annexation of Crimea in return for a nuclear arms reduction deal with Moscow, he told The Times of London.
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SOUNDS LIKE A INSULT TO THE INTELLIGENCE ...
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Kind of puts our whole Irish weather into perspective. Now tell me we have harsh winters.

Via +Nicodin Bogdan Freezing his nuts off :)
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+Pádraig Ó Raghaill​ ☺😂🌵
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The Russians Are Coming
By Oliver Stone

"As 2016 closes, we find ourselves a deeply unsettled nation. We’re unable to draw the lines of our national interest. Is it jobs and economy, is it national security, or is it now in our interest to ensure global security — in other words, act as the world’s policemen?"

"As the “failing” (to quote Trump) New York Times degenerates into a Washington Post organization with its stagnant Cold War vision of a 1950s world where the Russians are to blame for most everything — Hillary’s loss, most of the aggression and disorder in the world, the desire to destabilize Europe, etc. — the Times has added the issue of ‘fake news’ to reassert its problematic role as the dominant voice for the Washington establishment. Certainly this is true in the case of Russia’s ‘hacking’ the 2016 election and putting into office its Manchurian Candidate in Donald Trump. Apparently the CIA (via various unnamed intelligence officials), and the FBI, NSA, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper (who notoriously lied to Congress in the Snowden affair), President Obama, the DNC, Hillary Clinton, and Congress agree that Russia, and Mr. Putin predominantly, is responsible."

Certainly the psychotic, war-loving Senator John McCain is right up there alongside these patriots, calling President Putin a “thug, bully and a murderer and anybody else who describes him as anything else is lying.” He actually said this — the man whose sound judgment chose Sarah Palin as his VP nominee in ’08. And the Times followed by printing the story in its full glory on page one, clearly agreeing with McCain’s point of view. I don’t remember Presidents Eisenhower, Nixon, or Reagan, in the darkest days of the 1950s/80s, ever singling out a Russian President like this. The invective was aimed at the Soviet regime, but never were Khrushchev or Brezhnev the target of this bile. I guess this is a new form of American diplomacy. If a black youth in our inner cities were killed or a Pakistani wedding party were murdered by our drones, would President Obama be singled out as a murderer, bully, thug? Such personalization is a sign of sickness in our thinking and way beneath what should be our standards.

Note the enclosed link (“US Intel Vets Dispute Russia Hacking Claims”) from the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (which includes the ex-NSA reformer Bill Binney, a mathematical genius who inspired the Nic Cage character in “Snowden”). He talks here about what hacking really means, as opposed to a ‘leak’. The Times and other mainstream media have surprisingly evaded any contrary evidence, such as that presented by Craig Murray, ex-ambassador and Wikileaks spokesman who says he was given the information in a Washington park by a Democratic ‘insider’ who was disgusted by the behavior of the DNC; Murray then gave it to Wikileaks. This was a ‘leak,’ not a ‘hack,’ and always seemed to me the likely source for this scandal (as I think the Sony leak was as well, falsely blamed on North Korea, but that’s another matter). And if this were to be properly investigated, it might very well lead to the discovery that this was Hillary Clinton’s ‘Nixon moment.’ Clearly the DNC offices were up to no good. Ironically, Clinton first made her name as one of the investigators into Watergate. See Mark Ames’s article, “Site Behind McCarthyite Blacklist,” tracking this foul play to Washington Post journalist Craig Timberg.

I remember well in the 1950s when the Russians were supposed to be in our schools, Congress, State Department — and according to many Eisenhower/Nixon supporters — about to take over our country without serious opposition (and they call me paranoid!). It was this same media who insisted on our need to go to Vietnam to defend our freedoms against the communists 6,000 miles away. And after the Red Scare finally went away for good in 1991, let us remind ourselves that It never ended. It became Hussein of Iraq with his weapons of mass destruction, and talk of the ‘mushroom cloud.’ It became the Demon, as real as any Salem Witch Trial. It was Gaddafi of Libya, and then it was Assad of Syria. In other words, as in an Orwellian prophesy, it never ended, and I can guarantee you it never will — unless we the people who still think for ourselves in this existential matter, can say “Enough” to this demon act. “Enough,’ “go away” — laugh in their faces.

Of course, the NYT/WaPo nexus rarely publishes any of our serious dissents and therefore we take refuge in alternate media, such as ‘The Nation,’ ‘Consortiumnews,’ ‘The Intercept,’ ‘Naked Capitalism,’ ‘Counterpunch,’ ‘Zero Hedge,’ ‘Antiwar.com,’ ‘Truthdig,’ ‘Common Dreams,’ etc. I think then we were all quite shocked (but not surprised) when recently we saw 200 WEBSITES listed as tools of the Kremlin (WaPo’s November 24, “Russian propaganda effort helped spread ‘fake news’ during election”).

My God, the ghost of Izzy Stone is back from the 1950s! For that matter, so is Tom Clancy from the ’80s. False thrillers will now be written about the Russians hacking the American elections. Money and TV serials will be made. I’ve never read such hysterical junk in the New York Times (call it what it is — “fake news”), in which the editorials have become outrageous diatribes of alleged crimes by Russia, many of them presumably written by Serge Schmemann, one of those ideologues who still looks for Russians under his bed at night; they were called ‘White Russians’ in the old days and, like right-wing Cubans in Miami, are unable to live down past grievances. Schmemann is obviously riding high at the NYT edit board. This type of thinking has clearly influenced the Pentagon and many of our Generals’ statements, and has pervaded MSM reporting. When one group-think controls our national conversation, it becomes truly dangerous. In this spirit, I’m linking several crucial essays of new vintage, pointing out the disgrace the MSM has become.

As much as I may disagree with Donald Trump (and I do) he’s right now target number one of the MSM propaganda — until, that is, he jumps to the anti-Kremlin track because of some kind of false intelligence or misunderstanding cooked up by CIA. Then I fear, in his hot-headed way, he starts fighting with the Russians, and it wouldn’t be long then until a state of war against Russia is declared. I have no doubt then that our over-financed military ($10 to every 1 Russian dollar) will mean NOTHING against a country that right now believes the US, with the largest buildup of NATO on its borders since Hitler’s World War II, is crazed enough to prepare for a preemptive strike. In his analysis, “The Need to Hold Saudi Arabia Accountable,” Robert Parry points out that this conflict ironically started in the 1980s with the Neoconservatives defining Iran as the number one terrorist sponsor in the world. How this leads to our present mess is a brilliant analysis that is unknown to the American public.

I urge you to read the following articles and stay calm in your thinking. But bring it to bear in some way. As a believer in what the Dalai Lama says, every single one of us, even through our prayers, can add to the betterment of this world. I never thought I’d find myself praying for the level-headedness of a Donald Trump. Remember “The Iliad”? As Homer would have it, the gods would hover over each day’s battles and decide on the outcome. Who would die and who would live. Are the gods still listening?

. Robert Parry, “Making Russia ‘The Enemy” https://goo.gl/Qg3sKw
. Joe Lauria, “Russia-Hack Story Another Media Failure” https://goo.gl/NkXIHE
. Justin Raimondo, “Stop the CIA Coup” https://goo.gl/FPX7ej
. Robert Parry, “The Need to Hold Saudi Arabia Accountable” https://goo.gl/nUhQgB
. Ray McGovern, “US Intel Vets Dispute Russia Hacking Claims” https://goo.gl/CvPSn6
. Mark Ames, “Site behind Washington Post’s McCarthyite Blacklist” https://goo.gl/3uLGUl
. Robert Parry, “A Sour Holiday Season for Neocons” https://goo.gl/p4gKXG
As 2016 closes, we find ourselves a deeply unsettled nation. We’re unable to draw the lines of our national interest. Is it jobs and…
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Harry Holler's profile photoPádraig Ó Raghaill's profile photo
20 comments
 
I am but a mere moron with words +Harry Holler but I thank you all the same. Dictator might appeal on the commie front not sure about a pleb in that context. :) Enjoy your day/evening it is always enjoyable shooting the shite with you.
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Pádraig Ó Raghaill

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It would seem, people with a sense of humour can be hard to find at times. The Real Housewives of ISIS has been met with condemnation. Obviously, some forget historic classics, The Life of Brian, The Meaning Of Life etc, and so forth.

I think this is somewhat lowbrow in the creative department, it could have ascended to a little bit more on the black humour side. However, for cheap jokes and some funny scenes it has to tickle your funnybone unless you are a dry shite.

Bring on more I say, nothing quite like poking a stick at stupendously stupid ideology.
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The entire programme was lowbrow, so much so that we gave up watching it before this scene. Seems like we gave up too early and missed the best bit. I found this amusing, whereas the bit we saw did not make us laugh at all, hence the giving up before this. There is a definite lack of comedy on the TV nowadays, as very little makes us laugh. Most of the decent humour seems to come from the radio, in recent times. We are not easily offended, but don't like so called humour, that is based on embarrassing people, which is a lot, this day and age.

The art of comedy is slowly being lost, possibly due to not wanting to offend someone or the other. I did laugh a few times watching The Grand Tour last night, but then they don't seem to care who they upset. Perhaps the politically correct culture is killing the comedy, that the British used to be famous for. Moan, fuss, complain, winge. 😠😭😤
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Pádraig's Collections
Work
Occupation
Varied and emerging
Skills
Argumentum verbosium, ad hominem fallacy, faulty generalisations
Basic Information
Gender
Male
Story
Tagline
I don't want your coins! I want change......
Bragging rights
I am still standing
Education
  • Conformist Higher Education Institutions
    Taught how to think, what to research and how to present work that matched an expected outcome. Took some years to reverse the doctrine.