• All governments lie, but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out.

  • I.F. Stone

woensdag 22 november 2017

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22 November 2017

Survival? Symptoms Of Breakdown

If the human species survives long enough, future historians might well marvel at what passed for 'mainstream'media and politics in the early 21st century.
They will see that a UK Defence Secretary had to resign because of serious allegations of sexual misconduct; or, as he put it euphemistically, because he had 'fallen short'. But he did not have to resign because of the immense misery he had helped to inflict upon Yemen. Nor was he made to resign when he told MPs to stop criticising Saudi Arabia because that would be 'unhelpful' while the UK government was trying to sell the human rights-abusing extremist regime in Riyadh more fighter jets and weapons. After all, the amount sold in the first half of 2017 was a mere £1.1 billion. (See our recent media alert for more on this.) Right now, the UK is complicit in a Saudi blockade of Yemen's ports and airspace, preventing the delivery of vital medicine and food aid. 7.3 million Yemenis are already on the brink of famine, and the World Food Programme has warned of the deaths of 150,000 malnourished children in the next few months.
Meanwhile, Robert Peston, ITV political editor, and Laura Kuenssberg, BBC News political editor, have seemingly never questioned the British Prime Minister Theresa May about the UK's shameful role in arming and supporting Yemen's cruel tormentor. Nor have they responded when challenged about their own silence.
Future historians will also note that British newspapers, notably The Times and the 'left-leaning' Guardian, published several sycophantic PR pieces for Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, 'a risk-taker with a zeal for reform'. 'Is he taking on too much too fast?', asked a swooning Patrick Wintour, the Guardian's diplomatic editor. Martin Chulov, the paper's Middle East correspondent, waxed lyrical about the Crown Prince's 'bold move' in arresting senior royals, a prominent Saudi billionaire and scores of former ministers as part of a 'corruption purge'. The dramatic action was designed to 'consolidate power' while bin Salman 'attempts to reform [the] kingdom's economy and society'. As Adam Johnson noted in a media analysis piece for Fairness in Accuracy And Reporting, the Guardian's coverage was akin to a 'breathless press release.' A follow-up articleby Chulov, observed Johnson, 'took flattering coverage to new extremes'. The 'rush to reform' was presented uncritically by the paper, painting the Crown Prince as a kind of populist hero; 'a curious framing that reeks more of PR than journalism.'
Meanwhile, Richard Spencer, Middle East editor of The Times, wrote articles proclaiming, 'Prince's bold vision drives progress in Saudi Arabia' and 'It's wrong to blame all terror on the Saudis', featuring such propaganda bullet points as:
'the Saudis are on our side, arresting militants and giving us vital intelligence'.
In October 2017, The Times even ran a four-part series promoting a Saudi conference to attract investment in the head-chopping kingdom with the lure of 'sweeping social and economic reforms'. As for any awkward questions about the brutality Saudi Arabia was inflicting on Yemen, well, they were swept away.
Historians examining media archives from this time will also observe that Gordon Brown, Chancellor of the Exchequer in Tony Blair's government, opined that the UK had been 'misled' about Iraq's supposed weapons of mass destruction:
'Top-secret US intelligence casting serious doubt over [Saddam Hussein's] destructive capabilities was not shared with Britain.'
As a result, claimed Brown, Blair was 'duped' into invading Iraq. And thus 'duped' into shared responsibility for the deaths of around one million Iraqis.
'Mainstream' news journalists blandly reported Brown's miserable excuses without demur. They failed to mention that former UN chief weapons inspector Scott Ritter had comprehensively dismissed the propaganda notion of Saddam as a threat well before the US-led invasion of March 2003. Ritter's team had concluded that Iraq had been 'fundamentally disarmed', with anything that remained being simply 'useless sludge' because of the limited 'shelf-lives' of chemical and biological weapons. This crucial information was already available by October 2002, five months before the invasion, in a handy short book that somehow 'escaped' the attention of the British government, including Brown, and that of a compliant corporate media that broadcast endless Western propaganda.
Nevertheless, millions of people around the world marched against the Iraq war before it began, because they did not swallow the torrent of deceits emanating from Washington and London. Brown, however, had always backed Blair to the hilt, telling the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war in 2010 that Blair took 'the right decision for the right reasons' and insisting that 'everything that Mr Blair did during this period, he did properly'.
Future historians will also study the media hysteria in 2017 over 'Russiagate' that focused obsessively on outraged claims of supposed pivotal Russian interference in Trump's election as US President. But, as US investigative reporter Glenn Greenwald noted:
'Inflammatory claims about Russia get mindlessly hyped by media outlets, almost always based on nothing more than evidence-free claims from government officials, only to collapse under the slightest scrutiny, because they are entirely lacking in evidence.'
Greenwald is not saying that there was definitely no Russian interference. But the 'evidence' for decisiveintervention presented thus far is unconvincing, to say the least. The crucial point is that Western corporate media have only ever given minimal coverage to major longstanding US government efforts to intervene in other countries - from propaganda campaignsmeddling in foreign elections, and all the way up to assassinations, coups and full-blown invasions. A Time magazine cover story in 1996 even boasted that US interference helped Boris Yeltsin to be re-elected as president of Russia:
'Exclusive: Yanks to the Rescue. The Secret Story of How American Advisers Helped Yeltsin Win.'
The historical record will also reveal, in apparent blindness and deafness to this extensive record of US criminal behaviour, that BBC News journalists based there frequently end up gushing about the greatness of 'America'. It is a rite of passage that demonstrates their bona fides as servants of power.
It will not surprise future historians that prestigious press and broadcasting awards were given to those who reported within the limits circumscribed by established power. Such rewards were few for those who dared to expose crimes by the West or 'our' allies.
One of these 'allies', arguably the most important in the Middle East, is Israel. Earlier this month, Priti Patel resigned as Britain's minister for international aid after it had been revealed that she had had numerous secret meetings with Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, while on a 'family holiday'. She had also visited an Israeli military field hospital that treats Al Qaedi-affiliated fighters. Following her trip, Patel had actually wanted to send UK aid to the powerful Israeli army, even while cutting Palestinian aid to vital projects in Gaza. The episode briefly opened 'a small, opaque window on the UK's powerful Israel lobby', observedJonathan Cook. But the topic of the Israel lobby is seemingly taboo in polite British society. Laura Kuenssberg quickly deleted a tweet she had sent out quoting an unnamed senior Tory MP complaining about the 'corrupt' relationship that has enabled Israel to 'buy access' in Westminster.
Perhaps, then, it was no surprise that when the UN Special Rapporteur on the Occupied Territories published a strongly-worded report in New York on October 26, 2017, the resulting media silence was deafening. Michael Lynk, a Canadian professor of law and a human rights expert, called on the world to hold Israel accountable for fundamental violations of international law during fifty years of occupation. This was especially timely with the 100-year anniversary of the Balfour Declaration that effectively stole Palestine from the Palestinians who were 'ethnically cleansed' from the land that became the state of Israel.
Lynk encouraged the international community to take 'unified actions on an escalating basis' to declare the occupation illegal and to demand Israel's withdrawal. Gaza, he said, was 'in misery', and Israel's continued illegal occupation of the West Bank and east Jerusalem was a 'darkening stain'. Despite the seriousness of these charges, and their authoritative UN source, we could not find a single mention in the UK press or on the BBC News website. Scholars in the future will marvel at this stunning media obedience to Western power, obtained without visible coercion.

'An Existential Threat To Our Civilisation'

Undoubtedly, what will appal future historians most is that the urgent calamitous risks of human-induced climate change were well known, but that nothing was done to stop the looming chaos. Worse than that: powerful private business, financial and economic elites, and the governments they had essentially co-opted, forged ahead with policies that accelerated the climate crisis.
The evidence has already been unequivocal for many years. In November 2017, a comprehensive review of climate science by thirteen US federal agencies concluded in a 477-page report that evidence of global warming was 'stronger than ever'. They said that it was 'extremely likely' – meaning with 95 to 100% certainty – that global warming is human-induced, mostly from carbon dioxide emissions from the burning of coal, oil and natural gas.
One climate scientist said:
'A lot of what we've been learning over the last four years suggests the possibility that things may have been more serious than we think.'
The language was couched in typical scientific caution. But the horror at what was unfolding was surely not far from the surface of academics' minds.
And yet, in a further sign of the short-term insanity that drives state and corporate policy, governments continued to channel huge sums of public money into planet-killing industries. European states, including the UK government, gave more than €112bn (£99bn) every year in subsidies to support fossil fuel production and consumption.
In 2016, gas companies spent €104m in intensive lobbying campaigns to try to encourage European policymakers to accept the myth that natural gas is a 'clean fuel' in an attempt to 'lock in' fossil fuels for decades to come. Moreover, fossil fuel companies lobbied hard behind the scenes of the Paris climate talks, as well as follow-up negotiations, to manipulate outcomes in their private favour. After all, cynical corporate madness has no boundaries when profits are the overriding concern. Absurdly, the text of the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change did not even include the words 'fossil fuels'. Scientists warned that fossil fuel burning is set to hit a record high in 2017.
Meanwhile, it has been reported that 2017 is set to be one of the top three hottest years on record, according to the World Meteorological Organization. The WMO also noted that atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide have 'surged at unprecedented speed' to the highest level in 800,000 years 
The signs of ecological breakdown are all around us. Last month, a new study revealed that the abundance of flying insects has plunged by three-quarters over the past 25 years. The results had 'shocked scientists'. This matters hugely because flying insects are, of course, a vital component of a healthy ecosystem upon which we are crucially dependent for food, water and oxygen. Robert Hunziker observes succinctly that this ecosystem, 'the quintessential essence of life on our planet', is breaking down. Our life support system is being destroyed.
One of the many symptoms of this breakdown that is likely to overwhelm human society is mass migration as a result of climate change. Tens of millions of people will be forced to move because of climate disruption in the next decade alone. This flood of human refugees will make the numbers of those who fled the Syrian conflict into Europe look like a trickle.
Sir David King, the former chief scientific adviser to the UK government, said:
'What we are talking about here is an existential threat to our civilisation in the longer term. In the short term, it carries all sorts of risks as well and it requires a human response on a scale that has never been achieved before.'
However, if governments really were motivated to protect the public, as they always claim when amplifying the threat of terrorism, they would have already announced a halt to fossil fuels and a massive conversion to renewable energy. A landmark study recently showed that global pollution kills nine million people a year and threatens the 'survival of human societies'. If terrorism was killing nine million people every year, and the very survival of human society was threatened, the corporate media and politicians would be reacting very differently. But because it's global pollution, merely an economic 'externality', private power can continue on its quest for dominance and profits.
The situation now is truly desperate. We are literally talking about the survival of the human species. There will be those who declare, either with black humour or a morally-suspect flippancy, that 'the planet would be better off without us'. But we surely cannot so casually dismiss the lives and prospects of literally billions of people alive today and their descendants too.
Government policies are driven primarily by short-term political gain and corporate power, so there needs to be a massive public demand for control of the economy towards sustainability. The alternative is no human future. But just at a time when public resistance and radical action are most needed, social media networks owned and controlled by huge corporations are suppressing dissent. A major part of the struggle for human survival, then, will be to overcome the unaccountable media corporations and tech giants that are attempting to define what is deemed 'acceptable' news and commentary.
DC

FBI ‘cannot verify’ Trump Dossier

in 

CONFIRMED: FBI ‘cannot verify’ Trump Dossier

FBI and DoJ admit to Congress their inability to verify Trump Dossier collusion allegations

Perhaps the clearest sign that the Russiagate investigation has run into the sand are reports which circulated over the weekend that the FBI and Department of Justice have informed Congressional investigators that their attempts to verify the collusion allegations in the Trump Dossier have so far failed.
The clearest account of these reports has come from Byron York writing for the Washington Examiner on 19th November 2017
FBI and Justice Department officials have told congressional investigators in recent days that they have not been able to verify or corroborate the substantive allegations of collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign outlined in the Trump dossier….
An August 24, 2017 subpoena from the House Intelligence Committee to the FBI and Justice Department asked for information on the bureau’s efforts to validate the dossier. Specifically, the subpoena demanded “any documents, if they exist, that memorialize DOJ and/or FBI efforts to corroborate, validate, or evaluate information provided by Mr. Steele and/or sub-sources and/or contained in the ‘Trump Dossier.'”
According to sources familiar with the matter, neither the FBI nor the Justice Department has provided documents in response to that part of the committee’s subpoena. But in face-to-face briefings with congressional staff, according to those sources, FBI and DOJ officials have said they cannot verify the dossier’s charges of a conspiracy between the Russian government and the Trump campaign.
(bold italics added)
I have previously said that following the testimony Carter Page recently gave to the House Intelligence Committee it is now incontrovertible fact that the Trump Dossier has provided the frame narrative for the whole Russiagate inquiry.
In an earlier article for the Washington Examiner dated 12th November 2017 Byron York spelled this out in detail, showing the influence the Trump Dossier has had in shaping the Russiagate inquiry, and showing that there is a strong likelihood that it was the document which precipitated it
The FBI opened a counterintelligence investigation into the Trump-Russia affair shortly after receiving the first installment of an anti-Trump dossier from a former British spy working for the Hillary Clinton campaign. What congressional investigators want to know is whether that was a coincidence or not.
The first report in the dossier compiled by former MI6 agent Christopher Steele was dated June 20, 2016.
Steele told the left-leaning publication Mother Jones that he took the first part of his dossier to the FBI “near the start of July.”
James Comey, when he was FBI director, told members of the House Intelligence Committee the Trump-Russia investigation began “in late July.”
So the timeline is: The first dossier report was June 20, Steele approached the FBI near the start of July, and the FBI began its investigation in late July….
The FBI was very interested in Steele’s report, according to Mother Jones’ David Corn, who was personally briefed by Steele:
The former intelligence officer says the response from the FBI was “shock and horror.” The FBI, after receiving the first memo, did not immediately request additional material, according to the former intelligence officer and his American associates. Yet in August, they say, the FBI asked him for all the information in his possession, and for him to explain how the material had been gathered and to identify his sources. The former spy forwarded to the bureau several memos — some of which referred to members of Trump’s inner circle. At that point, he continued to share information with the FBI. “It’s quite clear there was or is a pretty substantial inquiry going on,” he says.
Corn’s report suggested the FBI was surprised by the dossier report’s contents, which in turn suggested the FBI wasn’t already on the case when Steele approached the bureau near the start of July…..
Now, with multiple investigations underway, some officials are trying to reconstruct the events of June through October 2016. Were the allegations in the dossier accurate in the first place? If they were, did involvement go to the highest levels of the Trump campaign? But if they weren’t, was it a situation in which the Clinton campaign, through its hired foreign agent Steele, fed the FBI bad information for the purpose of having it leaked to the press in time to hurt Trump before the election?
In fairness Byron York does also say that part of the initial spur for the investigation may have been the FBI’s detection of the blundering activities of George Papadopoulos and his fictitious attempts to set up a summit meeting between Russian President Putin and then candidate Trump.
Still, there’s one more important factor to be considered in assessing the dossier’s role in the FBI investigation. According to papers released as part of his plea of guilty to lying to investigators, Trump volunteer advisor George Papadopoulos admitted having contacts with possible intermediaries to high-ranked Russians who are said to have offered assistance to the Trump campaign. That happened beginning in March, 2016 and continued for a few months. What is not known is whether the FBI knew about Papadopoulos’ activities as they happened, or whether the bureau found out about them later, and in any event whether or not the Papadopoulos matter was, along with the dossier, part of the FBI’s decision to start a counterintelligence investigation. It does seem clear that the Papadopoulos affair did not prompt the FBI to start a counterintelligence probe in March, or April, or May, or June of 2016.
If Papadopoulos’s activities did have a role in getting the Russiagate investigation started – which by the way I strongly doubt – then that leg of the Russiagate investigation has also collapsed, with the indictment against Papadopoulos making no reference to the collusion allegations and proving a damp squib.
That the FBI gave the Trump Dossier far too much credence, and is becoming increasingly embarrassed because of that fact, is incidentally also indicated by something else Byron York writes: that getting information out of Fusion-GPS and the FBI about the Trump Dossier is proving to be extremely difficult
…….Congress is trying to uncover the dossier story — what did the FBI do to try to verify it? Did agents use it as a basis for seeking wiretaps? — but getting information out of the FBI, as well as Fusion GPS, has been like pulling teeth, even after a House subpoena.
Ultimately more will become public. But if the past months have shown anything, it is that the FBI will not reveal its secrets, even to its legitimate congressional overseers, without a fight.
(bold italics added)
I would say in passing that this information completely vindicates the article the Creation of Russiagate by Joe Lauria which The Duran has published and which was also published in a slightly earlier form by Consortium News, but which the Huff Post disgracefully took down after it was up on its site for a few hours.
It also incidentally substantiates a claim I made in an article for The Duran on 24th June 2017, which was that the early entries of the Trump Dossier were almost certainly the ‘intelligence’ the CIA sent to President Obama in August 2016, which supposedly ‘conclusively confirmed’ that the Russians on President Putin’s orders were meddling in the US election.
The fact that – as Byron York shows – the  early entries of the Trump Dossier were being circulated throughout the US intelligence community in August 2016 all but confirms that this was the ‘intelligence’ referred to.
I will here express my own bafflement.  From the moment I first read the Trump Dossier I realised that it was essentially a fabrication.  I have also pointed out that the whole picture of the Russian government’s decision making process which it gives is an absurd one.
detailed fact-check of the Trump Dossier’s individual allegations made by the Russian Explainer has shown that those allegations which can be proved to be true were – with one explainable exception – previously reported by the Russian media, whilst those which cannot be proved to be true are more often than not simply too farfetched to be true.
That this strange document or collection of documents should ever have been taken seriously by the CIA, the FBI, the Justice Department, the US intelligence community, the US Congress, the US media, and indeed the whole US governing class, is nothing short of astonishing.
That they did so shows how staggeringly ill-informed about Russia they have become, which makes one wonder what all the tens of billions of US taxpayers’ dollars which are being spent on the US intelligence services to get information about Russia are being used for?
That sixteen months after its first entries began to circulate the credibility of this strange document is finally collapsing is a relief.  However it is also an appalling indictment of the state of the US’s intelligence agencies and of the remarkable faith so many people seem to have in them.
Meanwhile there are signs that those whose credibility is tied up with the Trump Dossier are becoming nervous.
As Byron York points out, Representative Adam Schiff – the Democrats’ point man in the Russiagate inquiry and their most aggressive advocate in the House Intelligence Committee – is starting to shift his position, and instead of saying that the specific allegations are true, is now saying that what it got was the “broad picture” right
The biggest thing that I think people need to realize about the dossier is that Christopher Steele discovered that the Russians were embarked on a broad effort to help the Trump campaign before our own intelligence agencies came to the same conclusion. In the broadest outline of what he investigated, he proved more than prescience — he proved accurate in terms of the Russian involvement and what their motivations were.
(bold italics added)
Needless to say a document which only provides a “broad outline” cannot be used to prove anything in legal proceedings.  As evidence, it is worthless.
Even Christopher Steele – increasingly besieged by court cases brought by people who say he has libelled them – now admits that he thinks the Trump Dossier is only “70-90%” true.
To which one can only ask what in that case is the 10-30% of the Trump Dossier which Christopher Steele no longer thinks is true?
Does it include Donald Trump’s sex orgy in Moscow’s Ritz Carlton hotel, or Rosneft chief Sechin’s offer to Carter Page to make him a billionaire?
Both are central claims made by the Trump Dossier, but neither of them looks to be true.
The other big question is: what happens next?  Ultimately the answer lies with the Justice Department and with Congress.  Will they continue to insist on an investigation based on an obviously concocted document which is becoming discredited?  Or will they finally face up to the truth – that the entire investigation is a nonsense – and finally act to close it down?

Lebanon sees off Saudi blackmail

Saad Hariri returns to Lebanon as PM – Lebanon sees off Saudi blackmail

Lebanon has shown political maturity and national resilience in the face of childish blackmail.

Saad Hariri has returned to Beirut where he has been greeting as the country’s Prime Minister. He has held a meeting with Lebanese President Michel Aoun during which he was persuaded not to officially resign as Prime Minister. Aoun has never accepted the legitimacy of Hariri’s forced resignation from Saudi soil and while Hariri was prepared to formally resign in Beirut, he will now look to preserve the existing coalition made up of parties from the broadly pro-Syrian March 8 Alliance as well as members of the broadly pro-western/pro-Saudi March 14 alliance which is led by Hariri’s Future Movement. Due to Lebanon’s fractious history, the country’s Premier must be a Sunni Muslim, its President a Christian (usually a Maronite) while the Parliamentary speaker must be a Shi’a Muslim.
The fact that a political process has triumphed over clear attempts at blackmail from Riyadh, represents a pan-Lebanese victory over forces which have tried to leverage extreme wealth and a de-facto close relationship with the Israeli regime, in attempts to foment another major crisis in Lebanon, though exploiting Lebanon’s sectarian composition. This time it didn’t work as countries ranging from Iran to many EU powers, all called for the peaceful return of Saad Hariri.
While Hariri has lost some credibility due to being bamboozled by Saudi Arabia, while still not publicly confessing to the true nature of events in public, he has also became an accidental symbol of Lebanese resilience, insofar as politicians from parties who oppose Hariri’s policies rallied around the constitutional order which demanded the return of an effectively kidnapped head of government.
If Hariri continues to utter statements made from Saudi soil that he will not accept a coalition which includes Hezbollah, chances are he may eventually be replaced as Prime Minister. However, there remains an equal possibility that he may simply step back into his old role with the existing and stills table coalition. As his children remain on Saudi soil, it is not clear how freely he feels he is able to speak at this point.
Throughout the Hariri ordeal, the clear political winners have been President Michel Aoun of the Maronite Christian Future Movement, as well as Lebanese Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri of the Shi’a Amal Movement and Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah. All three men rallied around a united front during the crisis, vowing to continue the work of the coalition government.
For today, Hariri is sitting beside Aoun celebrating Lebanon’s Independence Day from France, a country which ironically appears to have secured Hariri’s own independence from his detention in Saudi Arabia.
Multi-party talks are expected to resume soon which will ultimately clarify whether Hariri still intends to continue as Prime Minister. In the immediate term though, Lebanon has pulled together at a time when Saudi Arabia and Israel sought to pull it apart. This says a great deal about the maturity of contemporary Lebanon and about the immaturity of its enemies.