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The white-Left Part 1: The two meanings of white

Monday, July 31, 2017

In racist rant, Trump endorses Freddie Gray style police murders

White nationalism put Donald Trump in the White House. He is there because he could rally sufficient support from members of the US working class who think they are better than everyone else because their skin, while not white, is lighter everyone else's. Since US capitalism got to where it is today by exploiting that delusion, and Trump has learned that lesson well, it's not surprising that after what has been the worst week of his young presidency, he turns to promoting racism as his default fallback position.

Thus ended a week in which children heard profanity from his White House, his press secretary quit, his Chief of Staff was fired, the Boy Scouts apologized for him, his top generals dissed his anti-transgender tweets, and his key campaign goal of killing the Affordable Care Act, which he calls ObamaCare for racist reasons, took a major hit. After a week like that, Trump doesn't go to Disneyland; he goes to the Van Nostrand Theatre in Ronkonkoma, New York to give a "law and order" speech on the notorious Salvadoran MS-13 gang to a group of cops. In a often practised fascist technique, he used their ugly crimes to justify what was essentially a racist rant:
They kidnap. They extort. They rape and they rob, they stomp on their victims. They beat them with clubs, they slash them with machetes, and they stab them with knives. They have transformed peaceful parks and beautiful quiet neighborhoods into bloodstained killing fields. They're animals
According to Homeland Security Special Agent in Charge Angel M. Melendez, MS-13 was responsible for 11 murders, including two young girls in Brentwood, on Long Island in the past year. That is bad but it is far from "bloodstained killing fields." Long Island crime is at a 50 year low, but Trump needs this hyperbole because he doesn't want anyone to object when he calls them "animals." He does this repeatedly throughout this speech and it is central to the racist nature of the speech. Even the worst human that ever lived, say Adolph Hitler, is still a human being, but racism demands dehumanization. The hated people must be expelled from the human race. It's suppose to be okay because he is only talking about a despicable violent immigrant gang, but many of his supporters will apply it to all people of color. Many of his supporters want to rid the United States of any people they consider non-white, and this includes Jews, by any means necessary, and Trump knows that.

Since it is important that this end goal not be revealed too early, he has largely limited this hateful rhetoric to deporting Latinos [I know illegals from Britain and New Zealand. They are not too worried.] in the name of fighting "these MS-13 thugs" and banning Muslims, in the name of fighting "radical Islamic terrorism," another applause line from his speech.

Donald Trump may be mad but he's not stupid. He undoubtedly knows that by targeting all Muslims, he is actually strengthening the hand of the "radical Islamic terrorism" he is claiming to fight by alienating all Muslims, and he knows his attack on sanctuary cities and police policy that does not aim at deporting every undocumented Latino, gives cover and support for the growth of these gangs in the besieged communities. He's okay with that because his real target is not the gangs or the terrorists. As excuses for genocidal policy, their growth is welcomed because the real targets are those communities of color. They won't be needed in the age of uber automation. So while the fire in this speech was focused on the one gang, he clearly has a broader target in mind:
It is the policy of this administration to dismantle, decimate and eradicate MS-13 at every other — and I have to say, MS-13, that’s a name; rough groups — that’s fine. We got a lot of others.
Then he turns to the question of the method he plans to use to "dismantle, decimate and eradicate...rough groups," and after condemning these "rough guys" because:
They stomp on their victims. They beat them with clubs. They slash them with machetes, and they stab them with knives. 
Trump made a point of bragging that his guys are tougher:
But I said, hey, [ICE Director] Tom [Homan], let me ask you a question — how tough are these guys, MS-13? He said, they’re nothing compared to my guys. Nothing. And that’s what you need. Sometimes that’s what you need, right?
Another applause line. Does he mean his guys are tougher because while they also stomp on their victims and beat them with clubs, they forego machetes and knives in favor of firearms?

Then this comment gives us a clue about his final destination:
Look at Los Angeles. Look at what’s going on in Los Angeles. Look at Chicago. What is going on? Is anybody here from Chicago? We have to send some of you to Chicago, I think.
This was after he talked about how happy he was to distribute "used military equipment" to the police while bragging that he was going to "support our police like our police have never been supported before." Apparently what he meant by that was unprecedented presidential support for illegal and unconstitutional police brutality, as we were shortly to discover. But first...

What is MS-13?

The way Trump talked about MS-13, you might think it is a criminal gang that has invaded the US from El Salvador, and this is a problem that he will solve by deporting the gang members and building a wall to keep them out. The reality is quite different. The fact is that MS-13 was created in the US and only later exported to El Salvador. Writing about MS-13 in The Atlantic, J Weston Phippen says:
MS-13 was founded in Los Angeles by young Salvadoran migrants, but in the 1990s the United States deported tens of thousands of undocumented gang members back to Central America. There are now believed to be more than 70,000 members in Central American countries like Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador.
In other words, this gang problem bears the label "Made in the USA," no doubt aided by the discriminatory conditions immigrants face in the US after they have been driven out of countries like Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador by wars and economic conditions the US had a big role in fostering. It was also aided by an earlier, less enlightened, police policy that often led to the deportation of immigrants just for reporting gang activity. MS-13 became an international gang problem because the US attempted to solve what was fundamentally a domestic problem not by imprisoning and attempting to reform the criminals, but by expelling them but leaving them free to practise their criminal ways internationally.

Trump likes to surround himself with generals because they are killers

Rodrigo Duterte, who is now the president of the Philippines, has organized civilian death squads and bragged about murdering criminals personally. Between the beginning of Duterte's "War on Drugs" on 1 July 2016 and 23 April 2017 a total of 7,080 people [some would say "animals"] have been killed by police and vigilante-style or unexplained killings. He also called Obama a "son of a whore." This is Trump's kind of guy, which is why he has overruled any human rights objections to invite him to the White House. Trump may not yet be advocating extrajudicial killings and death squads, like his new best buddy Duterte, but Friday night he took a big step down that road when endorsed the kind of illegal police abuse that can and has caused the death of those in police custody even before they are found guilty of any crime, as was the case with Freddie Gray, and many thought of Freddie Gray when they heard the president tell the police officers of the United States:
when you see these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon — you just see them thrown in, rough — I said, please don’t be too nice. (Laughter.) Like when you guys put somebody in the car and you’re protecting their head, you know, the way you put their hand over? Like, don’t hit their head and they’ve just killed somebody — don’t hit their head. I said, you can take the hand away, okay? (Laughter and applause.)

I have included the video so that you can hear for yourself the laughter and applause the president's suggestion of illegal police abuse provoked. Oh, how it cuts through all the BS about our honorable "law enforcement officers."

The phrase "paddy wagon" is itself a racist term that harkens back to the days before the Irish were considered "white." Paddy was a derogatory term for Irish, and the horse drawn wagons used to transport what was claimed to be a largely Irish criminal class became known as paddy wagons in the mid-1800s. After such wagons were used much in the arrest of Irish anti-draft rioters in New York City during the Civil War, the term became popularized.  Many of these laughing cops are from Irish backgrounds. Did they catch the irony of what they were laughing about? Or were they too busy thinking about Freddie Gray when they were laughing?

To recap - In case you don't know who Freddie Gray was:

Doug Donovan and Mark Puente wrote in The Baltimore Sun 23 April 2015:
When a handcuffed Freddie Gray was placed in a Baltimore police van on April 12, he was talking and breathing. When the 25-year-old emerged, "he could not talk and he could not breathe," according to one police official, and he died a week later of a spinal injury.

But Gray is not the first person to come out of a Baltimore police wagon with serious injuries.

Relatives of Dondi Johnson Sr., who was left a paraplegic after a 2005 police van ride, won a $7.4 million verdict against police officers. A year earlier, Jeffrey Alston was awarded $39 million by a jury after he became paralyzed from the neck down as the result of a van ride. Others have also received payouts after filing lawsuits.

For some, such injuries have been inflicted by what is known as a "rough ride" — an "unsanctioned technique" in which police vans are driven to cause "injury or pain" to unbuckled, handcuffed detainees, former city police officer Charles J. Key testified as an expert five years ago in a lawsuit over Johnson's subsequent death.
This is where the latest White House excuse for Trump's statement originated.

A Philadelphia Inquirer investigation into the practise in that city published in 2001 reported:
Top commanders acknowledge that rough rides are an enduring tradition in the department. The practice even has a name - "nickel ride," a term that harks back to the days when amusement-park rides cost 5 cents. An Inquirer investigation documented injuries to 20 people tossed around in wagons in recent years. Thompson was one of three who suffered spinal injuries, and one of two permanently paralyzed.
The New York Times wrote about the phrase 'rough ride':
The slang terms mask a dark tradition of police misconduct in which suspects, seated or lying face down and in handcuffs in the back of a police wagon, are jolted and battered by an intentionally rough and bumpy ride that can do as much damage as a police baton without an officer having to administer a blow.
This is the deadly illegal police "technique" that US President Trump just sanctioned!

What Trump's policy looks like on the ground

1 of 4 bars raided Saturday night
Over the weekend Suffolk County police targeted four bars they said were frequented by MS-13 gang members at about 1:15am Saturday. They have not reported the arrest of any MS-13 members as a result of these raids. In fact, only one of the five men arrested was even in the country illegally. This reveals who the real targets are, but judging by their laughter at the president's "joke," they probably enjoyed giving Long Island Latino bar patrons a rough time on a Saturday night.

Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!

Click here for my posts on the 2016 US Election
Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria
Click here for a list of my other blogs on Libya

Monday, July 24, 2017

Free Syria joins flags of the world on Venice Beach

For more than a year now, Punya has been bringing his world flag display and drum circle to Venice Beach. Every Sunday, he and a few volunteers put up a display of more than 200 flags in the sand. The flags represent 189 members of the United Nations and all 50 states of the United States. They also host a drum circle that plays til sunset.

A few weeks ago Punya moved the display to the north end of Venice Beach, my neighborhood, so this Sunday I bought him a new flag. I explained how it was different from the Syrian flag he already had on display. I explain that this was the flag of Syrian revolution, and is flown by those that are fighting both the Assad Regime and the Islamic State. He was happy to add it to the display.  

The flag in Syria
More Pictures of the World Flags Display on Venice Beach
Free Syria Flag

Drum Dance Pray 4 World Peace: Website  Facebook

Drum Dance Pray 4 World Peace | 29 August 2016

Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!

Click here for my posts on the 2016 US Election
Click here for a list of my other blogs on Syria
Click here for a list of my other blogs on Libya

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Attorney Glenn Greenwald @ggreenwald joins Trump defense team

As more of the inside story of the 2016 US election is becoming known, it is becoming increasing clear that Russian President Vladimir Putin mobilized forces at his disposal to help get Donald Trump elected president of the United States. It is also becoming increasingly clear that the Trump campaign invited and supported this nefarious Russian intervention into the US election, and worked in concert with the Russian efforts.

This Russian effort, and the Trump campaign collusion with it, has long been suspected, but short on evidence available to the public. As this situation develops; this is starting to change. Of course there was the CrowdStrike report on the Russian hacking of the DNC servers, but the technical details in it are beyond the understanding of most people, and since it was paid for by the Democratic National Committee, it could easily be dismissed by its critics.

Not so easy to dismiss was the intelligence report on the Russian hacking of US election infrastructure leaked to The Intercept by Reality Winner.  In publishing the report, The Intercept summarized:
RUSSIAN MILITARY INTELLIGENCE executed a cyberattack on at least one U.S. voting software supplier and sent spear-phishing emails to more than 100 local election officials just days before last November’s presidential election, according to a highly classified intelligence report obtained by The Intercept.

The top-secret National Security Agency document, which was provided anonymously to The Intercept and independently authenticated, analyzes intelligence very recently acquired by the agency about a months-long Russian intelligence cyber effort against elements of the U.S. election and voting infrastructure. The report, dated May 5, 2017, is the most detailed U.S. government account of Russian interference in the election that has yet come to light.
Even less easy to dismiss has been the email chain released by Donald Trump Jr. in which he express his love for the idea that the Russian government had gathered damaging material on Hillary Clinton and was sending a lawyer to discuss the best way to get this "opposition research" to them and the best time to use it. Since that bombshell release, Trump and his supporters have been scrambling to do damage control, and a big part of that damage control has been an attempt to normalized the Trump campaign behavior vis a vis Russia. Monday morning the president tweeted out:

A day earlier, one of Trump's lawyers, Jay Sekulow was making the rounds on the Sunday talk show circuit with statements like:
“There was nothing in that meeting that is illegal, against the law,” on Fox News Sunday.

“I mean, opposition research in campaigns happens all the time,” to CBS’s John Dickerson.
Earlier last week, Glenn Greenwald, one of the founders of The Intercept, reminded everyone that he is also an attorney; saying "as a lawyer, I know this really well," when he was on Democracy Now making the same arguments in defense of Trump in a segment he did with Amy Goodman called Donald Trump Jr.'s Emails Aren't a "Smoking Gun" or Evidence of Criminal Collusion.

Jay Sekulow, and other members of the Trump defense team are arguing that Donald Junior did nothing wrong in getting dirt on his opposition wherever he found it. "He did nothing wrong" and "This happens all the time." Then they claim Clinton and the Democrats did the same thing by going to Ukraine and Russia for dirt on the Trump campaign. "So what's the difference?"

Sekulow can do the Sunday talk show circuit, but he could never come on Democracy Now and peddle this crap to a progressive audience, so it's Glenn Greenwald to the rescue. He is interviewed by Amy and he makes exactly the same arguments. This is convenient for me since I can now address Trump's attorney's arguments by critiquing Greenwald. I suppose this infamous Left-Right convergence does have its advantages after all.

As Greenwald creeps up on what has emerged as the main defense argument, he says:
Now, I guess there’s some sense that it’s wrong for a political campaign to take dirt on your adversary from a foreign government. I don’t think it’s illegal at all to do that, but there’s a claim that it’s somehow sort of immoral.

And here’s what I don’t understand. The Steele dossier that everybody got excited about, that claimed that the Russians had incriminating videos of Trump in a Moscow hotel and other dirt on Trump, that came from somebody who was getting first paid by Republicans and then by Democrats, going to Moscow and getting dirt about Donald Trump from Kremlin-affiliated agents in Moscow. In other words, he went to Russia, talked to people affiliated with the Russian government and said, "Give me dirt about Donald Trump," and then, presumably, got it and put it in the memo. Similarly, there’s an amazing Politico article from January of this year that describes how allies of the Clinton campaign, including somebody being paid by the DNC, met with officials of the Ukrainian government, which was desperate to help Hillary Clinton win and Donald Trump lose, and get information incriminating about Trump from Ukrainian officials. In other words, Ukraine was meddling in our election by giving Democrats incriminating information about Trump.
In other words "nothing new to see here." Both Greenwald and Sekulow want to put us to sleep. They want us to believe that nothing new, unusual, and very dangerous happened in the 2016 US election. Now that emerging facts make denying Russian involvement unfeasible, the new line of defense is that Trump and Russia did nothing wrong or even that unusual.

The two talking points Sekulow and the Republicans have marshaled in their claim that the Democrats did the same thing are the "Steele dossier," and the "Politico article."

The Steele dossier is opposition research on Trump, much of it done in Russia, by British ex-spy Christopher Steele. As Greenwald said, he was "first paid by Republicans and then by Democrats," to go to Moscow, talk to Russians and get dirt on Trump. He went to Moscow because that's where the dirt was. Trump has done a lot of shady business deals with Russians over the years. So far the Steele dossier has held up. Many parts of it have been independently proven, and no part of it has been disproven.

The Politico article refers to a piece they ran in January that "describes how allies of the Clinton campaign, including somebody being paid by the DNC, met with officials of the Ukrainian government," accord to Greenwald. This how Jay Sekulow was using it on ABC News Sunday:
We know for a fact, as was reported extensively in an investigative journalist piece by Politico, that the Ukrainians were in direct contact (ph) with DNC officials and traded information back and forth. 
The Politico article is best used in passing reference, as these two Trump defense attorneys do here, because to go into too much detail will expose their attempts to compare a mountain to a mole hill. Remember Russian support for Trump was much more than the information to be traded at this meeting. It included all the material gathered from the DNC servers and John Podesta's email and given to Wikileaks. It included the support of Russia's extensive social media network of live agents and bots, and it included very open and active support for the anti-Clinton campaign of Jill Stein from Russian media organizations RT and Sputnik. Even Politico says of its new revelations "they were far less concerted or centrally directed than Russia’s alleged hacking and dissemination of Democratic emails." Even that is overstating the article's case. The first two counts in its "indictment" are:
Ukrainian government officials tried to help Hillary Clinton and undermine Trump by publicly questioning his fitness for office. They also disseminated documents implicating a top Trump aide in corruption and suggested they were investigating the matter...
There are good reasons why many people have questioned Trump's fitness for office; and I would remind all these Trump supporters that Ukrainian government officials retain "freedom of speech" as a human right; although I don't think their opinions have much effect on US elections. They don't even have an RT.com. They also retain the right to investigate corruption in Ukraine even when it involves prominent US citizens. Was the timing of that investigation politically motivated? Possibly, but saying they forced the resignation of Manafort is playing the "blame the messenger" game. "The Ukrainian efforts had an impact in the race, helping to force Manafort’s resignation," as the Politico article states, only because the charges of corruption were well founded.

The juiciest charge the Politico article makes is that:
A Ukrainian-American operative who was consulting for the Democratic National Committee met with top officials in the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington in an effort to expose ties between Trump, top campaign aide Paul Manafort and Russia, according to people with direct knowledge of the situation.
That sounds very sinister. Uri Freidman looked into this charge for The Atlantic, 13 July, 2017. This is what he reported:
As a paid consultant to the Democratic National Committee, [Ukrainian American political operative Alexandra] Chalupa was tasked with something unrelated to Ukraine: helping the party reach out to various ethnic groups in the United States. But during her time in that role, which ended after the Democratic convention in July, she was also immersed in a side project: investigating Paul Manafort, Trump’s onetime campaign chairman, and the work he did advising the former pro-Russian Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. Politico reports that as part of this effort, Chalupa cultivated a network of sources in Ukraine and the United States, including “investigative journalists, government officials, and private intelligence operatives.” She “occasionally shared her findings with officials from the DNC and Clinton’s campaign” and voiced her concerns about Manafort’s Russia ties with Ukraine’s ambassador to the United States, Valeriy Chaly, during a meeting at the Ukrainian Embassy.
According to the Politico article this research was not used by the Clinton campaign:
A DNC official stressed that Chalupa was a consultant paid to do outreach for the party’s political department, not a researcher. She undertook her investigations into Trump, Manafort and Russia on her own, and the party did not incorporate her findings in its dossiers on the subjects...
So was Ukraine "meddling in our election by giving Democrats incriminating information about Trump," as Greenwald charges? Leaving aside the error that the Ukrainian information was about Manafort not Trump, was this "meddling?" And BTW, throughout his presentation Greenwald introduces a myriad of lawyerly like shifted definitions and alternative facts that feel too tedious to call out at every turn. Like when he says a "special prosecutor" was appointed, Mueller really is a less powerful "special counsel" that Trump can fire at will. I'm sure Attorney at Law Greenwald knows the difference. Or when he describes Chalupa as "somebody being paid by the DNC [that] met with officials of the Ukrainian government." Technically true, but about as honest as saying this blog post was written by someone being paid [for unrelated services] by a certain IT company. Some people have lives after the job. Or when he complains about "bits and pieces of information leaked through the media," when the subject at hand is an email chain made public by Donald Junior himself.

Now that Greenwald's earlier defense that "there is no evidence" of Russian meddling in our election is starting to rot, he is trying to sell us on an overbroad definition of "meddling" that is at the heart of this false parallel between Trump-Russia and Clinton-Ukraine that "has been ricocheting across right-wing media in recent days, advanced by Trump aides such as Sebastian Gorka and Sarah Sanders and commentators like Rush Limbaugh and Kayleigh McEnany," according to The Atlantic. We can now add Glenn Greenwald and Democracy Now to this distinguished company.

Answering questions put to you honestly and openly does not constitute "meddling." If I become suspicious of my partner, and go to my neighbor asking it he has seen any unusual comings and goings in my absence, and he tells me what he knows. That is not meddling. If, on the other hand, my neighbor comes to me, unsolicited, with tales of what he considers suspicious comings and goings in my absence, that is meddling. When the Russian lawyer approached the Trumps with opposition research collected by the Russian government on Clinton's activities in the US that they never asked for - that was meddling. If they did ask for it - that was collusion.

Greenwald continues on Democracy Now:
Now, I, personally, although it’s dirty, think all of these events are sort of the way politics works. Of course if you’re in an important campaign and someone offers you incriminating information about your opponent, you’re going to want it no matter where it comes from, whether it’s Ukrainian officials, whether it’s anti-Trump people in Moscow or whether it’s pro-Trump people in Moscow. So, I want to hear the standard that we’re supposed to use to assess Trump Jr.'s actions. Is it that it's wrong in all cases to get incriminating information about your opponent from a foreign government? In which case, why is it OK for the Democrats to do it with Ukrainian officials or for their investigator to go to Moscow and get dirt on Trump?
There is a big difference between going out and gathering information, and being offered information that has been gathered at someone else's expense. This is the difference Greenwald and the Trump people are trying to obscure. It is not about where the dirt comes from. It is a question of who pays to dig up the dirt so that it can be served up on a silver platter.

It's one things for a US political party to pay investigators to dig up dirt on an opponent, even if they get it in Russia or Ukraine. It's quite another thing when Russia pays "investigators" to dig up dirt on a US politician's dealings in the US, so that they can make a gift of the work product of that "investigation" to the politician's opposition. This is true even if that work product is entirely the result of legal information search methods. Hacking introduces a whole other layer. Journalists have a public interest 1st Amendment right to publish stolen emails, but political campaigns have been successfully sued for misusing mailing lists. They may not share a newspaper's protection when it comes to receiving stolen files. Greenwald continues:
Or is it some other standard that distinguishes what Trump Jr. did in this case versus what Democrats did with the Steele dossier and with Ukraine? And I just don’t see this distinction. 
If he was being paid to be Trump's lawyer I could understand why he doesn't see the distinction. Since he is apparently doing this pro bono, allow me to explain.

In one case, because Trump had shady dealings in Russia, and Manafort had shady dealings for Russian interests in Ukraine, the investigation by opposition researchers went to those places for information on those dealings. Presumably, in this case, it is the candidate that is paying the cost of collecting this opposition research, either by paying Steele's firm, or paying people to making trips and ask questions. Remember this last charge is denied by the Democrats, Greenwald still needs to prove that DNC officials talked to Ukrainian government officials about Manafort. The Politico article doesn't claim that.

In the other case, a Russian government agent representing troves of information illegally obtained about an opposition candidate, is pro-actively seeking to provide that information, for which they have paid the costs of collection, however that information was collected, and not in exchange for direct cash payment like say Steele, or some other firm a campaign might hire for opposition research, but for other considerations that can only be provided if the candidate wins.

Why Attorney Greenwald fails to see the value of information

All of Trump's defense counsel know that Donald Junior's greatest legal jeopardy in relationship to these contacts could come if he is charged with breaking campaign finance laws that make it a crime to accept anything of value from a foreign government, so Attorney Greenwald is quick to assert that there is also nothing of value to see here:
AMY GOODMAN: —breaking campaign finance laws or campaign laws that have to do with getting something of value, not necessarily financial, from a foreign entity, a state or nonstate actor.

GLENN GREENWALD: Right. And there’s, I think, a lot more lawyers and a lot more campaign finance lawyers who have said that just getting information about a candidate would not constitute something of value.
Greenwald must have not seen Oliver Stone's Wall Street. Remember Gordon Gekko: "The most valuable commodity I know of is information." This is no less true in real world politics, especially when it costs money to gather the information, but apparently that is not the case in Greenwald's world.

First Republicans and then Democrats, paid Steele to do his investigation. Did his report then "not constitute something of value?" If instead Russia had paid him, or someone like him, to investigate Trump, and then turned the "information" they got for their money over to the Clinton campaign, would not they be guilty of breaking campaign finance laws?

Fortunately, for the sake of argument, Greenwald is willing to pretend information has value:
But let’s assume that that’s true. Let’s take that theory as though it’s true. Why doesn’t it also apply then to the person working for Democrats who went to Moscow and got something of value, namely information about Trump, from Kremlin-connected people in Moscow, or Democrats, including someone working for the DNC, who got something of value from Ukrainian officials? 
Because the person who went to Moscow was "working for the Democrats," who were also presumably paying for the trip. Greenwald doesn't understand the labor theory of value. Gold buried in the ground has no value. It must be found, dug up, and refined. That takes a lot of work and that makes it very valuable. Same concept applies to information. It has no value until it is made available. Google itself is the source of very little information. It makes billions by making otherwise inaccessible information available to the world. Greenwald asks again:
Why isn’t that the same thing?
Information is valuable precisely because it costs money or labor to obtain, so it makes a world of difference whether it is US citizens or the Russian government that is paying for the collection of information, even legal research, let alone hacked files, to be used by any side in the US election.

Also there is a big difference between asking Russians to supply information about what a US politician has been up to in Russia, and asking Russians to supply information about what a US politician has been up to in the United States. The first is called research, the second is called espionage.

No evidence for the Russian hacking?

As the interview with Amy proceeds, it becomes very clear that Greenwald is not thinking like an investigative journalist, but like an attorney, and as an lawyer, what he knows very well is how to careful word a phrase to deceive while at the same time being defensible. He allows that the Donald Junior's emails represent new evidence:
It does lend some credence to the possibility that the Trump administration colluded with the Russians criminally, meaning with their hacking of the DNC and Podesta emails, if in fact the Russians did that as the intelligence agencies claim, although they’ve produced no evidence for it.
Of course, Greenwald doesn't know what the intelligence agencies have produced, he is talking about what they have made public, and even though he questions the credibility of these intelligence agencies, he seeks to limit the question to evidence made public by them.

One thing that Glenn Greenwald doesn't seem to get is that "the intelligence agencies" however you may define them, are not necessarily the sharpest tools in the shed when it comes to cybersecurity and cybercrime. We can all see what a stellar job they have done at protecting government documents from hackers that would send them to Wikileaks, and what a bang-up job they have done at rolling up hacker groups like Anonymous. That is why they so often rely on private firms that specialize in investigating cyber breaches, and hire IT contractors for more money than they are allowed to pay employees.

Sometimes fiction follows the real world, as in the case of Penelope Garcia, the FBI's quirky computer guru in the long running TV series "Criminal Minds." In the series' backstory, she got the job because she hacked the FBI computers, and then was able to trade on her expertise to turn a jail sentence into a job. This is a deal that has been struck by more than one real world hacker when caught, because they possess mad skills the FBI is badly in need of.

So while attorney Glenn Greenwald may find it opportune to stand on the narrow ground of what he might consider "evidence" produced by "the intelligence agencies," there is a wealth of evidence publically available and produced by independent investigators that know their craft well that says the Russian government was behind the hacking of the DNC servers.

The CrowdStrike report, Bears in the Midst: Intrusion into the Democratic National Committee, is probably the most compelling. Describing their work for the DNC in the report, they say:
CrowdStrike Services Inc., our Incident Response group, was called by the Democratic National Committee (DNC), the formal governing body for the US Democratic Party, to respond to a suspected breach. We deployed our IR team and technology and immediately identified two sophisticated adversaries on the network – COZY BEAR and FANCY BEAR. We’ve had lots of experience with both of these actors attempting to target our customers in the past and know them well. In fact, our team considers them some of the best adversaries out of all the numerous nation-state, criminal and hacktivist/terrorist groups we encounter on a daily basis. Their tradecraft is superb, operational security second to none and the extensive usage of ‘living-off-the-land’ techniques enables them to easily bypass many security solutions they encounter. In particular, we identified advanced methods consistent with nation-state level capabilities including deliberate targeting and ‘access management’ tradecraft – both groups were constantly going back into the environment to change out their implants, modify persistent methods, move to new Command & Control channels and perform other tasks to try to stay ahead of being detected. Both adversaries engage in extensive political and economic espionage for the benefit of the government of the Russian Federation and are believed to be closely linked to the Russian government’s powerful and highly capable intelligence services.
The CrowdStrike report pointed to a massive hacking effort that required hundreds of skilled operators with a lot of computing power and bandwidth, the kind of effort that pointed to a state actor. To computer industry insiders this looks like a massive effort. To those less knowledgeable about the IT industry like Donald Trump it could have just as easily been a "guy sitting on their bed who weighs 400 pounds."

This "lone hacker" theory takes the spotlight off of Russia, and so shortly after the CrowdStrike report came out, an entity using the moniker Guccifer 2.0 claimed to be the lone hacker who stole the DNC files. To prove its authenticity, it release some. Guccifer 2.0 is a fakeout. In its 15 June 2016 Update, it stated:
CrowdStrike stands fully by its analysis and findings identifying two separate Russian intelligence-affiliated adversaries present in the DNC network in May 2016. On June 15, 2016 a blog post to a WordPress site authored by an individual using the moniker Guccifer 2.0 claimed credit for breaching the Democratic National Committee. This blog post presents documents alleged to have originated from the DNC.

Whether or not this posting is part of a Russian Intelligence disinformation campaign, we are exploring the documents’ authenticity and origin. Regardless, these claims do nothing to lessen our findings relating to the Russian government’s involvement, portions of which we have documented for the public and the greater security community.
They also included this in the update:
Below are some additional links to independent articles that have been published since our original blog:
Some commentators have tried to make a big issue out of the fact that the FBI never seized all the DNC servers and inspected them themselves. These are people who have never dealt with a digital breach in the real world. You don't allow the hacker to shut you down by declaring all your servers "evidence" and quarantining them. That's what the FBI meanly does when they want to shut you down. If you have control, first you make an image of the server. That will capture every detail of the server's state after the breach. Then you fix the damage and patch the breach so that you can keep operating, while the forensic investigation is done on images, as many as you need, each a perfect copy of the server's data at the time the image was made. The charge that the DNC refused to turn over its servers to the FBI, in the middle of a presidential campaign is a herring, Republican red.

In The Intercept, 14 December 2016 Sam Biddle tried to discredit the CrowdStrike report, saying:
We should also bear in mind that private security firm CrowdStrike’s frequently cited findings of Russian responsibility were essentially paid for by the DNC, which contracted its services in June. It’s highly unusual for evidence of a crime to be assembled on the victim’s dime.
We are talking about cybercrime. It's not at all unusual for evidence of cybercrime to be assembled by a contract specialist on the crime victims dime. Usually that is the only way it is done. If Sam Biddle didn't know that, then the didn't know what he was talking about. If he did know that, he was being disingenuous. The FBI itself has used CrowdStrike, and in fact CrowdStrike was still under contract with the FBI for "unspecified services" at the time that it did the DNC investigation. TYT Network reported:
According to a US federal government spending database, CrowdStrike’s “period of performance” on behalf of the FBI was between July 2015 and July 2016. CrowdStrike’s findings regarding the DNC server breach — which continue to this day to be cited as authoritative by everyone from former FBI Director James Comey, to NBC anchor Megyn Kelly — were issued in June 2016, when the contract was still active.
The pro-Putin crowd wants to imply that because the DNC paid for the report they got the report they wanted, but it just doesn't work that way. Why work CrowdStrike throw away an excellent reputation and high dollar contracts with the FBI and Fortune 500 by producing a ginned up report? It would be impossible to make one up that could fool professionals. They aren't political and they aren't a PR firm. They make their money by finding the facts and stopping the breaches.

When CrowdStrike revised the number of artillery pieces it said were lost because of the use of Fancy Bear Android malware in tracking Ukrainian field artillery units downwards from 80% to 15%-20% in another CrowdStrike report on Russian hacking in that conflict, the pro-Putin crowd claimed that meant nothing the company ever did could be trusted. That's the way the propaganda war is played these days.

This brings me to another argument against the digital forensic investigation that the pro-Putin people like to bring up: Digital fingerprints can be faked! As if they have made a discovery that nobody doing cyber forensics ever thought of. Yes, counterfeits can be produced. They can also be discovered. Cybercriminals always try to cover their trails, and still they are caught.

What connects this blog post to the last one I published, White nationalists disrupt Santa Monica anti-racist meeting, is the worldwide struggle against white nationalism that is now developing from Santa Monica to Moscow. Those young thugs have chosen to put themselves on the side of Putin and Trump. So, sadly, has Amy Goodman and Glenn Greenwald. They both worked very hard to elect him by promoting progressive votes for Jill Stein, so it should not be surprising that they are now coming out to defend his presidency.

Then there are the rest of us. The fate of humanity will be determined by who wins.

Clay Claiborne

Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!

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Friday, July 14, 2017

White nationalists disrupt Santa Monica anti-racist meeting

Committee for Racial Justice held a workshop on white privilege in at the Virginia Ave Park Center in Santa Monica, CA on Sunday, 9 July 2017. For the first time ever, a group of white nationalists showed up to disrupt the meeting. This is a troubling sign. The fact that they are now willing to invade peaceful meetings even in "The People's Republic of Santa Monica" as it has often been called, and the fact that the group behind this claims more than 160,000 "friends" on their facebook page, attests to the growth of this fascist movement since Trump's presidential victory. The mainstream media has been hiding this development and even Democracy Now has had little to say, so it will be up to us to expose it and fight it.

The CRJ Steering Committee wrote in a follow-up email:
During 6 plus years of monthly workshops, this was the first incident of this kind we have had. Unfortunately, we were inadequately prepared for this one. Clearly we want to be much better prepared for any recurrence in the future, and we want to let you know what steps we have taken and plan to take to that end. We have identified the group that these disrupters represented. The group is called the Red Elephants. They are pro-Trump and obviously racist and anti-Semitic.
I wasn't planning on making a video of the meeting but when I saw what was going on I shot some footage with a little Canon G9X Mark II that I recently purchased and now carry with me everywhere. (It's pocket size.) This is what I produced:

Anti-capitalist and anti-fascist fighters have long worn masks for good reason, and the Occupy movement made the bandana across the face very fashionable, but these bullies weren't hiding there face from the police or the Trump Justice Department. They are hiding their faces for the same cowardly reason the Klu Klux Klan always hides their's. The woman that felt she had to leave the meeting early because she had her twelve year old son with her is no doubt aware for the long history of African Americans being terrorized by white men wearing masks. Her family has lived in Santa Monica since the 1930's and in 2017 that fear has come back to her home town.

This is how the Red Elephants see themselves:

We are a freedom defense militia that are also media.
We were sick of seeing people get beat up in the streets by neo-marxist Antifa members and decided to show up and fight back.
We were sick of the mainstream media spreading lies about current events, so we decided to show up and fight back, and share the TRUTH!
We live stream at almost every rally, event and Town hall, fighting locally to change blue states to RED.

Over 150,000 followers on Facebook.
If you'd like to join the cause visit us here >> facebook.com/TheRealRedElephants
Since they came to the meeting with a two person smartphone/selfie stick camera crew, it was obvious that they intended to produce a propaganda video of the event. I found it. Here it is:

Trump Supporters CRASH White Privilege Seminar

Streamed live on Jul 13, 2017
SUPPORT US - Patreon.com/TheRedElephants

Trump supporters crashed a white privilege seminar was held in Santa Monica, CA that was organized by a predominetly [sic] Jewish group that pushes white guilt throughout schools and communities across the nations.

TAGS - white genocide - white privilege - white guilt - white hate
If you watch their videos or look at their website it will become chillingly clear that behind all the talk of "white genocide" they are preparing for the mass murder of people of color in the United States, and for them that includes Jews. While the mass media would rather talk about anything but this rising international white nationalist trend, and Trump is distracting us with a Tweet show, they are quietly building up their fascist forces like these young Red Elephants, until the white nationalist kabal now holding power in the White House, can sweep aside any remaining elements of our neo-liberal democracy and institute straight up racist rule!

We must fight back now!

Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!

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Monday, July 10, 2017

Russia admits sarin used in spite of Sy Hersh fantasy

The Russian Foreign Ministry’s Director of the Department for Non-Proliferation and Arms Control Mikhail Ulyanov, made a valuable admission in his official remarks protesting the report from the OPCW Fact-Finding Mission that found "sarin had been used as a weapon," at Khan Sheikhoun on 4 April 2017. The Russians now agree that it was a sarin attack and that the crater in the street that has been the center of so much attention was indeed, ground zero. After having earlier argued that the chemical killers were released when the Syrian air force bombed a terrorist chemical weapons warehouse, they now agree with the OPCW report that the crater in the road was the release site. However they argue, in Tass, that the sarin bomb was not dropped from a plane, but rather placed there by terrorists as part of a false flag attack:
”The same applies to the crater at the site where sarin was used,” he continued. “We asked the OPCW technical secretariat to pay special attention to this issue, but our request was left unanswered. It appears that the authors of the report just did not care about fact that this crater does not fit the theory of an aviation bomb use.”
This makes it sound like they are preparing to fall back on a theory similar to the one first put forward by Dr. Theodore Postol. His theory was that jihadist terrorists dispersed a sarin filled pipe by setting off an explosive charge on top of it. At the time both the Syrians and the Russians were claiming that a Syrian SU-22 had dropped a conventional bomb onto a warehouse in which the terrorists were storing chemical weapons or the precursors for chemical weapons. Dr. Ted Postol later abandoned his terrorist pipebomb theory, after publishing three pieces in defense of it, so that he could support the Russian/Syrian version of what happened in Khan Sheikhoun that morning.

Now it sounds like they are abandoning their claim that nerve agents were inadvertently released because they bombed a warehouse. The OPCW has shown that the crater in the street was the source of what they have determined to be sarin or a sarin-like substance. That is the same crater that locals said was the result of a bomb dropped from an SU-22 that citizen plane spotters had tracked since take-off. So in this newest round of denials they are forced to concede the fact that sarin was used with a purpose that morning. That purpose was to kill Syrians opposed to the Assad regime and the site of that sarin dispersal is that crater locals all agreed was the source.

Note that this latest Russian denial, like the Russian and Syrian denials that came shortly after the attack, does nothing to support Seymour Hersh's claim that the Syrian's dropped a 500 pound conventional bomb on a two-story cinderblock building to kill four "high value targets."

In point of fact, neither the Russians nor the Syrians have said anything to back Hersh's claims that:
The Syrian target at Khan Sheikhoun, as shared with the Americans at Doha, was depicted as a two-story cinder-block building in the northern part of town...Russian intelligence depicted the cinder-block building as a command and control center that housed a grocery and other commercial premises on its ground floor with other essential shops nearby, including a fabric shop and an electronics store.
Or any of the rest of it. If Hersh is right about the original target and reason for hitting it, and he is also speaking truth when he says both the Russians and Syrians made sure this was well known my all players in the region, why have they never made these claims and in fact made quite contradictory claims?

Why is this story a Hersh exclusive? It's because he is feeding us the whole cloth.

Can we finally put to rest any reverence for Seymour Hersh's Pulitzer?

Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!

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Friday, July 7, 2017

Seymour Hersh exposes Russian & Syrian lies about sarin attack

In Sincerely yours, Theodore A. Postol I was debunking another very different theory of how Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his Russian supporters weren't behind the sarin murders of close to a hundred people in Khan Sheikhoun on 4 April 2017.

Dr. Ted said that jihadist terrorists set off a sarin pipe bomb in the middle of the street. He said they staged it as a "false flag" attack while a Syrian war plane was overhead, however he did agree with just about every other investigation, including now the OPCW, on one important point - that there was a chemical attack. Hersh denies even this! Postol said in his initial report
The only indisputable facts stated in the White House report is the claim that a chemical attack using nerve agent occurred in Khan Shaykhun, Syria on that morning.
Now Hersh and his supporters dispute what even Ted Postol found indisputable! We've come a long way in two months. What's the saying?: "Like it never even happened!" 

While Postol agreed that there had been nerve agent murders that morning, he took the responsibility away from the Assad regime and put it on some unnamed actors. This was good enough for the Assad supporters, and for a while Postol's theory was all the rage. They couldn't stop talking about his impressive credentials, Professor Emeritus of Science, Technology, and National Security Policy, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and they couldn't stop complaining about how the MSM was suppressing his exposure of the "truth."

At the time, it wasn't a problem that Postol's "who didn't dun it" completely contradicted Hersh's, but it was a big problem that it contradicted the official line from Moscow and Damascus. He tried to fix this in later revisions of his theory, but not before I pointed them out. This is what I wrote about Russian and Syrian explanation for the deaths in that critique of Postol:

Both the Russians and the Assad regime have had a consistent story about how civilians in Khan Sheikhoun died of chemical poisoning and they have been sticking to it. According to them, the Syrian air force bombed a jihadist chemical weapons storage facility in a civilian neighborhood and that is what caused the chemical deaths. It was the terrorist's sarin. Although they have never once used it in battle, we are told to believe they had it stockpiled in a warehouse waiting to be released by a Syrian air force bomb.

On the day of the attack, 4 April 2017, Russia Today reported:
The Syrian Air Force has destroyed a warehouse in Idlib province where chemical weapons were being produced and stockpiled before being shipped to Iraq, Russia’s Defense Ministry spokesman said.

The strike, which was launched midday Tuesday, targeted a major rebel ammunition depot east of the town of Khan Sheikhoun, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Major-General Igor Konashenkov said in a statement.

The warehouse was used to both produce and store shells containing toxic gas, Konashenkov said. The shells were delivered to Iraq and repeatedly used there, he added, pointing out that both Iraq and international organizations have confirmed the use of such weapons by militants.
The next day Sputnik News repeated the same story:
MOSCOW (Sputnik) — Syrian aircraft have conducted an airstrike near the town of Khan Shaykhun in Syria’s Idlib province on the warehouse of terrorists’ ammunition and the mass of military equipment, where chemical weapons' ammunition had also been stored and delivered to Iraq, Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Maj. Gen. Igor Konashenkov said Wednesday.

According to Konashenkov, on Tuesday "from 11.30 to 12.30, local time, [8.30 to 9.30 GMT] Syrian aircraft conducted an airstrike in the eastern outskirts of Khan Shaykhun on a large warehouse of ammunition of terrorists and the mass of military equipment".

Konashenkov said that from this warehouse, chemical weapons' ammunition was delivered to Iraq by militants.

Konashenkov added that there were workshops for manufacturing bombs, stuffed with poisonous substances, on the territory of this warehouse.
On the day after that, 6 April 2017, the Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem said in a press conference in Damascus @6:20:
"The first air raid conducted by the Syrian army was at 11:30 of that day and it attacked an army depot that belongs to al Nusra Front which contains chemical weapons. The evidence is that army depot is actually monitored by cctv and had that raid actually happened the damage would have reached a circle about with 1 km diameter. al Nusra Front and ISIS and other organizations continue to store chemical weapons in urban and residential areas."
And in case anybody thought they were changing their story, they repeated it again more than a week after the attack. Sputnik News stated 12 April 2017:
MOSCOW (Sputnik) — Russia stands by its assertion that the Syrian forces struck a militant chemical weapons production facility on April 4, Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Wednesday.
"According to our absolutely reliable information, the point at issue are Syrian Arab Republic air force's Su-22 airstrikes on a site controlled by terrorists where chemicals were produced," Ryabkov told reporters.
Now comes the Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Seymour M. Hersh with a story to tell about what really happened, based on a high level secret source that knows all, and in doing so he exposes the lies told above by the Russians and Syrians.  According Hersh's source:
The Syrian target at Khan Sheikhoun, as shared with the Americans at Doha, was depicted as a two-story cinder-block building in the northern part of town. Russian intelligence, which is shared when necessary with Syria and the U.S. as part of their joint fight against jihadist groups, had established that a high-level meeting of jihadist leaders was to take place in the building, including representatives of Ahrar al-Sham and the al-Qaida-affiliated group formerly known as Jabhat al-Nusra. The two groups had recently joined forces, and controlled the town and surrounding area. Russian intelligence depicted the cinder-block building as a command and control center that housed a grocery and other commercial premises on its ground floor with other essential shops nearby, including a fabric shop and an electronics store.
Well, if that were true why didn't they just say that in the first place? Why make up stories about "a warehouse in Idlib province where chemical weapons were being produced and stockpiled?" Why did they leave out the part about a high-level meeting of jihadist leaders that needed to be dealt with, and why take responsibility for knowingly bombing chemical weapons stores, something the US took pains to avoid in its retaliatory strike against Shayrat airfield?

Even if it wasn't Assad regime sarin, if they knew it was being stored in a civilian area [which Shayrat airfield was not] and they bombed it anyway, most moral people would still hold them partly responsible for the civilian deaths that resulted, but if it was just insecticide and disinfectants in the basement, no blame, no foul.

Its like if Hersh is right, their cover story actually makes them more culpable than the truth. Why did they make up lies that make themselves look worst?

And why did they lie about the little things?

The Syrian FM said the bombing started at 11:30.  Thanks to Seymour's secret source we know different:
The target was struck at 6:55 a.m. on April 4, just before midnight in Washington. A Bomb Damage Assessment (BDA) by the U.S. military later determined that the heat and force of the 500-pound Syrian bomb triggered a series of secondary explosions that could have generated a huge toxic cloud that began to spread over the town, formed by the release of the fertilizers, disinfectants and other goods stored in the basement, its effect magnified by the dense morning air, which trapped the fumes close to the ground. According to intelligence estimates, the senior adviser said, the strike itself killed up to four jihadist leaders, and an unknown number of drivers and security aides.
There has also been a massive conspiracy to misidentify the attacking aircraft as a SU-22, and judging from the statement above, the Russians are a part of it! Thanks to Seymour's secret source we know the truth:
The intelligence made clear that a Syrian Air Force SU-24 fighter bomber had used a conventional weapon to hit its target: There had been no chemical warhead.
And no SU--22 according to Hersh; or could he be wrong both about the plane and what it dropped?

Since we can depend on an investigative reporter with a Pulitzer Prize to give us the facts, its hard to understand why the Syrians and the Russians led with a pack of lies, especially since those in the know, on both sides, already knew the real mission, according to Seymour Hersh's secret source:
Russian and Syrian intelligence officials, who coordinate operations closely with the American command posts, made it clear that the planned strike on Khan Sheikhoun was special because of the high-value target. “It was a red-hot change. The mission was out of the ordinary – scrub the sked,” the senior adviser told me. “Every operations officer in the region" – in the Army, Marine Corps, Air Force, CIA and NSA – “had to know there was something going on."
Russian and Syrian intelligence officials, the Army, Marine Corps, Air Force, CIA and NSA all knew "that there was no chemical attack," according to Pulitzer Prize winning investigative journalist Seymour M. Hersh. What must they all have been thinking when both the Russians and the Syrians came out with a pack of lies that makes them look worst than the truth according to Hersh?

See also:
Sy Hersh's incredible secret source
Syria, Seymour Hersh and the Sarin denialists

Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!

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Thursday, July 6, 2017

Syria, Seymour Hersh and the Sarin denialists

An important post by Brian Whitaker, Former Middle East editor of The Guardian, 1 July 2017. Republished from his website www.al-bab.com.

Syria, Seymour Hersh and the Sarin denialists

Seymour Hersh: his anonymous source claimed no chemical attack had taken place. Photo: Institute for Policy Studies
Do news organisations have a duty to publish stories from anonymous sources when there is reason to believe they are untrue? Apparently some people think so.

Yesterday, following scientific tests, the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons confirmed that inhabitants of Khan Sheikoun, in the Syrian province of Idlib, had been “exposed to Sarin, a chemical weapon”, during an attack last April. Reports at the time said at least 74 died and hundreds were injured.

The news that Sarin had definitely been involved caused a buzz on Twitter from people refusing to believe it. Many pointed instead to an article in a German newspaper last weekend which quoted an unnamed “senior adviser to the American intelligence community” as saying no chemical attack had taken place.

The article, by veteran American journalist Seymour Hersh, suggested that Syrian forces using a conventional explosive bomb had accidentally hit a store of “fertilisers, disinfectants and other goods” causing “effects similar to those of sarin”.

Hersh’s version contradicted evidence from a range of sources and, in the light of yesterday’s announcement from the OPCW, is clearly untrue. As far as some people were concerned, though, it said what they wanted to hear and, even after the OPCW reported its findings, they were still complaining that mainstream media had failed to take Hersh’s ridiculous story seriously.

An article on The Canary Website began:
“An acclaimed investigative journalist [Hersh] has now blown a giant hole in the official narrative of one of 2017’s most explosive world events: the Syrian ‘chemical attack’ and Donald Trump’s fierce response. But the BBC and other media outlets seem to be completely ignoring his exposé.”
Media Lens, an organisation dedicated to “correcting for the distorted vision of the corporate media” grumbled that searching a database of newspapers had revealed no mentions of Hersh’s article.


Meanwhile Jonathan Cook, a journalist who mainly reports on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, wrote in a blog post:
“If you wish to understand the degree to which a supposedly free western media are constructing a world of half-truths and deceptions to manipulate their audiences, keeping us uninformed and docile, then there could hardly be a better case study than their treatment of Pulitzer prize-winning investigative journalist Seymour Hersh.

“All of these highly competitive, for-profit, scoop-seeking media outlets separately took identical decisions: first to reject Hersh’s latest investigative report, and then to studiously ignore it once it was published in Germany last Sunday. They have continued to maintain an absolute radio silence on his revelations …”
But why should anyone pay attention to Hersh when an anonymous source tells him something that flies in the face of evidence? The reason, apparently, is that he won a Pulitzer prize for journalism 47 years ago. His supporters constantly mention the Pulitzer as if that’s a good reason for unquestioning faith in whatever he writes.

Winning a Pulitzer obviously means a reporter’s work has impressed the judges but it’s not necessarily a guarantee of factual accuracy. In 1981, one of the winners was a Washington Post journalist whose story about an eight-year-old heroin addict later turned out to be fabricated.

Hersh has certainly done valuable reporting in the past. He exposed the Mai Lai massacre in Vietnam back in 1969 and, more recently, the horrors of Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Some of his other exposés have misfired, though, and he has often been criticised for his use of shadowy sources. In the words of one Pentagon spokesman, Brian Whitman, he has “a solid and well-earned reputation for making dramatic assertions based on thinly sourced, unverifiable anonymous sources”.

Another complaint about his more recent work is that he spends too much time listening to his unidentified sources and not enough looking at open-source evidence which points in a different direction. In an earlier article where Hersh suggested the Assad regime had not been responsible for Sarin attacks near Damascus in 2013, he either overlooked or disregarded evidence which didn’t fit his argument and posed a number of questions which other writers had already answered.

His 2013 article about chemical weapons in Syria was rejected by the New Yorker magazine and eventually published in Britain by the London Review of Books. However, the London Review of Books rejected his latest article — which is why it ended up being published in Germany.

Inevitably, Hersh’s loyal supporters discount the most likely reason for these rejections — that his editors found the articles flaky — in favour of a media conspiracy. Jonathan Cook (this time writing for Counterpunch) says:
“Paradoxically, over the past decade, as social media has created a more democratic platform for information dissemination, the corporate media has grown ever more fearful of a truly independent figure like Hersh. The potential reach of his stories could now be enormously magnified by social media. As a result, he has been increasingly marginalised and his work denigrated. By denying him the credibility of a ‘respectable’ mainstream platform, he can be dismissed for the first time in his career as a crank and charlatan. A purveyor of fake news.”
This may explain why Media Lens, which specialises in critiquing the mainstream media, has such a high opinion of Hersh.

Media Lens has previously taken a dim view of journalists who use anonymous sources. A few years ago it bombarded the Guardian with complaints over a news story about Iraq which extensively quoted unnamed American officials. These sources, Media Lens said, were used “with no scrutiny, no balance, no counter-evidence — nothing”.

Exactly the same charges can be levelled against Hersh but Media Lens not only seems unperturbed but is urging other media to regurgitate his anonymously-sourced story.

To some extent, scepticism about chemical weapons in Syria is a knee-jerk reaction to misleading reports about Iraq’s imaginary weapons of mass destruction in the run-up to the 2003 invasion: if we were deceived over Iraq, how do we know we are not being deceived over Syria?

The best protection against that — then, as now — is evidence. Regardless of who is claiming what, check for evidence that might support their claims.

In Syria there is abundant evidence that Sarin has been used as a weapon during the conflict. The Assad regime, by its own admission, had stockpiles of Sarin — and possibly still has some. It also denies that any has been lost, stolen or captured. Furthermore, there is no evidence that rebel groups fighting in Syria have ever possessed or had access to Sarin. Draw your own conclusions.

In Iraq, on the other hand, suspicions about Saddam Hussein’s weapons were not supported by evidence. During the long build-up to war, constantly repeated claims from politicians and others led many prominent journalists to abandon their critical faculties. But, as with Hersh’s Syria articles, warning signs were there if only people looked for them.

The Washington Post, for example, devoted an extraordinary 1,800 words to an extremely flimsy (but scary) story suggesting Iraq had supplied nerve gas to al-Qaida.

At the New York Times, star reporter Judith Miller was churning out more alarmist stuff. One story concerned US attempts to stop Iraq importing atropine, a drug used for treating heart patients which is also an antidote against pesticide poisoning … and nerve gas. This tale, as presented by Miller (with assistance from anonymous official sources) was that Iraq not only possessed nerve gas but intended to use it and wanted to protect its own troops from the harmful effects.

Another of Miller’s “scoops” was an unverified claim that a Russian scientist, who once had access to the Soviet Union’s entire collection of 120 strains of smallpox, might have visited Iraq in 1990 and might have provided the Iraqis with a version of the virus that could be resistant to vaccines and could be more easily transmitted as a biological weapon.

Unfortunately, there were plenty who took her word for it at the time. She was, after all, a Pulitzer prize-winning investigative journalist.

Originally published at al-bab.com.

See also: Sy Hersh's incredible secret source

Syria is the Paris Commune of the 21st Century!

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