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Video: US Escalates New Cold War as Diplomatic Gloves Come Off, with Carl Zha

The new Cold War has escalated over the past week as U.S. attempts to dominate both China and Russia backfired in embarrassing fashion for the Biden administration. Behind The Headlines’ Dan Cohen is joined by “Silk and Steel” podcast host Carl Zha to discuss the diplomatic fiasco, how U.S. intelligence and media cornered Biden into denouncing Russia, and the Quad Alliance’s political contradictions.

Feature photo | Graphic by Antonio Cabrera

Dan Cohen is the Washington DC correspondent for Behind The Headlines. He has produced widely distributed video reports and print dispatches from across Israel-Palestine. He tweets at @DanCohen3000.

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Biden Backs Revival of His Brainchild: Plan Colombia 2.0 Set to Begin Next Month

BOGATA, COLOMBIA — In an effort supposedly aimed at reducing cocaine production, Colombia is set to return to a massive aerial campaign of spraying Monsanto’s glyphosate across the country. Defense Minister Diego Molano confirmed that the highly contentious practice of fumigation — shelved since 2015 — will resume in April. “

The constitutional order is clear: the Colombian military must develop operations all over the country to ensure the safety of Colombians,” Molano announced. “That’s why we’re using every tool at our disposal to protect the entire population.” How spraying a known carcinogen across a nation nearly twice the size of Texas would protect citizens, he did not explain. 

The news was greeted with applause in Washington D.C, a State Department report describing it as a “most welcome development.” The new administration also confusingly described Colombia as a “bright spot” in regional counter-narcotics, despite also noting that the country had seen “explosive growth” in cocaine production in recent years, rising to become “the world’s top cocaine producer and exporter.” 

The report also singled out Venezuela and Bolivia — socialist-run states with nothing like the drug production Colombia has — as problem cases refusing to cooperate in the war against drugs. 

Colombia’s move signals a return to the policies associated with the controversial Plan Colombia era (2000-2015) and far-right president Alvaro Uribe. What was originally developed as a reconciliation and development proposal by former president Andres Pastrana in 1999 was radically altered by the Clinton and Bush administrations, who turned it into a massive, militarized drug war, supplying arms, money, and political support to the hardline government and its paramilitary allies to go after the leftist FARC guerillas who controlled much of Colombia’s extremely fertile countryside. The result was a nationwide chemical defoliation regime, not unlike that seen during the U.S. bombardment of Vietnam and other southeast Asian nations, forcing huge numbers of people off the land and into overcrowded urban slums.

A Colombian farmer shows skin problems he developed after being sprayed by glyphosate while working his rice field, May 11, 2015. Fernando Vergara | AP

Under Plan Colombia, government troops and associated paramilitaries were given a free rein to kill whom they liked, later framing their victims as FARC guerillas. Under Uribe’s watchful eye, over 10,000 innocent people — many of them farmers’ union leaders and indigenous activists — were slaughtered, the government only later admitting they had no connection to FARC. The U.S. directly funded the slaughter; the more dead “narco-terrorists” that were reported, the more money and weapons the U.S. would supply. Under Plan Colombia, the country also became the most dangerous place to be a trade unionist, according to Amnesty International, with more unionist murders happening inside Colombia than in all other countries combined.

The United Nations estimates that 7.4 million people are internally displaced to this day because of the ongoing civil war and Plan Colombia, with millions more leaving the country altogether. All the while, classified U.S. government documents identified Uribe as one of the nation’s most important drug traffickers, an employee of the infamous Medellin Cartel and a “close personal friend” of drugs kingpin Pablo Escobar. Profits from drug-running funded Uribe’s elections in 2002 and 2006.

While cocaine production did drop in Colombia (temporarily), producers simply moved across the unguarded borders to neighboring nations. Cocaine is extremely portable and simple to produce, with barely more than a few cooking pots and household chemicals needed. Thus, the overall trade was largely unaffected by over a decade of bombing, spraying and violence. What was achieved, however, was that organic, unspoiled land was cleared for large agribusiness and mining companies to move in.

 

“The guy who put together Plan Colombia”

In his own words, Joe Biden is “the guy who put together Plan Colombia…straighten[ing] that government out for a long while.” When the bill came to the Senate floor, Biden worked with Republicans to push for a hardline strategy, declaring that, “What is at stake is whether or not Colombia becomes a narcostate or not,” warning that if the bill was not passed, the hemisphere would turn into a haven for terrorists and drug dealers.

Joe Biden brags

"I'm the guy who put together Plan Colombia".#PlanColombia used murderous, failed drug war policies as cover to destabilize democracy in South America, arming right wing death squads so openly that Congress had to force it to stop with an amendment. pic.twitter.com/8qtLhirf1P

— CPD Action (@CPDAction) January 17, 2020

Biden is also proposing a plan for Central America based on his Colombian model. It is therefore unsurprising that the new administration is welcoming the return to chemical spraying.

 

The War on Drugs gets a revival

Plan Colombia was ditched by President Juan Manuel Santos, in power between 2010 and 2018. Santos stopped the defoliation campaign in 2015 in part of a broader move to negotiate with the FARC. The next year, his administration signed a peace deal with the guerilla group, which saw them formally disband and give up their arms. Santos was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

However, with the election of Uribe protege Ivan Duque in 2018, the government began to renege on its promises, and a new wave of violence reemerged. Government authorities or far-right paramilitaries closely associated with them began to use the list of former FARC members who signed the accord as a hit list. At least 259 have been killed, according to Colombian human rights group Indepaz, who notes that there have already been 17 massacres in 2021 alone, with many of the victims’ social leaders and activists. Ten former FARC members have been murdered in the past three months.

To this day, the Duque administration is still using them as a justification for violence against its own population. Earlier this month, it conducted an airstrike against a FARC splinter group in the southern province of Guaviare. 12 children are feared dead from the attack. Defense Minister Molano confirmed the military knew there were children in the area, but insisted all those dead were forced child soldiers and part of a “war machine who were planning terrorist attacks.”

The news of a return to spraying is particularly striking, as Monsanto’s parent company Bayer announced last year that it was putting aside up to $10.9 billion to settle lawsuits from cancer patients, a tacit admission that it knows its product is carcinogenic. U.S. courts have already concluded the same. Thus, the decision to expand its use in Colombia is yet another starling fact about the return to what amounts to chemical warfare.

Ultimately, very little about the war on drugs, from the demonization of Bolivia and Venezuela to propping up a known drugs trafficker as president to now cheering the return of the discredited and harmful practice of fumigation makes any sense, if we assume the U.S.’ goal is to uphold human rights or reduce the flow of illegal narcotics. However, if viewed through a cold realpolitik lens, where the U.S. is attempting to destroy resistance to its rule and keep the enormous wealth of the equatorial country in just a few —mostly Western —  hands, then the confusing Colombian case becomes considerably clearer.

Feature photo | Joe Biden, his wife Dr. Jill Biden, meet with members of Colombia’s Armed Forces at an Air Force base in Bogota, Colombia, May 27, 2013. Fernando Vergara | AP

Alan MacLeod is Senior Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent, as well as a number of academic articles. He has also contributed to FAIR.orgThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin Magazine, and Common Dreams.

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Amnesty International: Facebook Plan To Target Children “Incompatible With Human Rights”

SAN FRANSICO — Facebook has let slip that it is launching an Instagram service for children under 13 years old, who are currently legally barred from using the platform. On Thursday, Instagram’s vice president of product told employees in a leaked communication that this was indeed the plan. Instagram’s boss, Adam Mosseri, confirmed the leak’s veracity to Buzzfeed News, telling them that his goal was to create a transparent and kid-friendly version of the popular photo-sharing app for children and pre-teens.

Apart from the safety questions that arise in building an online platform for millions of children, the Silicon Valley company’s decision has been condemned by many as extremely worrying.

 

“Incompatible with human rights”

“Facebook’s very business model is built on ubiquitous and constant surveillance – which is entirely incompatible with human rights. By making users sign up to the opaque terms and conditions of Instagram, Facebook will be able to harvest huge amounts of data about children and create invasive, granular profiles that can last the rest of their lives,” said Amnesty International in a statement, presenting Facebook’s plan as akin to foxes offering to guard the henhouse. Facebook itself “poses one of the biggest threats when it comes to children’s privacy,” the human rights organization added, claiming that children would inevitably be bombarded with targeted advertising, disinformation and incendiary content that is ubiquitous on its other platforms.

Other experts characterized the move as one that would normalize the idea that social connections exist to be monetized and legitimize the gathering of data on minors. Social media companies’ algorithms are expressly designed to keep users hooked and scrolling for more content. But an increasing body of research suggests that staring at a screen has negative health consequences, especially for children.

One study found that kids who were forced to cut back on screen time lost weight, slept better, and were less aggressive. The World Health Organization recommends no screen time whatsoever for those under three, while others want that age to be raised to at least seven and screen time to be limited for those under 12 years of age.

Facebook has made headlines of late thanks to some highly contentious privacy protocols. In January, it gave its two billion WhatsApp users an ultimatum: accept its new privacy rules which were rumored to allow it to share user data with Facebook and others, or lose the service. The debacle caused an estimated 7.5 million people to switch over to more privacy-oriented Signal (although, as journalist Yascha Levine notes, Signal’s ties to the U.S. government make its claims of total privacy highly suspect).

Facebook has also been pushing facial recognition software that it consistently misled users about, resulting in a $5 billion fine from the Federal Trade Commission. Last year, it also agreed to pay $550 million after illegally collecting Illinois residents’ facial and biometric data. Big tech companies are already colluding with the government and sharing (or selling) their users’ data. Microsoft defended the practice, going so far as to claim it would be “cruel” to stop government agencies using the new technology.

 

The Facebook empire

From launching in 2004 as a small social network service for students at Harvard University, Facebook has grown into a sprawling empire, consisting of apps like Instagram (bought in 2012 for $1 billion) and messaging services like WhatsApp (bought in 2014 for $19 billion). It is also the largest single news service in the world. Almost half the adult-aged planet uses Facebook, with their feeds filled with news stories the company has curated — with help from the NATO cutout organization the Atlantic Council. Its marketplace is an enormous commerce hub, while Facebook also owns a huge advertising empire, using users’ data to rake in over $84 billion in revenues from targeted ads in 2020. The company’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg is the seventh richest individual in the world, as per Forbes’ billionaire list.

Because of its economic and social influence, Facebook is also a very powerful political actor. In late 2019, it blocked the New York Post from sharing a story about Joe Biden’s corruption and later banned Trump from its platform. This cannot be because of genuine concern over a rising far right, as Facebook aided the neo-fascist Alternative für Deutschland (AFD) in 2017. The AFD met with American marketers at Facebook’s headquarters in Berlin, the company providing them extensive details about German voters, and allowing the AFD to micro-target German voters with ads, helping them win 94 seats in the German parliament — the far-right’s best electoral showing since the 1930s.

Ultimately, unless the government steps in, NGOs are powerless to prevent the increasing digitization of children’s lives. It appears Facebook is hellbent on hooking kids on its services, no matter what Amnesty International says.

Feature photo | Mark Zuckerberg speaks at Facebook headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif. Jeff Chiu | AP

Alan MacLeod is Senior Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent, as well as a number of academic articles. He has also contributed to FAIR.orgThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin Magazine, and Common Dreams.

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Chris Hedges: The Evil Within Us

Princeton, New Jersey (Scheerpost— Robert Aaron Long, 21, charged with murdering eight victims, six of whom were Asian women, at three Atlanta-area massage parlors, told police that he carried out the killings to eliminate the temptations that fed his sexual addiction. His church, Crabapple First Baptist Church, in Milton, Georgia, which opposes sex outside of marriage, issued a statement condemning the shootings as “unacceptable and contrary to the gospel.”

The church, however, also immediately took down its web site and removed videos, including one that was captured by The Washington Post before it was deleted where the church’s pastor, the Rev. Jerry Dockery, told the congregation that Christ’s second coming was imminent. And when Christ returned, Dockery said, he would wage a ruthless and violent war on nonbelievers and infidels, those controlled by Satan.

“There is one word devoted to their demise,” the pastor said. “Swept away! Banished! Judged. They have no power before God. Satan himself is bound and released and then bound again and banished. That great dragon deceiver – just that quickly – God throws him into an eternal torment. And then we read where everyone – everyone that rejects Christ – will join Satan, the Beast and the false prophet in hell.”

I heard a lot of these types of sermons by fundamentalist preachers during the two years I crisscrossed the country for my book American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. I attended Bible studies, prayer groups, conventions, tapings of Christian television shows, rallies held by Patriot Pastors, talks by leaders such as James Dobson, D. James Kennedy and Tony Perkins and creationist seminars. I visited the 50,000-square-foot Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, took an Evangelism Explosion course, joined congregations at numerous megachurches for Sunday worship and participated in right-to-life retreats. I spent hundreds of hours interviewing scores of believers.

The simplistic message was always the same. The world was divided into us and them, the blessed and the damned, agents of God and agents of Satan, good and evil. Millions of largely white Americans, hermetically sealed within the ideology of the Christian Right, yearn to destroy the Satanic forces they blame for the debacle of their lives, the broken homes, domestic and sexual abuse, struggling single parent households, lack of opportunities, crippling debt, poverty, evictions, bankruptcies, loss of sustainable incomes and the decay of their communities. Satanic forces, they believe, control the financial systems, the media, public education and the three branches of government. They believed this long before Donald Trump, who astutely tapped into this deep malaise and magic thinking, mounted his 2016 campaign for president.

The killings in Atlanta were not an anomaly by a deranged gunman. The hatred for people of other ethnicities and faiths, the hatred for women of color, who are condemned by the Christian right as temptresses in league with Satan, was fertilized in the rampant misogyny, hypermasculinity and racism that lie at the center of the belief system of the Christian right, as well define the core beliefs of American imperialism. The white race, especially in the United States, is celebrated as God’s chosen agent. Imperialism and war are divine instruments for purging the world of infidels and barbarians, evil itself. Capitalism, because God blessed the righteous with wealth and power and condemned the immoral to poverty and suffering, is shorn of its inherent cruelty and exploitation. The iconography and symbols of American nationalism are intertwined with the iconography and symbols of the Christian faith. In short, the worst aspects of American society are sacralized by this heretical form of Christianity.

Believers are told that Satanic forces, promoting a liberal creed of “secular humanism,” lure people to self-destruction through drugs, alcohol, gambling, pornography and massage brothels. Long, who had frequented two of the massage parlors he attacked, was arrested on his way to Florida to attack a business connected with the pornography industry. He had attempted to block porn sites on his computer and sought help for his fascination with porn from Christian counselors.

The secular humanists, along with creating a society designed to tempt people into sin, are blamed for immigration programs that fuel demographic shifts to turn whites into a minority. The secular humanists are charged with elevating those of other races and beliefs – including Muslims whose religion is branded as Satanic – along with those whose gender identities challenge the sanctity of marriage as between a man and a woman and patriarchy. The secular humanists are believed to be behind an array of institutions including the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the National Organization for Women, Planned Parenthood, the Trilateral Commission, the United Nations, the State Department, major foundations (Rockefeller, Carnegie, Ford), elite universities and media platforms such as CNN and The New York Times.

In D. James Kennedy’s book “The Gates of Hell Shall Not Prevail: The Attack on Christianity and What You Need to Know to Combat It,” he writes that although the United States was once a “Christian nation,” that is no longer the case because today “the hostile barrage from atheists, agnostics and other secular humanists has begun to take a serious toll on that heritage. In recent years, they have built up their forces and even increased their assault upon all our Christian institutions, and they have been enormously successful in taking over the ‘public square.’ Public education, the media, the government, the courts, and even the church in many places, now belong to them.”

The incendiary rhetoric creates an atmosphere of being under siege. It imparts a sense of comradeship, the feeling that although the world outside the walls of the church or the home is dangerous and hostile, there is a select community of brothers and sisters. Believers only owe a moral obligation to other Christians. The world is divided between comrades and enemies, neighbors and strangers. The commandment “Love your neighbor as yourself” is perverted to “Love your fellow Christians as yourself.” Nonbelievers have no place on the moral map.

When Christ returns, believers are told, He will lead the elect in one final apocalyptic battle against the people and groups blamed for their dislocation and despair. The secular world, the one that almost destroyed them and their families, will be eradicated. The flaws in human society and in human beings will be erased. They will have what most never had: a stable home and family, a loving community, fixed moral standards, financial and personal security and success and an abolition of uncertainty, disorder and doubt. Their fragmented, troubled lives will become whole. Evil will be physically vanquished. There will be no more impurity because the impure will no longer exist.

This externalization of evil, however, is not limited to the Christian Right. It lies at the core of American imperialism, American exceptionalism and American racism. White supremacy, which dehumanizes the other at home and abroad, is also fueled by the fantasy that there are superior human beings who are white and lesser human beings who are not. Long did not need the Christian fascism of his church to justify to himself the killings; the racial hierarchies within American society had already dehumanized his victims. His church simply cloaked it in religious language. The jargon varies. The dark sentiments are the same.

The ideology of the Christian right, like all totalitarian creeds, is, at its core, an ideology of hatred. It rejects what Augustine calls the grace of love, or volo ut sis (I want you to be). It replaces it with an ideology that condemns all those outside the magic circle. There is, in relationships based on love, an affirmation of the mystery of the other, an affirmation of unexplained and unfathomable differences. These relationships not only recognize that others have a right to be, as Augustine wrote, but the sacredness of difference. This sacredness of difference is an anathema to Christian fundamentalists, as it is to imperialists, to all racists. It is dangerous to the hegemony of the triumphalist ideology. It calls into question the infallibility of the doctrine, the essential appeal of all ideologies. It suggests that there are alternative ways to live and believe. The moment there is a hint of uncertainty the ideological edifice crumbles. The truth is irrelevant as long as the ideology is consistent, doubt is heretical and the vision of the world, however absurd, absolute and unassailable. These ideologies are not meant to be rational. They are meant to fill emotional voids.

Evil for the Christian fundamentalists is not something within them. It is an external force to be destroyed. It may require indiscriminate acts of violence, but if it leads to a better world this violence is morally justified. Those who advance the holy crusade alone know the truth. They alone have been anointed by God or, in the language of American imperialism, western civilization, to do battle with evil. They alone have the right to impose their “values” on others by force. Once evil is external, once the human race is divided into the righteous and the damned, repression and even murder become a sacred duty.

Immanuel Kant defined “radical evil” as the drive, often carried out under a righteous façade, to surrender to absolute self-love. Those gripped by radical evil always externalize evil. They lose touch with their own humanity. They are blind to their own innate depravity. In the name of western civilization and high ideals, in the name of reason and science, in the name of America, in the name of the free market, in the name of Jesus, they seek the subjugation and annihilation of others. Radical evil, Hannah Arendt wrote, makes whole groups of human beings superfluous. They become, rhetorically, living corpses before often becoming actual corpses.

This binary world view is anti-thought. That is part of its attraction. It gives to those who are alienated and lost emotional certitude. It is buttressed by hollow cliches, patriotic slogans and Bible passages, what psychologists call symbol agnostics. True believers are capable only of imitation. They shut down, by choice, critical reflection and genuine understanding. They surrender all moral autonomy. The impoverished language is regurgitated not because it makes sense, but because it justifies the messianic and intoxicating right to lead humankind to paradise. These pseudo-heroes, however, know only one form of sacrifice, the sacrifice of others.

Human evil is not a problem to be solved. It is a mystery. It is a bitter, constant paradox. We carry the capacity for evil within us. I learned this unsettling truth as a war correspondent. The line between the victim and the victimizer is razor thin. Evil is also seductive. It offers us unlimited often lethal power to turn those around us into objects to destroy or debase to gratify our most perverted desires or both. This evil waits to consume us. All it requires to flourish is for us to turn away, to pretend it is not there, to do nothing. Those who blind themselves to their capacity for evil commit evil not for evil’s sake, but to make a better world. This collective self-delusion is the story of America, from its foundation on the twin evils of slavery and genocide to its inherent racism, predatory capitalism and savage wars of conquest. The more we ignore this evil, the worse it gets.

The awareness of human corruptibility and human limitations, as understood by Augustine, Kant, Sigmund Freud and Primo Levi, has been humankind’s most potent check on evil. Levi wrote that “compassion and brutality can coexist in the same individual and in the same moment, despite all logic.” This self-knowledge forces us to accept that no act, even one defined as moral or virtuous, is ever free from the taint of self-interest. It reminds us that we are condemned to always battle our baser instincts. It recognizes that compassion, as Rousseau wrote, is alone the quality from which “all the social virtues flow.”

Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel said that “some are guilty, but all are responsible.” We may not be guilty of the murders in Atlanta, but we are responsible. We must answer for them. We must accept the truth about ourselves, however unpleasant. We must unmask the lie of our pretended innocence. Long’s murderous spree was quintessentially American. That is what makes it, along with all other hate crimes, along with our endless imperial wars, police terror, callous abandonment of the poor and the vulnerable, so frightening. This evil will not be tamed until it is named and confronted.

Feature photo | Original illustration by Mr. Fish

Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who was a foreign correspondent for fifteen years for The New York Times, where he served as the Middle East Bureau Chief and Balkan Bureau Chief for the paper. He previously worked overseas for The Dallas Morning News, The Christian Science Monitor, and NPR. He is the host of the Emmy Award-nominated RT America show On Contact.

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CIA Pressured Yemen to Release al-Qaeda Leader From Prison

WASHINGTON (Substack // Alex Rubinstein) — Explosive new recordings released by the Houthi government of Yemen pile more earth atop mountains of existing evidence of the U.S. government’s support for the very same terrorists it has claimed to be waging war against for nearly two decades.

The Moral Guidance Department, a branch of the Yemeni Armed Forces of the revolutionary Houthi government of Yemen published last week a number of secret documents and phone calls from the former regime of longtime president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Two phone calls between former president Saleh and the former director of the CIA George Tenet were released. A Yemeni government official has confirmed to me that the calls took place in 2001.

In the calls, the former CIA director can be heard pressuring Saleh to release a detained individual involved in the bombing attacks on USS Cole in October of 2000, which left 17 dead and 37 injured.

In the call, Tenet is asked by Saleh’s translator about the name of the individual in question.

“I don’t want to give his name over the phone,” Tenet tells him.

Saleh notes that the FBI team tasked with the USS Cole investigation had already arrived in Sana’a, and asks Tenet if the FBI personnel could meet with him to discuss the matter. Tenet refuses, saying “this is my person, this is my problem, this is my issue… The man must be released.”

“I’ve talked to everybody in my government; I told them that I was going to make this call,” Tenet says.

LEAKED: Former CIA Director George Tenet implores then-Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh to release Anwar al-Awlaki, who would become a top leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula from prison in connection to the bombing of the USS Cole.

Read more: https://t.co/y35voroWLC pic.twitter.com/E1Ja8YF50i

— Alex Rubinstein (@RealAlexRubi) March 22, 2021

As Saleh’s translator is delivering Tenet’s message to the president, the CIA director cuts him off and says that the man in question “must be released within 48 hours.”

“After 50 days, this must stop,” he says.

Major General Abdul Qadir al-Shami, the deputy-head of the Yemeni Security and Intelligence Service, confirmed to Houthi media that the person in question was dual American-Yemeni citizen imam Anwar Al-Awlaki, a top leader of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), who was killed in Yemen in 2011 by a CIA drone strike.

Houthi media says al-Shami “pointed out that the Americans used to train their individuals in Yemen and send them abroad to carry out operations for them, and then affix the accusation to Yemen as an excuse to come under the cover of fighting those individuals.”

Another document from the State Department dated 1998 highly suggests US interests in establishing a military presence in Yemen around the sea of Aden.

Saudi-born Ali al-Ahmed of the Gulf Institute, a leading expert on Saudi politics and terrorism, told me that he is not at all surprised by the phone call between George Tenet and Yemen’s former president.

“I’ve been saying this for a long time,” al-Ahmed told me. “People that think that these organizations; al-Qaeda, ISIS, are organic, non-state-backed organizations are either lying or are completely stupid. The fact that ISIS had all these American weapons, they didn’t come from thin air. This was part of a plan. The same thing with al-Qaeda; the fact that this organization which has been attacked all over the world continues to survive 20 years on, and spread, it’s not by accident. It’s done by security and intelligence organizations in Washington, D.C. and in Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and by Ali Abdullah Saleh.”

“This recording,” he said, “fits the bill; that Anwar al-Awlaki and others, they were sometimes knowingly or unknown being used as a tool.”

 

The Tenets of Tenet

George Tenet is the second-longest serving director of the CIA. Originally brought in to the post by Bill Clinton, he oversaw the Bush administration’s response to the September 11 attacks.

According to the 9/11 Commission Report, after Tenet asked for the Saudi’s help with Osama bin Laden prior to the attacks, the Saudi’s response was so encouraging that Clinton made Tenet “his informal personal representative to work with the Saudis on terrorism,” which included at least two trips to Riyadh.

Following the 9/11 attacks, Tenet authorized the CIA’s use of waterboarding and other torture methods.

Tenet told 9/11 investigators that he had not met with President Bush in the month prior to the attacks, but was later corrected by a CIA spokesman that same evening, who said he did.

A CIA Inspector General inquiry accused Tenet of failing to do enough to prevent the attacks, saying “by virtue of his position, [Tenet] bears ultimate responsibility for the fact that no such strategic plan was ever created” despite the CIA knowing of the dangers presented by al-Qaeda.

President Bush receives an update on the status Iraq war, March 20, 2003, George Tenet is pictured second from left. Eric Draper | AP

“Many of the difficulties that were listed in that report today – the inability to share information, the lack of people to support and run operations against Osama bin Laden – those were problems that were brought to Mr. Tenet’s attention as early as 1996 and he never did anything about them,” Michael Scheuer, the former head of the CIA’s Osama bin Laden unit, told the BBC.

Tenet was “too busy schmoozing with foreign leaders… that he forgot that his job was to manage the intelligence community,” former CIA analyst Ray McGovern has said.

According to journalist Bob Woodward, who interviewed George Bush himself for his book “Plan of Attack,” Tenet and his deputy presented the president with satellite footage purported to show weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Unimpressed, Bush asked whether “this is the best we’ve got?” Tenet then leapt from the couch, raised his arms, and told the president it was a “slam dunk!”

When Bush challenged him again, Tenet repeated “The case, it’s a slam dunk.”

According to Woodward: “I asked the president about this and he said it was very important to have the CIA director – ‘Slam-dunk is as I interpreted is a sure thing, guaranteed. No possibility it won’t go through the hoop.’ Others present; Cheney, very impressed.”

 

Hijinks with the Hijackers

Anwar al-Awlaki has been perhaps the most enigmatic figure in the so-called War on Terror; even after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, al-Awlaki enjoyed free travel between Western countries like the United States and the United Kingdom and Yemen. He was killed in a CIA drone strike in Yemen in 2011, a likely-illegal targeted killing of an American citizen with little to no precedent.

Al-Awlaki’s name has appeared in connection with a plethora of terrorist attacks against Western targets and, in addition to the now apparent ties to US intelligence, had held relationships with suspected Saudi intelligence officers.

Anwar al-Awlaki would, according to a fellow student at Colorado State, spend his off time in the summer training with the US-funded and equipped Mujahideen in Afghanistan, the precursor of al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and ISIS. The Afghan militants were funnelled $20 billion by the CIA in Operation Cyclone, with Osama Bin Laden being a main benefactor, in order to fight off the Soviets defending the then-socialist government.

By 1996, al-Awlaki was recruiting Muslims in the United States to take up arms in foreign lands as he encouraged a young Saudi student to “to travel to Chechnya to join the jihad against the Russians.” He did, and was killed in fighting in 1999.

Though the record holds many discrepancies, al-Awlaki’s place of birth is said to be in New Mexico. Conservative journalist Paul Sperry writes in his book, “federal law enforcement records I have obtained indicate that he was born in Aden, Yemen, on April 21, 1971, and first came to the U.S. as a Yemeni citizen on a J-1 research-scholar visa on June 5, 1990.” Meanwhile, “a search of state vital records in New Mexico turns up no birth certificate.”

Al-Awlaki’s now-revealed status as a CIA asset may help explain this discrepancy and how — if it’s true that al-Awlaki was not born in the U.S. — he wound up with citizenship.

Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen circa 2008. Muhammad ud-Deen | AP

Nasser al-Awlaki, Anwar’s father, was a Fulbright Scholar who studied in New Mexico and later worked for the government of Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Anwar Al-Awlaki moved from Denver to San Diego and became the Imam at the Masjid Ar-Ribat al-Islami mosque. There, he held court with Nawaf al-Hazmi, Khalid al-Mihdhar, and Hani Hanjour, all three of whom would go on to hijack the planes that crashed into the Pentagon on 9/11.

According to the 9/11 Commission report, Hanjour’s older brother claimed Hani had gone to Afghanistan “in the late 1980’s, as a teenager, to participate in the jihad and, because the Soviets had already withdrawn, worked for a relief agency there.”

Even Ali al-Ahmed, a leading critic of Saudi Arabia, says the propaganda campaign promoting the Mujahideen in Afghanistan deluded him when he was very young. “It was part of a plan,” he said.

Meanwhile, Hazmi and Mihdhar had joined up with the Bosnian Mujahideen following the breakup of socialist Yugoslavia, a conflict which saw the Clinton administration and the Pentagon oversee clandestine foreign arms shipments Islamists fighting in the dirty war. Hazmi and Mihdhar were even granted Bosnian citizenship to fight there. Al-Qaeda operative and “principle architect of the 9/11 attacks” according to the 9/11 Comission Report, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, had “also spent time fighting alongside the mujahideen in Bosnia and supporting that effort with financial donations.”

As I have previously reported, the Brooklyn-based Al-Kifah Afghan Refugee Center, “a front for Maktab al-Khidamat, an organization co-founded by Osama bin Laden” was used by the CIA in Operation Cyclone to send young American Muslims to fight in Afghanistan, and continued to be used by the Clinton administration to recruit young fighters to the war in Bosnia.

“The Bosnian War drew extremists of all types from all over the world. The El Mujahid, the unit of foreign mujahideen fighters in Bosnia, videotaped themselves committing war crimes against Serbs including beheadings and torture,” Lily Lynch, co-founder and editor-in-chief of Balkanist Magazine, told me. “There are also reports that the mujahideen terrorized the local Bosniak population by making aid contingent upon radical conversion.”

“Unfortunately, much of the discussion of the crimes committed by El Mujahid in Bosnia has been led by Islamophobes with a wider political agenda, usually anti-immigration,” she continued. “This has prevented an honest and complete coming to terms with the crimes of the past, including those very real and documented crimes committed by the mujahideen.”

Al-Awlaki was under investigation by the FBI in 1999 and 2000 after they learned he “may have been contacted by a possible procurement agent for Osama Bin Laden,” according to the 9/11 Comission Report. Additionally, al-Awlaki had “been visited by Ziyad Khaleel, an al-Qaeda operative who purchased a battery for Osama bin Laden’s satellite phone, as well as by an associate of Omar Abdel Rahman, the so-called blind Shaykh.”

Around this period of time, al-Awlaki was the vice-president of the Charitable Society for Social Welfare, a money-funneling front for al-Qaeda.

One contact of al-Awlaki’s in San Diego was Omar al-Bayoumi, who introduced al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi to him. Al-Bayoumi was presented in the 9/11 Commission Report as a “good Samaritan,” according to mainstream media reports, who wanted to help fellow Saudis al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi, who had previously been surveilled by three governments at the request of the CIA before showing up in San Diego.

However, the “28 pages” of the congressional “Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 11” that had long been withheld from the U.S. public until they were declassified 13 years later following lobbying by victims of the terrorist attacks, strongly indicate that al-Bayoumi was a Saudi intelligence officer. Additionally, former US intelligence official Richard Clarke has speculated that he was also a CIA asset. The 28 pages note that the “FBI discovered that al-Bayoumi has ties to terrorist elements as well.”

Al-Bayoumi, who was on the payroll of the Saudi monarchy via a third party company, set up al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi with an apartment. That very same day, four phone calls took place between al-Bayoumi and al-Awlaki.

Another “close associate” of al-Bayoumi and yet another suspected Saudi intelligence officer — and friend of al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi — Osama Basnan, had been investigated by the FBI in 1993 for his support for Osama Bin Laden, contacts with the Bin Laden family, and holding a party in 1992 for the Blind Shaykh, another Afghan Mujahideen figure who worked with the CIA and Osama Bin Laden. The Blind Shaykh died in prison in 2017 for his role in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.

Money sent to Basnan from members of the Saudi Royal Family had made its way into al-Bayoumi’s pockets. The two had called each other “roughly 700 times” over the period of one year. Basnan would later brag that he did more to help the 9/11 hijackers than al-Bayoumi to an FBI asset.

News reports from 2003 note how “FBI officials continue to downplay any possible culpability on the part of Omar al-Bayoumi, Anwar Al-Awlaki or Osama Basnan.” Al-Bayoumi and Basnan’s extremism wasn’t acknowledged by US authorities until the long-withheld 28 pages were released in 2016.

During al-Awlaki’s time in San Diego, when he wasn’t getting busted for trying to pick up prostitutes or starting failed business ventures, he held frequent, closed-door meetings with al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar until he went on what he told reporters was a “sabbatical” through “several countries” in 2000, the year that the USS Cole was bombed.

Some time the following year, al-Awlaki resettled just outside Falls Church, Virginia, and became the imam at a local mosque. He was followed by the three hijackers: Hanjour, al-Hazmi, and al-Mihdhar, and an associate of his set them up with an apartment in Alexandria. Additionally, one accused key planner of the 9/11 attacks, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, the so-called “20th hijacker” currently held in Guantanamo Bay, had al-Awlaki’s phone number in his personal contact list when his apartment was raided in the days following the attacks.

Freedom of Information Act requests have furnished the public with under-reported documents showing when the FBI investigated al-Awlaki’s Visa transactions, an entry for “Atta, Mohammed — American West Airlines, 08/13/2001, Washington, DC to Las Vegas to Miami” turned up. Mohammed Atta is widely described as the “ringleader” of the September 11 attacks.

The flight referenced was one of Atta’s so-called “surveillance flights.” Logs for flights of two more hijackers — one of the al-Shehri brothers and Satam al-Squami, also appear in the disclosed Visa investigation documents. The FBI has denied having evidence of al-Awlaki purchasing plane tickets for the hijackers.

By this time, al-Awlaki was becoming a somewhat prominent figure, with up to 3,000 people regularly showing up for his Friday services, and with CD box set lectures becoming popular. He went back briefly to San Diego in August 2001 and reportedly told a neighbor “I don’t think you’ll be seeing me… Later on you’ll find out why.”

One frequent attendee at al-Awlaki’s lectures was Gordon Snow, then-FBI Director of Counterintelligence for the Middle East. Snow had recently been “assigned to assessment, protection, and investigative support missions after the bombing of the USS Cole in Aden, Yemen.” Al-Awlaki was also around this time serving as the Muslim chaplain at D.C.’s George Washington University.

Following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, “al-Awlaki was one of Washington DC’s go-to Muslim sources, considered a moderate Islamic voice with positive views of the United States and the West who did not shy away from publicly condemning Islamist terrorism and the 9/11 attacks” according to a research paper published by the Homeland Security Digital Library.  In highly-public remarks, he was condemning the attacks, but just days after he was giving comments to Islamic websites blaming Israel and claiming the FBI had placed the blame on any passenger on those flights with Muslim-sounding names.

Though it was then not known that al-Awlaki was the “spiritual leader” of some of the hijackers, the New York Times, National Public Radio, and the Washington Post among others, went to him as their default Muslim voice.

“I think that in general, Islam is presented in a negative way. I mean there’s always this association of Islam and terrorism when that is not true at all, I mean, Islam is a religion of peace” he told the Washington Post as they recorded him from the passenger seat of his car in November 2001. In a subsequent video, al-Awlaki downplays the crimes of the Taliban, saying “the US is kind of demonizing the Taliban, and it’s true, the Taliban have made a lot of mistakes in the past, but the Northern Alliance isn’t really any better.”

A screenshot from a Washington Post interview Al-Awlaki

Around this time, al-Awlaki would become the first imam in history to conduct a prayer service in the U.S. Capitol. Between September 15, 2001 and September 19th, 2001, the FBI interviewed al-Awlaki four times according to FBI documents.

“The FBI told the 9/11 Commission and Congress that it did not have reason to detain Awlaki,” according to a later article by the Washington Post.

Within months of the attacks and following a vetting process, al-Awlaki was invited to a luncheon with military brass at the Pentagon as a “moderate Muslim” to hold dialogue with as part of move to reach out to Muslim community members.

Despite his support in high places, al-Awlaki left the United States in 2002 with the Falls Church mosque citing a “climate of fear and intimidation.”

He would spend the next years in the United Kingdom before returning to Yemen. But he made a stop back in the U.S. in 2002, flying in on a Saudi Arabia Airlines flight with a Saudi agent accompanying him at the connecting airport on his way to JFK, according to law enforcement documents obtained by Paul Sperry.

With an arrest warrant out on him for passport fraud, federal agents detained al-Awlaki upon his return. But a federal judge had rescinded the arrest warrant that very same day, allowing al-Awlaki to walk free.

He’d go back to northern Virginia and meet with Ali al-Timimi, a radical cleric who was later arrested for recruiting 11 Muslims to join the Taliban, to talk to him about getting young Muslims to take up jihad.

Even al-Timimi thought something was suspect, reportedly wondering “if Mr. Awlaki might be trying to entrap him at the FBI’s instigation,” according to his friends. Al-Awlaki left again on a Saudi flight without incident, however, Sperry claims, citing law enforcement documents, that he had another warrant out for his arrest based on an investigation against terrorism financing by the U.S. Treasury Department. That claim has been corroborated by government documents which reveal that FBI agent Wade Ammerman ordered that the warrant be bypassed.

By the time 9/11 Commission Investigators tried to interview al-Awlaki in 2003, they were unable to locate him, according to the report.

And yet, documents obtained via the Freedom of Information Act reveal that al-Awlaki was exchanging emails and voice messages with an FBI agent that year. One document has an FBI agent writing to another “Holy crap, [redacted] isn’t this your guy? The [imam] with the prostitutes.”

Another document has an FBI agent complaining of the 9/11 Commission’s “numerous and unrelenting” attempts to access al-Awlaki. Another memo dated within days of al-Awlaki’s return to the U.S. to meet with al-Timimi has al-Awlaki’s name in the subject line in addition to “Synopsis: Asset reporting.”

 

The Candide of Jihad

When al-Awlaki started preaching in London, his rhetoric took a decidedly more extremist turn with frequent denunciations of non-Muslims and calls for martyrdom. He would relocate to Yemen where he would lecture at a university in Sana’a run by Sheik Abd-al-Majid al-Zindini, who was later designated a terrorist by the U.S. and fought with Osama bin Laden, with U.S. support during Operation Cyclone in Afghanistan.

In 2006, al-Awlaki was arrested again in Yemen for participating in a al-Qaeda plot to kidnap a U.S. military attaché and a Shia teenager. FBI agents would interview him in prison about the 9/11 attacks. After a while, some U.S. officials were “disturbed at the imprisonment without charge of a United States citizen” and “signaled that they no longer insisted on Mr Awlaki’s incarceration, and he was released,” according to the New York Times.

Following his release in Yemen, al-Awlaki started his own website and his far-reaching online rhetoric became even more extremist and supportive of attacks against the United States. He also started being featured in videos published by al-Qaeda itself and has been dubbed the “bin Laden of the internet.”

“The bin Laden of the internet”

His name would begin to increasingly surface in connection to high-profile terrorist attacks on Western targets: Abdulhakim Mujahid Muhammad, the perpetrator of a drive-by shooting on a US military recruiting office in Arkansas, claimed to be dispatched by AQAP and carried al-Awlaki’s literature; Nidal Hasan, who killed 13 and injured 30 at Fort Hood, had attended al-Awlaki’s lectures at the Falls Church mosque and exchanged up to 20 emails with him leading up to his attack (al-Awlaki later described Hasan as a “hero”); Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, the failed “underwear bomber,” is believed to have met with him weeks prior in Yemen; a New Jersey man by the name of Sharif Mobley who killed a Yemeni hospital guard after he was captured in a raid against al-Qaeda had made contact with al-Awlaki and went to Yemen to seek him out; and the 2010 attempted Times Square bomber had contact with him.

Anwar al-Awlaki pictured with the so-called “underwear bomber”

A full list of all the people arrested for trying to support al-Qaeda who had contact with al-Awlaki, or those who attempted to carry out terrorist attacks who were inspired by al-Awlaki, would be too long for this article. “Al-Awlaki’s sermons and recordings have been found on the computers of at least a dozen of [sic] terror suspects in the U.S. and Britain,” CNN reported in 2010. Al-Awlaki is considered to have helped inspire the Boston Marathon bombing, the 2015 attack in San Bernardino, California, and the shooting at the Orlando Pulse Nightclub.

In 2010, al-Awlaki was placed on the U.S. kill list, he then made his way onto the Treasury Department’s list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists, and then the United Nation Security Council’s list of individuals associated with al-Qaeda.

The following year, the CIA finally liquidated its own former asset with a drone strike.

“The death of Awlaki is a major blow to Al-Qaeda’s most active operational affiliate. He took the lead in planning and directing efforts to murder innocent Americans,” President Obama said at the time.

Two weeks after the killing of al-Awlaki, another drone strike ordered by Obama killed Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, Anwar’s American-born 16-year-old son. Six years later, President Trump ordered a raid that killed Nawar al-Awlaki, the eight-year-old daughter of Anwar.

Eight-year-old Nawar Anwar Al-Awlaki bled to death over two hours

 

Best Frenemies Forever

Yemen has suffered six years of devastating war since revolutionary Houthi forces took over the capital in September of 2014 from then-President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi, the former vice president of longtime ruler Ali Abdullah Saleh, who is widely considered to be a puppet of Saudi Arabia. The war was exacerbated by the introduction of foreign forces and foreign air power to the conflict, most notably by the Saudi-led coalition’s entry on March 25th, 2015.

Six years on, the war has produced what experts have been calling the worst humanitarian catastrophe in the world, with the United Nations estimating that 80 percent of the Yemeni population in severe need of humanitarian assistance including 12 million children.

While the U.S. has repeatedly pounded AQAP in Yemen with bombs, they are not entirely enemies. The Saudi coalition, which the U.S. is a part of, is at war with the revolutionary Houthi government, and therefore shares a purpose in the country with al-Qaeda: expelling the Houthis from power.

“The coalition cut secret deals with al-Qaeda fighters, paying some to leave key cities and towns and letting others retreat with weapons, equipment and wads of looted cash,” the Associated Press reported in 2018. “Hundreds more were recruited to join the coalition itself.”

“Key participants in the pacts said the U.S. was aware of the arrangements and held off on any drone strikes,” according to AP. In fact, the coalition actively recruits them because they are considered formidable on the battlefield, the outlet says before continuing to detail al-Qaeda figures playing key roles in major militias backed by the United Arab Emirates, another coalition partner.

And since the U.S. has sent billions of dollars in weapons to the coalition to fight the Houthis, it should come as little shock that al-Qaeda militias are parading around Yemeni city streets in U.S.-made MRAP armored vehicles.

Screenshot of CNN-obtained footage of the Abu Abbas brigade using U.S. MRAPS. The AQAP-linked militia was incorporated into the coalition despite its leader being a U.S.-designated terrorist

Saudi expert Ali Al-Ahmed told me that the U.S. can justify its presence in Yemen by supporting al-Qaeda and then saying that AQAP is a great threat to America.

He said the “idea that Muslims are our enemies, we need to bring them down, take their wealth and keep them fighting each other” was started by Henry Kissinger and Zbigniew Brzezinski, the architect of Operation Cyclone, but was mainly supported in the beginning by Qatar.

He added: “they even had to overthrow the government of Pakistan to get this policy through. They made Pakistan into this arm to carry out this thing with Brzezinski.”

“Al-Qaeda and ISIS would not survive without state support, including the U.S., and they do it because it serves their interests. Not the interests of the U.S., but of those in power and the companies that make money off this,” he said.

Al-Ahmed describes al-Qaeda as a useful tool for U.S. intelligence and other actors to achieve their geopolitical goals. He tells me a story of a Jordanian carpenter who was pressured and bribed to join al-Qaeda in their effort in Syria against the government of Bashar Assad, with American, British, and Jordanian intelligence officers offering him whatever he wanted to go.

He didn’t want to go, and so they threatened him. Eventually, al-Ahmed describes, he went, came back and was quickly “taken out” upon his return.

“Al-Qaeda is like a whore, and everybody is sleeping with that whore,” al-Ahmed said.

Rune Agerhus, co-founder of the Yemen Solidarity Council, contributed to this report.

Feature photo | Alex Rubinstein

Alex Rubinstein is an independent reporter on Substack. You can subscribe to get free articles from him delivered to your inbox here, and if you want to support his journalism, which is never put behind a paywall, you can give a one-time donation to him through PayPal here or sustain his reporting through Patreon here.

The post CIA Pressured Yemen to Release al-Qaeda Leader From Prison appeared first on MintPress News.

With Over $1 Billion Spent, Domestic Dark Money Dwarfs All Foreign Influence on 2020 Election

WASHINGTON — A newly declassified report from the National Intelligence Council (NIC) alleges that a range of U.S. enemies — including Russia, Venezuela, Cuba, Iran and Hezbollah — all attempted to interfere in the 2020 election.

The scope of the supposed interference was relatively minor, amounting to attempts to push false narratives around Democratic nominee Joe Biden, with state media outlets questioning Biden’s credibility or sending out emails meant to confuse or intimidate American voters.

The report offered no evidence for the allegations, arguing that “doing so could endanger sensitive sources and methods and imperil the intelligence community’s ability to collect foreign intelligence.” However, the NIC insisted, the classified report included such evidence and came to the same conclusions.

Despite the lack of substance, and the fact that the intelligence community has continually published outlandish claims about foreign actors’ nefarious roles (which were later rolled back), the report’s release became a major international story, dominating the news cycle and featuring prominently in The New York Times, CNN, MSNBC, ABC News, The Guardian and many other outlets.

The report generated outrage on social media. Movie director turned political activist Rob Reiner summed up the mood among many: “No surprise. Putin launched a massive disinformation campaign in 2020 to help Trump. This time he failed to get him elected. But he was more than successful at poisoning our Democracy. Evidence: Jan.6. To restore faith, Trump must be prosecuted,” he tweeted.

 

Home cooking in a big, dark kitchen

Receiving far less attention was a report published at the same time by the Center for Responsive Politics, which revealed enormous election interference from corporate dark money. More than $1 billion worth of secret donations were made during the 2020 election. This included around $660 million in contributions to big-money political groups, more than $300 million in advertising, and $88 million in FEC-reported spending.

Few people, even political junkies, know the names of these organizations. But dark-money groups — organizations trying to influence politics that do not disclose the source of their funding, such as Duty & Honor and America Votes — have considerably more influence over who rules the United States than do any foreign leaders.

 

Sauce for the goose?

The largest of these groups in terms of political spending is One Nation America, a Republican organization masterminded by former White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove. The organization spent over $125 million during the last election cycle. 

However, it was the Democrats who benefitted the most from dark money sourced from wealthy, shadowy donors. Democrats outraised the GOP by well over two-to-one, with Biden’s bid attracting more than six times the amount of money from anonymous sources than did Trump’s. Given the relatively close race, it is entirely plausible that this massive cash injection swung the balance in favor of the 78-year-old Delawarean and away from the incumbent. 

 

Putting “meddling” in perspective

In 2016, the St. Petersburg-based “troll farm” the Internet Research Agency is said to have spent around $100,000 in online ads targeting American readers. But four years later, the Center for Responsive Politics calculates that opaque non-profits shelled out $132 million on the same thing — more than a thousand times as much.

In politics, money talks. Since 2000, the party spending the most cash has won between 85% and 98% of all House and 71% and 85% of all Senate races, depending on the year. Election 2020 was by far the costliest election in history, coming in at $14.4 billion. That figure is more than double the price of the 2016 election, which cost around $6.5 billion. The six most expensive Senate races of all time occurred in this cycle. Democrats comfortably outraised and outspent Republicans in 2020.

The two Senate elections in Georgia — regular and special, which both went to runoffs that saw Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock elected — wound up with nearly $830 million spent on the two races alone. Democrats relied on hefty donations from tech companies like Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, and AT&T, while Republicans counted on support from financial firms like Goldman Sachs and Bank of America and from money from the Koch Brothers.

This disparity in coverage between the two reports suggests that, while unapproved foreign interference is a major scandal, corporations and the ultra-wealthy essentially buying elections is simply (big) business as usual.

Feature photo | President-elect Joe Biden speaks in Wilmington, Del, Nov. 7, 2020. Andrew Harnik | AP

Alan MacLeod is Senior Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent, as well as a number of academic articles. He has also contributed to FAIR.orgThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin Magazine, and Common Dreams.

The post With Over $1 Billion Spent, Domestic Dark Money Dwarfs All Foreign Influence on 2020 Election appeared first on MintPress News.

US Intel Thinks You’re Stupid: ODNI Report Blames Russia, Ignores Colombian Election Interference

WASHINGTON — Russiagate is back! That’s right. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) says Russian President Vladimir Putin and Iran’s Ayatollah Khamenei meddled in the 2020 U.S. election. But not only they: Lebanese Hezbollah, Cuba and Venezuela did it too.

I know what you’re thinking: Where is the evidence? Well, the ODNI report doesn’t show any. But phrases like “we judge,”“we assess,” “probably,” and “likely” are used dozens of times. Apparently for corporate media, that’s good enough.

Never mind that, way down on the last page, the report says “Judgments are not intended to imply that we have proof that shows something to be a fact.”

So it’s the opinion, the estimation of the intelligence agencies.

 

A 180-degree change of heart?

The very same intelligence agencies that somehow missed that a giant mob of Trump supporters were openly planning to storm the Capitol building on January 6th. Or that said there was going to be a QAnon attack on the Capitol on March 4th that never happened. Or that told us back in November that Russia didn’t influence the election – the polar opposite of what they’re telling us now.

“There was no fraud, there were no irregularities,” commented former CIA chief of staff and CNN analyst Jeremy Bash.

“Various agencies have come out to say there was no widespread fraud in this election,” remarked CNN White House correspondent Pamela Brown.

“This has been the safest, most secure election we have ever had. We also know that Russia largely did not play in this election,” declared former Obama aide Chris Lu.

“It was remarkable. We didn’t see the kind of disinformation or disruption that we were worried about from Russia, if not China,” assured former Department of Homeland Security official Juliette Kayyem.

“2020 was a very secure election,” declared former National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster.

But that’s all been memory-holed because the intelligence community and news media think the public has the memory of a goldfish.

 

When Russian “propaganda” happens to be the plain truth

The report says that Russia’s primary effort was “alleging corrupt ties between President Joe Biden, his family and other U.S. officials in Ukraine.” Clearly, that’s a reference to Biden overseeing the 2014 coup d’etat in Ukraine and then putting his son Hunter on the board of the Ukrainian energy company Burisma, where he collected an $80,000 paycheck every month despite having no background in energy.

That’s right, if you think that’s corruption, you’re getting played by Putin.

The report also claims that Russian online influence actors played a tricky double game. Not only did they “promote former President [Donald] Trump and his commentary… At the same time, Russian actors criticized former President Trump or his administration when they pursued foreign policies – such as the targeted killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani.”

So if you thought that it was maybe a bad idea to start a war with Iran, you’re under the influence of Russian propaganda.

And when Joe Biden said about the killing of Solemani, “The haphazard decision making process that led up it, the failure to consult with our allies or Congress, and the reckless disregard for the consequences that would surely follow was in my view dangerously incompetent,” he was actually promoting Russian propaganda.

So were Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, Andrew Yang, Pete Buttigieg and Michael Bloomberg

 

US ally gets a pass

But maybe what’s most remarkable is not what’s in the ODNI report, but what isn’t.

By the standards of the U.S. government, multiple elected officials in the party of Colombian President Ivan Duque brazenly interfered in the election against Biden.

Senator Carlos Felipe Mejia tweeted this video of a Trump speech attacking Biden. Congressman Juan David Velez quote-tweeted Trump saying “We will make Colombia great again.”

Or Senator Maria Fernanda Cabal, who in one blog post heralded Trump as leader of the never-ending struggle against socialism and wrote that Biden is leading the way towards the radical wing of the Democratic Party’s socialist vision. On her Instagram, she posted a cartoon portraying Biden as a trojan horse for Bernie Sanders, Ilhan Omar and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez  – whom she considers socialists. Here she portrayed Trump as an anti-communist warrior against Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro and Nicolas Maduro.

The interference from Colombia’s far-right was happening so frequently that the U.S. Embassy in Colombia felt it necessary to warn them to not interfere in the election. And two Democratic members of Congress wrote an op-ed asking the Colombians to stop interfering.

On her blog, Maria Fernanda Cabal pointed out that the U.S. government didn’t take issue with former President Juan Manuel Santos saying he preferred Hillary Clinton during the 2016 campaign. Granted, that was a much more diplomatic approach than the rabid anti-communism of Maria Fernanda Cabal and was ostensibly based on Santos’s desire for the Colombian peace accord to succeed. But nonetheless, by the standards of the intelligence report, Santos’s endorsement of Clinton should be construed as interference.

 

“Election integrity” as a foil for geopolitical agenda

So why does the so-called intelligence community tell us that State Department-designated Official Enemy countries tried to interfere in the elections without providing a shred of evidence while ignoring the mounds of evidence that the U.S.’s closest ally in Latin America repeatedly interfered?

It’s because accusations of interference have nothing to do with protecting election integrity and everything to do with advancing a narrow, imperialist political agenda.

See, back in late January, Biden had signed an arms treaty with Russia – a necessary step to prevent a hot war, but bad for the image the spy agencies and Western media present of Russia as an evil empire. And the evidence-free media frenzies about Russia poisoning Alexei Navalny, hacking U.S. government agencies, and paying the Taliban to kill American soldiers in Afghanistan, which had been dominating the 24 hours news cycle, were getting stale.

So the ODNI report is a fresh injection of Russiagate bullshit into the bloodstream of American politics, one that prompted Biden to talk tough against Putin, even if George Stephanopolous has to demand it.

This is the clip of Biden's recent comments on Putin. Notice that @GStephanopoulos pressures a semi-conscious Biden to denounce Putin as a "killer" and demands he pay a price. This isn't journalism. It's straight up war propaganda. pic.twitter.com/sGRR4Htfxd

— Dan Cohen (@dancohen3000) March 18, 2021

If it wasn’t clear before, Russiagate is a permanent feature of American politics. It’s too useful to the intelligence agencies and war industry, no matter how transparent the lies are.

Feature photo | Graphic by Antonio Cabrera

Dan Cohen is the Washington DC correspondent for Behind The Headlines. He has produced widely distributed video reports and print dispatches from across Israel-Palestine. He tweets at @DanCohen3000.

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Sputnik V: EU Sacrifices Its Citizens by the Thousands on the Altar of Anti-Russia Point-Scoring

BRUSSELS — It is really not going well in Europe. Nearly 900,000 people have died from COVID-19, a number of countries are facing new waves of the deadly virus, and Paris is going into a four-week lockdown starting tonight after a fresh spike in cases. Meanwhile, the European Union’s vaccine rollout has been particularly ponderous. The EU has managed to vaccinate only around one-third as many citizens per capita as have the United States or United Kingdom, even trailing far poorer neighbors such as Serbia or Turkey (who have embraced Russian and Chinese offerings).

 

Killing our citizens to own the Ruskies

One potential solution to Europe’s woes could come in the form of the Russian-developed Sputnik V vaccine, endorsed by the scientific community as safe and effective and already under production in Italy. Russia has expressed its desire to work with European pharmaceutical giants to produce doses to help the EU’s 450 million citizens. Yet diplomats told Reuters that many countries would rather let tens of thousands more citizens die than allow Russia to save them. “There are some who will not want to give [Russia] this propaganda victory, and there are others who will be seeing this as an opportunity to actually show that we are cooperating,” one diplomat said. “It’s Russian: it’s bad,” is a dominant strain of thought among policy makers, he added.

Publicly, the EU has already dismissed Russia’s global COVID-19 vaccine supply as a propaganda stunt. “We should not let ourselves be misled by China and Russia, both regimes with less desirable values than ours, as they organize highly limited but widely publicized operations to supply vaccines to others,” said President of the European Council Charles Michel, adding “Europe will not use vaccines for propaganda purposes.”

Behind the EU’s back, however, a number of states are breaking ranks and acting unilaterally. Hungary and Slovakia have already begun using Sputnik and have moved ahead of others in the bloc in terms of vaccinations. Italy has ordered shots, while the Czech Republic appears on the verge of doing the same. Slovakia’s decision has sparked a serious split in its ruling coalition. The neoliberal, pro-EU For the People Party has threatened to resign from government over the matter.

 

Combating “malign influence” by spreading the pandemic

The United States has also spent much of the last year attempting to suppress the development and global rollout of Sputnik V. A report from the Department of Health and Human Services boasted that one of its primary achievements of 2020 was working with a host of other government agencies to combat the “malign influence” of Russia in the Americas. The primary example it cites was “persuading Brazil to reject the Russian COVID-19 vaccine.”

Partially as a result of U.S. actions, the pandemic is raging out of control in Brazil, the country hitting all-time highs of over 90,000 new infections on Wednesday and nearly 3,000 reported deaths on Tuesday alone. ICU wards in 19 of the country’s 27 states are at capacity, with a new, more infectious strain arising in the city of Manaus and found throughout the country.

Add that to Western hoarding of vaccines and the blocking of an intellectual property waiver that would have allowed poor countries to produce the vaccine for cost price, it seems clear that U.S. and EU actions have led to the deaths of countless thousands of people in the Global South already.

Western media have also kept up a near relentless barrage of negative stories about the Russian and Chinese vaccines, constantly attempting to undermine their credibility. It appears to have had a limited impact, however, as a YouGov poll of 11 nations found that Russia is the most trusted vaccine producer worldwide.

Sputnik V works along similar lines to Western offerings, with comparable rates of effectiveness. Developed by the state-run Gamaleya Institute, it is a viral vector vaccine, meaning that it employs another virus to carry the DNA encoding of the desired immune response into cells. Protein coding genes from the coronavirus are inserted into two common cold-like viruses that have been genetically modified so they cannot replicate inside the human body. Like Western variants, it must be delivered in two doses some weeks apart but the storage temperature (-18°C/-0.4°F) is considerably warmer than that required for the Pfizer vaccine.

 

Cold War 2.0

The vaccine war is part of a wider international campaign currently aimed at Russia. Yesterday, President Joe Biden declared Russian President Vladimir Putin a “killer” and threatened entities cooperating with the new Nord Stream 2 pipeline carrying Russian gas to central Europe with immediate sanctions if they continue working on the project. He also rejected Putin’s offer of a live, televised debate.

All of this is a far cry from 2012, when, as vice-president, Biden was mocking Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s apparent obsession with Russia. “He acts like he thinks the Cold War’s still on,” Biden joked, “I don’t know where he’s been.” “This is not 1956,” he added; “it exposes how little the governor knows about foreign policy.”

In 2012, only 2% of Americans saw Russia as their greatest geopolitical threat. Today, that number is 26%, topped only by a massive spike in anti-China sentiment. Unfortunately, Romney’s rhetoric, risible in 2012, seems tame by today’s standards.

Feature photo | Boxes loaded with the Russian Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine arrive at Tunis airport, March 9, 2021. Hassene Dridi | AP

Alan MacLeod is Senior Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent, as well as a number of academic articles. He has also contributed to FAIR.orgThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin Magazine, and Common Dreams.

The post Sputnik V: EU Sacrifices Its Citizens by the Thousands on the Altar of Anti-Russia Point-Scoring appeared first on MintPress News.

Recruited, Arrested, On Trial: Yemeni Spies Tell of Their Reluctant Work for CIA, MI6

SANA’A, YEMEN — There is little dispute that the United States and the United Kingdom have been major benefactors to the Saudi Kingdom in its six-year-long attempt to use military might to bring Yemen to heel. Both countries have provided billions in hi-tech weapons, intelligence information, and training to what is arguably the Middle East’s most repressive monarchy. But according to the confessions of six men arrested last month amid the ongoing battle over Yemen’s strategic Marib province, Western support for the Saudi-led Coalition goes much farther than conventional military support.

 

Arrested Yemeni spies speak to MintPress

The CIA and MI6, its British counterpart, have recruited hundreds of Yemenis to work as mercenaries and spies gathering intelligence and coordinates of Yemeni military positions in Marib, al-Mahrah, Sana’a and Sadaa, and providing that information to their handlers, according to confessions given to the Yemeni Security Intelligence Service (YSIS) by at least six Yemeni nationals currently on trial in Sana’a for violating Article 130 of Yemen’s Penal Code.

The six men, who are being held in a detention facility in Sana’a, agreed to speak to MintPress about their experiences. They insist that abject poverty as a result of the ongoing war drove them to participate in the operation, which they said came with the promise of a $300 payout.

According to the men, the operation was carried out primarily at the Ghaydah Airport in eastern al-Mahrah. There, they joined dozens of young Yemenis recruited by the CIA for training by  American and British officers on how to properly identify and describe; the use of cameras, sophisticated software programs and devices used to share coordinates; information gathering; and how to find and identify military leaders and headquarters, workshops, factories, laboratories, warehouses, checkpoints and launching sites for missiles and drones. Even the locations of the personal homes and vehicles of Ansar Allah members and other vocal opponents of the Saudi intervention were sought, according to the men.

 

A careful recruitment process

Their recruitment process was long and delicate, beginning when the men were approached by Yemeni officers working for the Aden-based National Security Agency. After agreeing to travel to al-Mahrah to learn more, the men were housed in hotels before being brought to special cottages at the Ghaydah Airport where they were interviewed by American and British intelligence officers. Muhammad Har, one of the six charged, told MintPress that he was initially approached by Fayez Muhammad Ismail Al-Muntaser, a former officer of the National Security Agency and commander of the Saudi-led Coalition’s Special Missions Battalion.

“When it was my turn, I entered the [unintelligible] and was surprised that members of the committee were Americans. One was asking the questions, the second was writing data, the third was taking fingerprints, while the fourth black-skinned one was translating,” Ali Mohammed Abdullah al-Jomani, a 34-year-old detainee from Haddah recalled. Al-Jomani, who says he used to earn the equivalent of about $10 per day, was put up in the Taj Al-Arab Hotel for three months during the initiation process. “When we went back to conduct the second interview, we did not find the Americans, but rather British officers. They repeated the previous questions about our ability to use maps, drive cars, and use computers.” This tracks with allegations by the Yemeni Security Intelligence Service that the CIA was recruiting young Yemenis and handing them over to British officers for training and further handling.

According to the men, there were two separate camps at the airport, one American and the other Saudi. “After we were accepted, we were trained on how to describe people, cars, and homes and how to share data and photos through WhatsApp,” recalled Basem Ali Ahmed al-Kharouga, a 29-year-old detainee from Sana’a. “The training included field exercises inside and outside of the airport.” Al-Kharouga had long dreamed of traveling abroad and thought that he had finally found his way to flee the violence when he was promised a foreign passport in exchange for the work.

 

Few options for young Yemenis

In addition to poverty and unemployment, there are other reasons that Yemen’s youth would risk life and freedom to work with foreign intelligence services, perhaps the most prominent being the blockade levied against the country by the Saudi Coalition since 2015. Before the war, Yemenis would regularly leave the country for business, pleasure and to seek medical care. Now — with seaports and airports, especially the once-bustling Sana’a International Airport, effectively shuttered by the Saudi Coalition — Yemenis are no longer able to flee the violence in their country or travel abroad, leaving many desperate young Yemenis with few options.

Hospitals, schools, office buildings, and infrastructure like water wells and sewage networks have been destroyed in the wake of Saudi bombing campaigns, which are often carried out with U.S. and British targeting information gleaned from their network of recruited spies. Funerals, weddings, homes, and other civilian facilities have been targeted, leading to the death and wounding of thousands of civilians and making American and British intelligence services complicit, at best, in the wanton violence.

“We were sent to Marib, me and another guy who went by the name of ‘Akram Amer,’ on one mission that lasted for four days. We were assigned by [a man named] ‘George’ to spy on the home of Ali Salem al-Huraizy near al-Rawda Park,” Aymen Mujahid Qaid Muhammad Harish, one of the six detainees, told MintPress. Among Harish’s tasks was to monitor sites in the city of Arhab, north of Sana’a, where the Saudi Coalition would later target a home where a funeral was taking place. The double-tap airstrike left a child and nine women dead and, according to Harish, his Western handlers, who were responsible for providing the Saudis with targeting data, are to blame for the attack.

Feature photo | Men are silhouetted against a large representation of the Yemeni flag as they attend a ceremony in Sanaa, Yemen. Hani Mohammed | AP

Ahmed AbdulKareem is a Yemeni journalist based in Sana’a. He covers the war in Yemen for MintPress News as well as local Yemeni media.

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How China Won the Middle East Without Firing a Single Bullet

A much anticipated American foreign policy move under the Biden Administration on how to counter China’s unhindered economic growth and political ambitions came in the form of a virtual summit on March 12, linking, aside from the United States, India, Australia and Japan.

Although the so-called ‘Quad’ revealed nothing new in their joint statement, the leaders of these four countries spoke about the ‘historic’ meeting, described by ‘The Diplomat’ website as “a significant milestone in the evolution of the grouping”.

Actually, the joint statement has little substance and certainly nothing new by way of a blueprint on how to reverse – or even slow down – Beijing’s geopolitical successes, growing military confidence and increasing presence in or around strategic global waterways.

For years, the ‘Quad’ has been busy formulating a unified China strategy but it has failed to devise anything of practical significance. ‘Historic’ meetings aside, China is the world’s only major economy that is predicted to yield significant economic growth this year – and imminently. International Monetary Fund’s projections show that the Chinese economy is expected to expand by 8.1 percent in 2021 while, on the other hand, according to data from the US Bureau of Economic Analysis, the US’ GDP has declined by around 3.5 percent in 2020.

The ‘Quad’ – which stands for Quadrilateral Security Dialogue – began in 2007, and was revived in 2017, with the obvious aim of repulsing China’s advancement in all fields. Like most American alliances, the ‘Quad’ is the political manifestation of a military alliance, namely the Malabar Naval Exercises. The latter started in 1992 and soon expanded to include all four countries.

Since Washington’s ‘pivot to Asia’, i.e., the reversal of established US foreign policy that was predicated on placing greater focus on the Middle East, there is little evidence that Washington’s confrontational policies have weakened Beijing’s presence, trade or diplomacy throughout the continent. Aside from close encounters between the American and Chinese navies in the South China Sea, there is very little else to report.

While much media coverage has focused on the US’ pivot to Asia, little has been said about China’s pivot to the Middle East, which has been far more successful as an economic and political endeavor than the American geostrategic shift.

The US’ seismic change in its foreign policy priorities stemmed from its failure to translate the Iraq war and invasion of 2003 into a decipherable geo-economic success as a result of seizing control of Iraq’s oil largesse – the world’s second-largest proven oil reserves. The US strategy proved to be a complete blunder.

In an article published in the Financial Times in September 2020, Jamil Anderlini raises a fascinating point. “If oil and influence were the prizes, then it seems China, not America, has ultimately won the Iraq war and its aftermath – without ever firing a shot,” he wrote.

Not only is China now Iraq’s biggest trading partner, but Beijing’s massive economic and political influence in the Middle East is also a triumph. China is now, according to the Financial Times, the Middle East’s biggest foreign investor and a strategic partnership with all Gulf States – save Bahrain. Compare this with Washington’s confused foreign policy agenda in the region, its unprecedented indecisiveness, absence of a definable political doctrine and the systematic breakdown of its regional alliances.

This paradigm becomes clearer and more convincing when understood on a global scale. By the end of 2019, China became the world’s leader in terms of diplomacy, as it then boasted 276 diplomatic posts, many of which are consulates. Unlike embassies, consulates play a more significant role in terms of trade and economic exchanges. According to 2019 figures which were published in ‘Foreign Affairs’ magazine, China has 96 consulates compared with the US’ 88. Till 2012, Beijing lagged significantly behind Washington’s diplomatic representation, precisely by 23 posts.

Wherever China is diplomatically present, economic development follows. Unlike the US’ disjointed global strategy, China’s global ambitions are articulated through a massive network, known as the Belt and Road Initiative, estimated at trillions of dollars. When completed, BRI is set to unify more than sixty countries around Chinese-led economic strategies and trade routes. For this to materialize, China quickly moved to establish closer physical proximity to the world’s most strategic waterways, heavily investing in some and, as in the case of Bab al-Mandab Strait, establishing its first-ever overseas military base in Djibouti, located in the Horn of Africa.

At a time when the US economy is shrinking and its European allies are politically fractured, it is difficult to imagine that any American plan to counter China’s influence, whether in the Middle East, Asia or anywhere else, will have much success.

The biggest hindrance to Washington’s China strategy is that there can never be an outcome in which the US achieves a clear and precise victory. Economically, China is now driving global growth, thus balancing out the US-international crisis resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Hurting China economically would weaken the US as well as the global markets.

The same is true politically and strategically. In the case of the Middle East, the pivot to Asia has backfired on multiple fronts. On the one hand, it registered no palpable success in Asia while, on the other, it created a massive vacuum for China to refocus its own strategy in the Middle East.

Some wrongly argue that China’s entire political strategy is predicated on its desire to merely ‘do business’. While economic dominance is historically the main drive of all superpowers, Beijing’s quest for global supremacy is hardly confined to finance. On many fronts, China has either already taken the lead or is approaching there. For example, on March 9, China and Russia signed an agreement to construct the International Lunar Research Station (ILRS). Considering Russia’s long legacy in space exploration and China’s recent achievements in the field – including the first-ever spacecraft landing on the South Pole-Aitken Basin area of the moon – both countries are set to take the lead in the resurrected space race.

Certainly, the US-led ‘Quad’ meeting was neither historic nor a game-changer, as all indicators attest that China’s global leadership will continue unhindered, a consequential event that is already reordering the world’s geopolitical paradigms which have been in place for over a century.

Feature photo | Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi, left, is shown the way by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang on stage during a welcome ceremony at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, Sept. 23, 2019. Andy Wong | AP

Ramzy Baroud is a journalist and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of five books. His latest is “These Chains Will Be Broken: Palestinian Stories of Struggle and Defiance in Israeli Prisons” (Clarity Press). Dr. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA) and also at the Afro-Middle East Center (AMEC). His website is www.ramzybaroud.net

The post How China Won the Middle East Without Firing a Single Bullet appeared first on MintPress News.

Twitter Deletes QAnon to Protect US from Upheaval; Russia May Delete Twitter for the Same Reason

SAN FRANCISCO — Twitter has taken action against the QAnon movement, deleting more than 150,000 accounts that promoted the conspiracy theory. This follows a similar crackdown by YouTube. The impetus for the decision was the storming of the Capitol Building on January 6, led by many adherents who believe Donald Trump was leading a fightback against a satanic cult of cannibalistic pedophiles in the Democratic Party and the national security state.

“That was a moment of reckoning where we realized that the approach that we had put in place the previous fall, of attempting to reduce the influence of this movement, wasn’t sufficient,” a Twitter spokesperson told CBS News.

At the same time, Vladimir Putin’s administration is threatening to block American social media giants like Twitter and YouTube completely, accusing the two of illegally fomenting anti-government protests inside Russia.

 

Change Washington can believe in

These two developments are linked in many ways. Since its inception, social media has been key in organizing and encouraging protest movements worldwide. The Arab Spring — which dominated global headlines for months and led to revolutions, wars, and regime change across the region — was said to have been planned and boosted by Facebook and Twitter, which were keen for their platforms to be seen as a revolutionary force.

The U.S. government has long understood the power of social networks to bring about change. In 2009, it instructed Twitter to postpone a temporary maintenance shutdown of its site in order to help leaders of ongoing anti-government protests in Iran communicate and coordinate. That same year, USAID, a front group for the CIA, secretly released a Twitter-like app for Cuba that purported to be an independent platform. The plan was to provide a free high-quality service aimed at the country’s youth that would, once it gained traction, slowly be turned into an anti-government propaganda network used to incite an uprising.

Since then, the U.S. government appears to have decided on a more hands-on approach to social media, working to convince Twitter to delete hundreds of thousands of accounts it claims were linked to the governments of Iran, China, Russia, Venezuela, or Cuba. While a new social media influencing operation from a U.S. enemy is uncovered every few weeks, these platforms never seem to be able to find the American government doing the same thing, even though the existence of such U.S. networks has been known about for at least 10 years.

 

An info-control Gov-Tech complex

Washington seems to have found many willing partners in Silicon Valley. “What Lockheed Martin was to the twentieth century, technology and cyber-security companies will be to the twenty-first,” wrote Google executives Eric Schmidt and Larry Cohen. Along with Amazon, Microsoft and other tech giants, Google, YouTube’s parent company, signed a massive intelligence deal with the CIA in November, worth tens of billions of dollars. One month earlier, Twitter announced publicly that it had been working with the FBI in order to identify and delete Iranian accounts.

Fast forward to February, and the social media giant was removing Russian-based accounts because they were “undermining faith in the NATO alliance and its stability” — a decision that sparked consternation online from users worried about its implications.

A report released earlier this month from the influential D.C.-based think tank, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), called for even more covert U.S. government control over social media, arguing that Washington should work with platforms like YouTube and Twitter so as to ensure that protest movements around the world result in an outcome more conducive to American interests.

Navalny, right, speaks to his video operations chief after a live YouTube broadcast in Moscow. Pavel Golovkin | AP

The report singled out protests in Russia over the treatment of anti-Putin activist Alexey Navalny and the long running Hong Kong demonstrations as two prime examples where the power of “authoritarian states” could be weakened or undermined if the U.S. worked with social media companies to boost the anti-government message to billions of internet users. As the CSIS wrote:

The U.S. government should think creatively about public-private partnerships that can expand its toolkit to defend the legitimate rights of political protestors globally, including preserving the digital rights of peaceful democratic activists while muting harmful mis- and dis-information from violent state and nonstate actors seeking to tip the balance in various countries.”

 

Platform fencing

This plan might already be in action, if Russia’s suspicions are correct. Moscow is considering an all-out ban on Twitter after the company repeatedly failed to respond to its requests to remove thousands of messages encouraging citizens, including children, to attend illegal pro-Navalny demonstrations across the country. It also accused Twitter of failing to act to delete content relating to drug use, encouraging self-harm, and sexual abuse of children. As a punitive measure, it has already significantly slowed down the speed of the app across all mobile devices.

Moscow is also mulling over a ban of YouTube in a row over the platform’s censoring of Russian state media content. The government has accused the Silicon Valley video sharing platform of suppressing content sympathetic to it and promoting anti-Putin messages. Many pro-Russian content creators have noticed their viewership rapidly nose diving while, at the same time, pro-West, anti-Putin content is constantly promoted. RT filmmaker Anton Krasovsky, for example, claims he has been effectively shadowbanned, while Alexey Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation is suggested to Russians — even alongside content, such as children’s cartoons, that bears no relation to his messaging.

“Our videos started showing up less and less in search results and recommendations, until finally they stopped appearing at all,” Krasovsky wrote in an open letter addressed to Andrey Lipov, head of Russian media regulator Roskomnadzor; “For a year now, they’ve been trying to silence us, and there’s nothing more we can do. We can’t fight back, and we can’t retaliate – we can’t even go underground.”

It seems hard to argue that this is not at least partially true. In the early to mid-2010s, when there was a more level playing field online, RT was perhaps the most popular news network on the internet. The Director of National Intelligence Report into Russian influence in the 2016 elections showed RT easily defeating its competition on YouTube, generating around eight times as many views as CNN. However, after extensive algorithm changes in the wake of the report’s publication, RT was demoted and establishment American outlets elevated. All RT content on YouTube and Twitter now comes with a warning label cautioning consumers that this is Russian-affiliated content. Independent, alternative news outlets have also been hit hard by the algorithm changes.

Meanwhile, Navalny has enormous influence online. His Russian-only YouTube channel has more than 6.5 million subscribers (50% more than English-language RT), while his Russian-language documentary (with English subtitles), exposing what he claims is Putin’s secret palace on the Black Sea, has amassed an extraordinary 115 million views. It is estimated that there are only around 258 million Russian speakers worldwide.

With social media companies increasingly intertwined with and controlled by the U.S. national security state, it might be that Russia decides the only way to level the playing field is to cut itself off from the West online, as China has done with its so-called Great Firewall. If the roles were reversed, there appears little doubt that the U.S. would consider doing the same. Last year, there was something close to pandemonium in the U.S. government as Chinese-owned TikTok became a viral social media app, with then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warning that the video-sharing platform was essentially a front for the Chinese Communist Party. The U.S. attempted to force through a sale to Microsoft or another American company. Chinese company Huawei installing a modern 5G network across the world and Xiaomi’s dominance in the global smartphone and semiconductor market have sparked similar concerns in the West.

Big-tech platforms like YouTube and Twitter tolerated the proliferation of the QAnon conspiracy theory. That was until the movement directly threatened the integrity of the U.S. state. After adherents began to question the validity of the elections and even organize what many commentators called a botched coup attempt, action was swift and extensive. It is perhaps unsurprising, therefore, that Russia is considering retaliating against the networks that are threatening its legitimacy.

Feature photo | Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny speaks during a live YouTube broadcast in Moscow. Pavel Golovkin | AP

Alan MacLeod is Senior Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent, as well as a number of academic articles. He has also contributed to FAIR.orgThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin Magazine, and Common Dreams.

The post Twitter Deletes QAnon to Protect US from Upheaval; Russia May Delete Twitter for the Same Reason appeared first on MintPress News.

The Anti-Semitic Birth of the Zionist State: A History of Israel’s Self-Hating Founders

JERUSALEM — “Self-Hating Jew” — along with other terms like “traitor, Zhid, Kapo, Nazi, and Little Jew” — are among the epithets used by Zionists to insult Jewish people who oppose or reject Zionism and its racist ideology.

A recent episode of Rabbi Yaakov Shapiro’s podcast “Committing High Reason” recalls the history of Theodor Hertzl, the founder of Zionism and of the Zionist State, and sheds new light on the term “Self-Hating Jew.”

 

Committing High Reason

Rabbi Shapiro sources all of his claims methodically and when one hears what Hertzl, who was Jewish himself, wrote about Jewish people, the only conclusion is that he was the quintessential “Self-Hating Jew.” There can be no doubt that he hated Jewish people and wanted nothing more than to dissociate himself from the “common” Jew. Furthermore, he was not alone: other Zionist leaders — Vladimir Jabotinsky, Chaim Weizmann, and others — were equally openly hateful of their Jewish brethren.

In 2018, Rabbi Shapiro published a 1,400-page book titled “The Empty Wagon, Zionism’s Journey from Identity Crisis to Identity Theft.”  The book outlines the vast differences that exist between Judaism and its main nemesis, Zionism. The book was written for Orthodox Jews and indeed every Orthodox Jewish home I have visited in the last two years had a copy of this massive work. Even though it assumes a great deal of knowledge about Judaism, the book has an unprecedented amount of well-sourced information, so that even those of us who are not well versed in Judaism can learn a great deal from it.

The information presented in this particular episode of Rabbi Shapiro’s podcast can also be found in his book, and it leads to the undeniable fact that the founder of Zionism — and many of his contemporaries — hated everything about Jews and Judaism and hated the fact that they themselves were Jewish. According to Rabbi Shapiro and many other Orthodox rabbis whom he quotes, it was their hatred of Jews and not their desire to save them from anti-Semitism that was the driving force behind the creation of Zionism and the establishment of a Zionist state.

The founder of Zionism not only believed that the anti-Semitic trolls about Jews were true, but also justified them. He claimed only that these racist accusations applied to the “other” Jews, those who were not as secular and “enlightened” as he.

The story of Hertzl, as it is told in Zionist schools both in Israel and around the world, makes him seem like the savior of Jews, a man motivated by the desire to do good. However, a more in-depth look into the man and his motivations reveals that he despised Jewish people and wanted to separate himself from “common” Jews by creating a space, an existence for people like himself who were Jews by birth but despised what it means to be Jewish.

Vladimir Jabotinsky, the father of right-wing Zionism and today’s Israeli Likud Party, was another classic case of the “Self-Hating Jew.” He wrote that “[t]he Jews are very nasty people and their neighbors hate them and they are right.”

Another Zionist spiritual leader, Uri Zvi Greenberg, wrote: “Those loathsome Jews are vomited by any healthy collective and state not because they are Jews but because of their Jewish repulsiveness.”

Zionists worship physical strength while Orthodox Judaism looks down upon it. In a conversation I had once with Ultra-Orthodox Rabbi Dovid Feldman of New York, I asked about this. I told him that to people like me, who were raised Zionist, Orthodox Jews look weak and pale and very unattractive. Rabbi Feldman looked straight at me and replied: “You have no idea how hard we work to maintain this look. Being a Jew is a spiritual-religious existence, not a masculine physical one.”

 

Maushel (or Moishel)

In the October 15, 1897 edition of the Zionist paper Dei Welt, a publication that Hertzl founded, he published an essay, titled “Maushe,” about a Jew who is an anti-Zionist. The focus of the essay was a fictional character, a Jew Hertzl called “Maushel,” which was a derogatory name for Jews used by anti-Semites at the time.

The front page of the Zionist paper Dei Welt circa 1897

Maushel — or Moishel, depending on one’s accent — is the “common” religious Jew. The article was originally written in German, with an English version published in another Zionist publication called The Maccabean. Here are a few examples of how Hertz depicts the Jews in his essay:

Maushel | Theodore Herzl

“Maushel is an anti-Zionist. We know him well and long and we always felt disgusted when we saw him.” Hertzl is all the more disgusted and chagrin by being obliged to acknowledge that Maushel is indeed “of our people,” though there is “not the slightest use of being proud of the fact,” which he laments results from “the co-mingling at one dark period of our history of a lower class of people with our nation.”

Hertzl goes on to say that “[t]he disgust which we had for him was coupled with pity. We sought to explain his miserable and wretched appearance. We told ourselves that we must tolerate him that it was our sacred duty to civilize him.” Wanting to disassociate himself from the Maushel Jew, Hertzl says, “He is the terrible companion of the Jews and so inseparable from them that one is always mistaken one for the other. “

Hertzl continues with his blatant hatred and writes that Maushel is “the antithesis of a human being, something unspeakably degraded and obstinate…Maushel proceeds with his own dirty business in poverty Maushel is a wretched schnorrer.” Then sadly Justifying anti-Semitic attacks on Jews, Hertzl says, “Maushel always supplied reasons for the attacks upon us.” In other words the Jews, the “real” Jews” like Hertzl are targeted by anti-Semites because of this distant, unrelated person who the anti-Semites confuse for a Jew.

Further, Hertzl writes:

In the eyes of the anti-Semite the Jew and Maushel were bound together; then Zionism appeared and the Jew and Maushel had to define their position, and now Maushel did the Jews a service: he divorced himself from the union because he is an anti-Zionist.”

In other words, Hertzl claims that only the real Jews are secular Zionist Jews. He then goes on to conflate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism: “When people say that Jews do not support Zionism the answer is no! The Jew cannot be an anti-Zionist, only Maushel is.”

Rhetoric like this is very common in Israel today, that the real Jews are the secular Zionists and religious non-Zionist Jews are described in a variety of derogatory terms.

“That’s fine,” Hertzl continues, “let us be relieved of him. It is an opportunity to purify ourselves of these degrading elements.”

The confusion regarding Jewish identity and the claims that Zionism is part of Jewish identity is very common, and indeed very troubling. This deep misunderstanding of both Judaism and Zionism clearly can be traced back to the founder of Zionism, Theodor Hertzl.

 

What makes a Jew a Jew?

The great Jewish sage, Rabbi Sa’adiya Ga’on- – whose full name was Sa’id Bin Yousef El-Fayyumi — was one of the most important Jewish rabbinic figures of all times. He was born in Fayyum in upper Egypt in the late Ninth century; went on to study in Tabariya, Palestine, which was an important center of Jewish learning; and later lived, worked, and wrote in Baghdad. In what is considered one of his most important books — “Emunot Ve-Deot,” or “Beliefs and Opinions,” which he wrote in Arabic using Hebrew letters — Ga’on wrote that the people of Israel — in other words, Jews — are a nation only by virtue of their religious laws (he used the term Sharia in Arabic for religious laws). In other words, a people bound by faith.

A Page from Rabbi Sa’adiya Ga’on’s book “Emunot Ve-Deot”

According to Hertzl, Jews are a nation because, as he put it, “our enemies made us one without our consent; distress binds us together.” The former defines Jewish people as a religious group bound by laws and faith, the latter as an undefined group united by the hatred of non-Jews.

 

A eulogy to Hertzl

Vladimir Jabotinsky’s eulogy to Hertzl was a monumental offering of praise and even veneration. First published as a booklet in Odessa in 1905, it was written in Russian and later translated into Hebrew. In it, Jabotinsky discusses the legacy of Hertzl, whom, despite their differences, he admired deeply. In one section, Jabotinsky praises the wonderful features of a Hebrew and compares them to what he calls the disgusting features of a Jew. Instead of saying Jew, he used the horribly degrading, anti-Semitic term “Zhid.”

“Doctor Hertzl,” the cover of the booklet containing Jabotinsky’s eulogy

The eulogy begins with Jabotinsky admitting that no one has ever seen a true Hebrew (“None of us has seen the true Hebrew with our very eyes.”) and continuing on to say that the Jew we see around us today is not a Hebrew but a Zhid (“And so today, we take as our starting point the Zhid, and try to imagine his exact opposite,” in an effort to imagine a Hebrew.).

Vladimir (Zeev) Jabotinsky’s photo on the Likud Party website

“Because the Zhid is ugly, sickly,” the father of Israel’s Likud Party writes, “we will give the ideal image of the Hebrew masculine beauty, stature, massive shoulders, vigorous movements,” Jabotinsky concludes:

The Zhid is frightened and downtrodden, the Hebrew proud and independent. The Zhid is disgusting to everyone, the Hebrew should be charming to all. The Zhid accepts submission, the Hebrew ought to know how to command. The Zhid likes to hide from the eyes of strangers, the Hebrew will possess brazensess and greatness.”

Hertzl, according to Jabotinsky, was the perfect specimen of the Hebrew that no one has ever seen.

 

Zionism — for whom?

If indeed Hertzl and the other leaders of Zionism were self-hating Jews and looked down upon the “common” Jew, what was their motivation for establishing Zionism and working so hard to found a Zionist State?

In Chapter One of his book, Rabbi Shapiro quotes one of the most respected rabbis of his day, Rabbi Chaim Soloveichik, who lived in Eastern Europe at the end of the nineteenth century. According to the quote, Rabbi Soloveichik says that Zionists wanted to create a state in order to destroy Judaism.

In other words, Zionists were secular and viewed themselves as enlightened and better than the “common” Jew. They looked down at Torah-observant Jews. They wanted a place where people like them, who did not look or live like “common” Jews, would be able to live without having to deal with (or even see) observant Jews, and where they could be like other nations.

The State of Israel was not created for the “common” Jew, the one with a long beard and payot (the curls that dangle from the side of their heads), those who lived in the shtetl (ghettos) of Europe. Neither was the Zionist state created for the Arab Jew, but for the secular European Jew, who wants more than anything to be European.

In a book that describes how Zionist leaders viewed the Jews of Europe, there is a photo that shows Jews in the market in Nalewni Ghetto in Warsaw. There is a quote attributed to Chaim Weizmann, a major leader in the Zionist movement and later the first president of the State of Israel. The caption reads, “Eretz Yisrael (the Land of Israel, or Palestine) was not meant for the peddlers of Nalewski, Warsaw.” These are the Jews that Hertzl and the other Zionist leaders despised.

When the victims of Zionism finally have their day in court, the world will see just how cruel and racist the early Zionists really were. The world will see that Israel, today’s Zionist state, is a perfect reflection of what the early Zionists were: racist, violent, and hateful.

In Israel today, Ultra-Orthodox Jews who oppose Zionism are despised and ridiculed; non-religious, anti-Zionist Jews are pushed away; and Palestinians are merely collateral — the price that needs to be paid so that the vision of Hertzl and the other “Self-Hating Jews” could become a reality.

Feature photo | Graphic by Antonio Cabrera

Miko Peled is MintPress News contributing writer, published author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. His latest books are”The General’s Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine,” and “Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five.”

The post The Anti-Semitic Birth of the Zionist State: A History of Israel’s Self-Hating Founders appeared first on MintPress News.

Digital Trails: How the FBI Identifies, Tracks and Rounds Up Dissidents

Americans deserve the freedom to choose a life without surveillance and the government regulation that would make that possible. While we continue to believe the sentiment, we fear it may soon be obsolete or irrelevant. We deserve that freedom, but the window to achieve it narrows a little more each day. If we don’t act now, with great urgency, it may very well close for good.”—Charlie Warzel and Stuart A. Thompson, New York Times

Databit by databit, we are building our own electronic concentration camps. With every new smart piece of smart technology we acquire, every new app we download, every new photo or post we share online, we are making it that much easier for the government and its corporate partners to identify, track and eventually round us up.

Saint or sinner, it doesn’t matter because we’re all being swept up into a massive digital data dragnet that does not distinguish between those who are innocent of wrongdoing, suspects, or criminals.

 

To live in a suspect society

The government’s efforts to round up those who took part in the Capitol riots shows exactly how vulnerable we all are to the menace of a surveillance state that aspires to a God-like awareness of our lives.

Relying on selfies, social media posts, location data, geotagged photos, facial recognition, surveillance cameras and crowdsourcing, government agents are compiling a massive data trove on anyone and everyone who may have been anywhere in the vicinity of the Capitol on January 6, 2021.

The amount of digital information is staggering: 15,000 hours of surveillance and body-worn camera footage; 1,600 electronic devices; 270,000 digital media tips; at least 140,000 photos and videos; and about 100,000 location pings for thousands of smartphones.

And that’s just what we know.

More than 300 individuals from 40 states have already been charged and another 280 arrested in connection with the events of January 6. As many as 500 others are still being hunted by government agents.

Also included in this data roundup are individuals who may have had nothing to do with the riots but whose cell phone location data identified them as being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

 

Forget innocent until proven guilty

In a suspect society such as ours, the burden of proof has been flipped: now, you start off guilty and have to prove your innocence.

For instance, you didn’t even have to be involved in the Capitol riots to qualify for a visit from the FBI: investigators have reportedly been tracking—and questioning—anyone whose cell phones connected to wi-fi or pinged cell phone towers near the Capitol. One man, who had gone out for a walk with his daughters only to end up stranded near the Capitol crowds, actually had FBI agents show up at his door days later. Using Google Maps, agents were able to pinpoint exactly where they were standing and for how long.

All of the many creepy, calculating, invasive investigative and surveillance tools the government has acquired over the years are on full display right now in the FBI’s ongoing efforts to bring the rioters to “justice.”

FBI agents are matching photos with drivers’ license pictures; tracking movements by way of license plate toll readers; and zooming in on physical identifying marks such as moles, scars and tattoos, as well as brands, logos and symbols on clothing and backpacks. They’re poring over hours of security and body camera footage; scouring social media posts; triangulating data from cellphone towers and WiFi signals; layering facial recognition software on top of that; and then cross-referencing footage with public social media posts.

 

Deep State Dogs

It’s not just the FBI on the hunt, however.

They’ve enlisted the help of volunteer posses of private citizens, such as Deep State Dogs, to collaborate on the grunt work. As Dinah Voyles Pulver reports, once Deep State Dogs locates a person and confirms their identity, they put a package together with the person’s name, address, phone number and several images and send it to the FBI.

According to USA Todaythe FBI is relying on the American public and volunteer cybersleuths to help bolster its cases.

This takes See Something, Say Something snitching programs to a whole new level.

The lesson to be learned: Big Brother, Big Sister, and all of their friends are watching you.

They see your every move: what you read, how much you spend, where you go, with whom you interact, when you wake up in the morning, what you’re watching on television and reading on the internet.

Every move you make is being monitored, mined for data, crunched, and tabulated in order to form a picture of who you are, what makes you tick, and how best to control you when and if it becomes necessary to bring you in line.

Simply liking or sharing this article on Facebook, retweeting it on Twitter, or merely reading it or any other articles related to government wrongdoing, surveillance, police misconduct or civil liberties might be enough to get you categorized as a particular kind of person with particular kinds of interests that reflect a particular kind of mindset that might just lead you to engage in particular kinds of activities and, therefore, puts you in the crosshairs of a government investigation as a potential troublemaker a.k.a. domestic extremist.

Chances are, as the Washington Post reports, you have already been assigned a color-coded threat score—green, yellow or red—so police are forewarned about your potential inclination to be a troublemaker depending on whether you’ve had a career in the military, posted a comment perceived as threatening on Facebook, suffer from a particular medical condition, or know someone who knows someone who might have committed a crime.

In other words, you might already be flagged as potentially anti-government in a government database somewhere—Main Core, for example—that identifies and tracks individuals who aren’t inclined to march in lockstep to the police state’s dictates.

The government has the know-how.

It took days, if not hours or minutes, for the FBI to begin the process of identifying, tracking, and rounding up those suspected of being part of the Capitol riots.

Imagine how quickly government agents could target and round up any segment of society they wanted to based on the digital trails and digital footprints we leave behind.

Of course, the government has been hard at work for years acquiring these totalitarian powers.

 

All they need is data

Long before the January 6 riots, the FBI was busily amassing the surveillance tools necessary to monitor social media posts, track and identify individuals using cell phone signals and facial recognition technology, and round up “suspects” who may be of interest to the government for one reason or another.

As The Intercept reported, the FBI, CIA, NSA and other government agencies have increasingly invested in corporate surveillance technologies that can mine constitutionally protected speech on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram in order to identify potential extremists and predict who might engage in future acts of anti-government behavior.

All it needs is the data, which more than 90% of young adults and 65% of American adults are happy to provide.

When the government sees all and knows all and has an abundance of laws to render even the most seemingly upstanding citizen a criminal and lawbreaker, then the old adage that you’ve got nothing to worry about if you’ve got nothing to hide no longer applies.

As for the Fourth Amendment and its prohibitions on warrantless searches and invasions of privacy without probable cause, those safeguards have been rendered all but useless by legislative end-runs, judicial justifications, and corporate collusions.

We now find ourselves in the unenviable position of being monitored, managed and controlled by our technology, which answers not to us but to our government and corporate rulers.

Consider that on any given day, the average American going about his daily business will be monitored, surveilled, spied on and tracked in more than 20 different ways, by both government and corporate eyes and ears. A byproduct of this new age in which we live, whether you’re walking through a store, driving your car, checking email, or talking to friends and family on the phone, you can be sure that some government agency, whether the NSA or some other entity, is listening in and tracking your behavior.

This doesn’t even begin to touch on the corporate trackers that monitor your purchases, web browsing, social media posts and other activities taking place in the cyber sphere.

For example, police have been using Stingray devices mounted on their cruisers to intercept cell phone calls and text messages without court-issued search warrants. Doppler radar devices, which can detect human breathing and movement within a home, are already being employed by the police to deliver arrest warrants.

License plate readers, yet another law enforcement spying device made possible through funding by the Department of Homeland Security, can record up to 1800 license plates per minute. Moreover, these surveillance cameras can also photograph those inside a moving car. Reports indicate that the Drug Enforcement Administration has been using the cameras in conjunction with facial recognition software to build a “vehicle surveillance database” of the nation’s cars, drivers and passengers.

Sidewalk and “public space” cameras, sold to gullible communities as a sure-fire means of fighting crime, is yet another DHS program that is blanketing small and large towns alike with government-funded and monitored surveillance cameras. It’s all part of a public-private partnership that gives government officials access to all manner of surveillance cameras, on sidewalks, on buildings, on buses, even those installed on private property.

Couple these surveillance cameras with facial recognition and behavior-sensing technology and you have the makings of “pre-crime” cameras, which scan your mannerisms, compare you to pre-set parameters for “normal” behavior, and alert the police if you trigger any computerized alarms as being “suspicious.”

State and federal law enforcement agencies are pushing to expand their biometric and DNA databases by requiring that anyone accused of a misdemeanor have their DNA collected and catalogued. However, technology is already available that allows the government to collect biometrics such as fingerprints from a distance, without a person’s cooperation or knowledge. One system can actually scan and identify a fingerprint from nearly 20 feet away.

Developers are hard at work on a radar gun that can actually show if you or someone in your car is texting. Another technology being developed, dubbed a “textalyzer” device, would allow police to determine whether someone was driving while distracted. Refusing to submit one’s phone to testing could result in a suspended or revoked driver’s license.

It’s a sure bet that anything the government welcomes (and funds) too enthusiastically is bound to be a Trojan horse full of nasty, invasive surprises.

Case in point: police body cameras. Hailed as the easy fix solution to police abuses, these body cameras—made possible by funding from the Department of Justice—turn police officers into roving surveillance cameras. Of course, if you try to request access to that footage, you’ll find yourself being led a merry and costly chase through miles of red tape, bureaucratic footmen and unhelpful courts.

The “internet of things” refers to the growing number of “smart” appliances and electronic devices now connected to the internet and capable of interacting with each other and being controlled remotely. These range from thermostats and coffee makers to cars and TVs. Of course, there’s a price to pay for such easy control and access. That price amounts to relinquishing ultimate control of and access to your home to the government and its corporate partners. For example, while Samsung’s Smart TVs are capable of “listening” to what you say, thereby allowing users to control the TV using voice commands, it also records everything you say and relays it to a third party, e.g., the government.

Then again, the government doesn’t really need to spy on you using your smart TV when the FBI can remotely activate the microphone on your cellphone and record your conversations. The FBI can also do the same thing to laptop computers without the owner knowing any better.

Drones, which are taking to the skies en masse, are the converging point for all of the weapons and technology already available to law enforcement agencies. In fact, drones can listen in on your phone calls, see through the walls of your home, scan your biometrics, photograph you and track your movements, and even corral you with sophisticated weaponry.

All of these technologies add up to a society in which there’s little room for indiscretions, imperfections, or acts of independence, especially not when the government can listen in on your phone calls, monitor your driving habits, track your movements, scrutinize your purchases and peer through the walls of your home.

 

Digital trails are everywhere

As investigative journalists Charlie Warzel and Stuart A. Thompson explain, “This data—collected by smartphone apps and then fed into a dizzyingly complex digital advertising ecosystem … provided an intimate record of people whether they were visiting drug treatment centers, strip clubs, casinos, abortion clinics or places of worship.

In such a surveillance ecosystem, we’re all suspects and databits to be tracked, catalogued and targeted.

As Warzel and Thompson warn:

To think that the information will be used against individuals only if they’ve broken the law is naïve; such data is collected and remains vulnerable to use and abuse whether people gather in support of an insurrection or they justly protest police violence… This collection will only grow more sophisticated… It gets easier by the day… it does not discriminate. It harvests from the phones of MAGA rioters, police officers, lawmakers and passers-by. There is no evidence, from the past or current day, that the power this data collection offers will be used only to good ends. There is no evidence that if we allow it to continue to happen, the country will be safer or fairer.”

As I point out in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, this is the creepy, calculating yet diabolical genius of the American police state: the very technology we hailed as revolutionary and liberating has become our prison, jailer, probation officer, Big Brother and Father Knows Best all rolled into one.

There is no gray area any longer.

Feature photo | An image taken from US Capitol Police security camera footage shows a capitol protester later arrested by the FBI. Photo | District of Columbia via AP

Constitutional attorney and author John W. Whitehead is founder and president of The Rutherford Institute. His new book Battlefield America: The War on the American People  (SelectBooks, 2015) is available online at www.amazon.com. Whitehead can be contacted at johnw@rutherford.org.

The post Digital Trails: How the FBI Identifies, Tracks and Rounds Up Dissidents appeared first on MintPress News.

Intersectional Imperialism: A Wholesome Menace

WASHINGTON (Substack // Alex Rubinstein) — With Trump-style nationalism out the door, a new era of imperial ideology is upon us. This mutation of the empire’s dominant dogma is manifesting throughout global institutions of economic, political and social control and is materializing in a myriad of conflict theatres.

In order to identify where woke imperialism exists, we have to define it first. So what is it? It’s certainly not the first iteration of hegemonic domination buttressed by moralism.

The doctrine of Responsibility to Protect (R2P) was officialized by the United Nations in 2005, but its roots really trace back to the NATO bombing campaign of Yugoslavia. During the Obama years, the term “humanitarian intervention” caught on as the main moniker for such actions.

Woke imperialism should be understood as a maturation of these concepts. As corporations have increasingly embraced “rainbow capitalism” to keep up with the sensibilities of an increasingly liberal US public, so too have institutions of United States imperialism refined their pitches to reflect the increasing popularity of identity politics.

This phenomenon has not gone unnoticed. As with everything on the internet, it has become the subject of memes, with an image of two US B-52 Stratofortress bombers having gone particularly viral. The image shows one B-52, labelled “Republicans,” dropping bombs. Another B-52, labelled “Democrats,” is also dropping bombs, but this time with a giant Black Lives Matter sticker and a rainbow flag emblazoned on its exterior.

What both of the above memes can’t express, given their limited format, is the variety of methods of exerting imperial control, as it takes many forms beyond bombings. And not all of this can be chalked up to the presidential transition. We know that the State Department and three-letter agencies were hardly on-board with President Trump’s approach to foreign policy, nor his cultural proclivities.

.@SecBlinken: When we design our foreign policy with the rights and needs of women and girls in mind, our policy is more effective, more humane, and more likely to make a lasting difference in people’s lives. pic.twitter.com/ssAyW9mNEq

— Department of State (@StateDept) March 9, 2021

So while a lot of the trends identified in this article existed during the Trump administration, they are undeniably being ramped up by Biden’s. For example, in the first 10 days of this March, Women’s History Month, the State Department tweeted 26 times about “women,” compared to 10 times during the same period of the 2020.

 

The Noble Anti-Triggering Organization (NATO)

Earlier this month, NATO tweeted a flashy video claiming “diversity is our strength.”

In light of NATO’s virtue signalling, it’s important to remember that many of the early leaders of NATO were Nazis who dreamed of a Germany that was anything but diverse and inclusive. To this day, NATO has continued to support neo-Nazis in countries like Ukraine, while NATO states that hold permitted rallies honoring Nazi collaborators are only just now cancelling the marches because of the coronavirus, rather than stopping the glorification of Nazism.

https://twitter.com/NATO/status/1366355680681209859

As I reported following the launch of Joe Biden’s presidential campaign, as he railed against neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, Virginia, Biden worked with neo-Nazi leader Oleh Tahnybok, with the man who is now White House National Security Advisor, Jake Sullivan, serving as their go-between. Leaked audio from 2014 has Victoria Nuland, Biden’s nominee for Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs under Blinken, admitting as much.

A photo of the Azov Battalion – a regiment of the National Guard of Ukraine

In terms of NATO’s championing of inclusion for people of color, its crowning achievement in this regard came following its bombing of Libya, which gave cover for jihadist militias to sodomize Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi to death with a bayonet and paved the way for the reintroduction of slavery on the African continent.

Outside of its halls of power in Brussels, this is what NATO-sponsored opportunity initiatives for people of color looks like.

As the kids say, “big yikes.”

 

The State Department Becomes an HR Department

The slogan used by NATO, “Diversity is our strength,” reproduces, verbatim, a major campaign theme from Kamala Harris and Joe Biden himself. The talking point was also used last year by the Central Intelligence Agency.

Perhaps the one to make the most use out of the theme is Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, who has said the following:

  • “Diversity and inclusion make us stronger, smarter, more creative, and more innovative. And our diversity gives us a significant competitive advantage on the world stage.
  • Diversity makes any organization stronger – and for the State Department, it’s mission-critical.
  • We’ve invested in diversity and inclusion to have a diplomatic workforce that reflects the diversity of our country.”

Recently, the State Department promoted Blinken’s appearance on Hillary Clinton’s podcast, advertising that the two discussed “diversity and inclusion at the Department, American engagement, Russia, China and more.”

The State Department, under Blinken, is so married to the concept that he created at the department a Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer position which “will report directly to him,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said, adding, you guessed it, “Diversity and inclusion make us stronger, smarter, more creative, and more innovative.”

.@StateDeptSpox Price: "Today, @SecBlinken announced the creation of a new Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer position, which will report directly to him. Diversity and inclusion make us stronger, smarter, more creative, and more innovative." For more: https://t.co/bXsvL7uMkp. pic.twitter.com/qN5A92TIx2

— Department of State (@StateDept) February 24, 2021

 

The DoD Seeks “Force Multipliers”

The Department of Defense is another leading institution in this trend.

Last week, conservative Fox News host Tucker Carlson attacked the Pentagon. It started with Joe Biden announcing that, under his and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s leadership, the military would be taking steps towards making itself more inclusive to women with policies including an overhaul of hair style restrictions and “maternity flight suits for women.”

While pregnant women are generally banned from riding roller coasters, a policy of allowing them to fly fighter jets does not seem to me to have their best interests in mind, nor those of their children.

https://twitter.com/DeptofDefense/status/1359185522841833474

While Carlson blasted these policies, his criticism missed the crux of the issue as he argued that they made the US military weaker. The real goal of these policies, however, is to freshen the military’s face for a liberal citizenry. As the Airforce put it in January, “diversity” is a “force multiplier.”

In response to the Fox segment, Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby — formerly the spokesperson for the State Department under Obama — clapped back at Carlson in a press release entitled “Press Secretary Smites Fox Host That Dissed Diversity in U.S. Military.”

“The United States military is the greatest the world has ever seen because of its diversity,” the press release began.

Kirby went on to note that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin (a black man whom the media celebrated for breaking a “brass ceiling,”) had said earlier in the week that the “lived experience” of a diverse fighting force factors “into our decision making.”

I want every child to know that this is what vice presidents and generals in the United States Armed Forces look like. pic.twitter.com/y2OFL1z29r

— President Biden (@POTUS) March 9, 2021

That same speech was featured on the Defense Department’s website under the headline “Biden Showcases the Strength, Excellence of American Military Diversity.”

In other news on Secretary Austin, according to another Pentagon press release, he “welcomed the expanded role for NATO Mission Iraq” last month. That “expanded role” means beefing up the number of NATO troops occupying the country from 500 to “4,000 or 5,000,” according to Reuters.

 

The Central Idpol Agency

Not to be outdone by the State Department or Defense Department, following the inauguration of Joe Biden, the CIA has begun conducting a “digital facelift” to appeal to Generation Z in light of their politics leaning more towards radical liberalism than previous generations.

“We had to go where the talent is,” Sheronda Dorsey, the CIA’s deputy associate director for talent, told the Wall Street Journal. She added that the CIA is looking to “increase racial, cultural, disability, sexual orientation and gender diversity so that its workforce is ‘reflective of America.'”

The Wall Street Journal goes on to write that “Today, the CIA’s digital face-lift coincides with a new presidential administration. [John] Brennan, whose directorship ended in 2017, says the Biden administration has sent out a ‘very strong signal on diversity’ with its intelligence appointees, including the first-ever female director of national intelligence, Avril Haines.”

Former CIA Director John Brennan says that he is "increasingly embarrassed to be a white male these days." pic.twitter.com/vuVrO3uLu4

— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) March 1, 2021

Brennan, who was CIA director under Obama, with Haines sitting under him at number two at the agency, has more recently told MSNBC that he is “increasingly embarrassed to be a white male these days, when I see what other white males are saying.”

Brennan’s comments came in a discussion of congressional Republicans’ handling of the protests at the capitol in January. “They’ll continue to gaslight the country,” Brennan said.

While heading up the agency, Brennan oversaw the CIA as it illegally spied on Congress through hacking as they were investigating torture by the agency — and lied about it. Now he’s complaining about “gaslighting” by Congress. The whole episode has been largely forgotten by the US public as media were “stanning” the agency throughout the Trump era. Trump enemy number one, Nancy Pelosi, recently established a “diversity office” in the House of Representatives. Years ago, she helped the CIA coverup torture in addition to heavily backing the war in Iraq.

 

Finance Feminism

While technically “independent,” globally muscular financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank are functionally a part of the US government, and like other institutions referenced in this article, are adopting identity politics as a means of whitewashing their anti-human agenda.

We are pleased to announce the appointment of Stephanie von Friedeburg as @IFC_org Senior VP of Operations. @SvonFriedeburg is an advocate for the advancement of women and a champion of diversity and inclusion. Her career spans almost three decades in the @WorldBank Group. pic.twitter.com/zCjYvhJdju

— World Bank (@WorldBank) February 18, 2021

The DC-based World Bank’s president is chosen by the President of the US, with even their own website admitting “Traditionally, the World Bank President has always been been [sic] a U.S. citizen nominated by the United States.”

The U.S. is also the largest shareholder at both the World Bank and IMF, which is also based in DC. One leaked manual published by Wikileaks entitled “Army Special Operations Forces Unconventional Warfare” cites the World Bank and IMF as US “weapons in times of conflict up to and including large-scale general war.”

“Army Special Operation Forces understand that properly integrated manipulation of economic power can and should be a component of unconventional warfare,” the document continues.

“As major decisions require an 85 percent super majority, the United States can block any major changes” at the World Bank, according to the Army document.

For International Women’s Day, the IMF hosted a discussion with Biden’s Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen entitled “The Age of Womenomics.”

“We have chosen this theme ‘the age of womenomics’ consciously,” Kristalina Georgieva, IMF Managing Director, said.

“Never in my life I have seen so many women in key positions where core economics and finance matter: you, as the minister of finance of the United States; Chrystia Freeland in Canada; Christine Lagarde my predecessor at the [European Central Bank]; Ngozi [Okonjo-Iweala] at the World Trade Organization; the very first woman president of a multilateral development bank, Odile [Renaud-Basso] at the [European Bank for Reconstruction and Development]…”

 

Wokeism Goes Global

Beyond promoting themselves as bastions of tolerance, imperialist institutions are also using wokeness to justify foreign resource extraction, violations of sovereignty and international law, military occupation and even coup d’etats.

In Syria, where the United States, European governments, Gulf state patriarchal petromonarchies and NATO ally Turkey have waged 10 years of proxy warfare via al-Qaeda-type sectarian insurgents, a champion of distinctly American identity politics has arisen: the YPG. For years, you’d have been hard pressed to find a leftist in the United States that did not give unquestioning support for the “Rojava women’s revolution.” The ostensible political project of Kurdish fighters in Northeastern Syria was even dubbed by Vice News the “Most Feminist Revolution the World Has Ever Witnessed.”

American anarchists, propagandized with pro-YPG literature and the ideology of “democratic confederalism” popularized by the late Zionist academic Murray Bookchin, and promoted by his daughter, Debbie Bookchin of the New York City-based “Emergency Committee For Rojava,” made names for themselves in leftist circles and on Twitter by joining up with the Kurdish fighting force called the People’s Protection Units (YPG).

While the Kurdish fighters in Syria were first backed by Obama, Trump continued to support them to “protect the oil.” In other words, so that the United States could profit from the extraction of assets rightfully belonging to the sovereign government of Syria. Now that Biden is in office, Kurdish fighters are once again becoming the subject of renewed media attention and adoration by the Western left.

Glorification of the conquests by Kurdish forces in Syria reached a fever pitch during the Raqqa campaign. One group was established, which now has its own Wikipedia page despite it’s actual existence being dubious, by foreign queer anarchists called the “The Queer Insurrection and Liberation Army.” While the historic city of Raqqa was being destroyed to the tune of 70 percent, these feel-good headlines about a supposedly revolutionary and inclusive alternative to statism that the Kurdish fighters and their allies represented dominated the narrative on the left.

Before we move away from Syria, it would be irresponsible not to mention the story of Amina Abdallah Araf al Omari, the “Gay Girl in Damascus.” The fake persona was created in order to stir up anti-Assad sentiment from Western LGBTQ communities, but it was exposed as the charade of a white American man named Tom MacMaster by Palestinian journalist Ali Abunimah after the “gay girl” was “kidnapped.”

Now that Biden is in office, these kinds of dirty tricks to promote the dirty war on Syria are making a comeback. Based on an article in Jacobin, a new movie is in the works entitled “Stefan Vs. ISIS.” It is billed as a “Story Of Non-Binary Millennial Who Joined The Kurdish Freedom Fighters” by Deadline in a March 5 article. While the Jacobin writer of the original story, Connor Kilpatrick, has co-writing credits, Jacobin editor Bhaskar Sunkara is set to co-executive produce the film.

One Middle East-based reporter complained to me that these journalists are now poised to profit from a war they helped sell in the first place, and are placing the identity issues of a Westerner at the center of the conversation around the battle against ISIS rather than the scores of Syrians and Iraqis who lost their lives fighting them. “The Syrian war,” they said, isn’t for a bunch of foreign leftists “to turn into a romantic ballad to identity issues. Kurds are super traditional, no way is even the YPG into this gender fluidity stuff.”

In a similar vein, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton’s production company was reported in late January to be working on a TV series adapting the book “The Daughters of Kobani: A Story of Rebellion, Courage, and Justice” by Gayle Lemmon for the screen. Following an intense bidding war over the rights to adapt the book, Deadline reported that “For the Clintons, the property feels like the perfect IP to help launch their banner given the subject matter and strong women that helped Lemmon write it.”

Last week, Lemmon joined Meghan McCain on The View to talk about her book. McCain’s father, the late John McCain, was the most militaristic senator in modern US history and a major promoter of the proxy war in Syria, the Senator even meeting with so-called “moderate rebels” with the Turkey-backed Free Syrian Army and the Syrian National Army who turned out to be responsible for the kidnapping of 11 Shia Muslims.

My suggested cover image for Hillary and Chelsea Clinton’s TV series.

Meanwhile, in Afghanistan, where the United States maintains its longest-running regime change fail, or “L,” I recently noted how Biden plans to keep “residual forces” there to continue occupying the country despite the agreement reached between the Taliban and the Trump administration to have a full withdrawal.

German state broadcaster Deutsche Welle is warning that “Afghan women risk losing their rights in a new political setup.” Now, the Biden administration is looking to negotiate the deal wherein “all options remain on the table.”

Earlier this month, Vox News reported on “internal debates” within the White House over a withdrawal from Afghanistan. Reportedly, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley made the “impassioned — and at times ‘emotional’” argument that should US forces withdraw,  women’s rights in the country “will go back to the Stone Age.”

Yet while there is no doubt that the Taliban has little respect for the rights of women, that was hardly a concern of Joe Biden when he promised in October 2012 that “We are leaving in 2014. Period.”

But speaking of the Stone Age; the US has dropped around 25,500 bombs on Afghanistan since Biden’s promise if you add up the monthly figures published by the US Airforce.

And those bombs don’t come cheap, so it should come as no surprise that Milley went on to argue that since the US has spent so much “blood and treasure” in the country in the past decades, it is not worth it to leave.

To put it in the parlance of Zoomers, General Milley wants America to “secure that bag.”

Somebody should tell the Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman that “this ain’t it, chief.”

Wokeism isn’t just a useful tool of empire in the ostensible fight against terrorism, but also in the fight against socialism. In Ecuador, where the US is backing a faux left candidate as an alternative to the socialist frontrunner in the country’s presidential elections, identity politics have been deployed to drum up support for a neo-liberal.

Journalist Ben Norton exposed Yaku Pérez, billed as an indigenous eco-socialist, for his ties to the US government. After Pérez came in third place in the first round of Ecuador’s presidential election, disqualifying him from the runoff, the US embassy called him to reassure that he would be a part of it. Since then, Pérez has called for a military coup and for his socialist opponent, Andrés Arauz, to be criminally prosecuted.

Norton also points out that Pérez’s wife Manuela Picq, is an adviser to him and is helping to manage his campaign. Picq’s background is as an academic focused on sexuality and gender studies.

As we proceed into the Biden years, identity politics, intersectionality — in a word, wokeness — will be increasingly used to justify the exploits of a racist empire. That is, unless the left is able to adopt a doctrine to counter the empire’s dogma instead of continuing to play into its hands.

The Roman historian Tacitus said “Great empires are not maintained by timidity.” This may be true, but today, the maintenance of empire is justified by its inclusivity. The ability of the US to “flex” on the world stage is contingent on its ability to reference the diversity of it’s ruling class.

There’s the tea.

Feature photo | Alex Rubinstein

Alex Rubinstein is an independent reporter on Substack. You can subscribe to get free articles from him delivered to your inbox here, and if you want to support his journalism, which is never put behind a paywall, you can give a one-time donation to him through PayPal here or sustain his reporting through Patreon here.

The post Intersectional Imperialism: A Wholesome Menace appeared first on MintPress News.

Mexico’s Imminent Marijuana Legalization Law Leaves US Lawmakers Holding the Joint

MEXICO CITY — For years now, dozens of pro-marijuana activists have gathered in front of Mexico’s Congressional building on Reforma Avenue in the largest city in the Americas to spark up and tacitly remind lawmakers of a landmark 2012 ruling by the country’s Supreme Court, that declared a ban on recreational marijuana to be unconstitutional.

Just shy of a decade later, the precedent created by that historic decision is on the brink of a full flowering as the lower house of the Mexican Congress approved the federal regulation of cannabis by a 316 to 129 vote on Wednesday. The legislation is expected to pass easily in the Senate and be signed into law by President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador in short order.

Nearly four years after Mexico’s legalization of medical marijuana, extending legal status to recreational use will make it the principal marijuana market in North America and, possibly, the world. The implications for commercial interests on both sides of the border are considerable and American businesses, in particular, are keeping a close eye on developments south of the border

While dispensaries might not start popping up next to the neighborhood convenience store just yet, hemp – ganja’s less psychedelic cousin – could represent an immediate and lucrative market opportunity after the law is officially on the books, according to Raul Elizalde, CEO of HempMeds.

Hemp’s many industrial and biodegradable uses have been largely proscribed throughout the global supply chain of industrial goods in the twentieth century and remain so as a result of several factors that encompass everything from the emergence of synthetic fibers like Nylon, competing interests from paper production monopolies, to the persistence of racist, colonialist attitudes among wealthy elites, who have used the prohibition of marijuana and other natural substances to target the indigenous cultures that stand in the way of their global resource extraction projects.

 

A medieval approach

Mexico has been at the heart of exact hat that type of neocolonialist war for the past several decades as the epicenter of America’s Drug War, which continues to claim the lives of hundreds of thousands of people and has brought the nation to the edge of collapse.

The move to legalize marijuana by Obrador, who has been a strong proponent of decriminalization, is a significant step in the administration’s efforts to find a way out of a tragedy that has engulfed his country as the wildly profitable market for illicit drugs north of the border fuels the power of the Cartels.

Obrador’s recent clashes with the U.S. Department of Justice over the never-mentioned American cartels who facilitate the flow of narcotics inside the United States reveal a growing resistance among Mexico’s power structures to the broader drug war narrative and a desire to escape the vicious downward spiral the country finds itself in.

Regardless of the vested interests that inevitably surround such a potentially lucrative endeavor, such as the legislation’s obvious tilt in favor of large corporations over smaller investors and other regulatory inconsistencies that fail to fully address issues surrounding civil liberties and police corruption in Mexico, the law nevertheless represents a sea change that will shine a harsh light on the United States’ own medieval approach to the matter.

 

The numbers don’t add up

It wouldn’t be the first time Mexico exposed its powerful neighbor’s unenlightened ways. While the plantation economy was in full swing in the United States, an underground railroad departing from South Texas was carrying runaway African slaves into Mexico, which had abolished slavery in 1829. For decades, irregular and informal forces like the Texas Rangers hunted down the men and women who sought their freedom across the border until the medieval practice was finally brought to an end after the Civil War.

The economic incentive to keep a system of forced labor afloat had to be forcibly removed through the efforts of abolitionists and those who placed moral principles over profits. A similar dynamic is at play in the case of marijuana in the United States and the insistence on maintaining its classification as a Schedule 1 drug, in accordance with the Controlled Substances Act of 1970.

NYPD cops with what they thought was 106 pounds of confiscated pot but turned out to be 100% legal hemp. Photo | NYPD Facebook

At around $66 Billion, the illegal cannabis market in the United States comprises well over half of the legal marijuana markets in the country, including California and New York. Given the paucity of permitted marijuana businesses presently operating at a state level, there is little doubt that full federal legalization along the lines of Mexico’s would easily surpass that figure.

From this vantage point, it would seem like a no-brainer to remove all the barriers and allow a legal marijuana market to flourish all across the United States. However, such a move would entail a serious problem for another industry altogether, not to mention a basic tenet of the war on drugs, which has expressed itself as a war against minorities at a domestic level and has been described as “the new Jim Crow.”

 

58 Seconds

The United States has the largest prison population in the world in both real numbers and per capita. At 2.3 million people behind bars, the value of the correctional facilities industry in America has been calculated at $5 Billion, according to a recent market research report. But, this is only a sliver of an enormous prison and judicial complex, that includes private security firms, police departments, lawyers, and federal and state court systems that rely on marijuana arrests and convictions for a significant portion of their business.

A 2020 study published by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) spanning several years, reveals that in 2010, 52% of all drug arrests were for marijuana, while between 2001 and 2010, 7 million people were processed through the justice system for some kind of marijuana offense.

The racial disparity between black offenders and white offenders was also made patently clear with black people shown to be four times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession, despite that black and white people use pot at practically the same rate.

According to Prisonpolicy.org, 10.6 million people go to jail each year. Known as “jail churn”, this staggering turnover rate is comprised of are people who, for the most part, have not been convicted of any crime and will either make bail or remain incarcerated for the jail term if they’re too poor to procure the means for release. Most who are convicted are usually serving time for misdemeanors, such as possession of marijuana.

In 2019, marijuana arrests surpassed arrests for all violent crimes put together, according to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting statistics. Of those arrests, 92% were for misdemeanor possession. Erik Altieri of the cannabis advocacy group NORML decries the fact that “at a time when the overwhelming majority of Americans want cannabis to be legal and regulated”, police departments across the country are making a “marijuana-related arrest every 58 seconds.”

Mexico’s decision to ‘legalize it’ will put pressure on American lawmakers to make a choice. They can either side with the majority of Americans who want an end to legal restrictions on a plant or they can continue to side with a growing police state and prison industrial complex by demonizing their neighbor to the south and shave a few seconds off the 58.

Feature photo | Marijuana plants grow at a camp outside of the country’s Senate building in Mexico City, July 16, 2020. Fernando Llano | AP

Raul Diego is a MintPress News Staff Writer, independent photojournalist, researcher, writer and documentary filmmaker.

The post Mexico’s Imminent Marijuana Legalization Law Leaves US Lawmakers Holding the Joint appeared first on MintPress News.

Western Media Blitz Aimed at Russia’s Sputnik V Vaccine May Already Be Costing Lives

WASHINGTON — A new report from the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) boasts that, throughout 2020, it worked with other U.S. government agencies to combat the “malign influence” of Russia, Cuba and Venezuela in the Americas. The two examples it cites are “persuading Brazil to reject the Russian COVID-19 vaccine” and pushing Panama to turn down Cuba’s offer to send doctors to fight the virus.

Partially as a result of refusing aid and following former president Trump’s every order, Brazil is beset by a rampaging virus, having lost over 278,000 people to COVID-19, behind only the United States in total deaths. Brasil Wire’s John McEvoy, who first reported on the news, said U.S. actions had “likely kill[ed] thousands of Brazilians.”

Meanwhile, Panama’s outbreak is, per capita, even worse than Brazil’s, with the tiny nation having already lost 6,000 citizens to the virus.

278,000 Brazilians have died from Covid-19.

New documents show that the US pressured the Brazilian government not to buy the Russian vaccine, likely killing thousands of Brazilians.

My latest in @BrasilWire:https://t.co/12i6jIeoma pic.twitter.com/thVvqFxxGv

— John McEvoy (@jmcevoy_2) March 15, 2021

 

The world’s most trusted vaccine

The Russian state-funded Sputnik V vaccine is one of the only options for the Global South, as rich, developed countries have hoarded other vaccines, ordering far more doses than would be necessary to treat their entire populations. At the same time, they have struck down attempts by poor nations to waive intellectual property concerns and produce the vaccine themselves — a move condemned by medical organizations like Medecins Sans Frontieres. This means that the Russian, Chinese, or a potential Cuban vaccine currently in the final testing stages are their only hope.

Sputnik V has also been subject to an intense Western propaganda campaign aimed at defaming it. In January, Twitter was even forced to suspend Sputnik’s official account after a hack was detected emanating from Virginia. “Now who in Virginia might want to sabotage a global health initiative by one of Washington’s “official enemies?” wrote former MintPress contributor Morgan Artyukhina, strongly implying she believed one of the many three-letter agencies headquartered in the state was behind the hack.

Despite the defamation campaign, Russia is actually the most trusted vaccine manufacturer worldwide, according to a study of 11 countries conducted by British pollster YouGov. Over a billion doses have already been ordered globally, and a number of European Union members, including Hungary, Czechia and Slovakia, have broken ranks and unilaterally began administering the shot to their populations. An alarmed EU has tried to put a stop to it, urging caution. However, their words have proven ineffective, as the 27-nation bloc’s vaccine rollout has been distinctly lackluster.

 

Blood clots and blocked shots

Adding to Europe’s woes are the increased worries about the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, with a great many European countries, including Ireland, Austria, Denmark, Bulgaria, Norway and Romania suspending its use. This is due to a potential link to blood clots reported in multiple nations.

The first reports of a potential link to clotting came from Austria. Then a number of Norwegians experienced similar problems, with one person dying. The Italian region of Piedmont also temporarily suspended its vaccination campaign to investigate whether the death of a local teacher had any connection to the jab.

“We can’t allow any doubts about the vaccine,” Dutch Health Minister Hugo de Jonge said, explaining his government’s decision to do the same. “We have to make sure everything is right, so it is wise to pause for now.”

Western media have been extremely cautious in reporting on concerns. In its article yesterday detailing the cavalcade of countries suspending its use, The Guardian included no less than seven separate rebuttals to the idea that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine was dangerous.

Considering the gravity of the situation — a global pandemic that is raging out of control across five continents, already killing over 2.66 million people — this is a pertinent decision, especially as there is already a considerable lack of will among many populations to receive the vaccine.

Blood clots are a relatively common occurrence. Of the millions of people who have already been inoculated with the Oxford-AstraZeneca offering, there have been just 30 reports of blood clots, and only one fatality. One would expect a higher rate among a random sample of the population. It is therefore vastly more dangerous to be exposed to COVID-19 than risk any as yet unproven blood clot from the British vaccine.

The World Health Organization today reconfirmed its faith in Oxford-AstraZeneca. “There is no evidence that the incidents are caused by the vaccine and it is important that vaccination campaigns continue so that we can save lives and stem severe disease from the virus,” they stated.

 

“Reckless and unethical”

The Guardian’s sobriety is in complete contrast to how it has portrayed Sputnik V, describing it as “controversial,” its development “reckless and unethical,” claiming there was a “rising chorus of concern” from experts about its safety, and generally framing it as unconvincing and suspicious. This naysaying only appeared to change after it was announced that Sputnik V might be combined with Oxford-AstraZeneca to increase effectiveness. Last month, the Lancet, the most prestigious medical journal in the world, came out to fully endorse Russia’s vaccine offering as both safe and effective.

Dangerous clickbait from the New York Times

Meanwhile, much of Western reporting on the Chinese Sinopharm vaccine has been beyond irresponsible. Reuters, for example, published an article entitled “Peru volunteer in Sinopharm vaccine trial dies of COVID-19 pneumonia, university says.” Yet later the same article reveals that she had, in fact, not even received a vaccine, but was part of a control group receiving a placebo. Meanwhile, The New York Times ran a story with the headline “Brazil resumes Chinese vaccine trial after a brief suspension following the death of a volunteer.” The person in question committed suicide, as the article notes. However, the majority of news consumers do not read past the headline, meaning that both these examples sow false doubt about the Chinese vaccine’s effectiveness. This, or the desire to generate traffic with clickbait, are the two most likely explanations for such misleading journalism.

It is a similar story on social media. Twitter’s editorial team put up a message today on its homepage noting that there is no causal link between Oxford-AstraZeneca and blood clots. It has also banned users who spread COVID-19 conspiracy theories about Western vaccines. Yet defaming those from America’s official enemies is commonplace on its platform. “Since Russia so flagrantly cheated in sport’s doping over decades, why would anyone trust data coming out of Russia for their Sputnik vaccine?” Bill Browder, CEO of Hermitage Capital tweeted last week to his audience of over a quarter million people.

Fugitive con artist spreads Covid vaccine disinformation. Many have had their social media accounts wiped out for less. https://t.co/3S5itU4QAj

— Max Blumenthal (@MaxBlumenthal) March 15, 2021

The Guardian warned that the mass uptake of Russian and Chinese vaccines across the Global South meant that the West was “falling behind in the race for influence.” Considering that the U.S. is offering little except pressure not to take up Russia, China or Cuba’s offers, they are probably correct. Corporate media’s worry over so-called “vaccine diplomacy” hints at a broader reason for the negative coverage of the Russian and Chinese offerings.

 

The second Cold War

It is little secret that we are entering a second Cold War with both Russia and China. War planners and policymakers have, for years, been discussing how to attack those nations militarily, economically and through propaganda. 

In recent months, the U.S. has sent warships and bombers to the South China Sea, testing Chinese coastal defenses. In July, American destroyer the U.S.S. Rafael Peralta sailed just 41 nautical miles from the coastal megacity of Shanghai. President Trump also attempted to impede China’s economic rise, placing sanctions upon the country and attempting to stop the spread of Huawei’s global 5G network. Meanwhile, some U.S. war planners are advocating a wholescale psychological war against China. The Pentagon’s budget request for 2021 makes clear that they envisage a shift away from the Middle East and towards Russia and China as their new focus.

The U.S. public has already been convinced, by and large. After years of negative publicity, Americans’ opinions of those two nations have slumped to below 1980s levels, with only 22% and 20% of the public holding positive opinions about Russia or China, respectively.

Virtually all the victims of the first Cold War were in the Global South, in countries such as Vietnam, Cambodia or Guatemala. People are already needlessly suffering as a result of renewed great power competition. What this latest DHHS report reveals is that the first deaths in the second Cold War have already occurred.

Feature photo | Vials of the Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine are displayed at the Nikolai Gamaleya National Center for Epidemiology and Microbiology in Moscow. Alexander Zemlianichenko Jr | Russian Fund for Direct Investment via AP

Alan MacLeod is Senior Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent, as well as a number of academic articles. He has also contributed to FAIR.orgThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin Magazine, and Common Dreams.

The post Western Media Blitz Aimed at Russia’s Sputnik V Vaccine May Already Be Costing Lives appeared first on MintPress News.

World Digital Divide Gapes as JPMorgan Peddles Cryptocurrency Gateway Drug

NEW YORK — Per SEC filings, JPMorgan is set to offer a new kind of derivative stock that will allow its clients to invest in cryptocurrencies and other digital assets through a special vehicle that circumvents current federal restrictions on cryptocurrency investing. The finance giant will bundle the stock of a select number of companies, whose recent sizable investments in Bitcoin will represent the underlying derivative value of the novel stock types, much like subprime mortgages represented the underlying value of the instruments that brought the financial system crashing down in 2008.

Square, Inc., MicroStrategy, and NVIDIA Corporation, which makes the chips used by cryptocurrency miners around the world, will account for 68% of the basket’s market value. If approved, the structured note offerings will provide a way for more “risk-averse” investors to take part in the growing crypto and digital asset market. But not everyone is keen on the idea of one of the world’s leading financial services firms spearheading a cryptocurrency investment “gateway drug.”

Jeff Dorman, chief investment officer of the L.A.-based digital asset investment company Arca, called JPMorgan’s new product a “garbage portfolio” in a recent tweet. While valid in the sense that the profitability of the companies, which these instruments are attached to, has (currently) little to do with the cryptocurrencies themselves, Dorman’s criticism fails to account for the rise of impact investment markets anchored in the blockchain, an emerging investment model that seeks to fashion securitized debt instruments out of social and health problems.

JPMorgan has estimated that impact investments could yield up to $1 trillion this decade, representing potential profits of $667 billion. Meanwhile, forecasts by the International Finance Corporation (IFC) predict that more than a quarter of the world’s global assets under management will be tied to “some aspect of environmental, social or governance issues.” These, in turn, can reach the necessary scale required by global financial institutions only via the “transformations” enabled through the blockchain in order to meet the “innovative deal structures that accommodate the needs of impact investors and investees.”

By tying these new investment vehicles to a company like MicroStrategy, JPMorgan reveals the long-term vision behind these seemingly tentative first steps to bring a broader investor pool into the digital asset space. MicroStrategy is a business intelligence firm, helping companies like Apple develop their mobile apps since 2010 and “pioneering” a cloud-based analytics platform for Facebook – critical aspects of the digital asset ecosystems, which are rounded out by the payment processing/asset holding side courtesy of Square.

Likewise, NVIDIA’s inclusion in the “basket” denotes the seriousness of JPMorgan’s move, considering the chip-maker’s relevance to cryptocurrencies’ dependence on computational power and the ongoing restructuring of the semiconductor chip supply chain.

The only hurdle to full-on investment schemes seems to be the restrictions currently imposed on cryptocurrency investments by the SEC, which JPMorgan’s special vehicle manages to skate around. “What really needs to happen is that the SEC needs to provide some guidelines,” says Forbes crypto and blockchain advisor Jack Tatar, who insists that the world of finance, in general, must stop “denying [Bitcoin is] the best performing asset of the decade.”

George Soros, who recently invested $200 million alongside Morgan Stanley in a Bitcoin investment firm, certainly seems to agree, as all signs point to the inevitable reality that crypto has finally gone mainstream.

 

Peer-to-Peer or Corp-to-Corp 

By the time the elusive Satoshi Nakamoto published the Bitcoin whitepaper in 2008, peer-to-peer sharing networks like Napster and Pirate Bay had been stared down by the authorities and all but forced to shut down their operations in what marked the end of the internet’s glory days of free flowing information and content. 

Lasting just over a decade, the adolescence of the internet produced a generation of cyber rebels who took pride in making copyrighted content – from books to music – freely available through these peer-to-peer networks, and formed the basis of what we now call the “dark web” and the scaffolding upon which forums like Reddit and 4-Chan were built.

Bitcoin galvanized many within this particular virtual demographic, who saw the cryptocurrency – and its underlying blockchain technology – as the ultimate firewall between them and the government. For years, the narrative that Bitcoin was the money of the people, beyond the reach of the taxman, was furiously promoted by adherents and almost always tied to quasi-patriotic rhetoric and libertarian notions of economic “freedom.”

BTC Revolution | Creative Commons

The far deeper roots of blockchain — going as far back as the 1970s with the development of asymmetric key cryptography systems, upon which all blockchain technology is based — were largely ignored by most fans of Bitcoin. So too, was the fact that among the “revolutionary” technology’s first adopters were none other than the Winklevoss twins — who also happened to be the initial investors of Facebook, which arose almost simultaneously.

Banks and financial institutions have been on top of the Bitcoin and blockchain phenomena from the beginning and have slowly effectuated the changes that are just now allowing for the full flourishing of the new capitalist paradigm of a data-driven, blockchain-based economy to come online. Emerging in tandem with the controlled demolition of the old financial system, which took place the same year “Satoshi” released the Bitcoin whitepaper, the socially-awkward chat-room geeks who first pushed the cryptocurrency can now be cast aside as the once obscure ‘art’ of cryptocurrency mining goes “truly global.

 

Liquid assets, non-fungible life

Perhaps no better signal that digital assets are now ready to be fully implemented as a core pillar of the economy is the highly-publicized sale at auction for $69.4 million of a digital art piece by an artist known as Beeple, which was purchased as a so-called non-fungible token (NFT).

NFTs are, in essence, certificates of authenticity that exist on the blockchain — cryptographically verified assets tied to a “smart” contract which, as in the case of the digital nature of Beeple’s work, may also contain the artwork itself.

The non-fungible token “craze” has been making the rounds on mainstream entertainment media for a few weeks now as the concept is introduced to a broader public. Rock band Kings of Leon made the news earlier this month by announcing it would release their next album as an NFT and the topic has been on the lips of popular YouTube podcasts like “The Tim Dillon Show” and others.

Beyond the flashy, attention-grabbing headlines boasting of overnight millionaires of the new digital space, there are more substantial signs that we have entered into a brave new world where the analog world many of us grew up in is being completely replaced with digital counterfeits.

Startups like Securrency, which “enables the programming of rules, conditions and compliance safeguards into the crypto assets,” represent part of the strict, inflexible digital enclosure currently being built around us, where pre-programmed laws and algorithms determine what our choices are and how we can interact with one another in the marketplace and, increasingly, in society itself.

Dan Doney, Securrency’s CEO and co-founder, dispels the notion that Bitcoin or any other cryptocurrency is beyond the reach of governments: “In the end, anyone who figures that governments are going to turn away and not intervene is just flat out wrong,” Doney says of suspicious Bitcoin transactions.

The former NSA, DHS, FBI agent and the Defense Intelligence Agency’s former Chief Innovations Officer is bullish on the future prospects of his company’s success. After all, blockchain allows debt to be priced automatically and “therefore much easier to become liquid in this market…So, this is where the market’s already going [and] very quickly.”

At the end of the day, a programmatically-enforced marketplace through the use of cryptographic technology the vast majority of people cannot access, much less understand, takes away our power to set the terms of the deals we choose to make in our lives. Instead, it hands virtually all power over to the hedge funds and other entities, who have the ability to control these systems by virtue of their ownership of the data that is being collected day-in and day-out through the numerous data funnels placed all around us.

Worse still are the ultimate designs to convert human beings themselves into the next digital asset through the rise of impact investment markets, which the widespread adoption of cryptocurrencies will only accelerate, preparing the groundwork for a fully digitized existence.

Feature photo | A JPMorgan Chase ATM in New York. Mark Lennihan | AP

Raul Diego is a MintPress News Staff Writer, independent photojournalist, researcher, writer and documentary filmmaker.

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Vanessa Beeley on Biden’s Escalation of War on Syria Amid the Pandemic

Welcome to MintCast — an interview series featuring dissenting voices the establishment would rather silence. I’m your host Mnar Muhawesh Adley.

Within just three months in office amid a global pandemic, the Joe Biden administration recently ordered an airstrike that dropped 1.75 tons of explosives on a town in Syria near the Iraq border. The move is re-inflaming tensions between Washington and Damascus as the war enters its 10th year.

Joining me today to discuss the latest on the ground in Syria is Vanessa Beeley.

Vanessa is an independent British journalist based in Damascus and specializing in Middle Eastern affairs. She is perhaps best known for her coverage of the Syrian Civil War and the Western media propaganda machine drawing up support for a so-called humanitarian war against Syria.

This program is 100 percent listener supported! You can join the hundreds of financial sponsors who make this show possible by becoming a member on our Patreon page

Subscribe to this podcast on iTunes, Spotify and SoundCloud. Please leave us a review and share this segment.

Mnar Muhawesh is founder, CEO and editor in chief of MintPress News, and is also a regular speaker on responsible journalism, sexism, neoconservativism within the media and journalism start-ups.

The post Vanessa Beeley on Biden’s Escalation of War on Syria Amid the Pandemic appeared first on MintPress News.

Atlantic Council Hawks Enraged as Think Tank Publishes Slightly Less Anti-Russia Article

WASHINGTON — Serious strife has broken out in the halls of power this week, after NATO-cutout organization The Atlantic Council published an opinion piece that was slightly less anti-Russian than usual. Some 22 Atlantic Council staffers revolted against it, claiming that it “missed the mark” and its argument was beneath contempt.

The article, entitled “Reality Check #4: Focus on interests, not on human rights with Russia,” was written by two members of the New American Engagement Initiative, a subdivision of the Atlantic Council paid for and established by controversial libertarian multi-billionaires the Koch Brothers. Its authors, Emma Ashford and Mathew Burrows, argue that there is a “tension” between U.S. interests vis a vis Russia and pursuing human rights inside the country. While decrying the treatment of anti-Putin campaigner Alexey Navalny, they maintain that President Joe Biden should seek to build a “less aspirational policy toward Russia” and “minimize the use of sanctions,” at least until new nuclear weapons treaties can be signed with Moscow.

While acknowledging that U.S. intentions are benign, they contend that securing anti-ballistic missile treaties with Russia should be prioritized over “largely symbolic sanctions” over human rights abuses.

Their article elicited a chorus of condemnation and an open revolt from other staffers of what might be the world’s most influential think tank. Twenty-two council employees signed a denunciation of the piece, claiming that it was “premised on a false assumption that human rights and national interests are wholly separate,” and insisting that “U.S. policy toward Russia was and remains driven by human rights concerns.”

 

A think tank of two minds

Charles Koch and his late brother, David, who traditionally favored more isolationist policies, gave $4.5 million to the Council to set up the New American Engagement Initiative. This stance strongly conflicts with the rest of the Atlantic Council, who have consistently been among the most extreme hawkish voices on Russia and other foreign affairs.

Speaking to Politico, many staffers felt that Koch money was poisoning their pristine organization. “The Koch industry operates as a Trojan horse operation trying to destroy good institutions and they have pretty much the same views as the Russians,” said one employee, adding that they were disappointed their bosses had accepted money from such a questionable source.

The controversy even brought in former Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, who commented:

So the people who know anything about Russia disassociate themselves from the Koch-funded, sinecured isolationist shills who do not, and who say the U.S. should not, care about human rights violations in Russia. Follow the money. It’s not a pretty path.”

The Atlantic Council is funded by the U.S. government and multiple Middle Eastern dictatorships; weapons manufacturers Raytheon, Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin; Wall Street banks such as Goldman Sachs; and petrochemical giants like BP and Chevron. It was also given a six-figure donation by Ukrainian energy giant Burisma, which gave Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, a $50,000-per-month spot on its board.

“It closes the eyes on a bipartisan tradition of integrating our values and human interests from Ronald Reagan to Barack Obama. It’s Cato Institute meets Donald Trump,” one scandalized employee said of the article. Another senior fellow told Politico that it could “undermine the credibility of some of the work that the Atlantic Council is doing on the Russia issue.”

In 1986, the International Court of Justice found the Reagan administration guilty of 15 counts of international terrorism. A U.S. court also convicted senior Reagan official Oliver North of selling weapons to Iran and using the money to fund death squads that rampaged across Central America. Meanwhile, when he left office, President Obama was bombing seven countries simultaneously. Thus, it is not clear what exactly these values are.

 

Positions with real-world consequences

Founded in 1961 as a NATO offshoot, the Atlantic Council has risen to become the pre-eminent foreign policy think tank. Situated less than 700 yards from the White House, its board of directors is a who’s who of high state officials, including Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell as well as senior military commanders such as Wesley Clark, David Petraeus, H.R. McMaster and James “Mad Dog” Mattis. Also on the board of directors are no fewer than seven former CIA directors. As such, it could be said to represent the collective opinion of the national security state. This is why this incident is not simply a minor tiff, but a disagreement with potentially profound repercussions.

On Russia, the Atlantic Council has been the source of many of the most hawkish and bizarre conspiracy theories that have dominated the news cycle over the past four years. In a series of reports, the Council has gone so far as to claim that virtually every European party challenging the centrist establishment is secretly controlled by Vladimir Putin. From Labour and UKIP in the U.K. to Syriza and Golden Dawn in Greece and PODEMOS and Vox in Spain, all are actually the “Kremlin’s Trojan Horses” in the Council’s estimation.

This has had real-world consequences, with tensions escalating to arguably their most dangerous point in history. In 2020, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists — a scientific organization including 13 Nobel laureates — moved its famous Doomsday Clock to just 100 seconds to midnight, meaning they believed that the world is currently in a more perilous situation than at any point in history — even at the height of the Cold War. Aggressive U.S. actions against a nuclear-armed Russia are a principal reason for their estimation, the scientists explain.

The Atlantic Council is also behind much of the most hawkish anti-China sentiment emanating from Washington. Last month, it published an anonymous, 26,000-word report advising that Biden dramatically ramp up military efforts against Beijing, drawing a number of “red lines” around the country. These include Chinese attempts to expand into the South China Sea, a move to take the disputed Senkaku Islands, a cyber attack on the West, or even a North Korean strike on one of its neighbors. If any of these red lines are broken, the U.S. must use the power of its military; otherwise, the Council insists, it would lead to national “humiliation.”

The council also has enormous influence over what the world sees and reads online. In 2018, the organization announced that it was partnering with Facebook to help it decide what the mega-platform’s 2.7 billion users see in their news feeds. A senior council member also holds a directorship position at popular social media website Reddit. The council claims that its digital forensics lab is uniquely placed to be able to distinguish between fake news and genuine information online. Yet much of the most questionable information on foreign affairs is emanating from the Atlantic Council itself.

 

Good will to power

The entire argument between different factions of the Atlantic Council is premised upon how much the United States’ foreign policy should be based around human rights, rather than its own interests. However, serious analyses of U.S. foreign policy have concluded the opposite: that human rights never come into question. The U.S. supports three-quarters of the world’s dictatorships with military aid, while it attempted to overthrow foreign governments 72 times during the Cold War alone. Professor Lars Schoultz of North Carolina University also found a close correlation between U.S. foreign aid distribution and human rights violations in Latin America. The worse a state treated its citizens, the more money flowed to the country.

Henry Kissinger is a director of the Atlantic Council. In 1969 he ordered the U.S. military to kill “anything that moves” in Southeast Asia, a command that directly led to the deaths of millions in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. “It is hard to find a declaration with such clear genocidal intent in the archival record of any state,” remarked political theorist and dissident Noam Chomsky. That an organization boasting Kissinger on the board could be concerned with human rights is highly questionable. Yet so powerful is the ideology of American exceptionalism that any suggestion that the U.S. is not uniquely and fundamentally benevolent all the time is met with a storm of denunciations from Washington insiders. Hence the reaction to the recent Atlantic Council report.

Feature photo | A man waves a Russian national flag with portraits of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and former Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev in Sevastopol, Crimea, March 18, 2020. Photo | AP

Alan MacLeod is Senior Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent, as well as a number of academic articles. He has also contributed to FAIR.orgThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin Magazine, and Common Dreams.

The post Atlantic Council Hawks Enraged as Think Tank Publishes Slightly Less Anti-Russia Article appeared first on MintPress News.

Yemen’s Marib Offensive Born of Desperation, with No Sign Saudis/US Will Cease Their War

MARIB, YEMEN — Overcoming a rugged and Sahara-like desert climate and under the constant fire of Saudi warplanes, Tawfiq Hassan, a third-term Sufi law school student, along with a cadre of other young Yemeni fighters, partook in the recent liberation of the Nakhla Valley near the western gate of the city of Marib.

“To recapture Marib and its natural resources is the last chance to secure its oil,” Tawfiq told MintPress. But for Khaled Mudaher, a soldier in Yemen’s Republican Guard, liberating Marib is a sacred patriotic duty. ”They bomb us, kidnap our women, block medicine and fuel, and steal our wealth,” Mudaher lamented.

Battles over Yemen’s oil-rich Marib province, which lies only 100 kilometers east of the capital Sana’a, have raged on since 2015 when the war began. The clashes pit Saudi-led Coalition soldiers and their Salafist militant allies against Yemeni forces supported by the Houthis as well as partisans from local tribes. Those clashes have become more fierce as the war and Saudi-imposed blockade approach six years’ duration on March 26, and amid a new push by Sana’a to liberate the last strongholds of the Saudi-led Coalition from Riyadh’s control.

For the past few months, Yemeni forces have fought a grueling ground campaign to recapture strategic points on Marib battlefields, including villages and military positions surrounding Marib city. Across the western and north-western oil-rich fronts, fierce clashes have erupted as more and more local tribes join battles to reclaim ancient landmarks with evocative names from Saudi forces. From The Thunders and The Hunter’s Birthmark to the strategic Shower Heights overlooking the Dish of Jinn and the tribal Balkan Mountains near the famous Marib Dam itself, long battles slog on, peppered with small but frequent hit-and-run battles in outlying districts, including Altielat Alhamra. Coalition forces for their part claim that they are thwarting ٍSana’a’s advance and have recaptured many of the liberated sites.

 

Escalation born of desperation

The recent escalation is not only a result of the brutal siege and bombardment of Yemen, which has bred a communal sense of desperation, but it is also born from a recognition that there are no real intentions on behalf of the Saudis or Americans to stop the war. That sense of hopelessness has had fuel poured onto it in the form of violent acts carried out by Saudi forces that violate the core tenants and mores of Yemeni people, not to mention their very dignity.

On February 1, Saudi-backed militants raided the homes of an unknown number of displaced families in Marib and kidnapped seven women who were allegedly then sold to Saudi Arabia. Five of the women were kidnapped on a Saturday night and, as locals were still reeling, the militants returned the next morning and kidnapped two more women by force. The news quickly spread across Yemen and anger mounted, sparking dozens of protests against Saudi forces. Major tribes in Marib, who for decades have maintained either neutrality or loyalty to Saudi Arabia, held a meeting in Sana’a to declare their desire to create a united front and expel Saudi forces and their allies. The declaration came on the heels of historic non-aggression treaties signed between Houthi-backed Yemeni forces and elders from Marib’s indigenous tribes of Ubaidah, Murad, Jahm, and Jadaan in the weeks leading up to the kidnappings.

 

Tragic stories drive the fight

Yemen’s battlefields, especially those in Marib, are a picture of contradiction. On one side are the latest warplanes and weapons made by the likes of Raytheon and BAE; fighters from a variety of backgrounds, including al-Qaeda and ISIS; Egyptians; American and British experts; and an extensive network of intelligence agents from around the world monitoring everything. On the other, young partisans with Kalashnikovs and machine guns; sometimes artillery or missiles mounted to the back of an old pickup truck; and explosive charges, usually old Soviet-era RPGs. They advance under heavy airstrikes and bombings through the rugged terrain, usually wearing sandals but sometimes barefoot.

There are no paranormal forces aiding their advance, but incentives born out of desperation. Some are steeped in patriotism, some bear a sense of religious duty; but a majority are driven by some tragic story. A loved-one lost in an airstrike or to hunger or disease, unable to travel abroad for treatment. Others have had to pull family members from beneath the rubble of their own homes. Most have lost their jobs, homes, or farms. But all of their stories speak to the suffering endured by Yemenis.

A Yemeni boy prays at the grave of a relative killed fighting Saudi-led forces, at a cemetery in Sana’a,. Mar. 2, 2021. Hani Mohammed | AP

The Saudi-led Coalition’s campaign in Marib is not limited to the massive airstrikes for which it is now known, but it relies heavily on ideologically-driven fighters from al-Qaeda and Daesh armed with the latest Western weapons. On the al-Murad battlefield, members of al-Qaeda led by Mansur Mabkhout Hadi al-Faqir al-Mouradi, known colloquially as “Zubair Al-Mouradi,” have many tasks including artillery bombardment, bomb-making, and their trademark across the Middle East, planting IEDs.

According to a recent report from Yemen’s Security and Intelligence Agency (SIA), the Saudi government has facilitated a massive al-Qaeda presence in the oil-rich Marib province. This includes a fully-equipped headquarters, shelters, houses, farms, camps, and hotels used openly by al-Qaeda-linked groups. The SIA released the names of more than 100 leaders and members of the so-called “State of Marib” and presented the tasks assigned to them.

According to the SIA, the leadership of the organization in the “State of Marib” has established a safe haven for the group in the Shabwa governorate, establishing medical and reception shelters to aid Saudi-led military operations. Moreover, the villages of Al-Khatla and al-Fageir, the al-Jufina region, and the Wakra region in Marib have all turned into al-Qaeda strongholds.

In fact, al-Qaeda has become more organized and publicly active. They have a fully-functioning organizational structure with Samir Rayan, also known as Mutaz al-Hadhrami, appointed as “Amir of the state of Marib,” and Jamal al-Qamadi, known as Abu Abdul Rahman al-San’ani, appointed as a medical officer and military logistics official. Osama al-Hasani, also known as Muath al-San’ani, has been appointed as head of al-Qaeda. Their organizational structure includes an official to oversee transportation, a medical representative at the Commission Hospital in the Marib, a procurement officer, and even an official to head the organization’s “housing.”

 

“No Iranians here”

Bakeil al-Murady’s face immediately began to redden and a thoughtful grin appeared when I asked the 35-year-old, who had been captured on Marib’s al-Alam battlefield, whether he really believed that he was on a sacred mission to defend against the Iranians. “There are no Iranians here, but there are Saudi Rials and we are in need,” he answered. Like most Yemenis, al-Murady was inundated by warnings of Iranian intervention in Yemen from Saudi-funded media but never saw it with his own eyes. Most hear tidbits of news about the Iranian nuclear program or other aspects of the country that lies two thousand kilometers away but has been tied ad nauseam to the war in Yemen.

As the media ties recent developments in Yemen to the Iranian nuclear issue or to Houthi attempts to position themselves favorably for potential American-led negotiations, the tragic truth on the ground is that the plight of 17 million Yemenis is being wholly ignored.

The offensive against Saudi Arabia taking place in oil-rich Marib, a province deep inside of Yemen, was launched as part of an effort to end, or at least deter, ongoing Saudi airstrikes against civilian targets and to force the Saudis to allow the entry of life-saving goods. It has nothing to do with the Iranian nuclear program or a future settlement. In fact, most Yemenis, including the Houthis, have announced repeatedly that their only demand is that the blockade against Yemen ends and that the airstrikes be halted. The simple reality of the battle over Marib is that, regardless of the outcome of the Iranian nuclear deal, it will rage on until Saudi Arabia’s deadly campaign in Yemen grinds to a halt.

 

Death from the air

On Sunday, scenes of frightened children and families fleeing their homes amidst plumes of rising smoke were repeated after Saudi warplanes bombarded the densely populated al-Nahdhah neighborhood in central Sana’a. The airstrikes hit near Halima Girls School, causing damage to the school and surrounding houses and civic facilities. The attack was one of more than a hundred Saudi airstrikes that targeted populated areas and military sites this week across Yemen, including a scientific center in Arhab.

Smoke rises following Saudi airstrikes in a residential area of Sanaa, Mar. 7, 2021. Hani Mohammed | AP

In retaliation for the airstrikes, on Sunday the Houthi-backed Yemeni military launched 22 drone and missile attacks against Saudi targets, including an Aramco oil facility in the port of Ras Tanura, the largest of its kind in the world, located north of the capital of Saudi Arabia’s eastern province of Dammam. The attacks came on the back of other Yemeni strikes on Saudi targets, including on the Abha Airport and King Khalid Air Base, located near Khamis Mushait, some 884 kilometers south of the Saudi capital Riyadh. Both of the airbases have been used to launch airstrikes against targets in Yemen, according to officials.

Yemen’s Houthi-backed Army unveiled the ballistic missiles and drones that were used in Sunday’s attacks on Ras Tanura last Thursday in an event in which Mahdi al-Mashat, the president of the Supreme Political Council, reiterated that attacks on Saudi Arabia will stop if the Kingdom halts airstrikes in Yemen and lifts the blockade on the country.

 

“Sparkling words”

The UN has warned that the recent clashes in Marib could trigger the displacement of thousands of civilians. “An assault on the city would put two million civilians at risk, with hundreds of thousands potentially forced to flee — with unimaginable humanitarian consequences,” U.N aid chief Mark Lowcock said on Tuesday, urging de-escalation.

According to the UN, more than 8,000 people have been displaced in and around Sirwah since early February, many of them fleeing existing refugee camps. Sana’a said the camps are being used as human shields and that Saudi-backed militants are preventing civilians from leaving the province in order to obstruct the advance of Houthi-led forces towards Ma’rib or to spur anger from the international community should the advance continue.

A girl plays at a camp for internally displaced people in Marib, October 2, 2020. Ali Owidha | Reuters

ِThe advance on Marib has sparked panic among Saudi Arabia and her allies, including the United States, which called on the “Houthis” to stop military operations, warning them that they should not interpret President Joe Biden’s public pivot on Yemen as a sign of weakness. “The Houthis are under the false impression that this administration intends to let its leadership off the hook,” U.S. State Department spokesman and former intelligence officer Ned Price said, adding, “They are sorely mistaken.”

On Thursday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken added that “The United States joins France, Germany, Italy, and the United Kingdom in condemning the Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia and their offensive in Ma’rib,” concluding, “We call on all parties to engage in the diplomatic efforts through the Yemen process to bring peace to Yemen.”

Mohamed AbdulSalam, the official spokesman and chief negotiator for Ansar Allah, the political arm of the Houthis, responded by tweeting “The U.S. depicts the battle of Marib as an aggression, asking us not to defend ourselves and leave the terrorist recruitment centers to operate with freedom.” AbdulSalam insisted that the military operation in Marib was not a spur-of-the-moment decision, nor was it decided on January 20, when President Biden assumed power. He added, “So far, the American statements have been still [just] words. We have not noticed any actual progress; the airstrikes and the blockade are continued with American backing. Sparkling words will not deceive us.”

The Yemenis’ rush to liberate Marib, which is home to sizable oil reserves, may be understood in light of the stifling humanitarian crisis foisted upon the country for the past six years — especially the ongoing fuel crisis, which has plunged much of the nation into darkness. It is incomprehensible to many Yemenis that international criticism has now surfaced over the advance on Marib when the same critics cannot muster condemnation of the battles, airstrikes, and blockade that are battering and squeezing more than 30 million people already struggling against famine and Covid-19.

Feature photo | Houthis fighters hold posters of relatives killed in recent fighting by Saudi-backed forces during a funeral procession in Sanaa, Yemen, Feb. 16, 2021. Hani Mohammed | AP

Ahmed AbdulKareem is a Yemeni journalist based in Sana’a. He covers the war in Yemen for MintPress News as well as local Yemeni media.

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