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Pegasus is Just the Tip of the Israeli Cyber Spying Iceberg, with Whitney Webb

Edward Snowden has called it “the story of the year.” An Israeli spying company has been caught selling software to authoritarian regimes that have used it to surveil more than 50,000 people worldwide.

That company is NSO, founded in 2010 by former members of Unit 8200, the Israeli military’s notorious intelligence squad. Their product is called Pegasus, and it was sold to military, law enforcement, and intelligence agencies in 40 countries, among them some of the world’s worst human rights abusing governments.

On this “MintCast,” investigative journalist Whitney Webb joins Mnar Adley today to discuss Pegasus, Toka, and the global Israeli cyberspying network. Whitney Webb is a writer and researcher for the outlets Unlimited Hangout and The Last American Vagabond. She principally covers intelligence, technology, surveillance, and civil liberties. Between 2017 and 2020, she was also a senior investigative reporter for MintPress. Her latest article, “Meet Toka, the Most Dangerous Israeli Spyware Firm You’ve Never Heard Of,” was published by MintPress earlier this week.

Pegasus is able to attack the cellphones of targeted individuals without them realizing it, monitoring and recording their calls, texts and accessing other information stored on their devices. Dozens of human rights activists, nearly 200 journalists, several Arab royals, and more than 600 politicians are known to have had their communications spied on and compromised. Among those include French President Emmanuel Macron, Pakistani prime minister Imran Khan and president of Iraq, Barham Salih.

Close associates of the Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi were also attacked and compromised just before his murder by Saudi operatives in 2018, strongly indicating that the information gleaned through Pegasus was crucial in this endeavor. NSO vehemently denied that their product was used in his assassination. Yet it also put out a statement insisting that it had no access to what its clients did with the software — two seemingly contradictory assertions.

The Pegasus story has made major waves in India, too, where it was revealed Prime Minister Narendra Modi had used it to spy on his political opponents in the run-up to the 2019 elections. The Indian Congress Party has accused the prime minister of committing treason. Also disclosed was that the government hacked the phone of a woman who accused the Chief Justice of India of raping her, a revelation undermining the entire justice system and the concept of a fair trial.

Yet a new MintPress News investigation asserts that Pegasus is merely the tip of the Israeli cyber spying iceberg and that another piece of software, Toka, is far more dangerous and outrageous. Toka markets itself as “a one-stop hacking shop for governments that require extra capability to fight terrorists and other threats to national security in the digital domain.” The company’s software is designed to infiltrate any device connected to the internet, not just smartphones.

Toka is a product of the Israeli national security state, having been co-founded by former prime minister, Ehud Barak, and was also designed by members of Unit 8200, leading Webb to suggest that it is a front for the Israeli government.

Meet Toka, the Most Dangerous Israeli Spyware Firm You’ve Never Heard Of

Feature photo | Graphic by Antonio Cabrera

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Mnar Adley 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 Pegasus is Just the Tip of the Israeli Cyber Spying Iceberg, with Whitney Webb appeared first on MintPress News.

Meet Toka, the Most Dangerous Israeli Spyware Firm You’ve Never Heard Of

LONDON – This past Sunday, an investigation into the global abuse of spyware developed by veterans of Israeli intelligence Unit 8200 gained widespread attention, as it was revealed that the software – sold to democratic and authoritarian governments alike – had been used to illegally spy on an estimated 50,000 individuals. Among those who had their communications and devices spied on by the software, known as Pegasus, were journalists, human rights activists, business executives, academics and prominent political leaders. Among those targeted political leaders, per reports, were the current leaders of France, Pakistan, South Africa, Egypt, Morocco and Iraq.

The abuse of Pegasus software in this very way has been known for several years, though these latest revelations appear to have gained such traction in the mainstream owing to the high number of civilians who have reportedly been surveilled through its use. The continuation of the now-years-long scandal surrounding the abuse of Pegasus has also brought considerable controversy and notoriety to the Israeli company that developed it, the NSO Group.

While the NSO Group has become infamous, other Israeli companies with even deeper ties to Israel’s intelligence apparatus have been selling software that not only provides the exact same services to governments and intelligence agencies but purports to go even farther.

Originally founded by former Israeli Prime Minister and Jeffrey Epstein associate Ehud Barak, one of these companies’ wares are being used by countries around the world, including in developing countries with the direct facilitation of global financial institutions like the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the World Bank. In addition, the software is only made available to governments that are “trusted” by Israel’s government, which “works closely” with the company.

Despite the fact that this firm has been around since 2018 and was covered in detail by this author for MintPress News in January 2020, no mainstream outlet – including those that have extensively covered the NSO Group – has bothered to examine the implications of this story.

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Worse than Pegasus

Toka was launched in 2018 with the explicit purpose of selling a “tailored ecosystem of cyber capabilities and software products for governmental, law enforcement, and security agencies.” According to a profile of the company published in Forbes shortly after it launched, Toka advertised itself as “a one-stop hacking shop for governments that require extra capability to fight terrorists and other threats to national security in the digital domain.”

Toka launched with plans to “provide spy tools for whatever device its clients require,” including not only smartphones but a “special focus on the so-called Internet of Things (IoT).” Per the company, this includes devices like Amazon Echo, Google Nest-connected home products, as well as connected fridges, thermostats and alarms. Exploits in these products discovered by Toka, the company said at the time, would not be disclosed to vendors, meaning those flaws would continue to remain vulnerable to any hacker, whether a client of Toka or not.

Today, Toka’s software suite claims to offer its customers in law enforcement, government and intelligence the ability to obtain “targeted intelligence” and to conduct “forensic investigations” as well as “covert operations.” In addition, Toka offers governments its “Cyber Designers” service, which provides “agencies with the full-spectrum strategies, customized projects and technologies needed to keep critical infrastructure, the digital landscape and government institutions secure and durable.”

Given that NSO’s Pegasus targets only smartphones, Toka’s hacking suite – which, like Pegasus, is also classified as a “lawful intercept” product – is capable of targeting any device connected to the internet, including but not limited to smartphones. In addition, its target clientele are the same as those of Pegasus, providing an easy opportunity for governments to gain access to even more surveillance capabilities than Pegasus offers, but without risking notoriety in the media, since Toka has long avoided the limelight.

A slide from an April 20, 2021 presentation given by Toka’s VP of Global Sales, Michael Anderson

In addition, while Toka professes that its products are only used by “trusted” governments and agencies to combat “terrorism” and maintain order and public safety, the sales pitch for the NSO Group’s Pegasus is remarkably similar, and that sales pitch has not stopped its software from being used to target dissidents, politicians and journalists. It also allows many of the same groups who are Toka clients, like intelligence agencies, to use these tools for the purpose of obtaining blackmail. The use of blackmail by Israeli security agencies against civilian Palestinians to attempt to weaken Palestinian society and for political persecution is well-documented.

Toka has been described by market analysts as an “offensive security” company, though the company’s leadership rejects this characterization. Company co-founder and current CEO Yaron Rosen asserted that, as opposed to purely offensive, the company’s operations are “something in the middle,” which he classifies as bridging cyber defense and offensive cyber activities — e.g., hacking.

The company’s activities are concerning in light of the fact that Toka has been directly partnered with Israel’s Ministry of Defense and other Israeli intelligence and security agencies since its founding. The company “works closely” with these government agencies, according to an Israeli Ministry of Defense website. This collaboration, per Toka, is meant to “enhance” their products. Toka’s direct IDF links are in contrast to the NSO Group, a company that does not maintain overt ties with the Israeli security state.

Toka’s direct collaboration with Israel’s government is also made clear through its claim that it sells its products and offers its services only to “trusted” governments, law enforcement agencies and intelligence agencies. Toka’s Rosen has stated that Russia, China, and “other enemy countries” would never be customers of the company. In other words, only countries aligned with Israeli policy goals, particularly in occupied Palestine, are permitted to be customers and gain access to its trove of powerful hacking tools. This is consistent with Israeli government efforts to leverage Israel’s hi-tech sector as a means of countering the Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) movement globally.

A profile photo of former Chief of Cyber Staff for the IDF and Toka co-founder, Yaron Rosen. Credit | Spy Legends

Further evidence that Toka is part of this Israeli government effort to seed foreign governments with technology products deeply tied to Israel’s military and intelligence services is the fact that one of the main investors in Toka is Dell Technologies Capital, which is an extension of the well-known tech company Dell. Dell was founded by Michael Dell, a well-known pro-Israel partisan who has donated millions of dollars to the Friends of the IDF and is one of the top supporters of the so-called “anti-BDS” bills that prevent publicly employed individuals or public institutions in several U.S. states from supporting non-violent boycotts of Israel, even on humanitarian grounds. As MintPress previously noted, the fact that a major producer of consumer electronic goods is heavily investing in a company that markets the hacking of that very technology should be a red flag.

The government’s initial admitted use of the hi-tech sector to counter the BDS movement coincided with the launch of a new Israeli military and intelligence agency policy in 2012, whereby “cyber-related and intelligence projects that were previously carried out in-house in the Israeli military and Israel’s main intelligence arms are transferred to companies that, in some cases, were built for this exact purpose.”

One of the reasons this was reportedly launched was to retain members of Unit 8200 engaged in military work who were moving to jobs in the country’s high-paying tech sector. Through this new policy that has worked to essentially merge much of the private tech sector with Israel’s national security state, some Unit 8200 and other intelligence veterans continue their work for the state but benefit from a private sector salary. The end result is that an unknown – and likely very high – number of Israeli tech companies are led by veterans of the Israeli military and Israeli intelligence agencies and serve, for all intents and purposes, as front companies. A closer examination of Toka strongly suggests that it is one such front company.


Toka — born out of Israel’s national security state

The company was co-founded by Ehud Barak, Alon Kantor, Kfir Waldman and retired IDF Brigadier General Yaron Rosen. Rosen, the firm’s founding CEO and now co-CEO, is the former Chief of the IDF’s cyber staff, where he was “the lead architect of all [IDF] cyber activities,” including those executed by Israeli military intelligence Unit 8200. Alon Kantor is the former Vice President of Business Development for Check Point Software, a software and hardware company founded by Unit 8200 veterans. Kfir Waldman is the former CEO of Go Arc and a former Director of Engineering at technology giant Cisco. Cisco is a leader in the field of Internet of Things devices and IoT cybersecurity, while Go Arc focuses on applications for mobile devices. As previously mentioned, Toka hacks not only mobile devices but also has a “special focus” on hacking IoT devices.

A slide from an April 20, 2021 presentation given by Toka’s VP of Global Sales, Michael Anderson

In addition to having served as prime minister of Israel, Toka co-founder Ehud Barak previously served as head of Israeli military intelligence directorate Aman, as well as several other prominent posts in the IDF, before eventually leading the Israeli military as minister of defense. While minister of defense, he led Operation Cast Lead against the blockaded Gaza Strip in 2009, which resulted in the deaths of over 1,000 Palestinians and saw Israel illegally use chemical weapons against civilians.

Toka is the first start-up created by Barak. However, Barak had previously chaired and invested in Carbyne911, a controversial Israeli emergency services start-up that has expanded around the world and has become particularly entrenched in the United States. Carbyne’s success has been despite the Jeffrey Epstein scandal, given that the intelligence-linked pedophile and sex trafficker had invested heavily in the company at Barak’s behest. Barak’s close relationship with Epstein, including overnight visits to Epstein’s now-notorious island and apartment complexes that housed trafficked women and underage girls, has been extensively documented.

Barak stepped away from Toka in April of last year, likely as the result of the controversy over his Epstein links, which also saw Barak withdraw from his chairmanship of Carbyne in the wake of Epstein’s death. Considerable evidence has pointed to Epstein having been an intelligence asset of Israeli military intelligence who accrued blackmail on powerful individuals for the benefit of Israel’s national security state and other intelligence agencies, as well as for personal gain.

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Another notable Toka executive is Nir Peleg, the company’s Vice President for Strategic Projects. Peleg is the former head of the Research and Development Division at Israel’s National Cyber Directorate, where he led national cybersecurity projects as well as government initiatives and collaborations with international partners and Israeli cybersecurity innovative companies. Prior to this, Peleg claims to have served for more than 20 years in leading positions at the IDF’s “elite technology unit,” though he does specify exactly which unit this was. His LinkedIn profile lists him as having been head of the IDF’s entire Technology Department from 2008 to 2011.

While at Israel’s National Cyber Directorate, Peleg worked closely with Tal Goldstein, now the head of strategy for the World Economic Forum’s Partnership against Cybercrime (WEF-PAC), whose members include government agencies of the U.S., Israel and the U.K., along with some of the world’s most powerful companies in technology and finance. The goal of this effort is to establish a global entity that is capable of controlling the flow of information, data, and money on the internet. Notably, Toka CEO Yaron Rosen recently called for essentially this exact organization to be established when he stated that the international community needed to urgently create the “cyber” equivalent of the World Health Organization to combat the so-called “cyber pandemic.”

Claims that a “cyber pandemic” is imminent have been frequent from individuals tied to the WEF-PAC, including CEO of Checkpoint Software Gil Shwed. Checkpoint is a member of WEF-PAC and two of its former vice presidents, Michael Anderson and Alon Kantor, are now Vice President for Global Sales and co-CEO of Toka, respectively.

The Wolrd Economic Forum does little to hide its partnership with former Israeli intelligence officials

Toka’s Chief Technology Officer, and the chief architect of its hacking suite, is Moty Zaltsman, who is the only chief executive of the company not listed on the firm’s website. Per his LinkedIn, Zaltsman was the Chief Technology Officer for then-Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Last January, when Toka was covered by MintPress News, his profile stated that he had developed “offensive technologies” for Israel’s head of state, but Zaltsman has since removed this claim. The last Toka executive of note is Michael Volfman, the company’s Vice President of Research and Development. Volfman was previously a cyber research and development leader at an unspecified “leading technology unit” of the IDF.

Also worth mentioning are Toka’s main investors, particularly Entrèe Capital, which is managed by Aviad Eyal and Ran Achituv. Achituv, who manages Entrée’s investment in Toka and sits on Toka’s board of directors, was the founder of the IDF’s satellite-based signals intelligence unit and also a former senior vice president at both Amdocs and Comverse Infosys. Both Amdocs and Comverse courted scandal in the late 1990s and early 2000s for their role in a massive Israeli government-backed espionage operation that targeted U.S. federal agencies during that period.

Despite this scandal and others in the company’s past, Comverse subsidiary Verint was subsequently contracted by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) to bug the telecommunications network of Verizon shortly after their previous espionage scandal was covered by mainstream media. The contract was part of Operation Stellar Winds and was approved by then-NSA Director Keith Alexander, who has since been an outspoken advocate of closer Israeli-American government cooperation in cybersecurity.

In addition to Entrèe Capital, Andreessen Horowitz is another of Toka’s main investors. The venture capital firm co-founded by Silicon Valley titan Marc Andreessen is currently advised by former Secretary of the Treasury Larry Summers, a close friend of the infamous pedophile Jeffery Epstein. Early investors in Toka that are no longer listed on the firm’s website include Launch Capital, which is deeply tied to the Pritzker family — one of the wealthiest families in the U.S., with close ties to the Clintons and Obamas as well as the U.S.’ pro-Israel lobby — and Ray Rothrock, a venture capitalist who spent nearly three decades at VenRock, the Rockefeller family venture capital fund.

In light of the aforementioned policy of Israel’s government to use private tech companies as fronts, the combination of Toka’s direct Israeli government ties, the nature of its products and services, and the numerous, significant connections of its leaders and investors to both Israeli military intelligence and past Israeli espionage scandals strongly suggests that Toka is one such front.

If this is the case, there is reason to believe that, when Toka clients hack and gain access to a device, elements of the Israeli state could also gain access. This concern is born out of the fact that Israeli intelligence has engaged in this exact type of behavior before as part of the PROMIS software scandal, whereby Israeli “superspy” Robert Maxwell sold bugged software to the U.S. government, including highly sensitive locations involved in classified nuclear weapons research. When that software, known as PROMIS, was installed on U.S. government computers, Israeli intelligence gained access to those same systems and devices.

The U.S. government was not the only target of this operation, however, as the bugged PROMIS software was placed on the networks of several intelligence agencies around the world as well as powerful corporations and several large banks. Israeli intelligence gained access to all of their systems until the compromised nature of the software was made public. However, Israel’s government was not held accountable by the U.S. government or the international community for its far-reaching espionage program, a program directly facilitated by technology-focused front companies. The similarities between the products marketed and clients targeted by Maxwell during the PROMIS scandal and currently by Toka are considerable.


World Bank, IDB aid Toka in targeting Palestine’s allies

While the ties between Toka and Israel’s national security state are clear as day, what is also significant and unsettling about this company is how its entry into developing and developed countries alike is being facilitated by global financial institutions, specifically the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank. Notably, these are the only deals with governments that Toka advertises on its website, as the others are not made public.

Several projects funded by one or another of these two institutions have seen Toka become the “cyber designer” of national cybersecurity strategies for Nigeria and Chile since last year. Significantly, both countries’ populations show strong support for Palestine and the BDS movement. In addition, Toka garnered a World Bank-funded contract with the government of Moldova, an ally of Israel, last September.

The World Bank selected Toka in February of last year to “enhance Nigeria’s cyber development,” which includes developing “national frameworks, technical capabilities and enhancement of skills.” Through the World Bank contract, Toka has now become intimately involved with both the public and private sectors of Nigeria that it relates to the country’s “cyber ecosystem.” The World Bank’s decision to choose Toka is likely the result of a partnership forged in 2019 by the state of Israel with the global financial institution “to boost cybersecurity in the developing world,” with a focus on Africa and Asia.

Toka executives pose with Nigerian officials in 2020. Photo | Israel Defense

“Designing and building sustainable and robust national cyber strategy and cyber resilience is a critical enabler to fulfilling the objectives of Nigeria’s national cybersecurity policy and strategic framework,” Toka CEO Yaron Rosen said in a press release regarding the contract.

Given Toka’s aforementioned use of its technology for only “trusted” governments, it is notable that Nigeria has been a strong ally of Palestine for most of the past decade, save for one abstention at a crucial UN vote in 2014. In addition to the government, numerous student groups, human rights organizations, and Islamic organizations in the country are outspoken in their support for Palestine. With Toka’s efforts to offer its products only to countries who align themselves with “friendly” countries, their now intimate involvement with Nigeria’s cyber development could soon have consequences for a government that has tended to support the Palestinian cause. This is even more likely given Toka CEO Rosen’s statements at an April 2021 event hosted by Israel’s Ministry of Economy, where he emphasized the role of cyber in developing countries specifically in terms of their national defense and economic strategy.

Three months after the deal was struck with Nigeria through the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) selected Toka to advise the government of Chile on “next steps for the country’s national cybersecurity readiness and operational capacity building.” As part of the project, “Toka will assess the current cybersecurity gaps and challenges in Chile and support the IDB project implementation by recommending specific cybersecurity readiness improvements,” per a press release. Toka claims it will help “establish Chile as a cybersecurity leader in South America.” Regarding the deal, Toka’s Rosen stated that he was “thankful” that the IDB had “provided us with this opportunity to work with the Government of Chile.”

Israel signed consequential agreements for cooperation with the IDB in 2015, before further deepening those ties in 2019 by partnering with the IDB to invest $250 million from Israeli institutions in Latin America specifically.

Toka executives are pictured with Chilean officials during a 2020 meeting in Santiago

Like Nigeria, Chile has a strong connection with Palestine and is often a target of Israeli government influence efforts. Though the current far-right government of Sebastián Piñera has grown close to Israel, Chile is home to the largest Palestinian exile community in the world outside of the Middle East. As a result, Chile has one of the strongest BDS movements in the Americas, with cities declaring a non-violent boycott of Israel until the Piñera administration stepped in to claim that such boycotts can only be implemented at the federal level. Palestinian Chileans have strong influence on Chilean politics, with a recent, popular presidential candidate, Daniel Jadue, being the son of Palestinian immigrants to Chile. Earlier this year, in June, Chile’s congress drafted a bill to boycott goods, services and products from illegal Israeli settlements.

While Toka frames both of these projects as aimed at helping the cyber readiness and economies of the countries it now services, Israeli media has painted a different picture. For instance, Haaretz wrote that Israel’s partnerships with development banks, specifically those made in 2019 that resulted in these Toka contracts, were planned by an inter-ministerial committee set up by then-Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “to realize the potential of international development to strengthen the Israeli economy, improve Israel’s political standing and strengthen its international role.” One source, quoted by Haaretz as being close to this undertaking, stated that “development banks are a way to help advance Israel’s interests and agenda in the developing world, including Latin America. But it’s not philanthropy.”

Given these statements, and Toka’s own modus operandi as a company and its background, it seems highly likely that the reason both Nigeria and Chile were chosen as the first of Toka’s development banks contracts was aimed at advancing the Israeli government’s agenda in those specific countries, one that seeks to counter and mitigate the vocal support for Palestine among those countries’ inhabitants.


The spyware problem goes far beyond NSO Group

The NSO Group and its Pegasus software is clearly a major scandal that deserves scrutiny. However, the treatment of the incident by the media has largely absolved the Israeli government of any role in that affair, despite the fact that the NSO Group’s sales of Pegasus to foreign governments has been approved and defended by Israel’s government. This, of course, means that Israel’s government has obvious responsibility in the whole scandal as well.

In addition, the myopic focus on the NSO Group when it comes to mainstream media reporting on Israeli private spyware and the threats it poses means that other companies, like Toka, go uninvestigated, even if their products present an even greater potential for abuse and illegal surveillance than those currently marketed and sold by the NSO Group.

Given the longstanding history of Israeli intelligence’s use of technology firms for international surveillance and espionage, as well as its admitted policy of using tech companies as fronts to combat BDS and ensure Israel’s “cyber dominance,” the investigation into Israeli spyware cannot stop just with NSO Group. However, not stopping there risks directly challenging the Israeli state, particularly in Toka’s case, and this is something that mainstream media outlets tend to avoid. This is due to a mix of factors, but the fact that NSO’s Pegasus has been used to spy on journalists so extensively certainly doesn’t help the matter.

Yet, Israel’s weaponization of its tech industry, and the global use of its spyware offerings by governments and security agencies around the world, must be addressed, especially because it has been explicitly weaponized to prevent non-violent boycotts of Israel’s occupation of Palestine, including those solely based on humanitarian grounds or out of respect for international laws that Israel routinely breaks. Allowing a government to engage in this activity on a global scale to stifle criticism of flagrantly illegal policies and war crimes cannot continue and this should be the case for any government, not just Israel.

If the outlets eagerly reporting on the latest Pegasus revelations are truly concerned with the abuse of spyware by governments and intelligence agencies around the world, they should also give attention to Toka, as it is actively arming these same institutions with weapons far worse than any NSO Group product.

Feature photo | Graphic by Antonio Cabrera

Whitney Webb has been a professional writer, researcher and journalist since 2016. She has written for several websites and, from 2017 to 2020, was a staff writer and senior investigative reporter for MintPress News. She currently writes for her own outlet Unlimited Hangout and contributes to The Last American Vagabond and MintPress News.

The post Meet Toka, the Most Dangerous Israeli Spyware Firm You’ve Never Heard Of appeared first on MintPress News.

Lowkey: Israel’s Entryism and the Campaign to Create a Binational Security State

The new MintPress podcast, “The Watchdog,” hosted by British-Iraqi hip hop artist Lowkey closely examines organizations that are in the public interest to know about including intelligence, lobby, and special interest groups influencing policies that infringe on free speech and target dissent. The Watchdog goes against the grain by casting a light on stories largely ignored by the mainstream, corporate media.

For the launch of “The Watchdog,” we examine the idea that Israel, through well-camouflaged proxies, has been making efforts to merge with the U.S.national security state. The podcast delves deep into two organizations we deemed essential to this process of entryism. For this task, we enlisted the help of the prolific writer, researcher into intelligence, surveillance, civil liberties, and big tech on the macro and the micro-level, Whitney Webb.

The first part of the podcast focuses on the IDF Unit 8200, a military intelligence unit in the Israeli Army known for monitoring Palestinian communication and using that information to blackmail them. The unit has also carried out cyber attacks on other states. Unit 8200 gave birth to the NSO Group, the supposedly private company responsible for the Pegasus Spyware which has recently been used around the world to target dissidents, journalists, activists, and more. The lesson which must come from this global scandal is that companies with any Unit 8200 involvement must be seriously examined.

The NSO group is far from the only way in which Unit 8200 actors have been able to insinuate themselves into the business of other governments. Following a 2012 policy set by the Benjamin Netanyahu government, Israel set about siphoning the functions of its military intelligence into private companies. Former Unit 8200 members set up staff and numerous important cybersecurity companies across the world, tasked with guarding swathes of very sensitive data.

Whitney Webb explores her research by looking at Unit 8200 founded and-or staffed organizations like Cybereason, National Start-up Central, and Cyber Threat Intelligence League which between them have access to masses of information in both the U.S. and UK. Lowkey draws a connection between Cybereason, their partner Leidos and the 2012 British census. He also delves into the recently widely referenced cybersecurity company Proofpoint, identifying for the first time the connection between this company and Unit 8200.

This information is visible to both former and current employees of the Israeli government leads to a power imbalance which is allowing Israel to not only prevent any possibility of Boycott Divestment and Sanctions being practiced in the most vital sectors but also helps to create a binational security state entrenched with its interests.

The second organization discussed as a key part of Israel’s entryism into the U.S. security state is the Anti-Defamation League. Webb reveals some of the context around the founding of the organization over a century ago and details of its trajectory to today. Lowkey pointed out that an internal FBI memo in 1969 had questioned whether the ADL violated U.S. law by failing to register a foreign agent and asserted that it would be “incredible” to assume it was not being furnished by the Israeli government in its infiltration activities targeting Arab-American student groups.

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Webb defined the ADL as “an intelligence agency posing as a civil rights organization.” She also added to Lowkey’s point that it had not only spied on Arab-American student groups but also groups like Greenpeace and those that were working to end apartheid in South Africa, they were sending information they got from these infiltrations to Mossad and the Apartheid regime.

Today, the ADL is not only designated as a “trusted-flagger” by Youtube but it also has been seen to use social media posts to report people to the FBI. The ADL’s collaboration with the FBI started small in the civil rights era and has now developed to the point that the ADL is now the largest nongovernmental trainer of law enforcement in the U.S. It has been made clear that in Biden’s new Domestic Homeland Security policy arrangement, individuals are being flagged by the ADL, who are then directing the FBI to investigate them.

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The reasons for investigation as potential domestic terrorists can be as simple as an individual’s social media history. Lowkey points to the ADL campaigns against Ilhan Omar, Marc Lamont Hill, and Linda Sarsour and Webb describe the organization “as an arm of the Israel Lobby.”

These two organizations must be studied critically if we are to understand the way Israel projects its power into other places, particularly in the United States of America.

Feature photo | Graphic by Antonio Cabrera

MintPress is fiercely independent. You can support us by becoming a member on Patreon, bookmarking and whitelisting us, and subscribing to our social media channels, including Twitch, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram.

Lowkey is a British-Iraqi hip hop artist, academic, political campaigner, and a MintPress video and podcast host.

The post Lowkey: Israel’s Entryism and the Campaign to Create a Binational Security State appeared first on MintPress News.

Why Opposing Zionism Is Not Anti-Semitic: The Christian Roots of Zionism

JERUSALEM — Naftali Bennett once stated in an interview with Mehdi Hassan that, according to the Bible, Palestine — or, as he calls it, Israel — belongs to the Jewish people. Palestine is referred to as “The Land of Israel” by some people and, in this interview from 2017, Bennett insists that if Hassan wants to claim that “the Land does not belong to us, I suggest you go change the Bible.”

Bennett has since become Israel’s prime minister (a post he is not likely to hold for very long) and, while this claim seems to resonate with many, a closer look at what the Jewish scriptures actually say shows very clearly that what he said is not true.

According to the Torah (Jewish scriptures) and the words of generations of Jewish sages, the Holy Land belongs to the Almighty who graces it with holiness. The Jewish people were given license to reside in the Holy Land and enjoy its grace as long as they conducted themselves with righteousness and observed the laws that the Almighty prescribed in the Torah. When the Jewish people strayed from the path of the Torah, they incurred the wrath of the Almighty and were expelled from the Holy Land, prohibited from returning until such time as the coming of the Messiah and the return of King David to the throne.

The Land of Israel has no value in and of itself, only as a vehicle by which to serve the Almighty and follow the Torah. Furthermore, the coming of the Messiah is not about Jewish sovereignty in the Land of Israel either; it is a vision that speaks of a great many things. Mostly though, it is about a transformation of the world into a peaceful place in which Jews will once again be permitted to reside peacefully in the Holy Land, the purpose of which is to follow the laws of the Almighty on that land that was graced by the presence of holiness. It is a religious idea that has nothing to do with notions of conquest, nationality or sovereignty.

One may think that what the Bible says regarding Palestine is not important, but we must recognize that many people do feel that the words of the Jewish scriptures matter, and that they are the true words of God. Therefore, it is worth taking a close look at what the Torah and the sages of old actually say.

We should also remember that Zionism is a secular, racist ideology and the founders of Zionism cared little for the Bible or for Judaism. Israel — the monstrous creation of that Zionist movement — is an apartheid regime that is committing horrendous crimes. Israel claims that it speaks and acts in the name of, and for the good of, the Jewish people. However, we would do well to demonstrate that Israel and Zionist claims to Palestine have nothing to do with Judaism; in fact, the claim that the legitimacy for Zionism can be found in the Bible is completely false.

From Judaism to Fascism: How Zionists Turned Their Backs on Their Own Culture


Zionism as idolatry

According to Jewish scripture, the Hebrews were transformed into a people, the Jewish people, when they were given the Torah at Mount Sinai, a mountain in the Sinai Desert that is far from the Holy Land. The Jews’ transformation into a nation had nothing to do with acquiring land or sovereignty, or any of the other symbols associated with the modern idea of nationality. It was done through a religious commitment to the Almighty.

In his epic work, “The Empty Wagon: Zionism’s journey from identity crisis to identity theft,” Rabbi Yaakov Shapiro discusses this issue at great length. He quotes the revered seventeenth-century Rabbi Shlomo Ephraim ben Aaron Luntschitz, who is known as the Kli Yakar (or Precious Vessel) for his commentary on the Torah. Rabbi Luntschitz wrote, in his commentary to the five books of the Torah, that the Jewish people are merely tenants of the Land of Israel and that the Almighty is the sole owner of the Holy Land. Rabbi Shapiro continues with a quote from the Book of Leviticus 25:23, where the Almighty says to the Jewish People, “The land must not be sold permanently, because the land is mine and you reside in my land as foreigners and strangers” (emphasis added).

There is an even earlier story in the Book of Genesis, chapter 23, where it is made clear that even Abraham the patriarch saw himself as a foreigner in the Land of Israel. Abraham wants to bury his wife Sarah in the town of Hebron and he approaches a local man asking to purchase a plot of land to use as a burial ground. The man agrees and Abraham purchases the plot. Had the land been his by virtue of the divine promise there would be no need for him to purchase it. In this story, Abraham referred to himself as a “stranger” in the land.

Rabbi Shapiro goes on to explain that mere devotion to the land of Israel, without the observance of the laws of the Torah and devotion to the Almighty, is idolatry. There is no value to the Land per se, he says. “Love of Eretz Yisroel is supposed to be part of loving Hashem (the Almighty) and the Torah.”

As most people know, the Ten Commandments, which are part of the Torah, prohibit murder, theft, and the coveting someone else’s home. This means that Zionists — even ones like Naftali Bennett, who wears a yarmulke — are committing idolatry, since their desire for the Land comes from coveting it, and they use murder and theft as a means of obtaining that land. They are a far cry from an honest observance of the Torah.

Orthodox Jews demonstrate at the Israeli consulate in New York City in 1963 against the Israeli police. Photo | AP


Admonitions, warnings and prohibitions

In the daily prayers, there is a line that Jews repeat regularly that says “We were exiled because of our sins.” Throughout the twenty-four books of the Old Testament, there are countless warnings and admonitions given by the Almighty to the People of Israel. They are warned time and time again that if they stray from the path given to them by the laws of the Torah, they will be banished from the Land. There are numerous passages where the Almighty warns the Jews that if they turn their back on him, the Land itself will “vomit” them just as it had vomited other nations who had lived there before them. Perhaps the best-known passage is from the Book of Leviticus, chapter 18, verse 28: “Let not the land vomit you out for defiling it, as it vomited out the nations that came before you.”

Once the people of Israel were exiled for turning their back to the Torah and its laws, they were prohibited from returning. The Great Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum — known as the Rabbi of Satmar, who established an unprecedented following in the United States and around the world — touches on this prohibition in his book “Vayoel Moshe.” Rabbi Teitelbaum speaks of the three oaths that were taken by the Jewish People in front of the Almighty. These oaths include: never attempting to hasten the end of the exile (they must wait for the Messiah before they can return to the Holy Land); never to return by use of force; and not to rebel against the other nations, nations where the Jewish People live in exile.


A Christian interpretation

The notion that Jewish scripture promises the Land of Israel to the Jews as a “homeland” is a Christian notion that the Zionists have since adopted. According to Jewish scripture, the Land of Israel is not the homeland of the Jewish people. The Almighty made Jews into a nation at Mount Sinai when he imparted to them the Torah. This was not done in the Land of Israel but, as was already mentioned, far, far away from it. The notion of a people’s connection to a homeland is a modern idea, one that involves nationalism and is in no way a Jewish idea.

Rabbi Shapiro writes, “The Zionist concept of Eretz Yisroel does not come from the Torah.” This idea, according to the countless sources that he quotes in “The Empty Wagon,” is “a Christian idea.” He continues to point out that “[t]he perception of Eretz Yisroel as the ‘birthright’ or the ‘national homeland’ of the Jewish people first appears in Restorationist Protestant Christian sources.” This idea was born with the advent of the Protestant movement in the second half of the previous millennium; it spread throughout the Protestant world and it continues today with Christians United for Israel, or CUFI, which is one of the most significant supporters of Israel in the world.

Controversial evangelist Jimmy Swaggart delivers a sermon in 1988 to visting Americans in Jerusalem. Anat Givon | AP

The idea that the Almighty gave all of the Land of Israel to the Jewish people permanently and unconditionally, and that the Jews will ultimately return, is a Protestant idea, not a Jewish one. This is largely the reason behind the support that Zionists were able to secure from mostly Protestant countries like Great Britain and the United States, where Christian Zionism has been thriving for several centuries.

From the late sixteenth century to Napoleon, from The London Society for Promoting Protestant Christianity among Jews (a Christian Zionist mission that is part of the Church of England and known today as Church’s Ministry Among Jewish People), to John Quincy Adams and even Abraham Lincoln, the idea of the return of the Jews to their “homeland” has been a popular one among the Protestants of the world.

Even the slogan “a land without a people for a people without a land” is not an original Zionist one. Although usually assumed to have been a Zionist slogan, the phrase was used as early as 1843 by a Christian Restorationist clergyman, the Reverend Dr. Alexander Keith DD of the Church of Scotland. The phrase continued to be used for almost a century by Christian Restorationists before Zionists adopted it. Similarly, the idea to turn the Hebrew language into the “national” language of the Jewish people in their “homeland” was also a Protestant idea that was later adopted by Zionists.

So when the current Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, who is also the first yarmulke-wearing Israeli prime minister, refers to the Bible to justify his claim to the Land of Israel, he is not referring to Jewish scripture but to Protestant religious doctrine. When he — and other Israeli politicians like former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — makes these claims, they are not addressing Jewish people, but Christian Zionists. The most important allies the State of Israel and Zionists have are evangelical Christian Zionists.

Statements like Bennett’s are made in order to make assure that Christian Zionists continue to work for Israel and for the Zionist movement by lobbying governments and raising money. This Protestant doctrine, by the way, calls for the Jewish people to return to the Land of Israel, not for the purpose of serving the Jewish people. The purpose of this return is so that the Jews may convert to Christianity and hasten the second coming of Jesus Christ.


Anti-Zionism cannot be anti-Semitic

Since the ideas expressed by the Zionists are clearly not Jewish ideas, opposing Zionism cannot be anti-Semitic. Once it is made clear that the Zionist claims to the Land of Israel, or Palestine, are not only not Jewish, but come from Christian Protestant theology, we understand why opposing Zionism cannot possibly be anti-Semitic. Being an anti-Zionist is not at all anti-Semitic because the basic tenets of Zionism are actually not Jewish at all. They are Christian.

Feature photo | A Christian tourist dressed as Jesus walks the Old City of Jerusalem in 1988. Aris Saris | AP

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 Why Opposing Zionism Is Not Anti-Semitic: The Christian Roots of Zionism appeared first on MintPress News.

The Bay of Tweets: Documents Point to US Hand in Cuba Protests

HAVANA — Cuba was rocked by a series of anti-government street protests earlier this week. The U.S. establishment immediately hailed the events, putting its full weight behind the protestors. Yet documents suggest that Washington might be more involved in the events than it cares to publicly divulge.

As many have reported, the protests, which started on Sunday in the town of San Antonio de los Baños in the west of the island, were led and vocally supported by artists and musicians, particularly from its vibrant hip-hop scene.

“For those new to the issue of Cuba, the protests we are witnessing were started by artists, not politicians. This song ‘Patria y Vida’ powerfully explains how young Cubans feel. And its release was so impactful, you will go to jail if caught playing it in Cuba,” said Florida Senator Marco Rubio, referencing a track by rapper Yotuel.

Both NPR and The New York Times published in-depth features about the song and how it was galvanizing the movement. “The Hip-Hop Song That’s Driving Cuba’s Unprecedented Protests,” ran NPR’s headline. Yotuel himself led a sympathy demonstration in Miami.

But what these accounts did not mention was the remarkable extent to which Cuban rappers like Yotuel have been recruited by the American government in order to sow discontent in the Caribbean nation. The latest grant publications of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) — an organization established by the Reagan administration as a front group for the CIA — show that Washington is trying to infiltrate the Cuban arts scene in order to bring about regime change. “A lot of what we do today was done covertly 25 years ago by the CIA,” NED co-founder Allen Weinstein once told The Washington Post.

Yotuel poses with workers, July 14, 2021, at at a Cuban restaurant in Miami’s Little Havana neighborhood. Wilfredo Lee | AP

For instance, one project, entitled “Empowering Cuban Hip-Hop Artists as Leaders in Society,” states that its goal is to “promote citizen participation and social change,” and to “raise awareness about the role hip-hop artists have in strengthening democracy in the region.” Another, called “Promoting Freedom of Expression in Cuba through the Arts,” claims it is helping local artists on projects related to “democracy, human rights, and historical memory,” and to help “increase awareness about the Cuban reality.” This “reality,” as President Joe Biden himself stated this week, is that the Cuban government is an “authoritarian regime” that has meted out “decades of repression” while leaders only “enrich themselves.”

Other operations the NED is currently funding include enhancing Cuban civil society’s ability to “propose political alternatives” and to “transition to democracy.” The agency never divulges with whom it works inside Cuba, nor any more information beyond a couple of anodyne blurbs, leaving Cubans to wonder whether any group even vaguely challenging political or societal norms is secretly bankrolled by Washington.

“The State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the U.S. Agency for Global Media have all financed programs to support Cuban artists, journalists, bloggers and musicians,” Tracey Eaton, a journalist who runs The Cuba Money Project, told MintPress. “It’s impossible to say how many U.S. tax dollars have gone toward these programs over the years because details of many projects are kept secret,” he added.

A currently active grant offer from the NED’s sister organization, USAID, is offering $2 million worth of funding to groups that use culture to bring about social change in Cuba. Applicants have until July 30 to ask for up to $1 million each. The announcement itself references Yotuel’s song, noting, “Artists and musicians have taken to the streets to protest government repression, producing anthems such as ‘Patria y Vida,’ which has not only brought greater global awareness to the plight of the Cuban people but also served as a rallying cry for change on the island.”

The hip-hop scene in particular has long been a target for American agencies like the NED and USAID. Gaining popularity in the late 1990s, local rappers had a considerable impact on society, helping bring to the fore many previously under-discussed topics. The U.S. saw their biting critiques of racism as a wedge they could exploit, and attempted to recruit them into their ranks, although it is far from clear how far they got in this endeavor, as few in the rap community wanted to be part of such an operation.

The graphic below shows how much money various artists have received from the US government. Credit | Cuba Money Project

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MintPress also spoke with Professor Sujatha Fernandes, a sociologist at the University of Sydney and an expert in Cuban music culture. Fernandes stated:

For many years, under the banner of regime change, organizations like USAID have tried to infiltrate Cuban rap groups and fund covert operations to provoke youth protests. These programs have involved a frightening level of manipulation of Cuban artists, have put Cubans at risk, and threatened a closure of the critical spaces of artistic dialogue many worked hard to build.”

Other areas in which U.S. organizations are focussing resources include sports journalism — which the NED hopes to use as a “vehicle to narrate the political, social, and cultural realities of Cuban society” — and gender and LGBTQ+ groups, the intersectional empire apparently seeing an opportunity to also use these issues to increase fissures in Cuban society.

The House Appropriations Budget, published earlier this month, also sets aside up to $20 million for “democracy programs” in Cuba, including those that support “free enterprise and private business organizations.” What is meant by “democracy” is made clear in the document, which states in no uncertain terms that “none of the funds made available under such paragraph may be used for assistance for the government of Cuba.” Thus, any mention of “democracy” in Cuba is all but synonymous with regime change.


Capitalizing on a battered economy

The protests began on Sunday after a power outage left residents in San Antonio de los Baños without electricity during the summer heat. That appeared to be the spark that led to hundreds of people marching in the street. However, Cuba’s economy has also taken a nosedive of late. As Professor Aviva Chomsky of Salem State University, author of “A History of the Cuban Revolution,” told MintPress:

Cuba’s current economic situation is pretty dire (as is, I should point out, almost all of the Third World’s). The U.S. embargo (or, as Cubans call it, blockade) has been yet another obstacle (on top of the obstacles faced by all poor countries) in Cuba’s fight against COVID-19. The collapse of tourism has been devastating to Cuba’s economy — again, as it has been in pretty much all tourism-heavy places.”

However, Chomsky also noted that it could be a mistake to label all the protestors as yearning for free-market shock therapy. “It’s interesting to note that many of the protesters are actually protesting Cuba’s capitalist reforms, rather than socialism. ‘They have money to build hotels but we have no money for food, we are starving,’ said one protester. That’s capitalism in a nutshell!” Chomsky said.

Florida Sen. Rick Scott holds a photo of Cuban protesters during a press conference in DC, July 13, 2021. J. Scott Applewhite | AP

Eaton was skeptical of the idea that all those marching were in the pay of the U.S. “Certainly, much of the uprising was organic, driven by Cubans who are desperate, poor, hungry and fed up with their government’s inability to meet their basic needs,” he said. Yet there were signs that at least some were not simply making a point about the lack of food in stores or medicines in pharmacies. A number of demonstrators marched underneath the American flag and the events were immediately endorsed by the U.S. government.

“We stand with the Cuban people and their clarion call for freedom,” read an official statement from the White House. Julie Chung, Biden’s Acting Assistant Secretary for U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, added:

Cuba’s people continue to bravely express yearning for freedom in the face of repression. We call on Cuba’s government to: refrain from violence, listen to their citizens’ demands, respect protestor and journalist rights. The Cuban people have waited long enough for ¡Libertad!”

Republicans went much further. Mayor of Miami Francis Suarez demanded that the United States intervene militarily, telling Fox News that the U.S. should put together a “coalition of potential military action in Cuba.” Meanwhile, Florida Congressman Anthony Sabbatini called for regime change on the island, tweeting:

High-ranking communist officials in Cuba should be given an ultimatum now:

Either immediately assist in the transition of government away from communism or be prosecuted and executed thereafter #SOSCuba

— Rep. Anthony Sabatini (@AnthonySabatini) July 12, 2021


The corporate media cheering section

Corporate media were also extremely interested in the protests, devoting a great deal of column inches and air time to the demonstrations. This is extremely unusual for such actions in Latin America. Colombia has been living through months of general strikes against a repressive government, while there have been three years of near-daily protests in Haiti that were almost completely ignored until earlier this month, when U.S.-backed President Jovenel Moïse was assassinated.

The effect of U.S. sanctions was constantly downplayed or not even mentioned in reporting. For example, The Washington Post’s editorial board came out in favor of the protestors, claiming Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel was reacting “with predictable thuggishness…blaming everything on the United States and the U.S. trade embargo.” Other outlets did not even mention the embargo, leaving readers with the impression that the events could only be understood as a democratic uprising against a decaying dictatorship.

This is particularly pernicious because government documents explicitly state that the goal of the U.S. sanctions is to “decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation and [the] overthrow of [the] government” — exactly the conditions brewing in Cuba right now. Professor Chomsky noted:

The U.S. embargo/blockade is one (not the only) cause of Cuba’s economic crisis. The U.S. has overtly and continuously said that the goal of the embargo is to destroy Cuba’s economy so that the government will collapse. So it’s not just reasonable, it’s obvious that the U.S. has some kind of hand in this.”

Chomsky also took issue with the media’s explanation of events, stating:

Look at coverage of Black Lives Matter or Occupy Wall Street protests in this country. One thing that we see consistently is that when people protest in capitalist countries, the media never explains the problems they are protesting as caused by capitalism. When people protest in communist or socialist countries, the media attributes the problems to communism or socialism.”

Media were at pains to emphasize how large and widespread the anti-government demonstrations were, insisting that the pro-government counter-demonstrations were smaller in number, despite images from the protests suggesting that the opposite might be true. As Reuters reported, “Thousands took to the streets in various parts of Havana on Sunday including the historic centre, drowning out groups of government supporters waving the Cuban flag and chanting Fidel.”

If this were the case, it is odd indeed that so many outlets used images of pro-government movements to illustrate the supposed size and scope of the anti-government action. The Guardian, Fox News, The Financial Times, NBC and Yahoo! News all falsely claimed a picture of a large socialist gathering was, in fact, an anti-government demo. The large red and black banners emblazoned with the words “26 Julio” (the name of Fidel Castro’s political party) should have been a dead giveaway to any editors or fact checkers. Meanwhile, CNN and National Geographic illustrated articles on the protests in Cuba with images of gatherings in Miami — gatherings that looked far better attended than any similar ones 90 miles to the south.

A ton of corporate media, including the Financial Times, Fox News, The New York Times and The Guardian have used a pic of a PRO-govt rally in Cuba to illustrate their articles on anti-government protests, falsely claiming the huge crowds to be on the side of the US.

— Alan MacLeod (@AlanRMacLeod) July 13, 2021


Social media meltdown

Social media also played a pivotal role in turning what was a localized protest into a nationwide event. NBC’s Director of Latin America, Mary Murray, noted that it was only when live streams of the events were picked up and signal-boosted by the expat community in Miami that it “started to catch fire,” something that suggests the growth of the movement was partially artificial. After the government blocked the internet, the protests died down.

The hashtag #SOSCuba trended for over a day. There are currently over 120,000 photos on Instagram using the hashtag. But as Arnold August, the writer of a host of books on Cuba and Cuban-American relations, told MintPress, much of the attention the protests was getting was the result of inauthentic activity:

The latest attempt of regime change also has its roots in Spain. Historically, the former colonizer of Cuba plays its role in all major attempts of regime change, not only for Cuba, but also, for example, in Venezuela. The July operation made intensive use of robots, algorithms and accounts recently created for the occasion.”

Within days the #SOSCUBA hashtag generated over 120,000 images on Instagram

August noted that the first account using #SOSCuba on Twitter was actually located in Spain. This account posted nearly 1,300 tweets on July 11. The hashtag was also buoyed by hundreds of accounts tweeting the exact same phrases in Spanish, replete with the same small typos. One common message read (translated from Spanish), “Cuba is going through the greatest humanitarian crisis since the start of the pandemic. Anyone who posts the hashtag #SOSCuba would help us a lot. Everyone who sees this should help with the hashtag.” Another text, reading “We Cubans don’t want the end of the embargo if that means the regime and dictatorship stays, we want them gone, no more communism,” was so overused that it became a meme in itself, with social media users parodying it, posting the text alongside pictures of demonstrations beside the Eiffel Tower, crowds at Disneyland, or pictures of Trump’s inauguration. Spanish journalist Julian Macías Tovar also cataloged the suspicious number of brand new accounts using the hashtag.

Much of the operation was so crude that it could not have failed to be discovered, and many of the accounts, including the first user of the #SOSCuba hashtag, have now been suspended for inauthentic behavior. Yet Twitter itself still chose to put the protests at the top of its “What’s Happening” for over 24 hours, meaning that every user would be notified, a decision that further amplified the astroturfed movement.

Twitter leadership has long displayed open hostility towards the Cuban government. In 2019, it took coordinated action to suspend virtually every Cuban state media account, as well as those belonging to the Communist Party. This was part of a wider trend of deleting or banning accounts favorable to governments the U.S. State Department considers enemies, including Venezuela, China and Russia.

In case you're wondering why Cuba is trending worldwide…

— Alan MacLeod (@AlanRMacLeod) July 12, 2021

In 2010, USAID secretly created a Cuban social media app called Zunzuneo, often described as Cuba’s Twitter. At its peak, it had 40,000 Cuban users — a very large number for that time on the famously Internet-sparse island. None of these users were aware that the app had been secretly designed and marketed to them by the U.S. government. The point was to create a great service that would slowly start to feed Cubans regime-change propaganda and direct them to protests and “smart mobs” aimed at triggering a color-style revolution.

In an effort to hide its ownership of the project, the U.S. government held a secret meeting with Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, aimed at getting him to invest in the project. It is unclear to what extent, if any, Dorsey helped, as he has declined to speak on the matter. This is not the only anti-government app the U.S. has funded in Cuba. Yet, considering both what happened this week and the increasingly close ties between Silicon Valley and the National Security State, it is possible the U.S. government considers further cloak-and-dagger apps unnecessary: Twitter already acts as an instrument for regime change.


Cuba in perennial crosshairs

By the end of the nineteenth century, the United States had effectively conquered its entire contiguous landmass; the frontier was declared closed in 1890. Almost immediately, it began to look for opportunities to expand westwards into the Pacific — to Hawaii, the Philippines and Guam. It also began looking southwards. In 1898, the U.S. intervened in the Cuban Independence War against Spain, using the mysterious sinking of the U.S.S. Maine as a pretext to invade and occupy Cuba. The U.S. operated Cuba as a client state for decades, until the Batista regime was overthrown in the 1959 revolution that brought Fidel Castro to power.

The U.S. launched a botched invasion of the island in 1961, the Bay of Pigs event driving Castro closer to the Soviet Union, laying the groundwork for the Cuban Missile Crisis the following year. The U.S. reportedly attempted to kill Castro hundreds of times, all without any luck. It did, however, carry out a bitter and protracted terroristic war against Cuba and its infrastructure, including using biological weapons against the island. Along with this came a long-standing economic war, the 60-year U.S. blockade of the island that throttled its development. In addition to this, it has attempted to bombard the Caribbean nation with anti-communist propaganda. TV Martí, a Florida-based media network, has cost the U.S. taxpayer well over half a billion dollars since its creation in 1990, despite the fact that the Cuban government successfully jams the signal, meaning virtually nobody watches its content.

After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Cuba was left without its main trading partner, to which it had geared its economy. Without a guaranteed buyer for its sugar, and without subsidized Russian oil imports, the economy crashed. Sensing blood, the U.S. intensified the sanctions. Yet Cuba pulled through the grim time collectively known as the “Special Period.”

After a wave of left-wing, anti-imperialist governments came to power across Latin America in the 2000s, the Obama administration was forced to move towards normalizing diplomatic relations with the island. However, once in office, President Donald Trump reversed these actions, intensifying the blockade and halting vital remittances from Cuban-Americans to the island. Trump advisor John Bolton labeled Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua a “troika of tyranny” — a clear reference to George Bush’s “Axis of Evil” speech, implying that these three nations could expect military action against them soon. In its last days, the Trump administration also declared Cuba a state sponsor of terrorism.

While Biden had intimated that he might turn the U.S. Cuba policy back to the Obama days, he has, so far, done little to move away from the Trump line, his unequivocal endorsement of this week’s actions the latest example of this.

Despite monumental worldwide media coverage, encouragement and legitimation from world leaders, including the president of the United States himself, the recent action petered out after barely 24 hours. In most cases, counter-protests effectively diluted the protests, without the need for repressive forces to be deployed.

The U.S. government can cause economic misery for the Cuban people, but it cannot, it appears, convince them to overthrow their government. “The current events in Cuba constitute in reality the U.S.S. Maine of 2021,” August said. If this really was an attempted color revolution, as August is implying, it was not a very successful one, amounting to little more than a Bay of Tweets.

Feature photo | Floridians from Cuba’s ex-pat community in Hialeah, Fla., shout during a protest against the Cuban government, July 15, 2021. Marta Lavandier | 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 The Bay of Tweets: Documents Point to US Hand in Cuba Protests appeared first on MintPress News.

Legalized Apartheid: The Israeli Supreme Court Just Cemented Jewish Supremacy into Law

JERUSALEM — In November of last year, an Israeli judge invoked the controversial Jewish Nation-State Basic Law when striking down a lawsuit against the city of Karmiel over funding transportation for two Palestinian students.

In his ruling, the chief registrar of the Krayot Magistrate’s Court, Yaniv Luzon, said that establishing an Arabic-language school in Karmiel or funding transportation for Palestinian Arab students would “damage the city’s Jewish character” and may encourage Palestinian citizens of Israel to move into Jewish cities, thereby “altering the demographic balance.”

Luzon cited Section 7 of Israel’s Jewish Nation-State Law, writing:

The development and establishment of Jewish settlement is a national value enshrined in the Basic Law and is a worthy and prominent consideration in municipal decision-making, including the establishment of schools and the determination of policies relating to the funding of [school] busing [of students] from outside the city.

The students’ father, Kasem Bakri, said of the judge’s decision, “The municipality treats my sons as guests in the best of times and as enemies in the worst of times.” The family was fined 2,000 shekels (roughly $600) and ordered to pay all of the court’s expenses.

The court ruling came just before a Supreme Court hearing on 15 petitions submitted by human rights organizations and Palestinian political leaders challenging the Nation-State Law in December. After only one discussion on the law, the high court last week rejected the petitions and upheld the 2018 law in a 10 to 1 decision.  The single dissenting opinion was from the only Palestinian justice on the court, Justice George Kara.


Swift condemnation of the Supreme Court’s decision

“The Israel Supreme Court approved a law that establishes a constitutional identity, which completely excludes those who do not belong to the majority group. This Law is illegitimate and violates absolute prohibitions of international law,” Adalah – The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel wrote in a press release. Adalah, one of the law’s petitioners, deemed this piece of legislation “a law that clearly shows the Israeli regime as a colonial one, with distinct characteristics of apartheid.”

Activists drop a banner reading “Israel: Not a Democracy. Apartheid” from atop the Israeli military court in Jaffa, July 12, 2020. Photo | Activestills

“The Supreme Court refrained from doing what was essential — to defend the basic right to equality,” Dr. Yousef Jabareen, chair of the Human Rights Forum in the High Follow-up Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel and a former member of the Knesset, said in a statement, adding:

The so-called ‘Jewish Nation-State’ law formalizes in Israeli constitutional law the superior rights and privileges that Jewish citizens of the state enjoy over its indigenous Palestinian minority, who comprise roughly 20% of the population.”


What is the Jewish nation-state law?

In 2018, the Knesset voted to approve the nation-state law by 62 to 55. The basic law essentially legalizes Israel’s apartheid nature and states the following:

  • Exercising the right to national self-determination in the State of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.
  • The name of the state is ‘Israel.’
  • A greater, united Jerusalem is the capital of Israel.

The director of the land and planning rights unit at Adalah, Adv. Suhad Bishara, helped formulate Adalah’s petition against the nation-state law. “The overriding objective of the basic law is to violate both the right to equality and the right to dignity of the Arab citizens of Israel,” she said.

From Judaism to Fascism: How Zionists Turned Their Backs on Their Own Culture

Additionally, the law promotes Jewish settlement and views it as a national value. It also demotes Arabic from one of the two official languages to a “special status.” With the nation-state law’s basic tenets, Palestinian history and identity are effectively erased from the land.

Emphasizing the law’s notion of Jewish settlement and demotion of Arabic, Amnon Be’eri-Sulitzeanu — co-director of Abraham Initiatives, an Israeli nonprofit focused on Jewish-Arab partnership — said the legislation institutionalizes inequality between Israeli Jews and Palestinian citizens of Israel. “It’s creating a situation in which, according to our basic laws, there is a sector in society that is not equal,” Be’eri-Sulitzeanu told MintPress News. “This is something that no democracy can allow.”

In a tweet, Abraham Initiatives advocated for repealing the law, writing that it “establishes the status of Arab citizens in Israel as second-class citizens.”


The nation-state law’s impact

Only a few years old, the nation-state law has already proven it can serve as a legal tool for discrimination and racial segregation.

The Bakri family in Karmiel sued the local municipality over their school transportation costs. Since there isn’t an Arabic-language school in Karmiel, the Bakri children were forced to travel nearly four miles to the town of Rameh for their education. According to the Bakris, the traffic often made the commute more than 30 minutes and cost the family 1,500 shekels (or roughly $460) each month. The family’s lawsuit requested reimbursement for their transportation costs totaling 25,000 shekels (about $7,683).

Nizar Bakri, the children’s uncle and the attorney who filed the lawsuit, condemned the magistrate court’s dismissal of the suit, saying, “The court’s decision wasn’t based on law; it was based on Jewish existence.” Following the ruling, Nizar Bakri filed an appeal with the Haifa District Court. The district court denied the Bakris’ appeal in February but determined the lower court’s reliance on the nation-state law was “fundamentally wrong” and “liable to damage the public’s trust in the courts.”

Where Infrastructure Means Prisons: A Drive into the Naqab and the Illusion of Israeli Democracy

“The court may have unequivocally ruled that the registrar of the Krayot Magistrate’s Court made a mistake in the use of the nation-state law and its connection to this case, but this ruling should not satisfy the opponents and victims of the nation-state law,” Nizar Bakri told Haaretz.

For Adalah’s Bishara, the district court’s opposition to the magistrate’s court’s use of the nation-state law is irrelevant when it comes to future court decisions, as the grounds for discrimination are officially embedded into law. She explained:

It doesn’t really matter whether it’s explicitly mentioned or not because it’s the legal, constitutional framework that’s there that sets the basic principles of supremacy and of the right to self-determination only for one national ethnic group in the state. This sends a very clear message to all the authorities that you can not only go on with what you have been doing so far in terms of violating the rights of the Palestinian citizens as individuals and as a group, but this will certainly give you more backing to deepen these policies.”

Bishara told MintPress that she anticipates the legislation will add another dimension to Israel’s ongoing discrimination and have huge implications for Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line — not just 1948-occupied Palestine. “Since it speaks about the land of Israel as the historic land of the Jewish people and Jewish settlement as a constitutional value, this combination of both becomes very problematic both in Israel proper and in the Occupied Territories,” she said.


Israel’s long list of discriminatory laws

Globally, the state of Israel touts itself as the “only democracy in the Middle East,” but Dr. Jabareen said the nation-state law “prioritizes the Jewishness of the state over its democratic character,” specifically in “omitting any reference to democracy or equality.” He added:

The nation-state law further marginalizes the Arab-Palestinian community and entrenches Israel’s regime of racial discrimination and deterioration into apartheid. It will lead to more racist, anti-democratic laws, adding to the more than 50 laws already on the books that disadvantage non-Jewish citizens.”

Palestinian workers cross the Eyal checkpoint, January 10, 2021. Keren Manor | Activestills

According to an Adalah database, Israel has more than 65 laws discriminating against Palestinian citizens of Israel and Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). These laws encompass nearly every facet of daily life, from property and housing rights to citizenship and finances. The following are just a few notable examples:

  • The Admissions’ Committees Law, which permits towns built on state land to deny housing to Palestinians based upon the criterion of “social suitability.”
  • The Nakba Law, which bans groups or schools receiving government funding from commemorating Israel’s 1948 ethnic cleansing campaign against Palestinians during the state’s founding (known as the Nakba or Catastrophe).
  • The Boycott Law, which prohibits calls to boycott Israel. This legislation effectively outlaws the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
  • The Absentees’ Property Law, which categorizes individuals who were expelled or fled their property after November 1947 as absentees and thereby having no ownership claims to their properties. However, Jews who lost property during this time are allowed to reclaim their land through the Legal and Administrative Matters Law. These laws are often used to displace Palestinian communities, as has been witnessed in the Occupied East Jerusalem neighborhoods of Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan.
  • The Law of Return, which guarantees citizenship to all Jews. No law exists guaranteeing Palestinians the right to citizenship — even if they were born in what is now considered modern-day Israel.
  • The Citizenship Law, which bans citizenship rights to Palestinians living in the OPT who are married to Israeli citizens. Settlers living in the Occupied West Bank are exempt. Israel’s new government failed to extend the law this month, but reunification still remains a significant problem for many Palestinian families.


Codifying apartheid into law

While the principles outlined in the nation-state law have always been part of Israel’s foundation and way of governing, enacting this legislation turns these de facto concepts into de jure ones and opens the floodgates for further inequity.

“This nation-state law is validating racist behavior against Palestinian Arabs,” Kasem Bakri said.

Despite the controversial legislation remaining, Kasem Bakri is steadfast. “I exist here as an Arab person and I have the right to be here,” he said. “Palestinians exist here like the cactus and the olive trees. We will never be gone from here.”

Feature photo | A Palestinian boy is arrested ahead of a visit by far-right member of Israeli Knesset Itamar Ben-Gvir at Damascus Gate, Jerusalem, June 10, 2021. Oren Ziv | Activestills

Jessica Buxbaum is a Jerusalem-based journalist for MintPress News covering Palestine, Israel, and Syria. Her work has been featured in Middle East Eye, The New Arab and Gulf News.

The post Legalized Apartheid: The Israeli Supreme Court Just Cemented Jewish Supremacy into Law appeared first on MintPress News.

Breaking through the Western Media Propaganda Coverage of Cuba Protests

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

A string of spontaneous protests in Cuba became the unlikely focus of worldwide media attention earlier this week, the story dominating headlines for two straight days. Political and media figures across the spectrum weighed in, including the President of the United States.

Joining me to discuss the protests, their causes, and the relationship between Cuba and the United States are Ben Norton and Alan MacLeod.

Ben Norton is a Nicaragua-based journalist, writer, and filmmaker. He is the assistant editor of investigative news outlet The Grayzone and the producer of the Moderate Rebels podcast, which he co-hosts with editor Max Blumenthal.

Alan MacLeod is Senior Staff Writer at MintPress News. An expert in the media and Latin America, his first book, entitled “Bad News From Venezuela: 20 Years of Fake News and Misreporting,” was published in 2018. Alan has lectured on Latin American politics at a number of universities.

“We stand with the Cuban people and their clarion call for freedom and relief from the tragic grip of the pandemic and from the decades of repression and economic suffering to which they have been subjected by Cuba’s authoritarian regime,” read a statement from the White House. “The Cuban people are bravely asserting fundamental and universal rights…The United States calls on the Cuban regime to hear their people and serve their needs at this vital moment rather than enriching themselves,” it added.

But even this unqualified support for the demonstrations was not enough for many in the Republican Party, who presented President Biden as a secret communist sympathizer. Mayor of Miami Francis Suarez demanded that the United States intervene militarily, telling Fox News that the U.S. should put together a “coalition of potential military action in Cuba.” Meanwhile, Florida Congressman Anthony Sabbatini called for regime change on the island and demanded that the U.S. execute the communist leadership.

The demonstrations began in San Antonio de los Baños in the western province of Artemisa, close to Havana, after a power cut left residents without air conditioning in the hot summer. However, with the help of social media, amplified by the anti-government expatriate community in Florida, they soon began to spread to dozens of other areas across the country, as Cubans made their discontent with the shortages of food and goods heard.

While there are plenty of reasons for ordinary Cubans to currently feel disenchanted about life on the island, there are also strong suspicions that these protests were not quite the grassroots uprising they were made out to be in the U.S. press.

The protests were led by the artistic and musical communities, two groups that American agencies USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy have for years been pumping tens of millions of dollars into, in an explicit attempt to sow discord and promote regime change. The latest House Appropriations Budget allocates $20 million this year to projects devoted to overthrowing the Cuban government through soft-power means, many of which directly target musicians and artists.

Life in Cuba is particularly hard of late, owing to the coronavirus-related economic collapse, which has seen tourism dwindle to almost zero and depleted the government’s reserves of foreign cash. On top of this, the Trump administration’s tightening of illegal sanctions hit the island hard, with crucial remittances from abroad effectively stopped.

The blockade continues to cripple Cuba and hamper its development. In 2014, the United Nations estimated that the sanctions had caused over $1 trillion worth of damage to the Caribbean nation. The explicit goal of the American blockade — active since 1960 — is to “decrease monetary and real wages, to bring about hunger, desperation and [the] overthrow of [the] government,” in the words of then-Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs Lester D. Mallory.

“The U.S. has overtly and continuously said that the goal of the embargo is to destroy Cuba’s economy so that the government will collapse. So it’s not just reasonable, it’s obvious that the U.S. has some kind of hand in this,” Professor Aviva Chomsky, of Salem State University and author of “A History of the Cuban Revolution,” told MintPress.

Feature photo | Graphic by Antonio Cabrera

MintPress News is a fiercely independent, reader-supported outlet, with no billionaire owners or backers. You can support us by becoming a member on Patreon, bookmarking and whitelisting us, and by subscribing to our social media channels, including Twitch, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram.

Subscribe to MintCast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and SoundCloud.

Also, be sure to check out the new Behind the Headlines channel on YouTube.

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 Breaking through the Western Media Propaganda Coverage of Cuba Protests appeared first on MintPress News.

From Judaism to Fascism: How Zionists Turned Their Backs on Their Own Culture

WASHINGTON — In late June of this year, New Scientist blandly reported that the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) had “used a swarm of small drones to locate, identify and attack Hamas militants,” the first documented case of a drone swarm being used in so-called combat.

In his book, “Exterminate All The Brutes,” Sven Lindqvist contextualizes Adolf Hitler’s atrocities in the imperialist violence of the nineteenth century, and in one chapter outlines how European artillery advancements gave colonizers both emotional and physical distance from the indigenous Africans they slaughtered. Europeans were an “invisible and unreachable opponent,” capable of being “victorious without even being present.” This can’t really be called combat, and indeed even Winston Churchill referred to it as “only a sporting element in a splendid game.” Combat was something gentlemen did and in the imperialist mindset, of course, the Africans were savages, barely even human.

There’s a thread that links this kind of “sport” from the atrocities in Africa to the Holocaust and now, so ironically, to the state of Israel.


Your Lebensraum, my Lebensraum

In the 1890s, a German zoologist named Friedrich Ratzel coined the term “Lebensraum,” which literally translates to living space. Those who have studied the Holocaust might be familiar with it as the Third Reich’s reasoning for invading Central and Eastern Europe. Well, this is where they got the idea. Besides the European Scramble for Africa, Ratzel had been inspired by his travels to North America, where he saw how white colonizers were taking land by force. Seeing this as a positive and indeed necessary transgression, Ratzel fashioned a brutal Darwinian ideology: in order to acquire sufficient Lebensraum, inferior races have to be displaced, which incidentally often means they will die and leave the space entirely. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

The whole concept of Zionism is that Jews need specific and exclusive Lebensraum. Therefore, others must be displaced. This displacement, far from being a negative or even cruel endeavor, merely proves the supremacy of the displacer, thereby proving the necessity of exterminating the displaced. As Lindqvist writes “during Hitler’s childhood, a major element in the European view of mankind was the conviction that ‘inferior races’ were by nature condemned to extinction; the true compassion of the superior races consisted in helping them on the way.”

During the Holocaust, Jews were an ‘inferior race.’ Today in Israel, Palestinians are an ‘inferior race.’ As reporter and The Electronic Intifada Associate Editor Nora Barrows-Friedman told me when I asked her how Zionists respond to Jewish teachings of solidarity with the oppressed: “When you talk to Zionists about Jewish teachings and how that relates to the Palestinians, they say ‘well we’re not oppressing them, they’re not even people,’” a line that could have easily been taken from Hitler himself. And when Adolf was still just a young lad in Austria, that same sub-human paradigm fueled the celebratory reports of European barbarity in Africa, as well as the U.S. and Canadian genocide of indigenous peoples in North America.

The word Jude (Jew) is scrawled on a Jewish-rub shop in Berlin following Nazi-incited mass riots in 1938. Photo | AP

It’s important to place Israel’s atrocities in historical context, for we can only know where we are by understanding where we’ve been. Hitler did not exist in an ideological vacuum. He simply looked around at the world he was born into and pulled from already existing ideologies, tried and true tactics. He was inspired by people like imperialist sycophant Ratzel, who was inspired by the U.S. Hitler too was a big fan of U.S. domestic policy, not least of all the Jim Crow laws that he simply repackaged into yellow fabric Stars of David. Even the concentration camp predates Hitler’s rise to power. The concept was originally used by Spaniards in Cuba then moved north to the U.S., then across the pond to England during the Boer War, and finally a hop and a skip down to Germany. And today, the U.S. carries on that tradition via the PR-polished “detention centers” for migrants.

Zionists were likewise inspired by their socio-political surroundings and, as Barrows-Friedman notes, “were explicit about their colonialist aims. In the original documents that Zionists drew up, they specifically say ‘this is a colonial project,’” she explains. “Everyone was doing the colonialism thing, and they [Zionists] wanted in on it.” This wasn’t about ‘going home.’ Yes, some Jews have always lived in the area now known as Israel, and there were plenty living there quite peacefully as Palestinians up until 1948. Jews have also lived almost everywhere else. We are not a people without a home; we are a people with many homes.


Zionism and supremacy: paying oppression forward

Indeed, this concept of borderless solidarity is something that has inspired many Jews to be active in liberation and justice movements. And while Zionism is packaged as the need for a safe space for Jews, it’s clear that this wasn’t about safety. There is no safety in terrorism. Rather, it was about supremacy. Having been shunned from so many communities for so long warped the perspectives of some Jews into believing that what they really needed wasn’t basic human rights but the right to thwart others’ basic human rights. The drive to climb the blood-soaked ladder of imperialism, to no longer be on the bottom rungs, shrouded not only their humanity but their own cultural teachings.

For those who haven’t had the pleasure of attending a Seder (you’re always welcome to my house for our anti-capitalist, anti-Zionist extravaganza!), the primary theme of the evening is “don’t be an oppressive asshole, for you know what it is to have assholes oppress you.” I’m paraphrasing, but that’s the basic gist. And Passover is just one example. Throughout Jewish traditions and teachings, the voices and experiences of the oppressed are uplifted in order to highlight the need for Jews to not just stand up for our own human rights, but for the human rights of all. We were exiled, we were driven out, we were genocided, we were persecuted just for being ourselves. Our place is therefore in the struggle for a world beyond those atrocities. None are free till all are free. To be Jewish is to be a fighter for liberation, for justice. As Barrows-Friedman explains, “the term ‘Never Again’ is not selective. It has to be universal.”


How Zionism is profoundly anti-Semitic

Zionism is therefore anti-Semitic — in both theory and practice. First and as noted above, it flies in the face of Jewish teachings and traditions. Second, it suggests that we only belong in one place — that we are not welcome in places that we have learned to call home, from New York to Shanghai. It pigeon-holes us into a homogeneous monolith, a singular stereotype. These points were the main drivers of the loud Jewish tradition of anti-Zionism. Again, inspired by teachings and experience, many Jews in early twentieth-century Europe were loud and proud leftists.

As John Merriman writes in his book “Ballad of the Anarchist Bandits,” a popular term for Jews in turn-of-the-20th-century Europe was “Cosmopolitan Anarchists.” Which I actually really love. These Jews were vehemently opposed to the ideas of imperialism, nationalism and colonialism — aspects they saw as intricately linked with any sort of Zionist endeavor. Furthermore, they didn’t like the idea of appeasing anti-Semites in Europe by just disappearing. As one early twentieth-century poster shared in a recent interview with scholar Benjamin Balthaser asserts, “Where we live, there is our country!” Yet, appeasing anti-Semites was a cornerstone of Zionism from the beginning. Theodore Herzl, known as the ‘father of modern political Zionism,’ wrote in his diaries that “[t]he anti-Semites will become our most dependable friends, the anti-Semitic countries our allies.” To quote my Jewish grandmother, “What a schmuck.”

A Yiddish poster reads: “There, where we live, there is our country! ” Credit | Jewish Labor Movement’s Bund Archives

It’s no wonder that Neo-Nazi Richard Spencer calls himself a “white Zionist.” And while Zionist-friendly media was quick to jump on the 2017 Israeli TV comment as totally misguided and a twisting of Zionism, the sad fact of the matter is that the Neo-Nazi got it right (not least of all because Israel is a very racist state, placing light-skinned Jews in higher positions of power while black Jews are considered to be just above Palestinians). Zionism is colonialism, it is imperialism, it is terrorism and apartheid — all things thatNeo-Nazis, and original Nazis, hold in very high regard. Where both Zionists and their anti-Semitic pals get it so wrong is the conflation of Judaism with Zionism.

Zionism didn’t get rolling until the end of the nineteenth century and from the outset clearly pulled from imperialist, white-supremacist ideologies, not from Jewish traditions and teachings. Jews, on the other hand, have been around for roughly 6,000 years or so (it’s currently Year 5781 in the Jewish calendar). To conflate Judaism with Zionism is like conflating humanity with iPhones. It’s ahistorical and it paints a picture of Jews that fits rather too comfortably with old caricatures of the conniving Israelite.

And of course, this works out really well for the anti-Semites. I’ve gone to more than one Neo-Nazi rally where I’ve overheard fascists complain about Israel’s control over our government, our economy. “They control everything,” one guy in a MAGA hat loudly proclaimed. I assume the guy standing next to him agreed, as he was wearing a “Hitler Missed a Few” t-shirt. Now, if you’re a Zionist, you can’t disagree with him — because you feel that Israel = Judaism. The only way you can push back against this fascist dumbshittery is to starkly and resolutely separate Israel from Judaism.


Why Fascists love Zionists (and hate Jews)

Israel does have a disturbing stranglehold on our government — be it demands of loyalty from U.S. citizens, truckloads of arms and weapons, or the cozy relationship our police have with Israeli forces. Judaism does not. Indeed, Jews have a long history of not being welcome in the U.S., much like other immigrants, while fascism — well, that’s as American as apple pie. Hitler got plenty of ideas from the U.S. and a lot of people in the U.S. returned the favor.

In 1939, Madison Square Garden in New York City was filled with 20,000 Nazis sieg heiling a massive portrait of George Washington flanked by giant swastikas. In October of that year, the same organization that was behind the MSG event, the German American Bund, held a massive parade through the streets of New York. Two years earlier, nearly 1,000 Jewish refugees were turned away from both Canada and the U.S. and were forced to return to Europe just as the Nazi’s Final Solution was unfolding. Three years before that, the Wall Street-backed American Liberty League plotted to overthrow the government and install a fascist dictatorship. IBM, Coca-Cola, Kodak and other corporations found in Nazi Germany ready customers — and why let a speedbump like genocide stand in the way of a bottom line? Indeed, IBM didn’t just sell to the Nazis, they facilitated mass murder by supplying Nazi Germany with punched-card technology, making it possible to track the Jews — if you ever wondered why Jews in the Holocaust were tattooed with numbers. Thanks, IBM.

20,000 Americans attend a Nazi rally at Madison Square Garden, February 20, 1939.

Again, this historical context matters. We need to understand this history in order to see how events like Charlottesville in 2017 are far from unique or surprising. Rather, they’re part of a long history of American fascism — or, as Mussolini suggested fascism be called, corporatism. This history also shows us the vast disparities between Zionism and Judaism.


Reclaiming what Judaism has always been

Both ideologically and in lived experiences, Zionism and Judaism are at odds. They exist on opposite ends of the power dynamic spectrum. “We have to dismantle Zionism — the way we work to dismantle imperialism and white supremacy, and racism and patriarchy,” Barrows-Friedman says. “It’s all part of the same project. Israel is a project of exploitation of Jewish suffering to further an imperialist Western role.” Therefore, one of the main ways we do this, she says, is to “reclaim what Judaism has always been, going toward Jewish tradition as open and proud anti-Zionists.”

This means taking back our history, and our present as Jewish people. It means highlighting the twisted use of Jewish suffering to claim an inalienable right to oppress. It means taking our place on the side of the oppressed, never the oppressor. Here, less than a century after the Holocaust, Israel has proven that it too can be fascist. To whose glory? What have we Jews gained by Israel’s appeal to fascist ideologies?

Furthermore, why desperately try to affirm your humanity by following a fascist’s description of your lack thereof? Because of course, it won’t ultimately matter. Inferiority is an always-moving target. It always has been — be they the Irish under British terror, the Congolese under Belgian terror, the Indigenous and African-Americans under U.S. terror, Jews in the Holocaust, or today’s War on Terror, any and every people, culture, tradition and belief can be marred and maligned in order to fit the needs of oppression. Jews will never gain peace and safety through terrorism. We will find no supremacy on the other side of brutality. We will always be inferior to the fascist. The question is why then is it so important for Zionists to appeal to fascists?

As Frantz Fanon wrote, “The oppressed will always believe the worst about themselves.” In the case of Zionists, this must be true. They must have believed that they were inferior because they were a “landless people,” just like the imperialists said of Africans; or indeed as Francis Bacon wrote of his perceived “monsters” in the 1600s, that they were mere “swarms of people” who were unavowed by God. They must have believed that they were inferior, weak. It is not uncommon to hear a Zionist talk of the “weak Jews” in the concentration camps who should’ve fought back against their captors. And if you accept that you are inferior based on the claims of the oppressor, the only way to rectify that is to become like the one who oppresses you. Of course, in the process, you will lose yourself. You will lose all that it is to be human. You will become the sick and grotesque creation of your new master — a hideous fascist Frankenstein — and still the inferior.

Fanon also wrote about the colonization that colonizers impose on themselves — the violence that they inflict that is also inflicted upon them. Joseph Conrad, the author of “Heart of Darkness,” wrote graphically of this concept in his first short story, “An Outpost of Progress,” a story of two Europeans who are stationed at an outpost in the jungles of Africa in the 1890s. They gradually lose their minds, and the story ends in a murder-suicide, with Kayerts, one of the European men, hanging from a cross above his predecessor’s grave:

Progress was calling to Kayerts from the river. Progress and civilization and all the virtues. Society was calling to its accomplished child to come, to be taken care of, to be instructed, to be judged, to be condemned; it called him to return to that rubbish heap from which he had wandered away, so that justice could be done. 

As Lindqvist writes, these characters represent a European identity, a “[p]rogress that presupposes genocide.”

There is no glory in the oppressed becoming the oppressor. We who are of European descent must grapple with our genocidal history, unpack what horrors have been passed down from colonizers, and confront that trauma. We must confront that history that has become our present, as children of this Empire, so that we may stop it from becoming the future. And as Jews, we must grapple with Israel’s present for the very same reasons.

A Jewish activist protests Israeli apartheid, in north Jersey. Screenshot |

As James Baldwin explained in a 1963 interview:

What white people have to do, is to try to find out in their own hearts why it was necessary to have a nigger in the first place, because I’m not a nigger, I’m a man, but if you think I’m a nigger, it means you need it. Why?”

Zionists need it because they seek to emulate their own oppressors. Someone must replace the Jew in their shitty remake. For they do not wish to be the Jew any longer. As reporter and host, Jacquie Luqman said recently on By Any Means Necessary: “If anybody in the Black community is supporting anybody else in our community who preys on other people, then those people are not our people.” Zionists are not our people.

“I like being Jewish. I really hate the way it’s been co-opted,” Barrows-Friedman explains. “The beauty of Jewish culture is the tradition, the stories, the songs, the education about no one is free if anyone’s oppressed. Zionism cannot dictate how we are Jews. We can’t let them win.”

As Jews, we stand with the oppressed — that is what our own history and our teachings demand. We must bring forward the past because, to yet again quote Baldwin, “history is not the past, it is the present.” We should be proud of our heritage, proud of our culture and the thick bonds of solidarity that bolster our fight and inspire our build.

To be proud to be Jewish is a good thing, so long as we don’t lose sight of what that means. We have a lot of work to do, and the enemies we face will claim to want the same things that we do, to believe in the same teachings we believe in. The fight against Zionism is deeply personal for many Jews, but it is a part of the vital, all-embracing work of dismantling colonialism — in our own communities and likewise in the world. As Simone de Beauvoir wrote, “A freedom that is interested only in denying freedom must be denied.” For the sake of our liberation as Jews — as human beings — we must deny Zionism. In short: Be Jewish. Be proud. Be anti-Zionist.

Feature photo | Right-wing Israeli Jews confront Palestinians demonstrating for the release of a Palestinian prisoner held by Israel without trial and slipped into a coma after a nearly two-month hunger strike, in the city of Ashkelon. Photo | Activestills

The post From Judaism to Fascism: How Zionists Turned Their Backs on Their Own Culture appeared first on MintPress News.

Losing Finders: How the US Government Worked to the Keep CIA Connection Secret

WASHINGTON — The Finders Scandal — events that took place several decades ago, which I have explored in the two previous parts of this series — might be perceived as very much in the rear-view mirror. It is of great contemporary relevance, however, because it raises questions of ongoing significance — particularly in an era where American-style kompromat is seen by many to have an undiminished, if not augmented, role in our politics — about the rogue, untouchable nature of the intelligence community and its assets. The connection between the CIA and the Finders cult is one of the most explosive and significant aspects of the whole Finders scandal because, if substantiated, it would constitute not simply an outlandish and perhaps criminal group purported to be abusing and trafficking children, but one sanctioned by the most powerful government on earth.

In previous entries in this series, I’ve presented a general overview of the Finders cult and the multiple stages in which the story has unfolded, and I’ve highlighted the claims made in the most repressed and damning documents associated with the case: U.S. Customs documents penned by Special Agent Ramon Martinez. If his reports are accurate, the CIA stepped in to cover up the criminal activity of the Finders in the initial 1987 investigation, with the agency implicitly claiming association with the cult by rendering the issue “an internal matter.” This would link the CIA with evidence of organized child trafficking, child abuse and allegations of ritual abuse and mind control.

The Finders: CIA Ties to Child Sex Cult Obscured as Coverage Goes from Sensationalism to Silence

As early as 1993, US News & World Report was accurate in describing the Finders case as one viewed “through a glass, very darkly.” As I wrote in the introduction to this series, the more one peers into the Finders case, the more one sees that what we have available to us in terms of hard evidence is at best fragmentary; however, what evidence we do have available is damning enough that it deserves to be reckoned with.

This segment will further explore the connections between the group and U.S. intelligence that have previously been touched upon. To do so, it’s necessary to reiterate that the involvement between the CIA and the Finders is at issue in multiple stages. First, there is the group’s murky history, especially that of Finders founder Marion Pettie. Intelligence connections are then indicated during the 1987 investigation of child abuse charges stemming from the incident in Tallahassee Florida, and such ties are subsequently documented while being ‘officially’ disputed by the the1993 Department of Justice inquiry. We will examine the history and larger context of the Finders in terms of CIA operations of the era, before discussing indications of CIA involvement in the 1987 case and the documents from the 1993 inquiry.

Losing Finders: The Buried Documents that Linked the Infamous Cult to the CIA


Founding of the Finders

The leader of the Finders cult was Marion G. Pettie, a former Air Force master sergeant who admitted that his son worked for CIA-front Air America. Pettie’s wife, Isabelle, is admitted in FBI vault documents to have worked for the CIA from 1951 to 1971 (although some documents state that her period of employment ended in 1961), and it is also admitted that she was given passports to North Korea, North Vietnam, the Soviet Union and elsewhere during the height of the Cold War. That she would travel to such strictly prohibited locations suggests she was more than a simple “staff stenographer,” as the documents attempt to portray her.

An excerpt from a Martinez Customs Report describing passports recovered during a search of Finders properties

Specifically, an explosive investigative report written by Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) Sgt. John Stitcher (though his name is redacted, the report is confirmed elsewhere to have been penned by him) on February 19, 1987, is labeled “Confidential” and “Do Not Disseminate,” and is titled “Re: Finders involvement with the Central Intelligence Agency.” It contains Sgt. Stitcher’s description of what an unnamed CIA special agent stated in terms of the agency’s involvement with the Finders, which reads in part:

S/A [redacted] was guarded but frank in his responses. He confirmed that [redacted] Isabelle, now deceased, was an employee of the agency from 1950 until 1971. When asked if our investigation was “treading on anyone’s toes out there,” [redacted] replied “Sort of”… He acknowledged that they have had someone working on the case since it first broke on the news media. He also stated that the agency is aware that during the period 1969-1971 [redacted] had traveled to Moscow, North Korea, and Vietnam… [three line redaction labeled “C”].

A report from February 19, 1987 authored by Sgt. John Stitcher. Note the large redactions labeled confidential

The significance of Sgt. Stitcher’s report cannot be overstated. Given the fact that the CIA coined the phrase “plausible deniability,” it is remarkable that the agency would admit that Isabelle Pettie worked for them for 21 years. The report relates that travel of at least one Finders member to restricted countries is admitted to have been undertaken with CIA awareness and facilitation. The agency is described as having a “vested interest” in the Finders and, although a large section is redacted under the classification Confidential, there is the suggestion that the CIA was involved in funding the Finders’ “operation.” The report continues:

… As a practical matter, what is not being said is as important as what S/A [redacted] has said. [Redacted] acknowledged that we are treading on their toes and that they have had someone working on the case since Feb 5 when it broke. They apparently have a vested interest in [redacted] and/or the group. They have not contacted any of the investigating agencies while they have been working on the case. They are also aware that [Redacted] traveled to prohibited countries during a period of hostilities that could only have been arranged by them. Finally, he stated that [two line redaction labeled “C”] This could explain a lot about the groups [sic] funding, which we have been unable to document to this point. [Entire redacted paragraph labeled “C”].

… Regardless of what type of operation they may have been engaged in, there will be no justification for the way the children have been treated, and the matter will be addressed in Family Division, Superior Court.

Elsewhere in the FBI Vault documents, it is specified that at least some of the passports referenced above were given to Isabelle Pettie. However, the passport holder’s name is redacted in Sgt. Stitcher’s crucial report, and multiple redactions are labeled Confidential rather than as a privacy exemption — despite the fact that Isabelle Pettie’s name is usually unredacted because she had died prior to the investigation.

This raises questions as to whether Isabelle was the only Finders member given passports to restricted countries that must have been known and facilitated by U.S. intelligence during the Cold War. We also know that the passports to restricted locations were the ones recovered during the searches of the Finders properties in Washington, D.C., as they are specifically described by Ramon Martinez, issued for travel to the same countries Stitcher recounts, and the time period of the passports matches. The passports are also listed (though not described) in the search warrants contained in the FBI Vault Documents. The fact that they were recovered at a D.C. Finders property would suggest that they were relevant to the more current Finders activities and membership at the time of the 1987 investigation. In addition, it highlights the accuracy of Martinez’s account, as it is yet another example of evidence he witnessed and accurately described that was documented elsewhere.

Returning to Finders cult leader Marion Pettie, we find that he was also known to have had access to international “military” transportation, despite being allegedly retired from military service long before 1987. In a Tallahassee Police Department (TPD) report dated February 10, 1987 (unredacted copies of which were provided to me by journalist and author Nick Bryant), Lt. Lee Hart of Culpeper Virginia is recorded as having stated that he had had contact with the Finders, and that “Pettie himself would probably go to Andrews Air Force Base and get a military plane flight to China.” That law enforcement would appraise Pettie as being able to simply show up at an Air Force base and obtain international transportation while the Finders were under a multi-state, multi-agency investigation speaks to Pettie’s direct and active involvement with military and intelligence interests, in addition to that of his wife and son.

An excerpt from the Feb. 10, 1987, Tallahassee Police report

An interview with Finders member and spokesperson Tobe Terrell, conducted by Derrick Broze of The Conscious Resistance, provides some corroboration of Pettie’s military connections and suggests the origins of his intelligence work. Terell told Broze that Pettie “… was in the Army Air Corps, which became the U.S. Air Force. He was highly regarded by the brass and they asked him if he would like to become an intelligence officer.” Despite this admission, during the rest of the interview, Terrell strenuously denied that the Finders were linked with the U.S. government or intelligence operations. Instead, Terrell claims, Petite retired after 20 years of working for the military and was “trained but never assigned” in intelligence work.

As stated earlier, we know Pettie had been a master sergeant in the Air Force, but was he still working for the military or intelligence while heading the Finders group, and is this why he could so easily obtain “military” transportation? Pettie himself admits that he began his stint in hippiedom while simultaneously working for the military. An interview with Pettie conducted by the Washington City Paper in 1996 states:

The group’s roots stretch back to a pre-WWII Washington, D.C., open house run by Pettie when he was an Army sergeant. There, he claims to have become a full-time student of human nature. “I rented two apartments about 55 years ago,” he testified at the court proceedings, “and opened them up for anybody that wanted to come in, and the idea in my head was that they were going to teach me something about power, money, or sex.”

This admission is remarkable in that it shows that Pettie’s interactions with the “alternative lifestyle” community began very early in his military service, prior to the Second World War and the creation of the Central Intelligence Agency. We can deduce, then, that his decades of association with the dawning New Age sphere may have been associated with his military work.

The description of his “open” apartments closely parallels the activities of recognized figures associated with the infamous MK-ULTRA project, in which the CIA experimented with efforts to achieve mind control, sometimes on unwitting subjects. In an excerpt from his book “Chaos, Charles Manson, the CIA, and the Secret History of the Sixties,” journalist Tom O’Neill writes of Dr. Louis Jolyon West’s use of a hippie open house in association with MK-ULTRA studies funded by the CIA:

In the Haight, West arranged for the use of a crumbling Victorian house on Frederick Street, where he set up what he described as a “laboratory disguised as a hippie crash pad.” The “pad” opened in June 1967, at the dawn of the summer of love… Passersby were welcome to do as they pleased and stay as long as they liked, as long as they didn’t mind grad students taking notes on their behavior. According to records in West’s files, his “crash pad” was funded by the Foundations Fund for Research in Psychiatry, Inc.… papers in West’s desk that revealed that the Foundations Fund was a front for the CIA.

This echoes Marion Pettie’s early use of two apartments, and a later Finders property known as Ragged Mountain Ranch. The Washington Post reported that “anyone could get an organic meal without charge, without questions” at the rural location. In addition, a TPD report — dated February 9, 1987 — documents the statements of one of the children recovered in Florida to the effect that a man they knew as “Mr. Lucky” lived at a rural Finders property. The document adds that “[i]nformation from the FBI identifies Lucky as Ronald Alleman, an ex-Green Beret,” with Green Beret being a reference to U.S. Army Special Forces. The child providing information regarding Alleman states that he had “lots of medicine.” He was also mentioned by another Finders child in reference to basements at a D.C. Finders location. That yet another member of the Finders would have a military background is of interest in terms of questioning the narrative that the group was simply an alternative lifestyle commune.

We’ve discussed the intelligence ties of Marion Pettie and his wife Isabelle, but it should be reiterated that Pettie claimed that his son worked for Air America, an airline recognized as a CIA front that was involved in the Iran-Contra scandal. As reported by journalist Whitney Webb, Air America would go on to be renamed Southern Air Transport and would be associated with notorious child-sex-trafficker Jeffrey Epstein and his close associate Leslie Wexner. As Webb has pointed out, Epstein would also claim to have worked for the CIA, and he would reportedly receive a sweetheart prosecution deal because he “belonged to intelligence.”

I have previously mentioned that the topic of “mind control,” which many associate with the CIA’s MK-ULTRA project, comes up numerous times throughout the Finders investigation. The topic will be looked at in more detail in a future discussion of the Finders in relation to child abuse; however, it’s worth mentioning here regarding CIA-Finders ties that former Nebraska State Senator John Decamp, author of “The Franklin Coverup,” claimed that the Finders were associated with the CIA and that they were abusing children by means of indoctrination. He reportedly said on December 27, 1993, in response to a question regarding the explosive US News And World Report article:

I was getting information anonymously. I found out later that it came from CIA people who were concerned about what had happened. The CIA has denied any involvement in it, even today. But there is enough documentation to show that children, at a fairly tender age, were being used for sexual purposes, to compromise people, and for the “mind control” nonsense. Why? I don’t know, and I don’t claim to know.

The now-infamours 1993 US News report


What’s going on in Culpeper, Virginia?

In addition to the parallel between the activities of Marion Pettie and the “hippy crash pad” of Dr. Louis Jolyon West, we see that the Finders attempted to “take over the city government” of Culpeper, Virginia — a location where one of the most infamous figures of the MK-ULTRA program would choose to retire as, of all things, an “eco-hippy.” An April 13, 1987 MPD Intelligence Division report, contained in the FBI Vault and labeled “secret,” reads in part:

Special Agent [Redacted] of the Virginia State Police stated that this group appeared to be a survivalist organization with attempts to take over the city government in Culpeper[,] Virginia.

I FOIA’d the Virginia State Police for records pertaining to the Finders. Their response was to claim that the relevant documents do not exist. The fact that the Finders were reported to have attempted to hijack a city’s local government is, to say the least, not the kind of activity one would associate with a harmless but eccentric hippie commune.

Culpeper would also become the home of the CIA’s Sidney Gottlieb, whom The New York Times described in 2019 as “the brains behind the eventual C.I.A. program it helped spawn, MK-ULTRA, the notorious research endeavor that employed mind-altering drugs, including LSD.” The same article goes on to describe Gottlieb as “a chemist with a deep-seated interest in mysticism, … the first person the United States government ever hired to find ways to control human minds.”

Gottlieb retired not simply in the same location where the Finders allegedly attempted to take over city government, but also under the same cultural impetus: he spent the last years of his life as an “eco-hippy,” according to the Daily Beast and the Times, the latter writing: “Eric, Nils and Alice… tracked down Sidney Gottlieb in his ecologically correct home in Culpeper, Va., where the retired spymaster was raising goats, eating yogurt and preaching the values of peace and environmentalism.”

CIA scientist Sidney Gottlieb is pictured during a 1977 Senate subcommittee hearing. Photo | AP

While there are no currently available links to directly connect Marion Pettie and Gottlieb or the activities of Dr. Jolyon West, the parallel of the guise of a hippy crash pad and Gottlieb’s retirement as an eco-hippy in the same location the Finders attempted to take over represents part of a larger context for understanding the Finders and the bizarre manner in which the CIA was operating during the same time frame.


CIA Involvement in 1987 investigation

Reports from the MPD during the 1987 investigation also conclude that there was a connection between the CIA and the Finders. I’ve cited the blockbuster MPD report penned by Sgt. Stitcher, which outlined CIA interest in the Finders case and documented the decades of CIA employment of Isabelle Pettie. A report filed by the MPD — dated April 13, 1987 — summarizes MPD findings on the Finders group. As intimated by Martinez’s memo, the report was labeled “Secret.” The document, which I also cited in Part Two of this series, includes an odd psychological take on the threat posed by the group, in addition to the conclusion that the group was used by the CIA:

It is the writers [sic] belief that the Finders organization is and has been utilized by the Central Intelligence Agency as a disinformation service spreading non essential, non critical information to various organizations throughout the United States and overseas. This group to [sic] the most part is made up of over-educated non-achievers who lack the inborn initiative to succeed on their own. Therefore they fell in with a charismatic leader who gave them direction and self importance. To [sic] the most part this organization individually is harmless, However, [sic] when directed and monitored by a controlling factor they are capable of destructive and illegal activities. [emphasis added]

Questions raised by the report include what the author meant by monitoring and direction from a “controlling factor” making the cult “capable of destructive and illegal activities.” Unfortunately, the typo-riddled MPD assessment lacks citation of evidence for any of its claims, and does not explain on what basis its speculation has been made. This is in stark contrast with the reports penned by Agent Martinez, which described specific pieces of evidence he witnessed and were virtually free of attempts at psychological analysis or speculation as to the group’s motivation or goals. Nonetheless, that we have the MPD admitting in its own assessment that the Finders were “utilized by the CIA” is remarkable and worth documenting, as it further substantiates that the CIA was involved with the group and would have been motivated to end investigations into the group’s activities.

I previously discussed the allegations made by Customs Special Agent Martinez to the effect that the Finders investigation revealed evidence of obvious criminality on the part of the Finders — including child trafficking, intent to kidnap, trade, and purchase children, among other crimes — but that the investigation was shut down by the CIA. Martinez reportedly learned of this development from Sgt. Stitcher, the previously cited MPD detective who wrote reports indicative of CIA involvement with the Finders. As I previously wrote, Stitcher passed away from septic shock prior to the 1993 DOJ inquiry into allegations of a CIA coverup of the original investigation, leaving him unable to corroborate or expand on Martinez’s allegations.

In a copy of Martinez’s whistleblower complaint, provided to me by independent researchers of We’ve Read The Documents, we see additional confirmation that Sgt. Stitcher was in fact the individual who informed Martinez that the Finders investigation had been rendered a CIA internal matter. Martinez wrote of his attempts to review evidence collected at Finders properties in Washington, D.C. during the initial 1987 investigation:

… [I] attempted to access the evidence collected for a period of approximately two months. I was unsuccessful in gaining that access and was informed by Sergeant Stitcher (now deceased) that the Finders was a CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) front gone bad, and that the evidence was unavailable. [emphasis added]

A segment of Special Agent Ramon Martinez’s whistleblower complaint

That Sgt. Stitcher could have corroborated CIA interference in the 1987 investigation were he alive at the time of the 1993 inquiry is clear, thanks to an additional summary of the preliminary DOJ inquiry — dated November 1, 1993 — contained in the first section of the FBI’s Finders Vault publications, which states in part:

 [Redacted] also advised that he had been told that documentation had been located in the WMPD files to indicate that SGT. John Stycher [sic] (deceased), who had been his sergeant during the Finders search, had been contacted by a [redacted] had told him to step away from the Finders case. [emphasis added]


1993 DOJ inquiry

We also have the allegations made in 1993 by journalist Paul Rodriguez of The Washington Times, which I’ve previously discussed, to the effect that additional Customs Service documents record the CIA’s admission to “owning the Finders organization as a front for a domestic computer training operation.” The article also details the statement made by Sgt. Stitcher in his previously mentioned February 19, 1987 MPD report:

A Metropolitan Police document dated Feb. 19, 1987, quotes a CIA agent as confirming that his agency was sending its personnel to “a Finders Corp., Future Enterprises,” for training in computer operations.

We further see that in the third section of the FBI Vault documents, an FBI Washington Metropolitan Field Office (WMFO) summary classified “Secret” — dated April 29, 1994 — indicates that the MPD’s Intelligence Division and the CIA had such a close working relationship that they would simply call each other to check in on ongoing investigations:

In the 1987 time frame, the MPD Intelligence Division had a working relationship with the CIA where they could make direct telephonic inquiries concerning ongoing investigations… during the course of the Finders investigation, someone in MPD Intelligence Division related that he was told that one of the FINDERS group members [two line redaction classified Secret] indicated that “… this information did not influence the outcome of the investigation at all”…

The same synopsis specifically includes the CIA’s records relating to the Finders as provided to WMFO during the 1993 DOJ inquiry: two entire paragraphs of these results are redacted under the classification “S,” meaning Secret.


Who is conducting this investigation, really?

That the 1993 DOJ inquiry served to stamp out questions raised about the connection between the Finders and the intelligence community is unsurprising, and not only because such connections would be highly embarrassing for multiple agencies of law enforcement and intelligence. It’s especially predictable given the fact that the DOJ passed off the actual investigation of the allegations of a CIA coverup to the FBI, which again passed the responsibility of investigating to the WMFO.

In the previously cited 1993 article from The Washington Times, Paul Rodriguez reported that the DOJ was looking into the Finders case, and that it had initiated a “special task force” to do so. Rodriguez’s article was later quoted by the Associated Press. This kind of framing by the DOJ belied the fact that the department itself was doing very little “investigating” and, judging by the FBI Vault documents, had reduced its role to rubber-stamping the conclusions of the WMFO that were passed along by the FBI’s upper brass.

This is dubious work, as the WMFO had collaborated with the MPD in the initial 1987 Finders investigation, as acknowledged in synopses dated 1994, compiled by the WMFO. Also, according to Martinez, the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division instructed the MPD “not to advise” the WMFO of “anything that had transpired.” In other words, the DOJ and FBI were relying on a field office already heavily involved in the initial investigation, and apparently intentionally kept in the dark, to investigate its own findings: if there had been interference, WMFO would have hardly been a neutral or fully informed third party appropriate to investigate it.

That the DOJ asked the FBI to investigate the issue is demonstrated by a WMFO synopsis contained in the Vault documents — dated April 29, 1994 — which states:

By memorandum dated 10/26/93, from Acting Assistant Attorney General John C. Keeney, Criminal Division, Department of Justice (DOJ), to Assistant Director Larry A. Potts, the DOJ requested that the FBI conduct a preliminary inquiry into allegations made by [redacted] concerning child sexual abuse by a group known as the “Finders,” and what role, if any, was played by the United States Intelligence Community. [emphasis added]

As to the WMFO being tasked with the bulk of the work in the 1993 investigation, an example of this is seen in a WMFO memo sent to the FBI Director — dated November 15, 1993 — which reads: 

The WMFO case file on the “Finders” was reviewed and summarized for FBIHQ in referenced WMFO 11/6/93 teletype. The MPD case file was reviewed by WMFO on 11/4/93. Copies were made of significant documents and sent to FBIHQ via facsimile… on 11/9/93, a photocopy of the entire MPD file was obtained and hand carried to FBIHQ.

Here we see that the WMFO is not simply summarizing its own involvement in the 1987 case, but also reviewing the MPD case file for the FBI, determining what are or are not “significant documents,” and sending them to FBI Headquarters. Likewise, the vast majority of substantive summaries and synopses contained in the Vault documents are compiled by the WMFO. It is self-evident that the integrity of the results of such an investigation is highly questionable.


Conclusion: Where the evidence leads

We have established that Marion Pettie had an extensive military background that coincided with the earliest days of his setting up the hippie-style open apartments that would later develop into the Finders group. We’ve seen that Marion’s wife Isabelle spent over 20 years working for the CIA, and that Pettie claimed his son worked for the CIA front Air America, which was later tied to Jeffrey Epstein. We know that Finders members included an ex-Green Beret. The CIA was reported by MPD Sgt. John Stitcher to have run the Finders as a front gone bad, and Ramon Martinez recounts that the CIA interfered in the 1987 investigation of the Finders case. Before the 1993 DOJ inquiry could verify these allegations with Stitcher, he died. We’ve also established that a 1993 DOJ inquiry into the Finders criminal activities and the CIA’s role in covering up these activities should not be viewed as conclusive or even reliable in its determination that no evidence to back such claims was ever found.

To summarize the work of this piece and its predecessor: It is my conclusion that, based on the evidence available to us and analyzed so far, we can factually state that the Finders was connected with the CIA and that Agent Martinez’s Customs reports are credible. This in turn should serve as a trail marker for those exploring the complex and often obscured role the intelligence community has played and continues to play in American life.

Feature photo | Graphic by Antonio Cabrera

Elizabeth Vos is an independent journalist and MintPress News Contributor. Her work has appeared in many media outlets including Consortium News, where she co-hosts the CNLive! webcast.

The post Losing Finders: How the US Government Worked to the Keep CIA Connection Secret appeared first on MintPress News.

Yemen: Biden Shrugs Off Campaign Promise as US Backs New Saudi Offensive and AQAP Support

AL-BAYDA, YEMEN — President Joe Biden gave a lot of people a sense of cautious optimism when he took to the campaign trail and promised to bring a swift end to the Saudi-led war on Yemen. The oil-rich monarchy, supported heavily by the United States, has been waging arguably the deadliest military campaign of the past decade on the forgotten country for over six years, exacting a brutal humanitarian toll on its civilian population.

To his credit, Biden sent Tim Lenderking to lead a team of negotiators in an attempt to broker reconciliation between the conflict’s many belligerents. But without the political will to stand up to the Saudi monarchy and the varied American interests that profit handsomely from its wars, Lenderking had little chance of success. Now it seems the Kingdom — once again emboldened, armed, and covered by the United States — has all but abandoned any pretense of reconciliation and doubled down on its brutal war.


A Piercing Star falls to earth

Last week, the Saudi-led Coalition began a massive military operation they’re calling al-Najm al-Thaqib, which translates from Arabic into The Piercing Star. The operation ostensibly aims to recapture large swaths of territory in central Yemen’s al-Bayda province, which was captured by Ansar Allah after a series of long and grueling battles with militants from al-Qaeda on the Arabia Peninsula (AQAP) last fall. AQAP had been entrenched in the province for decades, somehow persevering through concerted military efforts by both the Saudi-led Coalition and at least four consecutive U.S. administrations to dislodge it — including Barack Obama’s infamous drone war

On August 28, 2020, local tribal partisans backed by Ansar Allah defeated AQAP and myriad extremist allies, including elements of IS, in a week-long operation. This victory came just as AQAP was preparing to sweep the Yemeni provinces of al-Bayda, Dhamar, and Sana’a in an operation that aimed to repeat the scenarios seen in Mosul, Iraq and Raqqa, Syria, where ISIS was able to take and hold a so-called caliphate extending from western Iraq to into eastern Syria.

Massive Ansar Allah Operation in Central Yemen Reveals Alliance Between al-Qaeda and Islamic State

Al-Bayda and the surrounding provinces saw a state of relative calm in the wake of the operation, as residents experienced life without the yoke of al-Qaeda, some for the first time in their lives. Now, some of those residents fear that Saudi Arabia, backed by the United States, is attempting to resettle those groups in al-Bayda as a hedge against Ansar Allah.

Saudi jets have carried out scores of airstrikes in al-Bayda in recent weeks, flying in from the north to unleash tons of bombs made and supplied by the United States and giving AQAP a potential avenue to retake the province, as the airstrikes have targeted Ansar Allah and their local tribal allies almost exclusively.

According to the nonprofit Yemeni Executive Mine Action Center (YEMAC), American-made cluster bombs — which even the U.S. military has pledged not to use, due to their high rate of collateral damage — including the CBU-58, CBU-105, CBU-87, M26, and DPICM M77, have all been used in the offensive.

In a press conference, YEMAC displayed unexploded American bombs used in the operation, including the same GBU-39 and GBU-31 that were used with deadly effect in Israel’s recent attacks on Gaza. YEMAC held the press conference after an unexploded U.S.-made GBU-24 was recovered from a civil-defense building in Sana’a.

While there is not yet conclusive evidence of direct coordination between the Saudi Coalition and AQAP in the offensive, AQAP militants began pushing into al-Bayda from the south almost as soon as the Saudi airstrikes began. The southern villages of al-Zaher and al-Sma’h — including the areas of Jumaima, Wafaa, Sharadeh, al-Sous, Shabakat Dhi Madahi, Akrama, Shawkan and others — have already been recaptured by al-Qaeda according to a number of Saudi state-funded media outlets, which celebrated the putsch as a victory for the Saudi-led Coalition.


No “Certain Victory”

However, the celebrations were short-lived, as Ansar Allah has already begun to recapture areas it gained last August in a military operation it has dubbed al-Nasr al-Mubin, an Arabic phrase meaning “Certain Victory.” That operation has already seen the defeat of AQAP and militants allied with Saudi Arabia in the al-Zahir Directorate as well as dozens of military sites in the al-Dahaki and Al-Soma`h districts, and even areas that Ansar Allah failed to capture from AQAP during its August offensive, according to a statement it issued on Tuesday.

An armored vehicle belonging to Saudi-backed militants shows a poster that reads, “martyr commander brigadier general Self Abd al-Rab al-Shadady.” Al-Shadady” was recently killed in clashes in Marib, Yemen, June 19, 2021. Nariman El-Mofty | AP

On Friday, the media bureau of the Houthis’ Operations Command Center published a video showing some of its victories in al-Bayda. Several senior AQAP commanders were killed or captured in the battles, including the infamous Abu Dharr al-Tayabi, Tawfiq al-Farawi and Othman Ahmad Abdullah al-Mushdali. A spokesman for Ansar Allah said:

Despite having mobilized members of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and Daesh (IS) Takfiri terrorist groups, Saudi [Arabia] failed and has so far reaped nothing other than defeat on every front. The coalition has received severe blows in al-Bayda, even though it has hired al-Qaeda and Daesh terrorists.”

But Ansar Allah is far from a decisive victory. Fierce clashes continue near Lahj province and coalition warplanes continue to pound al-Bayda.


US cooperation with a Jihadi recruiter

According to members of the Houthi negotiating delegation, who spoke to MintPress on condition of anonymity, the escalation in al-Bayda is being used to pressure Ansar Allah to halt its advance on the oil-rich Marib province and to force it to accept conditions that Saudi Arabia and Lenderking’s envoy have imposed on Ansar Allah as a precondition for a peace deal.

For their part, the Houthis have promised to retaliate by resuming drone and ballistic missile attacks on Saudi oil and military targets in the Kingdom’s southern provinces, according to Brigadier General Abed Al-Thor and General Aziz Rashid, who told MintPress that military pressure on the Kingdom will only be increased in the wake of the recent Saudi escalation.

The attacks on al-Bayda come in the wake of meetings between the Saudi-backed vice president of Yemen, Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, and Vice Admiral Brad Cooper, commander of the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command and the U.S. 5th Fleet and Combined Maritime Forces. Cooper pushed for intelligence sharing and support for armed militant groups under the banner of curbing the arming of the Houthis by the Iranian government.

Al-Ahmar speaks to journalists during a 2011 press conference in Sanaa, Yemen. Hani Mohammed | AP

Al-Ahmar has been tied to various extremist groups in Yemen and, according to Reuters, “The Muslim Brotherhood and other Sunni Islamists gained strength, particularly under … al-Ahmar, who built a power base in the army. Jihadist fugitives formed al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).” According to a 2000 New York Times report, al-Ahmar even “traveled to Afghanistan in the 1980s to meet Osama bin Laden, and assisted in recruiting militants from across the Muslim world for the Afghan struggle.”

The U.S. has long been involved in the training and arming of militants in Yemen, whom it saw as a hedge against Ansar Allah. Al-Ahmar has publicly praised the U.S. for cooperating with him to combat what he called “the Iranian project.”


Grim prospects for peace

On July 1, U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said that the United States was “beyond fed up” with the Houthis’ advance in Marib and laid the blame for the humanitarian situation in Yemen squarely at the feet of the Houthis, claiming it was they who failed to work with the “other parties … who are actively working towards peace,” a reference to Saudi Arabia and its allies in the country.

Price’s statements and the Biden administration’s about-face on Yemen has raised questions among activists struggling to stop the war, especially as the U.S. has largely refused calls to stop arming Saudi Arabia amid a devastating civilian death toll, and now seems to be doubling down on its commitment to a military solution to the conflict, falling back on its habit of supporting armed militant groups that it used to devastating effect in Syria, Libya, Afghanistan and Iraq.

As US Pivots from Afghanistan to Yemen, Al-Mahrah Copes with Increasing Military Presence

“The Biden administration should have stopped providing weapons and training to the warring parties to ensure that the war would not continue, and not support one at the expense of the other, so logic and reality say,” Dala al-Matari, an activist from the Stop the Bombing of Yemen campaign said. Like many Yemenis, al-Matari believes that President Biden used his seeming opposition to the highly controversial war as a trump card to boost his chances in last year’s presidential election.

For its part, Ansar Allah has outright accused the Biden administration of giving a green light to Saudi forces to attack al-Bayda so that it can more easily provide al-Qaeda and IS with weapons and intelligence information. Officials in Sana’a say the Biden administration is playing with fire by not only destroying peace efforts but also resettling and supporting al-Qaeda, especially amid a Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan.

Dhaif Allah al-Shami — the spokesman for the Sana’a-based Yemeni government run jointly by Ansar Allah and the General People’s Congress, the largest political party in the country — said that the United States had “run the recent military escalation in al-Bayda.” He accused the Biden administration of being behind the plan, stating: “The United States, which falsely and wrongly claims to be concerned with peace in Yemen, is [the one] fueling the bitter clashes in the al-Zahir district of the province.”

Major General Nasser Al-Atif, minister of defense in the Ansar Allah-led government, said in a statement on Monday:

We have a new strategy to face the new Saudi escalation that will cost the coalition a heavy price if they continue to support terrorist elements, and this is something they should understand well. Saudi Arabia and the United States claim that they are keen on peace, stopping the war, and addressing the inhumane issues, but in fact they are talking all this just for media consumption and the exploitation of international and regional positions.

Feature photo | A Saudi-backed militant poses for a photo after surviving battle with Houthi fighters on the Kassara front line near Marib, Yemen, June 20, 2021. Nariman El-Mofty | 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.

The post Yemen: Biden Shrugs Off Campaign Promise as US Backs New Saudi Offensive and AQAP Support appeared first on MintPress News.

Chris Hedges: Bless the Traitors

PRINCETON, NEW JERSEY (Scheerpost Daniel Hale, an active-duty Air Force intelligence analyst, stood in the Occupy encampment in Zuccotti Park in October 2011 in his military uniform. He held up a sign that read “Free Bradley Manning,” who had not yet announced her transition. It was a singular act of conscience few in uniform had the strength to replicate. He had taken a week off from his job to join the protestors in the park. He was present at 6:00 am on October 14 when Mayor Michael Bloomberg made his first attempt to clear the park. He stood in solidarity with thousands of protestors, including many unionized transit workers, teachers, Teamsters and communications workers, who formed a ring around the park. He watched the police back down as the crowd erupted into cheers. But this act of defiance and moral courage was only the beginning.

At the time, Hale was stationed at Fort Bragg. A few months later he deployed to Afghanistan’s Bagram Air Force Base. He would later learn that that while he was in Zuccotti Park, Barack Obama ordered a drone strike some 12,000 miles away in Yemen that killed Abdulrahman Anwar al-Awlaki, the 16-year-old son of the radical cleric and US citizen Anwar al-Awlaki, who had been killed by a drone strike two weeks earlier. The Obama administration claimed it was targeting the leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Ibrahim al-Banna, who it believed, incorrectly, was with the boy and his cousins, all of whom were also killed in the attack. That massacre of innocents became public, but there were thousands more such attacks that wantonly killed noncombatants that only Hale and those with top-security clearances knew about.

Starting in 2013, Hale, while working as a private contractor, leaked some 17 classified documents about the drone program to investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill, although the reporter is not named in court documents. The leaked documents, published by The Intercept on October 15, 2015, exposed that between January 2012 and February 2013, US special operations airstrikes killed more than 200 people. Of those, only 35 were the intended targets. For one five-month period of the operation, according to the documents, nearly 90 percent of the people killed in airstrikes were not the intended targets. The civilian dead, usually innocent bystanders, were routinely classified as “enemies killed in action.”

Hale was coerced by Biden’s Justice Department on March 31 to plead guilty to one count of violating the Espionage Act, a law passed in 1917 designed to prosecute those who passed on state secrets to a hostile power, not those who expose to the public government lies and crimes. Hale admitted as part of the plea deal to “retention and transmission of national security information” and leaking 11 classified documents to a journalist. He is being held in the Alexandria Adult Detention Center in Virginia, awaiting sentencing on July 27. If he had refused the plea deal, he could have spent 50 years in prison. He now faces up to a decade in prison.

Tragically, his case has not garnered the attention it should. When Nick Mottern, of the Ban Killer Drones campaign, accompanied artists projecting Hale’s image on downtown walls in Washington, D.C., he found that everyone he spoke to was unaware of Hale’s plight. Prominent human rights organizations, such as the ACLU and PEN, have largely remained silent and uninvolved. The group Stand with Daniel Hale has called on President Biden to pardon Hale and end the use of the Espionage Act to punish whistleblowers, mounted a letter-writing campaign to the judge to request leniency and is collecting donations for Hale’s legal fund.

“Daniel Hale is one of the most consequential whistleblowers,” Edward Snowden said on a May Day panel held at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst on the fiftieth anniversary of the release of the Pentagon Papers.  “He sacrificed everything — an incredibly courageous person — to tell us that the drone war, that, you know, is so obviously occurring to everyone else, but the government was still officially denying in so many ways, is here, it is happening, and 90 percent of the casualties in one five-month period were innocents or bystanders or not the target of the drone strike. We could not establish that, we could not prove that, without Daniel Hale’s voice.”

Speaking on Democracy Now! with host Amy Goodman a few weeks later, Daniel Ellsberg agreed that Hale “acted very admirably, in a way that very, very few officials have ever done in showing the moral courage to separate themselves from criminal activities and wrongful activities of their own administration, and resist them, as well as exposing them.”

Because Hale was charged under the Espionage Act, he, like other whistleblowers, including Chelsea Manning, Jeffrey Sterling, Thomas Drake and John Kiriakou, who spent two-and-a-half years in prison for exposing the routine torture of suspects held in black sites, was not permitted to explain his motivations and intent to the court. Nor could he provide evidence to the court that the drone assassination program killed and wounded large numbers of noncombatants, including children. He faced trial in the Eastern District of Virginia, much of whose population has links to the military or intelligence community, and whose courts have become notorious for their harsh sentences on behalf of the government.

Hale’s 2019 booking photo from the Nashville Police Department. Photo via AP

The 2012 “Living Under Drones” report by the Stanford International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic provides a detailed documentation of the human impact of US drone strikes in Pakistan. Drones often fire Hellfire missiles that are equipped with an explosive warhead of about 20 pounds. A Hellfire variant, known as the R9X, carries “an inert warhead,” The New York Times reported. Instead of exploding, it hurls about 100 pounds of metal through a vehicle. The missile’s other feature includes “six long blades tucked inside,” which deploy “seconds before impact to slice up anything in its path” — including, of course, people.

The numbers of civilian dead from US drone strikes run into the thousands, if not tens of thousands. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ), an independent journalist organization, for example, reported that from June 2004 through mid-September 2012, drone strikes killed between 2,562 and 3,325 people in Pakistan, of whom an estimated 474 to 881 were civilians, including 176 children.

Drones hover 24 hours a day in the skies over Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria. Without warning, the drones, operated remotely from Air Force bases as far away as Nevada, fire ordinance that obliterates homes and vehicles or kills whole groups of people in fields or attending community gatherings, funerals and weddings. The leaked banter of the young drone operators, who often treat the killings as if they are an enhanced video game, exposes the callousness of the indiscriminate killings. Drone operators refer to child victims of drone attacks as “fun-sized terrorists.”

“Ever step on ants and never give it another thought?” Michael Hass, a former drone operator for the Air Force told The Guardian.  “That’s what you are made to think of the targets — as just black blobs on a screen. You start to do these psychological gymnastics to make it easier to do what you have to do — they deserved it, they chose their side. You had to kill part of your conscience to keep doing your job every day — and ignore those voices telling you this wasn’t right.”

The ubiquitous presence of drones in the skies, and the awareness that at any moment these drones can kill you and your family, induces feelings of helplessness, anxiety and constant fear.

“Their presence terrorizes men, women, and children, giving rise to anxiety and psychological trauma among civilian communities,” the 2012 report reads of the drone war in Pakistan. “Those living under drones have to face the constant worry that a deadly strike may be fired at any moment and the knowledge that they are powerless to protect themselves. These fears have affected behavior. The US practice of striking one area multiple times, and evidence that it has killed rescuers, makes both community members and humanitarian workers afraid or unwilling to assist injured victims. Some community members shy away from gathering in groups, including important tribal dispute-resolution bodies, out of fear that they may attract the attention of drone operators. Some parents choose to keep their children home, and children injured or traumatized by strikes have dropped out of school.”

Drones have become killing machines that mete out random death and usually permanently cripple those victims who survive.

“The missiles fired from drones kill or injure in several ways, including through incineration, shrapnel, and the release of powerful blast waves capable of crushing internal organs,” the report reads.  “Those who do survive drone strikes often suffer disfiguring burns and shrapnel wounds, limb amputations, as well as vision and hearing loss.”

he 2012 “Living Under Drones” report by the Stanford International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic provides a detailed documentation of the human impact of US drone strikes in Pakistan. Drones often fire Hellfire missiles that are equipped with an explosive warhead of about 20 pounds. A Hellfire variant, known as the R9X, carries “an inert warhead,” The New York Times reported. Instead of exploding, it hurls about 100 pounds of metal through a vehicle. The missile’s other feature includes “six long blades tucked inside,” which deploy “seconds before impact to slice up anything in its path” — including, of course, people.

The numbers of civilian dead from US drone strikes run into the thousands, if not tens of thousands. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism (TBIJ), an independent journalist organization, for example, reported that from June 2004 through mid-September 2012, drone strikes killed between 2,562 and 3,325 people in Pakistan, of whom an estimated 474 to 881 were civilians, including 176 children.

Drones hover 24 hours a day in the skies over Iraq, Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria. Without warning, the drones, operated remotely from Air Force bases as far away as Nevada, fire ordinance that obliterates homes and vehicles or kills whole groups of people in fields or attending community gatherings, funerals and weddings. The leaked banter of the young drone operators, who often treat the killings as if they are an enhanced video game, exposes the callousness of the indiscriminate killings. Drone operators refer to child victims of drone attacks as “fun-sized terrorists.”

“Ever step on ants and never give it another thought?” Michael Hass, a former drone operator for the Air Force told The Guardian.  “That’s what you are made to think of the targets — as just black blobs on a screen. You start to do these psychological gymnastics to make it easier to do what you have to do — they deserved it, they chose their side. You had to kill part of your conscience to keep doing your job every day — and ignore those voices telling you this wasn’t right.”

The ubiquitous presence of drones in the skies, and the awareness that at any moment these drones can kill you and your family, induces feelings of helplessness, anxiety and constant fear.

“Their presence terrorizes men, women, and children, giving rise to anxiety and psychological trauma among civilian communities,” the 2012 report reads of the drone war in Pakistan. “Those living under drones have to face the constant worry that a deadly strike may be fired at any moment and the knowledge that they are powerless to protect themselves. These fears have affected behavior. The US practice of striking one area multiple times, and evidence that it has killed rescuers, makes both community members and humanitarian workers afraid or unwilling to assist injured victims. Some community members shy away from gathering in groups, including important tribal dispute-resolution bodies, out of fear that they may attract the attention of drone operators. Some parents choose to keep their children home, and children injured or traumatized by strikes have dropped out of school.”

Drones have become killing machines that mete out random death and usually permanently cripple those victims who survive.

“The missiles fired from drones kill or injure in several ways, including through incineration, shrapnel, and the release of powerful blast waves capable of crushing internal organs,” the report reads.  “Those who do survive drone strikes often suffer disfiguring burns and shrapnel wounds, limb amputations, as well as vision and hearing loss.”

Hale, now 33, always had doubts about the war, but he enlisted in 2009 when Obama assumed office. He hoped that Obama would undo the excesses and lawlessness of the Bush administration. Instead, Obama, a few weeks after he took office, approved the deployment of an additional 17,000 troops to Afghanistan where 36,000 U.S. troops and 32,000 NATO troops were already deployed. By the end of the year, Obama increased troop levels in Afghanistan again by 30,000, doubling U.S. casualties. He also massively expanded the drone program, raising the number of drone strikes from several dozen the year before he took office to 117 by his second year in office.  By the time he left office Obama had presided over the killing of at least 3,000 suspected militants and hundreds of civilians. He authorized what are known as “signature strikes” allowing the CIA to carry out drone attacks against groups of suspected militants without getting positive identification. He spread the footprint of the drone war, establishing drone bases in Saudi Arabia, Turkey and other overseas locations to expand attacks to Syria and Yemen. The Obama administration also indicted eight whistleblowers under the Espionage Act, more than all previous administrations combined. The Biden administration, like the Trump and Obama administrations, continues to launch widespread global drone strikes.

“Before I joined the military, I was well aware that what I was about to enter was something I was against, that I disagreed with,” Hale says in the 2016 documentary film “National Bird.” “I joined anyway out of desperation. I was homeless. I was desperate. I had nowhere else to go. I was on my last leg. The Air Force was ready to accept me.”

In the film, Hale alludes to a difficult and chaotic childhood.

“It’s kind of funny, a little ironic too, because so far I’m the only adult male in my entire family, immediate and external, who had not been to prison so far,” he says. “I come from a long lineage of prisoners, actually, a very proud tradition of fuck-ups who get drunk and go driving, or sell pot, or carry a gun when they shouldn’t be carrying a gun, in the wrong place at the wrong time, a lot of that where I’m from.”

He was assigned to the Joint Special Operations Command at Fort Bragg and underwent language and intelligence training. He worked for the National Security Agency (NSA) in Afghanistan as an intelligence analyst identifying targets for the drone program. His Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information (TS/SCI) security clearance gave him access to the vast, global drone war hidden from public view and Obama’s huge secret “kill lists.”

Jeremy Scahill, left, and Hale, discuss Scahill’s book, “Dirty Wars” at Busboys & Poets in Washington, DC, on June 8, 2013. Rhett Rebold | Vimeo

After leaving the Air Force in July 2013, Hale was employed by the private defense contractor National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency as a political geography analyst between December 2013 and August 2014. He said he took the job, which paid $80,000 a year, because he was in desperate need of money and hoped to go to college. But by then he was disgusted with the drone program and determined to make the public aware of its abuses and lawlessness. Inspired by the peace activist David Dellinger, he, like Dellinger, had decided to become a traitor to “the American way of death.” He would make amends for his complicity in the killings, even at the cost of his own security and freedom.

“When the president gets up in front of the nation and says they are doing everything they can to ensure there is near certainty there will be no civilians killed, he is saying that because he can’t say otherwise, because anytime an action is taken to finish a target there is a certain amount of guesswork in that action,” Hale says in the film. “It’s only in the aftermath of any kind of ordinance being dropped that you know how much actual damage was done. Oftentimes, the intelligence community is reliant, the Joint Special Operations Command, the CIA included, is reliant on intelligence coming afterwards that confirms that who they were targeting was killed in the strike, or that they weren’t killed in that strike.”

“The people who defend drones, and the way they are used, say they protect American lives by not putting them in harm’s way,” he says. “What they really do is embolden decision makers, because there is no threat, there is no immediate consequence. They can do this strike. They can potentially kill this person they are so desperate to eliminate because of how potentially dangerous they could be to the US. But if it just so happens that they don’t kill that person, or some other people involved in the strike get killed as well, there are no consequences for it. When it comes to high-value targets, every mission you go after one person at a time, but anybody else killed in that strike is blanketly assumed to be an associate of the targeted individual. So as long as they can reasonably identify that all of the people in the field view of the camera are military-aged males, meaning anybody who is believed to be age 16 or older, they are a legitimate target under the rules of engagement. If that strike occurs and kills all of them, they just say they got them all.”

Drones, he warns, make remote killing “too easy, too convenient.”

On August 8, 2014, the FBI raided his home. It was his last day of work for the private contractor. A male and female FBI agent shoved their badges in his face when he opened the door.

“Immediately behind them came about 20 agents, basically all of them with pistols drawn, some wearing body armor,” he says in the film. “At this point I was extremely scared. I did not understand what was going on. Altogether, there might have been at least 30 to 50 agents in and out of the house at different points throughout the evening taking photos of every room and everything, searching for different things.”

By the time they finished his house was stripped of all electronics, including his cell phone.

For the next five years he lived with the uncertainty of his fate. He struggled to find work, fought off depression and contemplated suicide. He was barred, by law, from speaking about his plight, even with a therapist. In 2019, the Trump administration indicted Hale on four counts of violating the Espionage Act and one count of theft of government property.

The thousands of targeted assassinations carried out by drones, often in countries that are not at war with the United States, are an egregious violation of international law. They are turning huge swathos of the planet against us. The secret kill lists, which include US citizens, have transformed the executive branch into judge, jury and executioner, obliterating the right to due process. Those that commit these killings are unaccountable. Hale sacrificed his career and his freedom to warn us. He is not a danger to the country. The danger we face comes from the secret drone program, which is spiraling out of control and ominously being adopted by domestic law enforcement agencies. If left unchecked, the terror we impose on others we will soon impose on ourselves.

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.

The post Chris Hedges: Bless the Traitors appeared first on MintPress News.

American Tax Dollars Financing Israeli Tourist Park Atop Historic Palestanin Neighborhood

OCCUPIED EAST JERUSALEM — Roughly 2.5 miles from Sheikh Jarrah — the Palestinian neighborhood that grabbed the world’s attention in May — lies Silwan. This neighborhood in Occupied East Jerusalem is perched atop the steep slopes just outside the Old City. Houses are tightly compacted and stacked on top of each other as they dip into the valley below. And here, Palestinian residents face the same fate as their brethren in Sheikh Jarrah.

Israeli forces raided the al-Bustan neighborhood in Silwan with bulldozers on June 29 — razing a butcher shop and dispersing Palestinian protesters defending their homes with tear gas, stun grenades, batons and rubber-coated steel bullets. At least 13 people were injured and six arrested including the owner of the butcher shop, Nidal al-Rajabi, and his sons and brothers.

In regard to the recent demolition, Norwegian Refugee Council’s Palestine country director, Caroline Ort, said in a press release, “Under the Fourth Geneva Convention, Israel has an obligation to protect civilians under its occupation and to refrain from destroying private property.”

Al-Rajabi’s store was destroyed on the pretext of lacking a building permit. Various human rights organizations involved in the issue state conflicting numbers, but according to Fakhri Abu Diab, spokesman for Silwan, 16 buildings in al-Bustan are also at immediate risk of being torn down. About 1,500 Palestinians live in more than a hundred houses in al-Bustan.

A woman documents a shop demolished by the Israeli government in Silwan, June 29, 2021. Maya Alleruzzo | AP

On June 7, two structures — including the butcher shop — received notices from the Municipality of Jerusalem to self-demolish their homes within 21 days or municipality authorities would do so and charge the residents the demolition fees, calculated at about $6,000.

Amy Cohen, director of International Relations and Advocacy at Ir Amim, a Jerusalem nonprofit, told MintPress News the second structure, a residential unit, has yet to receive a visit from municipality inspectors. Government officials typically come to a building with a pending demolition order to check whether it has already been demolished by the owners. If not, the inspectors then notify the residents that Israeli authorities will carry out the demolition within days, or even within 24 hours.


Discriminatory housing policies

According to Ir Amim, 68 homes in al-Bustan have pending demolition orders so as to execute the Jerusalem Municipality’s “King’s Garden” plan. The municipality outlined the initiative in 2010, stating:

The King’s Garden area [al-Bustan in Arabic] will be developed into a tourist and residential district. Commercial sections, restaurants, and art galleries will be built, turning it into a bustling tourist zone. For the first time, the local residents will have the legitimate right to live in this neighborhood.

The development plan has not moved forward since 2010, but the municipality’s recent objection to extending the demolition freeze suggests the plan could be reactivated.

In February, the Jerusalem Municipality filed an objection in the Local Affairs Court against al-Bustan residents’ request to extend the demolition freeze, arguing the proposed zoning plan for the area doesn’t follow proper guidelines and isn’t advancing quick enough. In March, the court ruled to extend the demolition freeze until August 15.

Negotiations have been ongoing between the municipality and the residents to develop a suitable zoning plan for al-Bustan since 2005. In 2009, the residents’ plan was rejected by the municipality in favor of the King’s Garden Plan.

According to Murad Abu Shafee, an al-Bustan resident who received a demolition order, the municipality told the residents, “This structure plan can’t happen in Israel. This might happen in Europe or any Arab country, but not here.”

“Our plan was very modern and it doesn’t fit with the Israeli government’s standards for East Jerusalem,” Abu Shafee explained. “[Israel] doesn’t want us to have a modern neighborhood. They want us always to be below the line.”

Despite the local court’s ruled extension, 20 demolition cases (including the butcher shop’s order) were excluded from the freeze due to the Israeli Kaminitiz Law — known as Amendment 116 to Israel’s Planning and Building Law — which was fully enacted in 2019. This legislation intensifies enforcement against unauthorized construction and allows for little legal intervention in preventing demolitions of structures built after 2017. The amendment has been partially frozen since 2020 amid ongoing discussions with Palestinian parliamentary members in the Israeli government.

A man watches Israeli police advance on people protesting a building demolition in their neighborhood in the Silwan, June 29, 2021. Maya Alleruzzo | AP

In a statement to MintPress, the Jerusalem Municipality said:

There is no intention to build a ‘biblical garden’ in the area. This is a false claim. The area is designated for gardens and parks for the benefit of the local residents of Silwan.

The vast majority of demolition orders in Al-Bustan are suspended. There are a very few demolition orders that the court has recently decided to unfreeze. It should be emphasized that these orders are old. No new orders [were] issued whatsoever.

As to the execution [of] these orders, the municipality is obliged to act in accordance with the law and with the court rulings. We are still studying the latest ruling profoundly, and will decide on our next steps according to the situation on the ground.

The municipality noted that al-Bustan is designated as a green area because of its location near the Kidron River. Jeff Halper, director of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, explained that when Israel annexed East Jerusalem in 1967 following the Six-Day War, it declared the entirety of East Jerusalem as open, green space, meaning the area is frozen for future building.

Halper pointed out the hypocrisy of this development policy in how Israel treats settlement building versus Palestinian building, explaining:

Today, more than a hundred thousand Israelis live in East Jerusalem in these big settlements. But if East Jerusalem was frozen 100 percent for building, then how did you get all that building for Israelis? The answer is Israel rezones for Jewish settlements. But when a Palestinian wants to build, [the government] says, ‘Sorry, this area isn’t zoned for residential development but for open, green space. So, it’s really the use of bureaucracy and law and planning as tools of control.”

Construction in al-Bustan was done primarily by Palestinian residents themselves on their own land, but often without the necessary building permits. Ir Amim’s Cohen explained this is mostly owing to a lack of viable zoning plans rather than the municipality’s flat-out rejection of building permits:

With the absence of an outline plan, residents are precluded from acquiring the permits. You either have a lack of a zoning plan or you have such outdated zoning plans, which are from say 30 to 40 years ago, that it’s impossible to then receive building permits. And this is a very acute way that the Israeli authorities have neglected their municipal responsibility to provide this service.”

“Since 1967, this has been a means to suppress Palestinian building and planning within Palestinian areas,” Cohen concluded.


American tax dollars financing settler activity

Silwan is located in the Holy Basin—an  area coveted by religious settlers for its proximity to the Old City and alleged connections to King David. Ir David or Elad settler organization runs the City of David National Park in the al-Bustan area. Since the 1990s, Elad has sought to transform Silwan into a symbol of Jewish biblical past. Al-Bustan is specifically targeted because it stands as an obstacle to achieving Ir David’s vision of a biblical paradise.

Elad’s actions aren’t focused solely on building settlements but also on promoting archaeological excavations, tourist attractions and parks. According to the Foundation for Middle East Peace’s report on al-Bustan, the settlers’ goals became the official policy of the Israeli government in 2005 when then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s government approved plans to develop the Holy Basin area.

Revealed: The American Money Entwined with Israel’s Jewish Terrorist Groups

“In essence, the DNA of Elad’s biblical ideology became the DNA of the Government of Israel in and around the Old City, with [the] Government outsourcing many of its authorities to Elad in order to pursue these objectives,” FMEP wrote in its report. “The lines between government and the settlers became so blurred that they almost disappeared.”

Quteibah Odeh — whose family faces displacement in al-Bustan and in Batan al-Hawa, another neighborhood in Silwan and settler target — described the deep interconnections between settlers and the Israeli government, citing as an example that Arieh King is Jerusalem’s deputy mayor but is also a notorious settler leader responsible for displacing Sheikh Jarrah residents. “These settler organizations are the people running the government,” Odeh said. “They receive full support from the military and any ministry and municipality.”

Israeli police attack a Palestinian man in the Silwan neighborhood of East Jerusalem, June 4, 2021. Maya Alleruzzo | AP

Ir David isn’t just supported by the Israeli government but also backed by American money. Ir David’s sister nonprofit in the U.S., Friends of Ir David, secures tax-exempt donations for the organization.

According to a January investigation by MintPress News, the Hertog Foundation, Irving I. Moskowitz Foundation, Adelson Family Foundation, Mindel Foundation, Samueli Foundation, Jay and Jeanie Schottenstein Foundation, and the Jewish Communal Fund have all donated to Friends of Ir David. The organization’s biggest contributors are the Irving I Moskowitz and Adelson Family Foundations. In 2018, the Irving I. Moskowitz Foundation gave Friends of Ir David $1.5 million and the Adelson Family Foundation contributed about $3 million.

The Ir David Foundation did not respond to a request for comment.


U.S. Congress members speak out

Israel’s forcible displacement of East Jerusalem Palestinians has caught the attention of the international community, including the U.S. government. On July 1, Illinois Representative Marie Newman delivered a speech on the House floor, urging President Joe Biden’s administration to intervene and stop the ongoing demolitions.

We’ve seen disturbing reports of demolition orders for Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem.

No one should ever be forcibly removed from their home.

I spoke today on the house floor to urge the Biden admin to do everything in their power to stop these evictions and demolitions.

— Congresswoman Marie Newman (@RepMarieNewman) July 1, 2021

“Today I rise on behalf of the thousands of Palestinian families in the West Bank that face the prospect of eviction, demolition and displacement from their homes by the Israeli government,” the Democratic congresswoman said. “We have received word that demolition orders have already begun for homes in the al-Bustan neighborhood of Silwan in East Jerusalem.”

In the face of international condemnations, Silwan spokesman Abu Diab said the recent demolition in al-Bustan demonstrates Israel’s willingness to go against these objections. He elaborated in a statement:

People know members of Congress are speaking out about these issues, yet [the demolition of the butcher shop] proved to the community that Israel is prepared to defy the international community, including members of the U.S. Congress. They assert, yet again, that demolitions and forcible displacement, including Israeli court-ordered evictions, are against international law, are codified as war crimes, and that the occupying power, Israel, has a duty to protect those under its occupation.

The residents of Silwan therefore call on the international community to uphold their third state responsibility, to call on Israel to cease forthwith such illegal policies, with real accountability being the price for any further demolitions or evictions.

As in Sheikh Jarrah, Palestinians remain steadfast against Israel’s ongoing ethnic cleansing efforts. Demonstrations against the demolitions occur daily, Silwan resident Odeh said, adding:

These are our houses. Our parents, our grandparents and our great grandparents have lived here. We have memories, we have history and the people are the past, the present and the future.”

Feature photo | Israeli authorities demolish a Palestinian shop in Al-Bustan area of Silwan, Jerusalem, June 29, 2021. Photo | Activestills

Jessica Buxbaum is a Jerusalem-based journalist for MintPress News covering Palestine, Israel, and Syria. Her work has been featured in Middle East Eye, The New Arab and Gulf News.

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Did Business Insider Censor My Lab Leak Article?

WASHINGTON (Substack // Alex Rubinstein) — Demonstrating the mainstream media’s aversion to publishing alternative foreign policy views, my contract with Business Insider was put in the shredder before they published a single word of mine on their website. The whole process began and ended quicker than a CIA orchestrated interim presidency.

It took a little more than one month for the company to offer me a contract, refuse to publish my first article, and then axe their contract with the only anti-imperialist contributor to their opinion section — and presumably the only one with any relationship with their website. It’s more evidence that the mainstream media is utterly beholden to the interests of empire to the point where it is no less controlled than that of paper under the domain of a one-party, so-called authoritarian state — and I clearly had no place in this kind of professional milieu.

While my writing attracted the attention of an editor at the company responsible for scouting contributors, it appears somebody at the top at Business Insider, a subsidiary of the largest digital publishing house in Europe, Axel Springer, ordered my termination.

As Max Blumenthal, editor-in-chief of The Grayzone has previously reported, Axel Springer employees have been required to “support the vital rights of the State of Israel,” “uphold the principles of a free social market economy” and “support the Transatlantic Alliance and maintain solidarity with the United States of America in the common values of free nations.”

A still-active version of the company’s code of conduct reproduces much of this language and is screenshotted below.

As alternative journalists and platforms continue to gain even larger user bases and followings, it seems that Business Insider was keen to get in on the action and may have reached out to me for that reason. Yet the archaic corporate structure is evidently stacked with barriers in place preventing any young and open-minded editors from tapping into this new energy.

On May 28, I was contacted by an Associate Editor at Business Insider whose name I will be leaving out of this article as I do not believe they had anything to do with the company killing my article and then severing our contract.

I was told through a direct message on Twitter from the Associate Editor that “I’ve been following your writing. I’m reaching out because we’re interested in having you write regular opinion pieces for us as a contributing writer. We think your perspective and reporting would be a valuable addition to our opinion section.”

“Types of pieces we’d be interested in include critiques of US foreign policy decisions, nuanced takes about international news topics that have a global or US-centered appeal, and pieces that make the argument for why readers should care about an impactful, but under-covered topic,” they wrote, adding “It would be a pleasure to work with you!”

In short notice, I was offered a contract to write one opinion article per month for $500. The contract was for six months.

I was quite shocked by all of this but grateful nonetheless. They told me they have “325 million readers and 225 million followers on social [media],” so it was an excellent opportunity to present my work to new audiences.

When I was getting started as a journalist, I took a job with RT (formerly Russia Today) and I have also contributed to a couple widely-read independent outlets under constant attack like The Grayzone and MintPress News. My first in-person interview with RT was on my 23rd birthday. By the time I left the company, Donald Trump was president and RT was falsely blamed by the mainstream media and US intelligence agencies for helping to make that happen, though their real crime was not being sufficiently duteous to Hillary Clinton. I figured by that point I was blacklisted from most publications.

So when Business Insider approached me, I was happy to take it; not that I love or even consume mainstream media, but it was good money, representing a 50 percent increase to my monthly income as I try to save up for my wedding next Spring.

I also figured that I would rather write for a mainstream publication that doesn’t hide that fact than a supposedly left-wing outlet which carries water for the imperialism of the White House and State Department (and most critically, Langley), the kind of outlets many of my contemporaries are employed by.

In my interview with Business Insider, I explicitly stated that I want to be allowed to critically challenge key narratives of US foreign policy and I was told that this is exactly what they wanted from me.

I made a couple of pitches and was asked to elaborate on one of them, which challenged the theory that the coronavirus originated at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in China. And so I wrote a longer version of my pitch via email to the Associate Editor who responded to it saying “I’ll chat with the team today and get back to you.”

Some hours later, I was told “After chatting with the team, we are good to move forward on this idea.”

So I wrote my article. It was then edited by the Associate Editor. They passed it on to a “Commentary Editor,” whom I assume leads the team. According to the Google Document, the Commentary Editor stopped editing several paragraphs in.

I was then told by the Associate Editor that “I have bad news. We won’t be able to run this piece due to a conflict with some internal projects.”

This empty response seemed spurious to me but not surprising.

It did strike me as ironic that there has been quite a bit of outcry that the mainstream media allegedly censored the lab leak theory when my article pushing back on the lab leak theory was apparently censored.

Contractually I was able to still publish my article, which can be read here. Many of the more biting bits were not present in the original version Business Insider was going to publish.

For my latest on Substack, I examined how discredited warmongers are pushing the idea that the coronavirus came from the Wuhan Institute of Virology to provoke further Great Power Competition while ignoring scientific basics

— Alex Rubinstein (@RealAlexRubi) June 28, 2021

What my version for Business Insider did do, however, was showcase the role of the intelligence community in mainstreaming the lab leak theory with help from a handful of journalistic hacks at major publications with documented records of pushing bad intelligence to manufacture consent for imperialist aggression against official enemies. I also questioned why the Biden Administration has tasked the intelligence community with investigating the virus’ origin rather than US or international health authorities. Unsurprisingly, this kind of criticism of the intelligence community’s actions today remains third rail.

Nonetheless, I responded to the Associate Editor that I would like to know when I can make more pitches.

They told me to check back next week. I did on Tuesday, July 6th. On Thursday the 8th, the Associate Editor wrote back: “I know we just signed you on, but the team’s focus has shifted, and unfortunately we are no longer able to continue the relationship.”

In a flash, my contract was cancelled with the company with yet another boilerplate and probably bogus justification.

“We should’ve had things in order on our end to prevent this from happening, and for that I apologize,” the Associate Editor wrote. The stunning lack of professionalism from the company aside, I doubt it was the Associate Editor who made this call. Rather I believe that somebody at the top of the chain threw a wrench down and told their subordinates to get rid of me; that I was not somebody who should be published. Why else would a publication hire me to write opinion articles then decide that my opinions were not in-line with their vision?

Through my contributions to The Grayzone, a publication under constant attack by the mainstream press for exposing their deceptions and the deceptions of the empire they serve, I have broke stories that are damaging to the Democratic Party; for example exposing how media darling Pete Buttigieg likely worked with the CIA in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, my work for the similarly maligned MintPress News has blown the lid off major foreign destabilization operations, like the wealthy right-wing forces that mobilized to try to overtake the Venezuelan embassy in Washington DC and the US government’s funding of activist groups leading the riots in Hong Kong. Alongside Grayzone editor Max Blumenthal, I also authored a three-part investigation on how billionaire eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, who owns The Intercept and other publications, is funding a large part of the left media landscape from fact-checking organizations to press freedom groups and more while also being effectively a functionary of the intelligence community.

The first part of three in an investigative series by myself and @MaxBlumenthal for @MintPressNews is out.

Pierre Omidyar’s Influence Empire: How One of America’s Premier Data Monarchs is Funding a Global Information War and Shaping the Media Landscape

— Alex Rubinstein (@RealAlexRubi) February 18, 2019

This is the kind of reporting that can make you persona-non-grata in both mainstream and left-leaning media.

So the whole saga turned out to be something I more-or-less expected from the moment I was contacted by the Associate Editor. Except it was an even more pathetic reflection on the state of mainstream media than I anticipated.

I had assumed that after publishing an article or two with them, the coterie of anti-anti-imperialist journalistic hacks who try to have everyone who has ever pushed back on the dirty war in Syria cancelled would realize that I was being published by a mainstream website and then commence a smear-filled pressure campaign to have me fired.

It didn’t even make it that far.

As I have written on Twitter, I am hoping to be in a position where I can write for Substack full time at the end of this year. I was optimistic that my contract with Business Insider would help make that possible, because I love investigating and writing about the kinds of things the mainstream media won’t tell you.

At this point, that goal will be much more difficult for me to realize as I have little time currently to invest in my Substack and no savings to serve as a safety net. However, this incident with Business Insider only further demonstrates the corrupted state of mainstream media and highlights the importance of platforms like Substack.

With the news cycles programmed by a handful of companies towing the same line as the intelligence community on every international issue of the day, anti-imperialist voices are a kryptonite to the establishment that must be avoided at all costs.

This story affirms my belief that the most cancellable offense in today’s media landscape is challenging the narratives of United States imperialism.

Feature photo | A security person moves journalists away from the Wuhan Institute of Virology after a World Health Organization team arrived for a field visit in Wuhan in China’s Hubei province. Ng Han Guan | AP

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 Did Business Insider Censor My Lab Leak Article? appeared first on MintPress News.

Suspected Assassins of Haitian President Moïse Trained by US, Linked to Pro-Coup Oligarchy

PORT AU PRINCE, HAITI — As shock grips the Caribbean island nation of Haiti following the assassination of President Jovenel Moïse, the Haitian government has carried out a campaign to arrest suspects it alleges are responsible for the murder.

Haitian Director of National Police Leon Charles announced at a press conference that the assassination squad that killed Moise is comprised of 28 foreigners, including two Haitian-Americans and 26 Colombian nationals. Fifteen of those Colombians have been detained while three were killed in a gun battle and eight remain fugitives. Colombian Defense Minister Diego Molano has admitted that some of the Colombians are retired military personnel. Among them are at least one highly decorated soldier who received training from the United States and another who has been implicated in the murder of Colombian civilians.


Ties to oligarchs

The Haitian-Americans have been identified as James Solages, 35, and Joseph Vincent, 55. Solages lives in Fort Lauderdale where he is the CEO of EJS Maintenance & Repair and runs a nonprofit group, the website of which has since been scrubbed of information. Prior to relocating to Florida, he lived in the southern Haitian coastal city of Jacmel.

According to The Washington Post, Solages’ Facebook profile, which has since been removed, listed him as the chief commander of bodyguards for the Canadian Embassy in Haiti. The Canadaian Embassy confirmed that Solages previously worked as a security guard. While in Florida, Solages was an “avid and vocal supporter of former President Michel Martelly,” the founder of Moïse’s Haitian Baldheaded Party (PHTK), according to Tony Jean-Thénor, leader of the Veye Yo popular organization in Miami, founded by the late Father Gérard Jean-Juste.


Photos of James Solages and an armored military vehicle that he posted to his now-removed Facebook page

The Haitian Times reported Solages also used to work as a security guard for both Reginald Boulos and Dimitri Vorbe, two prominent members of Haiti’s tiny bourgeoisie. Although initially friendly to him, they both became bitter opponents of Moïse. Boulos was also a prominent supporter of previous coups in 1991 and 2004 against President Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

The Boulos family is one of the wealthiest in Haiti and owns a pharmaceutical company that, in 1996, was responsible for poisoning scores of children with its tainted fever medicine, some fatally. Since the July 6-8, 2018 national uprising against the IMF-dictated hike of fuel prices, Boulos has attempted to recast himself as a popular and progressive figure (after one of his stores was burned and looted), heading a political party called the Third Way Movement (MTV).

Vorbe is the executive director and vice president of Société Générale d’Énergie SA, one of the largest private energy companies in Haiti which had a sweet-heart deal providing power to the energy grid that Moïse sought to renegotiate after the collapse of the PetroCaribe program, under which Venezuela provided Haiti with cheap oil and credit from 2008 to 2018.

Many believe Boulos is the intellectual author and financial backer of Moïse’s murder.

“Solage’s employment by Boulos and centrality to the operation appears to confirm the growing popular consensus in Haiti that this controversial merchant-turned-politician was the principal backer of Moïse’s assassination,” explained journalist Kim Ives, continuing:

A lot of factors have been pointing to his involvement: The arrival of the mercenaries in nine brand new Nissan Patrol vehicles without license plates suggests that they were vehicles coming from the Nissan dealership owned by Reginald Boulos. The Haitian people have already concluded that Boulous was behind the assassination and have dechoukéed [uprooted] the dealership, Automeca, that he owned.”


Colombian assassin trained by the U.S.

While the Haitian-Americans reportedly served as translators, the muscle of the assassination squad came from Colombia, the U.S.’s top regional ally, which serves as a platform for destabilization and regime change plots in the region, from Venezuela to Ecuador – and now apparently Haiti.

The most prominent member of the hit squad is Manuel Antonio Grosso Guarín, a 41-year-old former special operations commando who retired from the military as a member of the Simón Bolívar No. 1 infantry battalion on December 31, 2019. According to the Colombian newspaper La Semana, Grosso “had several special combat courses, had been a member of the special forces and anti-guerrilla squads, and was known for being a skilled paratrooper who flew through the air without fear.”

Grosso is pictured in the rear (blue jeans) being moved following a press in Port-au-Prince, July 8, 2021. Joseph Odelyn | AP

In 2013, Grosso was assigned to the Urban Anti-Terrorist Special Force group, a secretive elite military detachment dedicated to counter-terrorism operations and carrying out kidnappings and assassinations (euphemistically known as ‘high value target acquisition and elimination’). This branch of the military is also tasked with providing security to VIP figures from the Colombian president to U.S. presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush.

“He was one of the most prepared,” a source remarked to La Semana.

Among Grosso’s preparations was special command instruction from the United States military, which supplies training and weapons to the Colombia military, one of the most repressive armed forces in the region and one that works to secure international corporate interests and drug trafficking routes.

“How many false positives (see the following paragraph), how many social leaders, how many signers of the peace accord, will be on this man?” left-wing Colombian Senator Gustavo Bolivar commented on Twitter.

Cuántos falsos positivos, cuántos lideres sociales, cuántos firmantes del Acuerdo de Paz tendrá este hombre encima?#VerguenzaMundial

— Gustavo Bolívar (@GustavoBolivar) July 9, 2021

Grosso was joined by Francisco Eladio Uribe Ochoa, who had retired from the Colombian Army in 2019, according to the Colombian newspaper El Tiempo. Eladio Uribe’s wife told the newspaper that he had been investigated for participation in the execution of civilians — a practice known as “false positives,” in which the Colombian military lured at least 6,402 civilians, murdered them, and dressed them in guerrilla fatigues in order to inflate their kill numbers. This gruesome practice helped military commanders reach lofty kill-count quotas set by the United States and was incentivized with bonus pay and vacation time for soldiers who carried out the killings.

Though Eladio Uribe’s wife said that he had been exonerated, his name has appeared in a file of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, a court formed out of the 2016 peace accord, which has investigated several thousand cases of false positives that the Colombian government had not previously admitted. Eladio Uribe is one of two soldiers accused in the 2008 murder of Luis Carlos Cárdenas in the village of Chorros Blancos in Antioquia region.

Other alleged members of the hit squad alleged to have killed Moïse include:

  • Duberney Capador Giraldo, a retired Deputy First Sergeant (killed in a gun battle in Haiti)
  • ​​Alejandro Giraldo Zapata
  • John Jairo Ramírez Gómez
  • Víctor Albeiro Piñera

Of the 28 total people who allegedly participated in the assassination, four of the Colombians arrived in Haiti on June 6, 2021. Grosso arrived in the Dominican city of Punta Cana and crossed the land border into Haiti two days later. Photos show him and other suspects at popular tourist sites in the Dominican Republic.

A photo of Grosso, left, along with some of the other suspects posing in Haiti posted to Grosso’s Facebook page


Unanswered questions and a growing consensus

Questions also remain about why Moïse’s security team failed to protect him, and if any of its members were complicit in the murder. Dimitri Herard, the head of the General Security Unit of the National Palace, is under investigation by the United States government for arms trafficking, according to the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR). While there is no evidence (but many rumors) linking him to the murder, “Herard is one of the individuals most responsible for the safety of the president.”

While the Haitian government has identified what appear to be Moïse’s assassins, there is still no hard evidence — just circumstantial — linking them to Boulos and possibly even Vorbe. Nonetheless, “there is a growing consensus that Reginald Boulous, for whom an arrest warrant [was] issued last week, paid for the mercenaries,” according to Ives. “It appears to be becoming more and more evident that the sector of the Haitian bourgeois, with whom Jovenel Moïse was at war, are intimately linked to his assassination.”

As the investigation into Moïse’s murder unfolds, the U.S. appears to be preparing the groundwork to deploy troops to Haiti at the request of a figure whom it has spent decades grooming. According to The New York Times, Claude Joseph, who is in a struggle against Dr. Ariel Henry to head the Haitian state in the wake of Moïse’s assassination, requested the U.S. send military forces to guard key infrastructure, including the port, airport, and gasoline reserves. White House Spokeswoman Jen Psaki announced that the U.S. would reinforce U.S. personnel in Haiti with FBI and DHS deployments.

CIA's NED created fake student movement GRAFNEH in #Haiti in the 2000s, which partnered with the bourgeoisie mafia to destabilize/destroy the nascent and promising democracy the poor majority fought to establish. Current de facto puppet PM Claude Joseph was one of NED's minions.

— Madame Boukman – Justice 4 Haiti (@madanboukman) July 4, 2021

Joseph is an asset of the United States and its regime-change arm, the National Endowment For Democracy. Wikileaks cables revealed that he first came to prominence in 2003 as the leader of a NED-spawned student front called GRAFNEH in the lead up to the coup against President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. He also founded another NED-funded anti-Aristide group Initiative Citoyenne (Citizens’ Initiative). He is reported by Haitian radio stations to have been, with prominent Haitian ex-Deputy Gary Bodeau, one of the principal assailants who severely beat the late Father Gérard Jean-Juste in a Pétionville church in 2005.

Jean-Juste, perhaps the most prominent supporter and surrogate of the then exiled-in-South-Africa President Aristide, had been falsely accused of involvement in the killing of his own cousin, Jacques Roche, a writer.

“Essentially, we have a U.S. puppet asking his puppeteer to invade Haiti for the fourth time in just over a century,” Ives concluded. “But both the region and, above all, the Haitian people are sick and tired of U.S. military interventions, which are largely responsible for the nation’s current debilitated, critical state both economically and politically. Much of the most oppressed neighborhoods are now heavily armed and have already announced a revolution against the likes of Boulos, so the U.S.-led invaders of 2021 are likely to face a resistance similar to that which emerged against the U.S. Marines in 1915 and UN ‘peace-keepers’ in 2004, only more ferocious.”

Feature photo | Suspects in the assassination of Haiti’s President Jovenel Moise are shown to the media, along with the weapons and equipment they allegedly used in the attack, at the General Direction of the police in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, July 8, 2021. Joseph Odelyn | AP

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.

The post Suspected Assassins of Haitian President Moïse Trained by US, Linked to Pro-Coup Oligarchy appeared first on MintPress News.

“Unchallenged Orientalism”: Why Liberals Suddenly Love the Lab Leak Theory

WUHAN, CHINA — The theory that the COVID-19 pandemic began life in a Chinese laboratory is going viral. Once considering it an anti-science conspiracy theory, the corporate press has done a full 180° turn — and many progressive, alternative media figures are following in its footsteps.

Progressive news show “The Young Turks” recorded what was effectively an apology video to their audience, explaining their new direction. “It does appear that there is some indication that a lab leak in Wuhan, China, is the origin of the coronavirus pandemic,” host Ana Kasparian told viewers. Condemning the scientific journal The Lancet, co-host Cenk Uygur explained that he had falsely placed his faith in scientists with political motives who had led him astray. Writing in The Guardian, left-wing commentator Thomas Frank flagellated himself for his “complacency” in believing the idea was a far-right conspiracy theory. The lab leak is “the most likely explanation for the origin of COVID-19,” neo-lib Saagar Enjeti told his mostly progressive viewership of “Rising,” announcing that, from now on, we should be “ten times more skeptical of the Chinese government.”

This new change in outlook for so many progressive media outlets is not based on new evidence. Rather, it appears to be a result of two new articles and a change in stance from the Biden administration itself. In early May, The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists republished a Medium blog post by controversial science writer Nicholas Wade. In an 11,000-word essay, Wade claims that Wuhan itself is simply far too far away from Yunnan Province — where coronavirus-carrying bats make their home — for it to be the natural source of COVID-19. The most logical explanation, Wade asserts, is that the virus escaped from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

Wade claims that the virus’s furin cleavage site —  a point on the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 where the protein can more easily divide to better infiltrate and take over human cells — must be man-made, as no such site exists in natural coronaviruses. He also notes the previously undisclosed conflict of interests that zoologist Peter Daszak has. Daszak was an organizer of the 2020 Lancet letter signed by dozens of top scientists calling the lab leak hypothesis a “conspiracy theory.” However, he did not disclose that his company, the EcoHealth Alliance, has links to the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

A view of the P4 lab and the Wuhan Institute of Virology is seen in China’s Hubei province, Feb. 3, 2021. Ng Han Guan | AP

Later that month, The Wall Street Journal released a report alleging that three employees of the Wuhan Institute of Virology came down with flu- or COVID-like symptoms in November 2019 and sought treatment in hospital. Although based solely on anonymous accusations from U.S. officials who refused to go on record, the story went viral and was picked up by a wide range of outlets, including Reuters, The Guardian, Forbes, NBC News, Business Insider, CNN, The New York Post, Yahoo News and The Hill.

Adding some intellectual weight to the theory was a letter published in Science Magazine, in which some 20 academics wrote that further inquiry into the source of the pandemic was necessary (although many, including its chief organizer, were at pains to state elsewhere they were highly skeptical of the lab-leak conspiracy). And after Dr. Anthony Fauci said he was “not convinced” of COVID-19’s natural origin, the Biden administration abruptly changed its position, the President ordering an intelligence-services investigation into the idea, launching the lab leak theory from a discredited fringe idea to an official position with surprising rapidity.

Professor David Robertson — Head of Viral Genomics and Bioinformatics at the University of Glasgow, U.K. — told MintPress:

It’s not very clear, given the lack of new (or any) credible evidence for a lab leak, why it’s been getting so much attention. There was a letter published in Science in May that quite sensibly supports the need for further investigation but this seems to have been hijacked by a vocal minority who are essentially advocates for a lab being involved as opposed to looking at the broader range of possibilities, and what the available evidence points towards.”

In addition to mainstream outlets like The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal, a host of alternative media figures have lent credibility to Wade, basing their new opinions on his work. On the “Bad Faith” podcast with former Bernie Sanders Press Secretary Briahna Joy Gray, Thomas Frank described Wade’s article as an “incredible piece of journalism,” “quite impressive” and “the likeliest explanation.” Gray appeared to agree, the two having a long conversation about the origins of COVID-19 as if Wade’s thesis has effectively been proven correct. Journalist Michael Tracey wrote that Wade’s words prove the theory is “highly plausible.” Current Affairs Editor-in-Chief Nathan J. Robinson praised Wade’s report, agreeing that it is “at the very least, a spectacular coincidence” that COVID-19 exploded so close to the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

Meanwhile, Enjeti based a segment called “Media’s Lab Leak Failure Is the Next Iraq WMD” on the Wall Street Journal article, telling viewers that the lab leak theory is now “the most likely explanation for the origin of COVID-19.” Popular writer Matt Taibbi also took The Wall Street Journal’s accusations at face value, claiming that “the toothpaste [is] fully out of the tube: there [is] no longer any way to say the ‘lab origin’ hypothesis [is] too silly to be reported upon.”


A theory resting on shaky ground

What is particularly worrying in all this is that there are huge, gaping flaws in the analysis. First, Wade is not some neutral expert but a discredited, racist pseudoscientist. His 2014 book, “A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History,” contends that humanity could be broken down genetically into three distinct groups — Africans, Caucasians and East Asians — and that each are sufficiently genetically distinct from each other as to qaulify as subspecies. He argued that Caucasians’ genes could explain “the rise of the West” and that African nations are poorer because they are inherently more violent and lazy, writing: “Variations in their nature, such as their time preference, work ethic and propensity to violence, have some bearing on the economic decisions [Africans] make.” Laughably, he later speculates that Asian women have smaller breasts because that is what is “much admired by Asian men.”

Nicholas Wade, next to the Chinese edition of his seminal work, “A Troublesome Inheritance.”

Perhaps his most controversial claim, however, is that Jewish people have evolved to be genetically predisposed to hoard money, writing:

From a glance at an Eskimo’s physique, it is easy to recognize an evolutionary process at work that has molded the human form for better survival in an arctic environment. Populations that live at high altitudes, like Tibetans, represent another adaptation to extreme environments; in this case, the changes in blood cell regulation are less visible but have been identified genetically. The adaptation of Jews to capitalism is another such evolutionary process.

The book was universally panned by scientists but was acclaimed by a host of neo-Nazi figures. Former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan David Duke, for instance, hailed the work as a “fascinating insight into how Jewish Supremacists attempt to guard the gates of scientific debate.” Of all the many alternative media figures praising Wade’s new revelations about Wuhan, only Robinson mentioned his past. Why a respected organization like The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists published such a person remains a mystery; MintPress asked the Bulletin for clarification but has not received an answer.

Wade’s pseudoscientific claims about the coronavirus furin might have been enough to convince progressive media stars who have no background in the field (as Frank wrote: “I am no expert in epidemics”). But they cannot fool trained scientists, who have hit back.

Virologists Angela L. Rasmussen and Stephen A. Goldstein counter that the furin site of SARS-CoV-2 has odd features that no human would ever design, making it “overwhelmingly likely” that it is natural in origin. Its sequence is suboptimal, meaning that it is relatively inefficient, bearing the hallmarks of “sloppy natural evolution.” “Any skilled virologist hoping to give a virus new properties this way would insert a furin site known to be more efficient,” they conclude.

Furthermore, the Wuhan Institute of Virology’s proximity to the outbreak is not inherently suspicious. Wuhan is a gigantic metropolis, larger than any city in the United States. It is an enormous transport and business hub situated in an area well-known for outbreaks of similar diseases and is, therefore, a natural choice for a research facility such as this. Yet there is a tendency in the West to think of it as some obscure village dominated by a virology lab. There is a myriad of laboratories in Los Angeles conducting not altogether dissimilar research. Yet if an epidemic were to break out there, it is unlikely that a natural origin would be so easily dismissed.

The SARS outbreak of the early 2000s was sparked in the markets of Guangdong, a similar distance from Yunnan as is Wuhan, with few at the time raising any eyebrows. Epidemics and pandemics usually begin in large cities as “pathogens often require heavily populated areas to become established,” one scientific study reminds us.

That is why it is particularly problematic that liberal icons like John Stewart and Stephen Colbert can ridicule the zoonotic transfer hypothesis believed by the vast majority of scientists to be the most likely explanation. “There’s been an outbreak of chocolatey goodness near Hershey, Pennsylvania. What do you think happened?” Stewart joked to an audience of millions. “Maybe it’s the fucking chocolate factory!”

If anything, The Wall Street Journal article is more suspect, given that it is based on nothing but anonymous state officials who refuse to share the evidence or go on the record. National security state operatives are among the least trustworthy sources it is possible to encounter, journalistically speaking, as it is part of their job to plant false information in order to alter public discourse. The only group less deserving of blind faith than natsec officials would be anonymous natsec officials. Yet many of the biggest and most embarrassing media blunders in recent years have been based on dodgy data from shadowy spooks feeding dubious intelligence to credulous dupes in the press.

Without a name to match a quote, a story’s credibility immediately drops, as there are no repercussions for the individual if they are untruthful. Sources (or journalists themselves, for that matter) could simply make up anything they wanted with no consequences. Therefore, using anonymous sources is strongly discouraged. The Society of Professional Journalists’ code of ethics insists reporters “identify sources whenever feasible” and that journalists must “always question sources’ motives before promising anonymity.”

Even worse, The Wall Street Journal article’s lead author is Michael R. Gordon, the reporter infamous for co-authorship of a notorious 2002 New York Times article claiming Saddam Hussein was seeking to build weapons of mass destruction, a piece widely credited as a keystone of the push to invade Iraq the following year. For that article, Gordon also relied upon anonymous state officials. That figures in alternative media are blindly repeating his evidence-free assertions while invoking the Iraq WMD scandal, as Enjeti did, is profoundly ironic.

Gordon, famous for co-authoring a notorious NYT article peddling the now-debunked Iraqi WMD claims, is a major proponent of the lab leak theory

Gordon’s claim — that three virologists were hospitalized with flu or COVID-like symptoms in late 2019 — has been categorically rejected by Dr. Shi Zhengli, a director at the Institute. Zhengli challenged the U.S. to provide the names of those who got ill, but has received no response. It has also been disputed by the only Western scientist working there at the time. “If people were sick, I assume that I would have been sick — and I wasn’t,” said Dr. Danielle Anderson, who says she is “dumbfounded” by the portrayal of the lab in the West: “What people are saying is just not how it is.”

Josh Cho, a media critic at Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, told MintPress that embedded in much of the discussion about the lab leak is a distrust of China and Chinese people, explaining:

There is a largely unchallenged Orientalism or Sinophobia among Western progressives that makes them predisposed to think the Chinese government or Chinese scientists could or would hide evidence for a laboratory origin due to an innate and exceptional penchant for ‘authoritarianism,’ ‘secrecy’ or ‘dishonesty.’ This leads to a presumption of guilt, and an interpretation of every action of the Chinese government as suspicious, when it is most likely what any other government would do in China’s situation.”

Even if the anonymous U.S. intelligence proves to be accurate, it may not be particularly surprising or revealing. The Wuhan Institute of Virology is an enormous institution with hundreds of employees. That three people there might develop flu-like symptoms in November is far from suspicious. Furthermore, the implications of going to hospital in China are completely different from in the U.S. In China, healthcare is nationalized and so a hospital visit is not something an individual avoids at all costs — unlike in the U.S., where it can bankrupt you. Moreover, many general practitioners work from hospitals rather than out of small clinics, meaning that “hospital” could simply translate to “sought basic medical consultation.” Thus, if confirmed, The Wall Street Journal scoop still could be completely mundane.


Cold warriors’ favorite theory

As former MintPress staff writer Alex Rubenstein reported late last month, the lab leak theory has been mainstreamed by hackish, hawkish frauds who, for years, have been pushing for war with China. Among its early adopters was Trump advisor Steve Bannon, who claimed in March 2020 that COVID-19 was a Chinese bioweapon unleashed on the world. While advising Trump, Bannon constantly fear mongered about China and declared he had no doubt that the U.S. would be at war with Beijing within a few years. Then-President Trump, who claims that global warming was a “hoax” invented by China to destroy the U.S., insisted he had evidence the virus began in a Chinese lab but refused to divulge it. Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, among the biggest China hawks in Washington, also repeated the conspiracy.

While distinctly unfashionable in 2020, the lab leak idea was kept alive by warmongering neoconservative journalists like Josh Rogin of The Washington Post, who is now a regular guest on progressive media platforms like Krystal Ball and Enjeti’s “Breaking Points.” “You almost have to see it to believe how depraved this is. Indistinguishable from ‘Fox and Friends,’” remarked a dismayed Sam Sacks of Means TV.

Lab Leak Theory Mainstreamed By Journalistic Frauds Who Love War

These neocon talking points have been laundered into alternative media by those critiquing the establishment, Democratic-aligned press for its complete about-turn on the issue. Appearing on Fox News, Glenn Greenwald praised Rogin and condemned corporate media for their groupthink. “Journalists so often judge things not by what is true or not true but by what is politically beneficial to the partisan audience that they’re serving,” he said, even adding that “maybe Trump was right” about the virus’ origins.

Appearing on “The Jimmy Dore Show,” Taibbi was of a similar mindset, stating:

Originally what happened with this story was that, like everything else in the Trump era, the coverage of COVID was heavily politicized from the very start. The idea of a lab origin for COVID was associated with Trump, Mike Pompeo and Tom Cotton, so it was automatically bad and a conspiracy theory. And that’s really how the press treated it for the better part of a year.”

Dore responded that the media were a bunch of “spineless cowards” who pushed a “false narrative” about the lab leak theory being wrong.

Going unconsidered, apparently, is that the Democrats’ change of heart might not have anything to do with new scientific evidence and more to do with the fact that they now control the reins of power and are cynically using the same tactics Republicans used before them to ramp up hostility towards China.

During the Trump administration, Democrats condemned the treatment of immigrants on the border, raising hell about “concentration camps” and “kids in cages.” Yet, as soon as they found themselves in office, the pretense dropped and they pursued largely the same policies on the border. Speaking in Guatemala, Vice-President Kamala Harris sounded positively Trumpian as she warned those listening “do not come” to the United States. “The United States will continue to enforce our laws and secure our borders,” she added. Meanwhile, immigrant children are still being detained in cages, except that media have rechristened them “overflow facilities” and the camps have the word “bienvenidos” (Spanish for “welcome”) painted on their roofs. Despite this, no one in alternative media claims that Trump was right all along about the kids in cages.

Going further back, Obama and the Democrats condemned the Bush administration’s endless wars. Yet once in office, Obama expanded them, and was bombing seven countries simultaneously by the end of his tenure.

From Concentration Camps to Overflow Facilities: With Biden in Charge, Media Forgets Kids in Cages

Stopping China’s economic rise is a bipartisan priority, and the Biden administration has proven to be every bit as committed to increasing aggressive actions towards Beijing as Trump was. None of this is to say that criticizing establishment media’s abrupt change of direction on the lab leak theory is not important or noteworthy. But it is all being done from the assumption that now the media are on the right track, that the global scientific community is not to be trusted, and that Bannon, Cotton and the rest were ahead of the curve. What many in alternative media appear not to have considered is the possibility that now that the Democrats are in office, they are attempting to weaponize the same smears as a way of increasing the pressure on China, with the media following suit.


Ignoring the science

A large majority of the public now believe COVID-19 started in the Wuhan Institute of Virology. Last month, more than three times as many Americans told pollster YouGov that the theory was true than said it was false. Some 83% of Americans also support punishing China if the lab leak is proven correct, including by sanctioning it and forcing it to pay reparations to the dead or affected — something that could bankrupt the country almost overnight. This is music to the neocons’ ears, who likely can barely believe that so many progressive, anti-war voices are going along with their theory.

What is striking about the tone and outlook of the media coverage of the lab leak theory is how strongly it jars with the opinion of scientists. As Cho told MintPress:

A lot of the progressive commentators who are now giving more credibility to the lab leak theory because they are persuaded it’s more plausible now than before don’t seem to be aware of the latest scientific developments and arguments [and] that most scientists are making for the case that SARS-CoV-2 developed naturally.”

Professor Robertson was of a similar opinion:

At some point the lab-leak narrative seems to have become a story in its own right and has been written about as if it’s an equivalent possibility to a natural origin for SARS-CoV-2, which is simply not the case. The available evidence supports zoonotic spillover similar to the first SARS-virus.”

In March, a large team of international experts from the World Health Organization traveled to China and concluded that a lab leak was “extremely unlikely.” The leader of the team, Danish scientist Dr. Peter Ben Embarek, said that after visiting Wuhan he is more confident than ever that the idea is false. Yet media reporting on the study came away with exactly the opposite conclusion, sowing discord and doubt. “Theory that COVID came from a Chinese lab takes on new life in wake of WHO report,” ran NPR’s headline.

A woman holds a sign at a protest against stay-at-home orders outside the Missouri Capitol. Jeff Roberson | AP

Writing in Wired, scientist and science communicator Adam Rogers criticized much of the coverage. “The evidence hasn’t changed since spring of 2020. That evidence was always incomplete, and may never be complete. History and science suggest the animal-jump is way more likely than the lab-leak/cover-up,” he wrote, comparing lab leak theorists to evolution deniers and tobacco lobbyists sowing doubt by insisting we “teach the controversy” where there is none.

Dan Samorodnitsky, senior editor of Massive Science and a figure who has a background working in virus research, was even more scathing about the return of the theory. “If the question is ‘are both hypotheses possible?’ the answer is yes…If the question is ‘are they equally likely?’ the answer is absolutely not,” he wrote, explaining:

One hypothesis requires a colossal cover-up and the silent, unswerving, leak-proof compliance of a vast network of scientists, civilians, and government officials for over a year. The other requires only for biology to behave as it always has, for a family of viruses that have done this before to do it again. The zoonotic spillover hypothesis is simple and explains everything. It’s scientific malpractice to pretend that one idea is equally as meritorious as the other.

“I would be embarrassed to stand up in front of a room of scientists, lay out both hypotheses, and then pretend that one isn’t clearly, obviously better than the other,” Samorodnitsky concluded.

Confidence in a natural origin of COVID-19 has actually grown over time, as the virus’s evolutionary trajectory has undermined the idea that it was artificially designed, not that one would guess that from listening to media or to politicians. Meanwhile, as more investigation is done into the earliest patients, it is clear that a majority of them — including two of the first three documented cases — were at the Huanan wet market where a wide range of wild animals that could potentially carry the virus were sold. There are still zero confirmed cases of staff falling ill at the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a building over 17 miles away from Huanan market, where data mapping shows that early cases were clustered around.

Earlier this week, The Lancet, which came in for considerable criticism for its previous publication condemning lab leak conspiracy theorists, refused to back down, maintaining that the idea “remain[s] without scientifically validated evidence that directly supports it” (It did however, include a conflict of interests section this time, tacitly accepting that this part of Wade’s criticism was indeed valid). Its authors also directly warned of the danger of scapegoating China. “Recrimination has not, and will not, encourage international cooperation and collaboration,” they wrote. “It is time to turn down the heat of the rhetoric and turn up the light of scientific inquiry if we are to be better prepared to stem the next pandemic, whenever it comes and wherever it begins.”


The coming war on China

The backdrop of the Biden administration’s sudden change of heart to parrot its predecessor is the increased U.S. buildup of hostilities against Beijing. President Joe Biden recently stated that the defining struggle of the 21st century will be that of the U.S. against China. Throughout 2020, the President’s team quietly stated that their entire industrial and foreign policy would revolve around “compet[ing] with China,” with their top priorities being “dealing with authoritarian governments, defending democracy and tackling corruption, as well as understanding how these challenges intersect with new technologies, such as 5G, artificial intelligence, quantum computing and synthetic biology.”

Earlier this year, NATO think tank the Atlantic Council published a 26,000-word report laying out its strategy to suffocate the People’s Republic. It advised Biden to draw a number of red lines around the country, past which the U.S. would directly intervene (presumably militarily). These include Chinese attempts to expand into the South China Sea, an attack on the disputed Senkaku Islands, and moves against Taiwan’s independence. A North Korean strike on any of its neighbors would also necessitate an American response against China, the report insists, because “China must fully own responsibility for the behavior of its North Korean ally.” Any backing down from this stance, the Council states, would result in national “humiliation” for the United States. If this could all be established, it noted, regime change in Beijing could be a distinct possibility. Top military officials like Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster have called for the establishment of an “Asian NATO” to achieve this dream. already there are well over 400 military bases encircling the country.

The U.S. is also conducting military operations in the region, readying itself for a potential war. Last summer, American ships sailed to the Chinese coast, the U.S.S. Rafael Peralta coming to within 41 nautical miles of the coastal megacity Shanghai. Meanwhile, American planes, including nuclear bombers, fly overhead, attempting to gain intelligence on Chinese defenses.

Amid Escalating Tensions, US Warships Sail Just Miles off Coast of China

In addition to the military buildup, the U.S. has begun an economic and information war against Beijing, the Trump administration placing sanctions on the country and attempting to halt the expansion of the Belt and Road initiative, block Huawei’s global 5G rollout, and force Chinese-owned social media app TikTok to sell to an American company. At the same time, Twitter, under counsel from a U.S.-funded think tank, decided to delete more than 170,000 Chinese accounts in a single day, the think tank having accused them of spreading pro-China narratives.

The result of the increased hostilities has been the meteoric rise of anti-China sentiment in the U.S., along with a similar spike in anti-Asian hate crimes. The number of Americans seeing China as their number one enemy has more than doubled in 12 months. This is not a partisan issue, according to Pew Research, with a similar increase in “get tough on China” attitudes among Democratic and Republican voters.

It is this context in which the return of the lab leak theory should be seen. Lab leaks do happen. But there is precious little hard evidence that such is the case here. That so many of the nation’s top alternative news figures — individuals who stood against U.S. wars and against similar campaigns, such as RussiaGate — are buying into this one is remarkable. This is especially the case in light of the fact that the evidence is so weak and comes from highly discredited sources, while scientists remain highly skeptical of the theory.

The lab leak hypothesis was first pushed by the far-right and signal boosted by President Trump. In recent weeks, the Democrats have appropriated it wholesale, as they have with several other Republican policies. Corporate media’s newfound interest in the theory has nothing to do with its veracity, as many in alternative spaces have alleged.

The lab leak theory bears a striking resemblance to the weapons of mass destruction hoax of 2002-03, not only in the fact that one of its key players is literally the same journalist using potentially the same anonymous sources, but also in the bipartisan political and media support for the project, all while ignoring the opinions of the scientific community. That so many in alternative media who question war and U.S. intervention not only cannot see that, but are invoking the WMD story to bolster their own side, is extraordinary, and shows how badly the need is to build up a healthy media ecosystem.

Between 2001 and 2003, the public was subjected to a constant barrage of pro-war propaganda. But at least nascent alternative media offered a dissenting voice. Anti-war voices pushing the lab leak theory might one day find it is too late to stop the clock on the dangerous drive towards a second Cold War. If there is any conflict with China, it will make Iraq look like a tea party by comparison. But truth, in war, is always the first casualty.

Feature photo | President Joe Biden visits the Viral Pathogenesis Laboratory at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Md, Thursday, Feb. 11, 2021. Evan Vucci | 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 “Unchallenged Orientalism”: Why Liberals Suddenly Love the Lab Leak Theory appeared first on MintPress News.

The Fight to Save Lifta, the Last Remaining Palestinian Village

LIFTA, JERUSALEM — Yacoub Odeh is 81 years old but he can still remember his childhood in the Palestinian village of Lifta as if it were yesterday. Children playing together in the gardens, swimming in the pools and laying in the grass.

Today, Lifta remains as a frozen time capsule. While the residents were expelled during Israel’s 1948 ethnic cleansing campaign (Nakba), the ruins of their homes still stand. These ruins carved into the lush hillside are perceived as a symbol of the Palestinians’ right of return. This is the only town Israel did not demolish after the Nakba, but a government plan may soon change that.

In May, the Israel Lands Authority (ILA), the government agency in charge of managing public lands, issued a new tender for construction in Lifta. The development scheme, known as Plan 6036, seeks to build 259 housing units along with a commercial and business space and a luxury hotel on top of and around the existing houses. Daphna Golan-Agnon, a law professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and part of the Save Lifta Coalition’s board, explained that while the homes may not be demolished, “the village will disappear behind walls of concrete needed to hold new construction.”

The bid was supposed to be held on July 4, but significant public opposition delayed it to July 29.

The ruins in Lifta, a Palestinian village ethnically cleased in 1948. Liebe Blekh | MintPress News

Attempts to demolish Lifta have been ongoing for years. The ILA first published a tender for Plan 6036 in 2010 after the Israeli state approved the construction plan for Lifta in 2006. A 2012 Jerusalem District Court ruling found Plan 6036 insufficient and requested amending it in accordance with a conservation survey on Lifta from the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA).

The IAA survey was completed in 2017 and found that Plan 6036 could not be executed without making significant adjustments in order to preserve the ancient village. Plan 270b was drawn up to fit the survey’s findings but in 2017 the Local Planning and Building Committee of Jerusalem temporarily halted the initiative for further examination.

The recent ILA announcement was met with hundreds of letters to Jerusalem’s mayor rejecting the sale. When reached for comment, the Municipality of Jerusalem told MintPress News that it “wasn’t informed about the publication of this tender and didn’t approve it. The mayor of Jerusalem asked all the relevant authorities to reconsider the construction plan.” The Israel Lands Council, which operates the ILA, did not respond to a request for comment.


‘In one hour, we became refugees’

Lifta’s strategic location at the edge of Jerusalem has made it a prime target for land grabs. Acting as a suburb of Jerusalem, Lifta’s placement next to the Jerusalem-Jaffa Highway makes for an easy trip to the Mediterranean while still being tied to the city of Jerusalem.

Lifta, often referred to as the entrance to Jerusalem, was a wealthy, agricultural community supported by olive presses and flour mills and situated atop the Wadi al-Shami spring. Homes made of limestone were cut into the hillside and Lifta’s roads wended through the valley.

Prior to the 1948 Nakba, Zionist militias like the Haganah saw seizing Lifta as necessary to cement Jewish control over all of Palestine. According to the Haganah Historical Archives, “[s]ecuring the western exit of the city [of Jerusalem] entailed the eviction of Arabs.”  Israeli historian Benny Morris said the Haganah fired the first shots in 1947, setting off the mass expulsion of Lifta’s 2,960 residents.

In December 1947, the Haganah killed a Palestinian business owner in Lifta. Later that month, one of Lifta’s two coffeehouses was ambushed with gunfire and grenades. The attack killed six and wounded seven. Two months into 1948, the Jewish Agency chairman and future first prime minister of Israel, David Ben-Gurion, boasted of the ethnic cleansing’s success, telling his political party members: “From your entry into Jerusalem through Lifta — Romema, through Mahane Yehuda, King George Street and Mea She’arim — there are no strangers. One hundred percent Jews.“

Odeh, head of the Lifta Cultural Heritage Protection Commission, was 8-years-old when Lifta came under siege by Zionist forces.

Yacoub Odeh, Nakba survivor and head of the Lifta Cultural Heritage Protection Commission. Liebe Blekh | MintPress News

“I remember one day my mother was preparing the fire to heat our room, and then [the Zionist miltiias] began to shoot. My brothers began to cry, ‘Mama, mama! They’re shooting us!’ My mom took us inside the room in the corner and under a table to protect us,” Odeh said, recalling two stories of Lifta — the town’s beauty and charm and then its tragic fall.

“There is the beautiful life and then began the miserable life because of the occupation.”

Toward the end of February 1948, Odeh’s father put him, his siblings and his mother into a truck heading to Ramallah to escape the violence in Lifta. Odeh’s father stayed behind to defend the village from the Zionist gangs.

“We were only wearing the clothing we had on because we are coming back tomorrow. We are coming back. Now we just want to be far from the shooting.” Odeh took a deep sigh and said, “In one hour, we became refugees.”

Today, 55 buildings out of approximately 450 remain in Lifta, including a club, mosque, cemetery and school, which now operates as a school for Israeli Jews. Liftawi refugees are estimated at around 30,000 and live in Jerusalem, the Occupied West Bank and the Diaspora. Most of the homes are empty, but a few are occupied by Israeli settlers. According to Zochrot, the Israeli nonprofit seeking to raise awareness of the Nakba, the “settlements of Mey Niftoach and Giv’at Sha’ul were built on village lands and now have become parts of the suburbs of Jerusalem.”


Saving Lifta

The Save Lifta Coalition orchestrated the campaign to the mayor and has been organizing since 2010 against Plan 6036. The organization spent five years working with scholars, activists, conservation specialists and higher education professionals to develop an alternative to 6036.

Their proposal aims to “expand the area of the national park and turn the village into a natural urban space for the adjacent neighborhoods,” while preserving Lifta’s cultural landscape.

The World Monuments Fund added Lifta to its list of endangered sites in 2018 and UNESCO added the village to its tentative list of world heritage sites.


‘Not something we can discuss now’

When asked about the plan’s responsibility regarding the right of return for Palestinians, Golan-Agnon said, “our plan is a plan to save Lifta as it is for the future generations to decide upon its fate.” She explained:

Many of us [in the coalition] do think there should be a right of return for Palestinians but we know it’s not something we can discuss now. So we say, it’s beautiful, keep it open, and then one day there can be a decision about what happens and who’s coming.

Dana Amawi’s grandmother grew up in Lifta and was expelled from the village in 1948. Now the family lives in Amman, Jordan. The 20-year-old said she was shaken to her core upon hearing the news of the sale. “Lifta symbolized a tiny, very small bit of hope that maybe we will be able to return to it,” Amawi told MintPress. “And now to think that other people might live in the house that I have the right to be in, it’s very sad.”

A Palestinian woman holds a partially eaten fig picked from a tree in Lifta. Liebe Blekh | MintPress News

Amawi said that her grandmother fell ill after learning of the auction. “She got sick. She had a fever and she was really, really sad because to her, this is where she grew up. This is where her earliest memories are and this is where she has the right to be,” Amawi said.

Stone houses like the one Odeh spent his early childhood in now crumble from neglect. The walls are sprayed with graffiti and piles of trash line the floors. On Shabbat (the Jewish sabbath), you’ll often find Israelis bathing in the spring’s waters.

Aseel AlBajeh, advocacy officer and legal researcher at the Palestinian human rights organization Al-Haq, visited Lifta in 2018. Her grandmother, who lives in Ramallah, is from Lifta. “It was a painful experience,” AlBajeh said of her time in Lifta. “I wasn’t sure if I wanted to come back to Lifta in this situation.”


‘You are here as a visitor’

During her visit, AlBajeh tried recalling her grandmother’s memories of a flourishing Lifta, but she said those stories were disrupted by the fact that she’s only in Lifta because of a permit she received from the Israeli government to enter 1948-occupied Palestine or modern-day Israel from the West Bank. “You are here as a visitor. It’s like it’s not a place where you belong, or this is what [the Israeli government] intends for refugees to feel like,” AlBajeh said. “Settlers were swimming in the spring of the village and they were blasting loud music, and it also disrupted my ability to even imagine Lifta as Palestinian.”

Israeli settlers in Lifta hold a middle finger to a group of Palestinian children. Blekh | MintPress News

To help her reclaim Lifta, AlBajeh took a small piece of the village’s remains during her visit. She collected a broken tile painted with traditional designs from one of the house’s floors, knowing this might be the last physical object she can have of Lifta.

“Lifta is a witness of what happened during the Nakba,” AlBajeh said, explaining:

We have this connection as Palestinians, and when we see the cactus plants, we connect this as evidence that displacement happened here. And if you go to Lifta, you’ll see the huge amount of cactus. So even if the houses remain and [Israel] tries to remove the cactus, it’s still painful… It’s not about the stones or about the trees. It’s about the whole identity of Lifta and the Palestinian history, which we still connect to. “


‘We were kings in our village’

Odeh’s memories paint Lifta as an idyllic place, an oasis carved into the steep slopes of Jerusalem where life was carefree and bountiful. “We were kings in our village,” Odeh said. “Everything we need, we had — a life so simple. We didn’t need cinema or computers, no, everything we needed came from our land.”

But the minute Odeh and his family became refugees, their resources became scarce. “At that time there were no charitable associations or agencies ready to help,” Odeh recalled. “You know what Nakba means? Nakba does not mean to destroy homes. No, Nakba means to destroy the life — economic life, social life, educational life, political life. They destroyed our life.”

Upon reminiscing about Lifta, Odeh said his dream is to go back home:

I miss my childhood. Palestinian children have lost their childhood life to play like children, to go to the theater, to concerts, to football. No, until now we have house demolitions, we have arrests, we have land confiscation and killings. Every day we have events like these — if not my family, my neighborhood.”

Feature photo | A group of Israeli settlers in Lifta take a photo of a group of Palestinian children raising a painting of the Palestinian
flag. Liebe Blekh | MintPress News

Jessica Buxbaum is a Jerusalem-based journalist for MintPress News covering Palestine, Israel, and Syria. Her work has been featured in Middle East Eye, The New Arab and Gulf News.

The post The Fight to Save Lifta, the Last Remaining Palestinian Village appeared first on MintPress News.

What’s Behind The Assassination Of Haitian President Moïses?

The assassination of Haitian President Jovenel Moïse sent shockwaves through the tiny Caribbean island nation and beyond. While little is known about what happened overnight Wednesday, it appears that a group of foreign mercenaries with inside knowledge of Moïse’s home were responsible for carrying out the operation that killed him.

Moïse was an extremely unpopular figure who had overstayed his term as president as was ruling by decree. Mass protests against his rule and corruption have coalesced into a revolutionary movement led by former police officer Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherizier. Cherizier has managed to unite nine gangs into a single movement aimed at redistributing wealth amassed by the country’s wealthy minority.

Journalist and English language editor of the media outlet Haite Liberte, Kim Ives, joins Dan Cohen to discuss who might be behind the assassination of Moïse and the revolutionary movement brewing in the streets.

Kim Ives:

My guess is that it’s more coming from the bourgeoisie. And that’s because there is a revolution underway in Haiti. The huge lumpenproletariat of Port-au-prince has grown to over three million people. Fifty years ago Haiti was primarily an agricultural society, small peasants. But due to neoliberal policies, the dumping of rice under the Clinton administration on Haiti and destroying Haitian rice production, destroying the lemon production, the coffee production, a lot of the dumping is coming from the Dominican Republic too.

Essentially Haitian agriculture is a shadow of its former self and all those displaced peasants ended up in the cities in these huge shantytowns where people have no work, no services, and they’re living day-to-day. As a result what have emerged are strongmen, in these neighborhoods, gangs, some of them engaged in kidnapping and crime and terrible things, preying on even their own population. But there is another faction that emerged which called itself the G9, now it’s called the Revolutionary Forces of the G9 family and allies. And they were against the criminal elements. They were fighting the criminal elements and in fact, have now called for a revolution.

Their leader, a guy called Jimmy “Barbecue” Cherizier – and we can talk more about him – has said “We’re going to the banks, we’re going to take the money that’s ours there. We’re going to go to the car dealerships to take our cars. We’re going to go to the supermarkets and take our food. So he’s calling for a revolution of the people in these shantytowns of the lumpenproletariat against these bourgeoisie, twelve families, as he says, who control the entire economy. The ports, the factories. They own a lot of the land, etc. So I think they were scared to death of this guy. He scared the daylights out of them. Add to that fact, one of the principal opposition leaders or I should say opposition bourgeois backers is a guy Reginald Boulous, had an arrest warrant put out for him this week.

Between Cherizier’s revolution, which looked like the end of the world to them, plus the arrest warrant, I don’t think it’s far-fetched to think that a number of the bourgeois, or maybe one or maybe a consortium of them because this operation definitely cost some money, may have got themselves together, hired these mercenaries, they go in, they do the job, they get Jovenel out of the way, and now they are going to concentrate on putting down this rebellion from the shantytowns. Put down this lumpenproletariat. Now the big problem there is how are they going to do it?

They need somebody strong in leadership. And Jovenel was not that. Jovenel was embattled, Jovenel was isolated. He had no state authority, so they need to get a strong leader in. They need to reinforce the 15,000 member police force. There is only 500 soldiers in the army. And so this is maybe Plan A. But Plan B, maybe, a fourth foreign military occupation, where the US comes in and says “Look, it’s terrible. They killed the president. They couldn’t do them, they don’t know how to carry out democracy, we have to come in again. We hate to do it. And they try to send in another UN force. Their big problem there is that they declared war on China. So China can say screw that. You guys aren’t doing anything with this security council. You aren’t doing anything with this security council. You’re not getting any chapter 7 again for Haiti. So Biden may find himself between a rock and a hard place on this one. I don’t know if they’re going to be able to get a fourth military occupation in a century into Haiti and the Haitian people certainly are not going to accept it. So we have a very complicated situation.”

Feature photo | Haiti’s President Jovenel Moise, center, leaves the National Pantheon museum in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Dieu Nalio Chery | AP

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.

The post What’s Behind The Assassination Of Haitian President Moïses? appeared first on MintPress News.

Hedges: Kucinich Memoir Is a Moving Account of a Battle Against Corporate Power

PRINCETON, NEW JERSEY (Scheerpost “The Division of Light and Power,” by Dennis Kucinich, like Robert Caro’s “The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York,” is a gripping, moving and lucidly written account of the hidden mechanisms of corporate power in the United States and what happens when these corporate interests are challenged. It is essential reading, especially as we face an intensified corporate assault, done in the name of fiscal necessity following the financial wounds imposed by the pandemic, to seize total control of all public assets.

Kucinich warns that this assault is more than the seizure of public assets for private gain.  These corporate forces, which function as a shadow government in Washington and cities across the country, threaten to achieve a monolithic lock on all forms of power and extinguish our anemic democracy. As Kucinich discovered throughout his career, these corporate forces will deploy every weapon in their arsenal against those brave or foolish enough to defy them. “The Division of Light and Power”is destined to become a classic text for those who seek to understand the corporate coup d’etat that took place in the United States in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

The new book by Dennis Kucinich recounts his battle with corporate elites to protect a public utility.

“People who say, ‘You can’t fight City Hall,’ don’t know where it is,” writes Kucinich, who battled Cleveland’s big banks and corporations as a member of the city council and as mayor. “You have to find it before you can fight it. City Hall was not only the Doric gray stone temple on East Sixth and Lakeside Avenue in downtown Cleveland. City Hall was the boardroom of Cleveland’s banks, its investor-owned utilities, its real estate combines — and the mob. In Cleveland, City Hall was in the shadows, a giant specter invisible to the people of the city. I brought the invisible City Hall to light, with great consequences for my city, my family, my friends and myself. I was the Mayor and I fought City Hall.”

Kucinich, a diminutive 23-year-old, who was often mistaken for the paperboy when he campaigned door to door, had just been elected at the opening of the book to be the new Councilman from Ward Seven. Kucinich grew up in Ward Seven in extreme poverty. His family struggled to pay rent and utility bills. They endured evictions and at one point were forced to sleep in their car. Ward Seven was, he recalls, where “I went to high school, where church spires and pipe-organ smokestacks reached to a smudged sky. A neighborhood populated by a steely league of nations who spoke Polish, Greek, Slovak, Ukrainian, Russian, Arabic, Spanish, and occasionally English. A neighborhood of narrow streets lined with old men wearing white shirts and suspenders, and old ladies wearing babushkas and carrying shopping bags that dangled just above their socks, paraded up and down the small commercial district on Professor Avenue.”

Because he would not abandon his neighborhood, his people, he was on a collision course with the monied elites who ran the city.

The seasoned politicians in city hall assumed that Kucinich, like themselves, would sell out the voters for his own political and economic advancement. No one thought he was serious about defending those who elected him. They welcomed him to the cynical club of our bought-and-paid-for political class and explained the inner workings of our system of legalized bribery. He was young. He was talented. He would go far, the political hacks assured him, if he did the bidding of the real centers of power.

“These pros knew that every one of the thirty-three Cleveland City Council seats were won with campaign contributions from banks who held city deposits, money from phone, gas, and electric interests, or downtown real estate developers who never lost an election because they always bet on both sides,” Kucinich writes.

One middle-aged Councilman, an attorney from a neighboring ward, let’s call him Richard, befriended me, confiding, “Dennis, there are a lot of legitimate ways you can make money in politics. Nothing dishonest, mind you. Opportunities come to people who hold office,” he said.


“You know, you do favors for people. They do favors for you.”

“Favors?” I didn’t understand. 

“Attorneys elected to Council get law business thrown their way. Insurance salesmen get policies. Travel agents book trips for people they help. Real estate guys get commissions from property deals called to their attention,” he shared. “It’s all legit.”

A “rotund, cigar-chomping and irascible” councilman named James H. Bell told Kucinich that all he wanted was a little ice cream. “He opened his mouth, lolled his tongue, and with child-like abandon licked an imaginary cone, his diamond pinky ring sparkling in the bar lights,” Kucinich writes. “‘Just a little ice cream. I’m not a pig,’ he repeated. ‘I want what’s mine. Some ice cream.’”

The rules were clear from the start. Serve the interests of big business and the city’s rich — by granting tax abatements, 99-year franchises, monopolies, and bond financing for big, often unnecessary multi-million dollar projects — and thrive. Defy those interests and face political oblivion.

“City Hall reeked of mendacity, of checking one’s spiritual beliefs at the door like a beat-up coat and entering into circumstances where unseen forces were dictating decisions, demanding consensus, and meting out punishment to those who denied the deal-making, was, after all, politics, the dominion of amorality, where personal advancement relied on pragmatism operating in shuttered light, without the imposition of conscience,” Kucinich writes.

Once it was clear the elites could not buy him off, they set out to destroy his political career, slander and intimidate him, and, after he was elected mayor in 1977, wreck the city’s finances and finally attempt to assassinate him. The ruling elites play for keeps. And this is why a politician like Kucinich, with integrity and undaunted courage, is an anathema in the deeply corrupted world of American electoral politics where nearly all who flourish, in city, state and national politics, do so because they have a price.

The battle royale, which would see the business elites force the city into default to remove Kucinich from the mayor’s office, centered around the schemes by CEI (Cleveland Electric Illuminating Co.) to crush the public utility, Municipal Light, or Muny Light, founded in 1907 by then-Cleveland Mayor Tom L. Johnson. CEI sought a monopoly so it could jack up rates for the city’s residents. CEI orchestrated blackouts by blocking Muny’s access to back-up power and exhausting the patience of Muny customers to force them into the hands of CEI. The fight to save Muny was, Kucinich knew, more than a fight to protect a public utility.

Johnson said when the founded the public utility, “I believe in public ownership of all public service monopolies for the same reason that I believe in the municipal ownership of waterworks, of parks, of schools. I believe in the municipal ownership of these monopolies because if you do not own them, they will in time own you. They will corrupt your politics, rule your institutions and finally destroy your liberties.”

Kucinich, like Johnson, realized the danger the privatization of public assets present and, unlike most politicians, was willing to sacrifice his political career to protect those, like his family, who struggled under the onslaught of predatory corporations and the rich.

But it was not only Kucinich the business elites targeted. They destroyed the careers of the handful of reporters who attempted to investigate and make public the dirty machinations of CEI and the ruling elites. Kucinich watched as one honest reporter after another was silenced by his or her employer, beholden to the money and power of advertisers. Kucinich discovered that the press was not only docile, but complicit. He realized he would have few allies in the public arena. When the war against him began in earnest, the press dutifully amplified the lies spun out by the public relations departments of the corporations against Kucinich. The city was saturated with constant news and editorials touting the benefits of privatizing the private utility, although customers with Muny Light had one of the lowest electric rates in the country.

When Steve Clark, the top radio news commentator in Cleveland on WERE radio, for example, decried CEI’s spending over $7 million for promotions and advertising, or about $11 per customer, and announced that CEI had realized a net profit of $40 million, or more than sixteen cents for each dollar of operating revenue, at the same time it was demanding a 20 percent rate increase from the Ohio Public Utilities Commission, which would generate an additional $54 million annually for the company, his career was finished. The radio station received at least $70,000 a year from CEI in advertising. The owners did not intend to lose it. Clark was fired.

“News reporters covering the Council meeting were a sketch of supine immobility, a confession of the futility of expression without independence,” Kucinich writes. “If CEI worked to influence editors, the editors in turn would place limitations on their reporters. I could not expect any help from the ‘free press.’”

“I dispensed a long time ago with the idea that my political advancement depended upon currying the favor of newspapers, or by agreeing with their editorial or news policy, which wasn’t really theirs, but that of interest groups they were fronting,” he adds.

The Muny Light wars exposed the lengths corporate power and the mob bosses, who Kucinich also fought, will go to destroy anyone who threatens their unchecked pillaging. Cleveland was known at the time as “America’s Bombing Capital” because of a war by crime syndicates for control of Cleveland rackets. The city endured 30 mob-related bombings and periodic assassinations. There were also several attempts to kill Kucinich that were narrowly thwarted by luck or timely police work. Mayor George Moscone and City Supervisor Harvey Milk were shot and killed at San Francisco City Hall while Kucinich was in office. Chapter 28 in his book is titled “City Hell.”

The business elites orchestrated a recall election, which he narrowly survived, threw the city into default, orchestrated electrical blackouts, especially during the Christmas holiday, and used a compliant press to blame Kucinich for the chaos they spawned. When Kucinich threw out the first pitch at the Cleveland Indian’s game, forced at that point to wear a bulletproof vest and travel with police snipers, the crowd booed and yelled “kill the bum.” Kucinich was defeated for reelection in 1979, the celebrated political phenom now treated as a national punchline.

(Nearly two decades later, after wandering the political wilderness — and the country — yet still supported strongly by the working class of Cleveland, Kucinich made an unexpected political comeback when he was elected to Congress in 1996. However, in 2010 the Democratic Party machine in Ohio drew up a redistricting plan which moved his Cleveland home address into the Toledo-based district of another incumbent, all but assuring his defeat in 2012.)

Through his besieged two years as mayor, Kucinich was acutely aware that if he capitulated to the sale of the public utility his political future would be instantly assured. He writes:

My political future would be guaranteed, with the swipe of a pen. The endless calls to sell would end. The media trumpeting the so-called deficiencies of Muny Light would stop their barrage. The equation of the sale of Muny Light with the avoidance of default would end. If I sold the electric system under these intricately-contrived circumstances, the people of Cleveland would never know I did not have to sell. They would be offered a fictional tale of a happy outcome, agreed upon by the media, the business community, CEI, the banks, and the political establishment. It would be the fairy tale of a young Mayor who finally came to his senses and did the “right thing.” 

But I knew the truth.

The people would end up paying millions of dollars in higher taxes to the city for street lighting and other services. Without competition, CEI would continually raise rates. People in the city would pay millions more in higher electric bills. Yes, the city would have credit. It could borrow money and go deeper in debt. If I agreed to sell, no one in Cleveland would ever know what happened in this boardroom. Today the world’s attention was briefly on the impending default in a major American city. If I sold, tomorrow the big story would be ‘The Escape from Default,” the bookends of a complete political soap opera. Only I would know that Muny Light was stolen. I would have to conceal that knowledge, as I rocketed to political stardom with my newfound friends. I’d wave from a high platform at “the people.” Unaware, they would think they were the ones who sent me to higher office.

His enemies did not forgive him once they removed him from office. He and those who worked in his mayoral administration were blacklisted by the city’s elite, often unable to find work. Kucinich was meant to be an example to all who thought of defying the system.

“Most of those who worked for me could not find jobs, blackballed by the Cleveland establishment,” he writes. “Several members of my team had to travel many miles out of town to find work. Most found themselves at a significant financial disadvantage. One, a brilliant city planner who had courageously challenged developers’ schemes to extract millions from the taxpayers, committed suicide. It was my decision, and I paid a price, but regrettably, others also paid.”

“After I left office, I had time to absorb what had happened to me in Cleveland, my ten-year climb to become Mayor, my collision with corrupt interests amidst the highest of hopes for the city,” He writes. “However hard I tried, I could not find a moral to the story. I was shattered, not so much from losing an election, as from the pillorying of the ethical signposts of my life: Right was wrong and wrong was right. The inversion of reality was particularly shocking. The banks, the business and political establishment had now constructed, and the Cleveland media carried forth, a new fictitious narrative. The city on its way to recovery … from me.”

Nevertheless, Kucinich, sacrificing his position as mayor, had indeed, with the support of a grassroots army, saved the city’s public utility.

Near the end of his first term in Congress he was invited to attend a meeting of the Cleveland City Council on December 14th, 1998, the eve of the twentieth anniversary of the city’s default. The council presented him with a resolution of recognition. It read:

…Today the City of Cleveland has one of the fastest-growing municipal electric systems in America. Currently, Cleveland Public Power is expanding to provide low-cost electricity to more and more people, providing power for city facilities and streetlights, thereby helping to keep taxes low and encouraging economic development. None of this would have been possible had Mayor Kucinich not refused to sell the City’s electric system on December 15, 1978 . . .  now, therefore . . . BE IT RESOLVED, that Cleveland City Council hereby extends its deep appreciation to Dennis J. Kucinich, for having the courage and foresight to refuse to sell the City’s municipal electric system, which has saved the people of Cleveland over $300 million since that time.

— Cleveland City Council

Members of the city council stood and applauded.

Feature photo | Dennis J. Kucinich flanked by his wife Sandy, left, and his father Frank Kucinich is all smiles as he claims victory in the recall election, Aug. 14, 1978 in Cleveland, Ohio. EAM | AP

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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Carlos Lazo: The Cuban American Leading the Charge to Transform US-Cuba Policy

Carlos Lazo and a small band of Cuban Americans are on a 1,300-mile pilgrimage from Miami to Washington, D.C., to end the U.S. blockade of Cuba. Despite the blistering summer heat and occasional death threats (including a trucker who tried to run them off the road), the marchers persist. Lazo’s group is called Puentes de Amor, Bridges of Love, and this grueling walkathon is certainly a labor of love.

While right-wing Cubans in Miami call him “comunista,” Lazo has no time for ideology. He is neither for or against the Cuban government; he is for the Cuban people, the Cuban families. And he is disgusted by the cruelty of the U.S. blockade and by politicians who use the Cuban people as a political football–especially during this pandemic.

Lazo portrays Cuba and the U.S. as his parents—Cuba is his mother, the U.S. his father. He sees his job as trying to stop them from fighting and instead to embrace each other. “We try to unite people, whatever their ideology, religion, race or nationality,” Lazo told me. “The important thing is to take down walls that separate us and build bridges between our people.”

Lazo and the marchers set off from Miami on June 27 and will arrive in Washington, D.C., on July 25. All along the journey, they have been meeting with community groups—black farmers, veterans, students—explaining their purpose and their demands. They are calling for a lifting of all restrictions on sending remittances to their families back home; the resumption of flights from the U.S., not only to Havana but to all major Cuban cities (right now U.S. planes can only land in Havana); the reopening of a fully staffed U.S. Embassy and Consulate in Havana instead of the skeletal staff that exists now; a restart to the program of family reunification that Trump suspended in 2017; the granting to U.S. citizens of the right to travel freely to Cuba; and robust economic relations, as well as scientific and cultural exchanges. Despite candidate Biden’s campaign promises to revert to Obama’s openings, the Biden administration insists that its Cuba policy is still “under review.” In practice, it has continued the brutal Trump agenda.

You couldn’t invent a better person than Carlos Lazo—a gregarious high school teacher/veteran who also plays guitar, sings and dances like a Cuban rock star—to lead a movement to change U.S.-Cuba policy. His trajectory reads like a movie script. The son of a cigar maker and a housewife, Lazo grew up in the small fishing village of Jaimanitas, west of Havana, and spent the first 28 years of his life there. After his mother emigrated to the United States, Lazo dreamed of following her. He first tried to leave in 1988 when he and his friend rigged up a makeshift raft. After two days adrift in the ocean, they were picked up by the Cuban Coast Guard. Lazo was thrown in jail, where he spent an entire year for illegally trying to leave the island.

Undeterred, in 1991 he tried again. After four precarious days on a rickety raft with six others, this time they were rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard and allowed to enter the United States.

Lazo spent a few years in Miami working in restaurants, delivering pizzas and driving trucks, but moved to Seattle in 1998 to seek more economic opportunities. There he joined the Washington National Guard and studied nursing. When the U.S. invaded Iraq, he was sent as a combat medic. He participated in the battle of Fallujah and was awarded a bronze star for helping to save lives.

But in 2005, when this decorated veteran was on leave and tried to visit his two sons living in Cuba, he discovered that the Bush administration wouldn’t allow him to go. This was a turning point in his life, when Lazo realized that the U.S. blockade, which has existed in one form or another since the 1960s, was hurting both the Cuban people and Cuban Americans who wanted to visit and help their families back home.

So Lazo began speaking out. In 2007, he testified before the U.S. Senate and met with more than 100 members of Congress. He was featured on CNN and MSNBC and in national newspapers.

When Obama became president and started normalizing relations with Cuba, Lazo thought his political work was over. He got a teaching degree, became a high school Spanish teacher, and threw himself into building a unique cultural exchange program that took his students to Cuba. The “profe,” as he is known, taught his students to sing Cuban love songs and dance salsa, winning the hearts of their Cuban hosts. He called this project the Factory of Dreams.

These glorious exchanges, six in total, came to a crashing halt when Trump entered the White House. Trump tried to please right-wing Cubans in Miami by reversing Obama’s openings and adding 242 additional coercive measures designed to torpedo the Cuban economy.

While the pandemic left a trail of pain and death around the world, Trump insisted on restricting family remittances to Cuba, stopping fuel shipments that supplied electricity to Cuban homes and hospitals, and sabotaging Cuban medical brigades that were helping to save lives around the world. “The planet cried out for solidarity and cooperation,” Lazo fumed, “but Trump responded by trying to suffocate the Cuban people.”

Lazo decided to take action. Despite the raging pandemic in the summer of 2020, he and four family members got on their bikes and rode more than 3,000 miles from Seattle to Washington, D.C., to urge Donald Trump and Congress to lift the blockade. Lazo livestreamed their voyage on Facebook, gaining an enormous following along the way.

Lazo’s cross-country trip inspired a group of Cuban Americans in Miami to begin their own caravan of bicycles and cars on the last Sunday of every month. Starting with just 11 bicycles last July, the Miami caravan has grown to more than a hundred vehicles and bicycles going down Calle Ocho in Little Havana. Carlos teamed up with Miami YouTube personality Jorge Medina (El Proteston) to galvanize hundreds of Cuban Americans. For the older generation of Miami Cubans who, at great personal risk, have been proposing normal relations and opposing the right-wing “haters” of the Cuban government since the 1959 revolution, this infusion of energy is a thrilling development.

Inspired by the success in Miami, there are now monthly caravans taking place in some 30 cities in the United States and scores more throughout the world, including in Cuba itself. Clearly, Lazo’s rejection of hatred and his commitment to building “bridges of love” reflect the sentiments of a growing number of Cuban Americans and their allies.

When the marchers arrive in the nation’s capital, they will be greeted by hundreds of supporters, including Cuban Americans flying all the way from Miami. Lazo plans to stay in Washington to meet with members of Congress and present the Biden administration with a petition signed by more than 25,000 people calling on him to build “bridges of love” between the two countries—just as President Obama started to do when he was in the White House.

Lazo’s pilgrimage shows his understanding that opponents of the blockade in the Cuban community need allies among broader layers of people–the farmers, students, church people, truck drivers, etc.–that he is meeting on the way. He believes the bridges of love go both ways because many groups, besides Cubans, have an interest in ending the blockade. These include farmers who want to sell their crops; tourists eager to enjoy Cuba’s nearby beauty, culture, and history; and scientists and public health officials seeking to collaborate with the island’s advanced medical system and biotech industries. In his pilgrimage, he wants to give a voice to these allies as well.

The mushrooming of caravans across the country, the increasing number of city council resolutions against the blockade, the recent vote of the Longshore Union to condemn it, the $400,000 raised by groups sound the country to send syringes for Cuba’s COVID vaccinations— all show a growing feeling that it’s past time for the Biden administration to re-examine its cynical, electoral calculations in continuing Trump’s restrictions on Cuba.

Lazo is not naive. He is under no illusions that his trek to Washington, D.C., will be enough to change Biden’s policies. But his philosophy is both simple and profound: “Everything you do to make the world better helps to make the world better,” he says. And whether it’s a cross-country bike trip or a 1,300-mile trek in the summer heat, Lazo takes these bold actions with so much joy, love and enthusiasm that others can’t help but follow his lead.

Feature photo | Carlos Lazo | Facebook

Medea Benjamin, cofounder of CODEPINK, is author of several books on Cuba, including No Free Lunch: Food and Revolution in Cuba Today. 

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Lee Camp: America’s Impressive History of Bioweapons Attacks Against Its Own People

Princeton, New Jersey (Scheerpost The Biden Administration, the mainstream media and pretty much all the politicians in our country continue to throw fuel on the Sinophobia fire initially stoked by former President and current Mar-a-lago “fungineer” Donald Trump.
(Word to the wise, “Sinophobia” means anti-China hatred, not anti-cinema hatred as I had thought. So I apologize to all the people who posted a movie review for Fast And Furious 27 and noticed a response comment from me reading “GODDAMN SINOPHOBE!” Under the circumstances, that was an odd thing to yell.)

During the Trump Administration, the Wuhan lab leak theory was called a ridiculous conspiracy that blossomed out of Trump’s racist brain — which it did. It absolutely did. And he should get some credit for that because anyone can be racist but Trump is a racist inventor. He comes up with new and exciting ways to be racist. So he deserves some credit for his innovation.

Last year, Trump’s racist lab leak theory was thrown out by both the Democratic establishment and most of the mainstream media. However, now that the crackpot conspiracy can be useful for President Biden’s deranged anti-China rhetoric, all of a sudden the establishment and the media think it’s a wonderful conspiracy.

A recent CNN headline blared: “What the lab-leak theory’s new credibility means for social media!” A CNBC headline screamed: “Biden orders closer review of Covid origins as U.S. intel weighs Wuhan lab leak theory.” While just a couple weeks ago, Yahoo News quietly reminded us: “There’s still no evidence of a Chinese lab leak.”

But mainly you have to go to independent news sources to get the reality. Here’s Danny Haiphong at Black Agenda Report: “Similar to Russiagate, U.S. intelligence has run with an entirely unsourced narrative, that conveniently pins blame on another country for domestic ills and labels that country a ‘national security’ threat. … The lab leak conspiracy is an effective psychological operation because it is difficult to imagine evidence that could disprove or prove the claim.”

Ah, those are the best kind of racist stories — the ones that can’t be disproven.

The abandoned Building 470 at Fort Detrick where anthrax was tested and MK Ultra was carried out, Fort Detrick. Timothy Jacobsen | AP

But one thing you’ll certainly never hear from the mainstream media is that all of this is stacked on top of a mostly-forgotten, yet impressively prodigious, history of the American people probably being used as lab rats by our own government. For example, as reported at Business Insider, “On September 20, 1950, a US Navy ship just off the coast of San Francisco used a giant hose to spray a cloud of microbes into the air and into the city’s fog. The military was testing how a biological weapon attack would affect the 800,000 residents of the city.”

So they, uh, perpetrated a biological attack on American citizens to find out what would happen in the event of a biological attack on American citizens?! … Honestly, the mind reels. In one of the largest human experiments in history, our military covered the people of San Francisco with “ …two kinds of bacteria, Serratia marcescens and Bacillus globigii…” (Nowadays you can only find that kind of treatment from Cleveland’s tap water.)

The gas attack sickened many and was known to kill at least one man. According to Rebecca Kreston at Discover Magazine, this event ranked as one of the largest offenses against the Nuremberg Code since its inception because the code requires voluntary, informed consent to, you know, hit people with bioweapons. (Unless you’re trying to kill them, in which case I think the informed consent is off the table.)

But that experiment did not mark the end of such things, just the beginning. “Over the next 20 years, the military would conduct 239 “germ warfare” tests over populated areas, according to news reports from the 1970s – after the secret tests had been revealed – in The New York Times, The Washington Post, Associated Press, and other publications, and also detailed in congressional testimony from the 1970s.”

After it came out, the government explained that their goal was to deter the use of biological weapons and be prepared for them. Apparently we wanted to deter biological weapons attacks on Americans by dropping biological weapons on Americans first. What a genius strategy. Our enemies would never see it coming. Plus, why would our global nemeses attack us with germ warfare if we do it to ourselves? You can’t threaten to kill a man if he wants to die!

Of the 239 biological and chemical warfare tests by the military, some were done across the Midwest to see how the pathogen would spread throughout the country (and probably to clear out some parking spots). When asked why military planes were dispersing unknown clouds of shit over cities, they claimed they were testing a way to mask the cities from enemy bombers.

“Yeah, we’re just covering up the city from the bad guys. Just covering it with a warm blanket of… bacteria. Just a big ol’ protective germ blanket. All cozy and safe from the bad guys — who are not us. The bad guys are other people — who are not currently hitting you with bio-weapons… like we are.”

– A US military spokesman, probably, at some point

In another study of how vulnerable New York City subway passengers were to covert biological agents, for six days the U.S. military broke light bulbs brimming full of the bacteria Bacillus subtilis and S. marcescens inside NYC subway stations and watched it spread throughout the city. “Clouds would engulf people as trains pulled away, but documents say that the people ‘brushed their clothing and walked on.’ No one was concerned.”

Biosafety protective suits are hung up outside a chemical decontamination room in a biosafety level 4 training facility at U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Md., March 19, 2020. Andrew Harnik | AP

That’s New York for ya. Hit commuters with germ warfare — they just brush it off and keep moving. Every day to a New Yorker is germ warfare. I once rode from Montauk to Hoboken sitting across from a man relieving himself. A little experiment by the Military Industrial Complex doesn’t even register on a New Yorker’s list of things to worry about.

Yet, the military was testing more than just germ attacks. “Other experiments involved testing mind-altering drugs on unsuspecting citizens.” That program went by the name MKUltra (which is also a great name for a metal band or a homemade cocktail containing absinthe). MKUltra continued for twenty years, during which the CIA tried to achieve mind control by using torture, LSD, hypnosis, and electro-shock therapy — sometimes on unwitting subjects. (And even if they were witting going into the experiment, afterwards not so much.)

Among other things, this program resulted in the murder of a scientist named Frank Olson in 1953 and (accidentally) the creation of the Unabomber. (Who said the CIA doesn’t work hard? They’re killin’ people here, electrocutin’ people there, creatin’ terrorists. That’s a hell of a workload.)

Next, there’s the well-known Tuskegee Experiments in which “… government researchers studied the effects of syphilis on black Americans without informing the men that they had the disease — they were instead told they had ‘bad blood.’”

“Not to worry, young man — you just have bad blood. It’s gonna be fine. But you will also die soon. That’s one of the negative side effects.”

The researchers withheld treatment from the participants so they could continue to study the illness, which the men weren’t even told they had.

In sum, the Military Intelligence Industrial Complex are serial murderers — not just overseas — but of our own citizens. They performed hundreds of experiments on unsuspecting Americans, and yet the organizations responsible still exist and enjoy budgets in the hundreds of billions of dollars a year. No one went to prison for these heinous acts because when you or I do it, it’s called “a horrible crime,” but when the ruling elite do it, it’s called “research.”

Feature photo | Biohazard suits hang in a Biosafety Level 4 laboratory at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Md. Patrick Semansky | AP

Lee Camp is an American stand-up comedian, writer, actor and activist. Camp is the host of the weekly comedy news TV show “Redacted Tonight With Lee Camp” on RT America. He is a former comedy writer for the Onion and the Huffington Post and has been a touring stand-up comic for 20 years.

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