Former US President Barack Obama was in South Africa last week for the centennial anniversary marking the birth of the late Nelson Mandela. Obama delivered a speech warning about encroaching authoritarianism among nations and the “rise of strongman politics”.
Coming on the heels of the summit in Helsinki between Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin, media reports assumed that Obama was taking a swipe at these two leaders for supposed growing authoritarianism.
Obama’s casting of the “strongman” as a foreboding enemy to democracy is a variant of the supposed threat of “populism” that Western political establishments also seem concerned about.
Trump, Putin, Turkey’s Erdogan, Italy’s Salvini, Victor Orban in Hungary and Sebastian Kurz in Austria, among many others, are all lumped together as “strongman politics”, “populists” or “authoritarians”.
Here we are not trying to defend the above-mentioned political leaders or to make out that they are all virtuous democrats.
The point rather is to debunk the false narrative that there is some kind of dichotomy in modern politics between those who, on one hand, are supposedly virtuous, liberal, democratic, multilateralists, and on the other hand, the supposedly sinister “strongman”, “authoritarian”, or “populist”.
In Obama’s pompous depiction of world political trends, people like him are supposedly the epitome of a civilized, democratic legacy that is now under threat from Neo-fascists who are darkly rising to destroy an otherwise happy world order. That world order, it is presumed, was up to now guided by the magnificence of American political leadership. In short, the “Pax Americana” that prevailed for nearly seven decades following the Second World War.
Following the Helsinki summit, the Western media went full-tilt in hysterics and hyperbole. Trump was assailed for “embracing a dictator” while repudiating Western democratic allies.
In a Washington Post article, the headline screamed: “Is Trump at war with the West?” It was accompanied by a photograph of Trump and Putin, bearing the caption: “The New Front”.
Meanwhile, a New York Times piece editorialized: “His [Trump’s] embrace of Putin is a victory dance on the Euro-American tomb.”
Another NY Times op-ed writer declared: “Trump and Putin vs. America”.
The Western establishment political and media commentary promulgates the notion that the US-led Western order is breaking down because of “populist”, “strongman” Trump. In this alleged assault on the pillars of democracy and rule of law, Trump is being aided and abetted by supposedly nasty, like-minded authoritarians like Russian leader Vladimir Putin, or other nationalistic European politicians.
The premise of this establishment narrative is that all was seemingly salubrious and convivial in the US-led order until the arrival of various renegade-type politicians, like Trump and Putin.
That premise is an absolute conceit and deception. If we look at Obama’s presidency alone, one can see how the supposed guardians of democracy and international order were the very ones who have actually done the most to decimate that order.
Obama, you will recall, was the US president who notched up seven simultaneous overseas wars conducted by American military, arguably without a shred of international legal mandate. Under international law, Obama and other senior officials in his administration should face prosecution for war crimes. He also greatly expanded the executive use of assassination with aerial drones, reckoned to have killed thousands of innocent civilians in several countries, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen and Somalia, merely on the suspicion of being terrorists.
It was Obama who ramped up the covert war policy of his predecessor GW Bush in Syria, arming and directing terrorist proxies in a failed bid to overthrow the elected government of President Assad. That US-backed covert war in Syria, along with Obama’s overt regime-change war in Libya, largely contributed to the refugee crisis that has destabilized the politics of the European Union.
So here we have the supremely bitter irony. Obama now lectures audiences with his pseudo-gravitas about the specter of strongman politics and xenophobic populism, when in fact it was politicians like Obama who created much of the refugee problems that have given rise to anti-immigrant politics in Europe.
It really is a conceited delusion among US and European establishment politicians, pundits and media that somehow a once virtuous, law-abiding US-led Western order is being eroded by rabble rousers like Trump, Salvini, Orban and so on, all being orchestrated by a “strongman dictator” in the Kremlin.
For the record, Putin, the supposed “strongman” in the Kremlin, warned more than a decade ago in a seminal Munich speech that the international order was being eroded by rampant American unilateralism and disregard for law in its pursuit of illegal wars for US hegemony. That was at the height of US wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, which killed more than one million civilians and forced millions more into infernal destitution.
In truth, the Pax Americana that is presumed to have prevailed over the past 70 years was never about order, peace or justice in the world. The notion that the US guided the world with its “moral authority” and maintained stability throughout is one of the most fatuous delusions of modern history.
From the atomic holocaust in Japan and during subsequent decades, the US has waged wars non-stop in almost every year, whether from covert operations in Latin America and Africa, to full-on genocidal wars in Indochina. The past quarter-century has seen an acceleration and expansion of these US wars, sometimes with the assistance of its military axis in NATO, largely because Washington viewed that its license to kill for mass murder was unchecked after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
This is the real dynamic underlying why the Western order is now seen to be collapsing. The US and its minions among European allies have destroyed any foundations of international order from their unabated wars and campaigns of mass murder. Their corporate-capitalist plunder has eviscerated the planet.
The chaos from these wars, including economic impacts of gargantuan costs to Western populations, has created social conditions which engender politics of protest, anti-establishment, anti-austerity, anti-war, anti-immigration, and so on.
If the supposed order is shaking for the establishment political class and its flunkies like Barack Obama it is because of their own criminal depredations – depredations which have been going on for decades under the guise of Pax Americana.
The writers at Monthly Review had it so presciently right years ago, when they analyzed the actual Western order as “Pox Americana” – a diseased affliction.
This is the historical context which accounts for why US and European establishments are decrying “strongmen” and “populists”. They are essentially scapegoating others for the historic failure of institutionalized Western criminality led primarily by “democratic” regimes in Washington.
Russian President Vladimir Putin stands out as the one international leader who put a brake on the US-led criminal assault on global peace. Putin’s stand first emerged with his landmark speech in Munich in 2007, and then came into clear expression when he helped put an end to the US-led covert criminal war on Syria.
That is why Putin is so vilified and demonized by the Western establishment. The poachers have been stopped from raiding the globe, and in their exasperation, they have whipped up all sorts of disparaging epithets like “strongman” and “authoritarian”.
No one has practiced more fascist-style criminality and brutality towards law and peace than the polite-sounding pseudo-democrats who have been in office for the past 70 years in the US and Europe.
The Western political establishment and its elite-driven capitalism is rotten to the core. Always has been. Its own erosion and oozing corruption is the source of the putrid smell that it now wishes to waft away by scapegoating others.
Since the June 12 Singapore Summit between US President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the US media has woven a misleading narrative that both past and post-summit North Korean actions indicate an intent to deceive the US about its willingness to denuclearize. The so-called intelligence that formed the basis of these stories was fed to reporters by individuals within the administration pushing their own agenda. TE
The Case of theSecret Uranium Enrichment Sites
In late June and early July, a series of press stories portrayed a North Korean policy of deceiving the United States by keeping what were said to be undeclared uranium enrichment sites secret from the United States. The stories were published just as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was preparing for the first meetings with North Korean officials to begin implementing the Singapore Summit Declaration.
The first such story appeared on NBC News on June 29, which reported:
U.S. intelligence agencies believe that North Korea has increased its production of fuel for nuclear weapons at multiple secret sites in recent months-and that Kim Jong Un may try to hide those facilities as he seeks more concessions in nuclear talks with the Trump administration.
NBC News reporters quoted one official as saying, “There is absolutely unequivocal evidence that they are trying to deceive the U.S.” They further reported that the intelligence assessment “concludes that there is more than one secret site” for enrichment.
The story was highly problematic because it reported the alleged conclusion of the intelligence report as a fact, even though it admitted that NBC reporters had not seen or been briefed in detail on any part of the intelligence assessment in question, but had relied entirely on general statements by unnamed officials. Furthermore, none of the officials on whom they relied were identified as members of the intelligence community.
Significantly, the story did not indicate whether the assessment was endorsed by the entire US intelligence community or-as turned out to be the case-only one element of it. Normal journalistic practice would have made clear that NBC was passing on an unconfirmed conclusion the accuracy of which they were unable to verify. Instead, the NBC reporters played up the alleged conclusion as unambiguous evidence that US intelligence believed the North Koreans intended to deceive the United States by maintaining secret enrichment facilities under a future agreement with the United States.
The Washington Post published a report by national security and intelligence reporters Ellen Nakashima and Joby Warrick the day after the NBC story that paralleled its main thrust and cited the same unnamed intelligence sources that were cited in the NBC story. But the Post also revealed that the intelligence assessment in question had come from the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), which is generally recognized as an outlier within the intelligence community on most assessments of adversary capabilities and intentions. A former senior intelligence official with extensive experience dealing with DIA assessments explained in an interview with this writer that the DIA “would tend to put a worse-case spin” on any analysis of North Korean intentions.
That makes it all the more important to know whether the rest of the intelligence community agrees with the reported assessment of North Korean intentions. Nakashima and Warrick seemed to suggest that there is no doubt in the intelligence community that the North Koreans “have operated a secret underground enrichment site known as Kangsong,” and they linked to an earlier Post report on that alleged secret enrichment site published May 25.
That earlier Post story quoted a former senior US official as saying that intelligence agencies had “long suspected the existence of such a facility” and believed there were “probably” others as well. But a PowerPoint on the Kangsong issue by David Albright, the founder and CEO of the Institute for Science and International Security, makes it clear that US intelligence lacks hard evidence to support such suspicions. Albright, a former UN weapons inspector, revealed that the original allegation of the secret enrichment plant had come from a North Korean defector who said he had “worked near the site,” clearly implying that he had inferred the purpose of the site without having been inside it.
More importantly, according to Albright, “we have not located this site,” meaning that the US intelligence community still did not have a specific location for the suspected plant eight years after the defector was obviously asked to provide it. Albright further disclosed that some US intelligence analysts and senior officials of at least one foreign government have challenged the belief that the building in question was an enrichment site, because, “some aspects of the building are not consistent with a centrifuge plant.” And he recalled that other alleged covert enrichment facilities had been suggested to his organization, but that he viewed them as “less credible than the information about Kangsong.”
The intelligence community appears to have even less basis for claiming a secret North Korean nuclear site-much less multiple secret sites-today than it did when the US government charged that North Korea had a secret nuclear facility in mid-1998. That was when the Clinton administration informed congressional leaders and the South Korean government privately that US intelligence analysts were convinced that a site with tunnels carved into a mountain at Kumchang-ri was intended to house a new reactor and plutonium reprocessing center, based on satellite photographs and other intelligence.
After months of negotiations, the North finally agreed to US on-site inspections in June 1999 and again in May 2000. The result of those two inspections was that the US government was compelled to acknowledge that the purpose of the tunnel complex at Kumchang-ri had been to vent fumes from an underground uranium milling plant.
At least the intelligence community had identified a specific site in 1998 that it regarded with suspicion, which is not the case today. Nevertheless, a group of officials is promoting the idea that North Korea is planning to keep such sites secret under a negotiated agreement. The timing of the leaked intelligence assessment that prompted these stories suggested that someone in the Trump administration was seeking to sway the White House to adopt the tougher US stance in Pompeo’s trip to Pyongyang in early July. Albright appeared to be referring to that effort when he told the Post that intelligence assessment came just when “there’s a worry that the Trump administration may go soft, and accept a deal that focuses on Yongbyon and forgets about these other sites.”
National security adviser John Bolton had been reported as pushing for a hard line in diplomatic talks with North Korea that would threaten their viability. These reports raise the obvious possibility that the officials who conveyed the alleged intelligence conclusion were part of a political effort coordinated with him.
Hyping Yongbyon Improvements to Discredit Diplomacy
During the same time period as the reporting on alleged secret sites, NBC News, CNN and the Wall Street Journal all reported on North Korea making rapid upgrades to its nuclear weapons complex at Yongbyon and expanding its missile production program-all at the very moment when Trump and Kim were agreeing on denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula at their Singapore Summit.
In each case, the reports cited analyses of commercial satellite imagery from independent analysts, including contributors to 38 North. But they all employed a common device to create a false narrative about the negotiations with North Korea: by misrepresenting the diplomatic context in which the satellite images were collected, they drew political conclusions about North Korean strategy that were unwarranted.
The series of stories involved more than a mere misunderstanding of the raw information being reported. They all denigrated the idea of negotiating with North Korea on the grounds that it cannot be trusted. The NBC News and CNN stories on improvements at the Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center cited the analysis of satellite images published by 38 North on June 26. And they were all slanted to lead readers to conclude that the improvements in question signified a nefarious intention by North Korea to deceive the Trump administration.
The headline of the June 27 NBC News story asked, “If North Korea is denuclearizing, why is it expanding a nuclear research center?” And it warned that North Korea “continues to make improvements to a major nuclear facility, raising questions about President Donald Trump’s claim that Kim Jong Un has agreed to disarm, independent experts tell NBC News.”
CNN’s story about the same images declared that there were “troubling signs” that North Korea was making “improvements” or “upgrades” at a “rapid pace” to its nuclear facilities, some of which it said were carried out after the Trump-Kim summit. It cited one facility that had produced plutonium in the past that had been upgraded, despite Kim’s alleged promise to Trump to draw down his nuclear arsenal.
Both the NBC and CBS stories were misrepresenting the significance of the improvements described in the 38 North analysis. They either ignored or sought to discredit the carefully-worded caveat in that assessment, which cautioned that the continued work at the Yongbyon facility “should not be seen as having any relationship to North Korea’s pledge to denuclearize.”
The analysis was referring to the fact that the Singapore Summit’s joint statement did not commit North Korea to immediately halt its activities in their nuclear and missile programs and therefore the improvements at Yongbyon had no bearing on whether Pyongyang would agree to denuclearization. Indeed, during the negotiation of US-Soviet and US-Russian arms control agreements, both sides continued to build weapons until the agreement was completed. It should not have come as a surprise, therefore, that work at Yongbyon was continuing.
NBC News deliberately ignored these crucial contextual facts and instead selectively reported statements from other analysts dismissing the notion that North Korea would ever denuclearize and would continue to try to deceive the US about its true intentions.
On July 1, a few days after those stories appeared, the Wall Street Journalheadlined, “New satellite imagery indicates Pyongyang is pushing ahead with weapons programs even as it pursues dialogue with Washington.” The lead paragraph called it a “major expansion of a key missile-manufacturing plant.”
The images of a North Korean solid-fuel missile manufacturing facility at Hamhung showed that new buildings had been added to the facility beginning in the early spring, after Kim Jong Un had called for more production of solid-fuel rocket engines and warhead tips last August. The exterior construction of some buildings was completed “around the time” of the Trump-Kim summit meeting, according to the analysts at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies. The Center’s David Schmerler told the Journal, “The expansion of production infrastructure for North Korea’s solid missile infrastructure probably suggests that Kim Jong Un does not intend to abandon his nuclear and missile programs.”
The improvements in North Korea’s infrastructure for missile parts manufacturing documented by the Center for Nonproliferation Studies, which began well before the summit, are hardly evidence against North Korea’s willingness to negotiate a comprehensive agreement with the United States. Like any country dealing with a serious military threat from an adversary, North Korea is both hedging against the real possibility of talks failing and signaling that it is not unilaterally surrendering. The United States is doing the same thing, albeit in different ways.
Major media reporting on what is alleged to be intelligence and photographic evidence that North Korea intends to deceive the United States in negotiations on denuclearization has been extraordinarily misleading. It has blithely ignored serious issues surrounding the alleged intelligence conclusions and suggested that North Korea has demonstrated bad faith by failing to halt all nuclear and missile-related activities.
Recent stories do not reflect actual evidence of covert facilities, but rather deep suspicions of North Korean intentions within the intelligence community that have been fed to the media by individuals within the administration who are unhappy with the direction of the president’s North Korea policy following the Singapore Summit. And breathless reports on improvements in North Korean nuclear and missile facilities ignore the distinction between a summit statement and a final deal with North Korea. They have thus obscured the reality that the fate of the negotiations depends not only North Korean policy but on the willingness of the United States to make changes in its policy toward the DPRK and the Korean Peninsula that past administrations have all been reluctant to make.
These stories also underscore a broader problem with media coverage of the US-North Korean negotiations: a strong underlying bias toward the view that it is futile to negotiate with North Korea. The latest stories have constructed a dark narrative of North Korean deception that is not based on verified facts. If this narrative is not rebutted or corrected, it could shift public opinion-which has been overwhelmingly favorable to negotiations with North Korea-against such a policy.
The military operation of government forces in southern Syria was once again resumed after the Damascus government and local militants groups had failed to reach any kind of fully-fledged reconciliation agreement that would allow to settle the situation in the area via a peaceful way.
On July 5, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), the Tiger Forces and their allies liberated the town of Saida and the nearby abandoned air defense base in the province of Daraa. Additionally, the SAA advanced along the border with Jordan liberating over 10 villages between the border points of 71 and 79.
According to pro-government sources, the SAA faced a little resistance during their operation along the border. Russian troops were spotted there.
The operation is also supported by the Russian Aerospace Forces. Nonetheless, the number of airstrikes is limited. Currently, government forces are developing their operation in the direction of the Nassib border crossing.
Clashes between Turkish-backed militants, reportedly members of Ahrar al-Sharqiyah, and government troops have taken place in the village of Tadef in the province of Aleppo. Turkish-backed forces captured some positions, but were forced to withdraw from them later. According to pro-government sources, the withdrawal was ordered by the Turkish military to de-escalated the situation.
Such incidents show the real sentiments among the so-called moderate opposition groups backed by Turkey and limitations of Ankara’s control of these groups.
The ISIS-linked news agency Amaq claimed that on July 4 ISIS fighters had ambushed a convoy of the US-led coalition in the village of Namliyah in the eastern part of Deir Ezzor province. According to Amaq, ISIS employed 18 IEDs against the convoy killing four US troops. Other sources say that only two US servicemen were killed. The US-led coalition has not commented on these reports so far.
Meanwhile, the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have captured the villages of Madinah and Qabr Taha from ISIS in the southern part of Hasakah province. The SDF is continuing it operation in the direction of the Tuwaymin area.
Jeff Bezos has $141 billion, and 63 percent of Americans say they can’t afford a $500 emergency. The system of massive inequality is unsustainable, but it keeps going thanks to the myths we are told, Lee Camp says.
Comedian Lee Camp breaks down the eight great myths of American society in the latest edition of his satirical talk show Redacted Tonight on RT.
In the opening segment, Camp says that the corporatocracy is steadily tightening its grasp, the insanely wealthy get richer every day, and the poor get exploited more and more.
“63 percent of Americans can’t afford a $500 emergency. Yet, on the other end of the spectrum, the rear end of the spectrum, if you will, and you should, Amazon head Jeff Bezos is now worth a record $141 billion. Meanwhile, worldwide 1 in 10 people only make $2 a day. Do you know how long it would take one of those people at $2 a day to make the same amount as Jeff Bezos has? 193 million years. And that’s if they only buy single-ply toilet paper. And yet there are riots in the streets for the most part, at least not in the US.”
Camp is puzzled why we are okay with this and says the reason is “the myths we are all sold.”
“Myths that are ingrained in our social programming from birth when our heads are still soft. These myths are accepted and basically never questioned,” Camp said, adding that he feels it is his job to lay them all out.
Myth #8: We have a democracy
“If you think that we still have a democratic republic, ask yourself this: when was the last time Congress did something that the people of America wanted that was not in the benefit of corporations? You probably can’t do it, right?”
Camp claims that Congress doesn’t do “a damn thing without the approval of their sugar daddies.”
He noted that even the Carter Center and former President Jimmy Carter believe that America has been transformed to an oligarchy – a small corrupt elite group controls the country without much input from the people.
“The rulers need the myth that we’re a democracy to give us the illusion of control,” he said.
[ The Original full text book, 316 pages, is free for download and distribution with proper attribution under commons.
As an editorial note from VT, the read itself is a useful dialog on historical studies of the Jesuits and the Inquisition. I have known some of the source authors for years. Gail Evans, now deceased and missed dearly, was our resident expert on this subject.
There are Q and A comment boards at the original site with some value for those with scholarly interest. Suffice it to say, there is controversy. The idea of Jewish origins of the Jesuit order and of the assertion that same maintained a contiguous agenda for centuries is well supported.
In its simplest form, it is asserted that Loyola and his associates began the Society of Jesus and unleashed a holocaust across the Christian world. In ways, I might go much further, tying in not only the tens of thousands murdered as witches, but the ethnic cleansing that, under Jesuit “Catholicism”, accounted for up to 100-million deaths, depending on whose figures you accept, in colonial conquests in the New World.
Consider the full download, it is a good read. g ]
“Those from the circumcision subverted the entire house of the Society. As sons of this world who are shrewd in dealing with their own, and avid of new things, they easily excite disorders and destroy the unity of souls and their bond with the government.” Lorenzo Maggio, Jesuit Curia in Rome, 1586.
One of the more interesting aspects of Jewish group behavior is the presence of subversive strategies employing crypsis, often facilitated by a combination of deception and self-deception.
To date, the most forthright and convincing theoretical framework for understanding cryptic forms of Judaism is found in Kevin MacDonald’s groundbreaking Separation and Its Discontents: Toward and Evolutionary Theory of Anti-Semitism.
A substantial portion of the fourth chapter of the text (1998/2004: 121–132) is devoted to ‘Reactive Racism in the Period of the Iberian Inquisitions.’ Here MacDonald puts forth the view (147) that the blood purity struggles of the Spanish Inquisition during the 15th and 16th centuries should be seen as “an authoritarian, collectivist, and exclusionary movement that resulted from resource and reproductive competition with Jews, and particularly crypto-Jews posing as Christians.”
The historical context lies predominantly in the forced conversion of Jews in Spain in 1391, after which these ‘New Christians’ or conversos assumed (or indeed retained) a dominance in the areas of law, finance, diplomacy, public administration, and a wide range of economic activities.
MacDonald argues (148) that despite superficial religious conversions, the New Christians “must be considered a historical Jewish group” that acted in such a way as to continue the advance of its ethnic interests. An integral aspect of this was that Wealthy New Christians purchased and endowed ecclesiastical benefices for their children, with the result that many prelates were of Jewish descent.
Indirectly, and almost certainly unintentionally, MacDonald’s arguments find much in the way of corroboration in The Jesuit Order as a Synagogue of Jews (2010) by Boston College’s Robert Aleksander Maryks. Examining the same geographical area during the same period, Maryks presents an account of the early years of the Society of Jesus, during which a fierce struggle took place for the soul, fate, and control of the Order; a struggle involving a highly influential crypto-Jewish bloc and a competing network of European Christians.
In this unpolished but interesting book, Maryks illuminates this struggle with reference to previously undiscovered material, in the process shedding light on some of the most important recurring themes of reactive anti-Semitism: Jewish ethnocentrism, nepotism, the tendency to monopoly, and the strategic use of alliances with European elites.
Perhaps most fascinating of all, Maryks makes significant reference to Jewish responses to European efforts to stifle their influence, some of which are remarkable in the close manner in which they parallel modern examples of Jewish apologetic propaganda.
As such, The Jesuit Order as a Synagogue of Jews is highly recommended for anyone seeking to understand, via an easily-digested historical case study, the dynamics of the ethnic conflict between Jews and Europeans.
Maryks divides his text into four well-paced chapters. The first provides readers with ‘The Historical Context of Purity-of-Blood Discrimination (1391–1547),’ a detailed standalone introduction to the nature of the ‘New Christian’ problem in Iberia but which should be read in conjunction with MacDonald’s work on the same theme. The second chapter concerns ‘Early Jesuit Pro-Converso Policy (1540–72),’ which demonstrates the intensive manner in which crypto-Jews infiltrated key positions in the Society of Jesus, adapting its ideological positions in accordance with their interests, and eventually establishing a monopoly on top positions that extended to the Vatican.
The third chapter, ‘Discrimination Against Jesuits of Jewish Lineage (1573–93),’ concerns the establishment of a movement acting against the crypto-Jewish strategy, with an analysis of the key figures and their rationale.
The fourth chapter, ‘Jesuit Opposition to the Purity-of-Blood Discrimination (1576–1608),’ examines the efforts of crypto-Jewish Jesuits to fight back against the European counter-strategy, often involving the employment of tactics and stances that are now familiar to us as the hallmarks of a Jewish intellectual movement.
This sequence parallels the processes that led to the Inquisition—New Christians establishing themselves in top positions in Spanish politics, business, and culture, provoking a reaction by the Old Christians aimed at regaining power, followed by Jewish counter efforts against the Inquisition and the against the Spanish government generally, the latter typically played out on the international scene.
One of the key strengths of this fascinating book is that Maryks can rely on relatively recent genealogical discoveries to prove beyond doubt that many of the individuals once merely “accused” of being crypto-Jews were undeniably of Jewish lineage. Maryks can thus cut through a clouded period in which ancestry was vital and yet fogged with accusations, denials, and counter-accusations, with tremendous clarity. In the author’s words (xxix), “racial tensions played a pivotal role in early Jesuit history.”
Opening his book, Maryks recalls delivering a paper on converso influence in the Jesuits, and afterwards receiving an email from a man with origins in the Iberian peninsula. The email concerned the remarkably long survival of crypto-Jewish behaviors in the sender’s family:
From Friday evening through Saturday evening, his grandfather would hide the image of baby Jesus from a large framed picture of St. Anthony that he kept in his home. It was, in fact, a wind-up music box. On Fridays he would wind up the mechanism and push a button, so that Jesus would disappear out of St. Anthony’s arms, hidden in the upper frame of the picture. On Saturdays he would push the button, so that Jesus would come back out from hiding into St. Anthony’s arms. As eldest son in his family, my correspondent was told this story by his father, who also asked him to eat only kosher food. (xv)
The survival of such eccentric, and in this case apparently trivial, forms of crypto-Judaism into what one assumes to be the early twentieth century, might appear to be little more than a socio-historical curio. In actual fact, however, it is a small but memorable vestige of what was once a very powerful means of continuing the Jewish group evolutionary strategy in the Iberian peninsula after 1391 — an overwhelmingly hostile environment. In a political, religious, and social context devoid of the synagogue and many of the most visible aspects of Judaism, small reminders of group difference, even otherwise trivial ones like hiding images of Jesus or adhering to discreet dietary rules, became vital methods for retaining group cohesion.
For some time, these methods were largely successful in facilitating the continuance of Jewish life ‘under the noses’ of the Christian host society. During this successful period, conversos were able to expand nepotistic monopolies of influence in a wide range of civic and even (Christian) religious spheres. When it failed, however, the consequences could be catastrophic.
Maryks points out (xxii) that from its founding in 1540 to 1593, the Society of Jesus had no discriminatory legislation against individuals of Jewish heritage, and that during this period converso Jesuits “held the highest administrative offices, and defined the Society’s institutional development and spirituality.”
However, significant resistance to this crypto-Jewish monopoly had developed by the latter date, and from 1593 to 1608 a power struggle resulted in the defeat of the crypto-Jewish element and the introduction of laws prohibiting the admittance of members of ‘impure blood.’ From 1608 until 1946 this involved a review of the ancestry of any potential member of the Society of Jesus, up to the fifth generation.
The Jewish Origins of the Jesuits
On 15 August 1534, Ignatius of Loyola (born Íñigo López de Loyola), a Spaniard from the Basque city of Loyola, and six others, all students at the University of Paris, met in Montmartre outside Paris, in a crypt beneath the church of Saint Denis, to pronounce the religious vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.
Ignatius’ six companions were: Francis Xavier from Navarre (modern Spain), Alfonso Salmeron, Diego Laínez, Nicolás Bobadilla from Castile (modern Spain), Pierre Favre from Savoy, and Simão Rodrigues from Portugal.
At this point they called themselves the Compañía de Jesús, and also Amigos en El Señor or “Friends in the Lord.” The Spanish “company” would be translated into Latin as societas, deriving from socius, a partner or comrade. This soon evolved into the “Society of Jesus” (SJ), by which they would later be more widely known.In 1537, the seven traveled to Italy to seek papal approval for their order. Pope Paul III gave them a commendation, and permitted them to be ordained priests. The official founding of the Society of Jesus occurred in 1540.
The presence and influence of conversos in the Society of Jesus was strong from the beginning. Of the seven founding members, Maryks provides categorical evidence that four were of Jewish ancestry — Salmeron, Laínez, Bobadilla, and Rodrigues. In addition, Loyola himself has long been noted for his strong philo-Semitism, and one recent PhD thesis has even advanced a convincing argument that Loyola’s maternal grandparents, (his grandfather, Dr. Martín García de Licona, was a merchant and financial advisor at court), were full-blooded conversos — thus rendering the ‘Basque nobleman’ halachically Jewish.
Jewish scholar of the Inquisition, Henry Kamen, who had earlier argued that the Inquisition was “a weapon of social welfare” used mainly to obliterate the conversos as a distinct class capable of offering social and economic competition to ‘Old Christians,’ once voiced his own personal view that Loyola was “a deep and sincere spiritual Semite.”
Straightforward assessments of the reasons for Loyola’s philo-Semitism are, as Maryks admirably elucidates, complicated by the ubiquitous presence of converso propaganda. More specifically, Loyola’s reputation as an ardent admirer of the Jews rests predominantly on a series of anecdotes and remarks attributed to him — and many of these derive from biographies penned shortly after his death by converso Jesuits aiming to promote and defend their interests.
For example, the only source for the argument that Loyola had an overwhelming desire to be of Jewish origin so that he could “become a relative of Christ and his Mother” is the first official biography of Loyola — penned by the converso Pedro de Ribadeneyra. Ribadeneyra is described by Maryks as “a closet-converso” who distorted many now-established facts about Loyola’s life, including a concealment of the fact that “the Inquisition in Alcalá had accused Loyola of being a crypto-Jew.” (43)
An important aspect of Ribadeneyra’s biography was thus the promotion of the idea that being Jewish was desirable and admirable — Loyola’s philo-Semitism (real or imagined) was intended to be emulated. Meanwhile the sinister aspects of crypto-Judaism, and their suppression by the Inquisition, were excised from the story altogether.
Whether Loyola was in fact a crypto-Jew, or whether he indeed was a European but possessed a strong desire to be a Jew, remains unconfirmed at time of this writing. However, it is certain that Loyola surrounded himself with many conversocolleagues and that he opposed any discrimination against converso candidates within the Society of Jesus. Maryks argues that, issues of crypsis and philo-Semitism aside, Loyola was probably “motivated by the financial support that he had sought from their [converso] network in Spain.”(xx)
In this reading then, Loyola was fully aware of the elite position of the conversos within Spanish society and was prepared to accept their money to establish his organization in exchange for adopting a non-racial stance in its governance.
The question of course remains as to why the crypto-Jewish elite in Spain would back, both financially and in terms of manpower, a Christian religious order. The important thing to keep in mind is that religion and politics in Early Modern Europe were intimately entwined, and that, through spiritual confraternities and their relationships with local elites, even poverty-espousing religious orders like the Franciscans could exert a strong form of socio-political influence.
This was often made even more sharply evident when religious orders engaged in missionary work in foreign lands, often taking pioneering roles in colonial regimes, and even assisting with their economic enterprises. William Caferro notes that in Renaissance Italy “the Florentine political elite was closely tied to the church. Government officials often held high church office and benefice, which aided their local political power.”Involvement in religious orders was thus a necessary aspect and extension of political, social, and cultural influence.
Unsurprisingly then, it can be demonstrated that crypto-Jews straddled the interconnected networks of royal administration, the civic bureaucracy, and the Church. Citing just some examples, Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh note in their history of the Inquisition:
In 1390 the rabbi of Burgos converted to Catholicism. He ended his life as Bishop of Burgos, Papal legate and tutor to a prince of the blood. [Burgos’s son would later become an important pro-converso activist and will be discussed below]. He was not alone. In some of the major cities, the administration was dominated by prominent converso families. At the very time the Spanish Inquisition was formed, King Ferdinand’s treasurer was converso in his background. In Aragón, the five highest administrative posts in the kingdom were occupied by conversos. In Castile, there were at least four converso bishops. Three of Queen Isabella’s secretaries were conversos, as was the official court chronicler.
For the crypto-Jewish elite of early modern Spain, the founding of an influential religious order headed by a philo-Semite (if not a fellow crypto-Jew), staffed predominantly by a conversoleadership, and constitutionally tolerant of conversoapplicants, would undoubtedly have been an attractive prospect.
That a bargain of some form existed between Loyola and his crypto-Jewish sponsors is suggested, as noted above, by the nature of the early Jesuit constitution and by early correspondence concerning the admission of candidates of Jewish ancestry. The founding of the Jesuit order had coincided with the rise of a more general Spanish anti-converso atmosphere that reached its peak in 1547, “when the most authoritative expression of the purity-of- blood legislation, El Estatuto de limpieza [de sangre], was issued by the Inquisitor General of Spain and Archbishop of Toledo, Silíceo (xx).”
Pope Paul IV and Silíceo’s former pupil, King Philip II, ratified the archbishop’s statutes in 1555 and 1556, respectively, but Ignatius of Loyola and his converso successor, Diego Laínez (1512–65) vigorously opposed the Inquisitor’s attempts to preclude conversos from joining the Jesuits. In fact, in a letter addressed to the Jesuit Francisco de Villanueva (1509–57), Loyola wrote that “in no way would the Jesuit Constitutions accept the policy of the archbishop (xxi).”
Seeking to quell rising tensions over the issue, in February 1554 Loyola sent his plenipotentiary emissary, Jerónimo Nadal (1507–80), to visit the Inquisitor. Nadal insisted that the Jesuit Constitutions did not discriminate between candidates of the Society on the basis of lineage, and even personally admitted a number of converso candidates during his visit to Iberia.
In a heated debate with the Inquisitor over the admission of one of them, Nadal replied: “We [Jesuits] take pleasure in admitting those of Jewish ancestry.” In what would become a striking pattern, most of the pro-converso arguments were made by crypto-Jews claiming to be native Spaniards. Maryks notes that his historical investigations suggest that Nadal was “most probably a descendant of Majorcan Jews (77).”
Jewish attempts to alter Christian thinking about Jews from within Christianity, were already well-established by the date of Nadal’s intercession with the Inquisitor. An excellent example is the classic work of Alonso de Santa María de Cartagena (1384–1456) — Defensorium unitatis christianae [In Defense of Christian Unity] (1449–50).
Alonso de Cartagena had been baptized (at the age of five or six) by his father Shlomo ha-Levi, later renamed Pablo de Santa María (c. 1351–1435), who— as chief rabbi of Burgos—converted to Christianity just before the anti-Jewish riots of 1391 and later was elected bishop of Cartagena (1402) and Burgos (1415). The fact that the wife of this Bishop of Burgos remained an unconverted Jewess does not appear to have impeded the latter’s career in the Church is interesting to say the least.
Meanwhile his son, Cartagena, like many other conversos, studied civil and ecclesiastical law at Salamanca and went on to a highly influential career straddling royal, civic, and religious spheres. He served as apostolic nuncio and canon in Burgos. King Juan II appointed Cartagena as his official envoy to the Council of Basel (1434–9), where he contributed to the formulation of a decree on “the regenerative character of baptism without regard for lineage (4).”
Like other examples of pro-converso propaganda, however, Cartagena’s arguments always went beyond mere appeals for ‘tolerance.’ According to Cartagena, “the faith appears to be more splendid in the Israelite flesh,” Jews naturally possess a “civic nobility,” and it was the duty of rough and uncouth native Spaniards to unite with the “tenderness of the Israelite meekness.” (14, 17)
Conversos thus emerge in the works of the earliest crypto-Jewish activists as more special than ordinary Christians, as naturally deserving of an elite status, and, far from being the worthy objects of hostility, were in fact uniquely blameless, ‘tender,’ and ‘meek.’ One is struck by the regular use of similar arguments in our contemporary environment, a similarity that only increases when one considers Cartagena’s attribution of anti-Jewish hostility solely to “the malice of the envious.” (20)
Against this backdrop of crypto-Jewish apologetics, Maryks demonstrates, whether he intends to or not, that the early Jesuits were largely a vehicle for converso power and influence (both political and ideological). Loyola continued to be “surrounded” by conversos throughout his leadership (55). Enrique Enríques, the son of Portuguese Jews, even authored the first Jesuit manual of moral theology, Theologiae moralis summa, in 1591. (65)
Maryks describes Loyola as having an unlimited “trust” in candidates of Jewish heritage, citing his decision to “admit in 1551 Giovanni Battista Eliano (Romano), the grandson of the famous grammarian and poet Rabbi Elijah Levita (1468–1549) …. He entered the Society at the age of twenty-one, just three months after his baptism (66).”
In explaining Loyola’s lax requirements for converso applicants, and resultant acquiescence in flooding the Society with crypto-Jews, it is strange that Maryks should abandon his own prior suggestion that the founding of the Jesuits may have rested on a quid pro quo with the converso elite in favor of a less convincing theory based on a putative and ill-explained “trust” that Loyola possessed for Jews. Unfortunately this is a common theme throughout Jewish historiography, where the facts and conclusions presented in the same text are often on entirely different trajectories.
In a similar vein, Maryks’s skeletal explanation that crypto-Jews flooded the Jesuits simply because Loyola had “numerous contacts with the converso spiritual and merchant network” before he founded the Society of Jesus, seems woefully inadequate and lacking in context.
Despite the best laid plans of Loyola and his colleagues, and just 32 years after its founding, the Society of Jesus would undergo a revolt from below against a rapidly expanding crypto-Jewish elite.
The features of this revolt represent a fascinating case study in the reactive nature of anti-Semitism. Maryks narrative of how two competing ethnic groups struggled for the future of the Jesuit Order, outlined in his second and third chapters, is certainly the greatest strength of the text. It is to this European counter-strategy that we now turn our attention.
MINNEAPOLIS – Despite concern that the United States will soon find itself in a major war that could have global consequences, many Americans are uninterested in that eventuality as shown by the minimal attention major geopolitical events, like the recent bombing of Syria or the 17-year-long occupation of Afghanistan, receive compared to the President’s alleged sexcapades and rapper Kanye West’s tweets. Though many theories have been put forth as to why so many Americans are uninterested in their government’s military actions abroad that are committed in their name and with their tax dollars, there is one that stands out from the rest.
The United States has been at war for 93 percent of its history. However, a vast majority of those wars took place abroad and did not drastically alter domestic life for most Americans, except in the case of the Civil War. The suffering of wars in which the U.S. has participated has largely eluded the majority of Americans, save for American servicemen and veterans — who are often forced to internalize their suffering in a country disconnected from the consequences of war.
Compare, for instance, the suffering unleashed upon the people of Korea during the Korean War, the people of Vietnam during the Vietnam War and the people of Iraq during the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq to the domestic experience of the average American while those wars were taking place. Even the “just” wars of years past, like World War I and World War II, did not cause the type of destruction that those wars wrought upon Europe. In fact, the U.S. government – beyond the loss of life of its soldiers – benefited greatly from these catastrophes and allowed the country to become a world power.
As a result, there is a prevailing, though likely unconscious, perception that U.S. military adventurism abroad, no matter how brutal or criminal, does not significantly impact the day-to-day activities of American life, allowing a substantial portion of the population to ignore the more sordid consequences of U.S. imperial ambition.
Yet, while America has gone a century and a half without being “war-torn” in the conventional sense, the damage of war is not limited to that inflicted by guns and bombs. With yet another war looming, it is worth revisiting the effects past wars have had on American domestic life as well as the dangerous precedents that past actions of the U.S. government taken during war-time have set. Indeed, were the U.S. to get involved in a major war with a country like Russia or Iran, many of the past actions taken by the government, particularly those aimed at curbing dissent, are highly likely to make a comeback to the great detriment of American domestic life and, most of all, American democracy.
The Espionage and Sedition Acts: Protecting Americans from themselves
Reaching back a century ago, the memory of World War I is faint. “The Great War,” as it was called at the time, killed millions and arguably changed the face of war forever. While the war did not take place on U.S. soil, it too brought great change to America, with Orwellian consequences that still persist today.
In 1917, President Woodrow Wilson decided that the country needed to be protected from “the insidious methods of internal hostile activities,” and went to great lengths to restrict freedom of speech and criminalize dissent. One of the results of Wilson’s efforts was the Espionage Act of 1917. Though it was similar to past laws dealing with espionage, the Espionage Act was unique in the sense that it deemed anyone a criminal who published information during times of war that the president declared to be “of such character that it is or might be useful to the enemy” or may “attempt to cause insubordination, disloyalty, mutiny or refusal of duty [draft dodging].” The act passed with a wide majority in both houses of Congress. For those found guilty, the legislation imposed a fine of up to $10,000 and up to 20 years in prison.
Another piece of legislation passed a year later went even further in curbing domestic dissent by limiting speech. The Sedition Act, an amendment that extended the Espionage Act, officially forbade the use of “disloyal, profane, scurrilous, or abusive language” that cast the U.S. government, its armed forces, or even the national flag in a negative light or led others to view the U.S. government and its institutions with contempt during times of war — regardless of whether the information expressed was true. It also prohibited speech that interfered with the sale of government bonds designed to fund the war effort.
Though it was repealed in 1920, the Sedition Act ultimately paved the way for similar legislation that would regulate speech during peacetime in the years to come. The acts were also used to entirely dismantle the progressive left in the United States. For instance, Victor Berger, the first socialist elected to Congress, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for “hindering” the war effort, and legendary socialist leader Eugene Debs received 10 years in prison for making a single anti-war speech.
However, it is worth remembering that, in times of war, the Espionage Act becomes a much more powerful curb on speech and, given that the U.S. uses the law to target whistleblowers in times of peace, the war powers it bestows on the government are sure to be used if and when the U.S. enters into another major war.
The chill of civilian spy networks
In addition to legislative efforts and the use of media to manipulate opinion and squash dissent, American citizens were also encouraged to spy on their countrymen, leading to the formation of citizen vigilante groups likes the Knights of Liberty, the American Defense Society and the National Security League, among others.
The most powerful of these groups was the American Protective League (APL), a semi-official organization that worked with the Justice Department’s Bureau of Investigation and boasted around 250,000 members in some 600 cities across the U.S. Though ostensibly tasked with identifying war saboteurs, draft dodgers and foreign spies, the APL’s members surveilled, harassed, intimidated and “arrested” Americans whose loyalty to the war effort was called into question.
Declining to buy Liberty Bonds, being an immigrant of “questionable” origin, and even having food stores in your home were enough to raise the suspicion of the APL. They raided factories, union halls and private homes with impunity, seeking out any American who opposed the war effort as well as targeting innocent Americans of German descent, whom they tarred and feathered and attacked with horsewhips in full public view. They also worked to suppress American labor unions, calling unions and socialists “pro-German” and “anti-American” and working with the U.S. government to conduct mass raids on the socialist labor union International Workers of the World (IWW).
Despite the clearly illegal tactics of the APL, it had the support of then-Attorney General Thomas Gregory, who assured a skeptical President Wilson that the APL “should be encouraged and…not subject to any real criticism.” During the course of the war, the APL detained some 40,000 people and claimed to have found more than 3 million cases of “disloyalty.”
Though the APL and organizations like it have become relics of wars past, civilian vigilante groups that collaborate with the government have attempted to make a comeback in post 9/11 America. For instance, under the George W. Bush administration, the Terrorism Information and Prevention System (TIPS), was created and sought to create a domestic intelligence-gathering program that would have U.S. citizens report “suspicious” activity. The measure sought to recruit one out of every 24 Americans for the program, mainly those whose work provided access to private homes or businesses, such as mailmen, utility employees and truck drivers. The program, however, was eventually canceled and replaced with Homeland Security’s “See Something, Say Something” initiative.
Propaganda: getting everyone on board for war
In addition to intimidating the public and curbing speech in increasingly fascist attempts to limit dissent, World War I also saw the advent of a new government agency aimed at the mass distribution of propaganda in order to drum up support for the war. The Committee on Public Information (CPI), established by Wilson through an executive order, put journalist George Creel – a fervent supporter of Wilson and the war – in charge of the first state propaganda bureau in the country’s history. In addition to Creel, the members of the committee were the Secretaries of State, War and the Navy.
The idea for the CPI was not Wilson’s, it was Creel’s. Creel had heard many military leaders call for strong censorship of criticism of the war and subsequently sought to convince Wilson that “expression, not suppression” of a controlled press could help the war effort. He urged Wilson to create an agency that would disseminate “not propaganda as the Germans defined it, but propaganda in the true sense of the word, meaning the ‘propagation of faith.’”
The CPI brought powerful businessmen, media personalities, scholars, novelists and artists into its fold, creating a propaganda machine that blended marketing techniques with human psychology. It became the primary conduit for information regarding the war, leading Creel to assert that – in any given week – more than 20,000 newspaper columns across the country were filled with information provided by CPI handouts. Towards the latter half of the war, much of the content produced by the CPI was hateful and xenophobic, adopting slogans like “Stop the Hun!” on posters that showed German soldiers terrorizing women and young children. Its film division produced such titles as The Kaiser: The Beast of Berlin and Wolves of Kultur.
The CPI was also remarkably thorough in its control of dissenting narratives. According to historian Michael Sweeney, “every war story [against the government narrative] had been censored somewhere along the line — at the source, in transit, or in the newspaper offices in accordance with ‘voluntary’ rules established by the CPI.” The CPI was also a global operation, with offices in nine countries, and used its propaganda to great effect in Europe, Latin America and elsewhere.
The CPI was dissolved soon after the war and the domestic (but not foreign) distribution of propaganda was made illegal by the Smith-Mundt Act of 1948. However, in 2013, then-President Barack Obama signed the 2013 National Defense and Authorization Act (NDAA) into law, which contained a piece of legislation, known as “The Smith-Mundt Modernization Act of 2012,” that completely lifted the propaganda ban. The act’s co-authors asserted at the time that removing the domestic propaganda ban was necessary in order to combat “al-Qaeda’s and other violent extremists’ influence among populations.”
Five years later, the result of the lifting of the ban can be seen in the era of “fake news” and “alternative facts,” in which false narratives have become commonplace and largely normalized, as those who publish demonstrably false claims face minimal, if any, accountability. Meanwhile, alternative media sources that provide dissenting narratives are rapidly being silenced and those journalists and citizens who offer different perspectives on key issues are dismissed as “regime apologists” and “Russian bots.” Were war to break out, surely the current efforts under way to control the narrative would only grow.
WWII: Wash, rinse, repeat
World War II, in which propaganda likewise flourished, also resurrected the dangerous “protection” practices set during World War I, namely the mass targeting of those suspected of “disloyalty” to the war effort. The most infamous of these was the internment of Japanese-Americans living on the West Coast on the sole basis of their ethnicity.
In 1942, Franklin D. Roosevelt signed executive order 9066, which put the Secretary of War and his commanders in charge of establishing military zones, or concentration camps, and deciding whom to imprison within their confines. Congress supported the measure, passing Public Law 503, which allowed for the executive order’s implementation. Significantly, the measures did not name a specific ethnic group, but allowed the military to restrict anyone it deemed a “threat.”
Anyone of Japanese ancestry along the U.S. West Coast was considered by the military to present such a threat and, after the laws were passed, many of these individuals were placed under restrictions and curfews before being “evacuated” to internment camps scattered across the country from California to Arkansas. However, it was later shown that the Japanese-Americans were targeted, not out of fear for the national security, but due to the influence of “farmers seeking to eliminate Japanese competition, a public fearing sabotage, politicians hoping to gain by standing against an unpopular group, and military authorities.”
Around 120,000 Japanese-Americans, two-thirds of them American citizens, were sent to the camps. More than half of those interned were children. They were not given due process and were incarcerated for up to four years, unable to leave the prison camps. Many of the children imprisoned there came to consider the camps “home.”
Strangely and tellingly, Japanese-Americans, despite being considered a domestic security threat, were able to join the U.S. Armed Forces after filling out a short questionnaire.
Not all Japanese-Americans complied with the government orders, however. The most well-known of those who disobeyed the internment order was Fred Korematsu, who later challenged the internment of Japanese-Americans on the grounds that it was unconstitutional. The Supreme Court eventually ruled 6-to-3 that the internment of Japanese-Americans was well within the war powers of the President, arguing that in times of war such actions — even if blatantly racist — are justified when there exists a “military necessity.”
It is important to note, however, the vague nature of the law that led to the internment of Japanese-Americans. It stated that the Secretary of War was authorized to “prescribe military areas” and that “the right of any person to enter, remain in, or leave shall be subject to whatever restrictions the Secretary of War or the appropriate Military Commander may impose in his discretion.” Thus, the legal war-time precedent that resulted from war hysteria gave the U.S. military the ability to place anyone from any group into concentration camps using “national security” and “military necessity” as justification.
It’s not hard to imagine how this could play out in the United States today if and when war breaks out. Trump’s so-called “Muslim ban” and push to make a registry of Muslim immigrants, as well as top U.S. officials calling people of Russian descent “genetically driven” to be untrustworthy, are just a few examples of the xenophobia and related hysteria currently at work in the U.S. As long as those irrational fears are cloaked in the patriotic blanket of “military necessity,” it seems that the internment camps could again make an appearance on American soil.
Fascism and racism cloaked in patriotism: an inevitable cycle
Ultimately, what the past shows us is that, in times of war, the United States often embodies the very evils it purports to stand against – fascism and racism chief among them – but does so by wrapping these troubling acts in a veneer of patriotism that falsely seeks to claim that such crimes against the Constitution and American democracy are done out of “necessity” to national security.
Again, the oft-repeated adage that “those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it” rings true. Trump’s Muslim ban and the anti-Russian hysteria of the “Resistance” have raised concern among Japanese-Americans that another group could again suffer in American internment camps as they once did. Homeland Security’s “See Something, Say Something” program shows that the APL’s brand of patriotic vigilantism still lives on. The U.S. government’s continued use of the Espionage Act to target whistleblowers and journalists further shows that dissenting narratives are unwelcome here, whether during times of war or times of peace.
Top Photo | President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence greet military personnel during a visit to the Pentagon, July 20, 2017. (AP/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
Whitney Webb is a staff writer for MintPress News and a contributor to Ben Swann’s Truth in Media. Her work has appeared on Global Research, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has also made radio and TV appearances on RT and Sputnik. She currently lives with her family in southern Chile.
Republish our stories! MintPress News is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 International License.
The Turkish government has made the decision to repatriate all of its gold reserves that are currently housed in the US Federal Reserve System (FRS). Overall Turkey was storing 220 tonnes, valued at $25.3 billion, in the US, which it repossessed on April 19, 2018.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has toughened his stance against the US dollar (USD), declaring that international loans should be made in gold instead of the American currency. Ankara is seeking to reduce dependence on the US financial system. The gold’s homecoming was partly prompted by the US threats to impose sanctions if Turkey goes through with the signed deal to purchase Russian S-400 missile defense systems.
This is a dramatic move reflecting an international trend. Venezuela repatriated its gold from the US in 2012. In 2014, the Netherlands also retrieved its 122.5 tonnes of gold that were stored in US vaults. Germany brought home 300 metric tonnes of gold stashed in the United States in 2017. It took Berlin four years to complete the transfers. Austria and Belgiumhave reviewed the possibility of taking similar measures.
Few people believe the US Treasury’s assurances that the 261 million ounces (roughly 8,100 tonnes) in official gold reserves that are stored in Fort Knox and other places are fully audited and accounted for. The Federal Reserve has never been fully and independently audited. The pressure for a full, independent audit of all US gold reserves has always been resisted by the government and in Congress. Nobody knows if the gold is really there. What if the vaults turn out to be empty? It’s wiser to bring your gold home while you can, rather than to just keep on wondering.
The gold bars that the US claims to hold are of low purity and do not conform to international industry standards. Even if the US has the amount of gold it claims to have, most of it would not be acceptable for trading on the international market. While other countries are pulling their gold out of the FRS banks, Russia and China are boosting their reserves, creating gold-backed currencies for themselves and thus moving the world away from the dominance of the USD.
The US dollar’s status as the global reserve currency has been called into question. It faces some tough competition. The tariffs introduced by the US administration as an instrument of coercion against other countries are failing to bolster the greenback, which may soon face headwinds. An international currency war looms as a possibility. This makes investors look for other options. Indeed, why should other countries rely on a US dollar that is not backed by gold or anything but “the good faith and credit of the American worker,” when America itself is not trusted internationally?
For instance, the Chinese yuan is going strong. Russia, Turkey, and Iran are considering the prospects for making payments in their national currencies. Iran has recently announced it is switching from the dollar to the euro as its official reporting currency. Russia and China have a currency swap agreement that avoids settlements in the USD.
The quest to reduce dependence on the dollar was provoked by the ongoing use of sanctions as a political weapon, a kind of foreign-policy tool of choice. Even America’s closest allies are threatened by these restrictive measures. The recent attack on the Nord Stream 2 gas project is a good example. It’s only natural for other countries to be looking for ways to resist the US policy of twisting arms. Using alternative currencies and bringing gold home are ways to do that.
America has always opposed such efforts. Any methods would do. Muammar Gaddafi, the Libyan leader, was toppled and killed after he came up with the idea to introduce a golden dinar to be used as an international currency in the Middle East and Africa. Iran has recently banned the use of the USD in trade. It refuses to sell its oil for the US currency. President Trump is likely to kill the Iran deal in May, provoking Tehran into reviving its nuclear program.
An armed conflict with Iran might be much closer than generally believed. The nuclear deal has been honored, to everyone’s satisfaction but to Washington’s chagrin. Iran undoubtedly has no military capability that would be a threat to the US. It has never been responsible for any terrorist acts committed abroad or things like that. But it has done something unforgivable in the eyes of the US. It has threatened the USD. That’s what Washington cannot accept, because if it does not support the dollar, there will be problems financing the US government’s huge federal debt. A war with Iran would eliminate the largest non-USD oil exporter. One thing leads to another. The gold repatriations are a precursor to a currency war and armed conflict. That’s what drives US foreign policy.
The US Knows How to Pull Out Its Forces While Simultaneously Maintaining a Military Presence in Syria
US Military Cuts Presence in Turkey: Leaving Syria Is Best Way out of Predicament
Turkey’s Offensive in Syria: the US Falls into a Trap of Its Own Making
Turkey’s Erdogan in the Shadows of the Ottoman Empire
Why America’s Bad Choices Can Lead to a Shooting War with Turkey in Syria
Playing ‘Kurdish Card’ in Syria Backfires on US As Turks Move In
‘Media used my son for their purposes’: CNN’s Amanpour challenged to go talk to ‘Aleppo boy’
Omran Daqneesh’s photo became a symbol of the tragic state of children in Aleppo. The boy’s father reveals how the Syrian militants used his son as a tool in their propaganda fight against the Syrian government.
The Russian Defense Ministry has commented on a joint US, British and French missile strike on Syria, which took place on the day, when the OPCW experts are set to start a probe into allegations of a chemical attack in Douma, a claim denounced by Damascus as a provocation.
The Russian Defense Ministry stated that most missiles launched by the Western states on Syria had been downed by the Arab Republic’s air defenses while approaching their targets.
“The Syrian air defense system has been conducting an anti-air fight,” the ministry added.
According to the Russian Defense Ministry, Syria repelled the Western attack with air defense systems made in the USSR over 30 years ago.
“Syria’s means of air defense: S-125, S-200 air defense systems, [as well as] Buk and Kvadrat units were used in the repelling the missile strike.”
Syrian air defense forces have intercepted all 12 cruise missiles, which had been used to attack the Dumeir military airfield, according to the Russian Defense Ministry.
Russia’s air defenses haven’t been used to repell the missile strike on the territory of the Syrian Arab Republic, the military said.
“None of the cruise missiles launched by the US and its allies entered the zone of responsibility of the Russian air defenses, covering objects in Tartus [naval facility] and Hmeymim [airbase located in Latakia province],” the Russian Defense Ministry explained.
According to the Russian military, the massive missile strike on military and civilian infrastructure targets was conducted by US warships jointly with the UK and French air forces at 3:42-5:10 Moscow time.A total of 100 cruise and air-to-surface missiles were launched at targets in Syria, the Russian Defense Ministry stated, noting that two US warships carried out the attack from the Red Sea, as well as tactical aviation over the Mediterranean Sea and B-1B bombers from al-Tanf area.
The Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, has slammed the Western states’ move, saying that the strike “has been launched at the capital of a sovereign state that has been fighting for survival for years amid terrorist aggression.”
Earlier in the day, the United States, the United Kingdom and France launched missile strikes on a number of targets in Syria in response to an alleged chemical attack in the Damascus suburb of Douma, Eastern Ghouta, which has been blamed on Damascus despite the launch of a probe into the incident. On Friday, the Russian Defense Ministry stated that it had proof that the “chemical attack” in Douma had been a provocation and had been staged by Western-backed NGOs, including the White Helmets.
While Pentagon chief James Mattis said that US airstrikes on Syria were a “onetime shot,” Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford told reporters that Washington had no more attacks planned at the moment.
According to Dunford, the United States utilized a normal conflict settlement channel with Russia and hadn’t coordinated targets before the airstrikes on Syria. At the same time, he said he was not aware “of any Russian activity,” when asked whether any Russian defenses had engaged US, French or British ships or missiles.When commenting on the possibility of a US missile strike on Syria after allegations accusing Damascus of a chemical attack in Douma, which has yet to be probed by international experts, the Russian Defense Ministry warned that Moscow would respond if its troops in Syria were threatened.
Russia’s military bases in Syria’s Latakia — the Hmeymim airbase and the Tartus naval facility — have been secured by S-400 and S-300 air defense systems, as well as a Pantsir-S1 surface-to-air missile system. According to the Russian Defense Ministry, the S-400 and Pantsir systems provide air cover to the Russian aviation groupat Hmeymim, while the S-300s protect Russia’s naval facility.
Kommersant: Douma chemical attack escalates already toxic Russian-US tensions
In an unprecedentedly categorical form, the US State Department blamed Russia for the alleged use of chemical weapons by Assad’s forces in Syria. According to Kommersant, against the backdrop of the deepening crisis in US-Russian relations, Washington is demonstrating its determination to further aggravate the situation, replete with dangers of a direct military clash with Russia in Syria. A source close to the US State Department told the newspaper that this week that the White House would discuss new sanctions against Russia. The main speaker is Trump’s adviser John Bolton, known for being radically hawkish, the newspaper wrote.
“We do not make assumptions, we saw the video. People foaming at the mouth, the way their eyes looked, indicate that a chemical attack has been committed in Douma,” Yahya al-Aridi, representative for the Syrian Negotiations Commision (SNC), an influential arm of the Syrian opposition, told Kommersant. “The United States has previously said that it would take action if Syria uses chemical weapons,” he added. According to him, “Russia holds the most responsibility for the tragedy, who cover for the Syrian regime.”
That being said, Damascus and Moscow categorically deny using chemical weapons in Eastern Ghouta, calling the materials about a chemical bomb fake.
During the war in Syria, this incident was not the first time when the Syrian opposition and external forces supporting it accused Damascus of using chemical weapons. Kommersant wrote. Meanwhile, the incident in Douma stands out because it occurred against the backdrop of a deepening crisis in Russia’s relations with the United States and the West in general, which exacerbated after the Skripal poisoning episode. According to the newspaper, “it is not by chance that the British Foreign Ministry made one of the first accusations against Russia about its alleged involvement in the attack in in Eastern Ghouta.”
According to a Kommersant military source, there is no clear evidence that the United States is ready for an immediate missile strike on Syria. However, the US does not need a lot of time to prepare for one. The USS Donald Cook, a destroyer with at least 50 Tomahawk cruise missiles, is stationed not far from Gibraltar. According to the source, the decision on a missile strike can be made early next week, when US President Trump receives reports from his national security advisers. Given that Russian military advisers are stationed in Eastern Ghouta and several other regions, it is vital to prevent their deaths, the source told Kommersant.
Meanwhile, a source close to the US Department of State told Kommersant that this week the White House is going to discuss new sanctions against Russia, which will be presented by John Bolton, President Trump’s well-known hawkish adviser.
Izvestia: Russia’s OSCE envoy says US resisting political solution to Ukrainian crisis
Washington is bucking a political settlement to the conflict in eastern Ukraine, Russia’s Permanent Representative to the OSCE Alexander Lukashevich said in an interview with Izvestia. According to the diplomat, powerful resistance to Russia’s approaches for solving the conflict in Ukraine is the main reason for discord, despite the fact the “Russia has a very powerful tool for implementing our solutions through a special OSCE monitoring mission.”
“EU member representatives in the OSCE understand that the implementation of the Minsk package of measures is a direct way to normalize the situation in the country, In addition, they have the tools to get the Ukrainians to follow this path. However, the United States has been putting up strong resistance through the administration and their representatives,” Lukashevich told the newspaper.
The envoy also highly praised the work of the OSCE mission in Ukraine during the presidential elections in Russia on March 18, 2018. “Despite the arranged blockade, we put forward a request to the mission’s leadership, and it ensured round-the-clock surveillance at all points – at the embassy and at three consulates general. Of course, this did not stop the extremists, though the situation did not sink into violence, because the OSCE flag means a great deal. They also issued a very powerful report, detailing everything as it really happened,” he told Izvestia.
Touching upon the bilateral relations with the United Kingdom, Lukashevich noted that they would not want to continue discussing the Skripal case at international venues. “The United Kingdom is trying to spoil the already unhealthy atmosphere not only in the OSCE, but also at other international venues. Of course, the British tried to get this topic on the agenda of the [OSCE] Permanent Council. However, it was very difficult to argue with our statements. An attempt to politicize this topic and put it on the OSCE platform has not been successful. Moreover, right now the developments are taking a completely different turn. I think after a while, London won’t want to spin this topic at international venues,” he said.
The diplomat added that it was a “purely formal gesture from the United Kingdom, although certainly unpleasant.” In the meantime, Lukashevich noted that despite the recent developments, the Ukrainian conflict remains the hottest topic on the OSCE’s site.
Nezavisimaya Gazeta: Russia’s UK envoy believes discord in Moscow-London relations can be overcome
Russia’s Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Ambassador to the United Kingdom Alexander Yakovenko believes that the bilateral relations between Russia and the United Kingdom can still be salvaged and the countries could return to partnership after some time, he said in an interview with Nezavisimaya Gazeta. He told the newspaper that Russia is hoping that truth about the poisoning incident in Salisbury will come out..
“Relations between our countries are much broader than the Skripal case. Even if the British side has suspended communications with us at the official level and stated that it does not plan to hold high-level meetings, this does not mean that economic cooperation is frozen. We remain open to all opportunities in terms of culture, and what we call communication between people. As for foreign policy, we will exert the necessary pressure on the British side in order to persuade them to cooperate with us. This must be done, using international obligations among other tools, in particular, the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations of 1963 and the Consular Convention of 1968, which Britain must fulfill,” the diplomat said.
Yakovenko added that so far he does not see any changes in Russian energy exports to the UK.
According to the diplomat, at the last meeting of the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) on April 4, Russia presented its draft decision – according to it, the United Kingdom must cooperate with Russia on the Salisbury incident, and the organization should provide all possible assistance. “Fifteen Western countries, mostly members of the European Union and NATO, spoke out against this decision, while six countries favored this decision, and 17 abstained, which means that they did not associate their position with those who voted against it. Therefore, we are satisfied with the results of this vote. This means that virtually all countries in Latin America, all Asian countries, with the exception of two, and all the countries of Africa, share our position,” he said.
Yakovenko noted that the Russian Embassy in London is facing difficulties after the expulsion of its 23 diplomats. “We were cut by 40%, so the activity in the department that issues visas has declined, and the main activities of the embassy declined. In addition, of course, the representation of the military attache was reduced,” he said.
Izvestia: Moscow plans retaliatory measures against latest US Treasury sanctions move
Moscow plans to examine the new sanction package imposed by the US Treasury, and then begin hammering out a response, sources in Russian diplomatic circles told Izvestia. The Federation Council is confident that a well-considered decision will be taken, believing that the main goal of introducing the new restrictions is to contain Russia.
The new restrictions were slapped on 24 individuals and 14 companies. The list included, heads of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Russia’s National Guard, heads of Gazprom and VTB, as well as several businessmen who are labelled “oligarchs” in the US Treasury document. According to Izvestia, a number of people on the list are not pessimistic about the situation.
Alexander Zharov, head of Russia’s mass media and communications watchdog, shrugged off being included in the sanctions list as a recognition of the effectiveness of his work. “I take it as a recognition of the effectiveness of Roskomnadzor’s work,” he told Izvestia.
Gazprom’s Press Secretary to Chairman of the Management Committee Sergey Kupriyanov, in turn, told Izvestia that the company first plans to study the limitations that Alexey Miller’s inclusion puts on the company before commenting on it. Industrial group Basic Element and carmaker GAZ Group, controlled by Oleg Deripaska, told Izvestia that they regret being put on the list.
Washington’s actions indicate a complete lack of understanding of Russia’s position among the American elite, First Deputy Chairman of the International Committee of the Federation Council Vladimir Dzhabarov told the newspaper. According to him, this is an unfriendly step, to which Russia’s leadership will provide a timely and precise answer. “The US actions speak about their main goal – to restrain Russia politically and economically. Moscow never takes hasty steps. We will think it through and make the appropriate decisions. It is strange that the US does not understand that nothing can be achieved by sanctions against Russia,” he told Izvestia.
Member of the Federation Council Andrei Klimov told Izvestia that he hopes to see a response from Moscow. According to the senator, the new sanctions list demonstrates the low quality of Washington’s political and expert community.
“If you look closely at the document, you can be sure that it contradicts itself. They do not understand Russia. We are expecting new tides of hatred from the United States. They will expand existing lists, making their “partners” in Europe press Moscow. We will respond in a balanced manner, but in a way that our counterparts will put an end to these hysterics,” Klimov told Izvestia.
Kommersant: Russia’s smartphone sales see increase in revenue
The number of smartphones sold in Russia in Q1 2018 remained at last year’s levels, and revenue from sales increased by 23%, Kommersant wrote citing the study of the handset retailer Svyaznoy. According to the study, Russians are more actively buying flagship devices, including Chinese brands, thus raising the average price of the devices. The increase in revenue could also be due to the reassessment of smartphones due to depreciation of the ruble, analysts told the newspaper.
In Q1 2018, Russia sold over 6 mln smartphones worth more than 92 bln rubles ($1.58 bln), Svyaznoy told Kommersant. The revenue from sales of smartphones exceeded figures for Q1 2017 by 23%, but the quantity remained at the same level, the company explained. According to electronics retailers Euroset and M.Video, smartphone sales in Russia amounted to 93.6 bln rubles ($1.6 bln) and 95 bln rubles ($1.63 bln), with the sales reaching 6.1 mln and 6.3 mln units, respectively.
The top three brands in the number of smartphones sold, include Samsung, leading with a 25% market share, Huawei with 17% and Honor for the first time, pushing Apple (15%) to third place. As for revenue from sales, Apple and Samsung retained the first and second places with 38% and 27% market shares respectively, and Huawei and Honor (14%) came third, Svyaznoy reported.
Consumers began to choose better and more expensive devices that will last longer than cheaper models, TelcomDaily CEO Denis Kuskov told Kommersant. For example, flagship Huawei phones are on par with Samsung and Apple in terms of quality and performance, however Apple is unlikely to lose its audience in the near future, the expert said.
Analyst at Otkritie, Timur Nigmatullin told the newspaper that the increase in the average smartphone price might have been triggered by currency revaluation – in Q1 2018, the ruble weakened against the main currencies by almost 4% year-on-year.
TASS is not responsible for the material quoted in the press review
One must marvel at the first few paragraphs of Amnesty International’s recent press release:
“The international community’s catastrophic failure to take concrete action to protect the people of Syria has allowed parties to the conflict, most notably the Syrian government, to commit war crimes and crimes against humanity with complete impunity, often with assistance of outside powers, particularly Russia. Every year we think it is just not possible for parties to the conflict to inflict more suffering on civilians, and yet, every year, they prove us wrong…
Right now, in Eastern Ghouta 400,000 men, women and children, who have been living under an unlawful government siege for six years, are being starved and indiscriminately bombed by the Syrian government with the backing of Russia. […] The international community had said ‘never again’ after the government devastated Eastern Aleppo with similar unlawful tactics. But here we are again. Armed opposition groups have retaliated by indiscriminately shelling two villages in Idleb, which they have also besieged since 2014.” 
This is an unambiguous call and a justification for war; it seems that AI is calling for a NATO bombing campaign similar to the one staged in Libya in 2011. There is also no ambiguity as to who AI deems to be culpable and ought to be at the receiving end of a “humanitarian bombing” campaign. Before cheering yet another US/NATO war, it is useful to analyse Amnesty International’s record in assisting propaganda campaigns on the eve of wars. It is also worthwhile reviewing AI’s reporting on Syria, and how it compares with that on other countries in the area.
A sorry record
It is not the first time that Amnesty International has played a role in a propaganda campaign in the lead up to a war. A few examples:
Before the US invasion to ouster the Iraqis from Kuwait, president George Bush Sr. appeared on TV holding an Amnesty International report claiming that Iraqi soldiers had dumped babies out of incubators. That was Amnesty International’s willing participation in spreading a hoax — a hoax fabricated by a major American PR company.
In the months prior to the US-NATO attack on Serbia, Amnesty-USA put two Croatian women on a ten city-speaking-tour to project their account of their “rape-camp” ordeal — in reality one of them was a top Croatian propaganda official, a close advisor to president Tudjman, who was also known for her acting abilities. Again, this hoax was pushed by a major American PR company.
AI’s coverage/non-coverage of Israeli mass crimes also deserves to be analysed. In this case, Amnesty plays a role in adulterating and reducing criticism after wars or the misery caused by its continuous occupation and abuse of the Palestinians (discussed below). Amnesty International-Israel served as a propaganda front busy manipulating “human rights” reports to suit Israel’s interests. AI-London has not commented on the manipulation by its Israeli siblings.
In 2012, Amnesty erected advertising posters in the US applauding NATO’s actions in Afghanistan — “Keep the progress going”, purportedly doing something for women’s rights. This was merely crass pro-NATO pro-interventionist propaganda. 
Amnesty-France was instrumental in propagating anti-Libyan propaganda prior to the NATO bombing of the country in 2011.
Alas, Amnesty’s sorry record is much longer than these few examples indicate.
One would expect a human rights organisation to be intrinsically opposed to war, but AI is a cheerleader of so-called humanitarian intervention, and even “humanitarian bombing”. In the past, when queried about its equivocal and lame statements about wars, an AI official stated that “Amnesty International is not anti-war”. Even with this predisposition AI was honoured with the Nobel Peace Prize – yet another undeserving recipient for a prize meant to be given only to those actively opposed to wars. In Syria’s case, AI has given up this phoney “not anti-war” stance for one that is actively advocating war. Notice that it uses a rather dubious argument about “never again” about standing by in the face of mass crimes; in reality this is an appeal to holocaust memes meant to favour this war.
The Syrian government is presently rolling back the jihadis who had managed to establish themselves in an area next to Damascus. No government would tolerate to have a section of their capital city under jihadi control, an area from which the rest of the city is mortared, and an area vital to control the water supply of the city. What would happen if jihadis took over Arlington, VA, and used it to bomb the center of Washington DC? The response would be self-evident. For some reason AI doesn’t bestow this right of self-defence to the Syrian government, but instead refers to an “unlawful government siege [of Ghouta] for six years”. This is laughable.
It is remarkable to find that in none of the latest press releases or reports does AI discuss the nature of the armed groups fighting in Syria. Even those referred to as “moderates” by Washington are a rather unsavoury bunch. Most of them are foreign jihadis; a good portion of them are Saudis. (NB: Saudis offered political and criminal prisoners a way out of jail on condition of going to fight in Syria.) And they are armed/trained/financed by the US/UK/Saudi/Emirates/Turkey/Qatar… to the tune of at least $12 billion. The former US ambassador to Syria stated that the US contribution was at least $12bn ; this figure excludes the funds provided by the Saudis and other regimes in the area. Gareth Porter reports that the quantities of weapons supplied to the jihadis were enough to equip an army.  Yet, this armed gang of jihadis is barely mentioned in Amnesty’s assessment of the situation in Syria. In Ghouta, the jihadis belong to the Nusra front (or one of its rebranded versions), that is, a group with an extreme ideology; they are an Al-Qaeda offshoot. AI’s press release doesn’t mention this salient fact.
Amnesty portrays the Syrian government as at war against its own people — and Aleppo, Ghouta, etc., under siege; and not allowing the population to escape. Although AI similarly condemned the liberation of Aleppo, it didn’t interview these victims after the fact. If it interviews someone — invariably anonymous — it intones sinister fears of the government. For all its faults, the government has popular backing, and it stands in the way of a jihadi project to carve up Syria and ethnically cleanse it.
And there is a double standard
When it comes to Israeli mass crimes AI is rather cautious in the language used and in its recommendations. It is rather coy in mentioning “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity”, and reference to the latter is virtually non-existent or couched in exculpatory language (favourite cushioning words: “alleged”, “could be construed as”). While it sparingly uses these accusations against Israel, it levels the same accusations against Palestinians — it applies a notion that there are crimes “on both sides”. AI’s harshest admonishment is that Israeli actions are not “proportionate”. There are no appeals to the “international community” which should not stand by, “never again…” One wonders what Amnesty has to say about the Israeli siege of Gaza, where the population has been put “on a diet” causing a dire situation for about 1.8 million people today. In this case, there are no reports, no calls to the “international community” to do anything, no accusations of “crimes against humanity”… AI uses another script altogether.
In the current press release, AI unambiguously states that both Syria and Russia are committing war crimes and crimes against humanity. And if this is the case, there is an obligation for other states to act, to intervene. AI is not requesting an investigation, it is urging intervention.
While in the Israeli case AI states that crimes are committed on both sides, when it comes to Syria it is only the Syrian government that is deemed culpable. It is difficult to remove entrenched well armed jihadis who use residents as human shields. Jihadis dig themselves in and around hospitals and schools , and when action is taken against them there, the likes of Amnesty utter their clucking sounds.
In its latest statement AI states: “It must also send a strong message that those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity will be held accountable, by referring the situation to the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.” Fair enough. In 2002, Donatella Rovera, an AI researcher on the Middle East, was queried about why AI didn’t make a similar demand to hold Israel accountable at the ICC or ICJ, and she stated that AI didn’t make such demands. Another standard applies.
An issue about sources…
Amnesty reports several statements made by residents of Ghouta, all giving harrowing accounts of the conditions on the ground. But all the statements blame the government for their predicament. “Like many Syrians, the humanitarian worker expressed deep distrust of the government.” Or “We hear rumours of reconciliation but that can never happen. The government hates us…” And other such unverifiable statements. And who exactly is reporting this? Does AI have a direct line to the “White Helmets”? All Amnesty has to do is compare the statements made before the liberation of Aleppo and the opinion of the residents now. If the residents are pleased with their condition without the jihadis around, then this should be sufficient to question the dubious statements originating from anonymous sources in Ghouta today.
Amnesty International doesn’t want you to respect the Syrian government. Reviewing its press releases about Syria, it is all one-sided; the jihadis hardly merit a meaningful rebuke. But no report was as distorted as its multimedia presentation of the purported abuses in the Saydnaya Prison. Here Amnesty’s methodology was on show: accept hearsay, magnify it melodramatically, extrapolate and exaggerate . This is not human rights reportage, it is crass propaganda. The timing of all these so-called reports is also dubious. On the eve of major reconciliation talks or negotiations, Amnesty publishes a report portraying the Syrian government as beyond the pale. Would anyone want to negotiate with such a party? The timing of several other AI reports coincide with attempts to resolve the conflict via negotiations. The timing of its latest press release coincides with a major Syrian government offensive into Ghouta — and portraying it as criminal in nature.
Human rights are not neutral
Harvey Weinstein, the sexual predator, made Amnesty International USA possible — he provided the funds necessary to establish the organisation.  Weinstein didn’t put up the funds because he fancied AI’s lovely researchers. People put up funds for such organisations to shape the way abuses and crimes are reported. In Weinstein’s case, his ardent devotion to Israel might explain his financial contribution to Amnesty USA. Amnesty is also a conduit to push propaganda desired by those who foster such organisations. The very nature of “human rights”, its very flexible nature, lends itself to prime manipulation.
A Syrian furniture salesman based in Coventry, a small city in the UK, runs the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR). Sitting in his living room, he produces reports about the latest atrocities, chemical attacks, and every other sordid detail to tarnish the Syrian government’s image. He reaches his mysterious sources by phone, invariably someone hostile to the Syrian government. The output of this one-man-band is then used by the BBC, CNN, The Independent, The Wall Street Journal,… and major media outlets to report on the situation in Syria. It is expensive for news organisations to have correspondents on the ground, it is dangerous; so what is better than “human rights” reports obtained for free! And does Amnesty International rely on SOHR? At least they should footnote their reports.
The main playbook
The US and some of its sidekicks have for decades been engaged in regime change in the Middle East, Eastern Europe, Latin America… The usual formula for this is to create civic organisations, e.g., Journalists’ union, Lawyer and Jurist guilds, select Labour unions… and human rights organisations. These people are then trained to exercise political power effectively by staging mass demonstrations, manipulating the media, spreading rumours, disrupting the government — all the way to the take over of parliaments. These are the so-called “colour revolutions”. They tried this in Syria, but opted primarily to arm and organise jihadis. The jihadis are backed by a propaganda machinery, and the US is conducting the largest disinformation/propaganda campaign in Syria today . The essence of the campaign is to tarnish the image of the Syrian government, robbing it of its international legitimacy and support. Human rights reportage is essential to this campaign. By analysing Amnesty International reportage, it is evident that it is part of this campaign; it has weaponised human rights.
Currently there is a major buildup of US warships in the Mediterranean; and the Russian general staff fear that Syria will be the target of a major cruise missile attack. Possibly, Russian forces will also be targeted. Couple this with the unprecedented black propaganda campaign against Russia in the US and the UK, and it seems very likely that a major shooting war is in the offing. Given that AI has lent itself in previous propaganda campaigns on the eve of wars, one finds that the latest Amnesty International report is merely a leading indicator for such a war. Amnesty International is embedded in a propaganda campaign — it will be cheerleading with blue and white pompons when the humanitarian bombs fall.
 AI, “Syria: Seven years of catastrophic failure by the international community”, 15 March 2018.
 Diana Johnstone, Fools Crusade, 20 Sep 2002. Johnstone documents the curious case of Jadranka Cijel. NB: AI was alerted to the fact that the accounts by the two women were questionable; it proceeded with the tour anyway.
 I have written quite a few articles about Amnesty for Counterpunch. The latest: Amnesty International: Whitewashing Another Massacre, CounterPunch, 8 May 2015.
 Uri Blau, Documents reveal how Israel made Amnesty’s local branch a front for the Foreign Ministry in the 70s, Haaretz, 18 March 2017. Neve Gordon, Nicola Perugini, Israel’s human rights spies: Manipulating the discourse, Al-Jazeera Online, 22 March 2017.
 Ann Wright and Coleen Rowley, Amnesty’s Shilling for US Wars, ConsortiumNews, 18 June 2012.
 Alexander Cockburn reports that Amnesty was present during a US State Department briefing seeking to justify “humanitarian bombing”. How the US State Dept. Recruited Human Rights Groups to Cheer On the Bombing Raids: Those Incubator Babies, Once More? CounterPunch, April 1999.
 Ben Norton , US Ambassador Confirms Billions Spent On Regime Change in Syria, Debunking ‘Obama Did Nothing’ Myth, RealNews.com, 9 February 2018.
 Gareth Porter, How America Armed Terrorists in Syria, The American Conservative, 22 June 2017.
 Robert Fisk has reported on this fact in several of his articles. In “the Syrian hospital siege that turned into a massacre”, The Independent, 5 June 2015 there is a reference to tunnels under a hospital. In another article, the same, but at a school.
 Israel hasn’t joined the ICC, and thus ICC cannot bring any action against Israel. ICC is only meant to harass African tinpot dictators.
 John Wight, The Problems With the Amnesty International Report, Sputnik News, 15 February 2017. Important discussion with Peter Ford, the former British ambassador to Syria. Also, Tony Cartalucci, Amnesty International admits Syria’s ‘torture prison’ report fabricated entirely in UK, Sign of the Times, 9 February 2017. And, Rick Sterling, Amnesty International Stokes Syrian War, ConsortiumNews, 11 February 2017.
 Thomas Frank, Hypocrite at the good cause parties, Le Monde Diplomatique, February 2018
 Tim Anderson, The Dirty War on Syria, Global Research, 2016.
 TASS, US preparing strikes on Syria, carrier strike groups set up in Mediterranean, 17 March 2018