A Log in Your Own Eye: Decades of US Meddling in Foreign Elections – By Sputnik

The obsessive condemnation of still unconfirmed Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election is a classic case of “do as I say, not as I do,” where the US politicians and media seem to have developed both long and short-term memory loss when it comes to American meddling in foreign elections.
Photo: US President Bill Clinton (R) laughing with Russian President Boris Yeltsin during a press conference after their meeting at Hyde Park 23 October 1995. AFP, Don Emmert
With Russia’s presidential election coming up on Sunday, March 18, all eyes are on Moscow where eight candidates will be on the ballot this year. In turn, the Russian Central Election Commission (CEC) is busy in its preparation to administer the vote, ensuring fair and free procedure, as well as prevention of illegal interference in the election process.

Concerns regarding foreign meddling in the nation’s pivotal vote shouldn’t come as a surprise, considering it was not that long ago when the US interfered in Russia’s internal matters, influencing the outcome of the 1996 presidential election.

Spinning Boris
The popularity rating of then incumbent president Boris Yeltsin plunged to 6% and his chances of winning were next to nothing. In what later was released as Hollywood’s depiction of events, characters of the Spinning Boris film described the president’s standing:

“Stalin is dead. Not as dead as Yeltsin.”

2003 American comedy starred Jeff Goldblum, Anthony LaPaglia and Liev Schreiber, who portrayed a team of US spin doctors sent to salvage Yeltsin’s image and secure him another four-year term in the office.

The whole ‘rescue effort’ was reportedly orchestrated by Felix Bryanin, a Russian-American businessman who did not relish the prospects of Yeltsin’s chief rivals – the Communist party – winning the election and steering the country back to socialism.

The US didn’t bother covering its tracks, as political consultants Joe Shumate, George Gorton, Richard Dresner and Steven Moore detailed their exploits in an exclusive interview to Time magazine. The article was published on July 15, 1996 under the headline “Yanks to the Rescue – the secret story of how American advisers helped Yeltsin win.”

Photo: Former Russian president Boris Yeltsin. Sputnik, Alexander Makarov
According to the Guardian, in 2003 Yeltsin’s former head of staff Sergei Filatov denied the involvement of US spin doctors in the election, claiming that he “never saw them” but “as they had been paid we decided to let them sit quietly in the President Hotel and not interfere.”
‘In the Interests of Democracy’
To some the fact of US interference in foreign politics may come as an eye-opening revelation but definitely not to former CIA director James Woolsey, who just recently admitted that American meddles in other countries “only for a very good cause in the interests of democracy.”
The majority of the Russian public are not dumbfounded by the practise either, as new poll revealed that in 2016 almost eighty percent of Russians thought the United States meddled “a great deal” or “a fair amount” in Russian politics.
Photo: Viewers during a holiday concert devoted to Russia Day on Red Square. Sputnik, Ramil Sitdikov
The US attempts at steering the political processes abroad were neither limited to Russia alone nor did they begin in the 1990s. Moreover, it won’t come as a surprise if the US “policy of interference” continues in the future, considering the rich history of such activity by Washington in the past.

The “impressive” record of forcing their political agenda on foreign governments by the US reveals a list of numerous cases, which include but are not limited to the following.

In their effort to support non-Communist forces in post-war Italy, the US administration under Harry Truman flexed its political and financial muscle to influence the outcome of Italian elections in 1948.

The US threw their weight behind the Christian Democracy party, who defeated the left-wing coalition of the Popular Democratic Front, through generous monetary support, which former CIA officer F. Mark Wyatt simply described as “bags of money that we delivered to selected politicians.”

Photo: Italy’s Premier Alcide de Gasperi, at microphone, addresses a huge crowd from the balcony of the Christian Democrat Party Headquarters in Rome, Italy, on April 21, 1948. AP
“And, we did many things to assist those selected Christian Democrats, Republicans and… and the other parties… that could keep the secret of where their funds came from,” Wyatt said in a 1996 interview.
“Stay out of this hemisphere and don’t try to start your plans and your conspiracies over here,” Henry Cabot Lodge, US ambassador to the UN, warned his Soviet counterpart during a UN emergency session on June 18, 1954.
But US activity didn’t stop at finger-wagging and in 1954 the democratically elected leader of Guatemala Jacobo Arbenz Guzman was overthrown by the CIA-backed coup and forced into exile. The Eisenhower administration portrayed the coup as a revolt meant to clear the region of a perceived Communist threat – something that was facilitated by the US corporation the United Fruit Company (UFC).
“Once he took power, he was implanting this policy. The UFC didn’t like that very much and they hired a PR firm to convince the US that Arbenz was a Soviet puppet… Out of this PR campaign came a commitment by the CIA and the military to take this man out and in fact we did,” the author of the book Confessions of an Economic Hitman, John Perkins explained.
The fire of impending unrest in 1958 Lebanon, fuelled by confrontation between Maronite Christians and Muslims, was put out by Washington’s ‘helping hand’, which backed the pro-western Christian President Camille Chamoun against perceived threats posed by Syria and Egypt.
Photo: Former Lebanese President Camille Chamoun conducts business over the telephone at his National Liberty Party headquarters in Beirut, Lebanon, July 9, 1963. Chamoun stated: “If Lebanon’s independence were threatened as in 1958, I would certainly appeal to any Nation”. AP
Around the same time the CIA used the US government money and donations by American oil companies to help Christian politicians in Lebanon win the elections.
Throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s the US secretly supported the Japanese Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), providing covert financial support to its candidates without hesitation. The LDP have been in power in Japan since 1995 till modern days with minor gaps in between.
Photo: Socialist party members rough up a plain-clothes policeman during a scuffle between left wingers and riot police near the parliament building in Tokyo, Nov. 6, 1965. The demonstrators, supporting the Socialist and Communist parties, opposed the normalization pact which they contended is aimed at a Japan-South Korea-U.S. military alliance, after ruling Liberal-Democratic party rammed the ratification bill for the treaty through the special ad hoc committee of parliament’s Lower House. AP Photo, Nobuyuki Masaki
In 1950s their main opposition were the left-wingers – the Japan Socialist Party and the Japanese Communist Party. Interested in preserving LDP’s authority, the CIA provided financial backing to the party to ensure its dominance over its Communist counterparts.
In 1999, the US and their NATO allies have intensified their efforts in ‘fighting for democracy’ – this time in then Yugoslavia. Thanks to their considerate assistance, the democratically-elected Yugoslav government had been toppled and millions of US dollars were poured into what Washington called “democratic opposition.”
Photo: Still from Serbian TV from April 4, 1999 showing a bridge over the Danube in Novi Sad, northern Serbia, some 70 km (40 miles) north of Belgrade, which was destroyed a day earlier by NATO warplanes. AFP, Serbian TV
“In post-cold war Europe no place remained for a large, independent-minded socialist state that resisted globalisation,” George Kenney of the US state department kindly explained.
Manuel Zelaya was ousted as Honduras’ president in a military coup on June 28, 2009. His post was taken over by parliament Speaker Roberto Micheletti. Hillary Clinton who held the post of the US Secretary of State at the time cemented Micheletti’s position, according to an article citing inquiry conducted by Robert Naiman, Mark Weisbrot and Alexander Main, following the release of Hillary Clinton’s emails by the Department of State in March 2015.
Photo: A masked supporter of Honduras’ ousted President Manuel Zelaya demonstrates as soldiers stand guard outside Congress in Tegucigalpa, Friday, July 31, 2009. AP, Arnulfo Franco
It is further alleged that she deliberately delayed the suspension of US non-humanitarian aid to Honduras, under the excuse that the situation in the country was “still unclear.” Clinton’s action reportedly ensured that Zelaya wouldn’t be restored, despite the fact that the coup was officially opposed by the Obama administration and the UN.
Photo: Former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. AP, Patrick Semansky
A number of questions arise around America’s role in the 2014 coup in Ukraine, when the democratically elected president Viktor Yanukovych was ousted, following a series of violent protests.

The US Senator John McCain was in Kiev during the start of the unrest. A leading Republican voice on US foreign policy, McCain told thousands of Ukrainian protesters camped on Kiev’s main square in December 2013:

“We are here to support your just cause, the sovereign right of Ukraine to determine its own destiny freely and independently. And the destiny you seek lies in Europe.”

Photo: US Senators Chris Murphy and John McCain cheer up the supporters of Ukraine’s European integration at Maidan square in Kiev, Ukraine, Dec 12, 2013. Sputnik, Ilya Pitalev
Later, a leaked phone conversation between then US Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt and US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland hinted at extensive involvement.

They spoke about the need to “midwife this thing” and said Ukrainian politician Arseniy Yatsenyuk was “the guy”, shortly before he became prime minister.

Commenting on Washington’s attitude towards foreign meddling, Frederick A. O. Schwarz Jr., former staff director of the US Senate’s Church committee told the New York Times in 1997 “the United States has certainly engaged in these things, but we get all up in arms when someone else does.”

”The things the CIA cited as successes really weren’t successes. ‘They were an arrogant exercise of our power to intervene in domestic affairs,” he added.

Betraying the Bolivarian Revolution: Vichy Journalism at teleSUR English – By Jon Jeter (MINT PRESS)

QUITO, ECUADOR (Special Report) — Rita Anaya was a 25-year-old graduate student living in southern California when Venezuelan activists invited her to travel to their homeland for the first time in 2007. Her initial response, she freely acknowledges now, was one of ambivalence, but when you’re the daughter of a Chicano farmworker and a Jewish labor organizer (from Queens, no less), there’s a sort of Calvinist inevitability to these things: ”You are who you are before you’re born, player,” as Jay-Z might say. So not only did she make the trip, but she was accompanied by the whole of her immediate family — mother, father, and sister – in a kind of social-justice family vacation.

What beckoned the Anaya clan was, of course, Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution, which was, by that time, in its ninth year. And indeed, Rita found the experience exhilarating, if not downright transformative. It wasn’t just seeing the material impact of President Hugo Chavez’s socialist policies up-close – the nationalization of the oil industry, the ambitious land reform program, a steep reduction in the percentage of Venezuelans living in poverty, the sharp spike in the nation’s literacy rates or the health clinics that proliferated across the gorgeous Caribbean landscape like daffodils after a spring rain, each of which ran counter to global economic trends of that time.

All of those achievements were impressive, to be sure, but what really beguiled Rita was that in a corner of the New World that has for centuries been governed by the European settlers who own the country, the non-white workers who built it were beginning to demand their fair share with growing confidence. And in the process, they were not only improving their material reality, but raising their level of consciousness, and fulfilling Frantz Fanon’s prophetic vision of a new, post-colonial (Wo)Man.


A new media for a newly awakened people

The perfect manifestation of the Venezuelan people’s newfound faith were the grassroots community media outlets that began to sprout in the years following the 1989 Caracazo, when state security forces and military personnel roamed the streets of the capital city of Caracas, shooting indiscriminately at demonstrators protesting the government’s abrupt shift to neoliberal policies. The practice of pirating airwaves to broadcast the news from the barrios was done largely clandestinely for fear of reprisals from the state, until Chavez was first elected president in late 1998, and promptly deployed community assemblies throughout the country to rewrite the constitution.

The resulting 1999 constitution is one of the world’s most progressive and enshrines, as a human right, access to education, healthcare, housing, employment, political participation, and even the media. According to the news agency Venezuelanalysis, Article 58 of the constitution specifically states, “Communication is free and plural and must adhere to the obligations and responsibilities under the law. Every person has the right to objective, true and impartial information, without censorship…,” and goes on to assert that all communication media, public and private, must contribute to the social development of citizens. It further guarantees public access to radio, television, libraries and other information networks.

President Hugo Chavez smiles during his weekly radio show broadcast from San Sebastian de Los Reyes in the state of Aragua, Venezuela, June 10, 2001. Chavez's well publicized war with the news media is a staple of his "cadenas," or speeches, which by law must be broadcast by Venezuelan TV and radio, usually during prime time. (AP/Juan Carlos Solorzano)

In her 2007 junket and her subsequent trips to Venezuela as an intern for the human rights organization, School of the Americas Watch, Anaya found herself enthralled with citizens’ media —  its reimagining of the Fourth Estate as a kind of bulletin board for revolution, and of the journalist as a public servant, tasked with helping build a Beloved Community.

When provincial officials announced plans to privatize the local water supply, the alternative press didn’t just cover the subsequent protests; it helped organize them. Similarly, the citizens’ press led the peaceful takeover of a bullfighting ring that was converted into an arts and cultural center, and weekly radio shows allow high school students to combine hip-hop and politics. TV cameramen take great pains to photograph their subjects from below rather than from above — as the former camera angle tends to empower people and make them appear almost larger than life, while the latter is, quite literally, condescending.

Said one indigenous woman whose program was broadcast weekly on community radio:

Our children turn on the radio, and they hear their aunt, their friend’s mother, their older sister and her friends. They hear stories from the mouths of those who know the community and what we need. And they hear our language. All of this makes the children proud and eager to participate, and it gives our own community some of the power we lost to the lies of the media stations.”

It was almost as if the media collectives were riffing on the Marxist intellectual C.L.R. James’ famous supposition and asserting that if every cook can govern, surely every housemaid or gardener can report the news.

This democratization of the press was largely emblematic of a new political relationship in Venezuela, in which the unwashed passed an average of 200 handwritten messages a day to the head-of-state – “I need a bag of cement to fix my house,” or “I need a job as a teacher,” or simply “God Bless You, Hugo” – and Chavez reciprocated with the most extraordinary of gestures: he spoke back.

“When Chavez talks, it is like he is one of us,” Pablo Rosales, 53, a black cab driver told me when I visited Caracas in 2004. After returning from a state visit abroad, for example, Chavez would appear on his weekly television broadcast — Halo, Presidente — using a map and pointer.

“He will say this is where I was and it takes X number of hours to travel there by plane from Caracas,” an advisor, Maximilien Arvelaiz, told me, continuing:  

For the rich and the middle class, this is all quite boring because of course they know where Spain is on the map. They think it is stupid. But poor people love this. No one has ever taken the time to explain this to them. He is the first president I’ve seen who talks to the poor and not just the high class. He includes us when he talks.”


Grassroots media helps rescue Chavez, Venezuela in 2002

But alternative media really began to blossom after throngs of protesters managed to reverse a 2002 coup attempt orchestrated by Venezuela’s oligarchs. In the hours after Chavez was abducted at gunpoint from the presidential palace known as Miraflores, Venezuela’s major broadcasters and newspapers reported that he had simply resigned, and abandoned his presidency for Cuba, where presumably, he would live in comfort as a guest of his close friend, Fidel Castro.

Supporters of ousted president Hugo Chavez run towards Miraflores presidential palace during protests, Saturday, April 13, 2002. Pro-Chavez protests were reported in at least 20 neighborhoods throughout the capital, Caracas, as well as the cities of Los Teques, Guarenas, Maracay and Coro. (AP/Dario Lopez Mills)

But, knowing that the country’s media moguls were in league with the coup-plotters (indeed, four media channels had ties to Chavez’s conservative opposition), the Afro-Caribbeans and mixed-race mestizos who lived in the slums and the countryside refused to buy it, and took to pirated radio frequencies to rally the grassroots. Within hours, the barrios of Caracas rose up in unison, and tens of thousands of Chavistas streamed into the streets to assert their displeasure, louder than the proverbial bomb.

Armed mostly with pots-and-pans and white-hot indignation, the rainbow-colored phalanx marched on the military base where Chavez was held, Fuerte Tiuna — engaging well-armed soldiers who fired on them along the route — to arrive, finally, at their destination, and demand the release of their democratically-elected leader.

Outnumbered, and outmaneuvered in the court of public opinion, the shocked oligarchs had no choice but to relent; Chavez was restored to power a mere 48 hours after he was ousted, and went on to rule the coastal country of 31 million people for another 11 years until his death from cancer in 2013.

Despite his common touch and his sometimes coarse language, Chavez, who was himself of mestizo and African ancestry, was an avid reader and an intellectual whose political ideology was steeped in his interrogation of revolutionary texts. While he admired Bolivar tremendously for his emancipation of the continent’s northern rim, he fully understood that the Great Liberator would never have managed to loosen Spain’s colonial chokehold on the continent without adding 250 Haitian soldiers, a small fleet, 4,000 muskets, 15,000 pounds of gunpowder, money, food and a printing press from Haiti, which had waged the first successful slave revolt in the Western hemisphere.

Chavez saw, moreover, that while Bolivar had indeed honored his promise to the Haitians to abolish slavery in the liberated colonies, his Republic never formally recognized Haiti, and, in fact, excluded his benefactors from the inaugural meeting of the Americas’ newly independent states in 1826, while inviting one U.S. President James Madison, who supported both imperialism and the peculiar institution of slavery.

Once he had been extricated from the clutches of his own country’s plutocrats, the savvy Chavez realized that, like Bolivar, he was singularly indebted to the black and brown Venezuelans who mobilized on his behalf, and that an independent media was a predicate for insulating the revolution from the future attacks that were inevitable. In the months following the aborted coup, his government introduced a flurry of proclamations and legislation to “darken” the state, including the Presidential Commission for the Prevention and Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination in the Venezuelan Educational System — requiring, among other things, that public schools teach the contributions of Afro-Venezuelans.

After the ravaging of Hurricane Katrina through the Gulf Coast in 2005, despite a strained political relationship with the United States government, Venezuela offered aid to the region through its Venezuelan Embassy in the form of mobile hospitals, medical workers, power plants, and food. (A humiliated President George W. Bush, however, wouldn’t even entertain the offer).

In the aftermath of a catastrophic earthquake that struck Haiti in 2010, Venezuela forgave Haiti’s over $395 million dollars in foreign debt, and pledged more financial support to the Caribbean nation than did either the United States or the European Union. In 2005 Venezuela began leading initiatives in Afro-descendant communities such as New Orleans and the South Bronx, providing discounted heating oil and free energy-saving light bulbs to low-income families during the winter months. Venezuela also provided grants to community-based organizations to build self-sustaining institutions, such as worker-owned cooperatives and holistic healthcare centers for women.

When the actor Danny Glover visited in early 2004 and attended a ceremony to name an elementary school for the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., televised news accounts showed Chavez pointing to his curly hair and broad nose and saying that he, like Glover, was of African heritage. Simultaneously, community media was exploding, from 13 licensed radio, television and print outlets in 2002 to 193 licensed outlets by 2007, and another 300 or so unlicensed enterprises, according to Henry Fernandes, one of the founders of Radio Crepuscular, a popular station in Caracas.


The birth of teleSUR

In 2005, Chavez announced Venezuela’s high-profile collaboration with the leftist governments of Cuba, Argentina, and Uruguay (and later Bolivia and Ecuador) to launch the state-financed, independent network teleSUR, to counter the corporate media that monopolizes information across the Americas. The network’s first director general, Uruguayan journalist Aram Aharonian, described teleSUR’s objective as:

 . . . to see ourselves as we truly were. . . . We were presented through a colonial mentality as blond and tall and European, and some of us are, but we’re also short, dark, Zambo, Indian. We needed to shake off our inferiority complex and tell our own stories.”

Aram Aharonian, center, Director of Telesur, meets with the station's news director Jorge Botero, left, and news producer Isabel Rui in a hotel room in Caracas, Venezuela, Friday, March 25, 2005, where the groundwork for teleSUR was laid. (AP/Leslie Mazoch)

Rita Anaya was working on her dissertation and teaching at a Nigerian university when she spotted an online ad calling for reporters and editors to work at teleSUR’s new English-language website in early 2014. She fired off her application immediately, and was among the first group of hires when teleSUR English began publishing from Ecuador’s capital city, Quito, in the spring of that year.


The top-down ethos of teleSUR English

But it became immediately apparent that teleSUR English couldn’t be more different from the grassroots media she’d observed in Venezuela. The citizen-journalists she saw at work on-the-ground in Venezuela were constantly out in the community, their reportage crackling with the energy, and chatter, of the streets. TeleSUR English is located in Quito’s toniest neighborhood and resembles an insurance office. Its reporters seldom venture outside, conduct phone interviews, or even discuss news stories at length.

They are, for the most part, not reporters at all, but aggregators, rewriting news stories published elsewhere, and churning out a daily requirement of five stories, all of which are reproductions, typically absent any original reporting. While the editorial structure of Venezuela’s community journalism was bottom-up, with reporters driving the coverage, top editors at teleSUR English exercised almost total control over coverage.

“What I saw in the community media was democratic, participatory and horizontal,” Rita told MintPress, “while teleSUR English was a top-down structure where we had to agree with the editorial line of the organization and we were never clear on where the line was. There was no transparency.”

About six weeks into the job, however, Rita pounced on an opening for the local correspondent’s job in the Quito office, which would afford her an opportunity to engage with the community and generate her own stories. She beat out another writer for the job — a blonde, blue-eyed American — and started her new assignment in early July of 2014.

But from the start, no one seemed invested in her success. She received no training on how to edit video, nor did she receive any instructions on what kind of stories to pursue. It was difficult to find a cameraman to accompany her and, flying blind, she typically worked 12-hour days.

After two weeks on the job, she was summoned to a video conference meeting with teleSUR’s top editors. The organization’s top editors in Caracas, and Quito — including Greg Wilpert, who is of German extraction and married to Venezuela’s ambassador to Ecuador — were unhappy with her work. Her Spanish wasn’t great, and she wasn’t as productive as they hoped. As evidence of her shortcomings, they cited a segment she’d reported on indigenous women organizing collectives and labor unions since the 2007 election of Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa, whose liberal policies teleSUR supported.

Read more by Jon Jeter

What seemed particularly nettlesome was that she mentioned, even in passing, the patriarchal attitudes that were prevalent in Ecuadorian society. Rita exploded, noting that she’d received practically no training, no instruction and very little support. “Greg, whose side are you on?” she asked, singling out Wilpert, who had hired her. “You’re not a leader; you’re a ball-less piece of shit.”

But it was all to no avail. Management had already decided to replace Rita with the blue-eyed, blond-haired woman whom she’d just beat out for the correspondents’ job three weeks earlier. Rita returned to a desk rewrite job, and then, after a month in which she uttered not a single word to any of the top editors, quit and returned to the U.S. to finish her doctoral studies.

Four years in, teleSUR English is, by any critical measure — the size of its audience, the impact of its journalism, or its strengthening of democracy — an abysmal failure, and represents nothing less than a betrayal of the Bolivarian revolution.

The cause of this failure is clear: central to Venezuela’s socialist uprising are people of color and women who are, intent on finally slaying the white-settler colonial state that reduced them to guest workers in the country of their birth, while the editorial policies and reportage of teleSUR English have, since its birth, been decided unilaterally by a battery of white men from North America who seem intent on maintaining the status quo.


The dysfunction of teleSUR English’s reverse meritocracy

By the time I arrived in Quito in the summer of 2016 to start working for teleSUR English, Wilpert had been replaced as the newsroom’s top director by Pablo Vivanco, Chilean by birth but raised in Toronto; and his top deputy, Cyril Mychalejko, who is of Ukrainian descent but raised in Philadelphia. TeleSUR English, I quickly discovered, is an inverse meritocracy, where the two least qualified journalists in the newsroom were charged with managing some of the most talented, hungry, and committed young journalists I’ve met in nearly 30 years in-and-around the media.  

In interviews and conversations with more than a dozen staffers at teleSUR English, Pablo, Cyril, Greg Wilpert and most of the outlet’s top editors are consistently described in the most disparaging terms, and indeed it is hard to imagine that the hiring of such inept and morale-killing managers was an accident. Were teleSUR’s top newsroom managers hired to rewrite the history of the Bolivarian Revolution, to return the European settler to power, and to restore the white man’s unquestioned authority?

Telesur coordinator Luis Ramos directs news anchor Marcela Eredia at a rehearsal for a live news broadcast in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday, Oct. 31, 2005. (AP/Leslie Mazoch)

“I call it white respectability politics,” said a young black woman who once worked as an editor at teleSUR. “Why else would you have white men who are anti-black and anti-woman in charge of telling the story of the New World?”

Without access to the organization’s top decision-makers, their motives can only be a matter of speculation. What’s hard to refute, however, is that under Vivanco and Mychalejko’s leadership, the newsroom was a hive of misogyny, racism and mediocrity.

For starters, neither had worked for any mainstream journalism outlet, but had instead spent much of their careers prior to teleSUR in the NGO world. Neither one ever demonstrated any profound understanding of journalism, nor did they seem even remotely interested in developing one.

At an editors’ meeting to discuss what we could do about teleSUR English’s plummeting numbers and dwindling audience, the social media editor deconstructed our readership and concluded that we had no foundational audience and were reliant almost solely on clickbait and other gimmicks.

Her prescription echoed the broad newsroom consensus: we needed to produce more original and compelling content. Cyril was unconvinced, however, and turned to the young editor after her presentation to ask rather sharply: “How do we know our numbers aren’t down because some of our writers aren’t producing their five stories a day?”

Pablo’s delayed response was even more bewildering. A week later he addressed the presentation in an email, writing: “How do we even know that our audience wants original content?”


A primer in how to stunt, thwart, and drive away talented journalists

In my four months at teleSUR, I don’t recall a single conversation with Pablo or Cyril about the quality of our reportage or writing. Their entire raison d’etre was disciplining the writing staff, which was comprised mostly of hard-working and gifted women and people of color. Once, the staff’s best writer, a young Canadian woman whose parents had fled Pakistan, reported for her Sunday morning shift nearly three hours late. I was the only editor working that morning, and because she was never late, typically skipped lunch, and brought boundless energy and enthusiasm to her job, the thought of writing her up never crossed my mind.

“Jon,” Cyril snarled hysterically in a meeting two days later, “when they’re late you have to get in their face!”

“For what?” I shot back dismissively. “You want to lose your best writer over a one-off?”

With Pablo’s blessing, Cyril fetishized authority, no matter how illegitimate. He once came into work two hours early to run the morning huddle to crack down on one enthusiastic copy editor who would pitch three or sometimes four stories, instead of the two that Cyril demanded, in a power move that was openly mocked by nearly the entire morning shift. Another time, the normally morose Cyril was almost giddy as he wrote up two women writers who had reported to work a few minutes late because of a parade near the office.

“Are you serious?” one of them asked in bewilderment. “We were like six minutes late.”

“Yeah, I know,” Cyril said, grinning awkwardly, “but you know the rules.”

Pablo and Cyril’s mismanagement had unmistakable racial and patriarchal overtones.  

The young woman who worked as the social media editor told me that Cyril and another top male editor had reprimanded her with such demonstrative hostility that she felt physically threatened. Paid op-ed articles were disproportionately commissioned to white writers, and writers of color like Matt Sedillo complained that their payments were routinely delayed for weeks, when white writers they’d befriended told them that they’d already received payment for articles published around the same time.

A young man of Mexican ancestry, who was the most fully-developed writer at teleSUR when I was there, was banished to the graveyard shift for no other reason than that he had complained about working six days a week. When teleSUR’s Venezuelan correspondent examined the country’s chronic food shortages, he did so by explaining how difficult it was for him, a white British expatriate, to find his favorite foods, rather than interviewing a Venezuelan family. A black woman from Washington, D.C., who had worked for teleSUR, told me that Pablo was dismissive of suggestions to aggressively cover the Black Lives Matter movement in 2014 until the story was too big to ignore.

“He said that Michael Brown was just another police shooting,” she recalled, “and it would soon blow over.”

The only writers spared Cyril and Pablo’s micro-aggressions were a young Arab man named Mohammed — who was the only Muslim Uncle Tom I’ve ever encountered and once publicly repeated the trope that Middle-Eastern men, including his own father, are more prone to commit violence against women than are other men — and a Canadian woman named Heather, who many of us had taken to calling “Cointelpro” because she tipped off Cyril and Pablo when a fellow writer either was late or pitched three stories instead of two at the morning huddle.

Heather was also the author of a profile of a blonde-haired Dutch woman who had joined the Marxist-influenced revolutionary militia known by its Spanish acronym, the FARC. The story was problematic for a couple of reasons.

Only weeks earlier, a young woman – who I thought was the most aggressive reporter on staff – had pitched a story about the organizing efforts of indigenous women working in Bolivia’s male-dominated mining industry. At an editor’s meeting one afternoon, Pablo had openly derided the story idea and the woman who’d proposed it, on the grounds that it might portray Bolivia’s first indigenous president — Evo Morales, a socialist and friend of the late Chavez — in a negative light.

“That’s not journalism,” I said to Pablo in the meeting. “That’s cheerleading.”

But both he and Cyril had championed Heather’s profile of the Dutch guerilla fighter, going so far as to publish it as the lead story, and allow it to remain in that position on the website for nearly twenty-four hours, when most stories remained in the top spot for no more than a few hours.

The entire staff ridiculed the profile as Orientalist dross. “There are enough n!@#$% in the FARC to make a Tarzan movie,” I said to my coworkers, paraphrasing an old joke told on the 70s television sitcom Sanford and Son, “and they find the one white girl to write a story on.”


Last straw — over and out

A week before the 2016 election, I discovered that the Content Management System (CMS) was once again on the fritz. It would not allow me to save my edits. This was a recurring problem and one that I had complained to both Cyril and Pablo about just five days earlier. The system went down at 9:21 a.m; I called tech services to report the problem at 9:37. When they told me it would be at least half an hour before the problem was fixed, I ran an errand to the bank.

I returned to find an email from Cyril reprimanding me for failing to alert CMS to the problem. I responded in an email, cc’ing Pablo:

Fuck you and your written warning, Cyril. I have been having problems with CMS since Thursday . . . both of you are well aware . . . and yet, those same problems have not only continued but gotten worse.”

Pablo wrote back that I should “stand down.” I responded:

Who is responsible for CMS not working, if not you two? It is wholly unprofessional to write someone up for something that is (a) your responsibility, and (b) I handled appropriately.

In 30 years in newsrooms, that is something else that I have never seen occur.

In my 4 months here, I have seen absolutely NO investment in producing quality journalism. But you and Pablo seem awfully invested in being the BOSS, except when something really needs to be done. Our numbers are falling through the fucking basement and the only idea that comes from you and Pablo is writing someone up.

It strikes me that you and Pablo are heavily invested in holding everyone accountable.

And yet, the only two people in the office who are not accountable are you two.”

Fearing that I would do time in an Ecuadorian jail if I saw Cyril or Pablo, I quit an hour later, and walked off the job.

Top Photo | Workers set up for the inauguration of TeleSur in Caracas, Venezuela, Sunday, July 24, 2005. (AP Photo/Leslie Mazoch)

Jon Jeter is a published book author and two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist with more than 20 years of journalistic experience. He is a former Washington Post bureau chief and award-winning foreign correspondent on two continents, as well as a former radio and television producer for Chicago Public Media’s “This American Life.”

Republish our stories! MintPress News is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 International License.



Overthrow: 100 Years of U.S. Meddling and Regime Change, From Iran to Nicaragua to Hawaii to Cuba – By Amy Goodman, Juan González / Democracy Now!

News & Politics
America committed a variety of human rights abuses, all under cover of “spreading democracy.”

Photo Credit: Przemek Tokar

As special counsel Robert Mueller continues his probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, we take a look back at Washington’s record of meddling in elections across the globe. By one count, the United States has interfered in more than 80 foreign elections between 1946 and 2000. And that doesn’t count U.S.-backed coups and invasions. We speak to former New York Times reporter Stephen Kinzer, author of “Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq.”




This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: As special counsel Robert Mueller continues his probe into Russian meddling into the 2016 election, we take a look back at Washington’s record of meddling in elections across the globe. By one count, the United States has interfered in more than 80 foreign elections between 1946 and 2000. And that doesn’t count U.S.-backed coups and invasions. Former CIA Director James Woolsey recently joked about the U.S. record of meddling overseas, during an interview with Laura Ingraham on Fox News.

LAURA INGRAHAM: Have we ever tried to meddle in other countries’ elections?

JAMES WOOLSEY: Oh, probably. But it was for the good of the system, in order to avoid the communists from taking over.


JAMES WOOLSEY: For example, in Europe in ’47, ’48, ’49, the Greeks and the Italians, we—CIA—

LAURA INGRAHAM: We don’t do that now, though? We don’t mess around in other people’s elections, Jim?

JAMES WOOLSEY: Well, mmm, yum, yum, yum, never mind. Only for a very good cause.

LAURA INGRAHAM: Can you do that—let’s do a vine video and—as former CIAdirector. I love it.

JAMES WOOLSEY: Only for very good cause—


JAMES WOOLSEY: —in the interests of democracy.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: The list of countries where the U.S. has interfered is long. In 1893, the U.S. helped overthrow the kingdom of Hawaii. Five years later, in 1898, the U.S. invaded and occupied Cuba and Puerto Rico. A year later, it was the Philippines. Early 20th century interventions included Nicaragua, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, all in the 1910s.

AMY GOODMAN: In 1953, the U.S. helped overthrow the Iranian government. A year later, in 1954, U.S.-backed coup in Guatemala, overthrowing the democratically elected leader of Guatemala, Jacobo Árbenz. Then, in the ’60s, the list grew to include, once again, the Dominican Republic, Indonesia and the Congo. And that’s just a partial list. Even with the end of the Cold War, U.S. interference overseas did not end. Next week marks the 15th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq to topple the government of Saddam Hussein.

We now go to Stephen Kinzer, former New York Times foreign correspondent, who writes about world affairs for The Boston Globe. He’s the author of a number of books, including Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to IraqAll the Shah’s Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror. He’s written the book Bitter Fruit about the coup in Guatemala. And his latest book is The True Flag: Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain, and the Birth of American Empire.

Stephen Kinzer, we welcome you back to Democracy Now! to talk, sadly, about the very same issue. I’m not quite sure where to begin, whether to go back to the beginning, but let’s start, since it was 65 years ago, in Iran, in 1953, in March of 1953. The U.S. was in full swing making plans for overthrowing the government of the democratically elected leader, Mohammad Mosaddegh. Can you talk about what the U.S. did in Iran then? So well known throughout Iran, but most people in this country have no idea.

STEPHEN KINZER: Early in the 20th century, the people of Iran began moving towards democracy. It was a very difficult struggle. It was back and forth. But finally, after the Second World War, democracy did emerge in Iran. It was the one parenthesis, the one period of real democracy that we’ve had in Iran over the last hundred years. So, the problem came when the Iranians chose the wrong leader. They did something that the United States never likes: They chose a leader who wanted to put the interests of his own country ahead of the interests of the United States. And that alarmed the West, and particularly the United States.

Mosaddegh’s first move was to nationalize Iranian oil. We thought this would be a terrible example for the rest of the world. We didn’t want to start this process going in other countries. So, in order to set an example, the United States decided we would work with the British to overthrow the elected democratic government of Iran. We sent a senior CIA officer, who worked in the basement of the American Embassy in Iran organizing the coup. The coup finally succeeded in the summer of 1953. Mosaddegh was overthrown.

And, more important, the democratic system in Iran was destroyed forever. This was not just an attack on one person, but an attack on democracy. And the reason why we attacked that democracy is the democracy produced the wrong person. So, we like elections and democratic processes, but they have to produce the candidates we like; otherwise, our approval disappears.

AMY GOODMAN: And the person he sent—that the U.S., the Dulles brothers, sent in to Iran with the suitcases of money to begin the process, Teddy Roosevelt’s grandson?

STEPHEN KINZER: That’s right. Sometimes I wonder if there’s something genetic in the Roosevelt family that predisposes them toward regime change. It is a kind of a quirk of history that the person who effectively projected the United States into the regime change era at the beginning of the 20th century, Teddy Roosevelt, had a grandson who went to Iran in the 1950s and carried out a regime change operation there. And there were similarities—

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to go—

STEPHEN KINZER: —between the operations that they carried out.

AMY GOODMAN: Before you go on, Stephen, I wanted to go to a part of a trailer from an upcoming documentary titled Coup 53 about the 1953 British-American coup in Iran and the overthrow of Mohammad Mosaddegh, directed by the Iranian physicist-turned-award-winning-documentary-filmmaker Taghi Amirani.

TAGHI AMIRANI: This man, Dr. Mohammad Mosaddegh, he was our first democratically elected prime minister.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS: Nobody knows who Mosaddegh was. Democratically elected prime minister of Iran.

TAGHI AMIRANI: In 1952, Time magazine named him Man of the Year, because he had nationalized Iranian oil and kicked the British out.

UNIDENTIFIED: [translated] Mosaddegh came along and threw them out. They were gone. Gone! Gone!!

UNIDENTIFIED: [translated] The Iranian people had rejected the Shah’s rule with blood, with blood, and bare hands in front of tanks.

INTERVIEWER: You had a million dollars in cash to run the coup, right?


DAVID TALBOT: Kermit Roosevelt was prepared to do whatever he had to do, when he was given this mission by Allen Dulles to overthrow the democratic government of Iran.

ALLEN DULLES: But may I say this? At no time has the CIA engaged in any political activity or any intelligence activity that was not approved at the highest level.

AMY GOODMAN: That last voice, Allen Dulles, head of the CIA from 1952 to 1961. At the time, his brother—his brother, Secretary of State Dulles, was secretary of state. We’re talking about the overthrow of Iran for the British oil company that would later become British Petroleum. Is that right, Stephen Kinzer?

STEPHEN KINZER: Yes. That company is now called BP. So, you’re seeing long-term effects of these interventions, and what you’re seeing in Iran today 100 percent ties back to what we did in 1953. We like to have this idea that these operations are discreet, they’re not going to have any long-term effects. We’ll remove one government, place another favorable government in power, and anything will go fine. Everybody will forget it, and it won’t have any long-term effects. But if you look around the world, you can see that these kinds of operations to interfere in other countries’ politics, what the CIA calls “influence operations,” actually not only often wind up devastating the target country, but, in the end, undermine the security of the United States.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Stephen Kinzer, I’d like to move to another part of the world: Nicaragua. Most people are familiar, obviously, with the Reagan-era attempts to overthrow the Sandinista government or the period during the Roosevelt era of the attempts to get rid of Sandino as a force in Nicaragua. But, further back, José Santos Zelaya, at the beginning of the 20 century, could you talk about the efforts of the U.S. government to overthrow Zelaya?

STEPHEN KINZER: Zelaya was a fascinating figure, certainly the most formidable leader Nicaragua ever had. He was a slashing reformer. He was a liberal, a progressive. He built ports and roads, tried to build up a middle class in Nicaragua. He brought the first automobile into Nicaragua, the first streetlights. He organized the first baseball league. He was a true modernizer.

But he had one characteristic the United States really didn’t like. And that is, he wanted Nicaragua to have an independent foreign policy. When he needed to raise money for a planned railroad across Nicaragua, rather than seek loans from the Morgan bank in the United States as we wanted him to do, he floated the loan offers in London and in Paris. The United States tried to get those governments to forbid the offering of those loan agreements, but they refused. Sure enough, the money was raised. And America became very alarmed. Nicaragua was trying to diversify its international relations. It didn’t want to be just under the power of the United States. And that was a fatal decision by Zelaya.

Once he decided that he wanted to pull Nicaragua out from under the thumb of the United States, he became a target. And we did overthrow him in 1909. That was the beginning of a century of American interference in Nicaragua. I think you can argue that there’s no country in the world where the cycle of American intervention—imposition of a dictator, rebellion, repression, and a return of American power to impose another leader—is so clear, over such a long period of time, the way it is in Nicaragua.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re talking to Stephen Kinzer, former New York Times foreign correspondent, now writes the world affairs column for The Boston Globe.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And I wanted to ask you about another invasion that is rarely talked about these days: the invasion of the Dominican Republic in 1965 by Lyndon Johnson and the efforts of the United States, again, to control the affairs of the Dominican Republic over many, many years, because, obviously, there were two invasions of the Dominican Republic. There was one at the early part of the century that led to the rise of Trujillo, and then there was one after the fall of Trujillo to attempt regime change against President Juan Bosch, who had been elected into office.

STEPHEN KINZER: You have placed it very well, because if we remember this operation at all, we remember the American Marines landing on the beaches in the Dominican Republic. But the cause of that intervention was the foolish mistake of the Dominican people of electing a leader who was unpalatable to the United States. Juan Bosch was a figure a little bit like Zelaya had been half a century earlier in Nicaragua. He didn’t want the Dominican Republic to be under the thumb of the United States. He wanted it to be an independent country. And this was something the U.S. couldn’t tolerate.

All these movements in the Caribbean Basin have been—have had, as a fundamental part of their political program, measures to limit the power of foreign corporations in their countries, and often measures to limit the amount of land that foreigners can own in their country. These are the kinds of measures that are hateful to the American corporations that have gotten so rich from taking the resources of the Caribbean Basin, and leaders who promote those policies always find themselves in Washington’s crosshairs.

This is not just ancient history. We had an episode in Honduras in 2009 where a president who was very much in this line, trying to pull Honduras away from subservience to the United States, was overthrown in a coup by the military, dragged out of his house in the middle of the night in his pajamas, sent into exile. The U.S. was so happy, members of Congress even went to Honduras to congratulate the leader of the coup. And then, just last year, a new election was held to ratify the results of the coup. The election was so fraudulent that for the first time in the history of the Organization of American States, the OAS called for a new election. And the leader of the OAS, Almagro, had to do it, because he had been denouncing attacks on democracy in Venezuela and figured he couldn’t just stand by while something even worse was done in Honduras. Unfortunately, the United States doesn’t have that kind of shame, and we cheered that election. We refused the call for a new election. And Honduras today is under the rule of a regime that is the product of a coup, supported by the United States, against an elected government.

So, this is not something that we used to do in ancient history. This is something that’s happening right now. And that’s why those of us familiar with this history roll our eyes a little bit when we hear these outraged allegations that Russia has been doing something so dastardly as to try to influence our politics.

AMY GOODMAN: Stephen Kinzer, can you take us on a brief, kind of thumbnail journey from the overthrow of Hawaii, the Spanish-American War, Cuba, Puerto Rico and the Philippines—all before the turn of the 20th century?

STEPHEN KINZER: This was a fascinating period, and it really was the moment when the United States went from being what you could call a continental empire—that is, inside North America—to being an overseas empire, a crucial moment of decision for the United States. That was not inevitable, but that was the choice we made.

So, in 1893, at the behest of sugar growers in Hawaii, the United States promoted the overthrow of the Hawaiian monarchy. The idea was that Hawaii would then immediately become part of the United States. That didn’t happen, because there was a change of presidency in Washington, and the new president, Grover Cleveland, hated that intervention and didn’t want to take Hawaii in. Then, five years later, in 1898, when Grover Cleveland was gone, the Spanish-American War broke out. The United States became interested in the Pacific, because we destroyed the Spanish fleet in the Philippines. Then we decided we should take the Philippines for ourselves. We became interested in the China market. This was a real, fantastic Fata Morgana out there for American business. The American press was full of stories about how many nails we could sell in China, if we could get the Chinese to use nails; how much cotton we could sell there; how much beef we could sell there, if we could get the Chinese to eat beef. So, we decided we needed stepping stones to China. And that was the moment when we decided, “Let’s take Hawaii as we’ve taken the Philippines.”

So, that happened at the same time the United States was consolidating its rule over Cuba and Puerto Rico. In Cuba, we staged a presidential election, after we consolidated our power there in 1898. We found a candidate that we liked. We found him in upstate New York. He spoke good English, which is always essential for the people that we promote. We brought him back to Cuba. As soon as it became clear that the campaign was rigged, the other candidate dropped out. He became president of Cuba. Sure enough, six years later, the United States had to send troops back to Cuba to suppress protests against him. They occupied Cuba for three more years. Then they left. They had to come back again about six or seven years later, in 1917, because again the Cuban people had had the temerity to elect a leader who was unpalatable to the United States. So, this was a great model for an idea, a concept, that has reverberated through the whole period since then, which is: Have your elections, but you must elect someone we like; otherwise, we’re going to go to Plan B.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to go to break, and then we’re going to come back with Stephen Kinzer and talk about James Woolsey’s latest comment. When asked on Fox if the U.S. is still interfering with people’s elections, he chuckles and says, “Only for a good cause.” Yes, we’re talking with Stephen Kinzer, former New York Times foreign correspondent, now writing a world affairs column for The Boston Globe, has written many books, one on the coup, U.S. overthrow of Guatemalan democratically elected government, called Bitter Fruit, one called Overthrow: America’s Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq, one specifically on Iran, All the Shah’s Men, and his latest book, The True Flag: Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain, and the Birth of American Empire. This is Democracy Now! Back in a minute.


AMY GOODMAN: “Nicaragua” by Bruce Cockburn, here on Democracy Now!. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González. Our guest is Stephen Kinzer, former New York Times foreign correspondent, now writes for The Boston Globe. He’s author of a number of books, his latest, The True Flag: Theodore Roosevelt, Mark Twain, and the Birth of American Empire. Juan?

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Yeah, I’d like to ask you, in terms of the Spanish-American War and, of course, of the bitter guerrilla war that developed in the Philippines in the 1899, 1900, the birth of the Anti-Imperialist League in the United States—it was a widespread movement of Americans opposed to this overseas empire. Could you talk about some of the figures and the impact of the Anti-Imperialist League? Because we don’t see that kind of organization these days, even though the U.S. empire continues to grow and make itself felt around the world.

STEPHEN KINZER: The story of the Anti-Imperialist League is a central part of my new book, The True Flag. And I like my books always to be voyages of discovery. I’m always looking for some really big story that shaped the world but that we don’t know about. And this really is one. Here’s a story that has almost completely dropped out of our history books.

But the Anti-Imperialist League was a major force in American life in the period around 1898, 1900. It was based in Boston, later moved to Washington, had chapters all over the United States. Some of the leading figures in the United States were members. The leaders of the Anti-Imperialist League included billionaires like Andrew Carnegie and social activists like Jane Addams and Samuel Gompers, Booker T. Washington. Grover Cleveland was a member. It was really a remarkable group. It staged hundreds of rallies, published thousands of leaflets, intensely lobbied in Washington, and actually had quite an impact.

This was a debate that seized the attention of the entire American people: Should we begin taking territories outside North America? Or should we now stop, now that we’ve consolidated our North American empire? Everybody in the United States realized this was a huge decision. It dominated newspaper coverage. When the treaty by which the United States took the Philippines and Guam and Puerto Rico was brought before the Senate, there was a 34-day debate. That’s the center of my book. In this debate, you will see every argument, on both sides, that has ever been used, for the last 120 years. Every argument about why intervention is a good idea or a bad idea starts there. And the Anti-Imperialist League played a great role in that debate. And interestingly enough, that treaty, that set us off on the path of global empire, was passed in the Senate by a margin of one vote more than the required two-thirds majority.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, of course, the—

STEPHEN KINZER: And when it was challenged in the Supreme Court, it was five to four.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, of course, the most eloquent spokesman—the most elegant spokesman for the Anti-Imperialist League was none other than Mark Twain, no?

STEPHEN KINZER: This is another discovery I made while I was writing my book. I grew up with what I now realize was a partial, a kind of false, image of Mark Twain. I always thought of him as Mr. Nice Guy. He’s a sweetheart. He’s everybody’s favorite old uncle, who has nice curly white hair and rocks on his porch and tells nice, funny stories that everybody laughs at. This is not correct! This is not the real Mark Twain.

Mark Twain was an eviscerating anti-imperialist. He was militant. He was intent. He used to write that Americans fighting in foreign wars were carrying a polluted musket under a bandit’s flag. And he even wanted to change the flag of the United States, to change the stars to skull-and-crossbones symbols. So, I now realize that we have sort of sanctified and bleached Mark Twain for public consumption. Many of the quotes I use from Twain in my book do not appear in many biographies or anthologies. That part of Twain has been dropped out of his legacy, and I’m trying to recover it, because he speaks to us today.

AMY GOODMAN: Makes me wonder if his books will start to be taken out of libraries around the country.



Amy Goodman is the host of Democracy Now!, a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 1,200 stations in North America. She is the co-author of The Silenced Majority, a New York Times best-seller.

Juan González is the co-host of the nationally syndicated radio news program, Democracy Now!.


South Front

On March 8, the Syrian Arab Army, the Tiger Forces and the Republican Guard liberated the villages of Hawsh Ashari and Hawsh Qubaybat, the Jisrin farms and the Air Defense Battalion base in the Eastern Ghouta region, near Damascus from Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra), Faylaq al-Rahman and Jaish al-Islam.

The Air Defense Battalion base had been one of the main maintenance facilities for the Syrian Air Defense Forces’ S-200 long range air defense systems before it was captured by Jaish al-Islam in 2012.

Hamza Bayrakdar, a spokesman for Jaysh al-Islam, claimed that the militant group had launched an attack on government positions in the Douma countryside and had killed twenty SAA soldiers as well as destroyed a vehicle armed with a 14.5mm gun and damaged a T-72 battle tank.

By March 9, government forces have liberated about a half of the entire Eastern Ghouta pocket. Currently, militants remain in control of the most urbanized area in the southern and northern parts of the pocket. Clashes there will be especially complicated for the SAA, primarily because of the risk of civilian casualties.

On March 8, the Hezbollah media wing in Syria reported that the SAA had expanded its security zone around the town of al-Qaryatayn up to 80km. This effort was aimed at preventing weapons supplies and militant infiltration efforts from the At Tanf area, which is controlled by the US-led coalition and its proxies.

On the same day, the Turkish Armed Forces and the Free Syrian Army captured the town of Jinderes, the villages of Hallubi Kabir, Merasat al-Khatib, Shawarighat ak-Jawz and the Zaghur camp in the Afrin area from the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG).

The media wing of the YPG claimed that YPG fighters conducted “a special operation” against the Turkish Army in the village of Matinli killing seven Turkish special forces soldiers.

On March 9, Turkish forces continued their efforts to isolate Afrin advancing northeast, west and south of the YPG-held city.


 Following previous advances in Eastern Ghouta, the Tiger Forces, the Republican Guard and the Syrian Army have made another major step en route to a full liberation of the region.

On March 10, government forces entered the key town of Misraba in the central part of the pocket and forced militants to retreat from its center. According to local sources, the Tiger Forces and their allies established control of a major part of the town and militant positions remained only in its vicinity. The advance was backed up by the Syrian Air Force.

However, clashes are still ongoing in the area. If government troops secure their gains in Misraba, the militant-held pocket in Eastern Ghouta will be de-facto splitted into two separate parts.

Tiger Forces Enter Key Town Of Misraba In Eastern Ghouta, Militants Are On Retreat (Map)

First images of Syrian Army troops inside of captured East Ghouta town


BEIRUT, LEBANON (3:50 P.M.) – The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) seized the imperative town of Mesraba in the East Ghouta region, today, forcing the Islamist rebels to retreat further south in order to avoid being overrun.

As a result of this advance, the Syrian Arab Army has managed to nearly split the East Ghouta region into two separate pockets.

The first photos from the captured town of Mesraba were released by Russia’s ANNA News this afternoon:

” data-medium-file=”” data-large-file=”” />ANNA News



On January 18, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and Iranian-backed militias liberated the village of Qaytal fom Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra) in southern Aleppo and almost closed the eastern Idlib pocket.

Late on the same day, ISIS reportedly captured thirty villages, including Rasm al-Dhaba, al-Muwaylah, abu Ajwa, Muakar Shamali, Huma, Najm Al-Zuhur, Umm Qurun and Rasm Arira, in northeastern Hama and southwestern Aleppo from Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS).

According to reports, some of HTS members withdrew from the area to avoid being encircled by the SAA while the rest of them just joined ISIS.

The pro-opposition news outlet Enab Baladi also reported that ISIS fighters started an advance to reach the SAA-held village Tell Daman in order to open a route towards Idlib province.

The ISIS Hunters of the SAA’s 5th Assault Corps have repelled a suicide vehicle borne improvised explosive device attack by ISIS in the Euphrates Valley. According to the unit’s media wing, the attack was an attempt to break the blockade imposed by government forces on ISIS units in the Homs desert.

On January 18, two ISIS VBIEDs attacked the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in Gharanij in southeastern Deir Ezzor, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR). The ISIS-linked news agency Amaq added that ISIS fighters targeted a gathering of SDF fighters and destroyed a Humvee with an ATGM.

According to SOHR, ISIS still controls the villages of Abu Hassan, al-Bubadran, al-Baghuz, al-Susah and al-Shaafah as well as large parts of Hajin, Gharanij and al-Bahra on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson decided to say that Washington has no plans to create a 30,000-strong border force in northern Syria and claimed that the issue has been “misportrayed”. “We are not creating a border security force at all,” he said.

However, just few days ago, the Pentagon officially announced the creation of this border force.

“The Coalition is working jointly with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to establish and train the new Syrian Border Security Force (BSF). Currently, there are approximately 230 individuals training in the BSF’s inaugural class, with the goal of a final force size of approximately 30,000,” spokesman for the US-led coalition Colonel Thomas F. Veale said. “The base of the new force is essentially a realignment of approximately 15,000 members of the Syrian Democratic Forces to a new mission in the Border Security Force as their actions against ISIS draw to a close.”

Meanwhile, Turkish Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar and National Intelligence Organization (MİT) Undersecretary Hakan Fidan met in Moscow with Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu and other officials for talks on Syria.

It does not look like Ankara is ready to see the US as a reliable partner in this conflict.


This map provides a general look at the military situation in Syria on January 19, 2018:


Related Videos







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” data-medium-file=”” data-large-file=”” data-mce-src=”https://www.almasdarnews.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/03/28951675_2056569787965686_8935553359088189440_n.jpg&#8221; height=”209″ width=”371″>ANNA News


On January 18, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and Iranian-backed militias liberated the village of Qaytal fom Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra) in southern Aleppo and almost closed the eastern Idlib pocket.

Late on the same day, ISIS reportedly captured thirty villages, including Rasm al-Dhaba, al-Muwaylah, abu Ajwa, Muakar Shamali, Huma, Najm Al-Zuhur, Umm Qurun and Rasm Arira, in northeastern Hama and southwestern Aleppo from Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS).

According to reports, some of HTS members withdrew from the area to avoid being encircled by the SAA while the rest of them just joined ISIS.

The pro-opposition news outlet Enab Baladi also reported that ISIS fighters started an advance to reach the SAA-held village Tell Daman in order to open a route towards Idlib province.

The ISIS Hunters of the SAA’s 5th Assault Corps have repelled a suicide vehicle borne improvised explosive device attack by ISIS in the Euphrates Valley. According to the unit’s media wing, the attack was an attempt to break the blockade imposed by government forces on ISIS units in the Homs desert.

On January 18, two ISIS VBIEDs attacked the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in Gharanij in southeastern Deir Ezzor, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR). The ISIS-linked news agency Amaq added that ISIS fighters targeted a gathering of SDF fighters and destroyed a Humvee with an ATGM.

According to SOHR, ISIS still controls the villages of Abu Hassan, al-Bubadran, al-Baghuz, al-Susah and al-Shaafah as well as large parts of Hajin, Gharanij and al-Bahra on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson decided to say that Washington has no plans to create a 30,000-strong border force in northern Syria and claimed that the issue has been “misportrayed”. “We are not creating a border security force at all,” he said.

However, just few days ago, the Pentagon officially announced the creation of this border force.

“The Coalition is working jointly with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to establish and train the new Syrian Border Security Force (BSF). Currently, there are approximately 230 individuals training in the BSF’s inaugural class, with the goal of a final force size of approximately 30,000,” spokesman for the US-led coalition Colonel Thomas F. Veale said. “The base of the new force is essentially a realignment of approximately 15,000 members of the Syrian Democratic Forces to a new mission in the Border Security Force as their actions against ISIS draw to a close.”

Meanwhile, Turkish Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar and National Intelligence Organization (MİT) Undersecretary Hakan Fidan met in Moscow with Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu and other officials for talks on Syria.

It does not look like Ankara is ready to see the US as a reliable partner in this conflict.


This map provides a general look at the military situation in Syria on January 19, 2018:


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On January 18, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) and Iranian-backed militias liberated the village of Qaytal fom Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra) in southern Aleppo and almost closed the eastern Idlib pocket.

Late on the same day, ISIS reportedly captured thirty villages, including Rasm al-Dhaba, al-Muwaylah, abu Ajwa, Muakar Shamali, Huma, Najm Al-Zuhur, Umm Qurun and Rasm Arira, in northeastern Hama and southwestern Aleppo from Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS).

According to reports, some of HTS members withdrew from the area to avoid being encircled by the SAA while the rest of them just joined ISIS.

The pro-opposition news outlet Enab Baladi also reported that ISIS fighters started an advance to reach the SAA-held village Tell Daman in order to open a route towards Idlib province.

The ISIS Hunters of the SAA’s 5th Assault Corps have repelled a suicide vehicle borne improvised explosive device attack by ISIS in the Euphrates Valley. According to the unit’s media wing, the attack was an attempt to break the blockade imposed by government forces on ISIS units in the Homs desert.

On January 18, two ISIS VBIEDs attacked the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in Gharanij in southeastern Deir Ezzor, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR). The ISIS-linked news agency Amaq added that ISIS fighters targeted a gathering of SDF fighters and destroyed a Humvee with an ATGM.

According to SOHR, ISIS still controls the villages of Abu Hassan, al-Bubadran, al-Baghuz, al-Susah and al-Shaafah as well as large parts of Hajin, Gharanij and al-Bahra on the eastern bank of the Euphrates River.

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson decided to say that Washington has no plans to create a 30,000-strong border force in northern Syria and claimed that the issue has been “misportrayed”. “We are not creating a border security force at all,” he said.

However, just few days ago, the Pentagon officially announced the creation of this border force.

“The Coalition is working jointly with the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) to establish and train the new Syrian Border Security Force (BSF). Currently, there are approximately 230 individuals training in the BSF’s inaugural class, with the goal of a final force size of approximately 30,000,” spokesman for the US-led coalition Colonel Thomas F. Veale said. “The base of the new force is essentially a realignment of approximately 15,000 members of the Syrian Democratic Forces to a new mission in the Border Security Force as their actions against ISIS draw to a close.”

Meanwhile, Turkish Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar and National Intelligence Organization (MİT) Undersecretary Hakan Fidan met in Moscow with Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu and other officials for talks on Syria.

It does not look like Ankara is ready to see the US as a reliable partner in this conflict.


This map provides a general look at the military situation in Syria on January 19, 2018:


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2017: Civilians Killed by US Tripled in Iraq, Syria

Says US Escalation Led to ‘Steep Increase’ in Killings

UK-based NGO Airwars has offered a reckoning of the 2017 air operations of the US-led coalition against ISIS, involving attacks in both Iraq and Syria. The number of civilians killed increased dramatically, with estimates suggesting that they roughly tripled from 2016.

In 2016, they documented an estimated death toll of between 1,243 and 1,904 non-combatants, but in 2017, the estimate was a minimum of 3,923, and potentially as many as 6,102 non-combatants killed.

That’s a huge increase, and a troubling one, in no small part because the US doesn’t admit it’s even happening, with Pentagon assessments putting deaths at no more than a few hundred annually, and around 800 over the entire past four years.

Airwars attributed the escalating toll in part to the fact that 2017 saw an increase in strikes, and an increased focus on densely populated cities. They also suggested the Trump Administration’s relaxing of restrictions on airstrikes, and view of the ISIS war as a “war of annihilation” are factors.

” data-medium-file=”” data-large-file=”” />ANNA News

2017: Civilians Killed by US Tripled in Iraq, Syria

Says US Escalation Led to ‘Steep Increase’ in Killings

UK-based NGO Airwars has offered a reckoning of the 2017 air operations of the US-led coalition against ISIS, involving attacks in both Iraq and Syria. The number of civilians killed increased dramatically, with estimates suggesting that they roughly tripled from 2016.

In 2016, they documented an estimated death toll of between 1,243 and 1,904 non-combatants, but in 2017, the estimate was a minimum of 3,923, and potentially as many as 6,102 non-combatants killed.

That’s a huge increase, and a troubling one, in no small part because the US doesn’t admit it’s even happening, with Pentagon assessments putting deaths at no more than a few hundred annually, and around 800 over the entire past four years.

Airwars attributed the escalating toll in part to the fact that 2017 saw an increase in strikes, and an increased focus on densely populated cities. They also suggested the Trump Administration’s relaxing of restrictions on airstrikes, and view of the ISIS war as a “war of annihilation” are factors.

” data-medium-file=”” data-large-file=”” />ANNA News

Norman Finkelstein: The “Big Lie” About Gaza is That the Palestinians Have Been the Aggressors

Extended interview with scholar Norman Finkelstein, author of the new book, “Gaza: An Inquest into Its Martyrdom.” The book has just been published as Israel is facing a possible International Criminal Court war crimes probe over its 2014 assault on Gaza, which killed more than 2,100 Palestinians, including over 500 children

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, as we turn to Part 2 of our conversation with the scholar Norman Finkelstein, author of the new book, Gaza: An Inquest into Its Martyrdom. The book is being published as Israel is facing a possible International Criminal Court war crimes probe over its 2014 assault on Gaza, which killed more than 2,100 Palestinians, included over 500 children.

In his new book, Norman Finkelstein writes, “Gaza is about a Big Lie composed of a thousand, often seemingly abstruse and arcane, little lies.” What is the “Big Lie” about Gaza, Norm?

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: The Big Lie about Gaza is that it’s an aggressor, that Gaza is aggressing against Israel, and Israel is reacting in self-defense. It’s a double lie. The first lie is, most of the Israeli attacks on Gaza don’t even have anything to do with Gaza. So, if you take Operation Cast Lead, in 2008, ’09, why did Israel attack Gaza? Not because of Gaza. Not because of anything Gaza did. The Israelis were very honest. This is revenge for Lebanon. In 2006, Israel suffered a major defeat in Lebanon against the Hezbollah, the Party of God. And then Israelis began to panic. They’re losing what they call their deterrence capacity. And their deterrence capacity simply means—it’s a fancy, technical term for the Arabs’ fear of us. And they worried because the Arabs no longer fear them after this—you know, not a ragtag guerrilla army, but it’s not a big thing, either. It’s about 6,000 fighters, the Hezbollah—at the time, it was 6,000 fighters. And they effectively inflicted a defeat on the Israeli invaders of Lebanon. And so they were looking for somewhere where they could restore what they call their deterrence capacity. They didn’t want to tangle again with the Party of God, with the Hezbollah, so they targeted Gaza. Had nothing to do with Gaza. The notion that they’re defending themselves against Gaza.

The second big lie is, what does Gaza consist of. When you read the official reports, even when you read the human rights reports, they talk about this big arsenal of weapons that Hamas has accumulated. Number one, how do you know how many weapons they have? If you knew how many weapons they had—have, then you must know where they are. And if you know where they are, then Israel would preemptively strike. If it’s not preemptively struck, it’s because it doesn’t know anything about the weapons. Israel plucks numbers out of thin air, and then all the official media, and even the critical human rights organizations, repeat these numbers. They talk about Grad missiles and Fajr missiles.

What is Gaza? What are its weapons? What is its arsenal? Let’s take the last attack. We have exactly—we know exactly how much damage was done by these weapons. There were 5,000 so-called rockets and 2,000 mortars fired at—mortar shells fired at Israel. So, altogether, that’s 7,000 projectiles. You know the damage done? Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, it had a diary, listing all the damage done each day. Five thousands rockets, 2,000 mortar shells. One house was destroyed. One house. How is it possible that 5,000 rockets and 2,000 mortar shells can only destroy one house? Because they’re not rockets. They’re fireworks. They’re enhanced fireworks.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you mean by that?

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Well, they’re not rockets. The problem is—the problem is that Hamas and Israel have a mutual stake in pretending they’re rockets. Hamas pretends they’re rockets so it can show its people armed resistance works. “See how afraid they are of us?” And Israel pretends they’re rockets so it could say, “We’re acting in self-defense.” But they are not rockets. They’re just enhanced fireworks. Even if you factor in Iron Dome, OK? I don’t have the time to go into the details, but your listeners, or some of them, know, because you had Theodore—

AMY GOODMAN: Explain what Iron Dome is.

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: OK. Iron Dome was their anti—so-called anti-missile defense system. And they claim that one of the reasons so little damage was done was because of their technological wizardry, namely Iron Dome anti-missile defense system. Number one, Iron Dome was only located near the major urban centers of Israel. Number two, only 840 rockets were fired towards those major urban centers. Number three, Iron Dome, according to the official Israeli numbers, it deflected about 740 of those rockets. According to Theodore Postol, who you had on your program, the expert on anti-missile technology from MIT, he said its efficacy rate was about 5 percent, which means it deflected about 40 rockets. But let’s even take the Israeli numbers. Let’s say it deflected 720 rockets. Let’s take that number. That still leaves thousands and thousands and thousands of rockets which weren’t deflected. Forty percent of them landed in the border area where there was no Iron Dome. So how can it be that only one house was destroyed? Because they’re not rockets.

AMY GOODMAN: So why does Hamas do it?

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Why does Hamas do it? I think part of it is because their, so to speak, claim to fame is they’re an armed resistance. They want to distinguish themselves from—distinguish themselves from the Palestinian Authority. So they claim, “We’re still resisting.” Number two, I think they really believe their own propaganda, because they see Israel saying, “You know, these rockets, they’re causing us, you know, so much damage and destruction and so forth.” I think part of it, you have to remember—no offense to them—no offense to them, but they live in a hermetically sealed society. Most of the Hamas leaders, they’re just recently out of spending 10 years in jail, 15 years in jail. They’re very inexperienced, because Israel eliminated the first line, the second line, the third line of the Hamas leadership. So, don’t attribute, you know, great strategic thinking to them. They’re living in this tiny, isolated, hermetically sealed enclave. And I think they actually have internalized a lot of the Israeli propaganda.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain what happened in, first, Operation Cast Lead, 2008, ’09, and then Operation Protective Edge in 2014. And you referenced this in the first part of our interview, but in terms of casualties, in terms of the timing of these two attacks?

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Mm-hmm. Well, I don’t want to go over ground that we’ve already looked at, so let me look at the salient points for the purposes of, you know, an interview. Number one, Operation Cast Leads begins December 26th, 2008, ends January 17th, 2009—what Amnesty International called “22 days of death and destruction.” There’s a ceasefire implemented in June 2008. Israeli official and unofficial organizations say Hamas was careful to respect the ceasefire. Hamas was careful to respect the ceasefire. Israel, however, it’s preparing, it’s preparing, it’s preparing for its attack on Gaza to revenge Lebanon. When all the pieces are in place—they spent about a year of preparation. When all the pieces are in place, they need a pretext. Well, they look around for a pretext.

And they wait ’til November 4th, the historic election, when Barack Obama is voted into office. They know all the cameras are riveted on the White House, riveted on the United States. And then they go in, kill six Hamas militants, knowing full well that there’s going to be a reaction. And from that point on, it descends into tit for tat, and then, on December 26, begins the assault. It ends January 17th. And for the time—for the time, it was by far the biggest Israeli massacre committed against Gaza. And you have to bear in mind—I’m not sure how vivid your memory is, even mine is beginning to fade on it, and I study it, you know, pretty closely—public opinion radically shifted against Israel after Operation Cast Lead. It created a huge international uproar. There were, believe it or not—

AMY GOODMAN: The casualties, the number?

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: The death, the destruction.

AMY GOODMAN: What was it?

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: There were about 6,300 homes that were destroyed, 10 Israeli civilian casualties. Palestinians, 1,400, of whom up to 1,200 were civilians. Three hundred fifty children were killed. They estimate about 600,000 tons of rubble were left behind. And there were about—believe it or not, there were about 300 human rights reports issued on what happened. And if you look at the proportions in my book, you’ll see, on Operation Cast Lead, it’s exhaustively documented across four chapters, large chapters, because there was a huge amount of information.

And it climaxed in the Goldstone Report. And the Goldstone Report was a catastrophe for the state of Israel. Goldstone is Jewish. Goldstone is a Zionist. Goldstone is a liberal.

AMY GOODMAN: Goldstone was a judge, right?

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Right, he was a judge, a respected, you can even say renowned, judge. And so—and most important, he’s a Zionist. He’s on the board of directors of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and so on and so forth.

And now, he came out with a report that said the purpose of Cast Lead was to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population. Total disaster for Israel. And so, Israel goes at him ferociously.

AMY GOODMAN: And this—he came out with the report in?

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: The report comes out in 2009. They go—Israel goes after him ferociously. Across the spectrum, across the political spectrum, all levels of the Israeli society, and also in the United States, they go after Goldstone. And the tragedy then occurs. I go through the record very carefully in the book. Goldstone—it was almost a joke, because it was April 1st. It was April Fool’s Day. He drops a bombshell in The Washington Post.

AMY GOODMAN: This is 2011.

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: He doesn’t say it literally, but it’s clear, the message he’s transmitting. He’s recanting the report, and he’s taking it back. I’ll tell you, I remember that day quite well. I was in a library—I don’t remember where—and it was like something died in me. Really, it was like something died in me, something you believed in, or you wanted to believe in. And maybe I was naive, but the Goldstone Report was a very weighty document. At one point, Benjamin Netanyahu said, “We have—we’re facing three existential threats: Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah rockets, and the Goldstone Report.” And it was a very big problem for them. You might recall, this is the point when like—when Tzipi Livni visited the U.K., she was hit with an indictment for war crimes under the universal jurisdiction.

AMY GOODMAN: And explain who she is.

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Tzipi Livni was the foreign minister during the Operation Cast Lead. And she was a really wretched human being. The day after Cast Lead, the day after it ended, January 18th, she went on Israeli television, Channel 10, and she boasted, “We carried on like real hooligans in Gaza.” She boasted, “We went wild in Gaza. I ordered it. I’m proud of it, because they’re so brazen.” They’re so brazen because they have the United States protecting them, and they carry on with this kind of impunity.

And then, along came the Goldstone Report. It was like an “uh-oh” moment, because it seemed as if, for the first time, they were finally going to be held accountable. And that’s why they went mad, the Israelis. They had to stop Goldstone. He recanted. He claimed he recanted because new information had become available since the publication of his report. But I go through it systematically in the book. No new information became available.

And then the question is: Well, if no new information became available, why did he recant? One possible explanation is because all the pressure that was being put on him by the Israelis and on his family. They tried to prevent him from attending his grandson’s Bar Mitzvah in South Africa. Goldstone is South African. That’s one explanation. For reasons which I can’t go into now, because it requires detail, I don’t find it plausible. I think he was blackmailed. You know, it’s the Mossad. They’re an effective spy organization. Everybody’s got skeletons in their closet. And if you don’t have skeletons in your closet, a relative does. Goldstone’s daughter did Aliyah. She’s an Israeli citizen. I think he was blackmailed. That’s where the evidence points.

John Dugard, the respected human rights—he’s considered the father of human rights in South Africa, extremely principled guy. He’s actually the real thing. He’s a principled liberal. You know, there’s the Phil Ochs song, “Love Me”—”Love Me, I’m a Liberal,” about hypocritical liberals. He’s the real thing. He’s a real principled liberal and has been very principled on this particular issue. And he wrote a very devastating article the day after the recantation. And he said the truth of why Goldstone recanted will go with him to his grave.

Then, after that, the Israelis started to go after a lot of people. You might recall the case of Robert Bernstein, who was the founder of Human Rights Watch. Then he started to attack Human Rights Watch to try to, so to speak, defang them. He had his own bombshell he dropped—I think it was in The New York Times, but I could be mistaken—attacking Human Rights Watch. So, all the pressure is now being put on the human rights community. They start going after human rights respected jurists, like William Schabas, Christian Tomuschat. All of them have to drop out. They were supposed to be on commissions investigating Israeli crimes, for example, during Operation Protective Edge.

AMY GOODMAN: And they are from?

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: U.N. They were U.N. officials, but, you know, prominent—prominent jurists, respected jurists. All of them had to drop out, because Israel started to dig up dirt. And everybody’s got dirt to be dug up on. We know that. So, now the human rights community begins to panic, enters into panic mode, because the Israelis are—they’re just out of control now.

And you saw the result after Operation Protective Edge. I’m not happy to have to say it. It’s the shortest chapter in the book. You know why? There were no human rights reports. Human Rights Watch published—for Operation Cast Lead in 2008, ’09, it published seven quite substantial reports. After Operation Protective Edge, it published one tiny report, one tiny report of 15 pages. Amnesty International was the only major human rights organization that published major reports, but they were all whitewashes of Israel. They were a disgrace. I go through them systematically. The Amnesty chapter is one of the longest chapters in the book. Just going through it, as I said, Gaza is a big lie composed of tiny lies. And there’s no option except to go through it point by point and to show—

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think that lack of response to what happened in 2008, ’09, to what happened, the lack of investigation and holding accountable—again, the casualty—the number of casualties was at 1,600?

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: There were 1,400 Palestinians killed, of whom up to 1,200 were civilians.

AMY GOODMAN: More than 350 of them children.

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Three hundred fifty children, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think that lack of accountability and the reports paved the way for what happened in 2014—

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Absolutely. I mean, I don’t want—

AMY GOODMAN: —with Operation Protective Edge?

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: It’s a harsh thing to say, but it was Richard Goldstone that allowed Operation Protective Edge to happen, because the Israelis were very worried after Operation Cast Lead. It looked like prosecutions were in the offing. Universal jurisdiction was happening. And then, when he killed the report, it became a green light for Israel, and it enabled them to effectively go mad.

AMY GOODMAN: You also write that the Obama administration, as well as Hillary Clinton, tried to undermine the Goldstone Report.

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Look, the Obama administration was—played a really wretched role in all this. Let’s just take the obvious examples. Operation Cast Lead, it ends on January 17th. Now, remember, Obama was elected in November 2008. Operation Cast Lead ends January 17th, 2009. Obama didn’t say anything after he was elected. Do you know why it ends January 17th? Because Obama signals to the Israeli government, “Don’t mess up my inauguration, January 20th. I don’t want any distractions. You’ve got to end the operation.” That’s why they ended.

Now, you go to Operation Protective Edge, 2014. Every day, Obama or one of his officials said, “Israel has the right to protect itself. Israel has the right to protect itself,” as Israel is leveling Gaza. There was no—actually, there was no comparison between Protective Edge and Cast Lead. It was so much worse. The interesting point is, for our purposes, with Obama: How does it end? Do you know how it ends? On August 3rd, Ban Ki-moon comes under all this pressure because Israel keeps bombing U.N. schools—or, UNRWA schools, which have been turned into civilian shelters.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain how long Operation Protective Edge went on for.

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Yeah, Operation Protective Edge, all told, went for 51 days; Operation Cast Lead, 22. Operation Protective Edge, 18,000 homes destroyed; Operation Cast Lead, 6,300. All the figures, they’re on a much higher—

AMY GOODMAN: And the number of people killed in Protective Edge?

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Protective Edge, it’s 2,500 killed, of whom 1,600 were—2,200 killed, of whom 1,600 were civilians.

AMY GOODMAN: More than 500 children.

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Five hundred fifty children were killed. And August 3rd, what happens? Ban Ki-moon, that comatose corpse, he finally comes under so much pressure, because—

AMY GOODMAN: You don’t have to attack—do ad hominem attacks on people.

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: No, no. These people are wretched.

AMY GOODMAN: So, Ban Ki-moon, when he was U.N. secretary-general.

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Yeah, when he was U.N. secretary-general, he does all the bidding for the United States when it comes to Israel-Palestine. I don’t want to go through—I can’t go through this whole sordid record, but the—Israel attacked seven U.N. shelters, which were housing civilians during Operation Protective Edge. And then, on August 3rd, finally, Ban Ki-moon has to say something. And he says, “This is a disgrace, this is outrageous, attacking civilian shelters.” August 3rd, Obama, he no longer has a fig leaf. Ban Ki-moon backed out.

AMY GOODMAN: He spoke against the military invasion.

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Yeah. And now—and now Obama is alone on the world stage. So, August 3rd, the same day, Obama attacks Israel for the shelters, bombing the shelters. And now, Netanyahu, the day before, August 2nd, he says, “I’m not leaving Gaza.” After Obama says, “You can’t do this,” he leaves. Same day, August 3rd. Now, it is true, it did go on for another three weeks. It went on for another three weeks because you entered into the negotiation period, where Israel always brings in its most force to try to extract the best terms. But then there was also, you will probably remember, the beheading of the American reporter. And when the American reporter was beheaded, all the cameras again switched—

AMY GOODMAN: You’re talking about the beheading of James Foley by ISIS in Syria.

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Yeah, yeah. And then the cameras switched again, just like with the Malaysian airline incident. And so, Israel brought on full force. And then it ended August 26th. Technically the war was over. But Obama had the power, if he wanted to. Instead, he was coming out and talking about how no country in the world would tolerate rockets being fired at it, no country in the world would tolerate these terror tunnels, and just giving Israel all the pretext it wanted.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, explain the examples that were used—the terror tunnels, the rockets. Explain the terror tunnels and what they were.

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: OK. Let’s be clear about the facts. They were not terror tunnels. There were about—according to Israel, there were about 12 to 14 tunnels that were built beneath the border separating Gaza from Israel. Now, here are the facts. And the facts are not trivial. Number one, the U.N. Human Rights Council report found, and respected Israeli journalists, Israeli—Israeli military people, they all said the same thing: The tunnels did not target civilians. Every time Hamas militants emerged from the tunnels, they had firefights with Israeli soldiers. They never went to the kibbutzim. They never targeted civilians. They weren’t terror tunnels. My guess is—it’s speculation—that they were trying to capture an Israeli soldier to do what they did with Gilad Shalit, to have a prisoner exchange. But there was never a question of them targeting civilians.

It was interesting what happened. It was, the Israeli propaganda backfired on itself. When it started to say they were targeting civilians, the so-called terror tunnels, the civilians fled. They got scared that there were going to be these Hamas terrorists emerging from these tunnels and killing them. And then they refused to return home. And when they refused to return home, Israel decided, “Well, we’ve got to tell them the truth, that they’re not targeting you,” in order to get them to come back.

Same thing happened with the Hamas rockets. They kept talking about how all these Hamas rockets are terrorizing Israel, how these Hamas rockets are an existential threat. Well, what happened? It was the tourist season. It was July, August 2014. And then Israel’s tourist industry took a nosedive. So they realized, “We better stop talking about these terror tunnels. They’re killing our business—I mean, we better stop talking about the Hamas rockets. They’re killing our business.” So, if you remember what happened, they had Mayor Bloomberg go over to Israel and say, “Everything is fine here. There’s no danger. We should open up Ben Gurion Airport,” because, you remember, Ben Gurion Airport was closed, briefly, because a, quote-unquote, “Hamas rocket” landed nearby. He said—he flew in to show it’s completely safe. So, each time their propaganda backfired, then the cat came out of the bag, and they told the truth. So—

AMY GOODMAN: In the lead-up to the Israeli military invasion of Gaza was the killing of the three Israeli teenagers.


AMY GOODMAN: Explain what happened in June of 2014.

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: What happened was, in June 2014, a rogue Hamas cell captured and then, apparently, almost immediately—we don’t know for certain—but almost immediately, killed the three Israeli teenagers. Now, the information we have—for example, I quote J.J. Goldberg, who’s the former editor-in-chief of The Forward, and I know you’ve had him on your show, Goldberg—he said that Israel knew, from day one, the kids were dead. But they claimed to be going on a search operation.

AMY GOODMAN: And explain who killed them.

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: As I said, it was a Hamas cell. We don’t really know much more than that. Apparently, it was a senior Hamas person in Jordan who gave the order. But the Hamas officials in Gaza had nothing to do with it.

But then Netanyahu used it as a pretext for launching what he called Operation Brother’s Keeper, which was a—killed several Palestinians, rampaged businesses, rounded up—I think it was about a thousand—I could be wrong, but I think it was about a thousand Palestinians in the West Bank, many of whom had been freed in a former prisoner exchange, rounded up and sent them back to prison. And then the tit for tat began with Gaza. It quickly descended, and the Israeli assault began.

AMY GOODMAN: And how do you know that Netanyahu knew that these young men, the three teenagers, had been killed almost immediately?

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Well, right, as I said, you can only quote what the sources tell you. And people like—there were several sources that said—you know, Israel has a very efficient intelligence operation. First of all, the whole Palestinian Authority works with them. So, they’re all working in cahoots. And it’s not a big place. And it is, for what it’s worth. You know, all U.S. direct aid—all U.S. direct aid to the Palestinian Authority, the direct aid—it’s, I think, $36 million—it all goes to the Security Services. The Security Services are trained by Jordan. They’re a very efficient operation. It’s not rinky-dink anymore. They’re a real—they’re a real terror organization, the Palestinian Security Forces, professional torturers and so forth. So, it’s not implausible that, with their security apparatus working with Israel and all of the collaborators, the spies, the informal collaborators and spies, that they would find out. And Goldberg says—and Goldberg obviously has no ax to grind, he’s the former editor-in-chief of The Forward—says that Netanyahu knew almost immediately that the kids were dead. The fear that they would be used for another prisoner swap. And that didn’t happen. And then the full-scale assault on Gaza began.

AMY GOODMAN: So, in Part 1 of this conversation, you talked about the former Israeli soldiers who gave the most vivid descriptions of what took place. Now, I was going to say in Operation Protective Edge, but even before we get to the description of that attack that they gave, how do—how are those names come up with—Operation Cast Lead, Operation Protective Edge? It seems as soon as you use that word to describe what’s happened, that already is clearly a propagandistic word that justifies what’s taking place.

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Well, actually, they were disappointed with Operation Cast Lead. I guess it’s taken—I forgot. You know, I go through it in the book, but my memory escapes me now. It comes—

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, I remember, right before the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the U.S. was coming up with these kind of names, and they were going to call it Operation Iraqi Liberation. But then they had a problem because the acronym was OIL, “oil.” But how are these names come up with?

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Well, they have a very sophisticated—they call it hasbara, which is translated as “public diplomacy.” They have a very—well, we would translate it as “official propaganda.” They have a very effective propaganda agency. In the case of Operation Cast Lead, they created—they already were preparing. As I said, they knew they were going to attack for about a year. They had to make sure all the pieces were in place. And one of the pieces was their propaganda. And they created an organization—it was six months in the making. And a part of it is to come up with these names. And a lot of people comment on how there’s a kind of, you might call it, immaturity about the names they choose. They had–there was a series called Hot Winter or—I can’t remember. But all of these are kinds of bizarre names.

But the important point, I think, is, you can laugh, and you can ridicule, but the propaganda is very effective, you know, because it’s what stays with you. If you take Operation Protective Edge, the three takeaways are the terror tunnels, the Hamas rockets and the Iron Dome. There were no terror tunnels. There were no Hamas rockets. And there was no Iron Dome. The three main images that were projected were all—they were just media creations. They were just propagandistic devices.

And the main propaganda, even—or especially by the human rights organizations, is the pretense that there’s blame on both sides, there’s blame—there’s death and destruction on both sides. But when you look at the numbers, I mean, it’s just ridiculous to put them in the same category. I gave you a chart, you know, to illustrate the numbers in Operation Protective Edge. Civilians killed, roughly 1,600—1,600 to six, civilians killed. Houses destroyed, 18,000 to one. Children killed, 550 to one. You go down the list. How can you create balance out of a balance sheet like that? You know? Out of a grotesquely imbalanced balance sheet like that? And what the human rights organizations do is they simply inflate what happened on the Israeli. So, for example, you take Amnesty International. One child was killed. One child was killed. They describe the child’s death over two pages. So, you say, “OK, you know, it’s a child’s death. What’s wrong with two pages?” Well, then let’s have balance. Five hundred fifty Palestinian children were killed. Did you give that 1,100 pages?

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, you say “they” gave it. Who gave it?

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Amnesty. You know—

AMY GOODMAN: So, how do you deal with the claim that Hamas, that Hezbollah are responsible for a high number of civilian casualties because they use civilians as human shields, particularly they use children as human shields?

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Well, there’s a simple way to deal with it: You look at the evidence. There’s absolutely no evidence. We’ll start with Operation Cast Lead. The most exhaustive analyses were done, at that time, Operation Cast Lead, 2008, ’09—the most exhaustive analyses were done by Amnesty International and the Goldstone Report. Neither of them found any evidence that Hamas was using Palestinian civilians as human shields. Now, let’s be clear. There are a large number of supporters of the Palestinian Authority who live in Gaza. They had many harsh things to say about Hamas. But among the charges they leveled was not the charge that Hamas was using Palestinians as human shields.

You take Operation Protective Edge. Again, there is no evidence. I’ve read through all the human rights reports. None of them finds any evidence of human shielding. What they do claim they find is—there’s a technical term under international law that when you’re engaging in a military combat, you have to take feasible precautions to protect civilians, and that if you fighting in the vicinity of civilians, you are then guilty of a violation of international law. It’s not a war crime. It’s a violation of international law. They claim Hamas fired or attacked Israel in the vicinity of civilians, so is guilty of not taking all feasible precautions, which is different than human shielding, which is a conscious practice of, as it were, inserting a human being between you and the enemy, for which there’s no evidence.

But the feasible precautions—I’m not going to make excuses. I have my prejudices. I have my biases. But I’m also scrupulous. I am very careful with facts, because I know, when you make one error or two errors, you’re going to have somebody who’s going to come along and say, “This book is replete with errors, but for reasons of space, I can only mention two.” So, you’re held to a very stringent standard when you’re in my position. You can’t even make two errors. So I’m very careful. And I’m not trying to make excuses. But we have to remember two facts. What does Gaza look like? What does the law say?

Gaza—you were slightly just a little bit off in what you said during your—in the first part. It’s not the most densely populated place in the world, but it’s among the most densely populated. It’s more densely populated than Tokyo. And so, it’s very difficult to wage an armed struggle and not be around people.

Number two, the law says all feasible precautions. If you’re living in a densely populated area, then there’s not much feasibility. And so you have to show not only that Hamas fighters were in the vicinity of civilians. You also have to show they had no other option. And none of the human rights organizations were able to do so.

But then, Amnesty says something outrageous—in my opinion, outrageous. You know what it says? It says that Hamas should go to open areas and fight in the open areas of Gaza. Now, on its face, that might sound reasonable, except for, number one, there are very few open areas in Gaza; number two, the law does not say you have to do that. The law does not say you have to relocate all your troops in an open area. But then, number three, Gaza is not occupied internally by Israel. Gaza is surrounded by Israel, and it’s an occupation that is executed externally. So, here’s the problem.

AMY GOODMAN: Explain that, that Israel will always say Israel doesn’t occupy Gaza, they pulled out in 2005.

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: It controls—right. It controls the airspace. It controls the exits, controls the entries, controls the waterspace. There’s a sea blockade of Gaza. It controls everything, you know? It’s the equivalent of a jailer throwing the keys to the prisoners in the cell. They get out of the cell. “Great! We’re free!” Except the jailer then walks out of the prison, shuts tight the prison gates, surrounds the prison. Well, is that free? Well, that’s Gaza. As the Conservative British Prime Minister Cameron, David Cameron, said, Gaza is an open-air prison.

So, to return to the point, it’s externally controlled by Israel, right? And it’s an unusual occupation because it’s an externally controlled occupation, a remote-control occupation. All right? Now, international law—according to these human rights organizations, they all say all of Hamas’s weapons are illegal under international law, because they’re indiscriminate. The law is, you can’t use indiscriminate weapons. Hamas’s weapons are very primitive, to say the least. So, international law says its so-called rockets are illegal, its so-called mortar shells—its mortar shells are illegal. Now, what are you left with? Amnesty says to Hamas, “You have to go into an open space, but you can’t use any of your weapons.” But if you can’t use any of your weapons, because they’re indiscriminate, how do you defeat an externally controlled occupation? The only thing Amnesty didn’t tell them to do was to line up like ducks and let the Israeli airplane come in and mow them down.

Now, you might smile at that, but that’s literally—that’s where you’re left. That’s where you’re left, with what these human rights organizations are saying. It’s not to defend Hamas. It’s just to look at the law objectively, rationally, and ask yourself, “Is what—are what the human rights organizations saying fair? Is it true?” All the human rights organizations, they’ll always say Israel used disproportionate force. They’ll say Israel used indiscriminate force.

But there’s one thing they’ll never say. You know what they’ll never say? Israel targeted the civilians. Because that’s the no-no. You see, under international law, indiscriminate attacks are war crimes. Disproportionate attacks are war crimes. Targeting civilians are war crimes. That’s the law. But then there’s public opinion. Public opinion, it’s willing to turn a blind eye to disproportionate attacks. Actually, how can you even prove an attack is disproportionate? It’s almost impossible. They’ll even say, yeah, indiscriminate attacks, because it’s hard to separate civilians from soldiers. The one thing public opinion won’t tolerate is the targeted attack on civilians. That’s exactly what Israel does in every one of its massacres, and that’s exactly the thing that the human rights organizations—now, not during Operation Cast Lead, now, after the Goldstone debacle—that’s the one thing they all shy away from. They don’t want to say Israel targets civilians.

One anecdote, quick anecdote. I was teaching a class, volunteer class, Grand Army Plaza, Brooklyn, on freedom of speech. And some issue came up—I won’t go into the circumstances—and somebody from the audience says, “Israel doesn’t target children. Israel never targets children.” And the person who I’m interviewing for this program, a very respected professor at Columbia University, considered a left liberal, has very good credentials—I’m sure he’s been on your show at one time or another. He says, “Yes, yes. Israel would never target civilians—or, excuse me, never target children.”

Israel is always targeting children. You have so many cases, like you have children playing on a roof. Right? A drone comes in. Human Rights Watch says—its report was called “Precisely Wrong,” after Operation Protective Edge—excuse me, Operation Cast Lead. The drone comes in. Human rights report says the drone can see very clearly what it’s targeting. The drone, it could—up to the very last minute, very last minute, it could divert. Goes right for the kids.

AMY GOODMAN: The kids on the beach in Gaza is another story, from 2014.

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Yeah, that’s—that’s a most important story, and I’m glad you brought it up. You had four kids. They were playing hide and seek around a fisherman’s hut, a dilapidated fisherman’s hut. There were hundreds of reporters on the beach.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, it was right in front of a reporters’ hotel.

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Yeah. Everybody sees what happens. Four kids, diminutive. Hut, dilapidated hut. Israel kills the four kids. Right?

AMY GOODMAN: With a strike.

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Yeah. That was—it came from a naval—a boat. So, what does the U.N. Human Rights Council report say, the one by Mary McGowan Davis? “Israel didn’t take all feasible precautions.” All feasible precautions? There was no battle going on. There was no—there was no combat. There were only children there. “We don’t know why Israel mistook these children for militants.” What do you mean you don’t know why? Why do you assume they did? Why do you assume they did? It was the same thing with the fellow in the—the paraplegic who they shot in the head. You probably remember—you might remember, 2002, Occupation—

AMY GOODMAN: Tamimi, 17 years old.

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Yeah. Operation Defensive Shield, outside Jenin, there’s a fellow sitting in a wheelchair. He has a flag, holding it, a white flag. An Israeli tank comes and just runs right over him, the guy in the wheelchair. Right? You might recall, when I had the debate with Alan Dershowitz, I said, “Well, Human Rights Watch documented it. Amnesty International documented it.” He said, “It didn’t happen.” And that’s a large part of American Jewry over the age of 50. “It didn’t happen.”

AMY GOODMAN: And yet, it’s interesting that you—

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: It happens, it happens, but it didn’t happen.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s interesting that you say over the age of 50—


AMY GOODMAN: —because American Jewry is changing—


AMY GOODMAN: —their opinion on Israel. Talk about younger people. And talk about overall public opinion here.

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Well, there’s a very simple way to put it. Who is President Trump’s main ally in the world? It’s Netanyahu. Eighty percent of American Jews find Trump a loathsome creature. And now they have a real problem: The main ally of this loathsome creature is the prime minister of the state of Israel, an amazingly popular prime minister of Israel, who’s been in for a very long time. And now, this is a real conflict for American Jews. Does being loyal to Israel mean we have to be supportive of Trump? It’s a crisis of values.

AMY GOODMAN: And it was happening before Trump, as well.

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Oh, yeah, it was happening before, but now it’s quite—

AMY GOODMAN: Well, talk about young people.

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Yeah, there has been—you would say, there have been several turning points, beginning with the ’82 Lebanon War, then the First Intifada, then the repression during the Second Intifada, and then significantly, as I said, after Operation Cast Lead. Public opinion—in particular among young American Jews, public opinion has been shifting, I wouldn’t say against Israel, I would say away from Israel, which is different. Jews have an ethic, which I kind of understand, and I’m not exactly immune to it, about not airing dirty laundry in public. So there’s a kind of resistance, reticence, about attacking Israel in public, because you feel like you’re feeding anti-Semitism. And you get the idea. So they’re not going to publicly, in large numbers, en masse, publicly denounce Israel. But they’re not going to talk about it anymore, either, and they’re not going to support it—unless, of course, it’s an existential issue.

And that’s one of my big differences, if I can mention it, with the BDS. The thing is, when you start—

AMY GOODMAN: The Boycott, Divest, Sanctions movement.

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Yes. When you start threatening Israel’s existence, whether it’s through physical destruction or, let’s call it, demographic destruction, then Jews become very defensive. You know, that’s a red line. It’s a red line. If you say, “End the occupation,” American Jews will support it. If you say, “Israel shouldn’t be committing crimes, like it did in Gaza,” most American Jews are going to, you know, be willing to go there. But if you say, “Eliminate Israel,” no, you’re not going to get—then you’re going to get resistance. Mostly now, you’re going to get a slow drift into indifference, a slow drift into—it’s not a lot subject anymore.

Incidentally, just as a point of fact, because I go back far enough, in the 1960s, before the June ’67 war, Jews never talked about Israel. It wasn’t a topic. That’s why, as I said, if you look at people like Chuck Schumer, his sister, those—the issues back then were the war in Vietnam, civil rights movement. And American Jews were on the verge of making it. You were about to conquer the inner sanctums of American power. They were smart. They were ambitious. And they knew that they can do it. They didn’t care about a backwater called Israel. So this whole Israel phenomenon and obsession is relatively new among American Jews. And now, I think it’s fading. Israel has become like this the slightly meshuga—Yiddish for “crazy”—the slightly meshuga aunt in the attic. You don’t really want to talk about Israel anymore.

AMY GOODMAN: You said, when you talk about the BDS movement, when you talk about “eliminate Israel,” they’re not talking about eliminating Israel.

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Well, as I said, there are different ways to put it. You can talk about physical destruction. You can talk about demographic elimination. And so, if the BDS platform were to be implemented, the–they talk about, let’s say, 7 million Palestinian refugees coming back to Israel. Right now, the demographics is—in the state of Israel, it’s about 15 to 20 percent non-Jews. If there were a full implementation of the law of return—the right of return, if there were a full implementation of the right of return, the demographic balance would shift roughly 70 percent Palestinian Arab, 30 percent Jewish.

AMY GOODMAN: And you’re not talking about the Occupied Territories.

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Well, if you take the total picture, it’s about 50-50 now. If you bring in—if the refugees are returned en masse, then, of course, again, the demographic balance is going to shift radically. And so, that would be—I’m not saying I support it or not. That, for me, is an irrelevant issue, because politics is not about your personal preference. Politics is about what’s possible. And I’m saying that prospect, that prospect of a radical demographic shift in Israel, which would mean, effectively, the end of Israel as a Jewish state. It’s a demographic, it’s not a physical—and I recognize that, and the distinction is important. But the bottom line, in some regard, is the same: Israel will cease to exist as a predominantly Jewish state. American Jews will never accept that.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to go to what—

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: I’m not saying—I’m not saying you have to defer to the opinion of American Jews. I’m simply saying—you’re asking me about the opinions of American Jews—yes, it has shifted radically from when I was growing up. However, there is a red line. And the red line is Israel is a Jewish state.

AMY GOODMAN: So, let me go to, in the last few minutes we have, Israel publishing a blacklist of 20 different organizations they will not allow into Israel right now. We’re talking about groups like Jewish Voice for Peace, American Muslims for Palestine, CodePink, the American Friends Service Committee, as well as Palestinian solidarity groups in France, in Italy, in Norway, Sweden, Britain, Chile and other places. Your response to what Israel has done right now?

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Well, the important thing is to try to understand why they’re doing it. Now, some people claim that the reason is they fear BDS, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. I happen not to agree with that analysis.

In my opinion, Israel has a problem, has always had a problem. The problem is, it keeps getting bad press, because when it keeps carrying out these massacres or these shootings, it gets bad press. And so, obviously, what’s the solution? Eliminate the press, eliminate the witnesses. So, during Operation Cast Lead in 2008, ’09, they prevented any reporters from coming in. So, for three weeks, it was a free-for-all. Then, after Operation Protective Edge, they didn’t let any human rights organizations in, so they couldn’t see what was the damage done. So, then the human rights organizations, what they did was, in my opinion, crazy. They said, “If Israel doesn’t let us in, we have to give them the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they didn’t commit the war crime.” But that just incentivizes Israel not to let human rights organizations in. You get an agnostic verdict rather than a guilty verdict.

Then, as I said before, the big chink in the armor was that Breaking the Silence, because these are Israeli combatants. And they weren’t even leftists. But they were describing what was happening. So Israel went with a vengeance, trying to get Breaking the Silence defunded, because it had a lot of European funding, claiming they were traitors, they were enemies and so on and so forth. And I don’t think—my guess, Breaking the Silence won’t do again what it did after Operation Protective Edge. It was—it was very hard to take. You know, Israel is a very nationalist society. And when you start being branded a traitor—and about 60 percent of the population said they were traitors, when they did the polls—

AMY GOODMAN: These were Israeli soldiers.

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Yeah, you know, and they were being said to—about 60 percent said they were traitors.

AMY GOODMAN: So, what do you think—

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Wait, so—and that brings me to this point. They’re using this moment—with Trump in power, they’re using this moment to try to eliminate as many witnesses as they can, keep everybody out. They want to do to the West Bank what they did to Gaza. It’s very hard for an outsider to get into Gaza. And now, the Israelis are carrying on in a very brazen way—the land grabs, the merciless killings of civilians, the brutal killings of civilians. And so, they want to clear the field of any witnesses. And they’re using the Trump presidency as a moment to seal off Gaza from any—excuse me, seal off the West Bank from any potentially hostile witnesses, to turn the West Bank into what they turned Gaza into. It’s hermetically sealed. There’s no way to witness the crimes as they unfold in real time.

AMY GOODMAN: Norm Finkelstein, in his book, Fire and Fury, journalist Michael Wolff quotes Steve Bannon boasting about the implications of moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem. Bannon reportedly said, “We know where we’re heading on this. Let Jordan take the West Bank, let Egypt take Gaza.”

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Well, you know, I have no way to assess Bannon’s intelligence. Maybe he’s a smart guy. I don’t really know.

AMY GOODMAN: Do you think he was voicing what the Trump administration feels?

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: They might feel it. I don’t really feel that, however, it has much connection with reality. That was the solution up until the 1970s, remember. Up until the 1970s, Gaza was—and the West Bank were occupied territories, and they were supposed to be returned to the people who previously occupied them, namely, Egypt and Jordan. But then that was superceded by the Palestinian national movement, the demand for an independent state, the demand for self-determination and sovereignty in the West Bank and Gaza. And the whole international community embraced it. I won’t say it was a strong embrace, but technically they embraced it. And you saw it again with the vote on Jerusalem, where the international community, about 128 states, they defied Trump, and they stood, you know, pretty firmly—there were some retreats, but not so important to discuss—stood fairly strongly in favor of the solution they’ve been advocating, which is Israel’s withdrawal from the territories they occupy.

I don’t think Trump’s announcement—personally, I don’t think it’s going to have much repercussion, because, historically, the major acts which have had enduring repercussions—the Balfour Declaration in 1917, the partition resolution in 1947—they were the product of a lot of deliberation, a lot of back-and-forth. And by the time they were promulgated—the Balfour Declaration and the partition resolution—they had a huge institutional force behind them. In the case of Trump, it was like a crap deal in Las Vegas. “Adelson, I’ll do it. What the hell.” You know? And those kinds of action don’t, in my opinion—are not likely to have an enduring effect. And, in fact, the result was, it kind of—the international community dug in their feet, dug in their feet that we’re not going to acquiesce to Trump’s unilateral move.

AMY GOODMAN: Norman Finkelstein, you conclude your book by quoting Helen Hunt Jackson, a late 19th century American critic of our policy, of the U.S. policy towards Cherokee Indians, saying, “There will come a time when, to the student of American history, it will seem well-nigh incredible” what was done to the Cherokee. You then write, “Is it not certain that one day the black record of Gaza’s martyrdom will in retrospect also seem well-nigh incredible?”

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Yeah. When I was finishing up the book—it’s a funny thing about writing. I remember once you used the expression—we were talking privately about something—you used the expression of “reaching critical mass,” when something suddenly changes. I forget what the context was in what you were saying. And that’s some—that’s like me when I’m writing. I walk around, thinking about, thinking about, thinking about. I’m getting very agitated, agitated. And then, suddenly, I just go down and I start writing, you know? It’s there. And I wrote the conclusion very quickly—for me, unusually. It was, I think, only one or two drafts. Usually, I’m a perfectionist and go through it thoroughly. And at the end, I was immediately—I thought about, you know, what’s happening here is like—how could that be? How can it be that you have this medieval siege for 10 years? There was a period where Israel barred, prevented, prohibited chocolate, chips, chicken—chocolate, chips, chicks—from entering Gaza, on the grounds of security. How can that happen? And these people are just languishing there, in the face of the whole international community.

And I thought to myself, you know, it reminded me of what—it was a very nice book. It was called A Century of Dishonor by Helen Hunt Jackson. She writes it at the end of the 19th century. And she describes how the United States just broke all the treaties—signs a treaty, breaks it—with the Native American population. And it’s an interesting story because Teddy Roosevelt, who was a great defender of the conquest of the American West, he devotes all these pages—it’s a three-volume or four-volume, five-volume maybe, history of the conquest—to attacking her, to attacking her. “How could you say this? How could you say this?” And the book was forgotten, her little book.

And then, when the whole Native American issue was revived in the United States—didn’t happen ’til the 1970s, you’ll be surprised, even though you’re not significantly different in age from me. It didn’t happen until—cinematically, it didn’t happen until Dustin Hoffman, I think Little Big Man. It was the first cinematic depiction of what had been done to the Native Americans. When we were growing up, I was always rooting for the cowboys. “Kill those Injuns! Kill those savages!” You know, I was. I remember it. You know? And there was a cultural revolution in the United States of sorts, and we suddenly discovered the Native Americans. And when we had our cultural revolution, Helen Hunt Jackson’s book was rediscovered.

And that’s kind of how I feel about my book. It will be ignored now, because everybody’s going to hate it. I went after not just Israel, but I was pretty tough on the human rights organizations, Kenneth Roth, Amnesty International, International Committee of the Red Cross, this guy Jacques de Maio, Richard Horton from the British Lancet magazine, the medical magazine. I’m very harsh. It’ll be ignored, with the exception of Democracy Now! and a couple of others. I’m aware of that. But I’m kind of old-fashioned. I believe in—I believe in memory. I believe these things should be remembered. It’s the only—it’s the only thing you can do for the dead, you know, is to remember them. And so, for me, the book was, in large part—I want it to sit on the bookshelf, which is why I asked a university press to publish it, because libraries nowadays—

AMY GOODMAN: And the photograph on the cover? We’ll end there.

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: Well, I spent a lot of time trying to find the photograph. It was a Jewish woman who took the photograph, from Gaza. She was in Gaza. And I wanted—I said, “I want it to be simple. I want it to be stark. Simple, stark”—I can’t remember the third thing. And I felt it captured it, the essence.

AMY GOODMAN: Describe it.

NORMAN FINKELSTEIN: It’s a picture of a Palestinian woman from Gaza, and she’s holding her dead baby, and the baby is wrapped up in, I guess, white cotton cloth. And you can only tell it’s dead because there’s a little blood at the foot. And I’ve not been to Gaza a lot. I’ve been there, I think, twice or three times. But what struck me about being there was—I don’t know if you’ve been there—people don’t wear their suffering on their shoulder. They don’t advertise it. They don’t talk about it. It’s just very matter-of-fact. “This is our life. What do we need now to move on?” And I felt that that was the cover conveyed.

AMY GOODMAN: Norman Finkelstein, author, scholar, his new book, Gaza: An Inquest into Martyrdom.

To see Part 1 of our conversation, you can go to democracynow.org. I’m Amy Goodman. Thanks so much for joining us

” data-medium-file=”” data-large-file=”” />ANNA News

With Mesraba captured, the Syrian Army will now turn their attention to the Douma and Harasta fronts, where they hope to pressure the Islamist rebels to surrender their last positions.

Photo credit: ANNA News

Bombardment of Syria’s Ghouta endangers aid convoy: UN – By CGTN


2018-03-09 22:51 GMT+8

An emergency aid delivery crossed front lines into the besieged rebel enclave of eastern Ghouta on Friday but ran quickly into danger from renewed shelling, the top UN official in Syria said, amid a fierce government offensive.

The convoy was carrying food that could not be offloaded on Monday when fighting forced an earlier delivery to leave early, and the latest shelling came despite safety assurances, UN resident coordinator Ali al-Za’tari said.

In less than two weeks, the Syrian army has retaken nearly all the farmland in eastern Ghouta under cover of near ceaseless shelling and air strikes, leaving only a dense sprawl of towns – about half the territory – still under insurgent control.

Wreckage of structures in Arbin town, which has been under siege of Assad Regime, in Eastern Ghouta region, Damascus, Syria on March 09, 2018. /VCG Photo

E Ghouta residents are suffering

The onslaught has killed more than 1,000 people, the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said on Thursday. The war monitor, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, on Friday gave a death toll of 940 civilians in the campaign.

For eastern Ghouta’s civilians, trapped in underground shelters but deprived of food and water, there is a constant dilemma – whether to seek supplies or stay inside.

Damascus and Moscow have both said the assault is needed to stop rebel shelling of the nearby capital Damascus and end the rule of Islamist insurgents over civilians in eastern Ghouta.

But UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein has said, in comments criticized by Syria’s government, that the assault was “legally, and morally, unsustainable.”

The Observatory said there had been no air strikes on eastern Ghouta’s towns overnight for the first time since the government ground offensive began around 10 days ago.

Syrian Red Crescent trucks carry humanitarian aid in the Syrian town of Douma in the rebel-held enclave of Eastern Ghouta on March 9, 2018. /VCG Photo‍

But soon after the convoy of 13 trucks carrying food parcels crossed into eastern Ghouta, the Observatory and a witness in Douma said air strikes had resumed.

The food parcels were supposed to be delivered on Monday when another aid convoy entered Douma, but the fighting and bombardment then forced it to leave early without unloading all its supplies.

‘One meal in several days’

“The situation is relatively good today. The bombing eased for a bit and is no longer intense,” said Bilal Abu Salah, a resident of Douma, before the resumption of air strikes. But he added that shortages remain acute, causing great hardship.

“Entire families eat one meal in several days,” he said.

UN aid agencies have pleaded with the Syrian government and its ally Russia to halt the campaign and allow access for humanitarian deliveries.

Wounded children receive medical treatment at a field hospital in Damascus, Syria on March 08, 2018. /VCG Photo 

The United Nations estimates that 400,000 people live in rebel-held areas of eastern Ghouta. The government and Russia’s military have opened what they say are safe routes out of the enclave, but no inhabitants are known to have left yet.

Damascus and Moscow accuse the insurgents of shooting at civilians to prevent them fleeing the fighting into government areas. Rebels deny this and say the area’s inhabitants have not crossed into government territory because they fear persecution.

The terror of the bombardment and the increasingly unbearable living conditions may push people to brave the fighting and flee, according to one resident of Douma.

Medical facilities have been hit in air strikes, adding to shortages of equipment that have made it harder to treat the wounded. On Friday the World Health Organization said attacks on medical facilities in Syria were on the rise.

State television reported on Friday morning that the army had control over the village of Beit Sawa, where rebel officials on Thursday said insurgents had recaptured some positions. Government forces will now advance along other fronts, it said.

Source(s): Reuters

‘Entirely your fault!’ Assange says Obama AG forced WikiLeaks to counter-attack with truth – By Julian Assange (RT)

‘Entirely your fault!’ Assange says Obama AG forced WikiLeaks to counter-attack with truth
WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange has pinned the blame for the website’s releases ahead of the 2016 presidential election on the Obama administration, as it put him in such conditions where he had “nothing to do but work 24/7.”

Assange made the quip on Twitter Friday, responding to a two-week-old anti-Russian post by the former Attorney General Eric Holder.

Holder, who headed the Department of Justice from 2009 to 2015, put forth the usual set of allegations against Moscow, claiming Russia would interfere with the upcoming US midterm elections.

Apparently addressing President Donald Trump, Holder demanded new sanctions against Moscow, which were “overwhelmingly approved by even this dysfunctional congress.”

“Are you simply unfit, without the necessary nerve or do they have something on you? We were attacked!” Holder wrote on February 20.

“Attacked? By what? The truth?” Julian Assange replied on Friday, adding that ultimately the US case against him, which followed WikiLeaks’ release of US classified documents in 2010, was to blame.

Barack Obama was president and Holder was attorney general at the time. Their efforts to prosecute WikiLeaks and Assange personally over the publication of US diplomatic cables and military documents about Iraq and Afghanistan resulted in Assange seeking asylum at the embassy of Ecuador in the UK.

Over the six years in London, Assange said, he’s had “nothing to do but work” round the clock – which resulted in WikiLeaks revealing more secrets of the US establishment. In the summer of 2016, WikiLeaks published internal Democratic Party emails, followed by a month-long drip of emails from the private account of Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta, in the month prior to the presidential election.

Podesta, Clinton, and much of the Obama-era US establishment, however, has called WikiLeaks a “cutout” for Russian intelligence and blames Moscow for the alleged “hack” of the emails. No solid evidence to back up the claim has been produced. Assange has rejected those claims.

“Next time, not that there will be one, try following the constitution you swore to uphold,” the WikiLeaks co-founder advised the former AG in a subsequent Tweet.

He posted a link to a 2014 article describing his call for Holder to drop the case against WikiLeaks altogether. The DOJ ignored the request and the case remains open, while Assange continues to live in his embassy exile.

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Why the West Cannot Stomach Russians – By Andre Vltchek (NEW EASTERN OUTLOOK)

Author: Andre Vltchek




When it comes to Russia or the Soviet Union, reports and historical accounts do get blurry; in the West they do, and consequently in all of its ‘client states’.

Fairytales get intermingled with reality, while fabrications are masterfully injected into sub consciousness of billions of people worldwide. Russia is an enormous country, in fact the largest country on Earth in terms of territory. It is scarcely inhabited. It is deep, and as a classic once wrote: “It is impossible to understand Russia with one’s brain. One could only believe in it.”

The Western mind generally doesn’t like things unknown, spiritual and complex. Since the ‘old days’, especially since the crusades and monstrous colonialist expeditions to all corners of the world, the Westerners were told fables about their own “noble deeds” performed in the plundered lands. Everything had to be clear and simple: “Virtuous Europeans were civilizing savages and spreading Christianity, therefore, in fact, saving those dark poor primitive souls.”

Of course, tens of millions were dying in the process, while further tens of millions were shackled and brought to the “New Worlds” as slaves. Gold, silver, and other loot, as well as slave labor had been (and still are) paying for all those European palaces, railroads, universities and theatres, but that did not matter, as the bloodshed was most of the time something abstract and far away from those over-sensitive eyes of the Western public.

Westerners like simplicity, particularly when it comes to moral definitions of “good and evil”. It matters nothing if the truth gets systematically ‘massaged’, or even if the reality is fully fabricated. What matters is that there is no deep guilt and no soul-searching. Western rulers and their opinion makers know their people – their ‘subjects’ – perfectly well, and most of the time, they give them what they are asking for. The rulers and the reigned are generally living in symbiosis. They keep bitching about each other, but mostly they have similar goals: to live well, to live extremely well, as long as the others are forced to pay for it; with their riches, with their labor and often with their blood.

Culturally, most of the citizens of Europe and North America hate to pay the bill for their highlife; they even detest to admit that their life is extremely ‘high’. They like to feel like victims. They like to feel that they are ‘used’. They like to imagine that they are sacrificing themselves for the rest of the world.

And above all, they hate real victims: those they have been murdering, raping, plundering and insulting, for decades and centuries.

Recent ‘refugee crises’ showed the spite Europeans feel for their prey. People who made them rich and who lost everything in the process are humiliated, despised and insulted. Be they Afghans or Africans, the Middle Easterners or South Asians. Or Russians, although Russians are falling to its own, unique category.


Many Russians look white. Most of them eat with knife and fork, they drink alcohol, excel at Western classical music, poetry, literature, science and philosophy.

To Western eyes they look ‘normal’, but actually, they are not.

Russians always want ‘something else’; they refuse to play by Western rules.

They are stubbornly demanding to remain different, and to be left alone.

When confronted, when attacked, they fight.

They rarely strike first, almost never invade.

But when threatened, when assaulted, they fight with tremendous determination and force, and they never lose. Villages and cities get converted into invader’s graves. Millions die while defending their Motherland, but the country survives. And it happens again and again and again, as the Western hordes have been, for centuries, assaulting and burning Russian lands, never learning the lesson and never giving up on their sinister dream of conquering and controlling that proud and determined colossus.

In the West, they don’t like those who defend themselves, who fight against them, and especially those who win.


It gets much worse than that.

Russia has this terrible habit… not only it defends itself and its people, but it also fights for the others, protecting colonized and pillaged nations, as well as those that are unjustly assaulted.

It saved the world from Nazism. It did it at a horrific price of 25 million men, women and children, but it did it; courageously, proudly and altruistically. The West never forgave the Soviet Union for this epic victory either, because all that is unselfish and self-sacrificing, is always in direct conflict with its own principles, and therefore ‘extremely dangerous’.

The Russian people had risen; had fought and won in the 1917 Revolution; an event which terrified the West more than anything else in history, as it had attempted to create a fully egalitarian, classless and racially color-blind society. It also gave birth to Internationalism, an occurrence that I recently described in my book The Great October Socialist Revolution: Impact on the World and the Birth of Internationalism.

Soviet Internationalism, right after the victory in WWII, helped greatly, directly and indirectly, dozens of countries on all continents, to stand up and to confront the European colonialism and the North American imperialism. The West and especially Europe never forgave the Soviet people in general and Russians in particular, for helping to liberate its slaves.

That is when the greatest wave of propaganda in human history really began to roll. From London to New York, from Paris to Toronto, an elaborate web of anti-Soviet and covertly anti-Russian hysteria was unleashed with monstrously destructive force. Tens of thousands of ‘journalists’, intelligence officers, psychologists, historians, as well as academics, were employed. Nothing Soviet, nothing Russian (except those glorified and often ‘manufactured’ Russian dissidents) was spared.

The excesses of the Great October Socialist Revolution and the pre-WWII era were systematically fabricated, exaggerated, and then engraved into the Western history textbooks and mass media narrative. In those tales, there was nothing about the vicious invasions and attacks coming from the West, aimed at destroying young Bolshevik state. Naturally, there was no space for mentioning the British, French, U.S., Czech, Polish, Japanese, German and other’s monstrous cruelties.

Soviet and Russian views were hardly ever allowed to penetrate the monolithic and one-sided Western propaganda narrative.

Like obedient sheep, the Western public accepted the disinformation it was fed with. Eventually, many people living in the Western colonies and ‘client states’, did the same. A great number of colonized people were taught how to blame themselves for their misery.

The most absurd but somehow logical occurrence then took place: many men, women and even children living in the USSR, succumbed to Western propaganda. Instead of trying to reform their imperfect but still greatly progressive country, they gave up, became cynical, aggressively ‘disillusioned’, corrupt and naively but staunchly pro-Western.


It was the first and most likely the last time in the history, Russia got defeated by the West. It happened through deceit, through shameless lies, through Western propaganda.

What followed could be easily described as genocide.

The Soviet Union was first lulled into Afghanistan, then it was mortally injured by the war there, by an arms race with the United States, and by the final stage of propaganda that was literally flowing like lava from various hostile Western state-sponsored radio stations. Of course, local ‘dissidents’ also played an important role.

Under Gorbachev, a ‘useful idiot’ of the West, things got extremely bizarre. I don’t believe that he was paid to ruin his own country, but he did almost everything to run it into the ground; precisely what Washington wanted him to do. Then, in front of the entire world, a mighty and proud Union of the Soviet Socialist Republics suddenly shook in agony, then uttered a loud cry, and collapsed; died painfully but swiftly.

A new turbo-capitalist, bandit, pro-oligarch and confusedly pro-Western Russia was born. Russia which was governed by an alcoholic Boris Yeltsin; a man loved and supported by Washington, London and other Western centers of power.

It was a totally unnatural, sick Russia – cynical and compassionless, built with someone else’s ideas – Russia of Radio Liberty and Voice of America, of the BBC, of black marketers, of oligarchs and multi-national corporations.

Is the West now daring to say that Russians are ‘interfering’ in something in Washington? Are they out of their minds?

Washington and other Western capitals did not only ‘interfere’, they openly broke the Soviet Union into pieces and then they began kicking Russia which was at that point half-alive. Is it all forgotten, or is Western public again fully ‘unaware’ of what took place during those dark days?

The West kept spitting at the impoverished and injured country, refused to honor international agreements and treaties. It offered no help. Multi-nationals were unleashed, and began ‘privatizing’ Russian state companies, basically stealing what was built by the sweat and blood of Soviet workers, during long decades.

Interference? Let me repeat: it was direct intervention, invasion, a grab of resources, shameless theft! I want to read and write about it, but we don’t hear much about it, anymore, do we?

Now we are told that Russia is paranoid, that its President is paranoid! With straight face, the West is lying; pretending that it has not been trying to murder Russia.

Those years… Those pro-Western years when Russia became a semi-client state of the West, or call it a semi-colony! There was no mercy, no compassion coming from abroad. Many of those idiots – kitchen intellectuals from Moscow and provinces – suddenly woke up but it was too late. Many of them had suddenly nothing to eat. They got what they were told to ask for: their Western ‘freedom and democracy’, and Western-style capitalism or in summary: total collapse.

I remember well how it was ‘then’. I began returning to Russia, horrified, working in Moscow, Tomsk, Novosibirsk, Leningrad. Academics from Akadem Gorodok outside Novosibirsk were selling their libraries in the bitter cold, in dark metro underpasses of Novosibirsk… Runs on the banks… Old retired people dying from hunger and cold behind massive doors of concrete blocks… unpaid salaries and starving miners, teachers…

Russia under the deadly embrace of the West, for the first and hopefully last time! Russia whose life expectancy suddenly dropped to African Sub-Saharan levels. Russia humiliated, wild, in terrible pain.


But that nightmare did not last long.

And what happened – those short but horrible years under both Gorbachev and Yeltsin, but above all under the Western diktat – will never be forgotten, not forgiven.

Russians know perfectly well what they do not want, anymore!

Russia stood up again. Huge, indignant and determined to live its own life, its own way. From an impoverished, humiliated and robbed nation, subservient to the West, the country evolved and within a few years, the free and independent Russia once again joined ranks of the most developed and powerful countries on Earth.

And as before Gorbachev, Russia is once again able to help those nations which are under unjust and vicious attacks of the Western empire.

A man who is leading this renaissance, President Vladimir Putin, is tough, but Russia is under great threat and so is the world – this is no time for weaklings.

President Putin is not perfect (who is, really?), but he is a true patriot, and I dare say, an internationalist.

Now the West, once again, hates both Russia and its leader. No wonder; undefeated, strong and free Russia is the worst imaginable foe of Washington and its lieutenants.

That’s how the West feels, not Russia. Despite all that was done to it, despite tens of millions of lost and ruined lives, Russia has always been ready to compromise, even to forgive, if not forget.


There is something deeply pathological in the psyche of the West. It cannot accept anything less than full and unconditional submission. It has to control, to be in charge, and on top of everything; it has to feel exceptional. Even when it murders and ruins the entire Planet, it insists on feeling superior to the rest of the world.

This faith in exceptionalism is the true Western religion, much more than even Christianity, which for decades has not really played any important role there. Exceptionalism is fanatical, it is fundamentalist and unquestionable.

It also insists that its narrative is the only one available anywhere in the World. That the West is seen as a moral leader, as a beacon of progress, as the only competent judge and guru.

Lies are piling on top of lies. As in all religions, the more absurd the pseudo-reality is, the more brutal and extreme are the methods used to uphold it. The more laughable the fabrications are, the more powerful the techniques used to suppress the truth are.

Today, hundreds of thousands of ‘academics’, teachers, journalists, artists, psychologists and other highly paid professionals, in all parts of the world, are employed by the Empire, for two goals only – to glorify the Western narrative and to discredit all that is standing in its way; daring to challenge it.

Russia is the most hated adversary of the West, with China, Russia’s close ally being near second.

The propaganda war unleashed by the West is so insane, so intense, that even some of the European and North American citizens are beginning to question tales coming from Washington, London and elsewhere.

Wherever one turns, there is a tremendous medley of lies, of semi-lies, half-truths; a complex and unnavigable swamp of conspiracy theories. Russia is being attacked for interfering in U.S. domestic affairs, for defending Syria, for standing by defenseless and intimidated nations, for having its own powerful media, for doping its athletes, for still being Communist, for not being socialist anymore; in brief: for everything imaginable and unimaginable.

Criticism of the country is so thorough and ludicrous, that one begins to ask very legitimate questions: “what about the past? What about the Western narrative regarding the Soviet past, particularly the post-Revolutionary period, and the period between two world wars?”

The more I analyze this present-day Western anti-Russian and anti-Chinese propaganda, the more determined I am to study and write about the Western narrative regarding Soviet history. I’m definitely planning to investigate these matters in the future, together with my friends – Russian and Ukrainian historians.


In the eyes of the West, Russians are ‘traitors’.

Instead of joining the looters, they have been standing by the ‘wretched of the world’, in the past, as well as now. They refused to sell their Motherland, and to enslave their own people. Their government is doing all it can to make Russia self-sufficient, fully independent, prosperous, proud and free.

Remember that ‘freedom’, ‘democracy’ and many other terms, mean totally different things in distinctive parts of the world. What is happening in the West could never be described as ‘freedom’ in Russia or in China, and vice versa.

Frustrated, collapsing, atomized and egotistic societies of Europe and North America do not inspire even their own people, anymore. They are escaping by millions annually, to Asia, Latin America, and even to Africa. Escaping from emptiness, meaninglessness and emotional cold. But it is not Russia’s or China’s business to tell them how to live or not to live!

In the meantime, great cultures like Russia and China do not need, and do not want to be told by the Westerners, what freedom is, and what democracy is.

They do not attack the West, and expect the same in return.

It is truly embarrassing that the countries responsible for hundreds of genocides, for hundreds of millions of murdered people on all continents, still dare to lecture others.

Many victims are too scared to speak.

Russia is not.

It is composed, gracious, but fully determined to defend itself if necessary; itself as well as many other human beings living on this beautiful but deeply scarred Planet.

Russian culture is enormous: from poetry and literature, to music, ballet, philosophy… Russian hearts are soft, they easily melt when approached with love and kindness. But when millions of lives of innocent people are threatened, both the hearts and muscles of Russians quickly turn to stone and steel. During such moments, when only victory could save the world, Russian fists are hard, and the same is true about the Russian armor.

There is no match to Russian courage in the sadistic but cowardly West.

Irreversibly, both hope and future are moving towards the east.

And that is why Russia is desperately hated by the West.

Andre Vltchek is philosopher, novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He’s a creator of Vltchek’s World in Word and Images, a writer of revolutionary novel Aurora and several other books. He writes especially for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”

America is a System Not a Democracy – Chris Kanthan (Sott.net)

US democracy

Are you perturbed by what’s happening in America? Are you shocked by inequality, disappearing middle class, declining quality of health, police brutality, gun violence, ever-growing national debt, government’s Orwellian monitoring etc.? You are not alone, but all these are confusing only if you think in terms of an “American government” or “American corporations” or “American banks” that have, or should have, unique loyalty or consideration towards the American people.

But that’s the wrong way to think about American today. Everything becomes clear if you think of it as a “System”.

Why would we be surprised that there are millions of Americans who work full time and yet live in poverty, when the System exploits people in other countries for much, much lower wages? In the cost-savings Excel sheet of the System, a Walmart worker is still 10x more expensive than the worker from that ‘other’ country.

We cease to be surprised that Bank of America and JP Morgan Chase defraud American homeowners when we realize that the System brought down whole countries such as Greece, Spain, Italy, Ireland and Portugal using the same financial engineering schemes, lies and manipulations. Most of these countries are now being looted by the austerity programs demanded by the same System.

How can we be shocked by gun violence in America when the System is the #1 exporter of guns and weapons in the world? The System thrives on violence. The System loves perpetual wars – Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Niger … just to name a few countries the System has bombed in the last decade. The System is also planning for bigger wars with North Korea, Russia and China.

If police brutality and militarization of police is disturbing, we have to realize how the System supports, and has supported, dictators all over the world when it is/was profitable to do so. Many ruthless dictators in Latin American countries, Africa, Middle East and Asia were handpicked and put in power by the System. Some were even trained in a special school in the U.S. The system gladly funds and arms terrorists in Afghanistan, Libya and Syria. All that valuable experience can’t be wasted.

When it comes to child poverty, no one should be surprised that America ranks at the bottom among developed nations. From Apple to Calvin Klein to Hershey’s, many corporations depend on child labor for their stocks to outperform the expectations of Wall Street analysts. When the System profits from ten-year-olds working in toxic mines in third-world countries, American kids on food stamps look quite spoiled. The ‘poor’ in America don’t realize how good they have it.

For anyone who is enraged by our exploding national debt, don’t be. Debt is the ultimate tool for the System to enslave nations. The economic hit men of the World Bank and the IMF have, over the last 75 years, mastered this art of drowning nations in debt in order to control them. Does anyone think it’s a coincidence that Russia – the country the System loves to hate – has a debt-to-GDP ratio of 17%? Compare that to America’s 105% or Japan’s 250%. The System doesn’t like countries with low debt, just like it doesn’t appreciate people trying to go off-grid in America or people thinking for themselves. This is also the same reason that Americans save only 2.4% of their income while US households have a record debt of over $13 trillion. Credit cards, student loans, auto loans and mortgages are all different tools with the same purpose.

Once you understand the System, you can’t feign surprise that wages are stagnant while the cost of living keeps going up. With all the advancement in science, one would think that healthcare cost would go down every year, but that would be naive. Healthcare (“sickcare”) is the best extraction tool, since people will give up a kidney (sometimes literally) for medical care when they are sick. The only things that are cheap are processed food and mass entertainment that are toxic to your body and mind respectively. Does anyone ever wonder if that’s just a coincidence?

This is why America’s education ranks at the bottom of developed nations. As a Wikileaks email revealed, the elites “conspire to produce an unaware and compliant citizenry.” Translation: Dumb and Subservient.

Do you wonder why fracking and GMOs are allowed to destroy America’s environment? The System couldn’t care less about the environment. It has destroyed an unimaginable amount of rain forest all over the world, and couldn’t care less about the thousands of species that are going extinct every year. The System hates sustainability and freedom. Just like how the older version of the System wiped out the Native Americans, the current System despises tradition, culture, religion, spirituality, consciousness, holistic medicine, anything that involves people taking care of and responsibility for themselves.

By now, hopefully, you understand why lobbyists have taken over the American government and why we really don’t have a functional democracy. The System is not a fan of democracy. You really don’t think that the psychopathic elite would agree to run their lives and plan their grand strategies on the basis of the needs of millions of pesky little people, do you? Democracy and elections are just nice illusions so that we feel content, be passive, go to work, watch lots of TV, get into debt, spend our money on things we don’t need and, most importantly, believe in the righteousness of the System.

Are you mad? You should be. The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.


Chris Kanthan (Profile)

Chris Kanthan is the author of a new book, Deconstructing the Syrian war.. Chris lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, has traveled to 35 countries, and writes about world affairs, politics, economy and health. His other book is Deconstructing Monsanto.. Follow him on Twitter: @GMOChannel

MI5 Poisons Another Russian Asset to Smear Putin in Ongoing Propaganda War – Joe Quinn (Sott.net)

Putin Skripal

As you may have noticed from the title, I’m cutting to the chase on this one. Context is everything these days when attempting to understand major geopolitical events.

Sergei Skripal is a former Russian army colonel who worked for Soviet military intelligence during the Cold War. In the late 1990s he was recruited by MI6 as a double agent. In December 2004, Skripal was arrested and charged with “high treason in the form of espionage”, convicted and sentenced to 13 years in prison. In July 2010, he was released as part of a spy exchange for ten Russian agents who had been arrested in the United States as part of the ‘Illegals Program’. Skripal was then settled in the UK by MI6 in the town of Salisbury. Yesterday he was found on a public bench with his 33 year old daughter, Yulia. Both were incoherent and/or incapacitated. When medical personnel arrived, some of them also allegedly became ill.

Within a few hours of the discovery of the pair, the British media and politicians had decided that they had been poisoned at the behest of Vladimir Putin himself, with some as yet “unknown substance”. British newspapers said it, so it must be true. British Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, threatened fresh sanctions against Russia if it is proven to have poisoned a Russian double agent and branded the country “a malign and disruptive force”. No evidence was cited to back up any of these allegations, because everyone ‘knows’ that Putin is a ruthless dictator who just loves to bump off people that he doesn’t like. British newspapers and politicians said it, so it must be true.


For the unfortunate cretins who still refuse to swallow the anti-Russia narrative, the British government and media duly require you to remember the case of Alexander Litvinenko, another former Russian intelligence agent who became a British intelligence asset. Litvinenko was, ‘everyone knows’ murdered in 2006 by polonium that was given to him by two Russian spies on the ‘direct orders of Putin’. The problem is that there was, and is today, no hard evidence for this claim. But who needs evidence when you have a propaganda bullhorn to addle the public brain. Mush-for-brains are highly averse to evidence anyway. It’s much better to quote the words of people like Alexander Goldfarb, long term anti-Putin activist, author of Litvinenko’s death bed testimony accusing Putin, and promoter of the activities of ‘Pussy Riot’. On the Skripal situation, Goldfarb, who was (coincidentally) a close friend of Skripal, said:

“Any reasonable person would think immediately that Russia had the opportunity, motive and a prior history of this kind of crime so it is reasonable to think it was involved in this attack. This is the Kremlin’s modus operandi. There are plenty of precedents. ‘What’s interesting now is that this happens just before Russia’s presidential election.”

Alexander Goldfarb

Alexander Goldfarb, perfidious…

The Skripal event, and the way it is being reported, cannot be understood except in the context of the vicious and persistent defamation and slander campaign that Western governments and media have waged against Russia over the past several years. To put it another way, the Skripal event is simply one more chapter in that defamation campaign. The reasons for the West’s anti-Russia hysteria have everything to do with the fact that, over the past 10-15 years, Russia has re-emerged as a powerful independent player on the world stage, capable of pushing back long-standing Anglo-American designs on global control. Exceptional nations with a serious megalomaniacal streak (and their lackeys) don’t like being pushed back, not even an inch. When they don’t get their way, and lack the cojones to engage in a fair fight, they resort to dirty tricks and smear campaigns, at which they are very adept.

But really, is there NO evidence? Well, the UK Independent informed its readers today that, while there is still no word on any toxicology reports, ‘some experts’ suggest that Skirpal and his daughter may have been poisoned by ‘nerve agents’ because a witness described Mr Skripal and his daughter vomiting, twitching and unable to move. The Indy hacks then informed us that among the most powerful nerve agents is VX, “a toxin developed at the British Ministry of Defence Porton Down facility, which was used to assassinate Kim Jong-nam – the brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, at Kuala Lumpur International Airport in February 2017”.

Without a hint of irony, Salisbury MP John Glen told the BBC today: “Fortunately just down the road in my constituency at Porton Down defence, science and technology labs exist and they will have taken the substance and will be trying to evaluate what they can, no doubt.” Indeed, Porton Down is about 5 miles from the bench where Skripal and his daughter were found. Very fortunate indeed, and more than a little coincidental.

The name of the research facility at Porton Down has undergone many changes over the years, although the words “chemical” and “defence” have been consistently used, giving the impression that…well….that it is used only for research into “defence” against “chemical” weapons. In 1991, however, the UK “Centre for Applied Microbiology and Research” moved to the Porton Down facility and its name was changed to the “Chemical and Biological Defence Establishment”, reflecting the addition of biological warfare agent research to the list of “services” that Porton Down offered. In 2004, with PC culture in full bloom in Western nations, the name was sanitized somewhat to ‘Defence Science and Technology Laboratory’.

Some of the known highlights of the Porton Down facility include:

When the foot-and-mouth virus ravaged British cattle in 2002, it was later revealed that the outbreak was likely caused when a phial of the virus ‘went missing’ from the facility.

Between the 1950s and 1980s, 20,000 ‘volunteers’ were unwittingly involved in a chemical and biological weapons trials at Porton Down that left them with long-term ill health.

Ronald Maddison

Ronald Maddison

20-year-old Ronald Maddison died 45 minutes after 200mg of the deadly nerve agent sarin was dripped onto a patch of uniform taped to his arm at Porton Down. He was told he was testing a flu vaccine.

Thousands of British orphans who were regarded as “feeble-minded” were allegedly used for trialling drugs for use in the Cold War

While no official source has confirmed it (for obvious reasons) it’s highly likely that Skirpal was settled by MI5 in Salisbury because his new job was five miles away at Porton Down. Perhaps the most dangerous part of working for Western intelligence agencies in the 21st century, particularly if you are a Russian double agent, is that your life is implicitly forfeit in service to the West’s new great game of ‘stop Russia at all costs’. Litvinenko and now (most likely) Skirpal and his daughter found that out a little too late.


Joe Quinn (Profile)

Joe Quinn is the co-author of 9/11: The Ultimate Truth (with Laura Knight-Jadczyk, 2006) and Manufactured Terror: The Boston Marathon Bombings, Sandy Hook, Aurora Shooting and Other False Flag Terror Attacks (with Niall Bradley, 2014), and the host of Sott.net’s The Sott Report Videos and co-host of the ‘Behind the Headlines’ radio show on the Sott Radio Network.

An established web-based essayist and print author, Quinn has been writing incisive editorials for Sott.net for over 10 years. His articles have appeared on many alternative news sites and he has been interviewed on several internet radio shows and has also appeared on Iranian Press TV. His articles can also be found on his personal blog JoeQuinn.net.

Income Inequality in the U.S. Is Even Worse Than You’ve Been Led to Believe – By Alex Henderson / AlterNet

News & Politics
Data show the country is failing its lower and middle-income earners miserably.

Photo Credit: Monkey Business Images / Shutterstock

The more the ultra-rich prosper, the less they’re burdened with taxes, the greater the benefits for society as a whole. If you’re familiar with Republican economic theory of the past 40 years, you’ve probably heard this line of reasoning. In fact, just the opposite is true.

Take it from the world’s third richest man, Warren Buffett, who recently noted that between 1982 and 2017, “the wealth of the 400 [richest people in America] increased 29-fold—from $93 billion to $2.7 trillion—while many millions of hardworking citizens remained stuck on an economic treadmill. During this period, the tsunami of wealth didn’t trickle down. It surged upward.”


The reality is the United States is now home to some of the worst income inequality in the developed world, and thanks to the recent passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, this wealth gap will grow exponentially wider.

Lowering the corporate tax rate from 35 to 21 percent, the GOP’s massive overhaul of U.S. tax law exemplifies trickle-down economics at its worst. Trump supporters insist that corporations will generously share their gains with employees, but according to economist Robert Reich, “almost all the extra money is going into stock buybacks” rather than wage increases. Because the richest 10 percent now own 84 percent of stock shares in the U.S., he emphasizes, this will do little to nothing to improve the prospects of most Americans.

According to the firm Birinyi Associates, a record $170.8 billion worth of buybacks and counting have been announced since the president signed these tax cuts into law. Reich has denounced the legislation for creating greater inequality in a country that is already radically unequal.

In 2017, the World Bank’s Gini index, which measures inequality country by country, cited Haiti, South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and the Central African Republic as the world’s five most unequal countries. (The most economically balanced nations include Norway, Ukraine, Slovenia, the Czech Republic and the Slovak Republic.) Gini data also show that measured against other developed countries, the United States is failing its lower and middle-income earners miserably.

Citing the 2015 Gini data of 34 countries, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development recently found that the top 10 percent in the United States earned 18.8 times more than the bottom 10 percent. By comparison, the wealthiest 10 percent of Danes, Fins, Belgians, Germans and Australians earned 5.2, 5.5, 5.9, 6.6 and 8.8 times more than the bottom 10 percent respectively. In Mexico, the most economically unequal country in the OECD’s report, the rich earned 30.5 times more than their poorest compatriots.

The 2018 World Inequality Report, compiled by Thomas Piketty and other economists and released in December, also paints a troubling picture of the United States’ wealth distribution. According to the study, the top 1 percent of wage earners went from owning 11 percent of the national income in 1980 to 20 percent in 2016. The bottom 50 percent’s share of the national income dropped from 21 to 13 percent over the same time period. In Western Europe, the 1 percent’s control of national incomes has risen from 10 to 12 percent, while the bottom 50 percent’s share has held steady at 23 percent—undesirable, perhaps, but decidedly more equal.

Although the U.S. remains the largest economy in the world, it is hardly the most inclusive. While Wall Street and Silicon Valley are thriving, OECD data indicate we not only suffer from harsh inequality but some of the highest rates of poverty in the developed world. In 2014, according to organization’s findings, the United States’ poverty rate was 17.2 percent compared to 10.4 percent in the U.K, 9.1 percent in Germany, 9 in Austria, 8.9 percent in the Republic of Ireland, 8.8 percent in Sweden, and 8.6 percent in Switzerland. Even in Greece, perhaps the European country hit hardest by the Great Recession, poverty was slightly lower than the U.S. in 2014, with a rate of 15.1 percent.

As a Republican candidate for president, Trump railed against out-of-touch elites, vowing to “make America great again” and revitalize the American Dream. Yet his administration’s proposed federal budget includes draconian cuts to a long list of social programs, including food stamps, housing and heating assistance. On the campaign trail, Trump insisted he would not touch Medicare, Medicaid or Social Security, but his budget would defund Medicare by $266 billion, Medicaid by $1.1 trillion and Social Security by $72 billion.

What’s more, Trump has opposed raising the national minimum wage significantly, if at all. And by eliminating the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act will cause 13 million Americans to lose their health insurance by 2027 and increase premiums by 10 percent, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office. Covered California, an ACA exchange program, has estimated that premiums could increase by as much as 30 percent in the Golden State in 2019.

The Trump administration has done everything possible to exacerbate inequality in the U.S. and undermine what little remains of the New Deal’s progressive policies. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has even praised Trump and Republicans in Congress for making “a great effort to break out of the Franklin Delano Roosevelt model.” If the U.S. remains on its current economic trajectory, there won’t be an economic safety net left to shred.


Alex Henderson’s work has appeared in the L.A. Weekly, Billboard, Spin, Creem, the Pasadena Weekly and many other publications. Follow him on Twitter @alexvhenderson.

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