Archive for the ‘Max Blumenthal’ Category

Bannon Ousted as Trump Huddles with Generals on Afghan War – Sputnik International

On today’s episode of Loud & Clear, Brian Becker is joined by human rights and labor lawyer Dan Kovalik, and Brian Terrell of Voice for Creative Non-Violence.

Steve Bannon, White House chief strategist is out. His firing comes onthe day that Trump meets withthe generals todiscuss an escalation ofthe war inAfghanistan, a move which Bannon opposed.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been silent onhis friend Donald Trump’s comments defending the neo-Nazis who rallied and carried outa terrorist attack inCharlottesville last weekend. Brian is joined by Max Blumenthal, journalist and bestselling author, aswell asthe senior editor ofAlterNet’s Grayzone Project.

A judge has ordered the deportation ofRasmea Odeh, a Palestinian activist who had her US citizenship taken away fromher. But despitethis injustice, the struggle fora free Palestine continues. Kristian Davis Bailey, the founder ofBlack4Palestine who was incourt yesterday withRasmea, joins the show.

We’d love toget your feedback atradio@sputniknews.com

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Bannon Ousted as Trump Huddles with Generals on Afghan War – Sputnik International

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August 21, 2017   Posted in: Max Blumenthal  Comments Closed

Chomsky’s ‘nostalgia’ and our own – Mondoweiss

This is part of Marc H. Elliss Exile and the Prophetic feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archive page.

Charlottesville and white nationalism. Are the KKK and its neo-Nazi affiliates nostalgic for a world that may or may not have existed? Thinking of the past as better and to be brought back in the present is dangerous on many levels. Often those who want the past back are fooling themselves and others, too.

In a very different matter the nostalgia question has recently been broached in relation to Noam Chomsky. With all his still-evident analytical powers, is Chomskys view of Israel tainted by his generations pull of a displaced people finding a haven in Palestine? Is Chomsky pining away for the Jewishly-inspired vision of Israel articulated by the founders of Israel in 1948?

Chomsky is, as always, a force to be reckoned with. Just when you have explained him, or think you have, his arguments return in full glory. It may that we need Chomskys thought and the thought of others, too.

A Hungarian-Israeli now living in America, using the pseudonym, Danaa Marec, thinks that Chomskys thought about Israel has more than a touch of nostalgia. She knows that nostalgia well. She had it, too, once upon a time.

Marec is respectful of Chomsky, as she should be. Her questions about Chomsky are real ones, though mostly for the future.

Marecs view of Chomsky and Israel opens up a fascinating terrain that Chomsky may or may not inhabit. Stated boldly, Marec suggests that Chomskys view of Israel is the romantic one he embraced in his younger years. Now, at eighty-eight years of age, Marec believes Chomsky is trapped there.

Whether Chomskys Israel ever existed is debatable but Marecs main point is that such a view would color our vision of a possible solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. A nostalgic sense of Israels founding might render commentary on a possible solution of Israel and Palestine misleading, if not irrelevant.

In Marecs view, Chomsky thinks Israel can be brought back to the founders vision if only the occupation of the West Bank and Jerusalem ends, with freedom for Gaza, in an internationally recognized two-state solution. This is why Chomsky is indifferent to BDS or against it his analysis goes back and forth on the subject. Or rather, this is why Chomsky seems adamant when discussing BDS, almost emotional, whereas keeping his cool on matters of justice is part of Chomskys famed repertoire. This is also why Chomsky continues to call on international law as the way forward and dismisses the issue of the return of Palestinian refugees as impossible and, thus, wrong to insist on.

Marecs Chomsky is trapped in a time warp; the Israel she and others experience, whatever it once was, is nothing like Chomsky wants it to be. In any case, whatever it once was, Israel wont be returning to this vision. Israel and Israelis have gone too far. Though Marec doesnt spell it out in detail, she seems to view Israel much as Max Blumenthal does in his book, Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel.Blumenthals book was published before Israels latest and devastating invasion of Gaza. By all accounts, things in Israel have only become worse in the years since.

Marec leaves her solution, if there is one, for another day. My own take on Chomsky is that you have to admire him for many reasons but listening to him on Israel as it has become is only piece of the puzzle. Though Marec doesnt address Chomskys America-centric view of Israel Israel can do little or nothing without American support I think this, too, needs further exploration. Chomskys basic America-centric view of the world has its merits; at times, though, it seems self-involved and myopic. In my view, America-centrism tends to diminish other international, state and local actors. This can become a self-fulfilling prophesy or at least a self-fulfilling rhetoric, as if all the world is America or America-less.

Have I have made Chomsky-like nostalgia mistake in my writing, albeit from a different angle? Marec might think so.

Being more than two decades younger than Chomsky, thus from a different generation, I didnt grow up with enthusiasm for Israels founders. I did live through the 1967 war and its effect on American Jewish identity. However, this was tempered by my university study of the Holocaust and my involvement in justice movements on the Lower East Side of New York City and in the projects of New Orleans, all in the 1970s. My travel among Palestinians in the early 1980s ended any lingering romance I might have had with Israel. Still, I never believed in international law as the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Nor do I think full equality, though desirable, is the issue, a case Robert Cohen forcefully argues in a recent, much circulated, speech.

None of these nostalgia for Israels founding, international law or full equality are the way forward. Though I support BDS, I remain agnostic about its claims or its possibility for actual political success in ending the occupation. Instead, I have argued for some years that if BDS were successful it would more likely bring about an Israeli-Palestinian deal that allows direct Israeli occupation to morph into a quasi-autonomy for areas of Palestine. These Palestinians areas would be surrounded and controlled by Israeli power and other interventionist military and international monitoring forces.

My take on Israel is different. I believe the foundational way to understand Israel is within the broad arc of Jewish history, especially in relation to the history of European Jews culminating in the Holocaust. Israel has little or no meaning outside of Jewish history and should be resolved within that context. I do believe that outside measures can and should be applied to make that internal resolution possible even to force it upon Israel. But it is obvious, as well, that the broader Jewish historical context I argue for has failed and will continue to fail. This means, in my view, that Israel is fated, Palestinians are fated and that Jewish ethical history is fated as well.

By fated, I mean that over the next decades it is unlikely, if not impossible, to foresee any political constellation that brings us close to what many people involved in the plight of Israel-Palestine think is sensible, right and just.

Is it best, then, to stay with Merecs sense of Chomskys nostalgia, that is hope against hope, even if that hope hardly existed? After all, the currently argued secular democratic one state solution has its own portion of nostalgia and thus is fated as well.

In Jerusalem, as in Charlottesville, the struggle between nostalgia and reality is often confusing. We made need a little of both. History is like that sometimes. Often.

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Chomsky’s ‘nostalgia’ and our own – Mondoweiss

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August 21, 2017   Posted in: Max Blumenthal  Comments Closed

How Online Trolls Pushing for Regime Change in Syria Helped Popularize Trump’s Abusive Attack on the ‘Alt-Left’ – AlterNet

Photo Credit: Oriok / Shuttershock

President Donald Trump has attempted to establish a false equivalence between neo-Nazis and the anti-fascist, anti-racist leftists who were most recently seen resisting white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia.

To do so, Trump has branded the anti-fascists as the alt-left, repurposing a term that was first popularized not by Republicans or extreme right-wingers, but rather by liberals who loathe the left.

Liberal websites have pointed the finger at prominent centrist Democrats for mainstreaming the alt-left smear to blame leftists for helping to elect President Donald Trump. But back in July and August 2016, well before influential neoliberals like Neera Tanden and Eric Garland were leveling the term against Bernie Sanders supporters, alt-left was the slur du jour of a collection of online trolls that had banded together to advance regime change in Syria.

Members of this motley crew of interventionists used the term in systematic fashion to demonize the traditional anti-war left and anyone with leftist credentials who challenged U.S. State Department dogma on countries targeted for destabilization and overthrow, particularly Syria.

Louis Allday, a PhD researcher at SOAS London, has detailed how interventionists trolls attempted to ruthlessly enforce the narrative on the Syrian war through online abuse and McCarthyite tactics of denigration. One of the key smears they rolled out in the summer of 2016, as the Syrian war reached its climax, has been weaponized by Trump to delegitimize leftists.

In a stormy press conference August 16, Trump blamed what he called the “alt-left for provoking the violence that rocked Charlottesville during the Unite The Right right-wing march on the city on August 12. The rally ended with a white supremacist terror attack in which a neo-Nazi plowed his car into a crowd of anti-racist activists, killing demonstrator Heather Heyer and injuring 19 more.

To be sure, there is no alt-left; it does not exist and no one on the left has laid claim to it. Alt-right is a brand conceived by white nationalist activist Richard Spencer to market racial supremacism in the world of digital media.

Alt-left, on the other hand, is an insult that was popularized in mid-2016 partly by a coterie of pro-war or rather anti-anti-war figures who have fanatically clamored for regime change in Syria, Libya, Venezuela and beyond. All along, they have attempted to flaunt their own putative left-wing creds.

These anti-anti-imperialist trolls have for years lobbied for regime change in Syria, just as they did with Libya before that, and have maligned socialists, communists and anarchists who oppose U.S. and NATO military intervention as alt-left in a deceitful attempt to conflate them with their mortal enemy on the alt-right. When members of this angry band of trolls cant confront their targets directly, they have smeared them through a series of anonymous blogs and social media accounts, often with false allegations and personal attacks.

The following is an introduction to the collection of toxic Syria regime change trolls who helped popularize the term alt-left.

Michael Weiss:Weiss is an influential neoconservative pundit and CNN analyst and one of the most vociferous Western supporters of the Islamist extremist-dominated Syrian opposition. AlterNet’s Max Blumenthal has published a lengthy investigation of Michael Weiss long record as a neocon operative, which include hosting an anti-Muslim rally that attracted support from far-right Islamophobia industry leader Pamela Geller.

Charles Davis:A former right-wing libertarian turned anti-anti-imperialist who frequently writes articles and delivers grainy video rants condemning the anti-war left. He now works for ATTN, an online media startup that boasts arch-racist and Islamophobic HBO host Bill Maher as one of its top investors.

Murtaza Hussain:A reporter at The Intercept who has long attacked anti-war journalists and consistently denied and downplayed U.S.-backed Gulf regimes support for extremist groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda. Hussain lobbed softball interviews at the spokesman of Syrias al-Qaeda affiliateand wrote a puff piece on Bilal Abdul Kareem, a top al-Qaeda propagandist in Syria whose services were similarly employed by CNN. Hussain used the term alt-left multiple times to disparage the anti-imperialist left before deleting all 40,000 of his tweets in Decembera bizarre move for an employee of a publication supposedly dedicated to transparency.

Danny Gold:A former VICE reporter who has constantly attacked anti-war leftists. In Syria in 2013, Gold was embedded with the CIA-backed Free Syrian Army.

Oz Katerji: An obsessively pro-war troll who openly supports regime change in Syria, as he did in Libya before that. Katerji has worked for Turkish state media. His attacks on the alt-left represent some of the earliest to systematically appear in social media.

Muhammad Idrees Ahmad:A fanatical regime change troll who has viciously maligned and lied about anti-war journalists, Idrees Ahmad defended the Trump administrations bombing of Syrias Shayrat airbase in April. Before that, Idrees Ahmad was one of the leading cheerleaders for NATO-led regime change in Libya, which destroyed the oil-rich North African country and plunged it into chaos. A contributing editor at the Los Angeles Review of Books, Ahmad phoned AlterNet senior editor Max Blumenthal to threatenhim aboutthe planned publication of a two-part expos of the Syrian rebel-tied White Helmets organization.

Shawn Carri: A pro-opposition American journalist who, like Oz Katerji, has worked for Turkish state media. He began consistently using the smear in August 2016.

Pham Binh:A left-wing pro-war troll who has impersonated multiple people, including Syrian opposition figure George Sabra and, more recently under the name @_alhamra, an alleged female Palestinian Syrian sniper who supposedly uses the name Guevara.

Cody Roche:An avowed Trotskyite pro-Syrian rebel blogger who has contributed to the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy-funded website Bellingcat.

Ben Norton is a reporter for AlterNet’s Grayzone Project. You can follow him on Twitter at @BenjaminNorton.

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How Online Trolls Pushing for Regime Change in Syria Helped Popularize Trump’s Abusive Attack on the ‘Alt-Left’ – AlterNet

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US will remain in Syria for decades after ISIS defeated, Kurdish militia allies say – RT

One of Washingtons main allies in their fight against Islamic State in Syria says US forces will remain in the countrys north long after the jihadists are defeated. Enduring ties with the Kurdish dominated region is said to be a goal of the US.

The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a US-backed alliance of militias dominated by the Kurdish YPG, also known as the Peoples Protection Unit, are under the impression that the US has a strategic interest in staying in the region, SDF spokesman Talal Silo told Reuters.

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They have a strategy policy for decades to come. There will be military, economic and political agreements in the long term between the leadership of the northern areas (of Syria) and the US administration, Silo said.

Washington has supported the YPG, a homegrown defense force in the Kurdish area of Syria, with equipment and airstrikes. However, the YPG is closely linked to the Kurdish Workers Party, or PKK, which is deemed a terrorist organization by Turkey, another US ally.

Last month, the head of the YPG said the US had established seven military bases in areas of northern Syria controlled by the SDF or YPG. This includes a major airbase near Kobani, a town that borders Turkey. They have also supported the SDF with artillery, airstrikes and special forces on the ground.

Colonel Ryan Dillon, a spokesman for the coalition, was asked by Reuters about long term strategy, but he directed that question to the Pentagon. He did mention, though, that there is still a lot of fighting to do, even after ISIS has been defeated in Raqqa.

Dillon also stated that Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) has remained in strongholds along the Euphrates River Valley, a reference to its stronghold in Deir ez-Zor province, southeast of Raqqa.

Our mission… is to defeat ISIS in designated areas of Iraq and Syria and to set conditions for follow-on operations to increase regional stability, Dillon said, Reuters reported.

In Washington, Eric Pahon, a Pentagon spokesman said: The Department of Defense does not discuss timelines for future operations. However we remain committed to the destruction of ISIS and preventing its return.

The SDF and YPG dominate an uninterrupted 250-mile (400km) stretch of the Syrian-Turkish border. Kurdish-led independent administrations have taken control since the start of the Syrian conflict in 2011.

Washington’s alliance with the YPG and SDF is a major point of contention between the US and Turkey. Ankara sees the YPG as an extension of the PKK, which has been waging a three-decade insurgency in Turkey.

Under President Donald Trump, the US started to distribute arms to the YPG in March, before the final assault on Raqqa city. This infuriated Turkey, which has thus far unsuccessfully lobbied Washington to cut ties with the SDF.

READ MORE: Tillerson calls out Turkey, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia & Iran over religious freedom

The SDF spokesman explained what he believes the US presence in this region will ultimately lead to.

The Americans have strategic interests here after the end of Daesh, Silo said, using the Arabic pejorative term for IS.

They (recently) referred to the possibility of securing an area to prepare for a military airport. These are the beginnings they’re not giving support just to leave. America is not providing all this support for free, Silo said, according to Reuters.

Maybe there could be an alternative to their base in Turkey, he said, in reference to the Incirlik Air Base.

Author and journalist Max Blumenthal told RT America that fighting IS is but a pretext for the US to extend its influence in Syria.

[The] US has clearly benefited from a long standing project of destabilizing Syria,Blumenthal said. The decision to fight ISIS in this areawas simply a pretext for establishing US influence.

The coalition said it does not discuss the location of its forces because of operational security.

Even though SDF forces are optimistic about a continued US presence in the region, there is concern that Washington wont provide enough support to YPG-allied forces and civil councils controlling northeast Syria.

We’re constantly asking them for clear, public political support,Silo said.

Silo also said that SDF forces held their first public meeting with US State Department officials this month.At the moment there are no meetings being held for a real discussion of Syria’s future. There are initiatives for developing political support for our forces, but we hope this will be bigger.

The government in Damascus maintains that the presence of any US troops on Syrian soil is against international law, as they were never invited by the Syrians or authorized by the UN.

Any foreign troops coming to Syria without our invitation or consultation or permission, they are invaders, whether they are American, Turkish, or any other one, President Bashar Assad told the Chinese PHOENIX TV in March.

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Behind the headlines in Charlottesville (E541) – RT

Tyrel Ventura & Sean Stone take a look at the tragic violence that surrounded a far-right rally in Charlottesville, VA. RTs Natasha Sweatte reports on how the local community is responding. Redacted Tonights Lee Camp joins the show to share his experience as a first-hand observer of the weekends violence. Max Blumenthal, senior editor at AlterNet, shares his perspective on the political blame-game ensuing from the violence and the roots of this crisis of hatred.

Check us out on Facebook: http://fb.me/WatchingTheHawks

Follow us @ https://instagram.com/watchingthehawks/ http://twitter.com/WatchingTyrel http://twitter.com/WatchingTabetha https://twitter.com/watchingsean

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Behind the headlines in Charlottesville (E541) – RT

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August 16, 2017   Posted in: Max Blumenthal  Comments Closed

Marriage of Convenience? Liberals and the Intelligence Community Come Together Over the Russia Connection – Lawfare (blog)

As Americans gathered to watch James Comey testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee, a meme emerged on certain corners of the left-leaning internet: people had a crush on the former FBI director. It was his patriotism, his scrupulousness, his integrity that did it. Get you a man who loves you like [C]omey loves the FBI, wrote one commenter. Is COMEY attractive? asked another. Declared one: Comey should be the next Bachelor.

The trend may have started with Comey, but it hasnt ended with him. Earlier this month, Vogue reported that special counsel Robert Mueller, too, has been transformed into an unlikely object of adoration.

The point of these outbursts of affectionwhatever level of queasiness or amusement they might inspireis not actually that anyone finds the former FBI director or the special counsel attractive. In the odd parlance of the internet, this kind of language is a way to express intense emotional involvement with an issue. Half-jokingly and with some degree of self-awareness, the many people who profess their admiration are projecting their swirling anxiety and anticipation over the Russia investigation and the fate of the Trump presidency onto Mueller and Comey. Facetious admissions of crushes are only one manifestation of this emotional entanglement. Benjamin Wittes, who has been open about his friendship with Comey, has told me that his Twitter feed and email inbox have been flooded with expressions of support and appreciationfor the former FBI director.

But even among the presidents most aggressive opponents on the left, the admiration is far from universal. As the Democratic Party and more radical lefties grapple with the new shape of politics under the Trump administration, one of the fiercest debates has focused on how to approach the Russia investigation: whether its an effective means by which to oppose the president and a worthwhile focus for the emotional energy of those adrift in Trumps America or whether its not.

The FBI Is Not Your Friend, ran a headline in the far-left Jacobin magazine following Comeys firing. This is going to be the Democrats version of the Benghazi hearings, wrote a despondent commenter on a forum for fans of the popular left-wing podcast, Chapo Trap House, the day Comey testified.

If the major story in the intellectual life of the nation over the past year has been the ideological chaos that has engulfed Americans to the right of center under Trump, the American left has its own story of chaos as well. There are a number of different American lefts. And while some have embraced the Russia investigation, others remain deeply skeptical of the investigations likelihood of success or even of its meritsometimes to the point of active hostility. The story of the American left under Trump, as in the larger story, is one of bifurcation and polarization. Its a story of a profound emerging divide over the role of patriotism and the intelligence community in the lefts political life. To put the matter simply, some on the left are actively revisiting their long-held distrust of the security organs of the American state; and some are rebelling against that rapprochement.

***

The divide within the left on the question of the Russia investigation is hard to pin down precisely, because the left, like any broad political current, is diverse. But it runs roughly along the same line as that which more generally splits the harder leftwhich is sharply critical of capitalism and existing institutions more broadlyfrom the center-left, which is more comfortable with the market and tends to advocate more incrementalist solutions to societal problems.

To be sure, the center left is itself divided on how much energy to devote to Russia. Politico reported recently that Democrats are becoming nervous that an over-focus on the Russia probe to the detriment of bread-and-butter economic issues may harm their chances in the upcoming 2018 election. Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) has been a major voice for this view within Congress, going so far as to call the probe a distraction and suggesting that regular folks care about jobs, wages, schools over LAffaire Russe.

A growing group of those on the center-left agree with Murphy: Russia is important, they argue, but shouldnt be allowed to distract focus from more pressing issues at hand. During the recent debate over the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, reminders from prominent voices not to forget about the health care debate amidst the constant stream of news about Russia often took the tone of a parent reminding a child to eat their vegetables before turning to dessert. In a typical example, the former Obama aides of the popular Pod Save America podcast expressed concern that theyd allowed the shows discussion of Russia to outpace its healh care coverageeven though, they admitted, the pod receives greater traffic when Russia is in the news.

But there are also those on the center-left who consider LAffaire Russe to be a matter of predominant importance. They tend to be less affiliated with the institutional Democratic Party and more in the camp of concerned citizens voicing their anxieties online. They are also more likely to express love or admiration for James Comey or Robert Mueller and use language like patriot and treason. Much has been written about the phenomenon of anti-Trump misinformation spreading virally on Twitter and elsewhere, where participants tend to view the Russia investigation as a master narrative of the Trump administration subsuming all other concerns. This approachheavy on the conspiratorial implications, light on substanceisnt shared by all those who prioritize the Russia investigation, though it has certainly drawn the most attention.

The broad point, however, is that within the center-left, the question of the Trump-Russia scandal is a question of emphasis relative to other priorities. Its importance, not to mention the reality of a serious problem, is on its own terms largely accepted.

This is not the case further to the left, where for a variety of reasons, many commentators believe the matter warrants no energy or attention at alland some even spend energy emphasizing how little attention and energy it warrants. The most common reason is agreement with an extreme version of Senator Murphys belief that the investigation is a distraction from policy debates. While mainstream Democratic hosts of Pod Save America took an apologetic tone in suggesting to their listeners that focusing on health care might be a better use of their time than tracking Muellers movements, the hosts of the Chapo Trap House podcast actively dismiss those who closely follow the latest news on Russia.

The Chapo team is happy to acknowledge that there may well be something to these ongoing investigations; they just dont really care. I find it amusing and am for anything that stitches up Trump and Republicans, said Chapo host Will Menaker after Comeys firing, but I cant muster anything too substantial to say about it. The other hosts exploded with mockery of the Twitter users who expressed admiration for Comey. The former FBI director was probably the greatest patriot of all time, of any country, and the new leader of the resistance, host Felix Biederman declared sarcastically.

Some writers take a more actively hostile attitude. The Intercepts Glenn Greenwald and numerous writers at The Nation have described the public focus on the investigation as a revived McCarthyism or Kremlin-baiting, with Americans newly suspicious of even benign connections to Russia. In this view, whether or not there is substance to the Russia investigation, the political and media reaction to the available facts has been unduly hysterical; Americans are primarily reacting not to the news itself, but to their prejudices against Russia. A small minority even goes so far as to deny even widely accepted, publicly available information, such as Russias involvement in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee or even whether the DNC was hacked at all.

The legacy of the Cold War is hard to disentangle from this position. Within the pages of The Nation, Stephen Cohen, Victor Navasky, and Patrick Lawrence have made the case that Americans McCarthyite paranoia is pushing the country closer and closer to a dangerous and unnecessary confrontation with Russia. Others, including Greenwald, activist Max Blumenthal, and Noam Chomsky have voiced similar concerns over rising tensions between Washington and the Kremlin over election interference. Their worries are strikingly similar to those voiced by American leftists advocating against a confrontational posture toward the Soviet Union. Its one of the few decent things Trump has been doing, Noam Chomsky said of the alleged contacts between Trump associates and representatives of the Russian government.

As Peter Beinart has written in the Atlantic, these thinkers loathe Trump but they loathe hawkish foreign policy moreand they see the Russia investigation as a tool of that familiar imperialism. To a limited extent, there is probably also an affirmative pull toward the Kremlin in particular. Paul Berman, who has written extensively on the intellectual life of the left, described this as to me as a living sympathy as a result of the long shadow of the Cold War and despite Vladimir Putins shift toward far-right government. Some of the writers in question, after all, took the extreme dovish position with respect to the Soviet Union in its day as well.

There is some justification in pointing to sloppy reporting in the American press on Russia and more widespread misunderstandings of the Russian government within the United States: Joshua Yaffa has extensively discussed the tendencies of American journalists to assume an unrealistic level of organization and strategic coherence in the Kremlins activities. But these critics on the left are apt to jump from instances of journalistic exaggerationeven errorsto the conclusion that there is little to the Russia story at all, despite the mounting volume of evidence that, at a minimum, the Russians actively intervened in the election and had a variety of relationships with people involved in the Trump campaign. Similarly, these leftist critics often blur the line between their skepticism of fevered speculation and the increasing pile of substantive and unrebutted reporting on the subject in order to cast doubt on even the reputable journalism on the matter.

Theres another stream of thought too, from voices who tend to be younger and more focused on left-wing domestic policy, rather than Cold War-inflected foreign policypeople whose formative political experience dates to the Iraq War, rather than anything to do with the Soviet Union. This stream tends toward isolationism.

These commentators are deeply skepticaleven hostileto aggressive U.S. actions toward Russia in response to election interference, such as the recent sanctions legislation, because they are hostile to confrontations overseas in general. Many (including me) assumed that [Clinton] was going to win and get us mired deeper in Syria as a component of a proxy war against Russia, David Klion, a freelance journalist who writes about U.S.-Russia relations, wrote to me. And so we were prepared to advocate against that, and when people who would have wanted [intervention] lead the Russia charge, some see them as warmongers.

Instead of an affinity toward Russia or a rejection of U.S. activities abroad, this group is motivated primarily by domestic politics, particularly by a desire to shape the future direction of the Democratic Party. There is a strong sense that Hillary Clintons electoral defeat represented a failure of centrist liberalism and an opportunity for those further to the leftmany of whom supported Bernie Sanders during the Democratic primaryto recreate the party in their image. In a fashion that sounds a lot like Trump himself, these commentators argue that Democratic politicians focus on the Russia investigation is a cop-out, a means by which to insist that the Kremlin, and not the moral emptiness of center-left liberalism in America, lost Clinton the election. [F]ixating on Russia allows establishment Democrats to avoid asking any hard questions about why Hillary Clinton lost, writer and activist Chip Gibbons argued in Jacobin. The Russia framing helps them justify staying the course rather than finding fault with the party [which] is fundamentally a capitalist one with deep ties to Wall Street.

These factors have pushed both wings of the hard leftthose concerned over supposed McCarthyism and for a soft line on Russia and those advocating for a redirection of the Democratic Party domesticallyaway from any kind of enthusiasm for the Russia investigation.

But these arguments have taken place against the backdrop of a much greater and more visible embrace of the investigation on the part of the center-leftand a concurrent embrace by many center-left commentators of actively patriotic vocabulary that is traditionally the province of the right, along with a skepticism about Russia that has not been in fashion in Democratic circles since the Scoop Jackson wing of the party bolted. As Trump has attacked and belittled the intelligence communitys assessment of Russian election interference, the center-left has embraced not only the report but also the intelligence community itself. And it has done so with the kind of sudden and intense affection that leads Vogue to run an article on Robert Mueller as Americas new crush.

***

Prior to the Trump presidency, left of center Americans tended to hold the intelligence community at arms length. Revelations of government misconduct in the Watergate and Vietnam eras still cast a long shadowespecially given that a significant portion of this misconduct was directed toward the left in the first place. The Snowden disclosures only exacerbated the distrust of those not reassured by what Jack Goldsmith and Benjamin Wittes have described as the grand bargain of increased intelligence oversight in response to the overreaches of Watergate and COINTELPRO. On the other side of the political spectrum, Americans on the rightthough not always the libertarian righthave tended to regard the intelligence community as a crucial component of the countrys national security apparatus. Political leaders of the center-left always had a quiet peace with the national security apparatus. But the peace was a quiet one, generally speaking, one without overly demonstrative displays of affection or support.

Trump has flipped this dynamic. His sustained antagonism to what his allies call the deep state has generated the odd spectacle of a Republican White House and its allies engaging in partisan attacks on the intelligence community while Democratic politicians gain political points for defending it. Yes, there are exceptions: Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) has shown no sign of letting up in his critique of the governments use of FISA Section 702, for example, though he has aggressively pursued the Russia investigation in his public appearances on the Senate Intelligence Committee. But broadly speaking, the center-left these days sounds a lot like the mainstream right of the last few decades before Trump came along: hawkish towards Russia and enthusiastic about the U.S. intelligence apparatus as one of the countrys key lines of defense. And the mainstream right sounds a lot like the center-left on the subjectwhich is to say very quiet.

This new posture for the center-left, to some degree anyway, has politicians speaking the language of the intelligence world: the language of active patriotism. Testifying before the House Intelligence Committee on Russian election interference a month before his firing, Comey declared: I truly believe we are a shining city on a hill, to quote a great American. And one of the things we radiate to the world is the importance of our wonderful, often messy, but free and fair democratic system. In a previous world, many left-of-center hearts might have been unmoved by Comeys sincerity and deliberateness in praising the unique power of American democracy; he was, after all, quoting Reagan. But with the center-left newly admiring of Comey following his dismissal, this sort of language seems suddenly normal and attractive to left-of-center communities.

But this embrace both of the national security state and of demonstrative expressions of uncomplicated love of country is profoundly unappealing to the harder left, which has not abandoned the suspicion of the both America as a project and its intelligence services. Whether because of Cold War-inflected, foreign policy-focused anxieties or the domestic policy-focused concerns of the younger lefties, the harder left resists remains skeptical of the idea of American goodness at home or abroadand that makes the embrace of patriotism hard.

For these analysts, and particularly among younger leftists, whose politics are steeped in ironic detachment (the Chapo podcast has been dubbed emblematic of a new ironic left), Comeys case for the importance of protecting American democracy as Reagans shining city on the hill reads as naive at best and shamefully hypocritical at worst. Hacking emails and supporting parties? This is stuff we do to [Russia], and have done to them for decades, and still continue to do, Greenwald argued recently in an interview with Slates Isaac Chotiner.

This burst of righteous indignation [in response to Russian election interference] would be easier to swallow if the United States had not itself made a chronic habit of interfering in foreign elections, Stephen Kinzer argued in the Boston Globe, citing a variety of covert action campaigns undertaken by the intelligence community. (Kinzer had previously written that we should drop our Cold War hostility and work with Russia to assist the Assad regime in Syria.)

Some writers have voiced concerns that the intelligence community is engaged in an antidemocratic effort to undermine the Trump administration using what Greenwald calls classic Cold War dirty tactics. Mark my words, Max Blumenthal said recently on Fox News host Tucker Carlsons show, when Trump is gone this Russia hysteria will be repurposed by the political establishment to attack the left and anyone on the left.

If the Cold War looms over this conversation, so too does the war in Iraq. Those on the left are deeply skeptical of Never Trump voices on the right, many of whose most prominent members are linked to the George W. Bush administration and the push to topple Saddam Hussein. American leftists have watched with trepidation as an uneasy alliance has emerged in recent months between the center-left and those who have held firm on the Never Trump right, which many see as an irresponsible rehabilitation by the center-left of neoconservatives responsible for the Iraq War.

To some extent, this stems from a discomfort with hawkishness on either side of the political spectrum and a particular discomfort with hawkish language used against Russia from both left and right. But there is also a strong belief on the left that Trump is the responsibility of the Republican Party and should be treated as such: not an anomaly but nothing more or less egregious than the GOPs natural standard-bearer. Attacking Trump on the basis of the Russia Connection is fundamentally misguided, in this argument, because it leaves the rest of the partyincluding Never Trumpers who have since distanced themselves from the institutional GOPuntouched. The thing that annoys me about all of this constitutional crisis stuff is that the crisis is the Republican Party, Menaker exclaimed on Chapo Trap House immediately following James Comeys firing. The crisis is right-wing governance in America. Emmett Rensin has made this point extensively in the left-leaning new media outlet The Outline, writing, For the masters of the American empire [Trumps] cardinal sin … is only being so stupid and malicious that he might crash the whole long con into the ground.

In the end, both the center-left and those further to the left are reacting less to the work of Robert Mueller and the House and Senate Intelligence Committees than to the set of images and concepts that have come to stand in for the investigations in the public mind. The concepts associated with the investigations in the minds of those who invest hope in thempatriotism, the bravery and integrity of the intelligence community, and the restoration of the American projectcut against the grain of the hard lefts sense of self.

***

As with so many things about our current era, the question is whether and how the dramatic changes Donald Trump has wrought will continue outside the very specific context of his presidency. We might find that this realignment of the center-left toward the intelligence community falls apart as soon as real policy stakes are on the table once again. The work of the intelligence community, after all, is far larger than LAffaire Russe, which is one of the reasons Trumps attacks on it are so troubling. Mainstream Democrats have not yet had to place their newfound alliance with the intelligence community in the context of the host of policy issues on which theyve historically had anxieties about intelligence community authorities. The looming reauthorization of Section 702 in December 2017 will serve as an interesting test case here given the discomfort with which many on the center-left view large-scale surveillance.

Alternately, perhaps the center-lefts realignment will hold through the rest of the Trump administration as the Russia investigation continues and as the left and center-left dig in on their newly different approaches to opposing the president. Policy concerns may play second fiddle to resistance understood more broadly; in fact, thats exactly what concerns those on the left who criticize the center-lefts new bedfellows. After the Trump presidency draws to a close, those closer to the center may drift back closer to those on the further left in terms of their distaste for the language of patriotism and the countys hard-power agencies.

The final possibility, however, is that this is a more lasting shift with implications beyond Trump and his presidency: a sea change in how the center-left relates to the intelligence community and a deeper cleavage between the hard left and center-left on national security. This strikes me as the least likely scenario but also the most interesting. It would, of course, be one of the great ironies of Trumps tenure if one of its lasting intellectual impacts were a rediscovery on the part of the mainstream left of the dangers posed byRussia and the need for strong and capable intelligence agencies.

But there is something troubling to this possibility as well. Several times, Lawfares own handmaiden of power Benjamin Wittes has cautioned his newfound admirers on the left that they will find plenty to dislike about him for once the sturm und drang of the Trump administration has passed. Theres solace in this idea: the notion that this, too, shall pass and well return to the world we knew before, when our main disagreements were about things like the appropriate scope of surveillance authorities and the Authorization for the Use of Military Force. On the other hand, if this shift in alignment of the center-left endures and those disageements fail to reemerge, then our previous worldwhatever its irrationalities and failureswill be gone, in some small way, for good. Whatever the merits of a permanent change in the center-lefts attitude toward the intelligence community, it is also discomfiting to think that Trumps most egregious excesses might have such lasting power over the intellectual life of the nation.

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Marriage of Convenience? Liberals and the Intelligence Community Come Together Over the Russia Connection – Lawfare (blog)

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August 16, 2017   Posted in: Max Blumenthal  Comments Closed

Until Gaza Is Free Israel Will Never Be Free – Sputnik International

The abandonment of 1.8 million men, women, and children to their fate in Gaza by the so-called international community is one of the most grievous moral outrages of our time.

Let us not mince words: Gaza in2017 is a vast open air prison whose inmates have committed no crime or transgression other thanthat ofbeing Palestinians who dare assert the right toself-determination onland that has long been coveted byan oppressor whose flagrant disregard forinternational law and human rights is beyonddispute.

Since 2007 the Gaza Strip comprising a narrow stretch ofland which hugs the eastern Mediterranean Coast, and which at40km long and 12km (at its widest point) is one ofthe most densely populated parts ofthe world has existed ina state ofunyielding siege and blockade. Nothing can enter or leave viaits Erez border crossing withIsrael tothe north, or its Rafah border crossing withEgypt tothe south, withoutthe consent ofthe Israeli authorities inagreement withtheir Egyptian counterparts.

A 2017 UN report intoliving conditions inGaza confirms that “on the ground, life forthe average Palestinian inGaza is getting more and more wretched. This year electricity is the most visible deterioration inthe living conditions inGaza butit comes ontop ofa host ofother chronic and acute problems that have become part of ‘normal’ life. An 11-year-old child has not experienced more than12 hours ofelectricity ina single day inhis/her lifetime. No one remembers a time inrecent memory when drinkable water reliably appeared outof the tap. Memories ofease ofmovement inand outof the Strip are also increasingly distant.”

Meanwhile, according toa recent Amnesty International report, “Israel’s military blockade ofthe Gaza Strip [has] entered its 10th year, continuing the collective punishment ofGaza’s entire population.” It also cites the fact that the Israelis maintain a “buffer zone” insidethe Strip and have used “live fire and other weapons againstPalestinians who entered or approached it.”

Writer and journalist Max Blumenthal described his own experience ofentering Gaza and passing throughthis buffer zone ina 2015 interview withfellow journalist Glenn Greenwald. “You wander downa long corridor, which is a cage,” Blumenthal recalled, “and then you arrive ata metal door ata concrete wall. The metal door opens, it shuts behindyou, and you’re insidewhat is effectively a walled-off ghetto.”

AFP 2017/ Mahmud Hams

Palestinian children look through a hole in a sheet metal fence outside their home in a poor neighbourhood in Gaza City

He goes on:

“You look downthis endless wall, toyour right, and you see a remote-controlled machine gun perched onthe wall. That’s the spot and strike system, which is operated byan all-female unit ofIsraeli soldiers inthe Negev Desert, tens ofkilometers away, byremote. And what they do is, they watch the buffer zone this 300 [meter] area that Palestinians are forbidden fromentering insidethe Gaza Strip. And anyone who enters who they determine tobe a ‘terrorist,’ they eliminate withthe push ofa joystick button froma remote-controlled machine gun. It’s just that dystopian.”

Punctuating this daily lived experience ofmisery forthe Palestinians ofGaza are regular Israeli attacks fromland, sea, and air, which are tantamount towar crimes given that due tothe lack ofspace inthe Strip they are indiscriminate and regularly result inthe massacre ofcivilians. And this is withouttaking intoaccount the two full-scale military assaults unleashed bythe Israelis onGaza Operation Cast Lead in2008-09, and Operation Protective Edge in2014 inwhich thousands ofcivilians were killed and maimed, many ofthem children.

AP Photo/ Adel Hana

Mohammed Keferna, 14, sits on a couch in his family’s building that was damaged by Israeli strikes during last summer’s Israel-Hamas war, in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza Strip, Friday, Jan. 30, 2015

The burning question is why, inthe face ofsuch damning evidence, Israel has been able toget away withcommitting such grievous crimes againstthe people ofGaza forso long? The answer is that forfar too long the application and enforcement ofinternational law has been less todo withjustice and more todo withpower or a given state’s relationship topower.

Israel’s geostrategic importance tothe United States and its European allies has allowed it free rein inits brutal repression ofthe Palestinian people, both inthe Gaza Strip and acrossthe Occupied Territories ofthe West Bank and East Jerusalem. It is afforded a level ofgeopolitical and diplomatic support that no other state engaged insuch wanton crimes againsthumanity would enjoy, thus exposing the moral bankruptcy ofthe US and those European governments which continue todeny not only the righteousness ofthe Palestinian struggle forjustice buttheir status asvictims ofa continuing monstrous injustice.

AP Photo/ Tsafrir Abayov

In this Sunday, March 26, 2017 photo, Palestinian residents of Gaza strip wait on the Israeli side of the Erez terminal to cross to Gaza Strip

In defending its apparatus ofrepression which includes apartheid, ethnic cleansing, siege, torture, arbitrary detention withouttrial, and violence the word “terrorism” is consistently invoked. When it comes toGaza specifically, the Israelis cite the existence and actions ofHamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, asa threat toits security and the security ofits citizens, specifically those living inIsraeli towns adjacent toGaza.

While there is no gainsaying the fact that attacks unleashed againstIsraeli civilians byHamas are indefensible, they are not incomprehensible given the severity ofthe occupation. What Israel and its supporters are careful toelide when it comes toHamas is the salient fact that the Islamist group is a product ofthis occupation, which has lasted since1967 and shows no evidence ofending.

REUTERS/ Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

Palestinian protesters hurl stones at Israeli troops following a protest against the blockade on Gaza, near the border between Israel and Central Gaza Strip May 19, 2017

Prison imprisons the guards asmuch asit does the inmates, and the chains that bind the Palestinians also bind their oppressors. It is hard toimagine that onany given day the word “Palestine” or “Palestinian” does not intrude onthe consciousness ofpeople living inIsrael, reminding them ofa people who remain unbowed, despitetheir miserable condition, just a few miles fromthe affluence they themselves have long taken forgranted.

Hatred ofothers is the handmaiden ofhatred ofself, and untilGaza and the rest ofPalestine is free Israel will never be free.

The views expressed inthis article are solely those oftheauthorand do not necessarily reflect the official position ofSputnik.

Check outJohn’s Sputnik radio show,Hard Facts.

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Until Gaza Is Free Israel Will Never Be Free – Sputnik International

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August 16, 2017   Posted in: Max Blumenthal  Comments Closed

Pundits Slam Trump’s Biblical Language On North Korea, But Praise His Defense Secretary’s Genocidal Threats – The National Memo (blog)

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet.

President Donald Trumps pledge to punish North Korea with fire, fury and frankly, power, the likes of which this world has never seen before triggered outrage from pundits and lawmakers across the political spectrum. The outrage over his apparent threat to annihilate North Korea, possibly with nuclear arms, prompted his advisors to insist that Trumps comments wereimprovised.

When Defense Secretary James Mattis followed up with another belligerent statement, warning of the end of [North Koreas] regime and the destruction of its people, the reaction from Washingtons political class was entirely different.

Though Mattis was nicknamed Mad Dog for his role in razing thecity of Fallujahduring the U.S. occupation of Iraq in 2004, pundits have rebranded him one of the adults in the White House part of a class of sober-minded ex-generals appointed to rein in Trumps divisive America First agenda.

CNN correspondent Dan Merica cast Mattis warning to oversee the mass slaughter of North Koreas civilian population as a tough statement. This framing was echoed by Barbara Starr, the CNN Pentagon correspondent who serves as an enthusiastic stenographer for the Defense Department. Starr called Mattis rhetoric very tough talk and a dire warning to North Korea.

Self-described GOP media guy Rick Wilson, a veteran Republican consultant popular among liberals for his vehement criticism of Trump, applauded Mattis language, tweeting, This is how you phrase it, not biblical-level chest beating.

Perhaps the most bizarre response to Mattis statement came Washington Post national security reporter Dan Lamothe, who described it as a call for de-escalation.

The leak that triggered the threats

Both genocidal threats from Trump and Mattis were triggered by a confidential Defense Intelligence Agency assessmentleaked to the Washington Postclaiming that North Korea has cross[ed] a key threshold on the path to becoming a full-fledged nuclear power. The unverified analysis claimed that 60 nuclear weapons are now controlled by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Tim Shorrock, a veteran investigative journalist who has focused on Korean issues for several decades, was skeptical about the DIA leak. Im a little surprised by this report because for one thing its clearly not the collective conclusion of the intelligence community. Its someone in the DIA and theres no real analysis of what it is They just say it has this miniature warhead and they can now put on an ICBM, hesaidto Aaron Mate of the Real News Network.

Shorrock also questioned the timing of the leak: Well, theyve said that before in years past, it hasnt been proven to be true, and Im wondering why this is coming out right now. That seems very dangerous on the face of it. Someone within the intelligence community is pushing for a military response by leaking this report.

Turning the aggressor into the victim

The Trump administrations threats were most immediately prompted by the DIAs leak, but were also an undeniable response to a months-long campaign by corporate media to drum up fears of a North Korean attack on the American homeland.

On August 2, CNNs Jake Tapper hypedunfounded fearsthat North Korean missile tests threatened passenger planes from the West. Every day were getting starting details about North Koreas military ambitions which seem to be proceeding at an increasingly rapid clip. Its unclear with the Trump administrations strategy is to stop the Kim Jong Un regime, Tapper declared as he introduced a segment on the supposed threat to civilian airliners.

The segment featured special graphics created by CNN that showed an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launched from North Korea striking California.

While CNN correspondent Barbara Starr acknowledged that no North Korean missile test came anywhere close to downing a passenger plane, CNNs chyron read: North Korea missile tests could endanger passenger planes.

Since Trump threatened fire and fury on North Korea, mainstream media has portrayed the government of DPRK as the sole aggressor. The August 9front page of theWall Street Journalframed the presidents warning with the headline, Trump Warns North Korea: Stop Threats.

Though Trumps choice of language might have been alarming, his threats were part of a grand bipartisan tradition. Former President Barack Obama threatened the DPRK with destruction in 2016. We could, obviously, destroy North Korea with our arsenals,Obamasaid, while conceding that the DPRK posed relatively low level threats.

What is rarely acknowledged is that North Koreas weapons production is strictly defensive, not offensive. North Koreanspokespeoplehave expressly pointed to countries that have been destroyed in U.S. military attacks, noting, Nothing will be more foolish if the United States thinks it can deal with us the way it treated Iraq and Libya, miserable victims of its aggression, and Syria, which did not respond immediately even after it was attacked.

Even Dan Coats, the Director of National Intelligence, hasacknowledgedthat Kim is a rational actor. Coat conceded that Kims decision-making process was influenced by watching Muammar Gaddafi be butchered by U.S.-led forces after willingly ending his nuclear ambitions. The lessons that we learned out of Libya giving up its nukesis, unfortunately, if you had nukes, never give them up. If you dont have them, get them, Coats said at the Aspen Security Forum this year.

Coats concluded that for Kim, there is some rationale backing his actions which are survival, survival for his regime, survival for his country, and he has watched I think what has happened around the world relative to nations that possess nuclear capabilities and the leverage they have and seen that having the nuclear card in your pocket results in a lot of deterrence capability.

The U.S. is the only country in the world that has ever dropped a nuclear bomb on a civilian population (twice). The U.S. War DepartmentsStrategic Bombing Surveyacknowledged, Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated. Some historians note that the U.S. nuking of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which incinerated hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians, was not necessary to end the war, but rather was a warning sign to theSoviet Unionand could be seen as the first act of the Cold War.

Fake news on North Korea

The Western media is notorious for spreading ridiculous myths about North Korea; among them, that the country discovered evidence ofunicorns, that all North Koreans are forced to get the samehaircut, and that leader Kim Jong-un killed his uncle by feeding him to a pack ofdogs.

The former Washington Post punditMax Fisher, now at the New York Times,falselyreported that the DPRK distributed copies of Adolf Hitlers manifestoMein Kampfto leaders. And former Wired reporterSpencer Ackerman, now a national security reporter at the Daily Beast, wrongly portrayed an obvious spoof video made by a Westerner as official North Korean propaganda.

Accompanying much of the distortion-laden discussion of North Korea is an extreme dehumanization of the more than 25 million people who live there, who are often portrayed as mindlessly following the orders of their cartoon villain leaders.

U.S. crimes against humanity

Also conspicuously absent from media reports is any context or history for North Koreas actions. Just over 60 years ago, the U.S. waged what was essentially a genocidal war against Korea, in which it murdered millions of people.

As the InterceptsMehdi Hasannoted, The madman with nuclear weapons is Donald Trump, not Kim Jong-un.

While some Western media reports and intelligence officials may acknowledge that North Korea does indeed act rationally and that Donald Trump is personally erratic to a dangerous degree they still gloss over the impact of U.S. atrocities committed during the Korean War.

Over a period of three years or so, we killed off what 20 percent of the population, said Air Force General Curtis LeMay, who led the Strategic Air Command during the Korean War. JournalistBlaine Hardenreported this in a Washington Post op-ed titled The U.S. war crime North Korea wont forget.

Harden explained, Dean Rusk, a supporter of the war and later Secretary of State, said the United States bombed everything that moved in North Korea, every brick standing on top of another. After running low on urban targets, U.S. bombers destroyed hydroelectric and irrigation dams in the later stages of the war, flooding farmland and destroying crops.

In its three-year war on Korea, the U.S. is estimated to have killed3 million people, approximately half of them civilians.

The Korean War is sometimes called the forgotten war in the U.S., but it is hard to imagine that North Koreas leadership has forgotten this calamity, or that it would allow it to happen again without a response.

Ben Norton is a reporter for AlterNets Grayzone Project. You can follow him on Twitter at@BenjaminNorton.

Max Blumenthal is a senior editor of theGrayzone ProjectatAlterNet,and the award-winning author ofGoliathandRepublican Gomorrah. His most recent book isThe 51 Day War: Ruin and Resistance in Gaza.Follow him on Twitter at@MaxBlumenthal.

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Pundits Slam Trump’s Biblical Language On North Korea, But Praise His Defense Secretary’s Genocidal Threats – The National Memo (blog)

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August 13, 2017   Posted in: Max Blumenthal  Comments Closed

Pundits Slam Trump’s Biblical Language on North Korea, But Praise His Defense Secretary’s Genocidal Threats – AlterNet

North Korean soldiers placard at the military parade in Pyongyang. Pyongyang, North Korea, July 2013. Photo Credit: Astrelok

President Donald Trumps pledge to punish North Korea with fire, fury and frankly, power, the likes of which this world has never seen before triggered outrage from pundits and lawmakers across the political spectrum. The outrage over his apparent threat to annihilate North Korea, possibly with nuclear arms, prompted his advisors to insist that Trumps comments wereimprovised.

When Defense Secretary James Mattis followed up with another belligerent statement, warning of “the end of [North Koreas] regime and the destruction of its people, the reaction from Washingtons political class was entirely different.

Though Mattis was nicknamed Mad Dog for his role in razing thecity of Fallujah during the U.S. occupation of Iraq in 2004, pundits have rebranded him one of the “adults in the White House part of a class of sober-minded ex-generals appointed to rein in Trumps divisive America First agenda.

CNN correspondent Dan Merica cast Mattis warning to oversee the mass slaughter of North Koreas civilian population as a tough statement. This framing was echoed by Barbara Starr, the CNN Pentagon correspondent who serves as an enthusiastic stenographer for the Defense Department. Starr called Mattis rhetoric very tough talk and a dire warning to North Korea.

Self-described GOP media guy Rick Wilson, a veteran Republican consultant popular among liberals for his vehement criticism of Trump, applauded Mattis language, tweeting, This is how you phrase it, not biblical-level chest beating.

Perhaps the most bizarre response to Mattis statement came Washington Post national security reporter Dan Lamothe, who described it as a call for de-escalation.

The leak that triggered the threats

Both genocidal threats from Trump and Mattis were triggered by a confidential Defense Intelligence Agency assessment leaked to the Washington Post claiming that North Korea has “cross[ed] a key threshold on the path to becoming a full-fledged nuclear power.” The unverified analysis claimed that 60 nuclear weapons are now controlled by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Tim Shorrock, a veteran investigative journalist who has focused on Korean issues for several decades, was skeptical about the DIA leak. Im a little surprised by this report because for one thing its clearly not the collective conclusion of the intelligence community. Its someone in the DIA and theres no real analysis of what it is They just say it has this miniature warhead and they can now put on an ICBM, he saidto Aaron Mate of the Real News Network.

Shorrock also questioned the timing of the leak: Well, theyve said that before in years past, it hasnt been proven to be true, and Im wondering why this is coming out right now. That seems very dangerous on the face of it. Someone within the intelligence community is pushing for a military response by leaking this report.

Turning the aggressor into the victim

The Trump administration’s threats were most immediately prompted by the DIAs leak, but were also an undeniable response to a months-long campaign by corporate media to drum up fears of a North Korean attack on the American homeland.

On August 2, CNNs Jake Tapper hypedunfounded fears that North Korean missile tests threatened passenger planes from the West. Every day were getting starting details about North Koreas military ambitions which seem to be proceeding at an increasingly rapid clip. Its unclear with the Trump administrations strategy is to stop the Kim Jong Un regime, Tapper declared as he introduced a segment on the supposed threat to civilian airliners.

The segment featured special graphics created by CNN that showed an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launched from North Korea striking California.

While CNN correspondent Barbara Starr acknowledged that no North Korean missile test came anywhere close to downing a passenger plane, CNNs chyron read: North Korea missile tests could endanger passenger planes.”

Since Trump threatened fire and fury on North Korea, mainstream media has portrayed the government of DPRK as the sole aggressor. The August 9front page of theWall Street Journalframed the presidents warning with the headline, “Trump Warns North Korea: Stop Threats.”

Though Trumps choice of language might have been alarming, his threats were part of a grand bipartisan tradition. Former President Barack Obama threatened the DPRK with destruction in 2016. We could, obviously, destroy North Korea with our arsenals, Obama said, while conceding that the DPRK posed relatively low level threats.

What is rarely acknowledged is that North Korea’s weapons production is strictly defensive, not offensive. North Korean spokespeople have expressly pointed to countries that have been destroyed in U.S. military attacks, noting, Nothing will be more foolish if the United States thinks it can deal with us the way it treated Iraq and Libya, miserable victims of its aggression, and Syria, which did not respond immediately even after it was attacked.

Even Dan Coats, the Director of National Intelligence, has acknowledged that Kim is a rational actor. Coat conceded that Kims decision-making process was influenced by watching Muammar Gaddafi be butchered by U.S.-led forces after willingly ending his nuclear ambitions. The lessons that we learned out of Libya giving up its nukesis, unfortunately, if you had nukes, never give them up. If you dont have them, get them, Coats said at the Aspen Security Forum this year.

Coats concluded that for Kim, there is some rationale backing his actions which are survival, survival for his regime, survival for his country, and he has watched I think what has happened around the world relative to nations that possess nuclear capabilities and the leverage they have and seen that having the nuclear card in your pocket results in a lot of deterrence capability.

The U.S. is the only country in the world that has ever dropped a nuclear bomb on a civilian population (twice). The U.S. War DepartmentsStrategic Bombing Survey acknowledged, “Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated.” Some historians note that the U.S. nuking of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which incinerated hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians, was not necessary to end the war, but rather was a warning sign to the Soviet Unionand could be seen as the first act of the Cold War.

Fake news on North Korea

The Western media is notorious for spreading ridiculous myths about North Korea; among them, that the country discovered evidence of unicorns, that all North Koreans are forced to get the same haircut, and that leader Kim Jong-un killed his uncle by feeding him to a pack of dogs.

The former Washington Post pundit Max Fisher, now at the New York Times, falsely reported that the DPRK distributed copies of Adolf Hitlers manifesto Mein Kampf to leaders. And former Wired reporter Spencer Ackerman, now a national security reporter at the Daily Beast, wrongly portrayed an obvious spoof video made by a Westerner as official North Korean propaganda.

Accompanying much of the distortion-laden discussion of North Korea is an extreme dehumanization of the more than 25 million people who live there, who are often portrayed as mindlessly following the orders of their cartoon villain leaders.

U.S. crimes against humanity

Also conspicuously absent from media reports is any context or history for North Koreas actions. Just over 60 years ago, the U.S. waged what was essentially a genocidal war against Korea, in which it murdered millions of people.

As the Intercepts Mehdi Hasannoted, The madman with nuclear weapons is Donald Trump, not Kim Jong-un.

While some Western media reports and intelligence officials may acknowledge that North Korea does indeed act rationally and that Donald Trump is personally erratic to a dangerous degree they still gloss over the impact of U.S. atrocities committed during the Korean War.

Over a period of three years or so, we killed off what 20 percent of the population, said Air Force General Curtis LeMay, who led the Strategic Air Command during the Korean War. Journalist Blaine Harden reported this in a Washington Post op-ed titled The U.S. war crime North Korea wont forget.

Harden explained, Dean Rusk, a supporter of the war and later Secretary of State, said the United States bombed everything that moved in North Korea, every brick standing on top of another. After running low on urban targets, U.S. bombers destroyed hydroelectric and irrigation dams in the later stages of the war, flooding farmland and destroying crops.

In its three-year war on Korea, the U.S. is estimated to have killed 3 million people, approximately half of them civilians.

The Korean War is sometimes called the “forgotten war” in the U.S., but it is hard to imagine that North Koreas leadership has forgotten this calamity, or that it would allow it to happen again without a response.

Ben Norton is a reporter for AlterNet’s Grayzone Project. You can follow him on Twitter at @BenjaminNorton.

Max Blumenthal is a senior editor of the Grayzone Project atAlterNet, and the award-winning author of Goliath andRepublican Gomorrah. His most recent book isThe 51 Day War: Ruin and Resistance in Gaza.Follow him on Twitter at @MaxBlumenthal.

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Pundits Slam Trump’s Biblical Language on North Korea, But Praise His Defense Secretary’s Genocidal Threats – AlterNet

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August 10, 2017   Posted in: Max Blumenthal  Comments Closed

Bannon Ousted as Trump Huddles with Generals on Afghan War – Sputnik International

On today’s episode of Loud & Clear, Brian Becker is joined by human rights and labor lawyer Dan Kovalik, and Brian Terrell of Voice for Creative Non-Violence. Steve Bannon, White House chief strategist is out. His firing comes onthe day that Trump meets withthe generals todiscuss an escalation ofthe war inAfghanistan, a move which Bannon opposed. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been silent onhis friend Donald Trump’s comments defending the neo-Nazis who rallied and carried outa terrorist attack inCharlottesville last weekend. Brian is joined by Max Blumenthal, journalist and bestselling author, aswell asthe senior editor ofAlterNet’s Grayzone Project. A judge has ordered the deportation ofRasmea Odeh, a Palestinian activist who had her US citizenship taken away fromher. But despitethis injustice, the struggle fora free Palestine continues. Kristian Davis Bailey, the founder ofBlack4Palestine who was incourt yesterday withRasmea, joins the show. We’d love toget your feedback atradio@sputniknews.com

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August 21, 2017   Posted in: Max Blumenthal  Comments Closed

Chomsky’s ‘nostalgia’ and our own – Mondoweiss

This is part of Marc H. Elliss Exile and the Prophetic feature for Mondoweiss. To read the entire series visit the archive page. Charlottesville and white nationalism. Are the KKK and its neo-Nazi affiliates nostalgic for a world that may or may not have existed? Thinking of the past as better and to be brought back in the present is dangerous on many levels. Often those who want the past back are fooling themselves and others, too. In a very different matter the nostalgia question has recently been broached in relation to Noam Chomsky. With all his still-evident analytical powers, is Chomskys view of Israel tainted by his generations pull of a displaced people finding a haven in Palestine? Is Chomsky pining away for the Jewishly-inspired vision of Israel articulated by the founders of Israel in 1948? Chomsky is, as always, a force to be reckoned with. Just when you have explained him, or think you have, his arguments return in full glory. It may that we need Chomskys thought and the thought of others, too. A Hungarian-Israeli now living in America, using the pseudonym, Danaa Marec, thinks that Chomskys thought about Israel has more than a touch of nostalgia. She knows that nostalgia well. She had it, too, once upon a time. Marec is respectful of Chomsky, as she should be. Her questions about Chomsky are real ones, though mostly for the future. Marecs view of Chomsky and Israel opens up a fascinating terrain that Chomsky may or may not inhabit. Stated boldly, Marec suggests that Chomskys view of Israel is the romantic one he embraced in his younger years. Now, at eighty-eight years of age, Marec believes Chomsky is trapped there. Whether Chomskys Israel ever existed is debatable but Marecs main point is that such a view would color our vision of a possible solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. A nostalgic sense of Israels founding might render commentary on a possible solution of Israel and Palestine misleading, if not irrelevant. In Marecs view, Chomsky thinks Israel can be brought back to the founders vision if only the occupation of the West Bank and Jerusalem ends, with freedom for Gaza, in an internationally recognized two-state solution. This is why Chomsky is indifferent to BDS or against it his analysis goes back and forth on the subject. Or rather, this is why Chomsky seems adamant when discussing BDS, almost emotional, whereas keeping his cool on matters of justice is part of Chomskys famed repertoire. This is also why Chomsky continues to call on international law as the way forward and dismisses the issue of the return of Palestinian refugees as impossible and, thus, wrong to insist on. Marecs Chomsky is trapped in a time warp; the Israel she and others experience, whatever it once was, is nothing like Chomsky wants it to be. In any case, whatever it once was, Israel wont be returning to this vision. Israel and Israelis have gone too far. Though Marec doesnt spell it out in detail, she seems to view Israel much as Max Blumenthal does in his book, Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel.Blumenthals book was published before Israels latest and devastating invasion of Gaza. By all accounts, things in Israel have only become worse in the years since. Marec leaves her solution, if there is one, for another day. My own take on Chomsky is that you have to admire him for many reasons but listening to him on Israel as it has become is only piece of the puzzle. Though Marec doesnt address Chomskys America-centric view of Israel Israel can do little or nothing without American support I think this, too, needs further exploration. Chomskys basic America-centric view of the world has its merits; at times, though, it seems self-involved and myopic. In my view, America-centrism tends to diminish other international, state and local actors. This can become a self-fulfilling prophesy or at least a self-fulfilling rhetoric, as if all the world is America or America-less. Have I have made Chomsky-like nostalgia mistake in my writing, albeit from a different angle? Marec might think so. Being more than two decades younger than Chomsky, thus from a different generation, I didnt grow up with enthusiasm for Israels founders. I did live through the 1967 war and its effect on American Jewish identity. However, this was tempered by my university study of the Holocaust and my involvement in justice movements on the Lower East Side of New York City and in the projects of New Orleans, all in the 1970s. My travel among Palestinians in the early 1980s ended any lingering romance I might have had with Israel. Still, I never believed in international law as the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Nor do I think full equality, though desirable, is the issue, a case Robert Cohen forcefully argues in a recent, much circulated, speech. None of these nostalgia for Israels founding, international law or full equality are the way forward. Though I support BDS, I remain agnostic about its claims or its possibility for actual political success in ending the occupation. Instead, I have argued for some years that if BDS were successful it would more likely bring about an Israeli-Palestinian deal that allows direct Israeli occupation to morph into a quasi-autonomy for areas of Palestine. These Palestinians areas would be surrounded and controlled by Israeli power and other interventionist military and international monitoring forces. My take on Israel is different. I believe the foundational way to understand Israel is within the broad arc of Jewish history, especially in relation to the history of European Jews culminating in the Holocaust. Israel has little or no meaning outside of Jewish history and should be resolved within that context. I do believe that outside measures can and should be applied to make that internal resolution possible even to force it upon Israel. But it is obvious, as well, that the broader Jewish historical context I argue for has failed and will continue to fail. This means, in my view, that Israel is fated, Palestinians are fated and that Jewish ethical history is fated as well. By fated, I mean that over the next decades it is unlikely, if not impossible, to foresee any political constellation that brings us close to what many people involved in the plight of Israel-Palestine think is sensible, right and just. Is it best, then, to stay with Merecs sense of Chomskys nostalgia, that is hope against hope, even if that hope hardly existed? After all, the currently argued secular democratic one state solution has its own portion of nostalgia and thus is fated as well. In Jerusalem, as in Charlottesville, the struggle between nostalgia and reality is often confusing. We made need a little of both. History is like that sometimes. Often.

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August 21, 2017   Posted in: Max Blumenthal  Comments Closed

How Online Trolls Pushing for Regime Change in Syria Helped Popularize Trump’s Abusive Attack on the ‘Alt-Left’ – AlterNet

Photo Credit: Oriok / Shuttershock President Donald Trump has attempted to establish a false equivalence between neo-Nazis and the anti-fascist, anti-racist leftists who were most recently seen resisting white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia. To do so, Trump has branded the anti-fascists as the alt-left, repurposing a term that was first popularized not by Republicans or extreme right-wingers, but rather by liberals who loathe the left. Liberal websites have pointed the finger at prominent centrist Democrats for mainstreaming the alt-left smear to blame leftists for helping to elect President Donald Trump. But back in July and August 2016, well before influential neoliberals like Neera Tanden and Eric Garland were leveling the term against Bernie Sanders supporters, alt-left was the slur du jour of a collection of online trolls that had banded together to advance regime change in Syria. Members of this motley crew of interventionists used the term in systematic fashion to demonize the traditional anti-war left and anyone with leftist credentials who challenged U.S. State Department dogma on countries targeted for destabilization and overthrow, particularly Syria. Louis Allday, a PhD researcher at SOAS London, has detailed how interventionists trolls attempted to ruthlessly enforce the narrative on the Syrian war through online abuse and McCarthyite tactics of denigration. One of the key smears they rolled out in the summer of 2016, as the Syrian war reached its climax, has been weaponized by Trump to delegitimize leftists. In a stormy press conference August 16, Trump blamed what he called the “alt-left for provoking the violence that rocked Charlottesville during the Unite The Right right-wing march on the city on August 12. The rally ended with a white supremacist terror attack in which a neo-Nazi plowed his car into a crowd of anti-racist activists, killing demonstrator Heather Heyer and injuring 19 more. To be sure, there is no alt-left; it does not exist and no one on the left has laid claim to it. Alt-right is a brand conceived by white nationalist activist Richard Spencer to market racial supremacism in the world of digital media. Alt-left, on the other hand, is an insult that was popularized in mid-2016 partly by a coterie of pro-war or rather anti-anti-war figures who have fanatically clamored for regime change in Syria, Libya, Venezuela and beyond. All along, they have attempted to flaunt their own putative left-wing creds. These anti-anti-imperialist trolls have for years lobbied for regime change in Syria, just as they did with Libya before that, and have maligned socialists, communists and anarchists who oppose U.S. and NATO military intervention as alt-left in a deceitful attempt to conflate them with their mortal enemy on the alt-right. When members of this angry band of trolls cant confront their targets directly, they have smeared them through a series of anonymous blogs and social media accounts, often with false allegations and personal attacks. The following is an introduction to the collection of toxic Syria regime change trolls who helped popularize the term alt-left. Michael Weiss:Weiss is an influential neoconservative pundit and CNN analyst and one of the most vociferous Western supporters of the Islamist extremist-dominated Syrian opposition. AlterNet’s Max Blumenthal has published a lengthy investigation of Michael Weiss long record as a neocon operative, which include hosting an anti-Muslim rally that attracted support from far-right Islamophobia industry leader Pamela Geller. Charles Davis:A former right-wing libertarian turned anti-anti-imperialist who frequently writes articles and delivers grainy video rants condemning the anti-war left. He now works for ATTN, an online media startup that boasts arch-racist and Islamophobic HBO host Bill Maher as one of its top investors. Murtaza Hussain:A reporter at The Intercept who has long attacked anti-war journalists and consistently denied and downplayed U.S.-backed Gulf regimes support for extremist groups like ISIS and al-Qaeda. Hussain lobbed softball interviews at the spokesman of Syrias al-Qaeda affiliateand wrote a puff piece on Bilal Abdul Kareem, a top al-Qaeda propagandist in Syria whose services were similarly employed by CNN. Hussain used the term alt-left multiple times to disparage the anti-imperialist left before deleting all 40,000 of his tweets in Decembera bizarre move for an employee of a publication supposedly dedicated to transparency. Danny Gold:A former VICE reporter who has constantly attacked anti-war leftists. In Syria in 2013, Gold was embedded with the CIA-backed Free Syrian Army. Oz Katerji: An obsessively pro-war troll who openly supports regime change in Syria, as he did in Libya before that. Katerji has worked for Turkish state media. His attacks on the alt-left represent some of the earliest to systematically appear in social media. Muhammad Idrees Ahmad:A fanatical regime change troll who has viciously maligned and lied about anti-war journalists, Idrees Ahmad defended the Trump administrations bombing of Syrias Shayrat airbase in April. Before that, Idrees Ahmad was one of the leading cheerleaders for NATO-led regime change in Libya, which destroyed the oil-rich North African country and plunged it into chaos. A contributing editor at the Los Angeles Review of Books, Ahmad phoned AlterNet senior editor Max Blumenthal to threatenhim aboutthe planned publication of a two-part expos of the Syrian rebel-tied White Helmets organization. Shawn Carri: A pro-opposition American journalist who, like Oz Katerji, has worked for Turkish state media. He began consistently using the smear in August 2016. Pham Binh:A left-wing pro-war troll who has impersonated multiple people, including Syrian opposition figure George Sabra and, more recently under the name @_alhamra, an alleged female Palestinian Syrian sniper who supposedly uses the name Guevara. Cody Roche:An avowed Trotskyite pro-Syrian rebel blogger who has contributed to the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy-funded website Bellingcat. Ben Norton is a reporter for AlterNet’s Grayzone Project. You can follow him on Twitter at @BenjaminNorton.

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August 21, 2017   Posted in: Max Blumenthal  Comments Closed

US will remain in Syria for decades after ISIS defeated, Kurdish militia allies say – RT

One of Washingtons main allies in their fight against Islamic State in Syria says US forces will remain in the countrys north long after the jihadists are defeated. Enduring ties with the Kurdish dominated region is said to be a goal of the US. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a US-backed alliance of militias dominated by the Kurdish YPG, also known as the Peoples Protection Unit, are under the impression that the US has a strategic interest in staying in the region, SDF spokesman Talal Silo told Reuters. Read more They have a strategy policy for decades to come. There will be military, economic and political agreements in the long term between the leadership of the northern areas (of Syria) and the US administration, Silo said. Washington has supported the YPG, a homegrown defense force in the Kurdish area of Syria, with equipment and airstrikes. However, the YPG is closely linked to the Kurdish Workers Party, or PKK, which is deemed a terrorist organization by Turkey, another US ally. Last month, the head of the YPG said the US had established seven military bases in areas of northern Syria controlled by the SDF or YPG. This includes a major airbase near Kobani, a town that borders Turkey. They have also supported the SDF with artillery, airstrikes and special forces on the ground. Colonel Ryan Dillon, a spokesman for the coalition, was asked by Reuters about long term strategy, but he directed that question to the Pentagon. He did mention, though, that there is still a lot of fighting to do, even after ISIS has been defeated in Raqqa. Dillon also stated that Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) has remained in strongholds along the Euphrates River Valley, a reference to its stronghold in Deir ez-Zor province, southeast of Raqqa. Our mission… is to defeat ISIS in designated areas of Iraq and Syria and to set conditions for follow-on operations to increase regional stability, Dillon said, Reuters reported. In Washington, Eric Pahon, a Pentagon spokesman said: The Department of Defense does not discuss timelines for future operations. However we remain committed to the destruction of ISIS and preventing its return. The SDF and YPG dominate an uninterrupted 250-mile (400km) stretch of the Syrian-Turkish border. Kurdish-led independent administrations have taken control since the start of the Syrian conflict in 2011. Washington’s alliance with the YPG and SDF is a major point of contention between the US and Turkey. Ankara sees the YPG as an extension of the PKK, which has been waging a three-decade insurgency in Turkey. Under President Donald Trump, the US started to distribute arms to the YPG in March, before the final assault on Raqqa city. This infuriated Turkey, which has thus far unsuccessfully lobbied Washington to cut ties with the SDF. READ MORE: Tillerson calls out Turkey, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia & Iran over religious freedom The SDF spokesman explained what he believes the US presence in this region will ultimately lead to. The Americans have strategic interests here after the end of Daesh, Silo said, using the Arabic pejorative term for IS. They (recently) referred to the possibility of securing an area to prepare for a military airport. These are the beginnings they’re not giving support just to leave. America is not providing all this support for free, Silo said, according to Reuters. Maybe there could be an alternative to their base in Turkey, he said, in reference to the Incirlik Air Base. Author and journalist Max Blumenthal told RT America that fighting IS is but a pretext for the US to extend its influence in Syria. [The] US has clearly benefited from a long standing project of destabilizing Syria,Blumenthal said. The decision to fight ISIS in this areawas simply a pretext for establishing US influence. The coalition said it does not discuss the location of its forces because of operational security. Even though SDF forces are optimistic about a continued US presence in the region, there is concern that Washington wont provide enough support to YPG-allied forces and civil councils controlling northeast Syria. We’re constantly asking them for clear, public political support,Silo said. Silo also said that SDF forces held their first public meeting with US State Department officials this month.At the moment there are no meetings being held for a real discussion of Syria’s future. There are initiatives for developing political support for our forces, but we hope this will be bigger. The government in Damascus maintains that the presence of any US troops on Syrian soil is against international law, as they were never invited by the Syrians or authorized by the UN. Any foreign troops coming to Syria without our invitation or consultation or permission, they are invaders, whether they are American, Turkish, or any other one, President Bashar Assad told the Chinese PHOENIX TV in March.

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August 21, 2017   Posted in: Max Blumenthal  Comments Closed

Behind the headlines in Charlottesville (E541) – RT

Tyrel Ventura & Sean Stone take a look at the tragic violence that surrounded a far-right rally in Charlottesville, VA. RTs Natasha Sweatte reports on how the local community is responding. Redacted Tonights Lee Camp joins the show to share his experience as a first-hand observer of the weekends violence. Max Blumenthal, senior editor at AlterNet, shares his perspective on the political blame-game ensuing from the violence and the roots of this crisis of hatred. Check us out on Facebook: http://fb.me/WatchingTheHawks Follow us @ https://instagram.com/watchingthehawks/ http://twitter.com/WatchingTyrel http://twitter.com/WatchingTabetha https://twitter.com/watchingsean

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August 16, 2017   Posted in: Max Blumenthal  Comments Closed

Marriage of Convenience? Liberals and the Intelligence Community Come Together Over the Russia Connection – Lawfare (blog)

As Americans gathered to watch James Comey testify before the Senate Intelligence Committee, a meme emerged on certain corners of the left-leaning internet: people had a crush on the former FBI director. It was his patriotism, his scrupulousness, his integrity that did it. Get you a man who loves you like [C]omey loves the FBI, wrote one commenter. Is COMEY attractive? asked another. Declared one: Comey should be the next Bachelor. The trend may have started with Comey, but it hasnt ended with him. Earlier this month, Vogue reported that special counsel Robert Mueller, too, has been transformed into an unlikely object of adoration. The point of these outbursts of affectionwhatever level of queasiness or amusement they might inspireis not actually that anyone finds the former FBI director or the special counsel attractive. In the odd parlance of the internet, this kind of language is a way to express intense emotional involvement with an issue. Half-jokingly and with some degree of self-awareness, the many people who profess their admiration are projecting their swirling anxiety and anticipation over the Russia investigation and the fate of the Trump presidency onto Mueller and Comey. Facetious admissions of crushes are only one manifestation of this emotional entanglement. Benjamin Wittes, who has been open about his friendship with Comey, has told me that his Twitter feed and email inbox have been flooded with expressions of support and appreciationfor the former FBI director. But even among the presidents most aggressive opponents on the left, the admiration is far from universal. As the Democratic Party and more radical lefties grapple with the new shape of politics under the Trump administration, one of the fiercest debates has focused on how to approach the Russia investigation: whether its an effective means by which to oppose the president and a worthwhile focus for the emotional energy of those adrift in Trumps America or whether its not. The FBI Is Not Your Friend, ran a headline in the far-left Jacobin magazine following Comeys firing. This is going to be the Democrats version of the Benghazi hearings, wrote a despondent commenter on a forum for fans of the popular left-wing podcast, Chapo Trap House, the day Comey testified. If the major story in the intellectual life of the nation over the past year has been the ideological chaos that has engulfed Americans to the right of center under Trump, the American left has its own story of chaos as well. There are a number of different American lefts. And while some have embraced the Russia investigation, others remain deeply skeptical of the investigations likelihood of success or even of its meritsometimes to the point of active hostility. The story of the American left under Trump, as in the larger story, is one of bifurcation and polarization. Its a story of a profound emerging divide over the role of patriotism and the intelligence community in the lefts political life. To put the matter simply, some on the left are actively revisiting their long-held distrust of the security organs of the American state; and some are rebelling against that rapprochement. *** The divide within the left on the question of the Russia investigation is hard to pin down precisely, because the left, like any broad political current, is diverse. But it runs roughly along the same line as that which more generally splits the harder leftwhich is sharply critical of capitalism and existing institutions more broadlyfrom the center-left, which is more comfortable with the market and tends to advocate more incrementalist solutions to societal problems. To be sure, the center left is itself divided on how much energy to devote to Russia. Politico reported recently that Democrats are becoming nervous that an over-focus on the Russia probe to the detriment of bread-and-butter economic issues may harm their chances in the upcoming 2018 election. Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) has been a major voice for this view within Congress, going so far as to call the probe a distraction and suggesting that regular folks care about jobs, wages, schools over LAffaire Russe. A growing group of those on the center-left agree with Murphy: Russia is important, they argue, but shouldnt be allowed to distract focus from more pressing issues at hand. During the recent debate over the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, reminders from prominent voices not to forget about the health care debate amidst the constant stream of news about Russia often took the tone of a parent reminding a child to eat their vegetables before turning to dessert. In a typical example, the former Obama aides of the popular Pod Save America podcast expressed concern that theyd allowed the shows discussion of Russia to outpace its healh care coverageeven though, they admitted, the pod receives greater traffic when Russia is in the news. But there are also those on the center-left who consider LAffaire Russe to be a matter of predominant importance. They tend to be less affiliated with the institutional Democratic Party and more in the camp of concerned citizens voicing their anxieties online. They are also more likely to express love or admiration for James Comey or Robert Mueller and use language like patriot and treason. Much has been written about the phenomenon of anti-Trump misinformation spreading virally on Twitter and elsewhere, where participants tend to view the Russia investigation as a master narrative of the Trump administration subsuming all other concerns. This approachheavy on the conspiratorial implications, light on substanceisnt shared by all those who prioritize the Russia investigation, though it has certainly drawn the most attention. The broad point, however, is that within the center-left, the question of the Trump-Russia scandal is a question of emphasis relative to other priorities. Its importance, not to mention the reality of a serious problem, is on its own terms largely accepted. This is not the case further to the left, where for a variety of reasons, many commentators believe the matter warrants no energy or attention at alland some even spend energy emphasizing how little attention and energy it warrants. The most common reason is agreement with an extreme version of Senator Murphys belief that the investigation is a distraction from policy debates. While mainstream Democratic hosts of Pod Save America took an apologetic tone in suggesting to their listeners that focusing on health care might be a better use of their time than tracking Muellers movements, the hosts of the Chapo Trap House podcast actively dismiss those who closely follow the latest news on Russia. The Chapo team is happy to acknowledge that there may well be something to these ongoing investigations; they just dont really care. I find it amusing and am for anything that stitches up Trump and Republicans, said Chapo host Will Menaker after Comeys firing, but I cant muster anything too substantial to say about it. The other hosts exploded with mockery of the Twitter users who expressed admiration for Comey. The former FBI director was probably the greatest patriot of all time, of any country, and the new leader of the resistance, host Felix Biederman declared sarcastically. Some writers take a more actively hostile attitude. The Intercepts Glenn Greenwald and numerous writers at The Nation have described the public focus on the investigation as a revived McCarthyism or Kremlin-baiting, with Americans newly suspicious of even benign connections to Russia. In this view, whether or not there is substance to the Russia investigation, the political and media reaction to the available facts has been unduly hysterical; Americans are primarily reacting not to the news itself, but to their prejudices against Russia. A small minority even goes so far as to deny even widely accepted, publicly available information, such as Russias involvement in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee or even whether the DNC was hacked at all. The legacy of the Cold War is hard to disentangle from this position. Within the pages of The Nation, Stephen Cohen, Victor Navasky, and Patrick Lawrence have made the case that Americans McCarthyite paranoia is pushing the country closer and closer to a dangerous and unnecessary confrontation with Russia. Others, including Greenwald, activist Max Blumenthal, and Noam Chomsky have voiced similar concerns over rising tensions between Washington and the Kremlin over election interference. Their worries are strikingly similar to those voiced by American leftists advocating against a confrontational posture toward the Soviet Union. Its one of the few decent things Trump has been doing, Noam Chomsky said of the alleged contacts between Trump associates and representatives of the Russian government. As Peter Beinart has written in the Atlantic, these thinkers loathe Trump but they loathe hawkish foreign policy moreand they see the Russia investigation as a tool of that familiar imperialism. To a limited extent, there is probably also an affirmative pull toward the Kremlin in particular. Paul Berman, who has written extensively on the intellectual life of the left, described this as to me as a living sympathy as a result of the long shadow of the Cold War and despite Vladimir Putins shift toward far-right government. Some of the writers in question, after all, took the extreme dovish position with respect to the Soviet Union in its day as well. There is some justification in pointing to sloppy reporting in the American press on Russia and more widespread misunderstandings of the Russian government within the United States: Joshua Yaffa has extensively discussed the tendencies of American journalists to assume an unrealistic level of organization and strategic coherence in the Kremlins activities. But these critics on the left are apt to jump from instances of journalistic exaggerationeven errorsto the conclusion that there is little to the Russia story at all, despite the mounting volume of evidence that, at a minimum, the Russians actively intervened in the election and had a variety of relationships with people involved in the Trump campaign. Similarly, these leftist critics often blur the line between their skepticism of fevered speculation and the increasing pile of substantive and unrebutted reporting on the subject in order to cast doubt on even the reputable journalism on the matter. Theres another stream of thought too, from voices who tend to be younger and more focused on left-wing domestic policy, rather than Cold War-inflected foreign policypeople whose formative political experience dates to the Iraq War, rather than anything to do with the Soviet Union. This stream tends toward isolationism. These commentators are deeply skepticaleven hostileto aggressive U.S. actions toward Russia in response to election interference, such as the recent sanctions legislation, because they are hostile to confrontations overseas in general. Many (including me) assumed that [Clinton] was going to win and get us mired deeper in Syria as a component of a proxy war against Russia, David Klion, a freelance journalist who writes about U.S.-Russia relations, wrote to me. And so we were prepared to advocate against that, and when people who would have wanted [intervention] lead the Russia charge, some see them as warmongers. Instead of an affinity toward Russia or a rejection of U.S. activities abroad, this group is motivated primarily by domestic politics, particularly by a desire to shape the future direction of the Democratic Party. There is a strong sense that Hillary Clintons electoral defeat represented a failure of centrist liberalism and an opportunity for those further to the leftmany of whom supported Bernie Sanders during the Democratic primaryto recreate the party in their image. In a fashion that sounds a lot like Trump himself, these commentators argue that Democratic politicians focus on the Russia investigation is a cop-out, a means by which to insist that the Kremlin, and not the moral emptiness of center-left liberalism in America, lost Clinton the election. [F]ixating on Russia allows establishment Democrats to avoid asking any hard questions about why Hillary Clinton lost, writer and activist Chip Gibbons argued in Jacobin. The Russia framing helps them justify staying the course rather than finding fault with the party [which] is fundamentally a capitalist one with deep ties to Wall Street. These factors have pushed both wings of the hard leftthose concerned over supposed McCarthyism and for a soft line on Russia and those advocating for a redirection of the Democratic Party domesticallyaway from any kind of enthusiasm for the Russia investigation. But these arguments have taken place against the backdrop of a much greater and more visible embrace of the investigation on the part of the center-leftand a concurrent embrace by many center-left commentators of actively patriotic vocabulary that is traditionally the province of the right, along with a skepticism about Russia that has not been in fashion in Democratic circles since the Scoop Jackson wing of the party bolted. As Trump has attacked and belittled the intelligence communitys assessment of Russian election interference, the center-left has embraced not only the report but also the intelligence community itself. And it has done so with the kind of sudden and intense affection that leads Vogue to run an article on Robert Mueller as Americas new crush. *** Prior to the Trump presidency, left of center Americans tended to hold the intelligence community at arms length. Revelations of government misconduct in the Watergate and Vietnam eras still cast a long shadowespecially given that a significant portion of this misconduct was directed toward the left in the first place. The Snowden disclosures only exacerbated the distrust of those not reassured by what Jack Goldsmith and Benjamin Wittes have described as the grand bargain of increased intelligence oversight in response to the overreaches of Watergate and COINTELPRO. On the other side of the political spectrum, Americans on the rightthough not always the libertarian righthave tended to regard the intelligence community as a crucial component of the countrys national security apparatus. Political leaders of the center-left always had a quiet peace with the national security apparatus. But the peace was a quiet one, generally speaking, one without overly demonstrative displays of affection or support. Trump has flipped this dynamic. His sustained antagonism to what his allies call the deep state has generated the odd spectacle of a Republican White House and its allies engaging in partisan attacks on the intelligence community while Democratic politicians gain political points for defending it. Yes, there are exceptions: Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) has shown no sign of letting up in his critique of the governments use of FISA Section 702, for example, though he has aggressively pursued the Russia investigation in his public appearances on the Senate Intelligence Committee. But broadly speaking, the center-left these days sounds a lot like the mainstream right of the last few decades before Trump came along: hawkish towards Russia and enthusiastic about the U.S. intelligence apparatus as one of the countrys key lines of defense. And the mainstream right sounds a lot like the center-left on the subjectwhich is to say very quiet. This new posture for the center-left, to some degree anyway, has politicians speaking the language of the intelligence world: the language of active patriotism. Testifying before the House Intelligence Committee on Russian election interference a month before his firing, Comey declared: I truly believe we are a shining city on a hill, to quote a great American. And one of the things we radiate to the world is the importance of our wonderful, often messy, but free and fair democratic system. In a previous world, many left-of-center hearts might have been unmoved by Comeys sincerity and deliberateness in praising the unique power of American democracy; he was, after all, quoting Reagan. But with the center-left newly admiring of Comey following his dismissal, this sort of language seems suddenly normal and attractive to left-of-center communities. But this embrace both of the national security state and of demonstrative expressions of uncomplicated love of country is profoundly unappealing to the harder left, which has not abandoned the suspicion of the both America as a project and its intelligence services. Whether because of Cold War-inflected, foreign policy-focused anxieties or the domestic policy-focused concerns of the younger lefties, the harder left resists remains skeptical of the idea of American goodness at home or abroadand that makes the embrace of patriotism hard. For these analysts, and particularly among younger leftists, whose politics are steeped in ironic detachment (the Chapo podcast has been dubbed emblematic of a new ironic left), Comeys case for the importance of protecting American democracy as Reagans shining city on the hill reads as naive at best and shamefully hypocritical at worst. Hacking emails and supporting parties? This is stuff we do to [Russia], and have done to them for decades, and still continue to do, Greenwald argued recently in an interview with Slates Isaac Chotiner. This burst of righteous indignation [in response to Russian election interference] would be easier to swallow if the United States had not itself made a chronic habit of interfering in foreign elections, Stephen Kinzer argued in the Boston Globe, citing a variety of covert action campaigns undertaken by the intelligence community. (Kinzer had previously written that we should drop our Cold War hostility and work with Russia to assist the Assad regime in Syria.) Some writers have voiced concerns that the intelligence community is engaged in an antidemocratic effort to undermine the Trump administration using what Greenwald calls classic Cold War dirty tactics. Mark my words, Max Blumenthal said recently on Fox News host Tucker Carlsons show, when Trump is gone this Russia hysteria will be repurposed by the political establishment to attack the left and anyone on the left. If the Cold War looms over this conversation, so too does the war in Iraq. Those on the left are deeply skeptical of Never Trump voices on the right, many of whose most prominent members are linked to the George W. Bush administration and the push to topple Saddam Hussein. American leftists have watched with trepidation as an uneasy alliance has emerged in recent months between the center-left and those who have held firm on the Never Trump right, which many see as an irresponsible rehabilitation by the center-left of neoconservatives responsible for the Iraq War. To some extent, this stems from a discomfort with hawkishness on either side of the political spectrum and a particular discomfort with hawkish language used against Russia from both left and right. But there is also a strong belief on the left that Trump is the responsibility of the Republican Party and should be treated as such: not an anomaly but nothing more or less egregious than the GOPs natural standard-bearer. Attacking Trump on the basis of the Russia Connection is fundamentally misguided, in this argument, because it leaves the rest of the partyincluding Never Trumpers who have since distanced themselves from the institutional GOPuntouched. The thing that annoys me about all of this constitutional crisis stuff is that the crisis is the Republican Party, Menaker exclaimed on Chapo Trap House immediately following James Comeys firing. The crisis is right-wing governance in America. Emmett Rensin has made this point extensively in the left-leaning new media outlet The Outline, writing, For the masters of the American empire [Trumps] cardinal sin … is only being so stupid and malicious that he might crash the whole long con into the ground. In the end, both the center-left and those further to the left are reacting less to the work of Robert Mueller and the House and Senate Intelligence Committees than to the set of images and concepts that have come to stand in for the investigations in the public mind. The concepts associated with the investigations in the minds of those who invest hope in thempatriotism, the bravery and integrity of the intelligence community, and the restoration of the American projectcut against the grain of the hard lefts sense of self. *** As with so many things about our current era, the question is whether and how the dramatic changes Donald Trump has wrought will continue outside the very specific context of his presidency. We might find that this realignment of the center-left toward the intelligence community falls apart as soon as real policy stakes are on the table once again. The work of the intelligence community, after all, is far larger than LAffaire Russe, which is one of the reasons Trumps attacks on it are so troubling. Mainstream Democrats have not yet had to place their newfound alliance with the intelligence community in the context of the host of policy issues on which theyve historically had anxieties about intelligence community authorities. The looming reauthorization of Section 702 in December 2017 will serve as an interesting test case here given the discomfort with which many on the center-left view large-scale surveillance. Alternately, perhaps the center-lefts realignment will hold through the rest of the Trump administration as the Russia investigation continues and as the left and center-left dig in on their newly different approaches to opposing the president. Policy concerns may play second fiddle to resistance understood more broadly; in fact, thats exactly what concerns those on the left who criticize the center-lefts new bedfellows. After the Trump presidency draws to a close, those closer to the center may drift back closer to those on the further left in terms of their distaste for the language of patriotism and the countys hard-power agencies. The final possibility, however, is that this is a more lasting shift with implications beyond Trump and his presidency: a sea change in how the center-left relates to the intelligence community and a deeper cleavage between the hard left and center-left on national security. This strikes me as the least likely scenario but also the most interesting. It would, of course, be one of the great ironies of Trumps tenure if one of its lasting intellectual impacts were a rediscovery on the part of the mainstream left of the dangers posed byRussia and the need for strong and capable intelligence agencies. But there is something troubling to this possibility as well. Several times, Lawfares own handmaiden of power Benjamin Wittes has cautioned his newfound admirers on the left that they will find plenty to dislike about him for once the sturm und drang of the Trump administration has passed. Theres solace in this idea: the notion that this, too, shall pass and well return to the world we knew before, when our main disagreements were about things like the appropriate scope of surveillance authorities and the Authorization for the Use of Military Force. On the other hand, if this shift in alignment of the center-left endures and those disageements fail to reemerge, then our previous worldwhatever its irrationalities and failureswill be gone, in some small way, for good. Whatever the merits of a permanent change in the center-lefts attitude toward the intelligence community, it is also discomfiting to think that Trumps most egregious excesses might have such lasting power over the intellectual life of the nation.

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August 16, 2017   Posted in: Max Blumenthal  Comments Closed

Until Gaza Is Free Israel Will Never Be Free – Sputnik International

The abandonment of 1.8 million men, women, and children to their fate in Gaza by the so-called international community is one of the most grievous moral outrages of our time. Let us not mince words: Gaza in2017 is a vast open air prison whose inmates have committed no crime or transgression other thanthat ofbeing Palestinians who dare assert the right toself-determination onland that has long been coveted byan oppressor whose flagrant disregard forinternational law and human rights is beyonddispute. Since 2007 the Gaza Strip comprising a narrow stretch ofland which hugs the eastern Mediterranean Coast, and which at40km long and 12km (at its widest point) is one ofthe most densely populated parts ofthe world has existed ina state ofunyielding siege and blockade. Nothing can enter or leave viaits Erez border crossing withIsrael tothe north, or its Rafah border crossing withEgypt tothe south, withoutthe consent ofthe Israeli authorities inagreement withtheir Egyptian counterparts. A 2017 UN report intoliving conditions inGaza confirms that “on the ground, life forthe average Palestinian inGaza is getting more and more wretched. This year electricity is the most visible deterioration inthe living conditions inGaza butit comes ontop ofa host ofother chronic and acute problems that have become part of ‘normal’ life. An 11-year-old child has not experienced more than12 hours ofelectricity ina single day inhis/her lifetime. No one remembers a time inrecent memory when drinkable water reliably appeared outof the tap. Memories ofease ofmovement inand outof the Strip are also increasingly distant.” Meanwhile, according toa recent Amnesty International report, “Israel’s military blockade ofthe Gaza Strip [has] entered its 10th year, continuing the collective punishment ofGaza’s entire population.” It also cites the fact that the Israelis maintain a “buffer zone” insidethe Strip and have used “live fire and other weapons againstPalestinians who entered or approached it.” Writer and journalist Max Blumenthal described his own experience ofentering Gaza and passing throughthis buffer zone ina 2015 interview withfellow journalist Glenn Greenwald. “You wander downa long corridor, which is a cage,” Blumenthal recalled, “and then you arrive ata metal door ata concrete wall. The metal door opens, it shuts behindyou, and you’re insidewhat is effectively a walled-off ghetto.” AFP 2017/ Mahmud Hams Palestinian children look through a hole in a sheet metal fence outside their home in a poor neighbourhood in Gaza City He goes on: “You look downthis endless wall, toyour right, and you see a remote-controlled machine gun perched onthe wall. That’s the spot and strike system, which is operated byan all-female unit ofIsraeli soldiers inthe Negev Desert, tens ofkilometers away, byremote. And what they do is, they watch the buffer zone this 300 [meter] area that Palestinians are forbidden fromentering insidethe Gaza Strip. And anyone who enters who they determine tobe a ‘terrorist,’ they eliminate withthe push ofa joystick button froma remote-controlled machine gun. It’s just that dystopian.” Punctuating this daily lived experience ofmisery forthe Palestinians ofGaza are regular Israeli attacks fromland, sea, and air, which are tantamount towar crimes given that due tothe lack ofspace inthe Strip they are indiscriminate and regularly result inthe massacre ofcivilians. And this is withouttaking intoaccount the two full-scale military assaults unleashed bythe Israelis onGaza Operation Cast Lead in2008-09, and Operation Protective Edge in2014 inwhich thousands ofcivilians were killed and maimed, many ofthem children. AP Photo/ Adel Hana Mohammed Keferna, 14, sits on a couch in his family’s building that was damaged by Israeli strikes during last summer’s Israel-Hamas war, in Beit Hanoun, northern Gaza Strip, Friday, Jan. 30, 2015 The burning question is why, inthe face ofsuch damning evidence, Israel has been able toget away withcommitting such grievous crimes againstthe people ofGaza forso long? The answer is that forfar too long the application and enforcement ofinternational law has been less todo withjustice and more todo withpower or a given state’s relationship topower. Israel’s geostrategic importance tothe United States and its European allies has allowed it free rein inits brutal repression ofthe Palestinian people, both inthe Gaza Strip and acrossthe Occupied Territories ofthe West Bank and East Jerusalem. It is afforded a level ofgeopolitical and diplomatic support that no other state engaged insuch wanton crimes againsthumanity would enjoy, thus exposing the moral bankruptcy ofthe US and those European governments which continue todeny not only the righteousness ofthe Palestinian struggle forjustice buttheir status asvictims ofa continuing monstrous injustice. AP Photo/ Tsafrir Abayov In this Sunday, March 26, 2017 photo, Palestinian residents of Gaza strip wait on the Israeli side of the Erez terminal to cross to Gaza Strip In defending its apparatus ofrepression which includes apartheid, ethnic cleansing, siege, torture, arbitrary detention withouttrial, and violence the word “terrorism” is consistently invoked. When it comes toGaza specifically, the Israelis cite the existence and actions ofHamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, asa threat toits security and the security ofits citizens, specifically those living inIsraeli towns adjacent toGaza. While there is no gainsaying the fact that attacks unleashed againstIsraeli civilians byHamas are indefensible, they are not incomprehensible given the severity ofthe occupation. What Israel and its supporters are careful toelide when it comes toHamas is the salient fact that the Islamist group is a product ofthis occupation, which has lasted since1967 and shows no evidence ofending. REUTERS/ Ibraheem Abu Mustafa Palestinian protesters hurl stones at Israeli troops following a protest against the blockade on Gaza, near the border between Israel and Central Gaza Strip May 19, 2017 Prison imprisons the guards asmuch asit does the inmates, and the chains that bind the Palestinians also bind their oppressors. It is hard toimagine that onany given day the word “Palestine” or “Palestinian” does not intrude onthe consciousness ofpeople living inIsrael, reminding them ofa people who remain unbowed, despitetheir miserable condition, just a few miles fromthe affluence they themselves have long taken forgranted. Hatred ofothers is the handmaiden ofhatred ofself, and untilGaza and the rest ofPalestine is free Israel will never be free. The views expressed inthis article are solely those oftheauthorand do not necessarily reflect the official position ofSputnik. Check outJohn’s Sputnik radio show,Hard Facts.

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August 16, 2017   Posted in: Max Blumenthal  Comments Closed

Pundits Slam Trump’s Biblical Language On North Korea, But Praise His Defense Secretary’s Genocidal Threats – The National Memo (blog)

Reprinted with permission from AlterNet. President Donald Trumps pledge to punish North Korea with fire, fury and frankly, power, the likes of which this world has never seen before triggered outrage from pundits and lawmakers across the political spectrum. The outrage over his apparent threat to annihilate North Korea, possibly with nuclear arms, prompted his advisors to insist that Trumps comments wereimprovised. When Defense Secretary James Mattis followed up with another belligerent statement, warning of the end of [North Koreas] regime and the destruction of its people, the reaction from Washingtons political class was entirely different. Though Mattis was nicknamed Mad Dog for his role in razing thecity of Fallujahduring the U.S. occupation of Iraq in 2004, pundits have rebranded him one of the adults in the White House part of a class of sober-minded ex-generals appointed to rein in Trumps divisive America First agenda. CNN correspondent Dan Merica cast Mattis warning to oversee the mass slaughter of North Koreas civilian population as a tough statement. This framing was echoed by Barbara Starr, the CNN Pentagon correspondent who serves as an enthusiastic stenographer for the Defense Department. Starr called Mattis rhetoric very tough talk and a dire warning to North Korea. Self-described GOP media guy Rick Wilson, a veteran Republican consultant popular among liberals for his vehement criticism of Trump, applauded Mattis language, tweeting, This is how you phrase it, not biblical-level chest beating. Perhaps the most bizarre response to Mattis statement came Washington Post national security reporter Dan Lamothe, who described it as a call for de-escalation. The leak that triggered the threats Both genocidal threats from Trump and Mattis were triggered by a confidential Defense Intelligence Agency assessmentleaked to the Washington Postclaiming that North Korea has cross[ed] a key threshold on the path to becoming a full-fledged nuclear power. The unverified analysis claimed that 60 nuclear weapons are now controlled by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Tim Shorrock, a veteran investigative journalist who has focused on Korean issues for several decades, was skeptical about the DIA leak. Im a little surprised by this report because for one thing its clearly not the collective conclusion of the intelligence community. Its someone in the DIA and theres no real analysis of what it is They just say it has this miniature warhead and they can now put on an ICBM, hesaidto Aaron Mate of the Real News Network. Shorrock also questioned the timing of the leak: Well, theyve said that before in years past, it hasnt been proven to be true, and Im wondering why this is coming out right now. That seems very dangerous on the face of it. Someone within the intelligence community is pushing for a military response by leaking this report. Turning the aggressor into the victim The Trump administrations threats were most immediately prompted by the DIAs leak, but were also an undeniable response to a months-long campaign by corporate media to drum up fears of a North Korean attack on the American homeland. On August 2, CNNs Jake Tapper hypedunfounded fearsthat North Korean missile tests threatened passenger planes from the West. Every day were getting starting details about North Koreas military ambitions which seem to be proceeding at an increasingly rapid clip. Its unclear with the Trump administrations strategy is to stop the Kim Jong Un regime, Tapper declared as he introduced a segment on the supposed threat to civilian airliners. The segment featured special graphics created by CNN that showed an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launched from North Korea striking California. While CNN correspondent Barbara Starr acknowledged that no North Korean missile test came anywhere close to downing a passenger plane, CNNs chyron read: North Korea missile tests could endanger passenger planes. Since Trump threatened fire and fury on North Korea, mainstream media has portrayed the government of DPRK as the sole aggressor. The August 9front page of theWall Street Journalframed the presidents warning with the headline, Trump Warns North Korea: Stop Threats. Though Trumps choice of language might have been alarming, his threats were part of a grand bipartisan tradition. Former President Barack Obama threatened the DPRK with destruction in 2016. We could, obviously, destroy North Korea with our arsenals,Obamasaid, while conceding that the DPRK posed relatively low level threats. What is rarely acknowledged is that North Koreas weapons production is strictly defensive, not offensive. North Koreanspokespeoplehave expressly pointed to countries that have been destroyed in U.S. military attacks, noting, Nothing will be more foolish if the United States thinks it can deal with us the way it treated Iraq and Libya, miserable victims of its aggression, and Syria, which did not respond immediately even after it was attacked. Even Dan Coats, the Director of National Intelligence, hasacknowledgedthat Kim is a rational actor. Coat conceded that Kims decision-making process was influenced by watching Muammar Gaddafi be butchered by U.S.-led forces after willingly ending his nuclear ambitions. The lessons that we learned out of Libya giving up its nukesis, unfortunately, if you had nukes, never give them up. If you dont have them, get them, Coats said at the Aspen Security Forum this year. Coats concluded that for Kim, there is some rationale backing his actions which are survival, survival for his regime, survival for his country, and he has watched I think what has happened around the world relative to nations that possess nuclear capabilities and the leverage they have and seen that having the nuclear card in your pocket results in a lot of deterrence capability. The U.S. is the only country in the world that has ever dropped a nuclear bomb on a civilian population (twice). The U.S. War DepartmentsStrategic Bombing Surveyacknowledged, Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated. Some historians note that the U.S. nuking of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which incinerated hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians, was not necessary to end the war, but rather was a warning sign to theSoviet Unionand could be seen as the first act of the Cold War. Fake news on North Korea The Western media is notorious for spreading ridiculous myths about North Korea; among them, that the country discovered evidence ofunicorns, that all North Koreans are forced to get the samehaircut, and that leader Kim Jong-un killed his uncle by feeding him to a pack ofdogs. The former Washington Post punditMax Fisher, now at the New York Times,falselyreported that the DPRK distributed copies of Adolf Hitlers manifestoMein Kampfto leaders. And former Wired reporterSpencer Ackerman, now a national security reporter at the Daily Beast, wrongly portrayed an obvious spoof video made by a Westerner as official North Korean propaganda. Accompanying much of the distortion-laden discussion of North Korea is an extreme dehumanization of the more than 25 million people who live there, who are often portrayed as mindlessly following the orders of their cartoon villain leaders. U.S. crimes against humanity Also conspicuously absent from media reports is any context or history for North Koreas actions. Just over 60 years ago, the U.S. waged what was essentially a genocidal war against Korea, in which it murdered millions of people. As the InterceptsMehdi Hasannoted, The madman with nuclear weapons is Donald Trump, not Kim Jong-un. While some Western media reports and intelligence officials may acknowledge that North Korea does indeed act rationally and that Donald Trump is personally erratic to a dangerous degree they still gloss over the impact of U.S. atrocities committed during the Korean War. Over a period of three years or so, we killed off what 20 percent of the population, said Air Force General Curtis LeMay, who led the Strategic Air Command during the Korean War. JournalistBlaine Hardenreported this in a Washington Post op-ed titled The U.S. war crime North Korea wont forget. Harden explained, Dean Rusk, a supporter of the war and later Secretary of State, said the United States bombed everything that moved in North Korea, every brick standing on top of another. After running low on urban targets, U.S. bombers destroyed hydroelectric and irrigation dams in the later stages of the war, flooding farmland and destroying crops. In its three-year war on Korea, the U.S. is estimated to have killed3 million people, approximately half of them civilians. The Korean War is sometimes called the forgotten war in the U.S., but it is hard to imagine that North Koreas leadership has forgotten this calamity, or that it would allow it to happen again without a response. Ben Norton is a reporter for AlterNets Grayzone Project. You can follow him on Twitter at@BenjaminNorton. Max Blumenthal is a senior editor of theGrayzone ProjectatAlterNet,and the award-winning author ofGoliathandRepublican Gomorrah. His most recent book isThe 51 Day War: Ruin and Resistance in Gaza.Follow him on Twitter at@MaxBlumenthal.

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August 13, 2017   Posted in: Max Blumenthal  Comments Closed

Pundits Slam Trump’s Biblical Language on North Korea, But Praise His Defense Secretary’s Genocidal Threats – AlterNet

North Korean soldiers placard at the military parade in Pyongyang. Pyongyang, North Korea, July 2013. Photo Credit: Astrelok President Donald Trumps pledge to punish North Korea with fire, fury and frankly, power, the likes of which this world has never seen before triggered outrage from pundits and lawmakers across the political spectrum. The outrage over his apparent threat to annihilate North Korea, possibly with nuclear arms, prompted his advisors to insist that Trumps comments wereimprovised. When Defense Secretary James Mattis followed up with another belligerent statement, warning of “the end of [North Koreas] regime and the destruction of its people, the reaction from Washingtons political class was entirely different. Though Mattis was nicknamed Mad Dog for his role in razing thecity of Fallujah during the U.S. occupation of Iraq in 2004, pundits have rebranded him one of the “adults in the White House part of a class of sober-minded ex-generals appointed to rein in Trumps divisive America First agenda. CNN correspondent Dan Merica cast Mattis warning to oversee the mass slaughter of North Koreas civilian population as a tough statement. This framing was echoed by Barbara Starr, the CNN Pentagon correspondent who serves as an enthusiastic stenographer for the Defense Department. Starr called Mattis rhetoric very tough talk and a dire warning to North Korea. Self-described GOP media guy Rick Wilson, a veteran Republican consultant popular among liberals for his vehement criticism of Trump, applauded Mattis language, tweeting, This is how you phrase it, not biblical-level chest beating. Perhaps the most bizarre response to Mattis statement came Washington Post national security reporter Dan Lamothe, who described it as a call for de-escalation. The leak that triggered the threats Both genocidal threats from Trump and Mattis were triggered by a confidential Defense Intelligence Agency assessment leaked to the Washington Post claiming that North Korea has “cross[ed] a key threshold on the path to becoming a full-fledged nuclear power.” The unverified analysis claimed that 60 nuclear weapons are now controlled by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un. Tim Shorrock, a veteran investigative journalist who has focused on Korean issues for several decades, was skeptical about the DIA leak. Im a little surprised by this report because for one thing its clearly not the collective conclusion of the intelligence community. Its someone in the DIA and theres no real analysis of what it is They just say it has this miniature warhead and they can now put on an ICBM, he saidto Aaron Mate of the Real News Network. Shorrock also questioned the timing of the leak: Well, theyve said that before in years past, it hasnt been proven to be true, and Im wondering why this is coming out right now. That seems very dangerous on the face of it. Someone within the intelligence community is pushing for a military response by leaking this report. Turning the aggressor into the victim The Trump administration’s threats were most immediately prompted by the DIAs leak, but were also an undeniable response to a months-long campaign by corporate media to drum up fears of a North Korean attack on the American homeland. On August 2, CNNs Jake Tapper hypedunfounded fears that North Korean missile tests threatened passenger planes from the West. Every day were getting starting details about North Koreas military ambitions which seem to be proceeding at an increasingly rapid clip. Its unclear with the Trump administrations strategy is to stop the Kim Jong Un regime, Tapper declared as he introduced a segment on the supposed threat to civilian airliners. The segment featured special graphics created by CNN that showed an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) launched from North Korea striking California. While CNN correspondent Barbara Starr acknowledged that no North Korean missile test came anywhere close to downing a passenger plane, CNNs chyron read: North Korea missile tests could endanger passenger planes.” Since Trump threatened fire and fury on North Korea, mainstream media has portrayed the government of DPRK as the sole aggressor. The August 9front page of theWall Street Journalframed the presidents warning with the headline, “Trump Warns North Korea: Stop Threats.” Though Trumps choice of language might have been alarming, his threats were part of a grand bipartisan tradition. Former President Barack Obama threatened the DPRK with destruction in 2016. We could, obviously, destroy North Korea with our arsenals, Obama said, while conceding that the DPRK posed relatively low level threats. What is rarely acknowledged is that North Korea’s weapons production is strictly defensive, not offensive. North Korean spokespeople have expressly pointed to countries that have been destroyed in U.S. military attacks, noting, Nothing will be more foolish if the United States thinks it can deal with us the way it treated Iraq and Libya, miserable victims of its aggression, and Syria, which did not respond immediately even after it was attacked. Even Dan Coats, the Director of National Intelligence, has acknowledged that Kim is a rational actor. Coat conceded that Kims decision-making process was influenced by watching Muammar Gaddafi be butchered by U.S.-led forces after willingly ending his nuclear ambitions. The lessons that we learned out of Libya giving up its nukesis, unfortunately, if you had nukes, never give them up. If you dont have them, get them, Coats said at the Aspen Security Forum this year. Coats concluded that for Kim, there is some rationale backing his actions which are survival, survival for his regime, survival for his country, and he has watched I think what has happened around the world relative to nations that possess nuclear capabilities and the leverage they have and seen that having the nuclear card in your pocket results in a lot of deterrence capability. The U.S. is the only country in the world that has ever dropped a nuclear bomb on a civilian population (twice). The U.S. War DepartmentsStrategic Bombing Survey acknowledged, “Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated.” Some historians note that the U.S. nuking of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which incinerated hundreds of thousands of Japanese civilians, was not necessary to end the war, but rather was a warning sign to the Soviet Unionand could be seen as the first act of the Cold War. Fake news on North Korea The Western media is notorious for spreading ridiculous myths about North Korea; among them, that the country discovered evidence of unicorns, that all North Koreans are forced to get the same haircut, and that leader Kim Jong-un killed his uncle by feeding him to a pack of dogs. The former Washington Post pundit Max Fisher, now at the New York Times, falsely reported that the DPRK distributed copies of Adolf Hitlers manifesto Mein Kampf to leaders. And former Wired reporter Spencer Ackerman, now a national security reporter at the Daily Beast, wrongly portrayed an obvious spoof video made by a Westerner as official North Korean propaganda. Accompanying much of the distortion-laden discussion of North Korea is an extreme dehumanization of the more than 25 million people who live there, who are often portrayed as mindlessly following the orders of their cartoon villain leaders. U.S. crimes against humanity Also conspicuously absent from media reports is any context or history for North Koreas actions. Just over 60 years ago, the U.S. waged what was essentially a genocidal war against Korea, in which it murdered millions of people. As the Intercepts Mehdi Hasannoted, The madman with nuclear weapons is Donald Trump, not Kim Jong-un. While some Western media reports and intelligence officials may acknowledge that North Korea does indeed act rationally and that Donald Trump is personally erratic to a dangerous degree they still gloss over the impact of U.S. atrocities committed during the Korean War. Over a period of three years or so, we killed off what 20 percent of the population, said Air Force General Curtis LeMay, who led the Strategic Air Command during the Korean War. Journalist Blaine Harden reported this in a Washington Post op-ed titled The U.S. war crime North Korea wont forget. Harden explained, Dean Rusk, a supporter of the war and later Secretary of State, said the United States bombed everything that moved in North Korea, every brick standing on top of another. After running low on urban targets, U.S. bombers destroyed hydroelectric and irrigation dams in the later stages of the war, flooding farmland and destroying crops. In its three-year war on Korea, the U.S. is estimated to have killed 3 million people, approximately half of them civilians. The Korean War is sometimes called the “forgotten war” in the U.S., but it is hard to imagine that North Koreas leadership has forgotten this calamity, or that it would allow it to happen again without a response. Ben Norton is a reporter for AlterNet’s Grayzone Project. You can follow him on Twitter at @BenjaminNorton. Max Blumenthal is a senior editor of the Grayzone Project atAlterNet, and the award-winning author of Goliath andRepublican Gomorrah. His most recent book isThe 51 Day War: Ruin and Resistance in Gaza.Follow him on Twitter at @MaxBlumenthal.

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August 10, 2017   Posted in: Max Blumenthal  Comments Closed


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