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The Atlantic Council: ‘Debates' Between People Who Hate Russia & People Who Really Hate Russia

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Welcome to the Atlantic Council. A think tank which isn't given to introspection and which ultimately amounts to NATO's propaganda arm. This week, I endured an Atlantic Council echo-chamber to spare you the bother.

The list of lobbyists retained by the club (who prefer to call each other 'fellows') reads like a veritable who's who of professional Russia bashers. From Eliot Higgins to Anders Aslund and Michael Weiss to Dmitri Alperovitch. And its main financial backers include Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, the Ukrainian World Congress and the United States Department of State. All entities for whom promoting the "Russian threat" is a profitable, and essential, enterprise. 

On Tuesday, the pressure group held a sort of social day for its staffers and admirers. The event was billed as "The First Transatlantic Forum on Strategic Communications and Digital Disinformation in Washington, DC." And it certainly seemed to feature a lot of trans-continental flights as the diaspora flocked back to the mothership for the festivities. 

There were three main forums on the day and, as the final one concerned ISIS, I decided to suffer the first two only. Here is what I experienced.

Panel One - "Transatlantic Response to Disinformation: Paving a Way Forward" (all times EDT)

10:12 AM: Your correspondent joins 36 other YouTube viewers for the opening salvos. Five men, all in navy suits, sit down. They are Daniel Fried (an Atlantic Council employee and former US ambassador), Tacan Ildem (a Turkish diplomat until last year, now at NATO), Nils Svartz (a Swedish civil defense director) and Jakub Durr (the Deputy Foreign Minister ofCzechia, incidentally lazily described as the "Czech Republic" by the organizers). The moderator, Jim Sciutto, introduces himself as the “bad news correspondent of CNN.” Immediately I start thinking that if all 37 viewers paid €25 a piece each for access, it’d barely cover a return flight from Istanbul to DC. But, luckily, today's nod-fest is directly supported by NATO and a few other vested interests.
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Trump Says 'No' To Catalan Independence

The Catalan push for independence from Spain appears to be part of a larger European -- and possibly worldwide -- movement away from larger, more distant governance and toward more local control. Elsewhere in Europe, the old order is slowly breaking down. New parties find success in German elections, Hungary continues to defy Brussels on immigration, talk of secession on all levels increases. Will the referendum in Catalonia take place as scheduled, or will the central government successfully crack down? Will a crack-down eliminate the growing demand for independence? What's the US position? More in today's Liberty Report...
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Christians Return to Syria- But Not to Iraq

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Christians in the Middle East are voting with their feet for the government of President Assad in Syria. With all that American government officials and the news media have said to condemn the secular government of Syria, surely no one should want to return there, with the civil war seemingly winding down in favor of President Assad. But that is not the case.

So far in 2017, more than 600,000 Syrians, both Christians and Muslims, have returned to their homes in Syria, as the Islamic State and the Sunni Muslim “rebels” supported by Saudi Arabia and the United States have been driven back. Of those Christians who fled their homes in Syria, many are returning from Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. Wealthier Christians who fled the civil war are returning from Europe as well.

Unlike Iraq and other majority Muslim nations, Syria has a secular constitution, so Shariah law is not enforced as the law of the land. Christians have their own court system for family issues, separate from the Shariah court system of Muslims. In fact, Christian religious leaders in Syria call the several decades of rule by the Assad family a “golden era for Christians.”

It is no wonder, then, that Syrian Christians are returning to their homes in Syria in large numbers.

But Christians are not returning to Iraq, where the United States and other Western nations have established a “democracy.” Why? Probably because the constitution of Iraq, written in a “democratic assembly” after the fall of Saddam Hussein, states that “Islam is the official religion of the State and it is a fundamental source of legislation.” To reinforce this, a second clause states: “No law that contradicts the established provisions of Islam may be established.”
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Washington Post Pushes More Dubious Russia-Bashing

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Some people are calling the anti-Russian hysteria being whipped up across the US mainstream news media a new “golden age of American journalism,” although it looks to me more like a new age of yellow journalism, prepping the people for more military spending, more “information warfare” and more actual war.

Yes, without doubt, President Trump is a boorish and dangerous demagogue, now highlighted by his reckless speech before the United Nations last week, his schoolyard Tweet taunts toward North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and his ugly denunciation of black athletes for protesting against police killings of often unarmed African-Americans.

And, yes, I know that some people feel that the evidence-lite and/or false allegations about “Russian meddling” are the golden ticket to Trump’s impeachment. But the unprofessional behavior of The New York Times, The Washington Post and pretty much the entire mainstream media regarding Russia-gate cannot be properly justified by the goal of removing Trump from office.

Ethically in journalism, the ends – however much you might wish them to succeed – cannot justify the means, if those means involve violating rules of evidence and principles of fairness. Journalism should be a place where all sides get a fair shake, not where some get a bum’s rush.

But the US mainstream media has clearly joined the anti-Trump Resistance and hates Russian President Vladimir Putin, too. So, we are given such travesties of journalism as appeared as a banner headline across the front page of Monday’s Washington Post, another screed about how Russia supposedly used Facebook ads to flip last November’s election for Trump.
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Kurd Independence Vote - Progress Or Danger?

The US was strongly opposed to Monday's independence referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan, as were the countries in the region. The US wanted to manage the Kurds' relationship with Baghdad, but it did not work out the way Washington's planners hoped. How did we get to the point? To a large degree due to the US invasion of Iraq. Will the vote result in smaller government and more freedom for Kurds in the region? Or will it mean war? And what about oil flow? More in today's Liberty Report...
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More on Imran Awan - Where Are All Those Congressional Emails?

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I wrote 
an article on the strange case of Imran Awan about two months ago. To summarize it briefly, Awan, his two brothers and wife, naturalized U.S. citizens born in Pakistan living in the Washington DC area, found employment as IT administrators in the House of Representatives working for as many as 80 Democratic Party congressmen. Even though they may have had little actual training in IT, they insinuated themselves into the system and were paid in excess of $5 million over the course of ten years, chief-of-staff level pay, while frequently not even showing up for work. They even brought into the arrangement a frequent no-show Pakistani friend whose prior work history consisted of getting recently fired by McDonald’s.

Along the way, their security files were never reviewed. They were involved in bankruptcies, bank fraud and other criminal activity, but their troublesome behavior was never noticed. They were on bad terms with their father and step-mother, which including forging a document to cheat their step-mother of an insurance payment and even holding her “captive” so she could not see their dying father. Their father even changed his last name to dissociate himself from them.

Imran Awan, the leader of the group, worked particularly for Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, who was, at the time, also the Chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Though he had no clearance and was not supposed to work with classified material, he and his family obtained password access to congressional files and Imran himself was able to enter Wasserman-Schultz’s own personal iPad computer which linked to the server used by the Democratic National Committee.

As of February 2016, the Awans came under suspicion by the Capitol Hill Police for having set up an operation involving double billing as well as the possible theft and reselling of government owned computer equipment. It was also believed that they had somehow obtained entry to much of the House of Representatives’ computer network as well as to other information in the individual offices’ separate computer systems that they were in theory not allowed to access. It was also believed that Imran sent “massive” quantities of stolen government files to a remote personal server. It may have been located in his former residence in Lorton, Virginia. The police began an investigation and quietly alerted the congressmen involved that there might be a problem. Most stopped employing the Awan family members and associates, but Wasserman-Schultz kept Imran on the payroll until the day after he was actually arrested.
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Syria - US CentCom Declares War On Russia

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Yesterday the Russian Ministry of Defense accused the US military in east-Syria of direct collaboration with the Islamic State:
US Army special units provide free passage for the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) through the battle formations of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorists, the ministry said in a statement. 

'Facing no resistance of the ISIS militants, the SDF units are advancing along the left shore of the Euphrates towards Deir ez-Zor,' the statement reads.

The newly released images 'clearly show that US special ops are stationed at the outposts previously set up by ISIS militants.'

'Despite that the US strongholds being located in the ISIS areas, no screening patrol has been organized at them,' the Russian Ministry of Defense said.
This map marks the currently relevant conflict area - (US proxies - yellow, SAA - red, ISIS - black):

The accusations are plausible. Large parts of ISIS in Deir Ezzor consist of local tribal forces from eastern-Syria. US special envoy Brett McGurk recently met tribal leaders who had earlier pledged allegiance to ISIS. Deals were made.
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Trump Vs The NFL - The Right To Protest

Do NFL players have the "right" to protest against the national anthem on the playing field? Should Trump's demand that anyone who does not stand should be fired? What about the owners? And what about the millions the Defense Department sent the NFL to militarize the sporting events? Our take in today's Liberty Report...
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How to End the Korea Crisis

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The descent of US/North Korea “crisis” to the level of schoolyard taunts should be remembered as one of the most bizarre, dangerous, and disgraceful chapters in US foreign policy history.

President Trump, who holds the lives of millions of Koreans and Americans in his hands, has taken to calling the North Korean dictator “rocket man on a suicide mission.” Why? To goad him into launching some sort of action to provoke an American response? Maybe the US president is not even going to wait for that. We remember from the Tonkin Gulf false flag that the provocation doesn’t even need to be real. We are in extremely dangerous territory and Congress for the most part either remains asleep or is cheering on the sabre-rattling.
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How World War One Still Haunts America

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This year is the 100th anniversary of Woodrow Wilson’s pulling America into World War I. Many people celebrate this centenary of America’s emergence as a world power. But at a time when the Trump administration is bombing or rattling sabers at half a dozen nations and many Democrats are clamoring to bloody Russia, it is worth reviewing how World War I turned out so much worse than the experts and politicians promised.

Wilson was narrowly reelected in 1916 on the basis of a campaign slogan, “He kept us out of war.” But Wilson had massively violated neutrality by providing armaments and money to the Allied powers that had been fighting Germany since 1914. At the same time, he had no quarrel with the British blockade that was slowly starving the German people. In his April 1917 speech to Congress seeking a declaration of war against Germany, he hailed the U.S. government as “one of the champions of the rights of mankind” and proclaimed that “the world must be made safe for democracy.”

American soldiers helped turn the tide on the Western Front in late 1918. But the cost was far higher than Americans anticipated. More than 100,000 American soldiers died in the third-bloodiest war in U.S. history. Another half- million Americans perished from the Spanish Flu epidemic spurred and spread by the war. But the political damage lasted far longer.

In his speech to Congress, Wilson declared, “We have no quarrel with the German people” and feel “sympathy and friendship” towards them. But his administration speedily commenced demonizing the “Huns.” One Army recruiting poster portrayed German troops as an ape ravaging a half-naked damsel beneath an appeal to “Destroy this Mad Brute.” Wilson’s evocations of fighting for universal freedom were quickly followed by bans on sauerkraut, beer, and teaching German in public schools. Tolerance quickly became unpatriotic.
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