Tue, 28 Mar 2023 16:43:48 GMT Tue, 28 Mar 2023 16:43:48 GMT Senate Anti-TicTok Bill Is 'Patriot Act For Technology' Daniel McAdams
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Lesson of 1999 Bombing of Serbia Ignored in the West Kurt Nimmo

In Belgrade on March 24, Serbian minister Nikola Selakovic and Russian Ambassador to Serbia Alexander Botsan-Kharchenko, laid a wreath at a memorial to children killed in the illegal 1999 NATO terror bombing of what was then the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The ceremony and the anniversary of the attack went predictably unmentioned in America.
The remarks of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic were also ignored in the West. “24 years ago, the modern international law finally died,” Vucic said during a commemorative event in Sombor, the first city to be bombed by NATO and President Bill Clinton.
“Nothing worse could happen in the world than what was done here, to a small country, which was guilty only of seeking to make its own decisions, and to be free. As such it didn't appeal to those powers which destroyed the old international order in 1989/90 and created a new one in which only they have the final say in everything.”
The United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, in its Final Report to the Prosecutor by the Committee Established to Review the NATO Bombing Campaign Against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, mentions numerous war crimes perpetuated against the people of Yugoslavia, now Serbia. The report documents the use of depleted uranium (Serbia is among the countries with the highest cancer mortality in the world), the wanton use of illegal cluster munitions, and the targeting of civilian infrastructure, including a passenger train at the Grdelica Gorge in December 1999.

The UN report concludes,
that the NATO forces deliberately attacked civilian infrastructure targets (and that such attacks were unlawful), deliberately or recklessly attacked the civilian population, and deliberately or recklessly caused excessive civilian casualties in disregard of the rule of proportionality by trying to fight a “zero casualty” war for their own side.
A decade after the terror bombing, Stephen Zunes wrote,
The 11-week bombing campaign resulted in the widespread destruction of Yugoslavia's civilian infrastructure, the killing of many hundreds of civilians, and—as a result of bombing chemical factories, the use of depleted uranium ammunition and more—caused serious environmental damage. Almost as many Yugoslav civilians died from NATO bombing than did Kosovar Albanian civilians from Serb forces prior to the onset of the bombing. A number of human rights groups that condemned Serbian actions in Kosovo also criticized NATO attacks that, in addition to the more immediate civilian casualties, endangered the health and safety of millions of people by disrupting water supplies, sewage treatment, and medical services.
Instead of holding NATO and the USG responsible for the murder of innocent civilians, the United Nations went after Slobodan Milošević, the Serbian president. Milošević stood accused of a laundry list of crimes, including genocide and unlawful deportation of Albanians in Kosovo. He died in prison (some believe he was poisoned) before a verdict was reached.

“In the days following the death of Slobodan Milosevic, every newspaper made sure to find him guilty of charges that the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY) could not prove in court,” writes Louis Proyect. The demonization campaign required “a false dichotomy” to portray Milošević as
the mastermind of a genocidal plot rather than simply one actor among many in a nasty civil war. Throughout the 1990s, self-described radicals like Mark Danner or State Department liberals like Michael Ignatieff were consumed with the need to vilify Milosevic as some kind of awful combination of Hitler and Stalin.
Saddam Hussein, Manuel Noriega, Kim Jung-un, Osama bin Laden, Moammar Gaddafi, and now Vladimir Putin, all are routinely compared to Hitler. “We repeatedly have seen how ‘rogue nations’ are designated and demonized,” notes historian Michael Parenti. “What they really had in common was that each was charting a somewhat independent course of self-development or somehow was not complying with the dictates of the global free market and the US national security state.”

As Parenti notes, the destruction of Yugoslavia and its dismemberment had nothing to do with humanitarianism, as the Clinton administration and the corporate media in the West insisted. In fact, in 1999, there were a number of humanitarian disasters unfolding. The West (the USG and Europe) did not bother to intervene, and instead, as noted below, in many cases instigated or exacerbated crises and supported the perpetrators.
While showing themselves ready and willing to bomb Yugoslavia on behalf of an ostensibly oppressed minority in Kosovo, US leaders have made no moves against the Czech Republic for its mistreatment of the Romany people (gypsies), or Britain for oppressing the Catholic minority in Northern Ireland, or the Hutu for the mass murder of a half million Tutsi in Rwanda—not to mention the French who were complicit in that massacre. Nor have US leaders considered launching “humanitarian bombings” against the Turkish people for what their leaders have done to the Kurds, or the Indonesian people because their generals killed over 200,000 East Timorese and were continuing such slaughter through the summer of 1999, or the Guatemalans for the Guatemalan military's systematic extermination of tens of thousands of Mayan villagers. In such cases, US leaders not only tolerated such atrocities but were actively complicit with the perpetrators—who usually happened to be faithful client-state allies dedicated to helping Washington make the world safe for the Fortune 500.
Parenti’s remark about making “the world safe for the Fortune 500” underscores the relentless objectives of neoliberalism—domination of markets, capture (and, as in Syria, outright theft) of natural resources, subversion of economic independence, total control of societies, culture, information, and determining the collective fate of more than eight billion people.

The destruction of the former Yugoslavia, and nations since—Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Libya, and Somalia—demonstrate the USG and the ruling elite, the globalist oligarchs of an interlocking corporate directorate, will use all the tools at their disposal now that Russia and China are at the forefront of an emerging multipolar world.

The destruction and brutal reformulation of Iraq and Libya—the latter, formerly the wealthiest nation in Africa, now an open slave market—has sent an unmistakeable message to countries around the world: the USG military and its proxies will be deployed if the leaders and people of nations (with exploitable resources) refuse to play by the “rules-based” international corporate-fascist playbook.

On March 22, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said his balkanized country has no desire to join NATO. “I believe that Serbia must not join NATO. Serbia is a free country and a militarily neutral country. Serbia will be defending its land and its sky on its own, but let me tell you something: our duty is to forgive and our duty is not to forget,” Vucic said.

“He was addressing a large crowd of people who gathered at the St. George Square in Sombor, waving Serbian flags and lighting candles for the victims of the bombings, which most of them see as an act of injustice,” Countercurrents reported.

Reprinted with permission from Kurt Nimmo on Geopolitics.]]> Tue, 28 Mar 2023 13:17:04 GMT
Janet Yellen: Iran Sanctions Not Working Daniel McAdams
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Understanding the International Rules Based Disorder Larry C. Johnson

Have you heard of the “International Rules Based Order?” Russia, according to Washington and NATO, is violating those rules (China too) and must be punished. We can’t have “rule breakers” mucking up global tranquility can we?
Since 1945, the United States has pursued its global interests by building and maintaining various alliances, economic institutions, security organizations, political and liberal norms, and other tools — often collectively referred to as the international order. . . .

Building an international order has been a formal program of US foreign policy since at least the 1940s and an aspirational goal since the nation’s founding. According to its post–World War II architects, the international order protects US values by maintaining an environment in which the ideals of a free and democratic society — like that of the United States — can flourish. The United States has used both power and idealistic notions of shared interests to underwrite the rules-based order. In this sense, it employed both hard and soft power to construct the order.
Got it? The so-called international order basically is a systemis of rules that the United States sets and arbitrarily decides whether or not a foreign country is complying or disobeying. The bottom line? These “rules” are designed to promote US interests at the expense of others.

What is a rule? It is, “an authoritative, prescribed direction for conduct, especially one of the regulations governing procedure in a legislative body or a regulation observed by the players in a game, sport, or contest.” In theory, the rule is supposed to apply to everyone.

Let’s take basketball (appropriate in light of March Madness currently underway in the United States) and look at how genuine rules are supposed to work in a competitive environment. There is a set amount of time for a college game — 40 minutes, two 20 minute halves. You, as a rules official, cannot arbitrarily give one team that you like more time to play in hopes that they score more points and finally prevail. Any player who makes a basket outside the 3 point line is awarded 3 points for his team. Any player who possesses the ball and takes more than two steps without dribbling is guilty of traveling and the ball is turned over to the other team.

When we look at the so-called international rules to promote global order a very different picture emerges. We are essentially talking about an international casino and the United States traditionally has behaved like a crooked dealer who makes sure that friends of the casino win. Here is one example. If protestors take to the streets and try to overthrow a government the United States likes, that is bad and those protestors must be punished. However, if the government has fallen out of favor with the United States then the protestors are sanctified beings carrying out God’s will and must be supported.

Iran is a case in point. Last October, Washington cheered on protests in Iran and punished Iranian authorities for trying to quell the activity:
The United States on Wednesday imposed a slew of new sanctions against Iranian officials involved in the ongoing crackdown on nationwide protests in Iran – the latest US response to Tehran’s efforts to quash outrage after the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini.

“It has been 40 days since the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in the custody of Iran’s so-called ‘Morality Police,’ and we join her family and the Iranian people for a day of mourning and reflection,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.

“The United States is committed to supporting the Iranian people and ensuring that those responsible for the brutal crackdown on the ongoing nationwide protests in Iran are held accountable,” Blinken said. “Today, we are announcing a joint action between the State and Treasury Departments designating 14 individuals and three entities using five different authorities, demonstrating our commitment to use all appropriate tools to hold all levels of the Iranian government to account.”
Ditto for Georgia (the country not the state). When the legislature in Tbilisi passed a law intended to limit foreign interference in Georgia, protestors took to the streets and battled police in early March:
Police in the Georgian capital Tbilisi used tear gas, water cannon and stun grenades late on Wednesday as they moved to break up the second straight day of protests against a “foreign agents” law which critics say would limit press freedom and undercut the country’s efforts to become a candidate for EU membership.
And Washington’s response to that “violent insurrection?”
In Washington, State Department spokesman Ned Price voiced solidarity with the protestors.

“We urge the government of Georgia to respect the freedom of peaceful assembly and peaceful protests,” Price said. “We are standing with the people of Georgia and the aspirations that they have.”
If you watched any of the videos of the Georgia protests, they were not peaceful.

Quite a contrast to what took place in the United States on January 6, 2021, when Donald Trump supporters surrounded the US Capitol. The Trump supporters are condemned, prosecuted and imprisoned as insurrectionists bent on sedition. The evidence from that day indicates that agents of the US Government (as well as a few Ukrainian members of AZOV) were in the crowd trying to stir them to violence. Once those protestors entered the Capitol, very few participated in acts of violence. But, because they opposed Joe Biden, they are treated as despicable criminals. Tucker punches back against the Biden Administration propaganda meme.

Iran, who was widely condemned in Europe for its response to protestors, is having great fun with French President Macron’s response to French citizens angry over raising the retirement age without a vote by the French legislature:
Iranian authorities commented on the mass protests and strikes in France. According to Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani, official Paris should listen to the French people and abandon the “barbaric methods of violence against people defending their democratic rights”.
Rules about protests are small potatoes compared to the Big rule about not carrying out military activities in a foreign country unless you have been invited to send your forces to provide assistance or you have been attacked. The United States and NATO insist that Russia is a major violator of this rule and must be punished. Russia, for its part, argues that it is acting to protect Russian speaking Ukrainians who have been shelled relentlessly by the Government of Ukraine since 2014 and to oppose NATO’s expansion to its borders.

Neither Russia nor China give any credence to complaints and outrage from the West because of America’s own sordid record of military campaigns in Vietnam, Iraq, Syria, Panama, the former country of Yugoslavia, Somalia and Afghanistan.

Here is the harsh truth about the Rules Based International Order. It is an anachronism created in the wake of World War II by the United States, it is unraveling and the Biden Administration continues to enact policies that will hasten its demise.

Keep your eye on Israel. It is being wracked with protests over a proposed law to strip its Supreme Court of power and consolidate that power with the Executive. The rifts within Israel are profound and widening by the day. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu fired the Defense Minister today and Israel’s Consul General resigned in protest.

Why do I bring this up? Because there is no signal yet from the Biden Administration whether it will bless these protests as “following the international rules” or condemn Netanyahu as a violator of those rules.

Laments about the “International Based Rules of Order” exposes the fact that America no longer has the strength nor the ability to impose its will on others. China, Russia, Iran, Saudi Arabia, India and South Africa, to mention a prominent few, are awake to this reality and are busy creating an alternative international order that will put the United States on the sidelines. I believe this is the most important consequence of the proxy war between NATO and Russia in Ukraine. The weak underbelly of America has been exposed and no amount of threats or sanctions from Washington will change that reality.

Reprinted with permission from]]> Mon, 27 Mar 2023 04:34:59 GMT
New Documents Expose Government Censorship Efforts at Facebook and WhatsApp Jonathan Turley

New emails uncovered in the ongoing Missouri v. Biden litigation reportedly show that the Biden Administration’s censorship efforts extended to Facebook to censor private communications on its WhatsApp messaging service. In recent months, the Twitter Files revealed an extensive and secret effort by the FBI and other agencies to censor citizens on social media. I testified on that effort. Democratic members oppose efforts to investigate the full scope of this effort and even denounced those calling for greater transparency as “Putin lovers” and apologists for insurrectionists and racists. Yet, the evidence of an extensive censorship and blacklisting effort by the Administration continues to mount.

Facebook (now known as Meta) is accused of working with the government to target citizens with dissenting views on Covid and the pandemic.

According to emails obtained through discovery, Biden’s Director of Digital Strategy Rob Flaherty pressed Facebook executives to be more aggressive with censorship. Flaherty reportedly objected that “I care mostly about what actions and changes you’re making to ensure you’re not making our country’s vaccine hesitancy problem worse…I still don’t have a good, empirical answer on how effective you’ve been at reducing the spread of vaccine-skeptical content and misinformation to vaccine fence sitters.”

Just a few weeks ago, I wrote that the congressionally created, federally funded National Endowment for Democracy (NED) had supported blacklisting efforts at the British-based Global Disinformation Index (GDI). The index was widely ridiculed for targeting ten conservative and libertarian sites as the most dangerous sources of disinformation; it sought to persuade advertisers to withdraw support for those sites, while listing their most liberal counterparts as among the most trustworthy.

At the time, I noted that the Biden administration had played us for chumps. As we celebrated the demise of the infamous Disinformation Governing Board with its “Disinformation Nanny,” the Biden administration never disclosed a larger censorship program.

Shortly after my column posted in The Hill, the NED wrote to me to say that it was discontinuing support for the GDI. Microsoft also was forced into retreat after it was shown to be pushing the GDI’s biased blacklist.

Then we learned of additional funding going through the State Department’s Global Engagement Center (GEC).

We also know of backchannel communications with the CDC and other agencies.

It is assumed that the comprehensive effort to censor was not limited to Twitter. This is another indication of such efforts with Facebook. However, the Democratic leadership has opposed such an investigation for years. They have even refused to accept the email evidence. When I testified on the Twitter Files, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) criticized me for offering “legal opinions” without actually working at Twitter. As I have noted, it is like saying that a witness should not discuss the contents of the Pentagon Papers unless he worked at the Pentagon. It was particularly bizarre because I was asked about the content of the Twitter Files. The content — like the content of the Pentagon Papers — are “facts.” The implication of those facts are opinions.

Members like Wasserman Schultz will likely continue to refuse to acknowledge these new emails. However, the public has repeatedly shown in polls that they want transparency on the censorship efforts. The House may be able to guarantee that transparency as its need continues to rise with new evidence of the government’s efforts to silence dissenting views on social media.

Reprinted with permission from]]> Mon, 27 Mar 2023 04:26:54 GMT
The Best Way to Protect US Troops in Syria Ron Paul

Last week saw a sharp increase in attacks on US troops occupying northeastern Syria, with a drone strike against a US base blamed on “pro-Iran” forces and a US counter-strike said to have killed at least 19 people. After the US retaliation, another strike by “pro-Iran” forces hit a number of US sites in Syria. It may be just a matter of time before there are more strikes against the 900 US troops based in Syria against Syria’s wishes. One US contractor was killed last time. Next time it could be many more Americans.

What’s behind the sudden escalation? Fundamental changes in the Middle East over the past month have highlighted how indefensible is the continued US occupation of Syria and Iraq.

Take, for example, the recent historic mending of relations between former arch-enemies Saudi Arabia and Iran which was brokered by Washington’s own arch-enemy, China. US policy in the Middle East has long been “divide and conquer,” dating back at least to the Iran/Iraq war in the 1980s. US switching sides in that war guaranteed that the maximum amount of blood was spilled and that the simmering hatreds would continue to prevent any kind of lasting peace.

Then the US invaded Iraq twenty years ago and turned Iraq into an Iranian ally. That’s neocon foreign policy for you: a 100 percent failure rate.

So this month China, which is interested in creating a regional transportation corridor that would include Iran, came in and instead of bombing, invading, and occupying - Washington’s modus operandi – actually brokered the restoration of diplomatic relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Republicans and Democrats in the US both love to attack China, but China has achieved what the US has resisted for years: peace in the region. Should we be surprised that the continued US occupation is not welcome in the Middle East?

The United States occupies that huge chunk of Syria where the oil and agriculture is located and the goal appears to be producing profits for US multinational corporations from stolen natural resources and preventing the natural wealth of Syria to be used to rebuild that country. Is it any wonder why the US is so unpopular in the Middle East?

How hypocritical is it that the Biden Administration has spent $100 billion of our dollars to expel Russia from occupying proportionally less territory in Ukraine that Washington occupies in Syria? And Washington claims to stand for the “international rules-based order,” while they decimated an Iraq and Afghanistan that did not attack us, and before that a Serbia that could not have threatened us if it wanted to.

The end of the US occupation of the Middle East is upon us and the sooner we realize that the better. We have no business meddling in their politics, occupying their territory, and stealing their resources. Americans joined the US Military to defend the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, yet they have been manipulated by corrupt DC officials into occupying foreign lands and stealing their oil. Maybe this is why the US military cannot meet its recruitment goals?

Here's an easy way to protect US forces in Syria from further “Iran-allied” attacks: Bring them home. Tomorrow. Do not wait another day!]]> Mon, 27 Mar 2023 04:18:25 GMT
How They Convinced Trump to Lock Down Jeffrey A. Tucker

An enduring mystery for three years is how Donald Trump came to be the president who shut down American society for what turned out to be a manageable respiratory virus, setting off an unspeakable crisis with waves of destructive fallout that continue to this day. 

Let’s review the timeline and offer some well-founded speculations about what happened. 

On March 9, 2020, Trump was still of the opinion that the virus could be handled by normal means. 
Two days later, he changed his tune. He was ready to use the full power of the federal government in a war on the virus. 

What changed? Deborah Birx reports in her book that Trump had a friend die in a New York hospital and this is what shifted his opinion. Jared Kushner reports that he simply listened to reason. Mike Pence says he was persuaded that his staff would respect him more. No question (and based on all existing reports) that he found himself surrounded by “trusted advisors” amounting to about 5 or so people (including Mike Pence and Pfizer board member Scott Gottlieb)

It was only a week later when Trump issued the edict to close all “indoor and outdoor venues where people congregate,” initiating the biggest regime change in US history that flew in the face of all rights and liberties Americans had previously taken for granted. It was the ultimate in political triangulation: as John F. Kennedy cut taxes, Nixon opened China, and Clinton reformed welfare, Trump shut down the economy he promised to revive. This action confounded critics on all sides. 

A month later, Trump said his decision to have “turned off” the economy saved millions of lives, later even claiming to have saved billions. He has yet to admit error. 
Even as late as June 23rd of that year, Trump was demanding credit for having followed all of Fauci’s recommendations. Why do they love him and hate me, he wanted to know. 
Something about this story has never really added up. How could one person have been so persuaded by a handful of others such as Fauci, Birx, Pence, and Kushner and his friends? He surely had other sources of information – some other scenario or intelligence – that fed into his disastrous decision. 

In one version of events, his advisors simply pointed to the supposed success of Xi Jinping in enacting lockdowns in Wuhan, which the World Health Organization claimed had stopped infections and brought the virus under control. Perhaps his advisors flattered Trump with the observation that he is at least as great as the president of China so he should be bold and enact the same policies here. 

One problem with this scenario is timing. The Oval Office meetings that preceded his March 16, 2020, edict took place the weekend of the 14th and 15th, Friday and Saturday. It was already clear by the 11th that Trump was ready for lockdowns. This was the same day as Fauci’s deliberately misleading testimony to the House Oversight Committee in which he rattled the room with predictions of Hollywood-style carnage. 

On the 12th, Trump shut all travel from Europe, the UK, and Australia, causing huge human pile-ups at international airports. On the 13th, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a classified document that transferred control of pandemic policy from the CDC to the National Security Council and eventually the Department of Homeland Security. By the time that Trump met with Fauci and Birx in that legendary weekend, the country was already under quasi-martial law. 

Isolating the date in the trajectory here, it is apparent that whatever happened to change Trump occurred on March 10, 2020, the day after his Tweet saying there should be no shutdowns and one day before Fauci’s testimony. 

That something very likely revolves around the most substantial discovery we’ve made in three years of investigations. It was Debbie Lerman who first cracked the code: Covid policy was forged not by the public-health bureaucracies but by the national-security sector of the administrative state. She has further explained that this occurred because of two critical features of the response: 1) the belief that this virus came from a lab leak, and 2) the vaccine was the biosecurity countermeasure pushed by the same people as the fix. 

Knowing this, we gain greater insight into 1) why Trump changed his mind, 2) why he has never explained this momentous decision and otherwise completely avoids the topic, and 3) why it has been so unbearably difficult to find out any information about these mysterious few days other than the pablum served up in books designed to earn royalties for authors like Birx, Pence, and Kushner. 

Based on a number of second-hand reports, all available clues we have assembled, and the context of the times, the following scenario seems most likely. On March 10, and in response to Trump’s dismissive tweet the day before, some trusted sources within and around the National Security Council (Matthew Pottinger and Michael Callahan, for example), and probably involving some from military command and others, came to Trump to let him know a highly classified secret. 

Imagine a scene from Get Smart with the Cone of Silence, for example. These are the events in the life of statecraft that infuse powerful people with a sense of their personal awesomeness. The fate of all of society rests on their shoulders and the decisions they make at this point. Of course they are sworn to intense secrecy following the great reveal. 

The revelation was that the virus was not a textbook virus but something far more threatening and terrible. It came from a research lab in Wuhan. It might in fact be a bioweapon. This is why Xi had to do extreme things to protect his people. The US should do the same, they said, and there is a fix available too and it is being carefully guarded by the military. 

It seems that the virus had already been mapped in order to make a vaccine to protect the population. Thanks to 20 years of research on mRNA platforms, they told him, this vaccine can be rolled out in months, not years. That means that Trump can lock down and distribute vaccines to save everyone from the China virus, all in time for the election. Doing this would not only assure his reelection but guarantee that he would go down in history as one of the greatest US presidents of all time. 

This meeting might only have lasted an hour or two – and might have included a parade of people with the highest-level security clearances – but it was enough to convince Trump. After all, he had battled China for two previous years, imposing tariffs and making all sorts of threats. It was easy to believe at that point that China might have initiated biological warfare as retaliation. That’s why he made the decision to use all the power of the presidency to push a lockdown under emergency rule. 

To be sure, the Constitution does not allow him to override the discretion of the states but with the weight of the office complete with enough funding and persuasion, he could make it happen. And thus did he make the fateful decision that not only wrecked his presidency but the country too, imposing harms that will last a generation. 

It only took a few weeks for Trump to become suspicious about what happened. For weeks and months, he toggled between believing that he was tricked and believing that he did the right thing. He had already approved another 30 days of lockdowns and even inveighed against Georgia and later Florida for opening. He went so far as to claim that no state could open without his approval. 
He did not fully change his mind until August, when Scott Atlas revealed the whole con to him. 

There is another fascinating feature to this entirely plausible scenario. Even as Trump’s advisors were telling him that this could be a bioweapon leaked from the lab in China, we had Anthony Fauci and his cronies going to great lengths to deny it was a lab leak (even if they believed that it was). This created an interesting situation. The NIH and those surrounding Fauci were publicly insisting that the virus was of zoonotic origin, even as Trump’s circle was telling the president that it should be regarded as a bioweapon. 

Fauci belonged to both camps, which suggests that Trump very likely knew of Fauci’s deception all along: the “noble lie” to protect the public from knowing the truth. Trump had to be fine with that. 

Gradually following the lockdown edicts and the takeover by the Department of Homeland Security, in cooperation with a very hostile CDC, Trump lost power and influence over his own government, which is why his later Tweets urging a reopening fell on deaf ears. To top it off, the vaccine failed to arrive in time for the election. This is because Fauci himself delayed the rollout until after the election, claiming that the trials were not racially diverse enough. Thus Trump’s gambit completely failed, despite all the promises of those around him that it was a guaranteed way to win reelection.

To be sure, this scenario cannot be proven because the entire event – certainly the most dramatic political move in at least a generation and one with unspeakable costs for the country – remains cloaked in secrecy. Not even Senator Rand Paul can get the information he needs because it remains classified. If anyone thinks the Biden approval of releasing documents will show what we need, that person is naive. Still, the above scenario fits all available facts and it is confirmed by second-hand reports from inside the White House. 

It’s enough for a great movie or a play of Shakespearean levels of tragedy. And to this day, none of the main players are speaking openly about it. 

Reprinted with permission from Brownstone Institute.]]> Fri, 24 Mar 2023 14:49:35 GMT
Hersh Strikes Back! CIA Planted Bogus Nord Stream Sabotage Story. Daniel McAdams
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Free will trumps determinism in Gulf politics Melkulangara Bhadrakumar

China’s mediation to normalise Saudi-Iranian diplomatic ties has been widely welcomed internationally, especially in the West Asian region. A clutch of unhappy states that do not want to see China stealing a march on any front, even if it advances the cause of world peace, mutely watched. 

The US led this pack of dead souls. But the US is also on the horns of a dilemma. Can it afford to be a spoiler? Saudi Arabia is not only the fountainhead of petrodollar recycling — and, therefore, a pillar of the western banking system — but also America’s number one market for arms exports. Europe is facing energy crisis and the stability of the oil market is an overriding concern. 

Saudi Arabia has shown remarkable maturity to maintain that its “Look East” policy and the strategic partnership with China do not mean it is dumping the Americans. Saudis are treading softly.

After all, Jamal Khashoggi was a strategic asset of the US security establishment; the US is a stakeholder in the Saudi succession and it has a consistent record of sponsoring regime changes to create pliable regimes.  

Yet, the fact remains that the Saudi-Iranian deal drives a knife into the heart of the US’ West Asian strategy. The deal leaves the US and Israel badly isolated. The Jewish lobby may show its unhappiness during President Biden’s bid for another term. China has stolen a march on the US with far-reaching consequences, which signifies a foreign policy disaster for Biden. 

Washington has not spoken the last word and may be plotting to push back the peace process from becoming mainstream politics of the West Asian region. The American commentators are visualising that the Saudi-Iranian normalisation will be a long haul and the odds are heavily stacked against it.

However, the regional protagonists are already creating firewalls locally to preserve and foster the new spirit of reconciliation. Of course, China (and Russia) too lend a helping hand. China has mooted the idea of a regional summit between Iran and the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council by the end of this year. 

An unnamed Saudi official told the establishment daily Asharq Al-Awsat that Chinese President Xi Jinping approached Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Crown Prince and Prime Minister, last year about Beijing serving as a ‘bridge’ between the Kingdom and Iran and the latter welcomed it, as Riyadh sees Beijing being in a ‘unique’ position to wield unmatched ‘leverage’ in the Gulf. 

“For Iran in particular, China is either No 1 or No 2 in terms of its international partners. And so the leverage is important in that regard, and you cannot have an alternative that is equal in importance,” the Saudi official added.

The Saudi official said China’s role makes it more likely that the terms of the deal will hold. “It (China) is a major stakeholder in the security and stability of the Gulf,” he noted. The official also revealed that the talks in Beijing involved “five very extensive” sessions on thorny issues. The most difficult topics were related to Yemen, the media, and China’s role, the official said.

Meanwhile, there are positive tidings in the air too — the likelihood of a foreign minister level meeting between Iran and Saudi Arabia in the near future and, more importantly, the reported letter of invitation from King Salman of Saudi Arabia to Iranian President Ebrahim Raeisi to visit Riyadh. Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian remarked on Sunday with reference to the Yemeni crisis that “We [Iran] are working with Saudi Arabia on ensuring the stability of the region. We will not accept any threat against us from neighbouring countries.” 

To be sure, the regional environment is improving. Signs of an overall easing of tensions have appeared. For the first visit of its kind in over a decade, the Turkish Foreign Minister was in Cairo and the Egyptian FM has been to Turkey and Syria. Last week, on return from Beijing, Admiral Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council headed for the UAE where President Sheikh Mohammed received him.

Soon after that, on Sunday, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad arrived in the UAE on an official visit. “Syria has been absent from its brothers for too long, and the time has come for it to return to them and to its Arab surroundings,” Sheikh Mohamed told Assad during their historic meeting at the presidential palace.

In an interview with NourNews, Shamkhani described his 5 days’ talks in Beijing leading to the deal with Saudi Arabia as “frank, transparent, comprehensive and constructive.” He said, “Clearing misunderstandings and looking to the future in Tehran-Riyadh relations will definitely lead to the development of regional stability and security and the increase of cooperation between the countries of the Persian Gulf and the Islamic world to manage the existing challenges.” 

Evidently, the regional states are tapping the “feel-good” generated by the Saudi-Iranian understanding. Contrary to the western propaganda of an estrangement lately between Saudi Arabia and the UAE, Sheikh Mohammed is identifying closely with the positive trends in the regional environment. 

This is where China’s overarching role fostering dialogue and amity becomes decisive. The regional countries regard China as a benign interlocutor and the concerted attempts by the US and its junior partners to run down China make no impact on the regional states. 

China has immense economic interests in the region — especially, expansion of the Silk Road in West Asia. The region’s political stability and security, therefore, is of vital interest to Beijing and prompts it to become the sponsor and guarantor of the Saudi-Iranian agreement. Clearly, the durability of the Saudi-Iranian deal should not be underestimated. The Saudi-Iranian agreement will remain West Asia’s most important development for a long time. 

Fundamentally, both Saudi Arabia and Iran have compulsions to shift the locus of their national strategies to development and economic growth. This has received scant attention. The Western media has deliberately ignored this and instead demonised the Saudi Crown Prince and created a doomsday scenario for Iran’s Islamic regime. 

That said, the known unknown is the tension building up over Iran’s nuclear programme. The issue is among the most prominent points of contention between Tehran and the Kingdom. Also, Israeli threats of attacks on Iran’s nuclear facilities are escalating. Significantly, Iran’s FM Amirabdollahian is expected to visit Moscow this week. 

A Russian-Chinese coordinated effort is needed to forestall the US from raking up the nuclear issue in tandem with Israel and ratchet up tensions, including military tensions, in such a way that a pretext becomes available to destabilise the region and marginalise the Saudi-Iran agreement as the leitmotif of regional politics. 

All parties understand only too well that “If the Beijing agreement materialises, the violent and fanatical right-wing Israeli government will be the first to lose out, as respecting the agreement would give rise to a stable and prosperous regional system that sets the course for further normalisations and all the achievements that ensue from them,” as a Lebanese columnist wrote today in Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper.

On balance, the regional states are acting on free will, increasingly and eschewing their determinism that was wedded to decisions and actions that were thought to be causally inevitable. The realisation has dawned now that it is within the capacity of sovereign states to make decisions or perform actions independently of any prior event or state of the universe.

Reprinted with permission from Indian Punchline.
]]> Thu, 23 Mar 2023 14:02:13 GMT
Combating 'Skepticism': Federal Grant Funds New Effort to Combat 'Misinformation' Jonathan Turley

We have been discussing a comprehensive effort by the Biden Administration to blacklist or censor citizens accused of “disinformation” or “misinformation.” This effort includes dozens of FBI agents and other agency employees who worked with social media companies to bar or suspend accounts. It also included grants to academic and third party organizations to create blacklists or pressure advertisers to withdrew support for conservative sites. Now, another such grant through the National Science Foundation has been identified, which gave millions to professors to develop a misinformation fact-checking tool called “Course Correct.” The tool will help fight “skepticism” and reinforce “trust” in what the government and the programmers define as true or reliable viewpoints.

The National Science Foundation reportedly awarded grants in 2021 and 2022 for more than $5.7 million for the development of Course Correct to allow media and government officials to target misinformation on topics such as US elections and COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy. In addition, a Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act-funded NSF grant supported the application of Course Correct to mental health issues.

The system would use machine learning and other means to identify social media posts pertaining to electoral skepticism and vaccine hesitancy, including flagging at-risk online communities for intervention. Sound familiar?

This is very similar to the effort on the other grants through offices like the State Department’s Global Engagement Center and the National Endowment for Democracy.

Democrats have opposed efforts to investigate the full scope of censorship and blacklisting efforts by the federal government. However, it appears that there are a wide array of such grants targeting free speech under the guise of combating what researchers view as “disinformation” or “misinformation.” Those words are usually ill-defined and have repeatedly been found to shield bias on the part of the researchers.

In the case of the the British-based Global Disinformation Index (GDI), the results were the targeting of ten conservative and libertarian sites as the most dangerous sources of disinformation. It then sought to persuade advertisers to withdraw support for those sites, while listing their most liberal counterparts as among the most trustworthy.

The latest grant is being conducted by Michael Wagner of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Sijia Yang of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Porismita Borah of Washington State University’s Edward R. Murrow College of Communication, Srijan Kumar of Georgia Tech’s College of Computing, and Munmun De Choudhury of Georgia Tech’s School of Interactive Computing.

The grant abstract echoes the earlier work in warning that social media serves “as a major source of delegitimizing information about elections and vaccines, with networks of users actively sowing doubts about election integrity and vaccine efficacy, fueling the spread of misinformation.”

Of course, many of the scientists and groups who were previously suspended for disinformation in these areas were ultimately vindicated. The mask mandate and other pandemic measures like the closing of schools are now cited as fueling emotional and developmental problems in children. The closing of schools and businesses was challenged by some critics as unnecessary. Many of those critics were also censored. It now appears that they may have been right. Many countries did not close schools and did not experience increases in Covid. However, we are now facing alarming drops in testing scores and alarming rises in medical illness among the young.

The point is only that there were countervailing indicators on mask efficacy and a basis to question the mandates. Yet, there was no real debate because of the censorship supported by many Democratic leaders in social media. To question such mandates was declared a public health threat. The head of the World Health Organization even supported censorship to combat what he called an “infodemic.”

A lawsuit was filed by Missouri and Louisiana and joined by leading experts, including Drs. Jayanta Bhattacharya (Stanford University) and Martin Kulldorff (Harvard University). Bhattacharya previously objected to the suspension of Dr. Clare Craig after she raised concerns about Pfizer trial documents. Those doctors were the co-authors of the Great Barrington Declaration, which advocated for a more focused Covid response that targeted the most vulnerable population rather than widespread lockdowns and mandates. Many are now questioning the efficacy and cost of the massive lockdown as well as the real value of masks or the rejection of natural immunities as an alternative to vaccination. Yet, these experts and others were attacked for such views just a year ago. Some found themselves censored on social media for challenging claims of Dr. Fauci and others.

The media has quietly acknowledged the science questioning mask efficacy and school closures without addressing its own role in attacking those who raised these objections. Even raising the lab theory on the origin of Covid 19 (a theory now treated as plausible) was denounced as a conspiracy theory. The science and health reporter for the New York Times, Apoorva Mandavilli,  even denounced the theory as “racist.” In the meantime, California has moved to potentially strip doctors of their licenses for spreading dissenting views on Covid.

Censorship is now embraced even when the underlying information is true. In another recently disclosed disinformation project at Stanford University, experts insisted that even true stories could still be dangerous forms of disinformation if they contributed to “hesitancy” on vaccines or other issues.

As in these prior grants, it is not clear what Course Correct specifically defines “verifiably accurate information.” When pressed by the conservative site The College Fix, researchers reportedly failed to supply an answer. What constitutes “misinformation” depends on the views of the programmers. Yet, these systems are sold as somehow transcending bias and using science to protect us from our own bad ideas or biases.

Recently, we discussed the call of Bill Gates to use Artificial Intelligence (AI) to protect us from harmful thoughts or idea. In an interview on a German program, “Handelsblatt Disrupt,” Gates called for unleashing AI to stop certain views from being “magnified by digital channels.” The problem is that we allow “various conspiracy theories like QAnon or whatever to be blasted out by people who wanted to believe those things.”

Gates added that AI can combat “political polarization” by checking “confirmation bias.”

Confirmation bias is a term long used to describe the tendency of people to search for or interpret information in a way that confirms their own beliefs. It is now being used to dismiss those with opposing views as ignorant slobs dragging their knuckles across the internet — people endangering us all by failing to accept the logic behind policies on COVID, climate change or a host of other political issues.

This is not the first call for AI overlords to protect us from ourselves. Last September, Gates gave the keynote address at the Forbes 400 Summit on Philanthropy. He told his fellow billionaires that “polarization and lack of trust is a problem.”

The problem is again … well … people: “People seek simple solutions [and] the truth is kind of boring sometimes.”

Not AI, of course. That would supply the solutions. Otherwise, Gates suggested, we could all die: “Political polarization may bring it all to an end, we’re going to have a hung election and a civil war.”

Others have suggested a Brave New World where citizens will be carefully guided in what they read and see. Democratic leaders have called for enlightened algorithms to frame what citizens access on the internet. In 2021, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) objected that people were not listening to the informed views of herself and leading experts. Instead, they were reading views of skeptics by searching Amazon and finding books by “prominent spreaders of misinformation.”

Warren blamed Amazon for failing to limit searches or choices: “This pattern and practice of misbehavior suggests that Amazon is either unwilling or unable to modify its business practices to prevent the spread of falsehoods or the sale of inappropriate products.” In her letter, Warren gave the company 14 days to change its algorithms to throttle and obstruct efforts to read opposing views.

The priority for the House should be to establish the full range of these grants by the Administration in the development of blacklisting or censorship tools. That should be in addition to the effort to gauge the direct work of federal employees in censorship efforts at companies like Twitter. We can debate the wisdom or risks of such work, but we should first have transparency on the full scope of censorship efforts by the federal government, including the use of academic and third-party organizations.

Reprinted with permission from]]> Thu, 23 Mar 2023 13:42:07 GMT
Cluster Bombs And Abrams Tanks: US Moving Closer To Hot War With Russia Daniel McAdams
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Circus Politics Are Intended to Distract Us. Don’t Be Distracted John W. Whitehead & Nisha Whitehead

It is easy to be distracted right now by the bread and circus politics that have dominated the news headlines lately, but don’t be distracted.

Don’t be fooled, not even a little.

We’re being subjected to the oldest con game in the books, the magician’s sleight of hand that keeps you focused on the shell game in front of you while your wallet is being picked clean by ruffians in your midst.

This is how tyranny rises and freedom falls.

What characterizes American government today is not so much dysfunctional politics as it is ruthlessly contrived governance carried out behind the entertaining, distracting and disingenuous curtain of political theater. And what political theater it is, diabolically Shakespearean at times, full of sound and fury, yet in the end, signifying nothing.

We are being ruled by a government of scoundrels, spies, thugs, thieves, gangsters, ruffians, rapists, extortionists, bounty hunters, battle-ready warriors and cold-blooded killers who communicate using a language of force and oppression.

The US government now poses the greatest threat to our freedoms.

More than terrorism, more than domestic extremism, more than gun violence and organized crime, even more than the perceived threat posed by any single politician, the US government remains a greater menace to the life, liberty and property of its citizens than any of the so-called dangers from which the government claims to protect us.

No matter who has occupied the White House in recent years, the Deep State has succeeded in keeping the citizenry divided and at each other’s throats.

After all, as long as we’re busy fighting each other, we’ll never manage to present a unified front against tyranny in any form.

Unfortunately, what we are facing is tyranny in every form.

The facts speak for themselves.

We’re being robbed blind by a government of thieves. Americans no longer have any real protection against government agents empowered to seize private property at will. For instance, police agencies under the guise of asset forfeiture laws are taking Americans’ personal property based on little more than a suspicion of criminal activity and keeping it for their own profit and gain. In one case, police seized more than $17,000 in cash from two sisters who were trying to start a dog breeding business. Despite finding no evidence of wrongdoing, police held onto the money for months.

We’re being taken advantage of by a government of scoundrels, idiots and cowards. When you’ve got government representatives who spend a large chunk of their work hours fundraising, being feted by lobbyists, shuffling through a lucrative revolving door between public service and lobbying, and making themselves available to anyone with enough money to secure access to a congressional office, you’re in the clutches of a corrupt oligarchy.

We’re being locked up by a government of greedy jailers. We have become a carceral state, spending three times more on our prisons than on our schools and imprisoning close to a quarter of the world’s prisoners, despite the fact that crime remains relatively low and the US makes up only 5% of the world’s population. The rise of overcriminalization and profit-driven private prisons provides even greater incentives for locking up American citizens for such non-violent “crimes” as having an overgrown lawn.

We’re being spied on by a government of Peeping Toms. The government, along with its corporate partners, is watching everything you do, reading everything you write, listening to everything you say, and monitoring everything you spend. Omnipresent surveillance is paving the way for government programs that profile citizens, document their behavior and attempt to predict what they might do in the future, whether it’s what they might buy, what politician they might support, or what kinds of crimes they might commit.

We’re being ravaged by a government of ruffians, rapists and killers. It’s not just the police shootings of unarmed citizens that are worrisome. It’s the SWAT team raids gone wrongmore than 80,000 annually—that are leaving innocent citizens wounded, children terrorized and family pets killed. It’s the roadside strip searches—in some cases, cavity searches of men and women alike carried out in full view of the public—in pursuit of drugs that are never found.

We’re being forced to surrender our freedoms—and those of our children—to a government of extortionists, money launderers and professional pirates. The American people have repeatedly been sold a bill of goods about how the government needs more money, more expansive powers, and more secrecy (secret courts, secret budgets, secret military campaigns, secret surveillance) in order to keep us safe. Not surprisingly, the primary ones to benefit from these government exercises in legal money laundering have been the corporations, lobbyists and politicians who inflict them on a trusting public.

We’re being held at gunpoint by a government of soldiers: a standing army. The US government is creating its own standing army of militarized police and teams of weaponized, federal bureaucrats. These civilian employees are being armed to the hilt with guns, ammunition and military-style equipment; authorized to make arrests; and trained in military tactics. There are now reportedly more bureaucratic (non-military) government civilians armed with high-tech, deadly weapons than US Marines.

Whatever else it may be—a danger, a menace, a threat—the US government is certainly no friend to freedom.

You cannot have a republican form of government—nor a democratic one, for that matter—when the government views itself as superior to the citizenry, when it no longer operates for the benefit of the people, when the people are no longer able to peacefully reform their government, when government officials cease to act like public servants, when elected officials no longer represent the will of the people, when the government routinely violates the rights of the people and perpetrates more violence against the citizenry than the criminal class, when government spending is unaccountable and unaccounted for, when the judiciary act as courts of order rather than justice, and when the government is no longer bound by the laws of the Constitution.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People and in its fictional counterpart The Erik Blair Diaries, we no longer have a government “of the people, by the people and for the people.”

Rather, what we have is a government of wolves.

Reprinted with permission from Rutherford Institute.]]> Wed, 22 Mar 2023 14:06:12 GMT
Anti-War Views Criminalized in Germany Diana Johnstone
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in Berlin, December 2022. (NATO)

Divide and rule is the eternal law of Empire. 

Above all, don’t let other big guys get together. Keep them at each other’s throats. Half a century ago, stuck in the unwinnable Vietnam war, President Richard M. Nixon heeded Henry Kissinger’s advice to open relations with Beijing in order to deepen the split between the Soviet Union and China.

But which big guys, and when? Priorities have evidently shifted. Eight years ago, America’s most influential, private geostrategic analyst, George Friedman, defined the current dominant US divide et impera priority, at work in Ukraine.

“The primordial interest of the United States is the relationship between Germany and Russia, because united, they’re the only force that could threaten us,” Friedman explained. 

Russia’s main interest has always been to have a neutral buffer zone in Eastern Europe. But the US purpose is to build a hostile cordon sanitaire from the Baltic to the Black Sea, as a definitive barrier separating Russia from Germany.

“Russia knows it. Russia believes the United States intends to break the Russian Federation,” said Friedman, jokingly adding that he thought the intention was not to kill Russia but only to make it suffer.

Speaking to an elite group in Chicago on April 13, 2015, Friedman noted that the US Army commander in Europe, General Ben Hodges, had just visited Ukraine, decorating Ukrainian soldiers and promising them trainers. He was doing this outside NATO, said Friedman, because NATO membership required 100 percent approval and Ukraine risked being vetoed, so the US was going ahead on its own. 

What the US has long dreaded, said Friedman, is the combination of German capital and technology with Russian resources and labor. The Nord Stream pipeline was leading in that direction, toward mutual trade and security arrangements that would no long require either the dollar or NATO. 

“For Russia,” said Friedman, “the status of Ukraine is an existential threat. And the Russians cannot afford to let it go.” For the United States, however, it is a means to an end: separating Russia from Germany.

Friedman concluded that the big question was, how will the Germans react?

So far, German leaders have been reacting like the loyal managers of a country under US occupation – which it is.

The German Peace Movement Threat

Any sign of sympathy with Russia has been so demonized, repressed, even criminalized since the Russian invasion began on Feb. 24, 2022, that most German protests initially avoided taking any position on the war and focused on the economic hardships caused by sanctions. 

But on Jan. 25 of this year, Chancellor Olaf Scholz gave in to US pressure to send German Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, about the same time that German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, of the Green Party, casually told an international meeting that “we are fighting a war against Russia.”

This jolted people into action.

Spontaneous demonstrations broke out in large and small cities all over Germany with slogans such as “Ami (Americans) Go Home!”, “Greens to the Front!”, “Make Peace Without German Weapons.” Speakers condemned the tank deliveries for “crossing a red line,” accused the United States of forcing Germany into war with Russia, and called for Baerbock’s resignation.

The wave of demonstrations peaked one month later on Feb. 25 when up to 50,000 people rallied to the “Uprising for Peace” (Aufstand für Frieden) in Berlin, called on the initiative of two women, left politician Sahra Wagenknecht and veteran feminist writer and editor Alice Schwartzer.
Over half a million people signed their “Manifesto for Peace” calling on Chancellor Scholz to “stop the escalation of arms deliveries” and work for a ceasefire and negotiations. Organizers called for reconstruction of a massive German peace movement, on the model of the anti-nuclear missile movement of the 1980s that led up to Russian acceptance of German reunification.

However, building a peace movement in Germany today faces many obstacles. Under US military occupation since the end of World War II, German institutions and media are permeated with American influence, as is the legal order. Paradoxically, the trans-Atlantic American grip seems only to have tightened since German reunification.

Monitoring ‘Extremes’

Germany monitors political “extremism” through a domestic intelligence agency, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, BfV (Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz). Although strictly speaking Germany does not have a constitution, it has a strong Constitutional Court designed specifically to prevent any reversion to Nazi power practices.

Instead of a constitution, a transitional Basic Law approved by the Western occupying powers (the US, Britain and France) in 1949 enabled the Federal Republic to assume the government of West Germany. Upon reunification, the Basic Law was extended to all of Germany.

In the spirit of liberal “antitotalitarianism,” the BfV monitors both “left-wing extremism” and “right-wing extremism” as potential threats. “Islamic extremism” has more recently come under supervision. The underlying political implication is that “right-wing extremism” designates Nazi tendencies, while “left-wing extremism” leans toward Soviet-style communism. 

This 20th century political topography implicitly establishes “the center” as an innocent middle-ground where citizens can feel at ease. Even the most radical militarism is not “extreme” in this scheme of things.

Article 5 of the Basic Law grants individuals the right to express opinions, but there are numerous limitations in the Criminal Code, with punishment for “inciting hatred,” racism, anti-Semitism and prison terms for Holocaust denial. Also prohibited are propaganda or symbols of “unconstitutional” organizations, disparagement of the State and its symbols, blasphemy against established religions and especially failure to respect “human dignity.”

Of course, what matters in all these laws is how they are interpreted. The ban on “rewarding and approving crimes” (Section 140), that was originally intended to apply to convictions for violent civil crimes, has now been extended to the geopolitical sphere, namely, outlawing “approval or support” of what it terms “aggressive war.” 

Antiwar activist Heinrich Bücker’s speech in Berlin last June 22 calling for good relations with Russia on the anniversary of the 1941 Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union was condemned by a Berlin court for “approving Russia’s crime of invasion.” In practice, any effort to clarify the Russian position by referring to NATO expansion and Kiev regime attacks on Donbass since 2014 can be interpreted as such “approval or support.”
Needless to say, Germans were never threatened with criminal prosecution for approving the US invasions of Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan, much less the totally aggressive and illegal 1999 bombing of Serbia, in which they enthusiastically took part. Widely celebrated as a laudable act of humanitarianism, that bombing campaign, killing civilians and destroying infrastructure, forced Serbia to allow NATO to occupy its province of Kosovo, where the Americans built themselves a huge military base. Ethnic Albanian rebels declared independence and thousands of non-Albanians were driven out.

German Police Enforce Centrist Conformity

As demonstrators gathered for the “Uprising for Peace” demonstration in Berlin, an organizer appeared on the speakers’ platform to read out a long list of things banned by police. The list included numerous symbols or signs related to the Soviet Union, Russia, Belarus or Donbass; Russian military songs; “endorsement of the war of aggression currently being waged by Russia against Ukraine,” etc.

The day before, Berlin police had delivered to the organizers a detailed explanation justifying these prohibitions, specifying that “public safety was in imminent danger.” Police said that according to their information, “the participants of your meeting will mainly consist of people with an old-left, pro-Russian basic attitude, who are against the arms deliveries of the German government to Ukraine, the geopolitics of the ‘West/the USA’ and against NATO in general.”

The police had reason to believe that the Feb. 25 meeting would attract “very heterogeneous” participants “with their own views (state delegitimizers, conspiracy believers, supporters of the Putin regime, etc.)” and therefore, precautions must be taken.

The Cross-Front Threat

Police referred to a comparable meeting a month earlier, on Jan. 27, whose organizers were accused by leftwing and antifascist groups of having “tolerated cross-thinkers (Querdenker) and people of the right scene at their meeting.” A cross-thinker is one who crosses the enemy front lines between left and right, an offense called “cross-front,” also referred to as “red-brown”. 

What is remarkable is that in Germany, the establishment, the media, the BfV and notably the police have taken up the term “cross-front” (Querfront) with the same opprobrium as the Antifa movement where it is used ostensibly to enforce the ideological purity of the left. Initially it meant a rightwing appropriation of leftwing themes intended to seduce and mislead leftists into fascist combinations. The historical basis of the term lies in unsuccessful coalition attempts of rightwingers in the late Weimar Republic in a context of intense rivalry between strong Nazi and Communist movements vying for working class support, totally unlike the political atmosphere of today. 

In the absence of either a strong Nazi or Communist movement, the term is currently used to denounce any cooperation, or even contact, between leftists and movements or individuals described as “extreme right.” This label is frequently based on not much more than opposition to unlimited immigration, denounced as racism.

By this standard, the Alternative for Germany (AfD) opposition party (with 78 out of 736 seats in the current Bundestag) is “extreme right.” Since most Bundestag members critical of arming Ukraine come either from Die Linke (Left) party or the AfD, the anti-crossfront vigilance condemns in advance a broad, open antiwar opposition.

Subjective Evaluations by Police

According to the Feb. 24 Berlin police warning, “The approval of the war of aggression against international law, which the Russian Federation is currently waging against Ukraine, is punishable under Section 140 …” Such approval can be expressed not only by words but by a number of signs and symbols. In particular, the display of the letter “Z” (supposedly standing for the Russian expression za pobyedu – for victory) would constitute a criminal offense.

Even more far-fetched, the flag of the defunct USSR is also criminalized, because, according to police: “the USSR flag symbolizes a Russia within the borders of the former Soviet Union.” This, according to Berlin police, “is seen by experts as the actual desired goal of Russian President Vladimir Putin” and explains his attack on Ukraine. 
The present restrictions are expressly not directed against the content of expressions of opinion, which may not be prevented within the framework of Article 5 of the Basic Law, but are intended, from a contextual point of view, to prevent your assembly, in the manner in which it is conducted, from being suitable or intended for conveying a readiness to use violence and thereby having an intimidating effect, or from violating the moral sensibilities of citizens and fundamental social or ethical views in a significant manner.
A Cautious Demonstration

The “Uprising for Peace” in the end provided no opportunities for police interventions or arrests. Like the “Manifesto for Peace,” the German speeches largely avoided references to US and NATO provocations leading to the war.

Only Jeffrey Sachs, whose opening speech in English was broadcast to the crowd on a screen, dared speak of the background to the Russian invasion: the 2014 Kiev coup, the US arming of Ukraine, the US opposition to peace negotiations, the likelihood that the US was responsible for blowing up the Nord Stream pipelines and other facts susceptible of offending certain sensibilities. But there was no chance that Berlin police would arrest Sachs, who was not in Germany.
The other speakers largely ignored the origins of the war, concentrating instead on fears of where it might lead: constant escalation of arms deliveries, even nuclear war. The huge crowd was bundled up against the icy cold and light snow. Flags mostly portrayed peace doves and slogans called for diplomacy, for peace negotiations instead of arms deliveries, for avoidance of nuclear war. Neo-Nazis and extreme rightists were declared unwelcome and must have come in disguise as they were scarcely visible. The whole event could hardly have been more well-behaved and respectable.

Attacking Wagenknecht

Despite all this niceness, the demonstration and its organizers were fiercely attacked by politicians and media. Sahra Wagenknecht is a popular figure, being pushed out of her dwindling Left Party (Die Linke) by leaders who tend to follow the increasingly bellicose Greens in the hope of being included in leftwing coalition governments. 

Wagenknecht, married to Oskar Lafontaine, who as a leading Social Democrat was prominent in the antimissile movement of the 1980s, is rumored to be preparing to found a party of her own. This would fill a yawning gap in the current German political scene: an antiwar party firmly on the left. She must therefore be seen as the main political threat to the reigning coalition.

Thus Wagenknecht has been vehemently attacked for the fact that her antiwar speeches have been applauded in parliament by members of the AfD. And despite having repeatedly condemned the Russian invasion for breaking international law, other things she has said have been described as “close to the narrative” of Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

Despite her caution, she is blamed for “understanding” the Russian viewpoint, which is unacceptable.

In a major hit piece, journalist Markus Decker called Wagenknecht the most influential enemy of democracy in Germany. Wagenknecht, he wrote, “is the personified embodiment of what intelligence officers have been warning about for years: the blurring of the boundaries between the political fringes and the extremes.” 
In other words, she should be monitored by the BfV as a sponsor of the dreaded cross-front. “Wagenknecht, who has been systematically blurring the lines between dictatorship and democracy since the beginning of the Russian attack on Ukraine, is not about peace. It’s about destroying democracy. Wagenknecht is probably its most influential enemy in Germany,” Decker wrote.

In the past few years, as hostility toward Russia has been building in the West, the Antifa exclusionary dogma has strengthened within the left. The result is that the left is less interested in winning over conservatives than in excluding them. This is a sort of essentialist identity politics: anyone “on the right” must be inherently an irreconcilable enemy. 

There is no thought that perhaps some people may vote for the Alternative for Germany because they feel let down by other parties, for instance by the Left Party. This could be especially true in East Germany, where both parties have roots.

Freedom of Opinion Under Threat

On March 15, a group of leftist artists and intellectuals released a petition calling for the defense of free expression. It reads:
 Germany is in a deep crisis. … Disinformation and manipulation of the population largely determine the current media culture. Anyone who does not share the prescribed official opinion on the Ukraine war, criticizes it and makes this known publicly, is defamed, threatened and sanctioned or ostracized. … In such an atmosphere, open debates, the exchange and presentation of differing views in the media, science, art, culture and other areas are hardly possible anymore. A truly free formation of opinion by weighing different arguments is impossible. Bias and ignorance, but also intimidation, fear, self-censorship and hypocrisy are the consequences. This is incompatible with human dignity and personal freedom.
Last month, Federal Interior Minister Nancy Faeser (SPD) introduced a new law making it possible to dismiss “enemies of the constitution” from the civil service by a simple administrative act. “We will not allow our democratic constitutional state to be sabotaged from within by extremists,” Faeser said. But in the view of the German Civil Servants’ Association, the bill “sends a message of mistrust to both employees and citizens.” 

A war atmosphere is supposed to unite a nation. But imposed artificially, it exposes and creates deep divisions.

Reprinted with author's permission from]]> Wed, 22 Mar 2023 13:27:56 GMT
Bungling Biden Pushes China Into Russia's Arms Daniel McAdams
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Iraq 20 Years: The Uses and Abuses of National Intelligence Estimates Ray McGovern

A New York Times Magazine article in July 2020 focused on then Secretary of State Powell and his U.N. speech of Feb. 5, 2003 and the National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) upon which it is largely based. A lot of the detail in the article may have been new to many readers, but not to Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, which had been established a month before. VIPS watched the speech, dissected it, and sent their verdict to President George W. Bush before close of business that same afternoon

We gave Powell a charitable grade of “C”, faulting him for, inter alia, not providing needed context and perspective. We should have flunked him outright.

Robert Draper’s article describes how, despite C.I.A.’s strong effort to please, the “case” the agency made for war on Iraq, using such evidence as there was on weapons of mass destruction, was deemed not alarmist enough for Vice President Dick Cheney and other administration hawks.

Specifically, the hawks were dissatisfied with the evidence-light, but-alarmist (term of art used was “leaning forward”) Pentagon and White House briefings by CIA Deputy Director John McLaughlin in late Dec. 2002 on WMD in Iraq. The hawks started to look elsewhere, since not all senior officials (including Powell) appeared to be “with the program.”

Draper reports that Powell ordered Carl Ford, director of the widely respected State Department Intelligence Unit (INR), to review the bidding regarding biological, chemical and nuclear weapons. Ford’s analysts strongly disputed many of the key assertions from the usual suspects – particularly those coming from non-intelligence, war-friendly bureaucrats enlisted to support the war-lust proclivities of Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Powell’s chief of staff, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, was also spending an inordinate amount of time batting away unsourced and dubious-sourced assertions from Cheneyites, so Powell finally told Wilkerson to start drafting from scratch.

Here’s where it gets interesting; here is where a little history and inside-baseball intelligence experience comes in handy. Draper quotes Powell: “It was George Tenet who came to the rescue.”

CIA Director Tenet suggested basing a new draft on the National Intelligence Estimate of Oct. 1, 2002, “Iraq’s Continuing Programs for Weapons of Mass Destruction.” That had immense appeal to Tenet and others who had been co-opted into “leaning forward” to facilitate a Bush/Cheney war on Iraq. Indeed, one can assume it had appeal to most of those involved in Powell’s speech preparation, given that the Security Council briefing was but a handful of days away.

I have been referring to that NIE, advisedly, as The Whore of Babylon, wrong on every major accusation about WMD in Iraq. I speak from experience at the CIA as a former chair of National Intelligence Estimates. This one was prepared not to determine the truth, but rather to “justify” a preemptive war on Iraq, where there was nothing to preempt.

To their credit, State/INR analysts had expressed formal dissent from some of its main conclusions back in September 2002.

No, it is not possible that Powell could have been unaware of that. And it is not difficult to explain why Powell chose to spurn his own intelligence analysts, despite their relatively solid reputation. I will resist the temptation to guess at Powell’s motivation, even though I have had some considerable experience with him. Back in the day, we used to spend a few minutes comparing notes before my one-on-one morning briefings of his boss, Defense Secretary Casper Weinberger, with The President’s Daily Brief.

I am not surprised, though, as Draper quotes Powell explaining his decision to stay in place as secretary of state and to do what he was told: “I knew I didn’t have any choice. He’s the President.” Draper adds that, “although Powell would not admit it, Bush’s request that he be the one to make the case against Hussein to the UN was enormously flattering. Cheney took a more direct approach: ‘The Vice President said to me: “You’re the most popular man in America. Do something with that popularity.””

The All-Purpose NIE on Iraqi WMD

Draper describes INR’s Director Ford as “heartsick” watching Powell on TV before the UN Security Council. Ford’s chagrin was widely shared among serious intelligence analysts – as well as by us alumni watching the prostitution of what had been our tell-it-like-it-is intelligence analysis profession. But there the National Intelligence Estimate was for plucking – an intelligence community-endorsed consensus already “on the books” – and with drafting time running out.

Admittedly, this would be a far cry from starting “from scratch.” Rather, it became a case of “garbage in, garbage out.” Draper names the intelligence garbagemen: CIA Director Tenet, his deputy McLaughlin, the chair of the NIE Robert Walpole, for example. They were out and out guilty of fixing the NIE in the first place and then its derivative that Powell briefed in open session to Security Council. No, these were not innocent mistakes. The intelligence was fraudulent from the get-go.

I am not making this up. Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity were able to see what was coming, and warned Bush on the afternoon of Powell’s speech to be wary of “those advisers clearly bent on a war for which we see no compelling reason and from which we believe the unintended consequences are likely to be catastrophic.” VIPs followed up with two more Memos before the March 2003 US/UK attack on Iraq.

The leaked Downing Street Minutes, published by The Times of London on May 1, 2005, provided the “smoking gun.” The minutes, from a July 23, 2002 briefing of Prime Minister Tony Blair by the chief of British intelligence, just back from consultations with Tenet in Langley, showed that the White House had already decided to attack Iraq for regime change and that the “intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy”. [Emphasis added.]

This and additional detail is covered in a chapter I wrote in 2005, for the book Neo-CONNED Again!, which I titled “Sham Dunk: Cooking Intelligence for the President.”

Sadly, not one of the many intelligence functionaries aware of what was going on went to the media or resigned. In contrast, before the attack on Iraq, three senior Foreign Service Officers, looking on from Athens, Ulaanbaatar, and Washington, summarily quit on principle – so clear had it become that the US was embarked on a so-called “war of choice.”

“War of choice” is more formally known as “war of aggression” – defined at the post WWII Nuremberg Tribunal as “the supreme international crime differing from other war crimes only in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.” (Think torture, for example, as part of that accumulation.)

Equally sad, none of the perpetrators of the crime have been held to account for this crime, nor even for torture and other accumulated evils. No one held to account. Col. Pat Lang and I addressed this issue in an op-ed in 2007; we argued that the US could ill afford letting the Iraq War-liars off lightly, even if that meant taking a hard look back over previous years.

What is the inevitable result when no one is held to account?

Putting a coda on all this several years later, the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee announced on June 5, 2008 the bipartisan conclusions of a five-year study by his committee that the attack on Iraq was launched “under false pretenses.” He described the intelligence conjured up to “justify” war on Iraq as “uncorroborated, contradicted, or even non-existent.”

“Nonexistent” intelligence?

Finally, for those who may continue to believe that Powell and National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice (of “mushroom cloud” fame”), for example, were mistaken, rather than lying about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, let me suggest watching this very short video.

Then, please ask yourself if Iraq could go from zero weapons of mass destruction before 9/11 to a formidable array of WMD a short year later.

NIEs: a Big Deal

Ever since the CIA was established, the NIE has been the supreme genre of intelligence analysis and has included input from other intelligence agencies – in recent years, 17 of them. The NIE’s record for accuracy is spotty. One completed in September 1962, for example, said the Soviets would never try to put missiles in Cuba, as the missiles were en route.

A thoroughly professional one on Iran in 2007, managed by a former director of State/INR, concluded unanimously “with high confidence” that Iran had stopped working on a nuclear weapon in late 2003. That one demonstrably played a huge role in thwarting Cheney/Bush planning for a strike on Iran in 2008, their last year in office. (Bush actually says as much in the part of his memoir that he wrote himself.)

It would be a mistake, however, to put the “Whore of Babylon” NIE of Oct. 1, 2002 about all those Iraqi WMD in the category of the unfortunate 1962 Estimate on Cuba. The conclusions in the Iraq Estimate were not mistaken, they were fraudulent. The conclusions were fixed to “justify” an unprovoked attack on Iraq.

Here’s what happened and why it is relevant today. Throughout 2002, Tenet, who as director of Central Intelligence was in charge of the entire intelligence community as well as the CIA, had been deftly avoiding doing an Estimate on WMD in Iraq because he knew the evidence was paper-thin. As the public campaign to justify an attack on Iraq heated up in September 2002, the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Bob Graham (D-FL) asked Tenet to please prepare such an Estimate. The answer came back: Can’t do; too busy.

Under pressure from Committee member Dick Durbin (D-IL) Graham called Tenet back and told him, in essence: No NIE, no vote to authorize war.

After informing the White House, Tenet got permission to go ahead and have an NIE prepared – with two conditions. It had to conform with the extreme accusations about Iraqi WMD that Cheney made during a speech at a Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Nashville on Aug. 26, 2002; and the NIE had to be formally issued before the first week of October when the White House wanted a House and Senate vote to give Bush permission to make war.

No problem for Tenet, who found himself the ultimate beneficiary of former CIA Director Robert Gates’ finely tuned Geiger counter for careerists and corruptibility in selecting top managers. The malleable managers promoted originally by Gates were happy to conjure up in record time a formal estimate written to the specifications of their frequent visitor: Vice President Cheney. This is the NIE on Iraq’s weapons capability that Draper describes as having “been thrown together in less than three weeks” in September 2002.

Corrupt Holdovers: ‘So Eager to Help’

James Clapper, whom President Barack Obama appointed director of National Intelligence overseeing the entire intelligence community, was in charge of satellite imagery analysis at the time, leading up to the attack on Iraq. Did he tell anyone that no WMD had been discovered in imagery – the primary source for such intelligence? Well, no. Rather, he was “leaning forward.”

At the Carnegie Foundation in November 2018, Clapper was hawking his memoir Facts and Fears: Hard Truths From a Life in Intelligence. In the book Clapper places the blame for the consequential fraud (he calls it “the failure”) to find the (nonexistent) WMD, in his words, “where it belongs – squarely on the shoulders of the administration members who were pushing a narrative of a rogue WMD program in Iraq and on the intelligence officers, including me, who were so eager to help that we found what wasn’t really there.” (Emphasis added) .

Clapper explained:
“… we heard that Vice President Cheney was pushing the Pentagon for intelligence on Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, and then the order came down [to Clapper as director of NIMA, the National Imagery and Mapping Agency] to find the WMD sites. We set to work, analyzing imagery to eventually identify, with varying degrees of confidence, more than 950 sites where we assessed there might be WMDs or a WMD connection. We drew on all of NIMA’s skill sets … and it was all wrong.”
During the Q and A I commented on Clapper’s eagerness to please whatever superiors he was working for at the time, and give them the information they lusted for to “justify” things like war – to the point of finding “what wasn’t really there.”?

I noted that exactly two years earlier, the Obamas and Clintons were desperate to blame Donald Trump’s victory on Russian interference. And so, I asked, was this a repeat performance? Had Clapper snapped to and again “found what really wasn’t there?” This, I emphasized, was the conclusion of VIPs, including two former technical directors at NSA who had done the forensic research on how DNC emails ended up at WikiLeaks – the work the FBI decided not to do.

Why Not an NIE on Russian Interference?

Here’s the rub. In December 2016, Clapper rejected a request from House Intelligence Committee chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA) to provide a briefing to members on Russia’s alleged meddling in the November election.

The denial prompted Nunes to cast doubt on recent claims coming out of the CIA, including whether or not there really is an agency assessment that Moscow was aiming to help Trump win the presidency. “We want to clarify press reports that the CIA has a new assessment that it has not shared with us,” he added.

Nunes was more pointed in a letter to Director of National Intelligence Clapper. He claimed he was “dismayed” that the committee had not been informed about reports that the CIA had revised information that it previously reported to members. Nunes noted that during an open hearing in November, Clapper said the evidence connecting the government of Russia to WikiLeaks was “not as strong,” and that the intel community didn’t have “good insight into” the issue.

At about the same time, several Democratic senators, including Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Ben Cardin (D-MD), wrote a letter to Clapper requesting an NIE on “Russian efforts to manipulate the recent US presidential election.”

“Given the serious nature of these matters, with unprecedented national security implications, we believe that our intelligence community must prioritize a conclusive, public NIE to lay out the facts of this serious matter for the American people,” the senators urged in their letter.

Oops. Lame duck Clapper and his bosses suddenly developed a Tenet-like allergy to preparing a full blown NIE. The White House opted instead to commission Clapper to do a study for Obama. The Democrats in Congress may well have been warned about the thinness of the evidence (now thoroughly debunked) that Russia hacked the DNC emails published by WikiLeaks. In any event, they acquiesced in what Clapper misnamed an “Intelligence Community Assessment” titled “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US Elections.”

An NIE, of course, would have required the participation of all 17 intelligence agencies, some of whom, like State/INR, might ask troublesome questions about the evidence as well as the conclusions. Clapper’s lame excuse that there was not enough time to do a full NIE does not pass the smell test.

After several months of advertising the “Intelligence Community Assessment” as the product of all 17 intelligence agencies, Clapper was forced to admit to Congress that, well, actually only the CIA, F.B.I., and NSA were involved; and, well, actually only “handpicked analysts” from those three. Notably shut out of the process were that pesky INR (with its substantial expertise on Russia) and the Defense Intelligence Agency, which has charter responsibility for keeping tabs on the GRU, the Russian military intelligence agency alleged to have done the hacking.

Former US Ambassador to Russia Jack Matlock asked a former colleague why State/INR was frozen out of the process. His friend explained simply that INR did not agree with the analysis – and not for the first time.

In other words, the Jan. 6, 2017 “Intelligence Community Assessment” was deliberately organized as a rump effort to come up with the answers Clapper’s White House bosses wanted – a reprise of his performance with imagery analysis on WMD in Iraq.

And off and running went Russiagate.

This escapade actually may have been easier for Clapper who may believe what he said during an interview with NBC’s Chuck Todd on May 28, 2017; namely that the Russians are “almost genetically driven to co-opt, penetrate, gain favor, whatever, which is a typical Russian technique.” Certainly, Clapper would not want any State Department pin-stripers messing with his firm handle on the make-up of Russian chromosomes.

Clapper and his colleagues are no longer in office and, by some estimates, may be lucky to stay out of jail.

Ray McGovern works with Tell the Word, a publishing arm of the ecumenical Church of the Saviour in inner-city Washington. His 27-year career as a CIA analyst includes serving as Chief of the Soviet Foreign Policy Branch and preparer/briefer of the President’s Daily Brief. He is co-founder of Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS). 

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It’s Moving, It’s Alive! Alvin Bragg Prepares the Ultimate Frankenstein Indictment Jonathan Turley

Below is my column in the New York Post on the expected indictment against former President Donald Trump. It is an effort to reanimate a long dead legal claim against Trump, but could reanimate his presidential campaign.

Here is the column:

“It’s moving. It’s alive. It’s alive . . . it’s moving . . . IT’S ALIVE!”

The scene from the 1931 movie “Frankenstein” came to mind this week as Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg prepared an indictment of former President Donald Trump.

It is the ultimate gravedigger charge, where Bragg unearthed a case from 2016 and, through a series of novel steps, is seeking to bring it back to life.

Of course, like the good doctor, Bragg shows little concern over what he has created in his Frankenstein indictment.

Bragg is combining parts from both state and federal codes.

He is reportedly going to convert a misdemeanor for falsifying financial records into a prosecution of a federal crime.

The federal crime is reportedly the failure to report a payment of $130,000 to former porn star Stormy Daniels to hush up an affair.

That was just before the presidential election and Bragg is alleging that it was an effective campaign donation.

Bragg is attempting something that many lawyers think is as improbable as the reanimation of the dead.

The Justice Department itself declined this prosecution and both the former chair of the Federal Election Commission and various election law experts have thrown shade on the theory.

Not only did Bragg’s predecessor, Cyrus Vance, not bring this case, but Bragg himself stopped the prosecution.

It was after one of Bragg’s lead prosecutors resigned and wrote a book on prosecuting Trump that pressure became too much for the district attorney, who grabbed his shovel and went to work.

There are serious challenges to this prosecution, including an argument that time has expired under the statute of limitations.

The limit is two years for a misdemeanor and, even if he can convert this into a felony, it is not clear if he can meet the longer five-year limitation.

Bragg will have to convince a court that Trump paid the hush money for the sole purpose of the election.

As a married man and television celebrity, Trump had other reasons to try to avoid a scandal.

That is precisely why such cases (like one against former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards) failed in prior prosecutions.

However, the greater danger may come if he succeeds in moving this case to trial.

Locals in New York will be thrilled, but will the rest of the country join the pitch-folk carrying mob?

This is a patently political prosecution.

Indeed, of all of the potential charges that Trump is facing in Washington, Atlanta and New York, this is one that he must have hoped would come first.

The investigation into Trump’s actions at Mar-a-Lago by the Justice Department raise well-established crimes and an array of evidence.

While a possible charge in Georgia over election violations is weaker, it is also based on a stronger legal foundation.If Trump were seeking a way to prove the political weaponization of the criminal justice system, Bragg just fulfilled that narrative.

Now, if these other cases result in charges, it will look like Democrats are piling on to knock Trump out of the race for 2024.

They will be painted by this transparently political prosecution.

Indeed, voters could well view the election as a vote against the establishment and the media — the very thing that got Trump elected in 2016.

A prosecution is likely to extend beyond the election.

However, if it is thrown out before that date, it will again reinforce Trump’s claims of political targeting.

The prosecution could add a truly wicked dimension to the election.

While Biden is accused of illegally possessing an array of classified material in various locations, the Justice Department has long (in my view, wrongly) followed a policy that it cannot prosecute a sitting president.

However, would it indict Trump but not Biden on that basis? Again, the public is unlikely to stand for a perceived double standard.

Then there is the question of a self-pardon. I have long maintained that a president can pardon himself.

That would mean that the election could become a vote on who you want protected from prosecution: Biden (under the DOJ rule) or Trump (under a self pardon).

While many celebrate Bragg restoring life to the statutorily deceased, they should consider what he has created.

Bragg is releasing this case into a public that is already on edge.

Polls show that a large number of Americans believe that the legal system is being politicized and hold both state and federal government in suspicion.

A fifth of Americans now view the government as the greatest threat facing the nation. What is truly shocking is that 53 percent in one poll agreed with the statement that the FBI acts like “Biden’s Gestapo.”

This case could well succeed at trial, but it will come at a great cost even if overturned on appeal. It is inviting other prosecutors to act with the same political abandon.

In the 1931 movie, Dr. Frankenstein was warned, “You have created a monster, and it will destroy you!”

Bragg is risking the reanimation of more than a cadaverous crime.Indeed, he could single handily reanimate the presidency of Donald J. Trump.

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Iraq was 20 Years Ago Today… Peter Van Buren

I was part of Iraq 2.0, heading two embedded civilian provincial reconstruction teams (ePRTs) 2009-2010 and wrote a book critical of the program, We Meant Well, for which was I was punished into involuntary retirement by my employer the U.S. State Department. The working title for the book was originally “Lessons for Afghanistan from the Failed Reconstruction of Iraq” and was meant to explain how our nation building efforts failed to accomplish anything except setting afire rampant corruption, and how repeating them nearly dollar-for-dollar in the Afghan theatre was just going to yield the same results. After all, isn’t one definition of madness doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results?

The title of my book changed to something less academic sounding, coming out as it did around the tenth anniversary of Iraq War 2.0. It is important to look back accurately; on the tenth anniversary the meme was still that the Surge was going to work, that the final push of soldiers and civilian reconstructors was going to break Al Qaeda in Iraq by coopting their indigenous Sunni partners. “Jury Still Out on Iraq Invasion” wrote Politico. My editor selfishly hoped the war would still be going on in a few months so we might sell some books. I knew we had something to worry about, not that the war would fail to drag on but that the failures would be so obvious no one would see the need to read a whole book about them.

The way it all worked was like this. Washington would determine some broad theme-of-the-month (such as women’s empowerment) aimed at a domestic American audience. The theme would filter down to us at the PRT level and we were to concoct some sort of “project,” something tangible on the ground, preferably something that showed well in the media we’d invite to see our progress. It wasn’t hard because corrupt organizations arose like flowers from the desert to take our money. Usually run by a local Tony Soprano-type warlord, the organization would morph in name alone as needed from local activist group to NGO to entrepreneur incubator depending on the project. We’d give them boxes full of dollars (nobody wanted Iraqi money, a clue) and perhaps some event would occur, or a speaker might be brought in. We funded bakeries on streets without water, paid for plays on getting along with neighbors, and threw money at all this only because no one could find a match to just set fire to it directly. Little was expected in the end outside a nice slideshow celebrating another blow for democracy. In shopping for hearts and minds in Iraq, we made bizarre impulse purchases, described elsewhere as “checkbook diplomacy.”

As Iraq morphed into a subject we were just not going to talk about very much (one journalist who read my early draft opined “So you’re the guy who is going to write the last critical book on Iraq before Petraeus takes a victory lap in his”) attention turned to Afghanistan. I knew this because suddenly I was flooded with requests to write recommendations for the same people who had failed so completely in Iraq to work in Afghanistan. As part of some escalation or another, the military was rehiring most of the civilians who had failed to reconstruct Iraq into exactly the same roles in Afghanistan, presumably to (fail) to reconstruct that sad place.

I dutifully answered each personnel inquiry accurately, fully, and as a patriot, with the hope that someone would see what was going on and put a goddamn stop to it. I was very wrong. The key element of the fantasy was the reconstruction effort, the idea that rebuilding Afghanistan via $141 billion in roads and schools and bridges and hardware stores would gut the Taliban’s own more brutal hearts and minds efforts. That was the same plan as in Iraq only minutes earlier, where between 2003 and 2014, more than $220 billion was spent on rebuilding the country. Nonetheless, the Iraqi failure on full display, the United States believed that economic and social development programming would increase support for the Afghan government and reduce support for the Taliban (the log line for the war script.)

However, as had its sister organization in Iraq, the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR) wrote “the theory that economic and social development programing could produce such outcomes had weak empirical foundations.” Former Ambassador to Afghanistan Michael McKinley noted, “It wasn’t that everyone, including conservative rural populations, didn’t appreciate services… But that didn’t seem to change their views.” As the Army War College wrote, “This idea that if you build a road or a hospital or a school, people will then come on board and support the government — there’s no evidence of that occurring anywhere since 1945, in any internal conflict. It doesn’t work.” As an American former advisor to President Ghani told SIGAR, “Building latrines does not make you love Ashraf Ghani.” But that was indeed the plan and it failed spectacularly, slow over its own twenty years then all at once last August. SIGAR summed up: “U.S. efforts to build and sustain Afghanistan’s governing institutions were a total, epic, predestined failure on par with the same efforts and outcome in the Vietnam war, and for the same reasons.”

No, wait, nobody said any of those things during the Afghan war, only afterwards when it was time to look around and assign blame to someone other than oneself. The Iraq reconstruction failed to account for the lessons of Vietnam (the CORDS program in particular.) The Afghan reconstruction failed to account for the lessons of Iraq. We now sit and wait to see the coming Ukraine reconstruction fail to remember any of it at all.

“It is obvious that American business can become the locomotive that will once again push forward global economic growth,” President Zelensky said, boasting BlackRock, JP Morgan, and Goldman Sachs, and others “have already become part of our Ukrainian way.” The NYT calls Ukraine “the world’s largest construction site” and predicts projects there in the multi-billions, as high in some estimates as 750 billion. It will be, says the Times, a “gold rush: the reconstruction of Ukraine once the war is over. Already the staggering rebuilding task is evident. Hundreds of thousands of homes, schools, hospitals and factories have been obliterated along with critical energy facilities and miles of roads, rail tracks and seaports. The profound human tragedy is unavoidably also a huge economic opportunity.”

We did worse than nothing. Iraq before our invasion(s) was a more or less stable place, good enough that Saddam was even an ally of sorts during the Iraq-Iran War. By the time we were finished Iraq was a corrupt client state of Iran. Where once most literate Americans knew the name of the Iraqi Prime Minister, a regular White House guest, unless he’s changed his name to Zelensky nobody cares anymore. And that’s what the sign on the door leading out of Iraq (and perhaps into Ukraine) reads — thousands of lives and billions of dollars later, no one cares, if they even remember.

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Trump And Putin To The Slammer? Daniel McAdams

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'True Stories … Could Fuel Hesitancy': Stanford Project Worked to Censor Even True Stories on Social Media Jonathan Turley

While lost in the explosive news about Donald Trump’s expected arrest, journalist Matt Taibbi released new details on previously undisclosed censorship efforts on social media. The latest Twitter Files revealed a breathtaking effort from Stanford’s Virality Project to censor even true stories. After all, the project insisted “true stories … could fuel hesitancy” over taking the vaccine or other measures. The effort included suppressing stories that we now know are legitimate such as natural immunity defenses, the exaggerated value of masks, and questions over vaccine efficacy in preventing second illnesses. The work of the Virality Project to censor even true stories should result in the severance of any connection with Stanford University.

We have learned of an ever-expanding coalition of groups working with the government and social media to target and censor Americans, including government-funded organizations.

However, the new files are chilling in the details allegedly showing how the Virality Project labeled even true stories as “anti-vaccine” and, therefore, subject to censorship. These files would suggest that the Project eagerly worked to limit free speech and suppress alternative scientific viewpoints.

Taibbi describes the Virality Project as “a sweeping, cross-platform effort to monitor billions of social media posts by Stanford University, federal agencies, and a slew of (often state-funded) NGOs.”
He added: “We’ve since learned the Virality Project in 2021 worked with government to launch a pan-industry monitoring plan for Covid-related content. At least six major Internet platforms were ‘onboarded’ to the same JIRA ticketing system, daily sending millions of items for review.”
According to Taibbi, it targeted anyone who did not robotically fall in line with the CDC and media narratives, including targeting postings that shared “Reports of vaccinated individuals contracting Covid-19 anyway,” research on “natural immunity,” suggesting Covid-19 “leaked from a lab,” and even “worrisome jokes.”

That included evidence that it “knowingly targeted true material and legitimate political opinion, while often being factually wrong itself.”

The Virality Project warned Twitter that “true stories … could fuel hesitancy,” including stories on “celebrity deaths after vaccine” and the closure of a central New York school due to reports of post-vaccine illness.

The Project is part of the Cyber Policy Center at Stanford and bills itself as “a joint initiative of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies and Stanford Law School, connects academia, the legal and tech industry and civil society with policymakers around the country to address the most pressing cyber policy concerns.”

The Center launched the Project as a “a global study aimed at understanding the disinformation dynamics specific to the COVID-19 crisis.”

As with many disinformation projects, it became a source of its own disinformation in the effort to suppress alternative views.

It is being funded by Craig Newmark Philanthropies and the Hewlett Foundation.

On its website, it proclaims: “At the Stanford Internet Observatory our mission is to study the misuse of the internet to cause harm, and to help create policy and technical mitigations to those harms.” It defines its mission to maintain the truth as it sees it:
The global COVID-19 crisis has significantly shifted the landscape for mis- and disinformation as the pandemic has become the primary concern of almost every nation on the planet. This has perhaps never happened before; few topics have commanded and sustained attention at a global level simultaneously, or provided such a wealth of opportunities for governments, economically motivated actors, and domestic activists alike to spread malign narratives in service to their interests.
What is even more disconcerting is that groups like the Virality Project worked against public health by suppressing such stories that are now considered legitimate from the efficacy of masks to the lab origin theory. It was declaring dissenting scientific views to be dangerous disinformation. Nothing could be more inimical to the academic mission. Yet, Stanford still heralds the work of the Project on its website.

There is nothing more inherently in conflict with academic values than censorship. Stanford’s association with this censorship effort is disgraceful and should be a matter for faculty action. This is a project that sought to censor true stories that undermined government or media narratives.

I am not hopeful that Stanford will sever its connection to the Project. Censorship is now the rage on campuses and the Project is the perfect embodiment of this movement. Cloaking censorship efforts in self-righteous rhetoric, the Project sought to silence those who failed to adhere to a certain orthodoxy, including scientific and public health claims that were later found flawed or wrong. The Project itself is an example of what it called “media and social media capabilities – overt and covert – to spread particular narratives.”

Stanford should fulfill its pledge in creating the Virality Project in fighting disinformation by eliminating the Virality Project.

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Operation Babylift and the Hypocrisy of the International Criminal Court Kurt Nimmo

In the “collective West,” hypocrisy rules the narrative, most recently in regard to the ICC and the “kidnapped” children of Ukraine.

In America, the scurrilous neocon and warmonger propagandist Max Boot weighed in on the meaningless and unenforcible decision to arrest President Putin. Boot’s argument is delusional, but then neocons thrive on lies and delusions.
Propaganda, pure and simple. Boot is an accessory to mass murder, having advocated the invasion of Iraq, the slaughter of over a million Iraqis, and the engineered destruction of their country.

The hypocritical ICC didn’t bother to contrast and compare Putin’s supposed abduction of Ukrainian children to an organized mass kidnapping of Vietnamese children. It was dubbed “Operation Babylift,” ordered by then President Ford, and was conducted at the end of the Vietnam War as the USG evacuated, having lost the war.

The Vietnamese children abducted without permission were described as “orphans,” although many had parents and relatives that were left behind. 3,300 children, described as “infants” (many were older children), were parceled out to families in America, Australia, West Germany, and France.

The “rescue” of these children was an organized act of kidnapping pure and simple, yet in the Land of Amnesia, millions of Americans know nothing about it (or, for that matter, the Vietnam War itself and the brutal destruction of Southeast Asia).

In 1975, a class action suit was filed in San Francisco on behalf of the kidnapped children.

“The suit seeks to enjoin adoption proceedings until it has been ascertained either that the parents or appropriate relatives in Vietnam have consented to their adoption or that these parents or relatives cannot be found,” The Adoption History Project notes. “The Complaint alleged that several of the Vietnamese orphans brought to the United States under Operation Babylift stated they are not orphans and that they wish to return to Vietnam.”

A statement issued on April 4, 1975, by “professors of ethics and religion,” pointed out that many “of the children are not orphans; their parents or relatives may still be alive, although displaced, in Vietnam… The Vietnamese children should be allowed to stay in Vietnam where they belong.”

The operation was celebrated by the corporate media and “Hollywood’s celebrity elite… [and, as a propaganda event] generated a spectacle of celebration and emphasized that the babies were more than just average orphans,” writes US History Scene.
Uncritical acceptance of the Vietnam war orphans did not last long. A variety of American voices that ranged from child psychologists to news reporters to the casual observer soon began asking whether the evacuation served the best interests of the children. This concern followed closely on the heels of criticism over US motivation for the evacuation. Much of this controversy began when the unclear orphan status of some of the children came to light. The government of South Vietnam reluctantly allowed so many children to leave the country only under the condition that those who left would already be in the adoption process. Volunteers processing the children found that not all of them fit into this category of orphan. In the processing centers, some of the children told the volunteers that they were not orphans and had families living back in Vietnam.
Naturally, Operation Babylift is all but forgotten today. It would be counterproductive to the onslaught of USG and ICC propaganda, not directed at the welfare of children, but rather as a crude “informational” device to further turn opinion against Russia’s SMO to denazify and disarm Ukraine and, in addition, prevent NATO from undermining Russian national security.

Finally, I cannot recall the ICC denouncing the post-coup regime in Kyiv for its savage eight-plus-year bombardment of the Donbas. Between April 2014 to April 2021, the USG-supported conflict in Donbas killed 152 and injured 146 children. The tragedy was underscored by a photo of “the deaths of 23-year old Kristina Zhuk and her daughter, 10-month old Kira, (note, the linked image is disturbing) during the bombardment of the public square in Horlivka,” writes Daria Platonova for Strife.

Of course, none of this, including the genocidal murder of adults in Donbas by Russian-hating neo-nazi misanthropes (with USG-provided artillery), is covered by the criminal war propaganda corporate media. Sputnik International ran this article detailing the murder of innocents. No doubt, if noticed at all in the “collective West,” it was ignored.

Finally, those posting to social media in support of the authoritarian Zelenskyy and his thugs are providing encouragement for genocidal monsters who torture, rape, murder, and burn alive not only mothers but their babies as well.

Thankfully, Putin has saved thousands of children, and adult refugees as well, from the sort of wanton and indiscriminate murder suffered by “The Madonna of Gorlovka,” Kristina Zhuk, and her infant child.

Simply put, if you support Ukraine, you support the murder of babies.

Reprinted with permission from Kurt Nimmo on Geopolitics.]]> Mon, 20 Mar 2023 13:50:26 GMT