Friday, April 20, 2018

Can Radio-Convulsive Therapy Cure John Bolton?

Gorilla Tries Radio-Convulsive Therapy to Cure John Bolton of His Psychopathological Urges

by John Helmer - Dances with Bears


April 20, 2018

A politician becomes a psychopath when he or she acts without calculating the consequences on approval rating and voter support. The same goes for ministers and their advisers urging military operations abroad which make voters feel unsafe at home. Fear and insecurity are bad for incumbents.

Donald Trump and Theresa May both made this miscalculation when they launched their April 14 attack on Syria.

In the latest political polls they are now worse off than they were before the attack. The military operation, according to US and UK poll compilations, has reversed the positive trend in their standing with voters since the start of this year.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP’S APPROVAL RATING HAS BEEN GAINING THIS YEAR COMPARED TO LAST YEAR’S DECLINE


epolls/other/president_trump_job_approval-6179.html
 

TRUMP’S DISAPPROVAL RATING GREW AFTER THE APRIL 14 ATTACK ON SYRIA


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The US polls identify the reason for Trump’s gains with voters this year has been their perception that the president’s economic policies are good for them. When his job approval is measured on the economy, Trump’s approval rating exceeds disapproval by 48.3% to 46%. Click to see. By contrast, voter approval of Trump’s foreign policy performance is 40.2%, while disapproval is 53.2%. The political calculus is obvious – a positive spread between approval and disapproval on domestic policy of 2%; a negative spread for foreign policy of 13%.

A similar picture can be seen from the British opinion polls over the past year. The crossover point, when Prime Minister May began to gain at the expense of her Labor rival Jeremy Corbyn, coincides with the Salisbury event when the Skripals were poisoned on March 4. Summing up the results of the major opinion polls conducted in the UK, this is how May and her advisers interpret what has happened.

“The Salisbury poisoning and Labour’s anti-Semitism row may have harmed Jeremy Corbyn’s popularity among the British public, with new YouGov favourability data revealing the Prime Minister is now seen more favourably than the Leader of the Opposition for the first time since the general election.

At the end of January Corbyn was still comfortably ahead of May, with a net favourability rating of -12 versus the Prime Minister’s -25, scores which had been fairly consistent since August 2017. However, by mid-March the Prime Minister had essentially drawn level (on -15 to Corbyn’s -19), and now Theresa May leads her rival by -13 to -23.”


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It is also clear from the British polls that the prime minister has drawn all the voter gain from the Skripal affair. The Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson’s conduct attracted more negative sentiment from the electorate than any other minister. For Johnson the spread between approval and disapproval is now a negative 26; this compares with May’s negative 6, and Corbyn’s negative 27.

Johnson’s score is as bad as it was last year; his anti-Russian stance since the Skripal case began has gained him nothing. Compared to May as a candidate leader of the Conservative Party, Johnson has lost.

Look closely, however, at voter intention between the Conservative Party and Corbyn’s Labor Party, and these personal differences evaporate. There has been almost no change, statistically speaking, in the spread between the two parties since the start of the year. They are deadlocked at 40-40, with shifts of one or two percentage points in either party’s favour having no statistical significance.


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The party choice at election time is dominated by domestic policy issues, not foreign policy ones. When she joined Trump in the attack on Syria, May risked much of the gain she had earned from the Skripal case. The Syrian attack has been regarded by British voters as adding to their fears and reducing their security.


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It’s too soon for British voters to be able to count the strategic damage which Trump’s and May’s military operation did to American military power among their allies.


For a discussion of this with Chris Cook, listen to today’s interview on Gorilla Radio from Victoria, British Columbia, starting at Minute 2:40:
 


Gorilla Radio is broadcast every Thursday by Chris Cook on CFUV 101.9 FM from the University of Victoria. The radio station can be heard here. The Gorilla Radio transcripts are also published by the Pacific Free Press. For Chris Cook’s broadcast archive, click to open.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

'Unpersoning' Them

Unpersons

by William Blum - The Anti-Empire Report #157

 
April 18th, 2018
 
One reason it’s so easy to get an American administration, the mainstream media, and the American people to jump on an anti-Russian bandwagon is of course the legacy of the Soviet Union. 
 
To all the real crimes and shortcomings of that period the US regularly added many fictitious claims to agitate the American public against Moscow. That has not come to a halt. 
 
During a debate in the 2016 Republican presidential primary, candidate Ben Carson (now the head of the US Housing and Urban Development agency) allowed the following to pass his lips: 
 
“Joseph Stalin said if you want to bring America down, you have to undermine three things: Our spiritual life, our patriotism, and our morality.” 
 
This is a variation on many Stalinist “quotes” over the years designed to deprecate both the Soviet leader and any American who can be made to sound like him. The quote was quite false, but the debate moderators and the other candidates didn’t raise any question about its accuracy. Of course not.

Another feature of Stalinism that was routinely hammered into our heads was that of the “non-person” or “unperson” – the former well-known official or writer, for example, who fell out of favor with the Stalinist regime for something he said or did, and was thereafter doomed to a life of obscurity, if not worse. In his classic 1984 George Orwell speaks of a character who “was already an unperson. He did not exist: he had never existed.” 
 
I was reminded of this by the recent sudden firing of Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State. Matthew Lee, the courageous Associated Press reporter who has been challenging State Department propaganda for years, had this to say in an April 1 article:

Rex Tillerson has all but vanished from the State Department’s website as his unceremonious firing by tweet took effect over the weekend.
The “Secretary of State Tillerson” link at the top of the department’s homepage disappeared overnight Saturday and was replaced with a generic “Secretary of State” tab. When clicked, it leads to a page that informs visitors in a brief statement that Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan “became acting Secretary of State on April 1, 2018.” It shows a photo of Sullivan signing his appointment papers as deputy in June 2017 but offers no explanation for the change in leadership.

In addition to that change, links that had connected to Tillerson’s speeches, travels and other events now display those of Sullivan. The link to Tillerson’s biography as the 69th secretary of state briefly returned a “We’re sorry, that page can’t be found” message. After being notified of the message, the State Department restored the link and an archive page for Tillerson’s tenure was enabled.

The most repeated Cold War anti-Communist myth was of course Nikita Khrushchev’s much quoted – No, eternally quoted! – line: “We will bury you.” On November 20 1956 the New York Times had reported: 
 
“In commenting on coexistence last night Mr. Khrushchev said communism did not have to resort to war to defeat capitalism.
“Whether you like it or not, history is on our side,” he said. “We will bury you.”

Obviously, it was not a military threat of any kind. But tell that to the countless individuals who have cited it as such forever.1 So, as matters turned out, did communism, or call it socialism, bury capitalism? No. But not for the reason the capitalists would like to think – their superior socio-economic system. Capitalism remains the world’s pre-eminent system primarily because of military power combined with CIA covert actions. It’s that combination that irredeemably crippled socialist forces in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Philippines, Guatemala, Haiti, Ecuador, the Congo, Brazil, Dominican Republic, Chile, Angola, Grenada, Nicaragua, Bulgaria, Albania, Afghanistan, Yugoslavia, El Salvador, etc., etc., etc.

We’ll never know what kind of societies would have resulted if these movements had been allowed to develop without US interference; which of course was the idea behind the interference. 

Political assassination. Political propaganda.


In the Cold War struggles against the Soviets/Russians the United States has long had the upper hand when it comes to political propaganda. What do the Russkis know about sales campaigns, advertising, psychological manipulation of the public, bait-and-switch, and a host of other Madison Avenue innovations. Just look at what the American media and their Western partners have done with the poisoning of the two Russians, Sergei Skripal and his daughter, in the UK. How many in the West doubt Russia’s guilt?

Then consider the case of Hugo Chávez. When he died in 2013 I wrote the following: 
 
“[W]hen someone like Chávez dies at the young age of 58 I have to wonder about the circumstances. Unremitting cancer, intractable respiratory infections, massive heart attack, one after the other … It is well known that during the Cold War, the CIA worked diligently to develop substances that could kill without leaving a trace. I would like to see the Venezuelan government pursue every avenue of investigation in having an autopsy performed.” (None was performed apparently.)

Back in December 2011, Chávez, already under treatment for cancer, wondered out loud: “Would it be so strange that they’ve invented the technology to spread cancer and we won’t know about it for 50 years?” The Venezuelan president was speaking a day after Argentina’s leftist president, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, announced she had been diagnosed with thyroid cancer. This was after three other prominent leftist Latin America leaders had been diagnosed with cancer: Brazil’s president, Dilma Rousseff; Paraguay’s Fernando Lugo; and the former Brazilian leader Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

“Evo take care of yourself. Correa, be careful. We just don’t know,” Chávez said, referring to Bolivia’s president, Evo Morales, and Rafael Correa, the president of Ecuador, both leading leftists.

Chávez said he had received words of warning from Fidel Castro, himself the target of hundreds of failed and often bizarre CIA assassination plots. 
 
“Fidel always told me: ‘Chávez take care. These people have developed technology. You are very careless. Take care what you eat, what they give you to eat … a little needle and they inject you with I don’t know what.”2

When the new Venezuelan president, Nicolas Maduro, suggested possible American involvement in Chávez’s death, the US State Department called the allegation “absurd” even though the United States had already played a key role in the short-lived overthrow of Chávez in 2002. I don’t know of any American mainstream media that has raised the possibility that Chávez was murdered.

I personally believe, without any proof to offer, (although no less than is offered re Russia’s guilt in the UK poisoning) that Hugo Chávez was indeed murdered by the United States. But unlike the UK case, I do have a motivation to offer: Given Chávez’s unremitting hostility towards American imperialism and the CIA’s record of more than 50 assassination attempts against such world political leaders, if his illness and death were NOT induced, the CIA was not doing its job. The world’s media, however, did its job by overwhelmingly ignoring such “conspiracy” talk, saving it for a more “appropriate” occasion, one involving their favorite bad guy, Russia.

If I could speak to British prime-minister Theresa May and her boorish foreign minister Boris Johnson I’d like to ask them: “What are you going to say when it turns out that it wasn’t Russia behind the Skripal poisonings?” Stay tuned. 

Another of the many charming examples of Cold War anti-communism


Nostalgia is on the march in Brazil, a longing for a return to the military dictatorship of 1964-1985, during which nearly 500 people were killed by the authorities or simply disappeared. It was a time when the ruling generals used systemic brutality, including electric shocks, as well as psychological torture in their effort to cement power and ward off what they called “communism”. They also stole many of the very young children of their victims and gave them to their followers, whom the children then believed to be their parents.

Crime is the main problem in Brazil today, the leading reason for the desire to return to the good old days of dictatorial rule. An estimated 43 percent of the Brazilian population supports at least a temporary revival of military control, according to a 2017 poll, up from 35 percent in 2016. Fear of violence, whether it be terrorism or street crime, has fueled support for authoritarian parties and bolstered populist leaders with tough-on-crime, anti-immigrant platforms around the world, from President Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines to Chancellor Sebastian Kurz in Austria to a fellow named Trump in the good ol’ US of A.

“Thanks to you, Brazil did not become Cuba!” the crowd chanted at a recent demonstration in Brazil, some snapping salutes.3

This is indeed the height of irony. In all likelihood many of those people were not strangers to hunger, struggling to pay their rent, could not afford needed medical care, or education; yet, they shouted against a country where such deprivations are virtually non-existent.

The United States of course played a significant role in the 1964 overthrow of the Brazilian democracy. How could it be otherwise in this world? Here is a phone conversation between US President Lyndon B. Johnson and Thomas Mann, Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, April 3, 1964, two days after the coup:

MANN: I hope you’re as happy about Brazil as I am.

LBJ: I am.

MANN: I think that’s the most important thing that’s happened in the hemisphere in three years.

LBJ: I hope they give us some credit instead of hell.4

Does the man ever feel embarrassed?


In his desperation for approval, our dear president has jumped on the back of increased military spending. Speaking to the presidents of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania he said that he should be given “credit” for pressuring countries like theirs to give more money to NATO. None of presidents had the nerve to ask Mr. Trump why that is a good thing; perhaps pointing out that some of the millions of dollars could have been used to improve the quality of their people’s lives.

A few days later, at the White House Easter Egg Roll the president “bragged to a crowd of children about increasing military spending to $700 billion.” One can imagine what their young minds made of this. Will they one day realize that this man called “The President” was telling them that large amounts of money which could have been spent on their health and education, on their transportation and environment, was instead spent on various weapons used to kill people?

The size of the man’s ego needs can not be exaggerated. The Washington Post observed that Trump instructed the Lithuanian president

to praise him on camera, just as he said she had done privately in the Oval Office. She obliged, saying changes to NATO would not be possible without the United States and that its ‘vital voice and vital leadership’ are important. Trump pressed her: ‘And has Donald Trump made a difference on NATO?’ Those in the room laughed, as she confirmed he has made a difference.5

Thank God some of those in the room laughed. I was beginning to think that all hope was lost.
The stars we honor

Is it a sign of America’s moral maturation that numerous celebrities have been forced to resign or retire because of being exposed as sexual predators?

Maybe. To some extent. I hope so.

But I’d be much more impressed if talk shows and other media stopped inviting and honoring much worse people as guests – war criminals, torturers, serial liars, and mass murderers; people like George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Madeline Albright, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, Henry Kissinger, Donald Rumsfeld, John Bolton, and many military officials.

Notes
1. For a book-length discussion of cold-war anti-communist propaganda see Morris Kominsky, The Hoaxers (1970)
2. The Guardian (London), December 29, 2011
3. Washington Post, March 16, 2018
4. Michael Beschloss, Taking Charge: The White House Tapes 1963-1964 (1997), p.306
5. Washington Post, April 5, 2018

Any part of this report may be disseminated without permission, provided attribution to William Blum as author and a link to williamblum.org is provided.

← Issue #156
 

Bear Meets Duck: What Does the End of Anglo-American Axis Air Superiority Mean?

The Revolution Which the US Raid on Syria Launched - No More US Air Superiority Means Everyone is on Their Own (Pass the S-400 Please)

by John Helmer - Dances with Bears


April 19, 2018

Moscow

US President Donald Trump didn’t mean to start a revolution. President Putin tried persuading him not to. But on April 14 the revolution was launched by American warplanes, surface ships and a submarine.

The outcome is, the US can no longer count on air superiority anywhere in the world where Russian air defences operate, backed by Russian command-and-control systems. Sans air superiority, the US has no force-multiplier on the ground of the magnitude required for Pentagon attacks; that is, the ratio of men and firepower it calculates for making sure enemies on the ground can be defeated.

This is revolutionary, and has spread instantly to every war front - Russian lines with NATO; the Korea-Japan front; Taiwan Straits and South China Sea for China; and Indian Ocean for India and Pakistan.

The treaties which promise US allies that an attack on them will draw US military support for their collective defence – Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty (NATO), Article 4 of the Australia New Zealand US Treaty (ANZUS), Article 3 of the Inter-American Treaty of Reciprocal Assistance (Rio), and the Japan, Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan, Pakistan and Israel defence treaties – are dead letters.

So long, shock and awe – that was the American warfighting doctrine against people who lack Russian-standard defences.

The official Pentagon version of the April 14 attack on Syria, led by Marine Corps Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie, can be read here. The video presentation of what the junior Pentagon spokesman called “Happy Saturday”, with target pictures and maps, can be watched by clicking to open here.



The Russian Defence Ministry has given two briefings, the first on April 14 by the General Staff spokesman, Lieutenant General Sergei Grudskoy (pictured below, left); follow the text and visuals here. The second briefing was given on April 16 by the Defence Ministry spokesman, Major General Igor Konashenkov (right). Click to open.



Since so much is at stake for future military strategy in the assessment of the April 14 attack, and in the coordination between the forces on both sides, the discrepancies between the official accounts are very large. They are exaggerated in media reporting from all sides; the truth will take more time to become clearer.

The key differences are:

  • Russia says there were 8 targets, the majority of them Syrian air force bases. The US says there were 3 targets, all chemical warfare sites.
  • Russia says there were 103 incoming missiles, fired by aircraft, ship and submarine; the US says 85.The difference appears to be accounted for by the UK and France, which are reported as firing 18 or 19 air to ground missiles.
  • Russia says 112 ground-to-air missiles were fired at the incoming weapons — Buk, Osa, Strela, Pantsir, Kvadrat, S-125, S-200 – and the interception rate for each reported by Konashenkov. The overall kill rate was 69%; the US says it was zero.
  • Russian military sources say the US did not use jamming and electronic suppression (ECM) against the Syrian air defence systems; the Pentagon says ECM aircraft were deployed on both the eastern (Mediterranean) and western (Arabian Gulf, Red Sea) attack fronts. This was repeated by the Israeli media. Russian sources add that the ECM systems of the US naval vessels engaged in the operation were too far out of range of the Syrian defences to be useful.

If the interception rate was 69%, as Russia claims, this is one of the greatest air-defence victories against missile attacks ever recorded. If three targets were destroyed with 100% accuracy, with no release of chemical weapons stocks, no casualties, and no collateral damage, this was the largest firepower-to-destruction ratio ever launched by the US military.

The unresolved uncertainties, as well as the calculated probabilities, add up to the same thing to Russian military analysts. “A strange umbrella” (Чужой зонтик) Ilya Kramnik, military analyst for Izvestia, titled his report. The US avoided every target defended by Russia, and succeeded against targets which were not defended by the Pantsir and other missile systems delivered to Syria in recent weeks. The range of detection, speed of coordination, and effectiveness of fire control between the Russian military and their Syrian counterparts have never been achieved at this level of operation before.

At the Defence Ministry Konashenkov acknowledged that the S-200 system launched 8 missiles at the attackers, and none was hit. This, Russian sources and the Defence Ministry explain, is because the S-200 was designed to combat aircraft, not missiles. The Syrian S-125, according to Konashenkov, was more successful, firing 13 missiles and intercepting 5. This was achieved, Russian sources say, because the Syrian S-125 has been upgraded by Belarus specialists. The S-300, which Iran and Greece operate, and the S-400, which guards the Russian naval and air bases in Syria and which Turkey is acquiring, are capable of striking both aircraft and missiles. This is the game-changer for Syrian defence against Israel if the S-300 is delivered, as the Russian Defence Ministry is now proposing.




Igor Korotchenko, editor of National Defence Magazine in Moscow, believes the April 14 outcome is confirmation of the effectiveness of Russian defence against the most advanced weapons in the American armoury.

“Well, if even old Soviet AAD [anti-aircraft defence] systems in Syria could repel the missile attacks and fight against modern US and Israel aircraft, I think the latest Russian AAD systems are more effective. But the key to success is the training of crews for these systems. Now they are getting the necessary experience in Syria.”

In short, it is the Russian assessment that the Americans launched an armada which was blown off course by a Russian wind.

But Korotchenko (right) warns that the lesson the Americans will draw is a doctrine of surprise and swarm. Swarm means the multiplication of attack forces from every direction at once in such weapons numbers as will penetrate even the densest defensive screen.

It is the opposite of precision or smart, as US officials like to describe their targeting.

“Of course, if the US fires very large numbers of missiles as a swarm tactic, they will penetrate through the defensive system. The outcome for them, I would say, would be more effective, especially if they also use systems of radio-electronic suppression [ECM]. This time in Syria they didn’t use [ECM], so the Syrian AAD could work effectively.”

Russian analysts judge that while swarm is likely to be the American tactic, surprise is contradicted because the larger the swarm, the longer the time required to prepare it, and the more visible the preparations become in advance. This, according to the Defence Ministry and repeated speeches by President Vladimir Putin, is the Russian interpretation for US pre-positioning of missile batteries in Poland and Romania, on US Navy vessels in the Black Sea, as well as ground weapons in the Baltic states. For Putin’s “cross-hairs” warning, read this.

While the tactical results of the April 14 attack continue to be debated with fresh evidence, the US operation has removed strategic uncertainty for Russia’s military leadership in its debate with Putin. The General Staff are convinced the US is at war with Russia on all fronts, and readying to attack with military force. Consequently, Russia must prepare to defend to the point where the US will lose the advantage of both surprise and swarm – and lose its own forces as well.

Such a defence requires the Russian doctrine of red-line surprise so that, once crossed, the US cannot be confident it can defeat Russian defences, nor confident the US can defend itself against the launch of the newest Russian weapons.

War by miscalculation between US and Russian forces is therefore much closer now.

“I hope,” says Korotchenko, “that all sides will come to a common decision on this conflict, because ‘hot war’ will mean the end for all mankind. And we don’t want it.”

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Getting Owned: Sergei Lavrov Schools Stephen Sackur

FULL INTERVIEW: Sergei Lavrov Dismantles BBC ‘Hard Talk’ Host Stephen Sackur on Syria, Skripals 

by 21wire 


April 18, 2018

According to Russia Insight, the following full and unedited footage was taken by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, not BBC.

Watch as Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergei Lavrov gives an interview to BBC host of ‘HardTalk’ Stephen Sackur. Throughout the interview Sackur is constantly interrupting and trying to head off the Russian FM.

Through this unedited version, viewers can see how the British State-run media try and manipulate their subjects in order to reinforce their own government’s official line. In this case, the BBC are peddling extremely damaging fake news about “chemical attacks” without any credible evidence to substantiate their claims.
 



By definition, this is egregious state propaganda. Despite the BBC presenter’s rudeness, incoherent and pseudo-journalistic line of questioning, Lavrov still manages to lay out a damning case against both Britain and the US over what’s fast being revealed as fabricated ‘chemical weapons’ incidents in both Salisbury with the Skripal Affair and in Douma, Syria.

Doing for the Terrorists: How Western Press Props Up the Lies

Fisk puts to test the free-press myth in Douma

by Jonathan Cook


18 April 2018

Here’s how a free press, one owned by a handful of corporations, uses its freedom. It simply tells you what it is good for its business interests, or more generally for the political and business environment it operates in. It’s not interested in truth or airing all sides, or even necessarily basic facts.

The only restraint preventing the corporate media from outright lying to promote its material interests is the fear of being found out, of readers starting to suspect that they are not being told the whole truth.

If that sounds like conspiratorial nonsense to you, consider this single example (there are lots more if you trawl through my past blog posts).

Let’s take the matter of veteran Middle East reporter Robert Fisk arriving in Douma this week, the first western correspondent to get there. Fisk is like some relic from a bygone era, when journalists really sought to arrive at the truth, often at great personal danger, not simply win followers on Twitter.

Until his arrival, all the information we were receiving about Douma in the west originated not with on-the-ground reporters, but with jihadist groups or those living under their Islamist reign of terror. That was true of the Youtube videos, the accounts from western reporters based far off in other countries, the human rights organisations, the World Health Organisation, and so on. The fog of war in this case was truly impenetrable.

So Fisk’s arrival was a significant event. He was clearly aware of the journalistic burden on his shoulders. Those still in Douma, after the jihadists fled, we can assume, are mostly supporters of the Syrian government. Even if they are not, they may be fearful of retaliation from the Syrian army if they speak out against it.

So Fisk, a very experienced reporter who has won many awards, was careful in the way he handled the story. Unlike many reporters, he is prepared to add context to his reports, such as the manner or tone of the person he talked to – clues to help him and us decode what they might really be thinking or meaning, rather than just what they are saying.

But the content of what he reported was incendiary. Just a few days after the US, UK and France had bombed Syria, in violation of all principles of international law, on the grounds that the Syrian government had used chemical weapons in Douma, Fisk interviewed a doctor at the clinic where the victims were treated. He said no chemical attack occurred. The video footage from last week was genuine, he added, but it showed civilians who had inhaled dust after a Syrian bombing attack, not gas.

Fisk’s account is clearly honest about what he was told. And the doctor’s account clearly is plausible – it could fit what the video shows. So, whether right or wrong, it is a vital piece of the jigsaw as we, ordinary citizens, decide whether our governments were justified – before United Nations inspectors had even arrived – in acts of aggression against another sovereign nation, and whether, in the case of the UK, Theresa May was entitled to act without reference to parliament. These are matters Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the UK’s opposition Labour party, has been trying to raise in the face of a solid media consensus in favour of bombing.

Given this context, the UK media ought to have been putting Fisk’s report at the centre of their Syria coverage yesterday and today, especially the liberal Guardian, the paper that Labour party members have relied on for decades. So how did the Guardian fare?

The Guardian now has an enormous output of articles, not least its Comment is Free section. So it would be foolhardy of me to say with absolute conviction that the Guardian made no reference anywhere in its pages to Fisk. But if it did so, it was extremely well concealed. A Google search of “Fisk”, “Guardian” and “Douma” throws up nothing. I can locate nothing in searching the Syria news articles and the op-eds published in the physical newspaper either.

So the Guardian appears to have intentionally blocked its readers from learning about the Fisk report, even though it is highly relevant to an informed debate about western actions in Syria, actions that are themselves part of a political debate being led by Corbyn. Denying this information to its readers means the Guardian is actually helping to weaken Corbyn in his battle to hold May to account.

But it does not end there. The Guardian does briefly reference Fisk, it just does so without naming him. At the same time, the Guardian seeks to discredit his reporting using the very same, highly compromised sources that have been relied on till now from Douma. In short, the Guardian appears to be carrying out a damage limitation operation, refusing to report transparently Fisk’s revelations in an attempt to shore up the existing narrative rather than test it against the new narrative offered by Fisk.

Buried away in two lines in an article by Patrick Wintour and Julian Borger, we get this in today’s Guardian:

A group of reporters, many favoured by Moscow, were taken to the site on Monday. They either reported that no weapon attack had occurred or that the victims had been misled by the White Helmets civilian defence force into mistaking a choking effect caused by dust clouds for a chemical attack.

So Fisk, Britain’s most famous and respected Middle East correspondent (can you name another one?), is not only not identified but dismissed generically as one of a group of reporters “favoured by Moscow”.

A second report, headlined “Syrian medics ‘subjected to extreme intimidation’ after Douma attack”, by Martin Chulov and Kareem Shahin, far away in Beirut and Istanbul respectively, confidently denigrates Fisk’s account, again without identifying him or mentioning that he was there. Again, it merely alludes to the content of Fisk’s account and only in so far as it is necessary to undermine it.

Instead, it gives top billing to unchallenged claims by Dr Ghanem Tayara, a Birmingham-based doctor now in Turkey who is the director of the Union of Medical Care and Relief Organisations, which favours the overthrow of the Syrian goverment.

After many paragraphs of Dr Tayara’s allegations against Bashar Assad’s government, Fisk’s account is given this cursory and hostile treatment near the end of the article:

Medics and survivors who have remained in Douma, and others who have fled for northern Syria, ridiculed competing claims that the attack either did not take place, or did not use gas. …

Some doctors have appeared on Syrian television to deny that anything took place in Douma. A doctor who spoke to the Guardian said: “Our colleagues who appeared on television were coerced, because some hadn’t served in the military or completed their degree, and for other reasons, some had family in Damascus. They decided to stay in exchange for being reconciled with the regime. But the regime used them.”

Another medic who treated victims said:

“Anyone who has knowledge of what happened cannot testify. What was being said is that the medical centres would be destroyed on top of those working in it.”

These countervailing voices are important. They are another piece of the jigsaw, as we try to work out what is really going in places like Douma. But publications like the Guardian are consistently presenting them as the only pieces their readers need to know about. That isn’t journalism.

There are good reasons to be suspicious of everything that comes out of the Syria war arena, where all sides are treating the outcome as a zero-sum battle. But western corporate media are clearly not fulfilling their self-declared role either as an impartial messenger of news, or as a watchdog on power. They have taken a side – that of the governments of the US, UK and France, their regional partners Saudi Arabia and Israel, and what are by now mostly proxy jihadi fighters in Syria.

The Guardian failed the most elementary test of honest journalism in its treatment of Fisk’s report. It may be an egregious example but after many years of the Syria war it is very far from being unique.

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The Banality of Technology: Finding the Soul in an AI Killbot

Drones Will Soon Use Artificial Intelligence to Decide Who to Kill

by Peter Lee - MintPress News


April 18th, 2018
 
Once complete, these drones will represent the ultimate militarisation of AI and trigger vast legal and ethical implications for wider society.


The US Army recently announced that it is developing the first drones that can spot and target vehicles and people using artificial intelligence (AI). This is a big step forward.

Whereas current military drones are still controlled by people, this new technology will decide who to kill with almost no human involvement.

Once complete, these drones will represent the ultimate militarisation of AI and trigger vast legal and ethical implications for wider society.

There is a chance that warfare will move from fighting to extermination, losing any semblance of humanity in the process.

At the same time, it could widen the sphere of warfare so that the companies, engineers and scientists building AI become valid military targets.

Existing lethal military drones like the MQ-9 Reaper are carefully controlled and piloted via satellite. If a pilot drops a bomb or fires a missile, a human sensor operator actively guides it onto the chosen target using a laser.

Ultimately, the crew has the final ethical, legal and operational responsibility for killing designated human targets. As one Reaper operator states: “I am very much of the mindset that I would allow an insurgent, however important a target, to get away rather than take a risky shot that might kill civilians.”

Even with these drone killings, human emotions, judgements and ethics have always remained at the centre of war. The existence of mental trauma and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among drone operators shows the psychological impact of remote killing.


 An MQ-9 Reaper Pilot. (Photo: US Air Force)

And this actually points to one possible military and ethical argument by Ronald Arkin, in support of autonomous killing drones. Perhaps if these drones drop the bombs, psychological problems among crew members can be avoided. The weakness in this argument is that you don’t have to be responsible for killing to be traumatised by it. Intelligence specialists and other military personnel regularly analyse graphic footage from drone strikes. Research shows that it is possible to suffer psychological harm by frequently viewing images of extreme violence.

When I interviewed over 100 Reaper crew members for an upcoming book, every person I spoke to who conducted lethal drone strikes believed that, ultimately, it should be a human who pulls the final trigger. Take out the human and you also take out the humanity of the decision to kill.

Grave consequences


The prospect of totally autonomous drones would radically alter the complex processes and decisions behind military killings. But legal and ethical responsibility does not somehow just disappear if you remove human oversight. Instead, responsibility will increasingly fall on other people, including artificial intelligence scientists.

The legal implications of these developments are already becoming evident. Under current international humanitarian law, “dual-use” facilities – those which develop products for both civilian and military application – can be attacked in the right circumstances. For example, in the 1999 Kosovo War, the Pancevo oil refinery was attacked because it could fuel Yugoslav tanks as well as fuel civilian cars.


An Air Force RPA reconnaissance drone is retrofitted for use in 
attack squadron. (Photo: U.S. Air Force)

With an autonomous drone weapon system, certain lines of computer code would almost certainly be classed as dual-use. Companies like Google, its employees or its systems, could become liable to attack from an enemy state. For example, if Google’s Project Maven image recognition AI software is incorporated into an American military autonomous drone, Google could find itself implicated in the drone “killing” business, as might every other civilian contributor to such lethal autonomous systems.

Ethically, there are even darker issues still. The whole point of the self-learning algorithms – programs that independently learn from whatever data they can collect – that technology uses is that they become better at whatever task they are given. If a lethal autonomous drone is to get better at its job through self-learning, someone will need to decide on an acceptable stage of development – how much it still has to learn – at which it can be deployed. In militarised machine learning, that means political, military and industry leaders will have to specify how many civilian deaths will count as acceptable as the technology is refined.

Recent experiences of autonomous AI in society should serve as a warning. Uber and Tesla’s fatal experiments with self-driving cars suggest it is pretty much guaranteed that there will be unintended autonomous drone deaths as computer bugs are ironed out.

If machines are left to decide who dies, especially on a grand scale, then what we are witnessing is extermination. Any government or military that unleashed such forces would violate whatever values it claimed to be defending. In comparison, a drone pilot wrestling with a “kill or no kill” decision becomes the last vestige of humanity in the often inhuman business of war.

This article was amended to clarify that Uber and Tesla have both undertaken fatal experiments with self-driving cars, rather than Uber experimenting with a Tesla car as originally stated.

Peter Lee is the Director, Security and Risk and Reader in Politics and Ethics, University of Portsmouth.

The Conversation is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 International License.

Pretext and Hair Triggers: Syria's War, Next Phase

“Locked and Loaded”: What Fresh Pretext Will Trigger US in Syria?

by Whitney Webb  - MintPress News


April 18th, 2018

Between the imminent arrival of thousands of U.S. troops, Israel’s continued military action against Syria, and the Syrian rebels poised to stage a false-flag attack, it seems that last weekend’s strikes were only the kickoff for an expanding U.S.-led military operation targeting the Syrian government.

Though U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis called the recent strikes targeting Syria a “one-time shot,” recent evidence suggests that the U.S. will likely strike Syria again in the coming weeks and months.

Indeed, after the U.S. — along with the U.K. and France – chose to attack Syria based on “evidence” from social media and YouTube purporting to show a chemical weapons attack, U.S. officials warned that the U.S. would not hesitate to attack Syria again if similar evidence suggesting Syrian government use of chemical weapons were to emerge, regardless of how flimsy or controversial such evidence might be.


Photo | A U.S. Marine fires a howitzer in the early
morning in Syria in support of the SDF (Syrian
Democratic Forces), June 3, 2017. (Marines Corps Photo)

“I spoke to President Trump this morning and he said if the Syrian regime uses this poisonous gas again, the United States is locked and loaded,” stated U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley this past Sunday.

As several analysts have noted, this essentially flings open the door for rebel groups throughout Syria to stage chemical-weapons attacks, knowing that even a single YouTube video will be enough to trigger a military response from the United States that would benefit the rebels’ bid to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. In the wake of the recent strikes, rebel groups chided the U.S. for doing insufficient damage to the Assad-led government, calling the strikes a “farce.” Surely, the rebels would consider staging a chemical-weapons attack if it would result in a much more significant strike targeting the Syrian military and government.

Such actions on the part of the rebels would not be unprecedented. For instance, recently released information – as well as the testimony of Western journalists on the ground in Douma – suggest that the chemical attack in Douma was staged.

Less than a month prior to the alleged attack in Douma, Russian officials warned that Syrian rebel factions were planning to stage a chemical attack in order to push the U.S. and its allies to attack the Syrian government. “New provocations with the use of chemical weapons are being prepared — performances will be organized in Eastern Ghouta, among others,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated on March 14th to a group of reporters.

U.S. troop movements belie Mattis’ “one-time shot” line


In addition to the high likelihood that Syrian rebels will attempt to bring about further U.S. military action in Syria, the U.S. military already seems to be preparing for that eventuality. Prior to the strikes, but after the U.S. announced that it was considering military action against Syria, the U.S. Navy stated that the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group (HSTCSG) would leave the U.S. and be deployed to the Middle East, focusing particularly on Syria.

The strike group, which consists of 6,500 sailors, is still traveling to Syria and is expected to arrive within the next week. According to the Navy, the group’s mission is set to include “maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts alongside allies and partners” and the group will “provide crisis response capability and increase theater security cooperation and forward naval presence.” Even though Mattis has claimed that U.S. military action targeting Syria was a one-time event, the HSTCSG’s deployment to Syria has not been canceled, suggesting that the U.S. is anticipating more strikes against Syria in the near future.

Beyond the imminent arrival of the Truman Strike Group, the U.S. is also amassing thousands of troops along the Syrian-Jordan border. An estimated 4,000 U.S. troops are set to arrive in Jordan for a military exercise called “Eager Lion,” which will last for 12 days – coinciding with the arrival of the USS Truman. The exercise will take place around Jordan’s capital of Amman, which lies 62 miles (100 km) from the Syrian border. Among the war scenarios to be included in the drill is a simulated attack with chemical weapons.

Israel wastes no time


Furthermore, along with apparent U.S. preparations for war, the U.S.’ staunchest ally in the region seems already to be involved in a hot war with Syria. The day after the strikes launched by the U.S., U.K. and France, Israel bombed the T4 airbase near the Syrian city of Homs — killing 14, including Iranian soldiers. Since then, Israel has continued to bomb Syria, with the latest taking place on Monday when the Shayrat airbase – also near Homs – was bombed.

Israel’s latest bombings seem to be aimed at provoking a wider conflict, given that they have targeted both Iranian and Syrian assets located within Syria. Israel, whose influence over U.S. foreign policy has arguably reached unprecedented levels under Trump, has also been actively pushing for a wider war in Syria over the past year – with Israeli officials calling for the murder of Assad and bombing of the Presidential Palace in Damascus.

Between the imminent arrival of 6,500 Navy sailors and 4,000 U.S. army ground troops around Syria, Israel’s continued military action against Syria, and the Syrian rebels poised to stage a false-flag chemical weapons attack, it seems that last weekend’s strikes against Syria were only the foundation for a more significant U.S.-led military operation targeting the Syrian government.

Whitney Webb is a staff writer for MintPress News and a contributor to Ben Swann’s Truth in Media. Her work has appeared on Global Research, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has also made radio and TV appearances on RT and Sputnik. She currently lives with her family in southern Chile.

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

Gorilla Radio with Chris Cook, John Helmer, Christopher Black, Janine Bandcroft April 19, 2018

This Week on GR

by C. L. Cook - Gorilla-Radio.com


April 19, 2018

It's a great time to be in the war game! The Real News reports, "defense" company stocks at Northrup Grumman and Boeing have soared this year, while the latest launching of more than a hundred cruise missiles at Syria has proven a spectacular blast for Tomahawk maker, Raytheon.

But, as Wall Street celebrates the dazzling array of opportunities presented by America's military-investor complex, the recent blitzkrieg over Syria may too have revealed dark clouds on the war-profiteering horizon.

Apparently, some of those missiles didn't make their targets. In fact, if reports are to be believed, two thirds of the nearly two million bucks a pop Tomahawks were intercepted; brought down by Syrian air defenses.

Listen. Hear.

What does this mean for the future of the Anglo-American Axis powers' war against the Middle East; and more importantly, what does it mean for the continued effectiveness of America's 21st century high-tech, high-explosive equivalent of 'Gunboat Diplomacy'?

John Helmer is a long-time, Moscow-based journalist, author, and essayist whose website, Dances with Bears is the only Russian-based news bureau “independent of single national or commercial ties.” He’s also a former political science professor who’s served as advisor to governments on three continents, and regularly lectures on Russian topics. Helmer’s book titles include: ‘Uncovering Russia,’ ‘Urbanman: The Psychology of Urban Survival,’ ‘Bringing the War Home: The American Soldier in Vietnam and After,’ and ‘Drugs and Minority Oppression’, among others.

John Helmer in the first half.


And; Victoria's own Christopher Wylie might not have broken the internet, but he's certainly rocked it. The storm created by whistleblowing revelations he's made about his former bosses at Cambridge Analytica and their "misappropriation" of Facebook client data to use for nefarious political ends cast uber-geek billionaire Mark Zuckerberg in a congressional hotseat, cost Facebook stock billions, and put the issue of protecting the personal in a post-privacy world in the middle of the media spotlight. But, is that all there is to the story?

Christopher Black is a Toronto-based criminal lawyer best known for his involvement in a number of high-profile, international war crimes cases. He's also a poet, essayist, novelist who's new book, 'Beneath the Clouds' is just out. Black's articles on international law, politics and World events appear at New Eastern Outlook among other places, and his latest, 'The Chris Wylie Story: A NATO Psychological Operation?' shifts the focus of the scandal to Wylie's unverified accusations implicating Russian interference with Brexit and allegations of Vladimir Putin's influence in the election of Donald Trump.

Christopher Black and who exactly is Chris Wylie and what‘s his game? in the second half.

And; Victoria-based activist and CFUV Radio broadcaster at-large, Janine Bandcroft will be here at the bottom of the hour to bring us up to speed with some of what's good going on in and around our town for the coming week. But first, John Helmer and is the empire shooting blanks?

Chris Cook hosts Gorilla Radio, airing live every Thursday between 11-Noon Pacific Time. In Victoria at 101.9FM, and on the internet at: http://cfuv.uvic.ca.  He also serves as a contributing editor to the web news site, http://www.pacificfreepress.com. Check out the GR blog at: http://gorillaradioblog.blogspot.ca/

Market Bullish on War Stocks

Defense Stocks Soar as Trump Wages War on Syria 

by TRNN


April 17, 2018

Defense company stocks, such as those of Raytheon, Northrup Grumman, and Boeing, rose to unprecedented levels since the beginning of the year because of Tomahawk strikes on Syria and massive arms sales to the Middle East and to the Pentagon. Bill Black talks about the the companies and their profits.




William K. Black, author of THE BEST WAY TO ROB A BANK IS TO OWN ONE, teaches economics and law at the University of Missouri Kansas City (UMKC). He was the Executive Director of the Institute for Fraud Prevention from 2005-2007. Black was a central figure in exposing Congressional corruption during the Savings and Loan Crisis.

The Persisting Skripal Mystery: From Far Stretch to Outright Lies

The Skripal Affair: A Lie Too Far? 

by Michael Jabara Carley - SCF


April 18, 2018

On 4 March 2018 it was a nice day in southern England, and the MI6 Russian spy Sergei Viktorovich Skripal and his daughter Yulia stepped out for a stroll, stopped at the local pub in Salisbury, went to lunch at a nearby restaurant, and then took a walk in the park where they collapsed on a park bench.

What had happened to them? Did they suffer from food poisoning? Or was Sergei Skripal involved in some dark affair and the object of a hit by persons unknown, his daughter being an accidental victim?

The police received a call that day at 4:15pm reporting two people in distress.

Emergency services were despatched immediately.

The Skripals were rushed to hospital, while the local police launched an investigation. It began to look like attempted murder, but the police urged patience, saying it could take months before they might know what had happened and who, if anyone, was responsible.

The Conservative government decided that it did not need to wait for a police investigation. “The Russians” had tried to assassinate a former intelligence officer turned informant for MI6. Skripal went to jail for that, but was released four years later in an exchange of agents with the United States. Now, “the Russians,” so the Tory hypothesis goes, wanted to settle old scores. Less than 24 hours after the incident in Salisbury, the British foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, suggested that the Russian government was the prime suspect in what looked like an attempt gone wrong to assassinate Sergei Skripal.




On 12 March the foreign secretary summoned the Russian ambassador to inform him that a nerve agent, A-234, had been used against the Skripals. How did you do it, Johnson wanted to know, or did the Russian government lose control of its stocks of chemical weapons? He gave the Russian ambassador 24 hours to respond. In point of fact, the Russian government does not possess any stockpiles of chemical weapons or nerve agents, having destroyed them all as of September 2017.

Later that day, the British prime minister, Theresa May, declared in the House of Commons that the Skripals, then said to be in a coma, were poisoned with “a military-grade nerve agent of a type developed by Russia” (italics added) called a ‘novichok’, a Russian word having various possible translations into English (beginner, novice, newcomer, etc.). May claimed that since the Soviet Union was known to have produced this chemical weapon, or nerve agent (also known as A-234), that it was “highly likely” that the Russian government was guilty of the attack on the Skripals.

Here is what the prime minister said in the House of Commons: “Either this was a direct act by the Russian State against our country. Or the Russian government lost control of this potentially catastrophically damaging nerve agent and allowed it to get into the hands of others.” The hurried British accusations were redolent of those in 2014 alleging Russian government complicity or direct involvement in the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines MH 17 over the Ukraine. Within hours of the destruction of MH 17, the United States and its vassals, including Britain, accused Russia of being responsible.




The western modus operandi is the same in the Skripal case. The Tories rushed to conclusions and issued a 24-hour ultimatum to the Russian government to prove its innocence, or rather to admit its guilt. How was the so-called novichok delivered to London, did President Vladimir Putin authorise the attack, did Russia lose control of its stockpile? The prime minister and her foreign secretary had in effect declared Russia guilty as charged. No objective police investigation, no due process, no presumption of innocence, no evidence was necessary: it was “sentence first, verdict later”, as the Red Queen declared in Alice in Wonderland.

On 13 March the Russian embassy informed the Foreign Office that the Russian Federation was not involved in any way with the Salisbury incident. We will not respond to an ultimatum, came the reply from Moscow. The eloquent Russian foreign ministry spokesperson, Mariia Zakharova, characterised the British démarche as a “circus show”. Actually, Foreign Office clerks must have told Boris Johnson that Russia would not respond to such an ultimatum so that it was a deliberate British attempt to provoke a negative Russian reply.

The Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, stated for the record that,

“As soon as the rumors, fed by the British leadership, about… the poisoning of Skripal appeared, we immediately requested access to this [toxic] substance so that our experts could analyze it in accordance with the Convention on the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons.” 

After the British ambassador visited the Russian foreign ministry on 13 March to receive the formal Russian reply to the British ultimatum, the foreign ministry in Moscow issued a communiqué:

“… The [Salisbury] incident appears to be yet another crooked attempt by the UK authorities to discredit Russia. Any threat to take ‘punitive’ measures against Russia will meet with a response. The British side should be aware of that.” 

The Russian government in fact proposed that the alleged poisoning of the Skripals should be examined by the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague, according to procedures to which Britain itself had agreed when the OPCW was established in 1997.

On 14 March the British government expelled 23 Russian diplomats, and a few days later the Russian side expelled 23 British diplomats and shuttered the offices of the British Council in Russia. At the same time, the British appealed to their allies and to the European Union to show solidarity by expelling Russian diplomats. Twenty-eight countries did so, though for most it was one or two expulsions, tokenism to appease the British. Other countries—for example, Austria, Bulgaria, Greece, Portugal—refused to join the stampede. Going over the top, the United States expelled sixty diplomats and closed the Russian consulate in Seattle. The Russians responded in kind with sixty expulsions and the closure of the US consulate in St. Petersburg. Momentum seemed to be building toward a major confrontation. The British prime minister even alluded to the possibility of military action.

In the meantime, President Putin weighed in.

“I guess any reasonable person [has] realised,” he said, “that this is complete absurd[ity] and nonsense. [How could] anybody in Russia… allow themselves such actions on the eve of the [Russian] presidential election and the football World Cup? This is unthinkable.” 

In any police inquiry, investigators look for means, motive and opportunity. On these grounds did the trail of guilt lead to Moscow?

Momentum is sometimes like a balloon, it blows up and then it suddenly bursts. The British case against Russia began to fall apart almost from the time it was made. In late March the Russian newspaper Kommersant leaked a British PowerPoint presentation sent to eighty embassies in Moscow. It asserted, inter alia, that the British chemical weapons facility at Porton Down had positively identified the substance, which allegedly poisoned the Skripals, as a Novichok, “developed only by Russia”. Both these statements are false.

On 3 April Porton Down stated publicly that it could not determine the origin of the substance that poisoned the Skripals. It also came out that the formula for making a so-called novichok was published in a book by a Russian dissident and chemist, Vil Mirzayanov, who now lives in the United States. You can buy his book (published in 2008), which includes the formula, on Amazon.com.

In fact, any number of governments or smart chemists or even bright undergraduate chemistry students with the proper facilities could make this nerve agent. Amongst those governments having access to the original formula are Britain and the United States. The Russian embassy in London noted in a published report that “neither Russia nor the Soviet Union has ever developed an agent named ‘Novichok’.”

The report further stated that,

“While Soviet scientists did work on new types of chemical poisons, the word ‘Novichok’ was introduced in the West in mid-1990s to designate a series of new chemical agents developed there on the basis of information made available by Russian expat researchers. The British insistence to use the Russian word ‘Novichok’ is an attempt to artificially link the substance to Russia.”

The British PowerPoint presentation did not stop with its two main canards. It goes on to refer to “Russian malign activity” including, inter alia, the “invasion” of Georgia in 2008, the “destabilisation” of the Ukraine and the shooting down of MH17 in 2014, and interference in the US elections in 2016. All of these claims are audacious lies, easily deconstructed and unpacked. The referenced events are also unrelated to the Salisbury incident and were raised in an attempt to smear the Russian Federation. In fact, the British PowerPoint slides represent vulgar propaganda, bourrage de crâne, as preposterous as any seen during the Cold War.




As Minister Lavrov pointed out, the Skripal case should have gone for resolution to the OPCW in The Hague. Russia would then be directly involved in the investigation and would have access to the alleged toxin, and other evidence to try to determine what had happened and who were the perpetrators.

The British government at first refused to go to the OPCW, and then when it did, refused to authorise the Russian government to have access to the alleged substance, which had sickened the Skripals. That idea is “perverse”, said British authorities. Actually, not at all, it is the procedure laid out in OPCW statutes, to which Britain itself agreed but has refused to respect.

When the Russian representative at the OPCW proposed a resolution to the executive council, that it should respect its own statutes, he could not obtain the required vote of approval. The British were attempting to hijack the OPCW as a potential tool against the Russian Federation. Thus far, that stratagem has not worked. On 12 April the OPCW released a report stating that it had,

“confirm[ed] the findings of the United Kingdom relating to the identity of the toxic chemical that was used in Salisbury….” The report said nothing about the origin of the so-called “toxic chemical”. 

The British accusation against Russia thus remained unsubstantiated.

What I could not understand when I read the OPCW communiqué, is why the Skripals were still alive. The OPCW says that the toxic chemical used against the Skripals was “of high purity”. Was it a nerve agent? Oddly, the OPCW published report avoids a straight answer. If it was a nerve agent, being of “high purity,” it should have been instant acting and killed the Skripals almost immediately. Yet both have survived at the time of this writing. Something does not make sense. Of course, there could be a simple explanation for this puzzling mystery.

There may be a simple explanation. On 14 April, Minister Lavrov at a meeting in Moscow provided the answer. The substance used to attack the Skripals was laced with a substance know as BZ which incapacitates rather than kills and takes longer to work than an instant acting nerve agent which kills immediately.

The United States, Britain and other NATO countries have developed this toxin and put it into service; the Soviet Union never did so. Traces of A-234 were also identified, but according to experts, such a concentration of the A-234 agent would cause death to anyone affected by it. “Moreover,” according to the Russian embassy in London, “considering its high volatility, the detection of this substance in its initial state (pure form and high concentration) is extremely suspicious as the samples have been taken several weeks since the poisoning,” Could British authorities have tampered with the samples?

The public OPCW report gives no details, and refers only to a “toxic chemical”. Nor did the report say that the OPCW had submitted specimens of the substance to a well-known Swiss lab, which promptly reported back its surprising results. The OPCW authorities thus lied when they said that the tests “confirmed” the British identify of the “toxic chemical”. Unless… Porton Down knew that the substance used against the Skripals was a BZ type toxin, and so informed the OPCW, or, unless the Tory government lied in claiming publicly that it was a novichok nerve agent.

The British attempted hijacking of the OPCW has compromised its independence, for the public report issued on 12 April is misleading. Moreover, since the BZ toxin is made by the US, Britain and other NATO countries, it begs the same questions, which the Tories put to Moscow: how did the perpetrators obtain the BZ toxin and bring it to Salisbury, did MI5 or MI6 authorise a false flag attack against the Skripals, or was it authorised by the British cabinet or by the prime minister alone? Or did British authorities lose control of their stockpiles? The trail of evidence does not lead to Moscow; it leads to London.

A prima facie case can be made that the British government is lying about the Skripal affaire. Suspicion always falls upon those who act deviously, who hide behind clever turns of phrase and procedural and rhetorical smokescreens. British authorities are now saying that they have other top secret evidence, which explains everything, but unfortunately it can’t be publicised. Nevertheless, the British government appears to have leaked it to the press. The Times published a story about a covert Russian lab producing nerve agents and it spread like wild fire across the Mainstream Media. The Daily Mirror put out a story about a Russian secret assassins’ training manual. These stories are laughable. Is the Tory government that desperate? Is the British “everyman” that gullible?




The secret assassin’s manual reminds me of the 1924 “Zinoviev Letter”, a counterfeit document produced by White Russians in Germany, purporting to demonstrate Soviet interference in British elections and planning for a socialist revolution. It was early days of “fake news”. Parliamentary elections were underway in October 1924 and the Tories used the letter to attack the credibility of the Labour party. It was whipping up the red scare, and it worked like a charm. The Tories won a majority government. Soviet authorities claimed that the letter was bogus and they demanded a third party, independent investigation to ascertain the truth, just as the Russian government has done now. In 1924, the Tories refused, and understandably so, since they had a lot to hide. It took seventy-five years to determine that “the letter” was in fact counterfeit.

The Tories are again acting as if they have something to hide. It is déjà vu. Will it take seventy-five years to get at the truth? Are there any honest British cops, judges, civil servants ready to reveal the truth?

There is other evidence to suggest that the British narrative on the Salisbury incident is bogus. The London Metropolitan Police have sought to prevent any outside contact with the Skripals. They have taken away a recovered Yulia Skripal to an unknown location. They have until now denied Russian consular authorities access to a Russian citizen in violation of British approved consular agreements.

Is there any chapter of international law, which the British government now respects? British authorities have denied access to Yulia Skripal’s family in Russia; they have denied a visa to Yulia’s cousin, Viktoria, to visit with her. Are British spooks grooming Yulia, briefing her to stay on the Tory narrative? Is she being manipulated like some kind of Manchurian Candidate? Have they induced her to betray her country in exchange for emoluments, a new identity in the United States, a house, a BMW and money? Are they playing upon her loyalty to her father?

Based on a statement attributed to Yulia by the London Metropolitan Police, it begins to look that way. Or, is the message, sounding very British and official, quite simply a fake? The Russian embassy in London suspects that it is. What is certain is that British authorities are acting as though they have something to hide. Even German politicians, amongst others, have criticised the British rush to indict Russia. Damage control is underway. Given all the evidence, can any person with reasonable abilities to think critically believe anything the Tories are saying about the Salisbury affair?

“They are liars. And they know that they are liars,” the late Egyptian writer and Nobel laureate Naguib Mahfouz once wrote.
“And we know that they are liars. Even so, they keep lying....” 

Mahfouz was not writing about the British, but all the same, he could have been. Are not his well-known lines apposite to the present government in London?

The Tories are trying doggedly to maintain control of the narrative. Stakes are high for if it eventuates that the Tories have lied deliberately for political gain, at the risk of destabilising European, indeed world peace and security, the Tory government should be forced to resign and new elections, called. Then, the British electorate can decide whether it wants to be governed by reckless, mendacious Tory politicians who risk to provoke war against the Russian Federation.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Is There a Sturgeon in the May House?

Living in Goebbels Land

by Craig Murray


17 Apr, 2018

So a tiny independent radio station in Ireland managed to interview Robert Fisk on the ground in Douma, but none of the mainstream British broadcast media today has him on, despite the political fallout from our Syria bombing attack being the main news story everywhere?

Meantime MSM propagandists including Richard Hall (BBC), Dan Hodges (Mail) and Brian Whitaker (Guardian) and many more queue up to denounce Fisk on twitter from their cosy armchairs.

It bears repeating, information on the alleged gas attacks – which raises great doubt but which Fisk himself does not claim as definitive – is not the most important part of Fisk's article.

Sturgeon: 'A Fully Paid Up Member of the British Establishment'

The Hell of rule under the jihadists that we in the West are arming, funding, training, “military advising” and giving air support, alongside Saudi Arabia and Israel, is the indisputable and much more important element of Fisk’s report, as is the clear evidence he provides that the White Helmets are part of the jihadist factions.

To return to Scotland, I am sorry I shocked many of those who wish me well with the vehemence of my attack on Ian Blackford and the SNP for accepting MI6′ version of events, together with a renewed expression of my outrage at Nicola Sturgeon for having instantly supported Boris Johnson’s anti-Russian rhetoric over Salisbury without waiting for evidence.

My anger is not synthetic and there is a fundamental point here.

The question is this: whether Scotland wishes to become truly a different kind of state to the UK, or whether it is simply a case of a management buyout of the local NATO franchise. As the UK enters enthusiastically into a new cold war, that question is now a much sharper one.

The UK security services are Scotland’s enemy. The next effort at Independence is not going to look like 2014 – the British Establishment only allowed that because at the outset they did not believe there was a hope in Hell we could win. Now they are rattled.

Our next effort at Independence will look much more like Catalonia. All the signs are that the current leadership of the SNP, who are so comfy having little chats with MI6 in their career break from investment banking, or who want to be an inclusive, unionist-friendly “Queen Mum” figure rather than campaign for Independence, do not have the stomach for the fight. What they do have is comfy, very highly paid, billets as a pocket of token opposition and diversity within the United Kingdom.

Nicola buying into the Johnson story of the new cold war is not a small thing. It is huge, momentous, epoch-defining in Scotland. And a fundamental betrayal of her voters.

In the next street to where I am writing was born the great James Connolly. He wrote:

When it is said that we ought to unite to protect our shores against the ‘foreign enemy’, I confess to be unable to follow that line of reasoning, as I know of no foreign enemy of this country except the British Government

Note the British government are the enemy – not in any way the people of England. Anybody who cannot repeat Connolly’s statement with conviction is only pretending to be part of the Scottish Independence movement, and will falter as soon as Westminster says no.