By Philip Roddis, published in his website blog steel city scribblings, Nov 16, 2017. Also published in Off-Guardian.
I’m worried about George. An admirer of many years standing of his excellent columns charting what John Smith’s even more excellent Imperialism in the Twenty-First Century refers to as “capitalism’s destruction of nature”, I’m dismayed both by Monbiot’s stance on Syria and manner of defending it. His Guardian piece yesterday, A lesson from Syria: it’s crucial not to fuel far-right conspiracy theories, is depressingly typical. The man who writes with such clarity, such evidence based reason, on ties between environmental recklessness and big money repeatedly shows himself prepared to suspend his critical faculties – while projecting that very sin on his opponents – when it comes to Syria and the Assad ‘regime’.
Even the title of this latest piece is misleading when those he has in his sights are decidedly of the left. I mean John Pilger, who needs no introduction, and Seymour Hersh, the veteran whose tenacity broke the My Lai story all those years ago. The disingenuity continues apace as we read on. Paragraph two tells us:
The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) last month published its investigation into the chemical weapons attack on the Syrian town of Khan Shaykhun, which killed almost 100 people on 4 April and injured around 200. After examining the competing theories and conducting wide-ranging interviews, laboratory tests and forensic analysis of videos and photos, it concluded that the atrocity was caused by a bomb filled with sarin, dropped by the government of Syria.
I don’t share Monbiot’s faith in the impartiality of United Nations agencies and, yes, that does include the OPCW. If you deem, as I do, the western powers guilty of a dirty war on Syria whose real drivers – like those in Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya and a barely visible Yemen – had little to do with their sanctimonious rationales, you’ll likely share my scepticism but that’s not my point. Nor is the fact that the first of the two links in the paragraph cited is broken. When I searched for the report I found the OPCW has indeed declared that sarin was used at Idlib on April 4 this year (point 1.5 of its summary). The report also says (point 2.5 of its Legal Framework) that:
The scope of the FFM [OPCW Fact Finding Mission] mandate does not include the task of attributing responsibility for the alleged use. So George, did you know this and choose not to share it with your Guardian readers? Or were you too busy trashing ‘denialism’ to actually read the report? Or perhaps you refer to OPCW “confidence” that Damascus is guilty? In which case would you care to answer the questions raised here? …
Three related items:
* Monbiot still burying his head in sands of Syria, by Jonathan Cook, published in his blog, Nov 21, 2017
Investigative journalist Gareth Porter has published two exclusives whose import is far greater than may be immediately apparent. They concern Israel’s bombing in 2007 of a supposed nuclear plant secretly built, according to a self-serving U.S. and Israeli narrative, by Syrian leader Bashar Assad. [Find weblinks to Gareth Porter articles here on New Cold War.org.] Although the attack on the “nuclear reactor” occurred a decade ago, there are pressing lessons to be learnt for those analysing current events in Syria…
* PBS ‘Frontline’ broadcast: ‘Putin’s Revenge’ – unintentionally hilarious, commentary on Off-Guardian, Nov 30, 2017
PBS’s ‘Frontline’ series offers what it calls the “inside story of how Vladimir Putin came to see the United States as an enemy — and why he decided to target an American election.” We are featuring the weblink to the broadcasts because it has to be seen to be believed (two parts, 54 minutes each) .
The sinister music and Burnsian black and white photography, the gravel-voiced narrator, all trying to give gravitas to a script that is so divorced from any kind of maturity, sanity or veridical reality it will make you dizzy.
In its quick overview of Putin’s rise to power, no mention is made of the collapse of infrastructure, the soaring crime rates and the suffering of working people made destitute by Yeltsin’s “democratisation” of the economy. And no mention is made of how “anti-democratic” Putin reversed this seemingly irreversible decline. No effort is made to define what is meant by “democracy” at all. Nothing that sophisticated is even attempted. Yeltsin, the hood and destroyer, is described as “pro-democracy” because he favoured the U.S. and its economic piracy. Putin is “anti-democratic”, because he didn’t. It’s that unsophisticated. And that absurd.
Tune in and see all the usual suspects from John Brennan to Masha Gessen tell unvarnished, awkward and easily disprovable lies with studied earnest. Marvel at the hubris and naivety required to make a two-hour documentary based on a collection of premises that can be disproved by a simple Google search. The most remarkable thing about this – and so much recent western propaganda – is how clumsy and foolish it is.
This is what passes for high class journalism now in the fluoridated, fantasy-bewildered collective psyche of the Exceptional Nation. Watch it and laugh until you cry. Part one is here; part two is here.
* Canada’s state broadcaster interviews anti-Russia propagandist and Guardian writer Luke Harding, interview on CBC Radio One‘s The Current, Nov 30, 2017 (24-minute interview)
From the CBC’s promotional write-up of the interview with Luke Harding: ‘…The allegations that Trump was sharing information with the Russians have not been proven, but Harding points out that the president has denied contacts with the Russians, and “it turns out that half of his cabinet were holding secret meetings with the Russians in 2016″…
[‘The Current’ host Anna Maria Tremonti introduces Luke Harding as follows: “Late in the Trump [2016 election] campaign, a mysterious 35-page document began to circulate in journalistic circles in Washington. The contents were damning. The ‘Steele dossier’, as it has become known, outlined a conspiracy between Russia and those high up in the Trump campaign. Today, more than a year affter that campaign successfully seated Donald Trump in the White House, alleged [sic] Russian interference is the very scandal threatening to unseat him. The Steele dossier continues to rile Republicans and Democrats as investigations continue into the role that Russian intellegence agencies played during that election…”
[The ‘Steele dossier’ features prominently in the CBC interview chat with Luke Harding. Here is an analysis of that dossier by U.S. journalist Robert Parry, from eight months ago:]
An irony of the escalating hysteria about the Trump camp’s contacts with Russians is that one presidential campaign in 2016 did exploit political dirt that supposedly came from the Kremlin and other Russian sources. Friends of that political campaign paid for this anonymous hearsay material, shared it with American journalists and urged them to publish it to gain an electoral advantage. But this campaign was not Donald Trump’s; it was Hillary Clinton’s.
And, awareness of this activity doesn’t require you to spin conspiracy theories about what may or may not have been said during some seemingly innocuous conversation. In this case, you have open admissions about how these Russia/Kremlin claims were used.
Indeed, you have the words of Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democratic member of the House Intelligence Committee, in his opening statement at last week’s public hearing on so-called ‘Russia-gate’. Schiff’s seamless 15-minute narrative of the Trump campaign’s alleged collaboration with Russia followed the script prepared by former British intelligence officer Christopher Steele who was hired as an opposition [Democratic Party] researcher last June to dig up derogatory information on Donald Trump.
Steele, who had worked for Britain’s MI-6 in Russia, said he tapped into ex-colleagues and unnamed sources inside Russia, including leadership figures in the Kremlin, to piece together a series of sensational reports that became the basis of the current congressional and FBI investigations into Trump’s alleged ties to Moscow.
Since he was not able to go to Russia himself, Steele based his reports mostly on multiple hearsay from anonymous Russians who claim to have heard some information from their government contacts before passing it on to Steele’s associates who then gave it to Steele who compiled this mix of rumors and alleged inside dope into “raw” intelligence reports…
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