Same 2008 QE playbook, but the Eurozone will kick off Western chaos not the US

April 18, 2020

Same 2008 QE playbook, but the Eurozone will kick off Western chaos not the US

by Ramin Mazaheri for The Saker Blog

US bankers caused the Great Recession, and thus the US was the first to suffer economic turmoil. The coronavirus is a novel malady: we now know that it only severely attacks infirm and unstable bodies – it’s not overly facile to graft this idea onto the global economy.

Therefore, among Western nations and their client states it is the Eurozone (the weakest link in the global macro-economy, despite being also the biggest link) which will see the worst economic effects of the “Great Lockdown” stupidity.

(It is “stupid” because the West is employing quarantining and control methods used by Asian nations, but without having similar cultures of governmental economic intervention nor widespread trust in their governments.)

Because reality is multilayered we must not become immune – even though many want to focus only on the medical/tabloid/political sniping/fear aspects of corona – to the enormity of the Great Lockdown’s economic consequences. So it’s wake-up call time:

Hey! It is now really bad, economically!

Double hey!! Europe was already bad, economically!!

Triple hey!!! Europe was already intellectually paralysed when it came to fixing their bad political-economics!!!

We all get the first point, but regarding the second: Sadly, I am a rare Europe-based journalist who has publicly discussed how the Eurozone has already had a Lost Decade worse than either of Japan’s two – here is the data, which was quite easy to crunch but nobody in the Mainstream Media wanted to crunch it (or publish it).

So I tear you away from your corona-fear porn to point out: the Eurozone already had severe underlying morbidity. (Japan’s ailments – such as an obese debt-to-GDP ratio – are of an entirely different order for so many obvious political-structural reasons.)

I keep asking myself: “Maybe it’s not so bad, economically?” After all, the Eurozone has one competitive advantage over their US partners: their governments often chose to protect employment by assuming wage payments. This will prove vital psychologically (which influences consumer activity) and logistically (keeping supply chains normal) upon reopening.

But it is not the “Socialist Republic of the Eurozone” but rather the “Neoliberal Empire of the Eurozone”: some nations have suspended rents and debt repayments, but these are temporary suspensions and not total forgiveness of 1%er rentier parasitical activities. The state orders you to cease economic activity but will not fully cover the costs of doing so – cui bono? The Eurozone, after all, does not want socialist equality but capitalist inequality and wealth/market concentration – it’s the “birthplace of human rights (for aristocrats)”.

But the Eurozone’s wage assumptions and its larger social safety net – funded by the stolen wages of over two centuries of imperialism – cannot mask its fundamental weakness relative to other currencies.

Not much EU QE yet, but what else could they do – go socialist? Or perhaps fix the pan-European project?

Round after round until today’s “well past the point of ‘QE Infinity’” has proven that modern neoliberalism has only one play in its playbook. So we should not be surprised that 2008 is repeating itself.

The US has once again been the first to announce the biggest bailout. Currency swaps to debt-entrap client states were immediately opened in a series of hugely successful moves to buttress the dollar, yet again. In order to diffuse and stagger the effects of money-printing from threatening the dollar’s global dominance – just like a decade ago – we should expect the European Central Bank to hold off their major bailout once again.

The multinational 1% works in tandem, not competition, much to the consternation of analysts who can’t analyse in terms of class warfare. This Western “bankocracy” is something which I described in a 10-part series from last winter: Western central bankers: they’re God, they trust – a 10-part series on the QE economy.

Accordingly, the ECB has only announced a €750 billion rescue package, which is dwarfed by the $6 trillion of the US and even – in a rather significant development – the €1.1 trillion of Germany. France’s bailout is just 10% that of Germany’s, despite being 70% its economic size, because Emmanuel Macron is – of course – 100% supportive of the international 1%’s long-running goal of crushing the French model.

(“Fiscally responsible”, “debt fearing”, “Weimar-scarred” Germany has also additionally announced a “limitless” aid program for small- and medium-sized businesses: this was made possible due to the collateral appropriated from a decade of heartless strangulation of small- and medium-sized businesses in weaker areas of the Eurozone. Disgusting, how the rich get richer and how hypocritically Germany turns socialist just when the heat is turned on. As I point out over and over, because it is a fact: for over a century the obstacle to European stability remains Germany.)

So the ECB is obviously laying back, waiting for US QE to wend its way through the Western economy, but it’ll be the same playbook: G20 central banker + corporate banker collusion to keep QE going across the West.

But how long can infinity last?

Which is to say: how long can European nations keep borrowing from middlemen banks instead of using the ECB as it ought to be used – directly and with sovereignty, and not with national debt-increasing loans, as in this rescue package but outright purchases? The ECB directly funding national governments is against EU law.

The ECB wants to end these rules for this rescue package, but they could be challenged legally. However, they seem to have already thrown out this rulebook and are buying Italian bonds disproportionately – we are in the middle of a crisis, after all, and the wheels of justice move slow. But we don’t know that for sure because – in the lack of transparency which repeatedly plagues pan-European institutions – the ECB does not have to publish details of what it is buying under its emergency bond purchases

How long can this nonsense go on, both legally and politically, as well as historically and culturally?

I assume we’ll only find out for sure when the bond crisis fully hits the Eurozone.

It’s the bond market, stupid

As I wrote in Part 5, How QE has radically changed the nature of the West’s financial system:

“(Nomi) Prins (author of Collusion) quotes Bank of England leader Mark Carney in 2015 to illustrate this point: ‘As I wrote to G20 Leaders, the structure of (the) financial system has changed significantly since the crisis. Virtually all of the net credit since the crisis has been from the bond markets and the size of assets under management has increased by 60% to $74 trillion.’

Those numbers are staggering. The 2017 estimate for worldwide total GDP was around $75 trillion. Global QE had reached $12 trillion in 2016.”

Both the US and Eurozone now have huge corporate debt problems due to QE-funded stock buybacks, but while the biggest problem in the US in 2008 was mortgage debt in the Eurozone it was government debt. If a government – the largest economic player in any nation – cannot pay its bills (and in the Eurozone individual nations have no power to print money to pay their bills) said nation necessarily collapses. This is why government debt problems in the US and Japan are not at all comparable to the government debt problems of Greece, Belgium, France, etc.

Government debt is thus a fundamentally more troubling issue than subprime mortgage or corporate debt, and this is why their Sovereign Debt Crisis lasts four years and was not contained until 2012, years after the US “solved” their issue.

So the key question revolves around lending to sustain the Eurozone’s governments (at what interest rates), and the difference (spreads) between bond rates of different members of the Eurozone (because the failure of one major member could imperil the 19-member euro currency).

Wars increase interest rates, as there is demand caused by the activity of reconstruction, but epidemics historically produce lower interest rates, because nothing needs to be rebuilt and everyone is still peering through a crack in their front door and finding even that risky. This is significant given that European banks were greatly weakened by the 2008 and 2012 crises, to the point where only one European investment bank is now among the world’s 10 biggest (long-wobbly Deutsche Bank); and also that banks play a more vital role than in the US – European companies eschew selling bonds and shares to procure two-thirds of their credit from banks, a rate double that of the US.

We also know that the ECB has already been in negative-interest rate territory since 2014, so they cannot go lower than stealing your savings (and thus gutting their banks profits and making them weaker, and also forcing them to search for risker investments); we also know that nations such as Spain and Italy have had panic-inducing borrowing problems relatively recently; and we also know that their collective currency essentially refuses to be a political collective other than agreeing to all use the same bits of coloured paper.

Europe was supposed to be “forged in crisis”, and what has 12 years of fire revealed? The “pan-European project” essentially comes down to sharing the same bits of coloured paper and free (border, capital) movement. The lack of true international solidarity (which only exists in socialism, and never in competition-based capitalism) makes this a national project with no nation. That sounds paradoxical and nonsensical, but hey – I didn’t pen the Eurozone’s corrupt and unaccountable structure: the teachers of the Chicago Boys did.

A project of international solidarity based on the furthest-right capitalist and most rabidly anti-socialist principles has proven to be as stupid a concept as that sounds. In this crisis Eurozone nations are outbidding each other for personal protective pandemic gear (nor sharing it among themselves, in a public relations campaign the average Eurozoner is galled by), but also the favors of international high finance.

It is the latter which which will kill far more than corona via poverty.

But how has the ECB responded thus far? Typical: steal from others and claim they invented it

What we can certainly count on from the stagnant Eurozone is to expect zero creativity – since 1980 that is only found in Japan and the US, and all the Europeans can do is trail in their wake and try to look smugly stylish.

The European Central Bank’s key April 7 announcement reads like a bunch of concessions to common sense born of desperation, because that’s exactly what they are.

Here is the very start and bullet points of their press announcement – the key here is to note how very much they are willingly degrading the quality of their collateral/financial instruments:

  • ECB adopts an unprecedented set of collateral measures to mitigate the tightening of financial conditions across the euro area
  • Temporary increase in the Eurosystem’s risk tolerance in order to support credit to the economy
  • ECB eases the conditions for the use of credit claims as collateral
  • ECB adopts a general reduction of collateral valuation haircuts
  • Waiver to accept Greek sovereign debt instruments as collateral in Eurosystem credit operations
  • ECB will assess further measures to temporarily mitigate the effect on counterparties’ collateral availability from rating downgrade.

“Mitigate”, “increase in… risk tolerance”, “eases”, “reduction of collateral valuation” – everything is about making banking/fiscal standards lower, and thus riskier. In a monetary bloc which stared into the abyss in 2012, and which has had only growth rate stagnation and internally-weakening austerity ever since… does allowing more risk sound like a good solution?

Perhaps the easiest way to understand the Eurozone’s intrinsic dysfunction is that Greek national bonds, which were formerly considered to be too risky to be part of the ECB’s bond-buying program, will now be bought. This measure should have been implemented immediately in 2012 to help collectively mitigate bad Greek collateral, but richer Eurozone members wanted to force their products into Greece and buy up Greek assets. But what they are saying now is that collateral which was bad in 2012 is acceptable in 2020 even though said collateral is fundamentally even weaker, due to the failed solutions of austerity and upcoming post-corona economic prospects.

In a neoliberal bankocracy with a normal, united currency the ECB would socialise this bad collateral directly, but they cannot; they cannot bypass the banking middlemen (because they have never created “more Europe”), who can indeed refuse to buy Eurozone national bonds and send borrowing costs to unsustainable 7% levels.

The last one is the kicker, “rating downgrade”: for reasons only “capitalist conspiracy” can probably explain, word on the street is that ratings agencies feel that their credibility is on the line this time and so they will not be lenient like in 2008. Thus, the corona lockdown will produce a ton of corporate and banking downgrades, which will increase their borrowing costs, thus provoke bank bankruptcies in a currency bloc heavily dependent on their banks. The ECB is thus acknowledging to these groups that it knows this is coming and that it will do “whatever it takes”, a la ECB chief Mario Draghi in 2012… but this time for weak corporations that deserve to go bust (in capitalism). This is an immediate echo of the unprecedented, historic, unexpected Fed decision last week to start buying corporate junk debt.

This is the bond pin on which the Eurozone will turn

The Eurozone’s atrocious neoliberal underpinnings fundamentally leaves themselves more wide-open to the machinations of high finance than any other currency. The Eurozone and the pan-European project can be conceived of as a US/German federal system, where the states have a lot of power to gain or fail based on their own policies, but with only a tiny amount of federal support available in case of emergency.

Here is the crux of the biscuit for the Eurozone in a post-corona world: QE is not going to finally create economic growth unless strings are FINALLY attached. Not down-loaning this round(s) of QE means total, prolonged economic chaos combined with rapid governmental insolvency in the awful neoliberal-empire structure which is the Eurozone.

But it’s the same rub, yet on a wound which is even more raw than in 2012: any such formal strings will cause bankers to shy away from loaning to these ever-riskier national Eurozone economies; at the same time, successfully attaching said strings would enrage the populace because why are these banker-middlemen needed at all?

High finance pre-corona has been pacified with no-strings QE in order to keep them from attacking the Eurozone’s national bond markets – but if strings get attached then high finance can’t hoard the QE, get it? This is the ultimate height of neoliberal capitalism’s parasitical rapaciousness, and which is never reported.

So either Europe cuts out the middlemen and lends directly – and investors pounce upon the national bond markets in retaliation, as they did in 2009 or after Mitterrand’s anti-austerity victory in 1981 – or the Eurozone formally admits the middlemen are indeed the government in Western bankocracy, and national populaces revolt. A good place to read about this historical trend and economic inevitability is part 2 from my 7-part series from 2017, back when I foolishly assumed QE Infinity was an impossibility: Why no Petroeuro? or France’s historic effort for an anti-austerity Eurozone.

Insolvency in a Eurozone nation is thus the biggest, most likely threat to the Western-dominated global order. The Eurozone remains a disunited currency, which is an unsustainable paradox.

The long-running historical reality is that Germany preferred to join a neo-imperial project led by the US rather than the one led by Paris and Brussels, and this is why collective aid to nations has never been done in the Eurozone. Macron warns of EU unravelling unless it embraces financial solidarity – France has said this for so many decades that it no longer has any effect. Germany and their true partners – the US – simply don’t believe in European solidarity, only dominance of Europe.

The US can get away with making BlackRock the new private bureaucracy of the Fed & the financial strong-arm of the executive branch – Europe isn’t as dumb. The Yellow Vest and national strike marches hung effigies to BlackRock. Europeans are different, special, more intelligent, the global catalyst for modernity, the intellectual leaders of the West, etc.

Or so they keep telling us.

Time to show off that European finesse they’re so self-satisfied with… or throw it out altogether and join the Yellow Vests.

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Corona contrarianism? How about some corona common sense? Here is my list of articles published regarding the corona crisis, and I hope you will find them useful in your leftist struggle!

Capitalist-imperialist West stays home over corona – they grew a conscience? – March 22, 2020

Corona meds in every pot & a People’s QE: the Trumpian populism they hoped for? – March 23, 2020

A day’s diary from a US CEO during the Corona crisis (satire) March 23, 2020

MSNBC: Chicago price gouging up 9,000% & the sports-journalization of US media – March 25, 2020

Tough times need vanguard parties – are ‘social media users’ the West’s? – March 26, 2020

If Germany rejects Corona bonds they must quit the Eurozone – March 30, 2020

Landlord class: Waive or donate rent-profits now or fear the Cultural Revolution – March 31, 2020

Corona repeating 9/11 & Y2K hysterias? Both saw huge economic overreactions – April 1, 2020

(A Soviet?) Superman: Red Son – the new socialist film to watch on lockdown – April 2, 2020

Corona rewrites capitalist bust-chronology & proves: It’s the nation-state, stupid – April 3, 2020

Condensing the data leaves no doubt: Fear corona-economy more than the virus – April 5, 2020

‘We’re Going Wrong’: The West’s middling, middle-class corona response – April 10, 2020

Why does the UK have an ‘army’ of volunteers but the US has a shortage? – April 12, 2020

No buybacks allowed or dared? Then wave goodbye to Western stock market gains – April 13, 2020

Pity post-corona Millennials… if they don’t openly push socialism – April 14, 2020

No, the dollar will only strengthen post-corona, as usual: it’s a crisis, after all – April 16, 2020

Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for Press TV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. He is the author of the books ‘I’ll Ruin Everything You Are: Ending Western Propaganda on Red China’ and the upcoming ‘Socialism’s Ignored Success: Iranian Islamic Socialism’.

For Sama – The Denial of the Real Victims of War on Syria

By Vanessa Beeley

Source

For Sama Aleppo 1e799

Oscar-nominated ‘For Sama’ is a gritty, well-produced “documentary” claiming to present the reality of the five-year siege of the Syrian city of Aleppo. Just how deceptive is this portrayal?

The 90-minute video directed by UK Channel 4’s Waad Al-Kateab and English filmmaker Edward Watts has been unanimously praised in the mainstream media and tonight it might win this year’s Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. But does the film present a truly unbiased picture of the Syrian conflict or, rather, just the side of the story that fits the Western narrative about the war?

The armed-group occupation of East Aleppo portrayed as “freedom”

East Aleppo was the armed group hinterland of the city of Aleppo for five years. During this time the shape-shifting militant cadres mingled and confronted each other in mafia-style gang warfare over territory, status, financing and control over the civilians living through their occupation. Ultimately the dominant force was Al-Qaeda or Nusra Front in Syria.

Very few journalists could safely enter this barren and desolate zone reigned over by brutal, extremist groups. Channel 4 teamed up with Syrian “revolution” sympathizer and camera-woman, Waad Al-Kateab, and her alleged “doctor” husband who goes by the pseudonym of Hamza Al Kateab (real name Zahed Katurji) to produce “citizen journalist” reportage that would effectively choreograph the events in Aleppo for an unsuspecting public in the West.

Inside Aleppo consisted of a series of video reports produced by Waad, for Channel4, that claimed to record the daily life inside the extremist group-controlled districts of East Aleppo. Channel 4 accepted and republished these reports without any apparent independent verification or investigation.

Aleppo was Channel 4’s perceived “Guernica,” their reporting was consistently one-sided and partisan towards the “moderate rebels” who, according to the British TV network, were being “disproportionately” targeted by the “dictator Assad” and the Syrian Arab Army. The reality for journalists, like myself, who spent time in Syrian-government secured West Aleppo, sheltering 1.5 million civilians including an estimated 500,000 who had fled East Aleppo when it was invaded by armed militants in 2012, was diametrically different from the narrative being marketed by Channel 4 and the majority of state-aligned media in the West. Aleppo, according to residents, was opposed to the “revolution” from day one.

Channel 4 normalizing terrorism and extremism

Channel 4’s reporting in Aleppo and Syria has almost invariably presented the child-beheading, ethnic-cleansing sectarian groups as “rebels with a cause.” In a 2016 report, ‘Aleppo: up close with the rebels’, Krishnan Guru Murthy follows none other than members of formerly US-funded Nour Al Din Zinki, responsible for the horrific public torture and decapitation of 12-year-old Palestinian child, Abdullah, in July 2016.

In the same report, Murthy appears to legitimize the armed group strategy of mass suicide bombing as an act of “defense” without mentioning that many of these suicide bombers were targeting civilian and residential areas. Channel 4 removed this report after their lack of recognition of the war crimes committed by its protagonists was exposed.

Walid@walid970721

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Photo 2: Hamza with child beheader Maayouf Abu Bahr
Photo 3: Hamza again with Maayouf
Photo 4: Maayouf & Friends before they beheaded 12 yr old Abdallah Issa

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter

 

 

Walid@walid970721
 

Hamza’s friend Maayouf of the Zinki US backed “rebel” group & his friends taunting the boy before they beheaded him. Maayouf says: “the Quds division ran out of men so they sent us a child”. Another says: “these are your dogs, Bashar”. (no graphic violence) See prev. tweet

Embedded video

 

Dedicated to Waad’s daughter, the documentary can only be described as a grotesque misrepresentation of life in East Aleppo under the tyranny of sectarian armed groups. Anyone watching this movie will assume that East Aleppo was the “free country” as described by Waad, besieged and preyed upon by the Syrian government. The film literally airbrushes Nusra Front from the scenario. Groups like Nour al-Din al-Zenki are not referred to, their crimes go unmentioned.

The role of Hamza Al-Kateab affiliated with the armed groups in East Aleppo

Many journalists have pointed out the dangers of working in areas occupied by the militant factions. Waad and her husband have no apparent issues living side by side with groups renowned for their brutal violence against anyone who would challenge their rule. In fact, a number of videos and social media interactions demonstrate the close relationship that Hamza had with members of these groups – in particular with the aforementioned Nour al-Din al-Zenki.

Walid@walid970721

Photo 2: Hamza with child beheader Maayouf Abu Bahr
Photo 3: Hamza again with Maayouf
Photo 4: Maayouf & Friends before they beheaded 12 yr old Abdallah Issa

View image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on TwitterView image on Twitter

 
 
While corporate media and ‘For Sama’ portray Hamza as a compassionate “doctor,” we must ask how deceptive that image is. Many interactions have been deleted from Hamza’s social media accounts but are still available as screenshots. In these interactions, Hamza is involved in military strategy discussions with extremist groups. Hamza is clearly aware of the violence and abuse meted out against civilians by the occupying forces but he never condemned it to the media outlets who relied heavily upon his testimony to file their Aleppo reports.

vanessa beeley@VanessaBeeley

Not the first time .@jonsnowC4 has reproduced propaganda without any independent verification, reliant upon terrorist-linked https://21stcenturywire.com/2017/09/01/white-helmets-the-jib-al-qubeh-war-crime-in-aleppo-denied-by-channel-4/ 

WHITE HELMETS: The Jib-Al-Qubeh War Crime in Aleppo, Denied by Channel 4

Vanessa Beeley | Another White Helmet propaganda heist exposed by Syrian civilians in Aleppo.

21stcenturywire.com

Carmen Renieri@RenieriArts

Wondering what Mr. Snow has to say about this vid, showing Al-Qaeda linked Sarout holding while surrounded by armed terrorists, while daddy Hamza dances to the tunes of Sarout´s chants: https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=10&v=63s1FTwvCTA&feature=emb_logo 

 
 
When the terrorists were evacuated from the last district of East Aleppo, Al Sukare, where Al Quds hospital was located, they left behind a deadly trail of mines and booby traps designed to kill civilians returning to their homes. I was, myself, witness to one of these explosions, after a booby trap left in a washing machine was detonated – murdering and injuring civilians on Christmas Eve 2016.

According to social media conversations, Hamza was aware of this heinous practice. He and Waad evacuated at the same time as the armed groups. Therefore, it can be assumed that they knew about the dangers that awaited civilians, yet they apparently did nothing to warn them.

Much of ‘For Sama’ footage is located in the Al Quds hospital which was, itself, the center of controversy in East Aleppo when Doctors without Borders (MSF) declared it “destroyed” by a Russian airstrike in May 2016. Various independent researchers and journalists exposed this narrative as misleading and unsubstantiated.

‘For Sama’ omits the reality that hospitals in East Aleppo were taken over by the armed groups, often converted into military headquarters. The vast complex of the Children and Eye hospital was transformed into a torture and detainment center for civilians who did not comply with the armed group ideology or those perceived to be Syrian government-loyalists. After the liberation of East Aleppo, civilians testified that they did not receive medical treatment in the remaining hospitals which were effectively militant triage centers. I spoke with children and teenagers whose injured limbs had been amputated by the so-called medical staff who preferred such cruel expediency over long-term treatment. Why does ‘For Sama’ not cover any of these inconvenient truths?

The children I interviewed in East Aleppo who were forced to witness public executions and crucifixions, by the extremist groups, are ignored by Channel 4 and ‘For Sama’. Journalists like Theo Padnos and Matthew Schrier, who were imprisoned and tortured by the armed groups in the Eye Hospital compound are not referred to.

The mortars fired daily into West Aleppo by the militants that Waad does not refer to were responsible for thousands of civilian deaths and the maiming of countless more who lost limbs in the rain of lethal “Hell-cannon” gas canister missiles or were sniped in the streets that bordered the Nusra Front-dominated enclaves.

The 2013 Queiq River narrative explained

The 2013 River Queiq massacre is portrayed, in the film, as a Syrian government crime, the gory scenes exploited to further criminalize the SAA. If Channel 4 had conducted any kind of investigation into this event, they might have fulfilled their duty to provide context and evidence that would have better informed their audiences in the West. Channel 4 must be considered grossly negligent in their distorted representation of the Syrian conflict.

vanessa beeley@VanessaBeeley

“For Sama” Oscar-nominated propaganda movie misrepresents 2013 Queiq River massacre – civilians & soldiers massacred by armed grps, dumped in river – blamed on Syrian govt. .@jonsnowC4 shld investigate narratives he promotes to avoid reputation as war PR agent.

Embedded video

Aleppo-based journalist, Khaled Iskef, did exactly this investigation over a period of years before Al Mayadeen channel published his findings based upon forensic DNA reports and witness testimony. ‘For Sama’ glosses over fact in favor of propaganda and denies justice for the victims of extremist violence & brutality. According to Iskef’s evidence, River Queiq was a convenient dumping ground for these armed groups to dispose of evidence, Waad and Channel 4 have apparently provided cover for the crimes they committed.

Channel 4, media architects of war

It is no surprise that Channel 4 has been instrumental in the production of ‘For Sama’. I have extensively documented the channel’s role in the behind-the-scenes management of other such revisionist projects on Syria. The White Helmets, another terrorist-linked entity operating in East Aleppo, produced an award-winning, Oscar-nominated movie, ‘Last Men in Aleppo’, which also eradicated the presence of extremist fighters and terrorist groups from the conflict landscape – reducing the narrative down to “bad Assad” and “good rebels.”

vanessa beeley@VanessaBeeley

“For Sama” omits presence of Riyadh-trained fanatic Sheikh Abdullah Muhaysini in east 2016 “blessing” suicide bombers before they are released to murder Syrian civilians & soldiers. For Sama is little more than a war crime cover-up promoted by .@jonsnowC4

Embedded video

 
 

Channel 4 were among the hidden architects of this production and were also at the forefront of support for the White Helmets Nobel Peace Prize nomination while this UK/US funded group stands accused of all manner of war crimes by the Syrian people who lived under militant-group-occupation across Syria.

‘For Sama’ is an exploitative and well packaged instrument of injustice. It is an attempt by governments and media in the West to rewrite history, to erase their shameful role in maintaining a nine-year conflict, in Syria, based on lies and obfuscation of fact.

If you were to speak to the Syrian people in Aleppo who lived through the period covered by ‘For Sama’, they would tell you that this film does not represent their suffering or abuse at the hands of the armed gangs. They would tell you that ‘For Sama’ effectively defends those who tortured, imprisoned and subjected them to all manner of horror and bloodshed. They would tell you that ‘For Sama’ is just another insult from the billionaire-funded PR industry for war that has denied the real Syrian victims a voice for nine years while those who help perpetuate the crimes against them will, once again, be on Hollywood’s red carpet.

General Soleimani in the Eyes of Western Media

By Muna Issa 

Beirut – The assassination of top Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani drew the eyes and ears of the entire planet. Iranians and Iraqis mourn, the United States and “Israel” gloat, and world powers wait intently for what was coming for the Middle East. As tensions arose, Western media reports the assassination, and we observe the reaction of the public.

While one side of the world has had enough of conflict, poverty and colonial violence, the other side of the world not only comes to post jokes about the death which has upset millions, but also gloat and celebrate the murder of who they deem as a “terrorist.” We couldn’t blame the American public much, though – this only reflects what they’ve been taught through their news outlets, which are far from trustworthy.

In addition to that, there isn’t much escape from the supremacist mindset in a country like the United States, no matter how egalitarian one might attempt to be. It is deeply embedded in the brain, hence the lack of accountability for the US military’s actions. Neither was it brought salient that this dreadful incident was a breach to international law, nor was there any sense of remorse for the mere act of murder. Sadly, the US public expressed their cheerfulness as though General Soleimani had hurt them personally.

However, we witnessed a dramatic shift in American public opinion after tensions escalated further when Iran vowed a strong retaliation. Opinions shifted from “We killed the bad guy” to “What have you done?”. What was supposedly used to make Americans feel “safer” backfired severely. It is to Iran’s knowledge that they are dealing with a ruthless narcissist; a country built on lack of accountability – the idea that they could treat countries, cultures, systems, and people wickedly and get away with it.

Then came the speech of Sayed Hassan Nasrallah, which changed the game. In short, Nasrallah declared the expulsion of United States forces from the region – a milestone decision in our time. Although this would normally startle the masses, Western journalism experienced different a different reaction to the news.

What is interesting is that what Western journalism has painted General Soleimani to be is something along the lines of a “murderer” and “terrorist.” The idea presented to the public serves as a weapon of legitimacy for potential wars and assassination. However, it seemed as though outlets have taken two steps back, and “played nice” after Iran and Hezbollah’s reactions. Rather than calling General Soleimani what they used to call him, articles written on January 5, 2020 neither gave analysis nor propaganda. What moved the American public most is Nasrallah’s exclusion of US citizens from their target. In contrast with their ideas on what Hezbollah is as an organization, the public expressed emotions which came to be a mixture of surprise, bewilderment and relief. The Washington Post, one of the United States’ top newspaper outlets, published an article of the title ‘Hezbollah Says Retribution for Soleimani’s Death Must Target US Military, Not Civilians.’ Americans, whose trust for their news outlets is built on fear and need for military protection, may have a chance to develop new ideals about the other side of the world. This could also mean that they are losing trust in their government (regardless of their politics).

Western media is playing an immense role in shaping opinion. At a very rare occurrence in time, they’re somehow withdrawing their previous ideals of General Soleimani in journalism in attempt to de-escalate tensions.

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“Global Coalition of the Willing,” Ordinary Iranians’ Style: Resistance multiplied by Ethics plusJustice minus Oppression divided by Aggression

by Mansoureh Tajik for The Saker Blog

“Global Coalition of the Willing,” Ordinary Iranians’ Style: Resistance multiplied by Ethics plus Justice minus Oppression divided by Aggression

For a brief moment in human history, or what feels like only a fraction of a second now, the United States of America experienced a mirage of a position, dubbed a “superpower,” self-appointed1. Those who lacked ethical and moral imagination went along with that coronation2. Or, perhaps they were just humoring it until a better replacement came along3.

Internally and externally, the United States maintained its illusion of superpower status through the application of diverse tools, some hard and harsh, some soft, and some gray in nature. On the economic front, it mass produced an industrial-scale fiat currency4 as a trading tool and adopted games of chance, fundamentals of speculation5 and gambling as its “genius” economic principles. It manufactured large bubbles of debt6, mimicking a toddler’s birthday party, then divided and sold the airs within as investment bonds. The illusion of trust in an untrustworthy entity was the collateral. No worries though. Whenever the time got ripe and the bubbles burst, sophisticated air-capturing devices and adjustment tools were customized, nicely packaged, and were readied for retail. The hamster on the wheel of finance kept on running but never arriving; alas, the chicanery of economic progress was kept alive.

On the military front, the United States dropped two atomic bombs killing and genetically maiming hundreds of thousands of people for generations to come. In the Eyewitness Account of Hiroshima, August 6th, 1945, Father John A. Siemes, then a professor of modern philosophy at Tokyo’s Catholic University, concluded his remarks by saying:

“We have discussed among ourselves the ethics of the use of the bomb. Some consider it in the same category as poison gas and were against its use on a civil population. Others were of the view that in total war, as carried on in Japan, there was no difference between civilians and soldiers, and that the bomb itself was an effective force tending to end the bloodshed, warning Japan to surrender and thus to avoid total destruction. It seems logical to me that he who supports total war in principle cannot complain of war against civilians. The crux of the matter is whether total war in its present form is justifiable, even when it serves a just purpose. Does it not have material and spiritual evil as its consequences which far exceed whatever good that might result? When will our moralists give us a clear answer to this question?”7

While the “moralists” on whom Father Siemes pinned his hopes seventy four years ago were too busy theorizing about their own slumber, the United States of America stockpiled thousands of ready-to-be-deployed nuclear bombs, as fear-inducing threat tools. It deviated enormous amounts of world’s precious resources into the development of military hardware and software gadgets, using “defense” and “American interest” as its rationale8. It then created chaos and mayhem all over the planet9 as its pressure lever to sell death toys to teeny-weeny boys10—expensive batteries not included and costly -900- numbers for instructions on operations and maintenance11.

On the public relations and propaganda front, it used industrial-scale colorful media forms12 as its tool to lie, to cheat, and to fool. It is useful to remember that the United States of America, the land of the free and the home of the brave, freely burnt alive and made melted charcoals13 of tens of its own defenseless and unarmed mothers, fathers, and children in Mt. Carmel, Waco, Texas14. It bravely broadcasted, live, the entire event on several television networks for days to nip it in the bud for its own agitated population exactly how low it is capable of sinking to maintain its clutch and subdue dissent. For sure, that trick alone silenced many for a few years, Timothy McVeigh15 and his disloyal company excluded, while it worked on another script for another terror-inducing spectacular performance. Too many tricks to remember and too many tools to recount in this short essay; but at last, the jig is up.

Internally, the house has fallen on moral, ethical, justice, and economic grounds, but has forgotten to collapse. Those who cannot see this need corrective lenses or the right standards to evaluate and measure things. Externally, and more relevant to our topic here, the structure of the world’s power relations and alignments are changing rapidly in a tangible and measureable way away from the United States’16 autocratic clutch. While the self-absorbed and the infatuated speak of dangers of a power vacuum, others are quite busy realigning themselves. Let us remind ourselves of Saxon White Kissinger’s poem about delusions of indispensability,

“Sometime when you feel that your going
Would leave an unfillable hole,
Just follow these simple instructions
And see how they humble your soul;

Take a bucket and fill it with water,
Put your hand in it up to the wrist,
Pull it out and the hole that’s remaining
Is a measure of how you’ll be missed.”17

Coalitions, partnerships, and algebraically aligned groups of countries around the globe, some with hybrid letter-number titles of “this plus that minus the other,” are emerging left, right, and center. Even multi-billioners, themselves cheerleaders and enablers of the Empire of Illusions, are busy, like rats, circling the globe door to door to release their poisonous capital in the hope of infesting another Titanic, another morality-free sinking ship into making. There is a buzz that George Soros is trying to establish his own anti-war ‘Code Pink’ group (should name it Code Navy Blue, perhaps). No doubt, the irony would not have been lost to George Orwell had he lived to see it.

Enough eulogizing. What do all these mean, or should mean, to ordinary people and local community groups around the world? That is, for what, where, when, why, and how should the very people who often shoulder the brunt of all the dregs that roll downhill prepare themselves? For the rest of us, too, no matter what positions we hold and what relationships we have with the rest of the world, the same questions apply. I and the local community groups with and within which I work are grappling with these questions on a daily basis. We are doing what we can to ensure that our short and borrowed lives on this earth is worth the breaths we take. Many of us find ourselves feeling increasingly fortunate to live in Iran where doing so many things in so many ways is possible. More fortunately for us, the general frameworks within which we ask questions, analyze situations, design solutions, and implement them are all intertwined and enmeshed in our culture and belief system: Quran, Our Prophet’s and Imams’ teachings, and an important element called “Al-Hekmah” or the Wisdom. So, how do we evaluate the current transformations in the world around us and how do we try to choose the correct position and make a difference? Here, I present a brief and simple snapshot of our local-universal eye-view.

Firstly, Quran’s ethical teachings, as exemplified through the words and deeds of our Prophet, Imams, and pious scholars, tell us that there is no separation of religion and politics in Islam. As Allammeh Seyyed Hassan Modarres (1249 – 1316 HS, parallel in date with 1870-1937 AD), a religious sage and one of the champions of Iranian Constitutional movement, said in one of his most famous speeches, and Imam Khomeini, the Founder of the Revolution, quoted, “Siasat-e ma eyn_e dianat_e ma, va Dianat_e ma eyn_e Sia’sat_e mast.” (“Our politics is exactly our religion and our religion is exactly our politics.”) The paragraph from which the line is borrowed reads,

“The source of our politics is our religion. We are on friendly terms with the entire world so long as they have not aggressed against us. But, if anyone aggresses against us, we will respond. Our politics is exactly our religion and our religion is exactly our politics.”18

Notwithstanding a particular religious belief and appealing simply to human logic, how would it even be possible for someone to have an authentic personal and private ethical and religious belief about, for instance, “thou shall not kill the innocent,” and live, work, and play within the rules and regulations of countries and political systems that kill innocent people to generate revenues and to maintain their national economic lifestyles of choice? Or, appealing to a more rudimentary level of human thought, how could we possibly afford not to be political, when the concentration of the very oxygen in the air we breathe, the amount of poisons with which our waters and foods are laced, the diseases we suffer, the so-called cures we are allowed to access, our fertility, our sexuality, our freedom to move from point A to point B are all determined by politics? Are we living with our heads buried in the sand?

Given these realities, for our people and local community groups here, being political is not a matter of choice but a religious obligation, a human necessity, and a critical survival instinct. Since we cannot avoid this, we do our utmost and take great deal of care to be well informed in order to be able to choose the right (as in correct) politics. People here take the trouble of going that extra kilometer so that, God forbids, they do not end up assuming they are on the right side and the followers of Imam Ali (the first Imam of Shi’a belief) and Imam Hussein (the third Imam of Shi’a belief) but, in fact, do things that are tantamount to carrying water for the turbines of Mo’avieh and Yazeed (Father and Son corrupt tyrants in Ummayyad dynasty against whose policies the Shi’a imams stood, resisted, and eventually got martyred).

Secondly, our religion and our pious religious scholars teach us that we should neither oppress others nor submit to oppression by others. So, our resistance has at least three dimensions: one, we must resist our own urges to oppress others, while at the same time, resist being sucked into siding with oppressors. Two, we must resist oppression against ourselves by anyone. Three, whenever and wherever we hear the cry for help of the oppressed people (Muslim and/or non-Muslim), we are obligated to respond and help, within our means and capacity to do so, and in a sound and appropriate way. Standing silently on the sideline and keeping quiet out of fear or greed is not an option for us. People here commemorate Imam Ali as the epitome of excellence in justice and in “qist” (particular form of justice). They commemorate Imam Hussein as the epitome of resistance against oppression and injustice. When you hear the chants of “Kullu Yau’men Ashura, Kullu Arzen Karbala” -Every day is Ashura, Every place is Karbala, it is useful to remember that today’s Karbala extends from Afghanistan to Yemen to Syria to Palestine to Nigeria to Sudan to Caracas and to any other place on the globe that people are fighting injustice, resisting oppression, and asking for help.

This stance is not just an isolated religious belief of some uninformed local community groups. It is written clearly into our constitution, the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran19. In Article 2, Section 6.c, and in Article 3, Section 5,6,15, and 16, it reads:

2:6.c – the negation of all kinds of oppression, authoritarianism, or the acceptance of domination, which secures justice, political and economic, social, and cultural independence and national unity.

3:5 – the complete rejection of colonialism and the prevention of foreign influence.

3:6 – the eradication of all kinds of tyranny, autocracy, and monopolization of power.

3:15 – the cultivation and strengthening of Islamic brotherhood and general cooperation among the people.

3:16 – the organization of the nation’s foreign policy based on Islamic criteria, fraternal commitment to all Muslims, and unrestrained support for the impoverished people of the world.

Any of our elected and/or appointed officials who would tell you otherwise, is either ignorant of the very law he must uphold (in which case, shame on him) or he has gotten to his position by lying, cheating, and swearing to uphold the very laws he is deliberately breaking (in which case, he is a hypocrite and double shame on him). On a bright note though, the ordinary people in the trenches feel extremely blessed that the most senior person in their land, the Leader, is also the most steadfast champion and the flag bearer of the constitution. To put him on a sanction list means to put the Iranian constitution and millions of ordinary people in local communities on a sanction list. Of course, had the US done differently, we would have questioned our own authenticity.

More generally though, as the current situation in the world unfolds, it is useful to remember some basic facts. No imperialist, no arrogant power, no superpower wannabe operates in a vacuum. There are always cheerleaders, enablers, junior and senior accomplices, profiteers, and conspirators. Regardless of what their mouth says, their action speaks louder. Let’s consider a simple example. The Unites States was able to spend trillions in military adventures killing millions of innocent people around the world and expropriating their resources in two fundamental ways: 1) It shortchanged its own tax-paying population, the young, the retired, and even the unborn in all sorts of social and public rights and amenities. 2) It kept on issuing treasury bonds on its accumulated debt, currently about 22.5 trillion dollars20, with People’s Bank of China, Central Bank of Japan, and naïve citizens21 as its most devoted purchasers.

To speak inside a parenthesis and to be totally candid, the ordinary people here find Japan’s “I’ve-fallen-and-I-can’t-get-up!” attitude which has lasted nearly 74 years quite puzzling. Once upon a time, they lost a war. Who doesn’t at one point or another? Now that it happened, shouldn’t they stand up, dust off, and shake off this subdued and subservient house servant role and assume an independent position with dignity and self-respect? I am told. As Imam Hussein said, “If you do not have any religion and are not fearful of the Day of Judgment, at least be protective of your liberty and autonomy in your life in this world.22 People hope and pray to God that hardworking and noble people of Japan will rise up and will one day free themselves of the US occupation. Again, regular, ordinary people here are genuinely willing to provide support, if the Japanese themselves are willing to fight for their independence.

We will assume being under occupation by the US is Japan’s excuse. But, what has been China’s excuse? China has been buying the US debt as an export-led strategy to ensure its economic growth23. Therefore, to the extent that China, out of self-interest, has acted as an enabler of the United States aggressions and wars, it, too, is responsible. Its development, too, is contaminated with the crime and injustice against, and the blood of innocent people proportionate to the amount of advantage it had gained through its indirect support of those acts. We will not even address its voting record, until just a couple of years ago, as the UN’s Security Council permanent member. Now that it, too, is a target, its change in behavior is not trustworthy enough because it does not appear to be based on ethical and moral principles. It would not be illogical to assume that the moment the direction of winds changes, it is likely that China’s current stance would change, too.

Therefore, for ordinary people in local communities here, that is, the very same people who are active, and who willingly volunteer their own lives and their children and spouses to go and fight alongside those who resist oppressions and hegemony by the US and the West, these and other critical points and lessons will not go unchallenged and unlearned. Only those who have a proven record of being honest and trustworthy, of acting on principles, and steadfast in their resolve fighting against oppression are worthy of trust and long-term partnership, regardless of their race, nationality, and religious affiliation. Others must work much harder, regardless of what they profess to be.

As the entire world is moving on, and as partnerships and coalitions are constantly dissolving and forming, and as the nuclear strike buzzes & hypes are being heard again, I would like link back to the beginning of the essay and re-insert, again, the quoted parts of Father Siemes’ remark, but this time, I complement the segment with a new twist in interpretation and prediction. He recounted,

“We have discussed among ourselves the ethics of the use of the bomb. Some consider it in the same category as poison gas and were against its use on a civil population. Others were of the view that in total war, as carried on in Japan, there was no difference between civilians and soldiers, and that the bomb itself was an effective force tending to end the bloodshed, warning Japan to surrender and thus to avoid total destruction. It seems logical to me that he who supports total war in principle cannot complain of war against civilians. The crux of the matter is whether total war in its present form is justifiable, even when it serves a just purpose. Does it not have material and spiritual evil as its consequences which far exceed whatever good that might result? When will our moralists give us a clear answer to this question?”7

I can guarantee anyone who reads these lines that ordinary people in local communities here in Iran are fully aware that what is currently going on is, in fact, a total war against their very existence. They also know there is no difference between civilians, soldiers, and [they add] our Commander in Chief (Seyyed Ali Khamenei). Should one, two, or more nuclear bombs be added to the United States’ repertoire of its pressure levers in its ongoing total war against Iran, unlike the Japanese, the ordinary devout Shi’as in Iran (who are quite significant in number), from all levels of the society, are not going to be sitting around philosophizing, musing, and theorizing about whether or not the total war against them was justified, where all the moralists have gone, or play the role of an obedient house servant. Furthermore, they are not going to enter into a shock & awe state, not knowing what to do. Bihawl’lallah wa Quwwatah (By God’s Power and Might), they will, however, make sure that will not end the bloodshed; rather, it will begin a very effective and exact bloodshed. From my reading of the population here, I can bet my life on that. Can the US, holding tight and fast to its nuclear Trump card, be equally sure of its own bet? If yes, Bismillah.

Mansoureh Tajik lives in Alborz Province in Iran. She has a background in teaching and research in the areas of community and environmental health, environmental justice, and media literacy. She collaborates with various local community members, groups, and organizations to provide support in addressing health and environmental problems, sustainable agriculture, and in design, implementation, and evaluation of relevant improvement projects.

References

1. Thomas Donnelly, Donald Kagan, and Gary Schmitt (2000). “Rebuilding America’s Defenses: Strategy, Forces, and Resources for a New American Century,” A Report of The Project for the New American Century, September 2000. Accessed on 7/9/2019; Available online at: https://archive.org/details/RebuildingAmericasDefenses.

2. Fotios Moustakis & Rudra Chaudhuri (2006). “Counting the Cost of an American Unilateralist Policy: a Superpower at Risk?” Published By: Defence Academy of the United Kingdom, Conflict Studies Research Centre, Special Series, 06/43. ISBN 1-905058-88-8, August 2006, UK.

3. Jan Nijman (1992). “The Limits of Superpower: The United States and the Soviet Union since World War II.” Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Vol. 82, No. 4 (Dec., 1992), Pages 681-695. Published by Taylor & Francis, Ltd. on behalf of the Association of American Geographers.

4. Steven Russell (1991). “The US Currency System: A Historical Perspective.” Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, September/October 1991. Accessed on 7/9/2019; Available Online at: https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/c909/a844511a78720c5d2800170c06109d797fde.pdf

5. Ricardo J. Caballero, Emmanuel Farhi, and Mohamad L. Hammour (2006). “Speculative Growth: Hints from the U.S. Economy.” The American Economic Review,” Vol. 96, No. 4, Pages 1159-1192.

6. Nathan Perry (2014). Debt and Deficits: Economic and Political Issues. A GDAE Teaching Module on Social and Environmental Issues in Economics. Global Development and Environment Institute, Tufts University, Medford, MA.

7. The Manhattan Engineer District Report (1946). The Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Manhattan Engineer District of the United States Army under the direction of Major General Leslie R. Groves on June 29, 1946. Accessed on 7/25/2019; Available Online at: https://www.abomb1.org/hiroshim/hiro_med.pdf

8. Office of Undersecretary of Defense (Comptroller) Chief Financial Officer (Feb. 2018). Defense Budget Overview, Fiscal Year 2019 Budget Request. Generated on 2018Feb02. Ref. ID: A-6E677F4. Accessed on 7/25/2019; Available Online at: https://dod.defense.gov/Portals/1/Documents/pubs/FY2019-Budget-Request-Overview-Book.pdf

9. Sarah N Pedigo (2016). “United States Interventions: Power Vacuums and the Rise of Extremist Groups.” Master of Arts (MA) Thesis, Sociology/Criminal Justice, Old Dominion University, DOI: 10.25777/86pc-ex82 Available Online at: https://digitalcommons.odu.edu/sociology_criminaljustice_etds/6

10. Zahra Aghamohammadi1 and Ali Omidi (2018). The Prospect of the United States and Saudi Arabia’s Relations In Light of the Khashoggi Murder. Journal of World Sociopolitical Studies, Vol. 2, No. 4, October 2018, Pages 605-632.

11. Congressional Research Service (2019). “The U.S. Export Control System and the Export Control Reform Initiative,” Updated April 5, 2019. R41916· VERSION 49.

12. Sebastian Kaempf (2019). “A relationship of mutual exploitation’: the evolving ties between the Pentagon, Hollywood, and the commercial gaming sector.” Journal of Social Identities, Journal for the Study of Race, Nation and Culture, 25:4, 542-558, DOI: 10.1080/13504630.2018.1514151.

13. Official Death Reports, Autopsies and Other Reports of the Davidian Dead. Accessed on 7/26/2019; Available Online at: http://www.holocausts.org/waco/death/reports/county-list.html

14. Timoty Lynch (2001). “No Confidence: An Unofficial Account of the Waco Incident”. Policy Analysis, No. 395, April 9, 2001, Pages 1-18.

15. Linder, Douglas (2007). The Oklahoma City Bombing and the Trial of Timothy McVeigh, University of Missouri at Kansas City – School of Law, Posted on Nov. 17, 2007. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1030565 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1030565.

16. Robbert Kappel (2015). “Global Power Shifts and Challenges for the Global Order.” German Institute of Global and Area Studies, Hamburg, Policy Paper 2/2015.

17. Saxon White Kessinger (1959). “Indispensable Man.” Available Online at: http://www.appleseeds.org/indispen-man_saxon.htm.

18. Hossein Razmjoo (1366 H.S.). “Modarres and His Principle Non-Equilibrium in Politics.” Meshkaat, The Center for Computerized Research in Islamic Sciences, Dr. Shariati College of Literature and Humanities. Original in Farsi, Translated by the author.

19. The Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Iran (English Version). Available Online at: https://www.wipo.int/edocs/lexdocs/laws/en/ir/ir001en.pdf

20. US Debt Clock. Accessed on 7/26/2019; Available Online at: https://www.usdebtclock.org/

21. Kimberly Amadeo (2019). “Who Owns the US National Debt? The Biggest Owner is You!” The Balance. Accessed 7/26/2019; Available Online at: https://www.thebalance.com/who-owns-the-u-s-national-debt-3306124

22. Muhammad Baqer Majlisi (1403 HQ). Translation, by the author, of a portion of Narration (Hadith):

ان لَم یَکُن لَکُم دینٌ و کُنتُم لاتَخافونَ المَعادَ فَکونوا اَحراراً فِی دُنیاکُم

from Bihar ul-Anwar, 2nd Edition, Vol. 45, Page 51.

23. Ingvild Borgen Gjerde, DNB Markets (2019). “Why China will not sell its US Treasuries.” The Note, Market Matters, 15.05.2019. DNB Markets, a division of DNB Bank ASA. DNB Bank ASA is a part of the DNB Group.

Sanctions on Khamenei? Ending the myth of the ‘Millionaire Mullah’

July 27, 2019

by Ramin Mazaheri for The Saker Blog (cross-posted with PressTV)

Sanctions on Khamenei? Ending the myth of the ‘Millionaire Mullah’

There are many pieces of nonsense about Iran which are fervently believed in the West but which have zero credibility inside Iran. “Millionaire Mullahs” is a concept which has captivated the Western imagination, even though it has no basis in reality.

The idea of “Millionaire Mullahs” was conceived in 2003 by the uber-capitalist magazine Forbes. What’s worse, it was created by their longtime Russia editor… Russia during the age of Yeltsin, when neoliberal capitalism was shamelessly gutting all the nations of the former Soviet Union and transferring the longtime assets of the people/state to Western high finance.

The idea “sounds right” to Western ears for three likely reasons: they are often ardently secular and suspicious of all religious authority, they assume all Muslim religious authorities are as rabidly capitalist as the Roman Catholic Church has often been, and also because they know nothing about the revolutionary (unique) and inherently anti-capitalist post-1979 changes to the Iranian economy.

Let’s stop with the nonsense: being a mullah in Iran usually places one in the lower middle class. Iranian Shia clergy do not have extravagant lifestyles, and they have certainly chosen the wrong calling if that was their aim. Furthermore, the Iranian press – which casts an open and intensely critical eye on the government, contrary to Western perceptions – would absolutely have a field day were there any mullahs living the lavish lives of millionaires. The entire idea is absurd and – rather crucially – unproven.

The subject has come up again, due to the incredibly foolish sanctions by the US against Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

Khamenei, like his predecessor in the Leader post, Ruhollah Khomeini, and his family are known by all Iranians for living simple lifestyles and for possessing absolutely common levels of personal wealth. How does all of Iran know this? Well, doesn’t everyone in the US know the general financial background of Trump?

But first, a bit of background for non-Iranians: Khamenei is from clerical families on both sides of his parents. They were not rich clerics, but lower-middle class, like the majority of Iranian clergy. The 1979 Revolution was decidedly class-based – it was called “the revolution of the barefooted” – and this extended to the clerical class as well, so it should not be surprising that someone from Khamenei’s class background rose so high.

Because clerics are humans, they have a right to have varied personal interests: ex-Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani was rather an Iranian Islamic Revolution anomaly – a revolutionary cleric from a rich background (pistachio farmers) – and he had a personal interest in the affairs of business. It is common knowledge that Khamenei has never evinced this interest, and nor have his several brothers, who are also clerics – the family’s interests are clearly religion and politics.

Furthermore, simply check out his speeches on YouTube (and perhaps while you still can do so, as PressTV was banned from YouTube in April): Khamenei is always discussing the example of his namesake, Imam Ali, the personification of personal austerity in Islam. “Shia” means “partisan of Ali”,msm so non-Muslims should be able to easily imagine that if Khamenei was constantly exhorting everyone to follow “Pope” Ali’s worthy example, yet not following it himself… this would be cause for immediate and widespread comment among the highly-educated, very politically-involved Iranian general public.

So even the whiff of a mere rumour of personal embezzlement would be a major risk to Khamenei’s job status! Part 2 will fully quote and explain the begrudging exoneration of Khamenei by one of his biggest adversaries – Western mainstream media – that there is “no evidence” that Khamenei has used Iran’s wealth to enrich himself. And, of course, there is no logical reason why he would thus tolerate theft and fraud among his fellow lower-ranking clergy who also work as civil servants.

Khomeini’s and Khamenei’s precedents of clearly living in a manner which rejects worldly riches will certainly help produce this same type of Leader in the future, but whoever is the Supreme Leader at any time in the Islamic Republic of Iran will likely be forced to live lives of transparent piety and to display moral, spiritual and fiscal rectitude – that, combined with self-sacrificing patriotism, is the very essence of the job. The Supreme Leader post is not that of a technocrat, as Western leaders are now often merely supposed to be – he is essentially called to act as the “soul of the nation”, and, I would also add, “of the government”.

Such values are anathema to Western secularism, which is a governmental philosophy that was certainly available in 1979 for Iranians to select. However, even atheistic secularists must concede that Western-style secularism was democratically rejected by Iranians, and this fact cannot be ignored, no matter how disagreeable non-Iranians may find this fact.

To put it plainly: Does the West really think that Iranians don’t have a good sense of Khamenei’s personal morality? He has been living in the public eye longer than French President Emmanuel Macron has been alive, and the French all know about Macron’s privileged upbringing, marriage to a chocolate heiress who was his high school teacher, and Rothschild banker-paid lifestyle. An entire nation simply cannot be kept in the dark about the true personal nature of its leaders; people are not stupid, anywhere, and and the Iranian press is far from being either non-existent or totally subservient to power.

You can take the average Iranian’s word for it: if Khamenei was living lavishly – or, living like every single Western CEO does, and with absolutely zero Western media condemnation, sadly) – all of Iran would know it, and there would be serious repercussions.

This all explains why Iranians view the recent US sanctions on Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei as absurd and based on both propaganda and ignorance. The sanctions put the The New York Times in a quandary – they had to choose between their iron-law Iranophobia and their equally unobjective anti-Trump editorial policy. Their jeering-but-accurate headline, “Iran Greets Latest U.S. Sanctions With Mockery”, reflects that the anti-Trumpers drowned out the Irano-/Islamophobes… on that day in their newsroom.

Beyond Khamenei, I can very briefly explain how and why the West can persist with their “Millionaire Mullah” mythology:

There are many economic principles that guide the Iranian economy which have no basis in the West – they are, after all, “revolutionary”. Many are based on principles of Islamic charity and of Islamic finance; many are also based on anti-capitalist principles which were obviously drawn from 20th century socialism. There are almost too many to list, but in Part 2 of this 3-part article I will pick a few key ones which specifically relate to clergy, and which – when added with Iranophobia – create such widespread and ignorant propaganda.

Part Two

Beyond Khamenei, I can very briefly explain how and why the West can persist with their “Millionaire Mullah” mythology:

There are many economic principles that guide the Iranian economy which have no basis in the West – they are, after all, “revolutionary”. Many are based on principles of Islamic charity and of Islamic finance; many are also based on anti-capitalist principles which were obviously drawn from 20th century socialism. There are almost too many to list, but in Part 2 of this 3-part article I will pick a few key ones which specifically relate to clergy, and which – when added with Iranophobia – create such widespread and ignorant propaganda.

One of the five pillars of Islam is to give to charity (zakat), but one of the five additional pillars of Shia theology is that businessmen must give 20% of their profits to charity (khums). Thus, it should be clear why some say that Iran has an “alms-based economy”. That’s an exaggeration, because there are state taxes as well, but this money goes directly to religious authorities and has gone there for over 1,000 years.

For example, Khamenei was raised in a family (lower middle class clerics on both sides of his parents) which would have never received this money directly – they would have been the recipients of this charity from much higher-ranking clergy.

Khamenei, through hard work, sacrifice and other virtues, is now a “Marja’” (top religious authority). He now heads various religious foundations which receive – and redistribute downwards – this zakat and khums money.

Of course, he heads these foundations, but this money cannot (and is not) be used by him to by a Ferrari for his favourite nephew, for example. The Iranian press would die of happiness at the sales prospects caused by such a sensational, unheard-of event! These are “religious foundations” not “The Clinton Foundation”: These foundations serve the poor – they do not trade high-level political access & favours in return for funding a jet-set lifestyle. Of course, most Western media cynically assume that everyone – even a Marja’, and even a Marja’ as publicly present as Khamenei – secretly operates on shameless Western capitalist principles….

Let’s clarify two key issues: zakat and khums are individual choices – they are not compelled to go to Khamenei. Iranians can send their charity to a Marja’ in Iraq if they like, and many do. Secondly, drastically changing this historic process of zakat and khums would certainly constitute a major revolution in Iran – however, for many it would constitute a rather “un-Islamic Revolution”, and there is no doubt that the democratic majority wanted an “Islamic Revolution”.

Therefore, Islamic charity is a reality of modern economics and finance in Iran. It is not something which non-Muslims can easily comprehend, perhaps, but the failure to do so will help fuel nonsense like “Millionaire Mullahs”. Unlike neoliberalism in the West, these financial principles have the virtue of being democratically-supported, and I can easily argue that they have the additional virtue of far more efficiently increasing economic equality than neoliberalism does.

Khamenei, as the Supreme Leader, is also often listed as the head of companies simply out of respect by the company’s founders. It is often purely honorary. Khamenei is not, for example, giving ideas on product improvement or production strategies to such companies (now the rare ex-president Rafsanjani – rare because he was an Iranian Islamic Revolutionary cleric from a rich, business-oriented background might have gotten involved, but Khamenei has evinced no such interest) and he is absolutely not in any control of the company’s assets. He is there in name only as a sign of respect for him, Islam, Iran, etc. Of course, this is distorted/misunderstood by Western pro-capitalist papers.

The Iranian Islamic Revolution also did something which no doubt enrages Western imperialist-capitalists, and about which they have no desire to spread honest information: the revolution took a huge chunk of the factories and industries owned by the shah and his tiny coterie and gave them to charity.

These are called the bonyads, and they are an estimated 15-20% of the entire Iranian economy. A staggeringly revolutionary concept, no?

The bonyads are thus different from the Islamic charity I have described, and the Islamic foundations which administer that charity, because the bonyads were expressly charged with getting involved in economic production.

The bonyads are not designed for capitalist profit, but are co-operatives which exist to create low-cost goods and jobs for Iranians. This planned” inefficiency” – in attaining maximum profit, but not in social cohesion and equality – is falsely branded as “corruption” by raging Western capitalists, sadly.

Khamenei heads some bonyads, and this gives him economic influence, of course… because the popular, democratic, openly-debated decision to award a significant chunk of the Iranian economy to the administration of religious authorities was a popular, democratic, openly-debated decision of the Iranian people. Oppose decisions arrived at in this manner, and you oppose democracy for Iran.

Bonyads are not specifically proscribed in The Koran, unlike zakat and the ubiquitous concepts of charity and anti-usury (high interest/compound interest), but if one tries to overturn them… well, all I can say is – prepare for a serious fight. If you think the millions of bonyad workers and recipients of bonyad lower-cost goods want all that to be replaced by (mostly-Western) stockholders… good luck with your efforts.

Very obvious, but of course not perfect, parallels can be made elsewhere: the lower class supporters of Chavismo’s collectivos have won an unprecedented number of votes (and street battles) to preserve similar anti-neoliberal economic concepts and structures. Iran is not nearly as susceptible to Washington’s meddling, in large part because such gains have been consolidating democratic support for the government for a generation longer than in Venezuela. Cuba adopted similar (though not Islamic-influenced) concepts a generation earlier than Iran did. China is a generation up on Cuba, and aren’t they doing rather well? China doesn’t have bonyads, of course, but Beijing and Tehran have such a strong and long-term alliance because they obviously have much in common… once translations are made.

So, between zakatkhums, the bonyads, generalized Iranophobia and a desire to denigrate any economic thought which is not far-right neoliberal capitalism… this is how we have arrived at Western nonsense like “Millionaire Mullahs”, and the propaganda is unrelenting.

Like, for example, the 2013 Reuters report on Setad, a bonyad headed by the Supreme Leader post, which was absurdly titled, “Khamenei controls massive financial empire built on property seizures”.

Part 3 will examine this report, which is still being cited today despite its obvious bias, misrepresentations and clear goal of spreading Iranophobic and Islamophobic propaganda.

Part Three

Part 1 of this article discussed why the recent US sanctions on Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei provoked laughter in Iran and derision even from Iranophobic Western mainstream media.

Part 2 proved that – between zakatkhums, the bonyads, generalized Iranophobia and a desire to denigrate any economic thought which is not far-right neoliberal capitalism – it is easily understandable how we have arrived at Western nonsense like “Millionaire Mullahs”.

Part 3 will show (NOTE: these three links go to the PressTV versions) how this propaganda is unrelenting.

Like the 2013 Reuters report on Setad, a bonyad headed by the Supreme Leader post, “Khamenei controls massive financial empire built on property seizures”.

Uhhh… yes, confiscating the ill-gotten property of the king and his 1% was undoubtedly the democratic choice of Iran. Iran is a rare country to have done that, but it was not the first. Economically right-wing Reuters, of course, opposes every such occasion where this has happened.

Reuters’ report spends just ten miserly words to describe for their readers both bonyads and khums, which is certainly not enough to give a sympathetic, much less objective, rendering of these rather vital parts of the Iranian economy. Reuters makes apparent its total disinterest in admitting Setad’s universally-known, multi-billion charitable functions with the brief and dismissive: “It’s unclear how much of its revenue goes to philanthropy.” It’s a report which openly airs the grievances of lawyers based in Beverly Hills, California, because talking about the economically-redistributive concepts at work in the Iranian economy are expressly against Reuters’ editorial policy.

As Reuters admitted, with a brief sentence that indicates their maximum disappointment: “Reuters found no evidence that Khamenei is tapping Setad to enrich himself.” Exactly. All Iran already knew that. Reuters’ buried a sentence which has been a headline in Iran.

Beyond the role of Islamic charity, the usury-banning role of Islamic finance, and the unique (revolutionary) economic principles installed after 1979, the widest-view statement I can give about the Iranian economy is this: because it is (Islamic) socialist-inspired when it comes to handling the economy, the Iranian state controls the Iranian economy even more completely than today’s “hosting tourists is ok” Cuba. Both nations control their economies in a patriotic way, though Iran has, thankfully, far more oil wealth; both nations reject foreign control (neoliberal/globalist capitalism); and both nations have been incredibly successful at improving the lives of their average citizen despite decades of murderous sanctions by the US and Europe.

The revolutionary Iranian economy is thus most succinctly described (this is “daily journalism”, after all) as “Iranian Islamic Socialism” because it is exactly that, and in exactly that order of importance: first come the patriotic needs of Iran, then adherence to the principles of Islam as much as possible, and then the clear rejection of capitalism-imperialism and neoliberalism/globalism. Importantly – at least to those who believe Iranians have a democratic right to choose their own path – Forbes, Reuters and Washington are resolutely dead-set against the success of all of these principles, and their actions and stances show that they view tolerance, accommodation and limited cooperation as impossible.

But this – the enormously anti-neoliberal aspects and the enormously successful redistributive aspects of the Iranian economy – is something the West can never admit because… they might be copied! Indeed, when Washington talks about Iran’s “destabilising behaviors”, there is nothing more destabilising to US and Israeli hegemony in the Muslim world than the very example of Iranian democratic success.

What works usually is copied, but Iranian economic solutions do not “work” for the aristocratic readers of Forbes. Therefore, “Millionaire mullahs” has been the Western editorial line, and they are sticking to it.

It should be clear: it is a well-known reality is that Khamenei does not personally have much to sanction at all; the Iranian economy is so unique (revolutionary) that it is easily distorted and rarely attempted to be understood; the guiding economic concepts democratically installed after the Iranian Islamic Revolution will always be the subject of massive Western propaganda efforts.

Therefore, pity Trump and his New York City slumlord/Pentagon gun-runner advisors – by foolishly sanctioning Khamenei all they did was insult him, and insult his tens of millions of often-ardent supporters, and show their total ignorance of how the Iranian economy actually works!

How did they get so misled? Simple: they read too much Western propaganda, which since 1979 has had an editorial line of “100% fake news, 24/7” when it comes to Iran. Such an editorial line is designed by their 1%-owners to push Trump, and others, to wrongly assume that Iran is some sort of dystopian, totalitarian regime where the top leader owns everything and can liquidate anything at any time for their personal profit.

Such a system only exists in comic books… and in the Arab monarchies. And are sanctions on these Arab despots arriving next? LOL, not likely. Forbes and the neoliberal-loving, English-Canadian Reuters are likely in the middle of preparing their latest puff-piece on yet another Arab monarch-dictator.

It is ironic that the only type of millionaires these rabidly capitalist media seem to have a problem with are of the Iranian clerical variety, a variety which Forbes was the first to ever claim even existed. But the phenomenon they allege does not exist, and Khamenei is often held up as a standard of good and moral leadership in many nations for very justified reasons.

What is certain is that Washington’s ignorance of and opposition to the nature of the Iranian economy will cost them dearly – sanctions on Khamenei will be totally ineffective in reaching their totally unjust aims. Such sanctions are amusing… but that is actually a sad commentary: the decades of murderous sanctions on Iran, Cuba, Korea and others shouldn’t be funny at all.

(Ramin Mazaheri is the chief correspondent in Paris for PressTV and has lived in France since 2009. He has been a daily newspaper reporter in the US, and has reported from Iran, Cuba, Egypt, Tunisia, South Korea and elsewhere. He is the author of “I’ll Ruin Everything You Are: Ending Western Propaganda on Red China”.)

CONSTRUCTING THE NARRATIVE: GOOGLE USES SPECIAL MEASURES TO LIMIT SPREAD OF NON-MSM NEWS

Constructing the Narrative: Google Uses Special Measures To Limit Spread Of Non-MSM News

Jen Gennai speaking to the Project Veritas undercover investigator. Click to see full-size image.

On June 24th, investigative website Project Veritas released a video showing a Google whistleblower talking about the tech giant’s activities in avoiding a “Trump Situation” happening once more in 2020.

Embedded video

James O’Keefe@JamesOKeefeIII

BREAKING @Project_Veritas: Insider Blows Whistle & Exec Reveals Google Plan to Prevent “Trump situation” in 2020 on Hidden Cam — FULL VIDEO AND BACKUP: https://www.projectveritas.com/2019/06/24/insider-blows-whistle-exec-reveals-google-plan-to-prevent-trump-situation-in-2020-on-hidden-cam 

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An interesting fact is that YouTube is actively downing the video and its mirrors.

Project Veritas website was under attack around 21:00 GMT+0 and was inaccessible.

In the video, the whistleblower describes that Google has the ability to avoid a new “Trump situation” in 2020 by throttling conservative voices across its platforms, the company’s executives were willing to employ their capabilities, the whistleblower suggested.

In addition to the whistleblower’s testimony, the video shows documents, as well as an undercover video of a senior Google executive – Jen Gennai.

“They’re going to redefine a reality based on what they think is fair and based upon what they want, and what and is part of their agenda,” the Google insider said.

In the video, Google’s Head of Responsible Innovation Jen Gennai criticizes Elizabeth Warren’s “misguided” suggestions on “breaking up Google”. She explains “smaller companies don’t have the resources,” unlike Google, to “prevent the next Trump situation.”

Gennai works in the same division run by Kent Walker, a Google VP who assured employees “history is on our side”. Gennai says the following in the video:

“Elizabeth Warren is saying we should break up Google. And like, I love her but she’s very misguided. Like that will not make it better it will make it worse. Because all these smaller companies who don’t have the same resources that we do will be charged with preventing the next Trump situation. It’s like, a small company cannot do that.”

“We all got screwed over in 2016, again it wasn’t just us. It was, the people got screwed over, the news media got screwed over, like. Everybody got screwed over so we’re rapidly been like, ‘what happened there and how do we prevent it from happening again?’”

“We’re also training our algorithms, like, if 2016 happened again, would we have, would the outcome be different?”

According to the insider, after Trump’s election in 2016, the company completely changed:

“Right after Donald Trump won the election in 2016, the company did a complete 180 in what they thought was important,” he said. “Before, they thought self-expression, giving everyone a voice was important, but now they’re like hey, there’s a lot of hate, and because there’s a lot of hate and misogyny and racism, that’s the reason Donald Trump got elected. And so we need to fix that.”

How?

“We need to start policing our users because we don’t like to have an outcome like that. We don’t want to have an outcome like that happen again,” he said.

Project Veritas posted what were identified as internal Google documents on “machine learning fairness” and “algorithmic unfairness,” which was defined as “unjust or prejudicial treatment of people that is related to sensitive characteristics such as race, income, sexual orientation, or gender.”

“The reason we launched our A.I. [artificial intelligence] principles is because people were not putting that line in the sand, that they were not saying what’s fair and what’s equitable so we’re like, well we are a big company, we’re going to say it,” Gennai said.

What does “fairness” mean to Google?

“Fairness Is a dog whistle. It does not mean what you think it means,” said the anonymous insider.

“What they’re really saying about fairness is that they have to manipulate their search results so it gives them the political agenda that they want,” he said. “And so they have to re-bias their algorithms so that they can get their agenda across.”

According to James O’Keefe, Project Veritas head and founder, what google was doing sounds more as “Social engineering” and less as “Search querying.”

Some of the presented alleged Google documents suggested that search results can be used to promote political agenda.

Typing “women can” into the search engine provides auto-completed results empowering to women.

Conversely, typing “men can” provides results intended to break gender stereotypes.

Constructing the Narrative: Google Uses Special Measures To Limit Spread Of Non-MSM News

Click to see full-size image

Constructing the Narrative: Google Uses Special Measures To Limit Spread Of Non-MSM News

Click to see full-size image

Some of the other shown documents provide alleged evidence that Google actively prioritizes some news publishers over others.

One document titled “Fake News-letter” promotes a goal of establishing a “single point of truth” for the definition of “news”. Google says it removes “low-quality sources” and “misinformation”.

“We have gotten accusations of around fairness is that we’re unfair to conservatives because we’re choosing what we find as credible news sources and those sources don’t necessarily overlap with conservative sources …” Gennai said.

According to the insider, “establishment-unfriendly” content creators like David Rubin are routinely suppressed because they’re tagged as “right wing.”

“What YouTube did is they changed the results of the recommendation engine. And so what the recommendation engine is it tries to do, is it tries to say, well, if you like A, then you’re probably going to like B. So content that is similar to Dave Rubin or Tim Pool, instead of listing Dave Rubin or Tim Pool as people that you might like, what they’re doing is that they’re trying to suggest different, different news outlets, for example, like CNN, or MSNBC, or these left leaning political outlets.”

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Dave Rubin

@RubinReport

“Talkshow host Dave Rubin’s videos received heightened analysis in the artificial intelligence program Viacon. Viacon polices YouTube distribution, singling Prager and Rubin out as “right wing” and “news talk.”

Wanna chat, @SusanWojcicki?

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Content creator Lauren Chen backed up the whistleblower’s claims, saying that her popular videos were getting fewer views and they weren’t being recommended by the system any longer.

Lauren Chen

@TheLaurenChen

Finally, in February 2019 after YouTube’s announcement, our recommended views dropped even more.

Again, these number don’t speak to the TOTAL number of views I was getting (that number has fluctuated), merely the proportion of them that the algorithm was responsible for.

View image on Twitter

Lauren Chen

@TheLaurenChen

As it stands, channel like mine are in YouTube purgatory.

Our channels aren’t deleted, but we’re not growing since our content isn’t being offered to new viewers.

YouTube is filtering what it recommends through an ideological bias.

This is NOT how “platforms” behave.

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Scott Adams called Google “the Gatekeepers to reality” and that they weren’t credible.

Embedded video

James O’Keefe@JamesOKeefeIII

Check out @ScottAdamsSays Reaction to today’s @Project_Veritas Google insider and undercover report. “The gatekeepers to reality are not credible.” MORE insiders can contact us: http://www.projectveritas.com/brave 

1,731 people are talking about this

Finally, the whistleblower said that US Senator Josh Hawley is currently fighting to strip social media platforms like YouTube of their Section 230 protections.

The insider said that Google violates “letter of the law” and “spirit of the law” on Section 230

“With Section 230, tech companies get a sweetheart deal that no other industry enjoys: complete exemption from traditional publisher liability in exchange for providing a forum free of political censorship.

There’s a growing list of evidence that shows big tech companies making editorial decisions to censor viewpoints they disagree with.

Even worse, the entire process is shrouded in secrecy because these companies refuse to make their protocols public. This legislation simply states that if the tech giants want to keep their government-granted immunity, they must bring transparency and accountability to their editorial processes and prove that they don’t discriminate.”

If that decision is made, big tech companies and their platforms, such as YouTube, Google, Twitter, etc. will have the ability to earn immunity, instead of receiving it automatically under Section 230. They would have to prove to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) by “clear and convincing evidence” that their algorithms and content-removal practices are politically neutral. Nonetheless, even if this formal decision is made, it does not mean that the situation will become different because there are multiple options to censor independent point ofviews for companies like Google.

While the Google whistleblower quoted by Project Veritas speaks mostly about “Trump Situation”, there is little new in scripted censorship of independent points of views on plantforms like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. Since the very start of the conflict in Ukraine, Google has been increasing pressure on independent media organizations limiting their views and censoring the most popular videos. For example, SouthFront has repeatedly faced blatant censorship attempts on YouTube and overcome them thanks to your support. Nonetheless, the technical measures employed by YouTube has drastically limited SouthFront videos’ views on the platform.

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Robert Stuart vs the BBC: One Man’s Quest to Expose a Fake BBC Video about Syria

By Rick Sterling
Source

Robert Stuart BBC eb2f5

It’s a David vs Goliath story. A former local newspaper reporter, Robert Stuart, is taking on the British Broadcasting Corporation. Stuart believes that a sensational video story about an alleged atrocity in Syria “was largely, if not entirely, staged.”  The BBC would like it all to just go away. But like David, Stuart will not back down or let it go.  It has been proposed that the BBC could settle the issue by releasing the raw footage from the event, but they refuse to do this. Why?

The Controversial Video

The video report in controversy is ‘Saving Syria’s Children‘. Scenes from it were first broadcast as a BBC news report on August 29, 2013 and again as a BBC Panorama special in September. ‘Saving Syria’s Children’ was produced by BBC reporter Ian Pannell with Darren Conway as camera operator and director.

The news report footage was taken in a town north of Aleppo city in a region controlled by the armed opposition. It purports to show the aftermath of a Syrian aerial attack using incendiary weapons, perhaps napalm, killing and burning dozens of youth.  The video shows the youth arriving and being treated at a nearby hospital where the BBC film team was coincidentally filming two British medical volunteers from a British medical relief organization.

The video had a strong impact. The incident was on August 26. The video was shown on the BBCthree days later as the British Parliament was debating whether to support military action by the US against Syria.  As it turned out, British parliament voted against supporting military action. But the video was effective in demonizing the Syrian government. After all, what kind of government attacks school children with napalm-like bombs?

The Context

‘Saving Syria’s Children’ was produced at a critical moment in the Syrian conflict. Just days before, on August 21,  there had been an alleged sarin gas attack against an opposition held area on the outskirts of Damascus. Western media was inundated with videos showing dead Syrian children amidst accusations the Syrian government had attacked civilians, killing up to 1400.  The Syrian government was assumed to be responsible and the attack said to be a clear violation of President Obama’s “red line” against chemical weapons.

This incident had the effect of increasing pressure for Western states or NATO to attack Syria. It would be for humanitarian reasons, rationalized by the “responsibility to protect”.

The assumption that ‘the regime’ did it has been challenged. Highly regarded American journalists including the late Robert Parry and Seymour Hersh investigated and contradicted the mainstream media. They pointed to the crimes being committed by the armed opposition for political goals.  A report by two experts including a UN weapons inspector and Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity also came to the conclusion that the Syrian government was not responsible and the attack was actually by an armed opposition group with the goal of forcing NATO intervention.

Why the Controversial Video is Suspicious

After seeing skeptical comments about ‘Saving Syria’s Children’ on an online discussion board, Robert Stuart looked at the video for himself. Like others, he thought the hospital sequences looked artificial, almost like scenes from a badly acted horror movie.

But unlike others, he decided to find out. Thus began his quest to ascertain the truth. Was the video real or was it staged?  Was it authentic or contrived propaganda?

Over almost six years his research has revealed many curious elements about the video including:

* Youth in the hospital video appear to act on cue.

* There is a six hour discrepancy in reports about when the incident occurred.

* One of the supposed victims, shown writhing in pain on a stretcher, is seen earlier walking unaided into the ambulance.

* The incident happened in an area controlled by a terror group associated with ISIS.

* One of the British medics is a former UK soldier involved in simulated injury training.

* The other British medic is daughter of a prominent figure in the Syrian opposition.

* In 2016 a local rebel commander testified that the alleged attack never happened.

Support for Robert Stuart

Robert Stuart’s formal complaints to the BBC have been rebuffed. His challenges to those involved in the production have been ignored or stifled.  Yet his quest has won support from some major journalistic and political figures.

Former Guardian columnist Jonathan Cook has written several articles on the story. He says,  “Stuart’s sustained research and questioning of the BBC, and the state broadcaster’s increasing evasions, have given rise to ever greater concerns about the footage. It looks suspiciously like one scene in particular, of people with horrific burns, was staged.”

Former UK Ambassador Craig Murray has compared scenes in ‘Saving Syria’s Children’ with his own harrowing experience with burn victims. He says, “The alleged footage of burn victims in hospital following a napalm attack bears no resemblance whatsoever to how victims, doctors and relatives actually behave in these circumstances.”

Film-maker Victor Lewis-Smith has done numerous projects for the BBC. When learning about Stuart’s research he asked for some explanations and suggested they could resolve the issue by releasing the raw video footage of the events. When they refused to do this, he publicly tore up his BBC contract.

Why it Matters

The BBC has a reputation for objectivity. If BBC management was deceived by the video, along with the public, they should have a strong interest in uncovering and correcting this.  If there was an error, they should want to clarify, correct and ensure it is not repeated.

The BBC could go a long way toward resolving this issue by releasing raw footage of the scenes in ‘Saving Syria’s Children’.  Why have they refused to do this? In addition, they have actively removed youtube copies of ‘Saving Syria’s Children’. If they are proud of that production, why are they removing public copies of it?

Has the BBC produced and broadcast contrived or fake video reports in support of British government foreign policy of aggression against Syria? It is important that this question be answered to either restore public trust (if the videos are authentic) or to expose and correct misdeeds (if the videos are largely or entirely staged).

The issue at stake is not only the BBC; it is the manipulation of media to deceive the public into supporting elite-driven foreign policy. ‘Saving Syria’s Children’ is an important case study.

The Future

Robert Stuart is not quitting.  He hopes the next step will be a documentary film dramatically showing what he has discovered and further investigating important yet unexplored angles.

The highly experienced film producer Victor Lewis-Smith, who tore up his BBC contract, has stepped forward to help make this happen.

But to produce a high quality documentary including some travel takes funding. After devoting almost six years to this effort, Robert Stuart’s resources are exhausted. The project needs support from concerned members of the public.

If you support Robert Stuart’s efforts, go to this crowdfunding website.  There you can learn more and contribute to this important effort to reveal whether the BBC video ‘Saving Syria’s Children’ showed true or staged events. Was the alleged “napalm” attack real or was it staged propaganda?  The project needs a large number of small donors and a few substantial ones to meet the June 7 deadline.

As actor and producer Keith Allen says,” Please help us to reach the target so that we can discover the facts, examine the evidence, and present the truth about ‘Saving Syria’s Children’. I think it’s really important.”

A Robust Message from Palestine’s Foreign Minister and an Attempt at Israeli Propaganda from BBC Israeli Hasbara Asset Raffi Berg

By Stuart Littlewood
Source

“Freedom not conditional liberty. Sovereignty not limited autonomy. Peace not subjugation:” Riad Malki sends plain message to Trump and Kushner in run-up to their “Deal of the century”

Riad Maliki talking in Catham House c89c2

Chatham House, the international affairs think-tank in London, recently invited Dr Riad Malki, Palestine’s minister of foreign affairs, to talk about the future of Palestine ahead of the “Deal of the century” dreamed up by the Trump administration. Malki is involved in shaping the Palestinian response to that initiative when it is finally revealed.

During questions Raffi Berg (pictured below), editor of the BBC News website’s Middle East section, said that while the official Palestine Liberation Organisation’s (PLO) position is for two states as the solution to the conflict, he mischievously suggested that the recent Israel election results showed that Israelis consider the Palestinians’ position to be “insincere”. He asked: “Can you make clear whether you fully accept the presence of Israel as a country in the Middle East within/outside [indistinct] the 1967 ceasefire line?”

Raffi Berg BBC hasbara agent 7e7df

This sounded a little off-key from the BBC, which is supposed to maintain an air of utter impartiality. However, Malki dealt with the unfriendly prod quite firmly:

We have made it very clear that we are going to accept, and we have taken the decision to accept, the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on the 1967 borders, to accept the historic compromise that the state of Palestine will be established on the 22 per cent of historic Palestine. It is not only the Palestinian position, it is the position of almost every country around the world.

He reminded the audience that there is international consensus about the two-state solution and that the Palestinian state should be established on the 1967 borders with Jerusalem the capital of Palestine and of Israel. He continued:

We have also agreed in principle that we are ready during negotiations to talk about territorial exchange but always to keep the 1967 border as the border of the state of Palestine. So, we are not going to accept anything less than that.

If anyone talks about the State of Palestine on less than the 1967 border, or the State of Israel beyond that line, this is not acceptable because it defies not only the negotiating position but international law and the international consensus.

I recently wrote about Hanan Ashrawi, a long-time member of the PLO executive and an all-round formidable lady, saying we should see and hear more of her in a front line spokes role. The same goes for Raid Malki who is well informed and articulate and came across well at Chatham House. That they remain invisible to the Western world is the fault of the PLO and Palestinian Authority who are simply not media savvy and stubbornly intend to remain that way. Their embassies (or missions) around the globe are the same.

Malki was a one-time leading member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and has a PhD in civil engineering from the American University. His impressive CV includes Head of the Civil Engineering Department at Birzeit University, the European Peace Prize in 2000 in Copenhagen and the Italian Peace Prize (Lombardi) in 2005. He is a visiting professor at several European universities.

In his Chatham House speech Malki pulls no punches: “I know that some may be uncomfortable to hear the words ‘colonialism’ and ‘apartheid’ associated with Israel. But they are what we experience on a daily basis and what is visible to the naked eye.”

As for America, “the US administration has shown nothing but disregard for Palestinian rights and Palestinian lives, for international law and the internationally recognised terms of reference, and for common sense and decency”.

The Palestinian people, he insists, “want freedom not conditional liberty. They want sovereignty and not limited autonomy. They want peace and coexistence not domination and subjugation. He continued:

There are two ways to end the conflict: a peace accord or capitulation, meaning a surrender act. We continue to stand ready to negotiate the peace accords based on the internationally recognised terms of reference and the pre-1967 borders, under international monitoring holding accountable the parties and within a determined and binding timeframe. We will never be ready to sign a surrender act.

It is worth watching the video. Sparks are set to fly when Trump and Kushner eventually unveil their big deal.

I’m not a reader of the BBC News website. Long ago I came to distrust the BBC’s reporting of Middle East affairs, so I tend to ignore it. Berg’s line of questioning prompted me to look deeper and I found this piece from 2013 by Amena Saleem in Electronic Intifada titled “BBC editor urged colleagues to downplay Israel’s siege of Gaza”, in which she reports that Berg, during Israel’s eight-day assault on Gaza in November 2012 which killed nearly 200 Palestinians, emailed BBC staff to write more favourably about Israel. He urged them, allegedly, not to blame Israel for the prolonged onslaught but to promote the Israeli government line that the “offensive” was “aimed at ending rocket fire from Gaza”, despite the fact that it was Israel which broke the ceasefire.

In another email, he told them: “Please remember, Israel doesn’t maintain a blockade around Gaza. Egypt controls the southern border.” However, the United Nations regards Israel as the occupying power in Gaza and had called on Israel to end its siege, which is a violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1860.

It is interesting to read that Berg’s boss until last year was James Harding, an ex-Murdoch editor and self-proclaimed Israel supporter – a strange choice for a supposedly non-partisan head of BBC News. Almost as strange as the appointment around the same time of ex-Labour minister and former Chairman of Labour Friends of Israel James Purnell as director of strategy at this beacon of impartiality. Purnell is still there.

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