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Wolin embodied the qualities Weber ascribes to the hero. He struggled against forces he knew he could not vanquish. He never wavered in the fight as an intellectual and, more important, in the fight as a citizen. He was one of the first to explain to us the transformation of our capitalist democracy into a new species of totalitarianism.
-- Chris Hedges, eulogy for Sheldon Wolin

~ Dec07, 2015 ~

Getting Serious
Sometimes the glib banter just doesn't cut it

Deja vu: The media greases the 
neocons' skids in the race to war . . . again

Denis O'Brien, PhD 

Have no doubt about where the fight in Syria is headed. As we saw in Iraq and Libya, in USG’s neo-Machiavellian play-book, the penultimate step to bringing down the boogeyman – whoever the current one is – is to control his airspace, isolate him economically, and destroy his infrastructure, all the while citing "humanitarian" rationales for protecting his people. The "no fly zone" is the centerpiece of this neocon tactic. This is the 21st century version of the 19th century naval blockade and the 12th century siege: starve the bastard out; deprive his people of clean water, electricity, and medical necessities; destroy his infrastructure. But in the 21st century you have to make the siege look like a last choice reluctantly taken for the good of the people you are actually killing. It’s a bit twisted and more than a little ironic but the NFZ is ostensibly employed to protect the same people it ends up ravaging. Only Americans would be stupid enough to let their government and the MSM talk them into believing there is any righteousness in such a horrific military policy.  But then again if Americans weren’t so stupid, Hillary Clinton would not now be rabidly clamoring for a NFZ in Syria, thus illustrating the point of one astute political commentator: Hillary is smart enough to know how stupid her supporters are.  

And, I would add, how short their memories are. And the reason I say it is because Bill Clinton was a master of mass-murder via NFZ-reinforced by embargos and air strikes on infrastructure. He killed 500,000 Iraqi children with this technique – promoting the grisly death toll as the price the Iraqi people paid for not turning against Saddam.  Recall how Clinton’s Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright  famously asserted in a 60 Minutes interview with Lesley Stahl that the price those Iraqi kids paid was well worth it. (For details, see the Epilogue of my online book Murder in the SunMorgue, 2014, Penury Press.)  Now Hillary is tacitly saying that the price would be worth it again.  Indeed, Obama is already targeting Syria's infrastructure -- last October he took out two power plants . See  MoA on US bombing power plants

We need to be clear that the USG’s – and Hillary’s – ultimate objective in controlling Syrian airspace, either through a "regime" change or a NFZ, is to provide unimpeded access to Iran. Iraq, mess that it is on the ground, is no longer an impediment to attacking Iran by air. Syria is the last stretch of protected desert standing between, for instance, Israel’s air force bases and hardened targets in Iran that require huge bunker busters carried by slow B-52's. Even with Assad hanging on as the head of the government, if the USG can control Syrian airspace through a NFZ, the door to Iran is wide open. And that is, ultimately, where the neocons have been headed with all of this Assad regime change crap for the last dozen years.

What is unique about the situation in Syria today is that for the first time in this whole Arab Spring fuster-cluck the necons are racing against not one but two USG-certified boogeymen for control of the target country’s air space.  Consequently, every since Russia entered the fray the MSM have been tasked with portraying both Assad and Putin as evil dogs trying to thwart peace, justice, and the American way, when, in fact, Putin has come to the aid of an sovereign country that is being attacked internally by multiple terrorist elements and externally by a consortium of countries that are more focused on bringing down the sovereign country than the terrorists.

And the reason I refer to this situation as a "race" is that the Russian led pro-Syrian sovereignty Troika (Russia, Syria, Iran) on the one hand and the US-led neocon Coalition (USG + 13 others) on the other have been frantically building up their assets in the region trying to reach the point where they can be the first to exclude the other side from flying over Syrian air space. In the next few days or weeks either the US-led gang or the Russian-led gang will proclaim that Syrian air space is off limits to the other. Of course, it’s Syria’s air space and in a sane and civilized world the Coalition would be forced to recognize that as a sovereign country Syria has a right under the UN Charter to exclude anybody they want to exclude. And so if the US gang tries to pull a NFZ stunt like Hillary and many other hawks are demanding, it will be tantamount to a denial of Syrian sovereignty and clearly an act of war.  On the other hand, if the Troika declares Syrian airspace off limits to the Coalition, it will be in support of and in behalf of Syria – not only a legal step but an admirable one.

I will come back to the status of this NFZ race in a future post, but for the moment I want to illustrate how the western MSM has been prepping the public for war in Syria, which is looking more and more certain every day. Of course, due to language constraints, what I have access to is the American and British media and so these are the journalists I must focus on. I can’t speak to whether the French, German, and Belgian press are pulling these same sorts of stunts. The other limitation I am placing on this analysis is that it is restricted to the Syrian situation. Of course, the MSM has been demonizing Putin for two years now over Ukraine and the Crimea and that plays into the neocon objectives in Syria, but we have enough on our collective plate in just understanding the media dynamics during the last few months respect to Syria. 

Here are some of the more egregious examples of lies and misinformation the MSM have been spewing.

#1:  Russian fighter shot down by Turkey . . . in October.

As if performing a prescient dress-rehearsal for the frightening incident that was to occur on Nov24|15, in mid-October the UK press began reporting that Turkey shot down a Russian jet that invaded Turk airspace.  As far as I can tell, Sam Tonkin of the Daily Mail was the first idiot out of the box on this.


This was 100% pure propaganda bullshit ("PBS") -- you can tell by the way the article is worded.  Turkey ". . . is said to have . . ." shot down the Russian jet; ". . . it has been claimed by eyewitnesses . . ." [who are never identified]; "Rumours of a jet being shot out of the sky . . ."   

What was Tonkin's source for this incredibly dramatic and important international story?  Well, . . .  a tweet.  

Yeah, that's it: a tweet from some dwerp named "yasser alhaji."  Surely the name and the splattered English should tell any moderately competent journalist all he/she would need to know about the authenticity and accuracy of this claim.  But not ole' Sam . . . he ran with it. 

And then, using Magic Misinformation Management (tm) techniques, Tonkin linked to a Daily Express article that was published 2 days after Tonkin's dateline.  What an amazing skill, being able to cite articles 2 days before they are published and that are based entirely on your own article.  Like I say: prescience. 

That Oct12|15 Daily Express article, by Scott Campbell, was even more dramatic and more vague than Tonkin's PBS article -- that's the nature of bullshit, it gets wilder and more dramatic the more it is passed around.  


And what was Campbell's source????  What were his "unconfirmed reports circulating on social media"?  Yep, you guessed it: the same yasser alhaji tweet that Tonkin relied on.  If this doesn't fall into the bin of disgusting journalistic war mongering, nothing does. 

But of course, that wasn't the end of the false story.  Other (mostly British) idiots rushed to publish it, too: 

Tyler Rogoway at Foxtrot Alpha

~ ~ 

Taku Dzimwasha at IBTimes

~ ~ 

Sam Webb at The Mirror

Please note how these headlines put the false allegation in quotation marks as if quoting some source.  But the articles didn't quote any such source saying any such thing.  Dishonest journalism.  And so it goes.

#2:  Russian cruise missiles hit Iran.

Barbara Starr of CNN is, in my opinion, a paragon of toxic, malignant reporting of misinformation.  Here is but one recent example of why I have come to that opinion.  

On Oct07|15 the Russians pulled off a spectacular cruise missile attack on Da'esh from the Caspian Sea.  Four Russian ships fired a total of 26 missiles that flew barely above the sea and ground for 1500 km to hit their targets bang on the money, according to RT.   The ships were identified, the flight paths were given, and videos of the launches were even provided.  These SNN-30A cruise missiles are frightening weapons.  They have a range of 2500 km; they cruise at or above Mach 3.0 and just barely above the deck; then they climb and dive into their target at almost Mach 5.0.  Putin was obviously sending a message not just to the salafist pricks in the balaclavas but to Barak in the White House.  The game in Syria has changed. 

Although it was an amazing military feat, instead of congratulating the Russians and welcoming them to the anti-Da'esh party, the USG pretty much just kept their collective mouth shut, as they tend to do when upstaged by Russia. But not Barbara Starr.  The next day she and Jeremy Diamond writing for CNN reported that four of the Russian missiles crashed into Iran, citing . . . you guessed it: anonymous "officials."   

Starr/Diamond CNN headline, Oct08|15

According to Starr/Diamond, buildings were damaged and people were hurt by the errant Russian missiles, and yet they also said that it was "unclear where in Iran the missiles landed."  And that begs the obvious question: If your sources don't even know where the missiles landed, how can they know buildings were damaged and people were hurt?  Starr/Diamond failed to address that slight dingle-berry in their reporting.

Russian, Iranian, and Syrian officials all denied that any of the missiles had gone astray.   But note below the dishonest way Starr/Diamond muddied the waters around the Russian denial of CNN's PBS.  After the Russian denial, Starr/Diamond modified their article to say: 

Starr/Diamond CNN bullshit, Oct08|15

WTF???  Starr/Diamond spun this thing by vacuously suggesting that 1) there "may have been" more than one attack of 24 missiles from the Caspian Sea and 2) the USG officials were talking about a second launch that took place after the Russian TV show, even though a second attack has never been mentioned by the Russians, the Americans, the Iranians, the Syrians, or even the rabidly anti-Russian clowns at the Daily Mail, which invents all sorts of ridiculous crap like this.  "May have been" ???  Yeah, and these reporters "may have been" high on bath salts when they wrote their article.  Anything "may have been".  When you see "may have been" in a news article, you know the reporter is taking you for a complete idiot.   

Nor did the putrid PBS smell wafting up from Starr/Diamond's spin delay the rest of the MSM from jumping on the story that the Russian missiles hit Iran.  For instance, on the same day the CNN report ran, Helene Cooper and Eric Schmitt at NYT took the bait just as it was dangled -- their re-hash of the CNN mendacity did not include a single new fact, a single source, or any skepticism of Starr/Diamond's veracity. 

But the most disgusting, disingenuous, and disturbing chapter in this story came from Adam Chandler at The Atlantic .  Like Cooper and Schmitt, Chandler offered absolutely nothing new for the story - no new facts, no reliable sources verifying the Starr/Diamond PBS, not even an objective and skeptical analysis of the unverified, unauthenticated "facts" reported by Starr/Diamond.  No, what Chandler did was to take the Starr/Diamond spin that there "may have been" two Russian missile attacks, and he (Chandler) then re-wrote the whole story on that basis.  Chandler claimed that on one day the Russian missiles hit their intended targets and on the next day they missed altogether.  The dolt did not, apparently, even review the information released by the Russians, he just took the Starr/Diamond double-attack yada and doubled down on it.  Here's Chandler's Atlantic headline on Oct08|15: 

Adam Chandler's The Atlantic headline, Oct08|15

His gloating "had hit" sub-headline summarized his fictitious story; his main headline was his hook and pointed to his incompetence because the "Sun" had nothing to do with it given that the Russian SSN-30A missiles were flying just a couple hundred feet off the deck.  So, we can pretty well deduce from Chandler's main headline that he didn't even bother to read the Russians' account of their attack nor did he do any research on the missile's characteristics. 

But the point is this:  Sure, it's a feather in your cap to scoop the world with an important story like this, but when the story turns out to be a fabrication, the world not only laughs at you, it begins to doubt your honesty.  It is now two months since Starr/Diamond started spewing their Russian-missiles-hit-Iran crap and that crap has yet to turn into honey. There has not been a single report confirming their allegation that Russian missiles hit Iran.  There has not been a single satellite photo.  Not a single ground photo.  Not a single witness.  If the story had been true, there would have been US satellite photos of the "damaged buildings" spread all over the Internet long ago.  Two months, not a shred of evidence.  All we have are media-monkeys like Chandler, Cooper and Schmitt reiterating and enhancing the original fabrications. And so it goes. 

#3:  Russians bomb hospitals.

On Oct03|15 the Americans obliterated a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, killing dozens of patients and doctors -- almost certainly a war crime in anyone's book.  It was what is called a "double-tap" -- a strike followed by a pause to allow time for the first responders to arrive followed by another strike to take out the first responders.  Americans have perfected this criminal technique in Iraq, Pakistan, and Afghanistan. 

Before the month was out CNN was leading the charge in trying to divert the world from the Americans' war crime by pushing the line that it is Russia, not the US, who employs double-tap attacks on hospitals.  On Oct24|15 CNN's Nick Paton Walsh and Joshua Berlinger claimed that Russian jets pulled off such a hospital double-tap stunt in Idlib, Syria, killing a dozen.  Their source: a spooky organization called "The Syrian-American Medical Society," which is not even in Syria.  It's in Canton, Ohio and sounds like an organization funding anti-Assad terrorism.  Walsh and Berlinger noted other reports of hospitals being bombed in the area, thereby implying -- without actually saying -- that Russia was responsible for those bombings, too.  

The video accompanying the Walsh/Berlinger story is weird in a disjointed way that only propaganda films out of Syria are weird.  The vid shows, for instance, one of the notorious anti-Assad white-helmet guys picking around a bunch of absolutely pristine parts of what looks to be a missile or mortar.  The narrative says it is an unexploded cluster bomb.  No bomblets are shown, and the pristine condition of the rocket fins and cowling belies the assertion that it was ever fired or even fell more than a couple of feet.  For instance, there is no carbon on what appears to be the missile exhaust ports.  It actually looks like the guy is assembling the bomb himself from fresh, clean components.  CNN expressed no skepticism 

No dirt, no dents, no damage -- an unexploded bomb?

The vid goes on to claim that the bombs crashed through the roof of a home and we see a couple of kids standing next to the bomb-holes in the roof.  Pretty scary stuff until you look closely and notice that the rebar in the holes is not broken or disturbed.  There is no way those two "bombs" shown in the vid, or any bomb or even a bowling ball, could have fallen through those holes.  CNN pushing more lies.  Cute kids, tho'. 

The American and British MSM, particularly CNN, are falling all over themselves with lies and contrived stories about war crimes committed by Russia when, in fact, it is the US that is bombing hospitals. Eventually Russia, who denied the reports, had enough and pointed out that, first of all, the Red Cross has denied that any hospitals had been hit in the areas Russia was bombing and, second of all, the hospitals Russia was accused of bombing do not even exist, save one and it was shown to be totally intact.  Here and here.   And so it goes. 

#4:  Russian subs sniffing out sea cables.

Babs Starr, the CNN ChickenLittle, really sunk to a new low of condescending, irrelevant PBS in her report of Oct28|15.  She wanted to be sure the world knows that Russian ships are sailing in the same oceans where international communications cables have been laid.  Well, OK,  ya' can't fault her veracity there, after all, those cables have been laid by the hundreds across every sea on the planet so every ship that sails crosses them.  But . . . the scary part is (according to Starr) that those sneaky Russians have submersible vehicles that are capable of actually going under water, and in case you don't believe that, she actually shows a vid of Putin going down in one.  So who knows what they'll do to the cables?  They could collect data from them or even cut them, as a CNN cartoon shows them doing . . . twice(!).  

CNN graphics by/for dolts:
The dirty lurkers will be cutting our cables next.

Earth to Babs . . . Earth to Babs, here are a couple of points every single person on the planet except you knows.  #1: For years the US National Security Agency has been doing just what you say the Russians might do -- collecting data from seabed cables.  #2: Any vessel with a grappling hook and enough rope attached to it could pull those cables up and cut them.  After all, the cables have to come into shallow water as they approach land and everybody and his dog knows where they are.  And as Starr's own video says, there is no evidence that Russia has ever messed with the cables.  So what was the point of the article?  

The point was to smear Putin and the Russians in the same way CNN smeared Saddam when he was boogeyman du jour, and in the same way they smeared Gaddafi when he was boogeyman du jour.  Greasing the skids to war it's called.  And so it goes.

#5:  Russians using white phosphorus on civilians.

And then there is one of the most asinine media outlets of them all: the UK Times. On Nov14|15 Bel Trew of the Times reported that "Russian warplanes have dropped banned white phosphorus munitions on civilians in northwest Syria."  Trew's source?  "[W]itnesses."  (Due to the paywall that's all you get to see.)  

But other idiot Brits -- Imogen Calderwood, of the DailyMail, for instance -- picked up the Times story and expanded it for us.  Calderwood cited  the Times article, which was, apparently, the source of the tweets she posts.  And those tweets were the sum-total of the evidence that Russia dropped WP on civilians.  There were tweet photos of what could be WP, or could be fireworks over the Thames for all anyone can tell.  I have personally seen WP deployed in combat and I'm not sure that is what the tweets show.  I have never seen it used that densely.  It is also worth mentioning that all of these tweeted photos were taken at night, which is precisely when it is permissible to use WP because it is an incendiary -- meaning it is used to provide light.  Furthermore, it would be impossible to know at night who was firing the stuff, assuming that WP is what we see in the photos.  

Details, details, details . . . who cares about details?  Call it WP and pin it on the Russians -- one more reason for the neocon Coalition to kick their butts, eh?   

And so it goes. 



Copyright, Denis O'Brien, 2005-2016 ~ ~ All rights reserved.