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MintPress News
Wed, 17 Aug 2022 16:34:26 +0000

Israel’s Premature ‘Victory’ Celebration: The defining War in Gaza Is Yet to Be Fought


For years, Palestinians, as well as Israelis, have labored to redraw the battle lines. The three-day Israeli war on Gaza, starting on August 5, clearly manifested this reality.

Throughout its military operation, Israel has repeatedly underscored the point that the war was targeting the Islamic Jihad Movement only, not Hamas or anyone else.

A somewhat similar scenario had transpired in May 2019 and again in November of the same year. The May clashes began when two Israeli soldiers were wounded by a Palestinian sniper at the fence separating besieged Gaza from Israel.

Mass weekly protests had taken place near the fence for years, demanding an end to the Israeli siege on the Gaza Strip. Over 200 unarmed Palestinians were killed by Israeli snipers, who were dispatched to the fence area as early as March 2018. The unexpected Palestinian shooting of the Israeli snipers was a temporary reversal of the bloody scene in that area.

Israel blamed the Islamic Jihad for the attack.

On May 3, Israel responded by bombing Hamas positions so that the latter may put pressure on the Islamic Jihad to cease its operations near the fence. The unstated goal, however, was to sow the seeds of disunity among Palestinian groups in Gaza who have, for years, operated under the umbrella of the joint armed operation room.

Like the latest August war, the 2019 war was also brief and deadly.

Another brief war followed in November, this time around involving the Islamic Jihad alone. Many Palestinians were killed and wounded.

Though Israel failed in breaking up Palestinian unity, a debate took place in Palestine, especially following the November clashes, as to why Hamas did not take a more active part in the fighting.

The conventional wisdom at the time was that Israel must not be allowed to impose the time, place and nature of the fight on the Palestinians, as was often the case, and that it is far more strategic for Palestinian Resistance to make these determinations.

That position might be defensible when understood in a historical context.

For Israel, maintaining the status quo in Gaza is politically and strategically advantageous.

Additionally, the status quo is financially profitable as new weapons are tested and sold at exorbitant prices, making Israel the world's 10th-largest international weapons exporter over the past five years, as of 2022.

Israeli wars on Gaza are also a political insurance, as they reaffirm Washington's support for Tel Aviv, via word and deed. "My support for Israel's security is long-standing and unwavering," US President Joe Biden said on August 7, as Israeli bombs rained over Gaza, killing 49 Palestinians, 17 of whom were children. It is the exact same position of every US administration in every Israeli war.

The Israeli military establishment too embraced this seemingly unchanging reality. The Israeli military refers to its occasional deadly war on Gaza as 'mowing the grass'. Writing in the Jerusalem Post in May 2021, David M. Weinberg of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security explained the Israeli strategy in the most dehumanizing terms: "Just like mowing your front lawn, this is constant, hard work. If you fail to do so, weeds grow wild, and snakes begin to slither around in the brush."

For its part, the political establishment in Tel Aviv has learned to adapt and benefit from the routine violence. In 2015, former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu summed up his country's position in a short but loaded sentence: "I am asked if we will live forever by the sword – yes."

Ironically, in May 2021, the Palestinians were the ones unleashing the 'sword'. Instead of keeping the tit-for-tat battle in Gaza confined to that small geopolitical space, the Resistance took the unusual step of striking at Israel in response to events transpiring in a small Palestinian neighborhood in Occupied East Jerusalem. Within hours, Tel Aviv lost the political plot and its control over the war narrative. It seemed as if every inch of Palestine and Israel suddenly became part of a larger battle, whose outcome was no longer determined by Israel alone.

The Palestinians call those events "the Sword of Jerusalem". The name was coined in Gaza.

Ever since, Israel has been fishing for a new battle that would help it regain the initiative.

Former Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett, for example, attempted to provoke such a fight in May, but failed. He thought that by moving forward with the provocative Flag March in Occupied Jerusalem, he would be able to drag Gaza into another war. Instead of war, Palestinians responded with mass protests and popular mobilization.

The latest August war was another such attempt, this time by the country's new Prime Minister Yair Lapid. However, all that the militarily inexperienced Israeli leader could obtain was what Israeli military analysts refer to as "tactical victory".

It was hardly a victory. To claim any kind of victory, Israel simply redefined the war objectives. Instead of 'destroying the terror infrastructure of Hamas', as is often the declared goal, it instigated a fight with the Islamic Jihad, killing two of its military commanders.

The typical Israeli media reporting on the war discreetly shifted, as if Hamas and other Palestinian groups were never enemies of Israel. It was all about Islamic Jihad.

"Fighting with the terror group would eventually have to resume," The Times of Israel wrote on August 12, citing Israeli military sources. No reference was made to the other 'terror groups'.

Unlike previous wars, Israel was in desperate need to end the fighting very quickly, as Lapid was keen on clinching a 'tactical victory' that will surely be heavily promoted prior to the general elections in November.

Both Israeli military and political establishments, however, knew too well that they will not be able to sustain another all-out conflict like that of May 2021. The war had to end, simply because a bigger war was unwinnable.

Hours after a mediated truce was declared, the Israeli military killed three fighters belonging to the ruling Fatah Movement in Nablus in the West Bank. Lapid aimed to send another message of strength, though in actuality he confirmed that the lines of the battles have been permanently redrawn.

The Resistance in Gaza commented on the killing of the Nablus fighters by declaring that the conflict with Israel has entered a new phase. Indeed, it has.

Feature photo |Fghters from Saraya al-Quds participate in a military march in Rafah in Gaza, August 7, 2022. Yousef Masoud | Sipa via AP

Dr. Ramzy Baroud is a journalist, author and the Editor of The Palestine Chronicle. He is the author of six books. His latest book, co-edited with Ilan Pappé, is 'Our Vision for Liberation: Engaged Palestinian Leaders and Intellectuals Speak out'. His other books include 'My Father was a Freedom Fighter' and 'The Last Earth'. Baroud is a Non-resident Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Islam and Global Affairs (CIGA). His website is www.ramzybaroud.net

The post Israel's Premature 'Victory' Celebration: The defining War in Gaza Is Yet to Be Fought appeared first on MintPress News.

MintPress News
Tue, 16 Aug 2022 17:10:50 +0000

Those Angry at Rushdie’s Stabbing Have Been Missing In Action Over a Far Bigger Threat to our Freedom


Nothing I am about to write should be read as diminishing in any way my sympathy for Salman Rushdie, or my outrage at the appalling attack on him. Those who more than 30 years ago put a fatwa on his head after he wrote the novel, "The Satanic Verses," made this assault possible. They deserve contempt. I wish him a speedy recovery.

But my natural compassion for a victim of violence and my regularly expressed support for free speech should not at the same time blind me or you to the cant and hypocrisy generated by his stabbing on Friday, just as he was about to give a talk in a town in Western New York.

British prime minister Boris Johnson said he was "appalled that Sir Salman Rushdie has been stabbed while exercising a right we should never cease to defend." His Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, one of the last two contenders for Johnson's crown, concurred, describing the novelist as "a champion of free speech and artistic freedom".

Across the Atlantic, President Joe Biden stressed Rushdie's qualities: "Truth. Courage. Resilience. The ability to share ideas without fear… We reaffirm our commitment to those deeply American values in solidarity with Rushdie and all those who stand for freedom of expression."

The truth is that the vast majority of those claiming this as an attack not only on a prominent writer but on Western society and its freedoms, have been missing in action for the past several years as the biggest threat to those freedoms unfolded. Or, in the case of Western government leaders, they have actively conspired in the undermining of those freedoms.

Prominent figures and organizations now expressing their solidarity with Rushdie have kept their heads down, or spoken in hushed tones against – or, worse still, become cheerleaders for – this much more serious assault: on our right to know what mass crimes have been committed against others in our name.

Rushdie has won trenchant support from Western liberals and conservatives alike, not for being a brave articulator of difficult truths, but because of who his enemies are.

Holding up a mirror

If that sounds uncharitable or nonsensical, consider this. Julian Assange has spent more than three years in solitary confinement in a high-security prison in London (and before that, seven years confined to a small room in Ecuador's embassy), in conditions Nils Melzer, the former United Nation's expert on torture, has described as extreme psychological torture.

Melzer and many others fear for Assange's life if British and U.S. authorities succeed in dragging out much longer the Wikileaks founder's detention on what amounts to purely political charges. Assange has already suffered a stroke – as Melzer notes, one of the many potential physical reactions suffered by those enduring prolonged confinement.

And all of this is happening to him, remember, for one reason alone: because he published documents proving that, under cover of a bogus humanitarianism, Western governments were committing crimes against peoples in distant lands. Assange faces charges under the draconian Espionage Act only because he made public the gruesome truth about Western military actions in places like Iraq and Afghanistan.

Yes, there are differences between Rushdie and Assange's respective cases, but those differences should elicit more concern for Assange's plight than Rushdie's. In practice, the exact opposite has happened.

Rushdie's right to free speech has been championed because he exercised it to imagine an alternative formative history of Islam and implicitly question the authority of clerics and governments in far-off lands.

Assange's right to free speech has been ridiculed, ignored or at best supported weakly and equivocally because he exercised it to hold up a mirror to the West, showing exactly what our governments are doing, in secret, in many of those same far-off lands.

Rushdie's right to life was threatened by distant clerics and governments for questioning the moral basis of their power. Assange's right to life is threatened by Western governments because he questioned the moral basis of their power.

Worthy victims

If we lived in functioning democratic societies in the West – ones where power is not so deeply entrenched we are largely blind to its exercise – no journalist, no media commentator, no writer, no politician would fail to understand that Assange's plight deserves far more attention and expressions of concern than Rushdie's.

It is our own governments, not "mad mullahs" in Iran, who threaten the free society that permitted Rushdie to publish his novel. If Assange is crushed, so is the basis of our fundamental democratic rights: to know what is being done in our name and to hold our leaders to account.

If Rushdie is silenced, we will still have those freedoms, even if, as individuals, we will feel a little more nervous about saying anything that might be construed as an insult to the Prophet Mohammed.

So why are the vast majority of us so much more invested in Rushdie's fate than Assange's? Simply because our sympathy has been elicited for one of them and not the other.

Ultimately, that has nothing to do with whether one or the other is more worthy, more of a victim. It has to do with how much they have, or have not, served the interests of a Western narrative that constantly reinforces the idea that we are the Good Guys and they are the Bad Guys.

Rushdie and the fatwa against him became a cause célèbre for Western elites because he offered a literary sensibility to one of the West's most cherished modern pieties: that Islam poses an existential threat to the values of an enlightened West. Here was a man, born to a Muslim family in India, attacking the religion he supposedly knew best. He was an insider spilling the beans, stating what other Muslims were supposedly too cowed to admit in public.

Though it was doubtless not his intention or his fault, he was quickly adopted as a literary mascot by Western liberals who were pushing their own "clash of civilizations" thesis. That is not a judgment on the merits of his novel – I am not equipped to make that assessment – but a judgment on the motivations of so many of his champions and on why his work resonates so strongly with them.

Racist worldview

In a real sense, that is true of all literature. It earns its status within a cultural milieu, one policed by media elites with their own agendas. It is they who decide whether a manuscript is published or discarded, whether the subsequent book is reviewed or ignored, whether it is celebrated or ridiculed, whether it is promoted or falls into obscurity.

We tell ourselves, or we are told, that this process of weeding out is decided strictly on the basis of merit. But if we pause to think, the reality is that a work finds an audience only if it stays within a socially constructed consensus that gives it meaning or if it challenges that consensus at a time when the consensus is overdue being challenged.

George Orwell is a good example of how this works. He prospered – or at least his reputation did – from the fact that he questioned certainties about the "natural order" that had long been enforced by Western elites but had become hard to sustain after two world wars in quick succession. At the same time, he exposed the dangers of an authoritarianism that could be easily ascribed to the West's main adversary, the Soviet Union.

Orwell's body of work contains ideas that speak to universal values. But that is only part of the reason it has endured. It also benefited from the fact that the ambiguity inherent in those universal lessons could be recruited to a much narrower agenda by Western elites, readying for a Cold War that was about to become the tragic legacy of those two preceding hot wars.

Much the same is true of Rushdie. His novel served two functions: First, its main theme chimed with Western elites because it reassured them that their prejudice against the Muslim world was fully justified – not least because the novel provoked a violent backlash that appeared to confirm those prejudices.

And second, "The Satanic Verses" indemnified Western elites against the accusation of racism. Rushdie inadvertently provided the alibi they so desperately needed to promote their racist worldview of a civilized West opposed by a barbaric, insecure East. It served as midwife to the rantings of Islamophobic tracts like Melanie Phillips' "Londonistan" and Nick Cohen's "What's Left?".

Literary sedition

For the past two decades, we have been living with the appalling consequences of the West's smug condescension, its wild posturings, its violent humanitarianism – all masking a thirst for the Middle East's most precious resource: oil.

The result has been the wrecking of whole countries; the ending of more than a million lives, with millions more made homeless; a backlash that has unleashed even more terrifying forms of Islamist extremism; a deepening self-righteousness among Western elites that has ushered in an all-out assault on democratic controls; an entrenchment of the power of the war industries and their lobbies; and a relentless undermining of international institutions and international law.

And all this has served as an endless excuse to delay addressing the real issue plaguing humanity: the imminent extinction of our species, caused by our addiction to the very resource that got us into this mess in the first place.

Sadly, the attack on Rushdie, and the ensuing indignation, will only intensify the trends noted above. None of that is Rushdie's fault, of course. His desire to question the authority of the clerical bullies he grew up among is an entirely separate matter from the purposes to which Western elites have harnessed his personal act of literary sedition. He is not responsible for the fact that his work has been used to underpin and weaponize a larger, flawed Western narrative.

Nonetheless, Friday's violent assault will once again be used to shore up a fearmongering narrative that empowers politicians, sells newspapers, and, if we can still see the bigger picture, rationalizes the West's dehumanization of more than a billion people, its continuing sanctions against many of them, and the advancement of wars that fabulously enrich a tiny section of Western societies that continue to evade major scrutiny.

Hollow joke

Those elites have evaded scrutiny precisely because they are so successful at vilifying and eliminating anyone who seeks to hold them to account. Like Julian Assange.

If you think Assange brought trouble upon himself, unlike Rushdie, who is simply a hapless victim caught in the crossfire of a menacing "clash of civilizations", it is because you have been trained – through your consumption of establishment media – into making that entirely unfounded distinction. And those training you through their dominant narratives are not a disinterested party, but the very actors who have most to lose should you arrive at a different conclusion.

In Assange's case, there has been an endless stream of lies and misdirections that I and many others have been trying to highlight on our marginal platforms before we are algorithmed into oblivion by Google and Facebook, the richest corporations on the planet.

As Melzer pointed out at length in his recent book, the Swedish authorities knew from the outset that Assange had no case to answer on sex allegations they had no intention of ever investigating. But they made a pretence of pursuing him anyway (and left the threat of onward extradition to the U.S. hanging over his head) to make sure he lost public sympathy and looked like a fugitive from justice.

Anyone who writes about Assange knows only too well the army of social media users adamant that Assange was charged with rape, or that he refused to be interviewed by Swedish prosecutors, or that he skipped bail, or that he colluded with Trump, or that he recklessly published classified documents unedited, or that he endangered the lives of informers and agents.

None of that is true – nor, more significantly, is it relevant to the case the U.S., aided by the U.K. government, is advancing against Assange through the British courts to lock him up for the rest of his life.

For Assange, the West's much vaunted principle of free speech is nothing more than a hollow joke, a doctrine weaponized against him – paradoxically, to destroy him and the free speech values he champions, including transparency and accountability from our leaders.

There is a reason why our energies are so heavily invested in worrying about a supposed menace from Islam rather than the menace on our doorstep, from our rulers; why Rushdie makes headlines, while Assange is forgotten; why Assange deserves his punishment, and Rushdie does not.

That reason has nothing to do with protecting free speech, and everything to do with protecting the power of unaccountable elites who fear free speech.

Protest the stabbing of Salman Rushdie by all means. But don't forget to protest even more loudly the silencing and disappearing of Julian Assange.

Feature photo | Graphic by MintPress News

Jonathan Cook is a MintPress contributor. Cook won the Martha Gellhorn Special Prize for Journalism. His latest books are Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East (Pluto Press) and Disappearing Palestine: Israel's Experiments in Human Despair (Zed Books). His website is www.jonathan-cook.net.

The post Those Angry at Rushdie's Stabbing Have Been Missing In Action Over a Far Bigger Threat to our Freedom appeared first on MintPress News.

MintPress News
Mon, 15 Aug 2022 16:17:17 +0000

J-Street, Andy Levin, and Liberal Zionism 


Jerusalem, Palestine – The liberal Zionist voice, which many people mistake for actual support for justice in Palestine, is toxic and dangerous and probably serves Israel and its brutal, racist agenda more than any other ideology.

The most glaring example for this is of course J-Street and its followers. The following two statements are from the advocacy's group's website, and in light of Israel's latest murderous assault on Gaza, they are particularly reprehensible:"We support Israel's right to defend itself militarily and believe that maintaining Israel's qualitative military advantage in the region is one essential element of a strategy to keep Israel secure for the long term."

"We believe that Israel's military actions in Gaza have been both understandable and justifiable. No country can be expected to absorb thousands of rockets without the right to respond militarily."

J-Street claims Israel's attacks on Gaza are "Understandable and justifiable!!" I think they should tell that to the parents of the children who Israel killed and maimed so effectively. Regarding Israel's bloody assault on Gaza this month, and the criminal targeting of residential areas that caused death and severe injuries to children and other civilians, the best J-street could come up with was,

Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) is a terrorist organization responsible for horrific attacks against Israeli civilians. Israel has the same right as any other country to defend itself from the threats posed by such an entity."

Barely mentioning the death of Palestinian children, they could not find the courage to condemn Israel for its reckless, bloody and unprovoked attack and all they could say is that Israel,

[T]argeted top PIJ commanders in Gaza in order to preempt retaliation by PIJ against Israel. PIJ responded to the Israeli airstrikes comprising the operation with rocket fire into Israel, including into civilian areas."

J-Street added that:

Israel's airstrikes reportedly resulted in the death of both PIJ fighters and Palestinian civilians, including children. There are also reports that malfunctioning PIJ rockets resulted in Palestinian civilian deaths. We grieve for the civilian lives lost in this latest round of violence and call for the circumstances of their deaths to be credibly and independently investigated."

Yasser al-Nabahin and his three children killed in an Israeli airstrike in Gaza, Palestine - 08 Aug 2022

The bodies of two children, killed alongside their family by Israeli airstrikes on Gaza, are laid to rest in the central Gaza Strip. Sipa via AP Images

Why are they not condemning Israeli aggression in the strongest possible terms? It is interesting what the organization says about the political candidates they decide to endorse:

J Street supports political candidates who support Israeli security and peace in the Middle East. To be eligible for JStreetPAC endorsement, a political candidate must demonstrate that they support a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, active U.S. leadership to help end the conflict, the special relationship between the U.S. and Israel, continued aid to the Palestinian Authority and opposition to the Boycott/Divestment/Sanction movement."

It was well reported that J-Street and AIPAC clashed over which candidate will represent the Democratic Party for Michigan's 11th district. As things turned out, Rep. Haley Stevens defeated Rep. Andy Levine, who portrayed himself as the most progressive voice on Palestine in the United States Congress.

However, looking at it from Palestine, representative Andy Levine's claims to be "pro-Palestinian" are even more absurd than they are when seeing them from the U.S. Here are a few examples of Levin's "pro-Palestinian" stance.


After President Biden's visit to Israel, Levin released a statement saying:

I commend President Biden's reaffirmation of [the] United States' bedrock support for a two-state solution as the only way to ensure both Israel's long-term security as a Jewish and democratic state and the political and human rights of the Palestinian people. After years of rightward shift under Trump that denied Palestinians' right to self-determination, President Biden has restored our commitment to two states for two peoples to the heart of U.S. policy."

Biden had, in fact, not reversed the Trump administration's anti-Palestinian policies and, as was well reported, stood by Israeli leaders and declared himself to be a Zionist. In other words, supporting racism, apartheid and unchecked violence against the Palestinian people.

Furthermore, Levin stated:

As a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, a proud Jewish American and the author of the Two-State Solution Act, I will continue to work with the President and his team and my colleagues in Congress toward advancing peace, justice and security for Israelis and Palestinians."

And in a tweet from 2021, he said, "I believe U.S. policy must support real human rights for Palestinians and real security for Israelis, who have a right to live without fear of deadly rocket fire."

More toxic than AIPAC

The so-called liberal Zionist approach was the bedrock of Zionist public relations. Even though it was Zionist Labor and other "left leaning" political parties that conducted some of the most bloody attacks against Palestinians, somehow the lie of liberal Zionism survived. Over the years, the political parties in Israel dropped the facade of being "left leaning" or even "liberal" with regards to the Palestinian issue. They continued to pursue the violent racist policies of Zionism, and it became the work of Zionists in the West to continue the lie.

J-Street came in at a time when it was clear that Zionist public relations required help. Zionist Jews needed an organization that would help them to continue their support for apartheid in Palestine, and so they needed a home, so to speak, that would continue to perpetuate the lie of a nicer, friendlier form of Zionism.

Even as Israel showed less regard for its image, J-Street took on the role of fig leaf covering the true face of Israel and helping Zionist American Jews to talk about the possibility – which exists only in their minds – of this friendlier, pie in the sky, peace-loving Israel. It would seem an impossible task as the Israeli brutality towards Palestinians continued unabashed. And yet they succeeded. J-Street is a player among players, raising funds and promoting the lies of a democratic yet strong Israel that can one day live in peace with its neighbors.

Decoding the propaganda

There are many areas in which it would seem unthinkable that the lie could survive, the most glaring of which is the Gaza Strip, an area with over two million people, more than half of whom are children. Israel imprisons Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and imposes a policy of calorie counting on them, meaning that they never starve to death but will just live on the brink of starvation.

If J-Street and its supporters were concerned with the rights, life or safety of Palestinians they would see – as people of conscience around the world do – that it is incompatible with support for Israel. "Israeli security" is code for giving Israel license to kill indiscriminately. "A Strong Israel" is code for permitting the reckless arming of an apartheid regime that uses its massive military force to target a nation who never had a military force.

"The Two-State Solution" is code for allowing the Israeli apartheid state to continue its crimes against Palestinians indefinitely. A "democratic Israel" is code for disregarding the fact that Israel was established as an apartheid state and that it is not even remotely interested in the rights of Palestinians, but rather promoting a Jewish supremacist agenda throughout all of Palestine.

Opposing the Palestinian call for boycott and sanctions against Israel and referring to Palestinian resistance as "terrorism" is unconscionable. Yet it continues to be the foundation of Zionists, whether they are liberal or otherwise.

Israel's war on children

One would think that the safety and rights of children would be something we can all agree on. Israel's treatment of Palestinian children is not only a violation of international law, but a violation of all the boundaries of humanity. Children are a real test of where one's humanity stands, regardless of whether one calls oneself Jewish or not.

Andy Levin constantly repeats that he is "proudly Jewish." He even said he was "very Jewish" – whatever that means. When I asked Andy Levin to sign on to a bill presented in Congress by a colleague of his, Congresswoman Betty McCollum, which speaks to the need to protect Palestinian children, he said he would not do so. He then added that none of the Jewish members of Congress would ever support it because, "it is anti-Israel." So what if it is? If justice, peace, freedom are all anti-Israel, it means there is a problem with Israel and those who support it.

Feature photo | Graphic by MintPress News

Miko Peled is MintPress News contributing writer, published author and human rights activist born in Jerusalem. His latest books are"The General's Son. Journey of an Israeli in Palestine," and "Injustice, the Story of the Holy Land Foundation Five."

The post J-Street, Andy Levin, and Liberal Zionism  appeared first on MintPress News.

MintPress News
Mon, 15 Aug 2022 14:50:15 +0000

New Polls Show Almost No One Trusts Our Media Anymore


The Most Censored News with Lee Camp hosted by comedian/ writer/ raconteur/ provocateur/ saboteur Lee Camp is a twice-weekly look at the news behind the news. Camp both brings to light stories that are (intentionally) ignored by the corporate media and digs deeper when the mainstream media only reports on the surface-layer reality. Having been a professional stand-up comic for 20 years, a writer for The Onion, and the host/head writer of Redacted Tonight, Camp is also uniquely suited to bring humor to these topics.

Gone are the days when the CIA secretly infiltrated American newsrooms, craftily tricking people into believing U.S. government propaganda was the real news. When they started the Vietnam War based on storm clouds in the Gulf of Tonkin, the CIA officer was in the corner of the copy room whispering, "Say the storm clouds were heavily armed. Say the lightning looked like Charlie! Do it!"

Putting the CIA in every newsroom was a clandestine project called Operation Mockingbird, and it paid mighty dividends.

The Helsinki Times reported that when Carl Bernstein unveiled the scandal in 1977, "The CIA admitted that at least 400 journalists and 25 large organizations around the world had secretly carried out assignments for the agency."

But that was way back then. Nowadays, the CIA and other intelligence agencies don't do anything like that. Nowadays, they never keep it a secret that they run the media. It's just in our face today, like bad cologne on a 45 year-old who still talks about his college fraternity every chance he gets.

Cable news hires intelligence agents to guide the national narrative all the time. Former CIA Director John Brennan, former Director of National Intelligence Jim Clapper, and former director of the CIA and the NSA Michael Hayden all moved from intelligence into the corporate media (just to name a few).

Now they just admit to being major contributors to the media outlets. Former CIA directors, former FBI heads, former directors of national intelligence, FBI analysts, and CIA officers are all paid to guide the national narrative.

Cable news is like a retirement program for the CIA! It's an elder care facility for spooks!

Cable news's favorite heir to the oligarchy, Anderson Cooper himself worked at the CIA in college. But I'm sure once he stopped working there, he kept no connection with them. Much like former CIA head George H. W. Bush severed all CIA ties when he became president, right?

For the rest of the story and the new polls showing 90% of Americans don't trust mainstream media, watch the full video.

Lee Camp is an American stand-up comedian, writer, actor and activist. Camp is the host of Behind The Headlines' new series: The Most Censored News With Lee Camp. He is a former comedy writer for the Onion and the Huffington Post and has been a touring stand-up comic for 20 years.

The post New Polls Show Almost No One Trusts Our Media Anymore appeared first on MintPress News.

MintPress News
Mon, 15 Aug 2022 14:37:40 +0000

Chris Hedges: We Are Not the First Civilization to Collapse, but We Will Probably Be the Last


CAHOKIA MOUNDS, Illinois (Scheerpost) –  I am standing atop a 100-foot-high temple mound, the largest known earthwork in the Americas built by prehistoric peoples. The temperatures, in the high 80s, along with the oppressive humidity, have emptied the park of all but a handful of visitors. My shirt is matted with sweat.

I look out from the structure—known as Monks Mound — at the flatlands below, with smaller mounds dotting the distance. These earthen mounds, built at a confluence of the Illinois, Mississippi and Missouri rivers, are all that remain of one of the largest pre-Columbian settlements north of Mexico, occupied from around 800 to 1,400 AD by perhaps as many as 20,000 people.

This great city, perhaps the greatest in North America, rose, flourished, fell into decline and was ultimately abandoned. Civilizations die in familiar patterns. They exhaust natural resources. They spawn parasitic elites who plunder and loot the institutions and systems that make a complex society possible. They engage in futile and self-defeating wars. And then the rot sets in. The great urban centers die first, falling into irreversible decay. Central authority unravels. Artistic expression and intellectual inquiry are replaced by a new dark age, the triumph of tawdry spectacle and the celebration of crowd-pleasing imbecility.

"Collapse occurs, and can only occur, in a power vacuum," anthropologist Joseph Tainter writes in The Collapse of Complex Societies. "Collapse is possible only where there is no competitor strong enough to fill the political vacuum of disintegration."

Several centuries ago, the rulers of this vast city complex, which covered some 4,000 acres, including a 40-acre central plaza, stood where I stood. They no doubt saw below in the teeming settlements an unassailable power, with at least 120 temple mounds used as residences, sacred ceremonial sites, tombs, meeting centers and ball courts. Cahokia warriors dominated a vast territory from which they exacted tribute to enrich the ruling class of this highly stratified society. Reading the heavens, these mound builders constructed several circular astronomical observatories — wooden versions of Stonehenge.

The city's hereditary rulers were venerated in life and death. A half mile from Monks Mound is the seven-foot-high Mound 72, in which archeologists found the remains of a man on a platform covered with 20,000 conch-shell disc beads from the Gulf of Mexico. The beads were arranged in the shape of a falcon, with the  falcon's head beneath and beside the man's head. Its wings and tail were placed  underneath the man's arms and legs. Below this layer of shells was the body of another man, buried face downward. Around these two men were six more human remains, possibly retainers, who may have been put to death to accompany the entombed man in the afterlife. Nearby were buried the remains of 53 girls and women ranging in age from 15 to 30, laid out in rows in two layers separated by matting. They appeared to have been strangled to death.

The poet Paul Valéry noted, "a civilization has the same fragility as a life."

Across the Mississippi River from Monks Mound, the city skyline of St. Louis is visible. It is hard not to see our own collapse in that of Cahokia. In 1950, St. Louis was the eighth-largest city in the United States, with a population of 856,796. Today, that number has fallen to below 300,000, a drop of some 65 percent. Major employers — Anheuser-Busch, McDonnell-Douglas, TWA, Southwestern Bell and Ralston Purina —have dramatically reduced their presence or left altogether. St. Louis is consistently ranked one of the most dangerous cities in the country. One in five people live in poverty. The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department has the highest rate of police killings per capita, of the 100 largest police departments in the nation, according to a 2021 report. Prisoners in the city's squalid jails, where  47 people died in custody between 2009 and 2019, complain of water being shut off from their cells for hours and guards routinely pepper spraying inmates, including those on suicide watch. The city's crumbling infrastructure, hundreds of gutted and abandoned buildings, empty factories, vacant warehouses and impoverished neighborhoods replicate the ruins of other post-industrial American cities, the classic signposts of a civilization in terminal decline.

"Just as in the past, countries that are environmentally stressed, overpopulated, or both, become at risk of getting politically stressed, and of their governments collapsing," Jared Diamond argues in Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. "When people are desperate, undernourished and without hope, they blame their governments, which they see as responsible for or unable to solve their problems. They try to emigrate at any cost. They fight each other over land. They kill each other. They start civil wars. They figure that they have nothing to lose, so they become terrorists, or they support or tolerate terrorism."

Pre-industrial civilizations were dependent on the limits of solar energy and constrained by roads and waterways, impediments that were obliterated when fossil fuel became an energy source. As industrial empires became global, their increase in size meant an increase in complexity. Ironically, this complexity makes us more vulnerable to catastrophic collapse, not less. Soaring temperatures (Iraq is enduring 120 degree heat that has fried the country's electrical grid), the depletion of natural resources, flooding, droughts, (the worst drought in 500 years is devastating Western, Central and Southern Europe and is expected to see a decline in crop yields of 8 or 9 percent), power outages, wars, pandemics, a rise in zoonotic diseases and breakdowns in supply chains combine to shake the foundations of industrial society. The Arctic has been heating up four times faster than the global average, resulting in an accelerated melting of the Greenland ice sheet and freakish weather patterns. The Barents Sea north of Norway and Russia are warming up to seven times faster. Climate scientists did not expect this extreme weather until 2050.

"Each time history repeats itself, the price goes up," the anthropologist Ronald Wright warns, calling industrial society "a suicide machine."

In A Short History of Progresshe writes:

Civilization is an experiment, a very recent way of life in the human career, and it has a habit of walking into what I am calling progress traps. A small village on good land beside a river is a good idea; but when the village grows into a city and paves over the good land, it becomes a bad idea. While prevention might have been easy, a cure may be impossible: a city isn't easily moved. This human inability to foresee — or to watch out for — long-range consequences may be inherent to our kind, shaped by the millions of years when we lived from hand to mouth by hunting and gathering. It may also be little more than a mix of inertia, greed, and foolishness encouraged by the shape of the social pyramid. The concentration of power at the top of large-scale societies gives the elite a vested interest in the status quo; they continue to prosper in darkening times long after the environment and general populace begin to suffer.

Visitors gaze upon Monks Mound, the last remnants of a prehistoric construction in the "New World." James A. Finley | AP

Wright also reflects upon what will be left behind:

The archaeologists who dig us up will need to wear hazmat suits. Humankind will leave a telltale layer in the fossil record composed of everything we produce, from mounds of chicken bones, wet-wipes, tires, mattresses and other household waste to metals, concrete, plastics, industrial chemicals, and the nuclear residue of power plants and weaponry. We are cheating our children, handing them tawdry luxuries and addictive gadgets while we take away what's left of the wealth, wonder and possibility of the pristine Earth.

Calculations of humanity's footprint suggest we have been in 'ecological deficit,' taking more than Earth's biological systems can withstand, for at least 30 years. Topsoil is being lost far faster than nature can replenish it; 30 percent of arable land has been exhausted since the mid-20th century.

We have financed this monstrous debt by colonizing both past and future, drawing energy, chemical fertilizer and pesticides from the planet's fossil carbon, and throwing the consequences onto coming generations of our species and all others. Some of those species have already been bankrupted: they are extinct. Others will follow.

As Cahokia declined, violence dramatically increased. Surrounding towns were burned to the ground. Groups, numbering in the hundreds, were slaughtered and buried in mass graves. At the end, "the enemy killed all people indiscriminately. The intent was not merely prestige, but an early form of ethnic cleansing" writes anthropologist Timothy R. Pauketat, in Ancient Cahokia and the Mississippians. He notes that, in one fifteenth-century cemetery in central Illinois, one-third of all adults had been killed by blows to the head, arrow wounds or scalping. Many showed evidence of fractures on their arms from vain attempts to fight off their attackers.

Such descent into internecine violence is compounded by a weakened and discredited central authority. In the later stages of Cahokia, the ruling class surrounded themselves with fortified wooden stockades, including a two-mile long wall that enclosed Monks Mound. Similar fortifications dotted the vast territory the Cahokia controlled, segregating gated communities where the wealthy and powerful, protected by armed guards, sought safety from the increasing lawlessness and hoarded dwindling food supplies and resources.

Overcrowding inside these stockades saw the spread of tuberculosis and blastomycosis, caused by a soil-borne fungus, along with iron deficiency anemia. Infant mortality rates rose, and life spans declined, a result of social disintegration, poor diet and disease.

By the 1400s Cahokia had been abandoned. In 1541, when Hernando de Soto's invading army descended on what is today Missouri,  looking for gold, nothing but the great mounds remained, relics of a forgotten past.

This time the collapse will be global. It will not be possible, as in ancient societies, to migrate to new ecosystems rich in natural resources. The steady rise in heat will devastate crop yields and make much of the planet uninhabitable. Climate scientists warn that once temperatures rise by 4℃, the earth, at best, will be able to sustain a billion people.

The more insurmountable the crisis becomes, the more we, like our prehistoric ancestors, will retreat into self-defeating responses, violence, magical thinking and denial.

The historian Arnold Toynbee, who singled out unchecked militarism as the fatal blow to past empires, argued that civilizations are not murdered, but commit suicide. They fail to adapt to a crisis, ensuring their own obliteration. Our civilization's collapse will be unique in size, magnified by the destructive force of our fossil fuel-driven industrial society. But it will replicate the familiar patterns of collapse that toppled civilizations of the past. The difference will be in scale, and this time there will be no exit.

Feature photo | Original illustration by Mr. Fish

Chris Hedges is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist who was a foreign correspondent for fifteen years for The New York Times, where he served as the Middle East Bureau Chief and Balkan Bureau Chief for the paper. He previously worked overseas for The Dallas Morning News, The Christian Science Monitor, and NPR. He is the host of show The Chris Hedges Report.

The post Chris Hedges: We Are Not the First Civilization to Collapse, but We Will Probably Be the Last appeared first on MintPress News.

MintPress News
Thu, 11 Aug 2022 14:58:54 +0000

New Research Finds CIA Used Black Americans as Drugs Experiment Guinea Pigs


By now, many will be familiar with Project MKULTRA. For decades, the CIA conducted highly unethical experiments on humans in order to perfect brainwashing, mind control and torture techniques.

Perhaps the program's most notorious aspect was the administration of high doses of psychoactive drugs to targets, particularly LSD. These substances were brought to Langley's attention in 1948 by Richard Kuhn, one of 1,600 Nazi scientists covertly spirited to the U.S. via Operation Paperclip following World War II. When MKULTRA was formally established five years later, some individuals consulted directly on the project.

The unwitting dosing of U.S. citizens with LSD is infamous; among those spiked were CIA operatives themselves. That the Agency exploited mental patients, prisoners, and drug addicts for the purpose – "people who could not fight back," in the words of an unnamed Agency operative – is less well-known.

A study by academics at the University of Ottawa's Culture and Mental Health Disparities Lab sheds significant new light on this underexplored component of MKULTRA and illuminates a hitherto wholly unknown dimension of the program; people of color, overwhelmingly Black Americans, were disproportionately targeted by the CIA in its service.

Spoken of as animals and treated as such

In 1973, due to fears CIA covert action might be officially audited in the wake of the Watergate scandal, then-Agency chief Richard Helms ordered all papers related to MKULTRA destroyed.

Tens of thousands of documents somehow survived the purge. Even more conveniently, a significant portion of the research yielded by the project's experiments was published in freely-accessible, peer-reviewed scientific journals, as over 80 private and public universities, prisons, and hospitals – whether knowingly or not – conducted psychedelic drug experiments on behalf of the CIA. While LSD was the preponderant substance of interest, the effects of DMT, mescaline, psilocybin, and THC were also extensively explored.

In all, the University of Ottawa team analyzed 49 of these papers, published from the 1950s to the 1970s. Forty percent related to experiments conducted at the Addiction Research Center in Kentucky, which the CIA directly managed.

The site included a prison for individuals charged with violating narcotics laws, a "special ward" for drug research, and a prison populated by purported "addicts." Researchers employed there avowedly preferred to perform tests on former and current drug users, as they were considered to be "experienced" in the effects of illicit substances and therefore better able to give informed consent than the abstinent. In practice, the CIA's guinea pigs frequently had no idea what was being administered.

In analyzing available literature, the academics examined participants' stated race and ethnicity, recruitment strategies, methodology, and potential dangers to participants. All studies used captured, incarcerated test subjects, coercive incentives for participation, unsafe dosing levels, and had questionable scientific merit.

In almost 90% of cases, at least one ethical violation was identified, over three-quarters employed a high-risk dosing schedule that would be unacceptable under modern guidelines, and 15% used participants with psychotic disorders. Roughly 30% exploited people of color.

While in many studies, the race or ethnicity of test subjects was not recorded, further investigation by the Ottawa academics revealed Black Americans were significantly overrepresented in the recruitment sites from which test subjects were drawn. It is inevitable that the actual number of MKULTRA studies that abused people of color is far larger. For example, while people of color constituted just 7% of Kentucky's population at the time of experiments at the Addiction Research Center, Black and Mexican Americans represented 66% of the site's inmate population.

Culture and Mental Health Disparities Lab | University of Ottawa

In any event, that people of color suffered to a far greater degree than White test subjects at the proverbial hands of the CIA is starkly set forth in the experiments' bloodcurdling details. For instance, a 1957 study records how numerous vulnerable individuals were psychologically and physically tortured, in particular one Black participant, who was described by researchers as if he were an animal and treated accordingly.

Dosed with LSD, he exhibited a "wild frightened look" and asked for "medicines to relieve his fear." Their response was to place him in restraints and administer a further cocktail of drugs at far higher doses than other participants – whose race was not recorded – and to continue doing so against his will.

Similarly, the previous year, an experiment was conducted in which Black participants were given 180 micrograms of LSD each day for 85 days, while White participants received 75 micrograms each day over just eight days. One Black subject had a "very severe" reaction to their dosage and asked to drop out of the study once they had recovered. After "considerable persuasion," however, they agreed to continue.

Undue influence was a recurrent theme identified by the academics across the papers analyzed. A variety of coercive techniques were frequently employed to solicit and maintain participation in brutal and, at times, life-threatening examinations.

For example, Addiction Research Center inmates were offered a choice of reduced sentences, or drugs such as heroin, in return for volunteering. These drugs could be taken upon completion of a study or saved in a "bank account" for subsequent "withdrawals." Test subjects almost always chose to feed their addictions rather than get out of prison earlier.

'Dr. X, this is serious business….'

The settings in which participants were experimented upon also differed wildly according to race – even in the same study. One in 1960 observed side-by-side the effects of LSD on a group of "Negro" men convicted of drug charges, who were dosed in a prison research ward, and another comprised of professional White Americans, who freely volunteered and received their doses in the cozy confines of the principal investigator's home, "under social conditions designed to reduce anxiety."

Such cases give the appearance of having been expressly conducted to gauge potentially varying reactions to psychedelic drugs in Black and White participants, which raises the obvious question of whether the CIA had a specific – or indeed greater – interest in the effect of certain drugs on people of color, rather than the civilian population in general.

MK Ultra

A volunteer undergoes LSD research project at an honor camp in Viejas, California, Sept. 6, 1966. Photo | AP

Dana Strauss, who led the Ottawa University investigation, argues that the disproportionate representation of Black Americans in MKULTRA experiments, while intensely racially charged, was simply a reflection the ethnic compositions of the institutions targeted by the CIA – although she's certain that if the Agency's researchers did not have a readily available prison population at their disposal, they would still have opted to targeted people of color, in the manner of the Tuskegee syphilis study.

As Strauss explained to MintPress:

Prisons were already filled with Black bodies. They could have experimented on free individuals, but they would not have been able to get away with these kinds of experiments. There were no protections at this time for vulnerable populations such as incarcerated research participants, so the researchers could basically do what they wanted…These people were targeted for these dangerous studies specifically because they were Black and prisoners and therefore less valued."

Just as the closed environments of Nazi concentration camps permitted monsters like Josef Mengele to conduct callous, horrific experiments on humans with no regard for health or safety, so too did incarcerated and/or institutionalized people of color afford the CIA an endless supply of test subjects "who could not fight back," to be exploited and violated however Langley wished, without scrutiny or consequence.

In the process, Strauss says, researchers tested human responses to psychedelic drugs to the absolute limit. Yet while MKULTRA researchers did not quite match the evil and barbarity unleashed in Auschwitz, at least as far as we know, a comparable contempt for test subjects is evident in several studies. Such disregard may account for the wanton and excessive nature of certain experiments, which served no clear purpose and the scientific value of which was far from clear.

In 1955, a team of researchers conducted a study on four schizophrenic patients at Spring Grove State Hospital, in Baltimore, Maryland, a now majority Black city. The test subjects were given enormous amounts of LSD over an extended period – 100 micrograms per day for two weeks, which was increased by a further 100 micrograms daily thereafter to combat rising tolerance levels. For comparison, current psychedelic research guidelines mandate a 200 microgram dose of LSD as an absolute maximum per day, and warn against extended dosing periods.

All along, the researchers monitored participants without compassion, disrespecting and dehumanizing them. Objectifying language in their resultant report reflected this depraved outlook. Their perverse voyeurism extended to observing "toilet habits" and "eroticism", and reporting on how often the four "soiled themselves" and "smeared feces". They also noted how often the patients "masturbated or talked about sex," and even recorded how one patient protested desperately about their mistreatment: "Dr. X, this is serious business…we are pathetic people… don't play with us."

"Glaring research injustices"

For Strauss, that MKULTRA's racial component remained unacknowledged and hidden in plain sight so long "speaks to where we are as a society."

Just as CIA researchers devalued the lives of Black Americans and prison inmates, so to have academics ever since, even if unconsciously. Contemporarily, Strauss notes, scholars remain intensely uninterested in how non-White individuals respond to mental health treatments. She points to a recent study that found over 80% of participants in modern psychedelic research studies are non-Hispanic White.

"Psychedelic research, psychology and academia as a whole are still White-dominated fields. In 2015, over 85% of psychologists in the U.S. were White, and less than 5% were Black. A Black psychologist, Dr. Monnica Williams, was the first to investigate the research abuses and ethical violations in MKULTRA," Strauss tells MintPress. "I think the real question is, why didn't anybody else investigate these glaring research injustices?"

Even more shockingly, while the morality of scientists and medical professionals using inhumane and illegal Nazi research continues to be hotly debated, no such concerns are apparent in respect of the highly unethical and fundamentally racist MKULTRA studies examined by Strauss and her team; they continue to be cited as legitimate academic work today.

Chemist Cecil Hider displays a sample of LSD during testimony in March 1966 about the control of hallucinogenic drugs. Walter Zeboski | AP

Strauss hopes their paper will trigger a wider debate about the ways in which research abuses have impacted and continue to impact people of color and how mental health research can become more socially responsible and culturally competent.

More generally, there is clearly a pressing need for an official MKULTRA truth and reconciliation committee. No CIA official or participating academic was ever held accountable or punished in any way for any of the countless crimes against humanity committed under its auspices, and the Project's full extent remains opaque and mysterious. All the time, though, in spite of ongoing obfuscation, we learn ever more about the sinister secret program, including its overseas component, MKDELTA.

In December 2021, it was revealed that for decades, the CIA had conducted invasive experiments on Danish children, many of them orphans, without their informed consent. When one of the victims attempted to access locally-held documents on the macabre connivance, authorities began shredding the papers. Questions abound as to where else in Europe the Agency may have undertaken similar efforts.

Evidently, the coverup continues – suppression surely not only motivated by a reflexive desire to conceal historic crimes, but because such records may well have relevance to CIA activities in the present.

As MintPress revealed in April, many of the techniques of torture and mental manipulation honed by the Agency over the course of MKULTRA's official existence were employed to devastating effect on the inmates of Guantanamo Bay. There is no reason to believe they aren't still in use elsewhere now or won't be in the future.

Richard Helms' fears of congressional probes into MKULTRA eventually came to pass in 1977. Among those who testified was Edward M. Flowers, the only surviving prisoner participant of CIA mind control experiments to have been located. Flowers took part in psychedelic tests at the Addiction Research Center in the 1950s while incarcerated. While the hearings granted him a new, disquieting understanding of what had been done to him in the name of science, nothing came of it.

"I really got a first-hand insight about some things when we had the hearings…I got in touch with the fact that the CIA was behind all this…They used my ass and took advantage of me," he recalled many years later. "I went back up on The Hill a second time. I sat down with a couple of people, and they talked about some things that had to do with compensation…and that was the last I heard of it."

By contrast, in November 1996, as the furor over allegations the CIA had facilitated the sale of crack cocaine in California in order to finance covert operations in Nicaragua reached a crescendo, then-Agency chief John Deutch was compelled to field difficult questions from residents of Los Angeles about the reported conspiracy at an unprecedented face-to-face meeting.

There is no reason that public outcry over the Ottawa University study's findings could not again pressure Langley representatives to explain themselves in public. And every reason that it should.

Feature photo | Graphic by MintPress News

Kit Klarenberg is an investigative journalist and MintPresss News contributor exploring the role of intelligence services in shaping politics and perceptions. His work has previously appeared in The Cradle, Declassified UK, and Grayzone. Follow him on Twitter @KitKlarenberg.

The post New Research Finds CIA Used Black Americans as Drugs Experiment Guinea Pigs appeared first on MintPress News.

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