John Pilger: Torture & The Real Possibility of Nuclear War With China

(John Pilger)

John Pilger, film-maker and award winning journalist, talks to Going Underground host Afshin Rattansi about the headline events of the year, from CIA torture to the Ukraine crisis. He says the whole tenure of the BBC coverage of the Torture report was ‘does torture work?’ Modern British history is full of torture, and the British were ‘masters’ at it. When the OSS become the CIA, it split into 2 sections – one an intelligence gathering section, the other a covert operations arm for the presidency, the central part of which was torture. He warns that the culture of apologising for the state, to minimise its responsibility, has ‘burrowed’ into the minds of correspondents, citing the defence correspondent on Newsnight failing to mention the role of Britain when appraising why the Middle East was a mess. He also says that parliamentary inquiries like the Nolan inquiry and the Chilcot inquiry are stopped before they can get anywhere, describing it as a ‘series of whitewashes.’ He talks of a ‘consensus’ to cover up, citing the arms to Iraq inquiry, where the only person that the judge commended was a Foreign Office official who described the Foreign Office as a ‘culture of lying.’ He says that the number of high-ups in the British establishment who committed serious offences ‘numbered in the dozens,’ and the only difference between the US and UK in torture is ‘in terms of scale.’ The real issue in democracies is ‘dissent being constrained’ physically on the streets. He believes it is ‘dangerous’ to protest in the way people did in 2003, whether you are an establishment figure, a journalist, or just a man on the street.

The modus operandi of imperialist propaganda

Patrick Martin

Coming soon to a theater near you, a US imperialist propaganda blockbuster, the latest production from CIA Pictures, made in participation with Pentagon Entertainment, and with the collaboration of American Media Partners: Cyberwar North Korea.

Such an announcement would have been useful last week, to alert American public opinion to the impending avalanche of entirely unsubstantiated assertions by US government officials, rebroadcast uncritically by the major newspapers and television networks. The target of the blitz was North Korea, blamed for the hacking attack on Sony Pictures Entertainment, which led the studio to cancel the premiere of The Interview and withdraw the film from circulation.

Zero facts and evidence have been made public to support the claims of North Korean hacking. The isolated Stalinist regime was certainly hostile to the film, a comedy based on the premise that the CIA contracts two American journalists (played by James Franco and Seth Rogen), to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, after he agrees to be interviewed by them.

But Pyongyang has vociferously denied any role in the hacking attack on Sony, and proposed Saturday to join the US government in an investigation of the attack’s origins, declaring, “Whoever is going to frame our country for a crime should present concrete evidence.” This offer was quickly dismissed by Washington, which has presented no evidence whatsoever. The FBI issued a statement Friday declaring that it had enough information to conclude that North Korea was responsible for the hacking attack, but it gave no details. President Obama pinned the blame on North Korea at his press conference later that day, but cited only the FBI statement.

New York City police pledge “wartime” response to killing of two officers

Sandy English

The fatal shooting of two New York City police officers on Saturday has been followed by a series of extraordinary statements from the police union and its political allies. Charging that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has “blood on his hands,” the police are demanding a crackdown on protests and the criminalization of all opposition to police killings.

Officers Raphael Ramos and Wenjian Liu were sitting in their vehicle in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn when, shortly before 3 pm on Saturday, the apparent shooter, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, approached the car and killed both.

Brinsley, 28, had driven from a suburb of Baltimore, Maryland to Brooklyn after shooting and wounding his former girlfriend. The young man, who was clearly mentally unbalanced and evidently suicidal, seems to have been motivated in part by the police killings of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and Eric Garner in New York City.

After he shot Ramos and Liu, Brinsley was pursued by police into a nearby subway station, where he killed himself.

The response of the police has bordered on mutiny. As Mayor de Blasio walked to a press conference on Saturday, dozens of police officers demonstratively turned their backs on him. Police have issued a series of denunciations of de Blasio for having indicated some sympathy for demonstrations against police violence held in the wake of a grand jury’s decision not to charge NYPD Officer Daniel Pantaleo for the chokehold death of Garner.

American Exceptionalism and American Torture

William Blum

In 1964, the Brazilian military, in a US-designed coup, overthrew a liberal (not more to the left than that) government and proceeded to rule with an iron fist for the next 21 years. In 1979 the military regime passed an amnesty law blocking the prosecution of its members for torture and other crimes. The amnesty still holds. [1]

That’s how they handle such matters in what used to be called The Third World. In the First World, however, they have no need for such legal niceties. In the United States, military torturers and their political godfathers are granted amnesty automatically, simply for being American, solely for belonging to the “Good Guys Club”.

So now, with the release of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture, we have further depressing revelations about US foreign policy. But do Americans and the world need yet another reminder that the United States is a leading practitioner of torture? Yes. The message can not be broadcast too often because the indoctrination of the American people and Americophiles all around the world is so deeply embedded that it takes repeated shocks to the system to dislodge it. No one does brainwashing like the good ol’ Yankee inventors of advertising and public relations. And there is always a new generation just coming of age with stars (and stripes) in their eyes.

Happy New Year. Here’s what you have to look forward to in 2015

William Blum

January 25: 467 people reported missing from a university in Mexico. US State Department blames Russia.

February 1: Military junta overthrows President Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela. Washington decries the loss of democracy.

February 2: US recognizes the new Venezuelan military junta, offers it 50 jet fighters and tanks.

February 3: Revolution breaks out in Venezuela endangering the military junta; 40,000 American marines land in Caracas to quell the uprising.

February 16: White police officer in Chicago fatally shoots a 6-year old black boy holding a toy gun.

March 6: Congress passes a new law which states that to become president of the United States a person must have the surname Bush or Clinton.

April 30: The Department of Homeland Security announces plan to record the DNA at birth of every child born in the United States.

May 19: The Supreme Court rules that police may search anyone if they have reasonable grounds for believing that the person has pockets.

May 27: The Transportation Security Administration declares that all airline passengers must strip completely nude at check-in and remain thus until arriving at their destination.

June 6: White police officer in Oklahoma City tasers a 7-month-old black child, claiming the child was holding a gun; the gun turns out to be a rattle.

July 19: Two subway trains collide in Manhattan. The United States demands that Moscow explain why there was a Russian citizen in each of the trains.

September 5: The Democratic Party changes its name to the Republican Lite Party, and announces the opening of a joint bank account with the Republican Party so that corporate lobbyists need make out only one check.

What Putin is not telling us

Pepe Escobar

December 18, 2014. President of Russia Vladimir Putin during his
tenth annual major news conference at the World Trade Centre on
Krasnopresnenskaya Embankment
(Photograph: V. Astapkovich)

Putin's Grasp of, and Response to, Western Moves Are Impeccable

Even facing what under any circumstances is a perfect storm; President Putin delivered an extremely measured performance at his annual press conference and Q&A marathon.

The perfect storm evolves in two fronts; an overt economic war – as in siege by sanctions - and a concerted, covert, shadow attack to the heart of the Russian economy. Washington’s endgame is clear: impoverish and defang the adversary and force him to meekly bow to the ‘Empire of Chaos’ whims. And bragging about it all the way to “victory.”

The problem is Moscow happens to have impeccably deciphered the game – even before Putin, at the Valdai Club in October, pinned down the Obama doctrine as “our Western partners” working as practitioners of the “theory of controlled chaos.”

So Putin neatly understood this week’s monster controlled chaos attack. The Empire has massive money power; a great deal of influence over the world’s GDP at $85 trillion, and the banking power behind that. So nothing easier than using that power through the private banking systems that actually controls central banks to create a run on the Ruble. Think about the ‘Empire of Chaos’ dreaming of driving the ruble down by 99% or so – thus wrecking the Russian economy. What better way to impose imperial discipline on Russia?

US stokes conflict with North Korea over Sony hacking

Patrick Martin

The US government is preparing to retaliate against North Korea for its alleged role in the hacking attack on Sony Pictures, Obama administration officials said Thursday. While declining to go on the record placing responsibility on North Korea for the hacking—likely in part because they can produce no evidence—several top officials suggested that US cyberwarfare countermeasures were already in preparation.

White House press spokesman Josh Earnest said Thursday that he would not name North Korea as the perpetrator of the Sony hacking in advance of investigations by the FBI and Justice Department, but added that the cyberattack was an example of “destructive activity with malicious intent that was initiated by a sophisticated actor.” US officials considered the hacking a “serious national security matter” and “would be mindful of the fact that we need a proportional response,” he said.

The secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson, told a television interviewer Thursday morning that the administration was “actively considering a range of options that we’ll take in response to this attack.” He did not rule out military force, although Earnest’s reference to a “proportionate response” was portrayed by the US media as a threat of some form of electronic sabotage, rather than a direct military attack on North Korea.

The last two days have seen the transformation of the Sony incident from a corporate scandal—with the private information of tens of thousands of current and former employees dumped onto the Internet—into a far more sinister affair, involving US threats against both North Korea and China.

Financial Market Manipulation Is The New Trend: Can It Continue?

Paul Craig Roberts

Financial Imperialists Attack Russia

A dangerous new trend is the successful manipulation of the financial markets by the Federal Reserve, other central banks, private banks, and the US Treasury. The Federal Reserve reduced real interest rates on US government debt obligations first to zero and then pushed real interest rates into negative territory. Today the government charges you for the privilege of purchasing its bonds.

People pay to park their money in Treasury debt obligations, because they do not trust the banks and they know that the government can print the money to pay off the bonds. Today Treasury bond investors pay a fee in order to guarantee that they will receive the nominal face value (minus the fee) of their investment in government debt instruments.

The fee is paid in a premium, which raises the cost of the debt instrument above its face value and is paid again in accepting a negative rate of return, as the interest rate is less than the inflation rate.

Think about this for a minute. Allegedly the US is experiencing economic recovery. Normally with rising economic activity interest rates rise as consumers and investors bid for credit. But not in this “recovery.”

Clashing Face-to-Face on Torture

Ray McGovern

Former Rep. Pete Hoekstra (left) argues with ex-CIA analyst Ray
McGovern about the Senate torture report on CCTV America’s
The Heat” on Dec. 11, 2014.
(Screenshot from program)

It’s rare on TV when you see two former senior U.S. officials clashing angrily over something as significant as torture. Usually decorum prevails. But ex-CIA analyst Ray McGovern wasn’t going to let the ex-House intelligence oversight chief get away with a bland defense of torture.

When you get an opportunity like this, don’t fall back – I heard my Irish grandmother telling me last Thursday as I took my place at the table to discuss torture with a former congressional committee chairman whose job it was to prevent such abuse.

Almost rubbing shoulders with me on my right was former House Intelligence Committee chair (2004-2007) Pete Hoekstra, a Republican from Michigan. Central China TV had asked both of us to address the findings of the Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture. I said yes, of course, since I was highly interested in how Hoekstra, with his front seat for the saga of “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques,” would try to ‘splain it all.

Here was a unique chance to publicly confront a malleable, moral dwarf who had been in a uniquely powerful position to end the torture. The moment was also an odd one, for Hoekstra – not the brightest star in the constellation – seemed oblivious to his gross misfeasance and dereliction of duty. Or how his behavior might look to non-torture aficionados.

Hoekstra took over the House intelligence “oversight” committee in 2004 when former chair, Porter Goss, a Republican from Florida, was picked as the perfect – as in fully-briefed-and-complicit – functionary to become director of the CIA, replacing “slam-dunk” George Tenet. Tenet left in disgrace in July 2004, still seeking those notional Iraqi “weapons of mass destruction” in vain.

Last week, amid the unfolding torture scandal, Hoekstra went on CCTV America’s daily talk show, “The Heat,” to offer a heated defense of what he insisted on still calling “enhanced interrogation techniques.” My opportunity for a blunt exchange with him over exactly what the House Intelligence Committee knew came near the end of the show.

Truth In Berlin

Gilad Atzmon

Once again, ‘scandal in Germany.’ This time the ultra Zionist AJC (American Jewish Committee) is empowered to define the boundaries of an exchange in Germany about Palestine and the hope for peace in the Middle East.

The Jerusalem Post reported yesterday that Germany’s Family Ministry and the Berlin Senate are engulfed in an anti-Israel scandal because they provided some funding for the three-day Canaan conference that included a group that had previously hosted a speaker who called for an “end of Jewry” and claimed that “Zionists are racists.”

If anyone still harbored some remote doubts about racism and the ‘Jews only State’, such doubts evaporated last month when the Israeli cabinet approved Israel’s National Bill, a law that specifically affirms the primacy of Jews in Israel.

And who was it who called for the “end of Jewry?” The AJC and the Jpost blame me. These people must be mad - would I call for the demise of my favourite intellectual pets, i.e., the Jews? Such a tragedy would sentence me to spiritual death.

I will never let it happen. I need the Jews alive and kicking and I need their lobbies to keep celebrating their symptoms as they did this week in Berlin, so I have something juicy to write about every morning when I awake.

Put Blair and Straw on Trial For Torture

Craig Murray, Former British Ambassador To Uzbekistan

Former UK Ambassador Describes What Happens to People with Integrity Who Have the Misfortune to End Up in Government Positions - Paul Craig Roberts

In the summer of 2004, I warned Tony Blair’s Foreign Office that Britain was using intelligence material which had been obtained by the CIA under torture. Two months later I was sacked as the British Ambassador to Uzbekistan on the orders of Downing Street, bringing to an end my 20-year diplomatic career.

When I then went public with the news that Uzbek territory was part of a global CIA torture programme, I was dismissed as a fantasist by Mr Blair’s henchmen. Now finally, a decade later, I have been vindicated by last week’s shocking Senate Intelligence Committee report.

Over 500 pages it details the CIA’s brutal abuse of Al Qaeda suspects, who were flown around the world to be tortured in a network of secret prisons. One of these was in Uzbekistan, where the US had an air base.

The CIA programme included both torture they conducted themselves and torture conducted for them by allies. Shamefully, the torture-by-proxy details remain classified to protect America’s gruesome ‘allies’.

The CIA were flying people to Uzbekistan to be tortured, usually via their secret prison at Szymany in Poland. The Uzbeks were doing the actual torture, sometimes with CIA members in the room.

Ukraine: The great lie of our time

Harry J. Bentham

As the US supports warlords in Ukraine, its absurd theories of democratization collapse into folly.

In all International Relations (IR) classrooms throughout the English-speaking world, something called the democratic peace theory is taught. The theory holds that countries are less likely to go to war if they are democracies, and that installing democratic regimes is therefore the path to peace and security in the world. Paradoxically, the theory is more often applied to justify wars than to end them.

Democratic peace theory is a large part of the underlying rhetoric behind the United States’ commitment to “democratization” in the world’s conflict zones, particularly the Middle East and the former Soviet Union. While the US supplies arms to dictatorships it falsely labels “democracies,” it works to overthrow governments that were actually democratically elected.

Hurling feeble accusations that truly elected rulers are sliding into autocracy, the United States continues on a slippery slope of its own by arming some of the world’s most sordid military dictatorships. It is astonishing that anyone can really be convinced by their reasoning.

In Ukraine, the United States proved its hypocrisy more clearly than in any other relationship it managed to strap together. Its initial cause for involvement in Ukraine was about “democratization.” Accusing democratically-elected President Viktor Yanukovych of sliding into autocracy, the United States favored violent protests to overthrow this regime in the name of US-guided democracy.

Yet, for all its theories about democratization, look what the US did to Ukraine. Now, we have a good part of the country in a state of insurrection against the central government, and a military dictatorship using tanks, and even white phosphorous and cluster bombs against its own people.

A visit to the cereal café

Sam Kriss

There are three things glaringly wrong with the Cereal Killer Café on Brick Lane in East London. Firstly, the menu consistently renders the word ‘raisins’ as ‘raisans’, which is incorrect. Secondly, it’s owned and managed by Gary and Alan Keery, a uniquely ghastly pair of identical twins. These two ghouls sport identical location-standard bushy beards, identical obnoxious slicked-back haircuts, identical smarmy expressions. Twins who do this kind of thing into adulthood are always hiding something hideous and perverse: when faced with such uncanny mirror-perfect duplication I can’t help but posit the necessary existence of a grotesque, hidden, third brother. Something scrabbling in the cellars, a cringing Smerdyakov figure onto whose memory all the suppressed differences between the superterranean Keerys has been displaced. A mad and vicious creature, whose pathological love for breakfast cereal turned him into something more beast than boy. His musty dungeon full of pencil-toppers and Rubik’s cubes, bobblehead dolls from the bottom of promotional packs, all nodding in unison with serene smiling faces as the idiot rubs cornflake dust into the stinking pits of his body. He slurps milk between sugar-stained pegs, he howls the advertising slogans between mouthfuls. His laugh rises from a constricted phlegmy giggle to the full manic convulsions of someone who sees the death of all reason perfectly reflected in the scrying-stone that is his morning bowl of Frosties. They had to kill him, of course, the twins, and they buried his heavy bones – glossy as enamel from all the fortifying calcium in his diet – below the foundations of what would become the UK’s first speciality breakfast cereal café. To seal the pact, they vowed to take on the same form, to be more than brothers, to be the same person, knowing what happened to the third twin, knowing that they might not be strong enough to face the darkness alone, that cruel gibbering malignancy always lurking beneath their quirky love for breakfast cereal. And so the madness of the murdered brother leeched into every brick of the place, until it became his empire.

Open Letter to the World from a Blocked Ukrainian Parliamentarian

Elena Bondarenko

Eric Zuesse: The following letter, written months ago but unfortunately unpublishable in the Ukrainian dictatorship that was imposed in February, was finally posted publicly at the Russian fortruss website on Sunday, December 14th, by Elena Bondarenko, a member of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s Party.

My friends, here is my declaration. I ask that you share it to the extent possible. If you can translate it into other languages, please do!

I, Elena Bondarenko, People’s Deputy from the Party of Regions, finding myself in opposition to the current power in Ukraine, wish to declare that this administration has resorted to direct threats of physical elimination of the opposition in Ukraine; has resorted to suspending the right of freedom of speech, in parliament and out, and is implicated in complicity in crimes not just against politicians, but even against their children. The everyday life of an opposition deputy is this: constant threats, unofficial ban from the airwaves, targeted persecution. Everyone who calls for peace is immediately branded as an enemy of the people, just as in 1930’s Germany, or in McCarthyite US.

Torture: Accountability - YES. Impunity - NO

Hans Christof von Sponeck / The BRussells Tribunal

Please, sign the petition and spread it in your network.

This petition will be delivered to: US Government - International Criminal Court - President of the UN General Assembly - President of the Human Rights Council - European Court of Justice.

Petition initiated by two former UN Assistant Secretaries-General, UN Humanitarian Coordinators for Iraq: Hans von Sponeck and Denis Halliday.

On 9 December 2014, the US Senate released its CIA torture report. The investigation confirmed what globally has been known for many years: the US Central Intelligence Agency and US-outsourced national authorities in Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere have been involved in an extensive range of torture applications.

Compelling evidence has become available, especially since 2001, the beginning of the Afghanistan war, through investigations by the European Parliament and national judicial authorities, as well as two major reports presented by Swiss Senator Dick Marty in 2006 and 2007 to the Council of Europe, on secret CIA detention centres in Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere.

The US Senate report makes it clear that cruel, degrading and inhumane treatment of captives by the CIA and its collaborators have been carried out on a continuous basis.

Such treatment can not be justified in any manner, even if the US Government reservations with which it signed the UN torture convention in 1994 were to be taken into account. CIA personnel and others wilfully participated in following executive orders and directives thereby violating the UN torture convention and the Geneva Convention III. In this way they have committed serious crimes for which they must be held accountable.

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