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.


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.


Senate blocks any limit to NSA spying on phone calls

Patrick Martin

The US Senate blocked action Tuesday on a bill that would have imposed only minor limitations on a National Security Agency program that collects records of the phone calls of every American. The vote was 58 to 42 to take up the measure for consideration, with supporters falling two votes short of the 60 required to force action.

The vote was nearly by party lines in the outgoing lame duck Senate, with 52 Democrats, two independents who generally vote with the Democrats and four Republicans supporting consideration of the bill. The 41 Republican opponents were joined by one Democrat, Bill Nelson of Florida.

The effect of the vote is to delay consideration of any legislation on NSA spying until the next session of Congress, when Republicans will be in the majority and will control key committees like Intelligence and Judiciary, which originate and write legislation.

The defeated measure, drafted by the outgoing chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, would have placed very slight restrictions on the NSA program that collects metadata on virtually ever phone call placed in or through US telecommunications companies or the Internet.


Pentagon claims “Russian aggression” against NATO

Patrick Martin

The Obama administration and the Pentagon are stoking up military tensions with Russia in the wake of the October 26 Ukrainian parliamentary elections, claiming that flights by small numbers of warplanes over international waters Wednesday constituted “political saber-rattling” and even “Russian aggression.”

The latter characterization was made by the top general in the US Army, Chief of Staff Raymond Odierno, in an interview Wednesday with CNN. Given that the flights never crossed the airspace of any country, Odierno’s claim is deliberately inflammatory. Under Article Five of the NATO charter, “Russian aggression” would provide a legal pretext for a US military strike against the nuclear-armed power.

According to a press release issued by NATO headquarters in Belgium, there were a total of four flights by Russian warplanes in European waters Tuesday and Wednesday. “These sizeable Russian flights represent an unusual level of air activity over European airspace,” the NATO statement said, although it acknowledged that the flights were over international waters and did not violate any country’s airspace.

On Tuesday, seven Russian planes left their base at Kaliningrad, a Russian enclave wedged between Poland and Lithuania (the former Konigsberg, capital of German East Prussia until the end of World War II). They flew north along the coast of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia into the Gulf of Finland, landing at a base in Russia. German, Danish, Swedish and Finnish warplanes shadowed the Russian flight at various stages.


Biden’s admission: US allies armed ISIS

Patrick Martin

Speaking to students at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy Forum Thursday, US Vice President Joseph Biden committed what the US media characterizes as a “gaffe.” In other words, he told an embarrassing truth about US government policy, one that is usually obfuscated in the remarks of government officials and the commentaries of media pundits.

Asked about US policy in Syria, Biden touched on the dirty secret of the current US-led war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. ISIS (or ISIL as the Obama administration terms it) is essentially the creation of the United States and its allies who fomented civil war in Syria against the government of President Bashar al-Assad. Referring to Turkey, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, Biden said,

“They were so determined to take down Assad and essentially have a proxy Sunni-Shia war, what did they do? They poured hundreds of millions of dollars and tens, thousands of tons of weapons into anyone who would fight against Assad—except that the people who were being supplied were al Nusra and al Qaeda and the extremist elements of jihadis coming from other parts of the world.”

“Now you think I’m exaggerating,” he continued, to emphasize his point. “Take a look! Where did all of this go?” Biden claimed that the US opposed arming these al Qaeda-linked groups, which included ISIS, adding, “We could not convince our colleagues to stop supplying them.”


Israeli bombs kill nearly 600 Palestinians

Patrick Martin

Gaza death toll doubles in four days

The death toll from Israeli violence in Gaza approached 600 Palestinians as of Tuesday morning local time, according to reports from hospitals and emergency care workers in the beleaguered territory. The United Nations estimated that three quarters of the dead were civilians, including more than 100 children of all ages.

Over 120 people were killed on Sunday, most of the them in the Shujaiya neighborhood east of Gaza City, and as many or more on Monday, in what observers described as the most intense military onslaught since the 1967 war, in which Israel first seized control of the Gaza Strip.

Particularly horrific was the slaughter of entire family groups, including 28 members of the Abu Jami family killed by an air strike near Khan Younis in southern Gaza; only four members of the family survived. In Rafah, near the Egyptian border, 11 members of the Siyam family were killed, including seven children.

Israeli tanks fired on a hospital in central Gaza Monday, killing at least five people and wounding 60, half of them medical staff. Twelve shells hit the Al Aqsa hospital, smashing into the administration building, the intensive care unit and the surgery department, according to Palestinian health officials.

Given the number of shells fired into the hospital, this was clearly a deliberate war crime, not a “mistake” as claimed by the Israeli government and parroted by the US and international media.


The assault on Gaza: A historic crime

Patrick Martin and Barry Grey

At least 100 Palestinians were killed Sunday as Israel escalated its savage land, sea and air attack on Gaza. In a single neighborhood on the east side of Gaza City, Shejaiya, Israeli bombs and artillery shells killed at least 62 people and wounded nearly 300 others. Among the dead were 17 women, 14 children and four elderly people. The corpses of women and children lined the streets of Shejaiya as people fled on foot and in overloaded vehicles.

The United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, said more than 63,000 people had sought sanctuary in the 49 shelters it has set up in Gaza. “The number has tripled in the last three days,” UNRWA said, “reflecting the intensity of the conflict and the inordinate threats the fighting is posing to civilians.”

Hospitals in Gaza were overwhelmed by the wounded and other civilians seeking sanctuary from the relentless bombardment. Supplies of bandages and basic medicines were running out. In large parts of the besieged territory, water and electricity were cut off.

The Israeli military defended its use of flechette shells against the Palestinian population, saying it was permitted under the laws of war. [Using them agaist civilians is illegal. -Ed.] Flechette shells spray out thousands of tiny metal darts with sharpened tips, designed to shred human flesh.

Human Rights Watch, a US-based organization generally allied to the American political establishment, released a report indicting Israel for deliberately targeting civilian facilities. “Israeli air attacks in Gaza investigated by Human Rights Watch have been targeting apparent civilian structures and killing civilians in violation of the laws of war,” the report stated.

The Israeli state is carrying out mass murder in Gaza. It troops, tanks, war planes and gunboats are perpetrating a massacre of defenseless Palestinians trapped inside a tiny, impoverished and densely populated territory. No one really knows how many have been killed in the two weeks of Israeli bombing and shelling. But Palestinian hospital officials as of mid-day Sunday put the figure at 436, with more than 3,000 wounded. The dead include more than 100 children. — If this is not a war crime, then what is?


Israeli war crimes in Gaza provoke global outrage

Patrick Martin

As the Israeli onslaught on Gaza enters its second week, more and more evidence of atrocities is being made public, producing widespread expressions of outrage around the world.

There have been numerous protests in Europe and North America, which though still relatively small, reflect the growth of popular understanding of the criminal character of the one-sided “war” against Gaza.

Since the non-stop air strikes began on Gaza July 7, Israel has carried out more than 1,300 bomb and missile attacks on the Gaza Strip, an average of one massive explosion every nine minutes, 24 hours a day.

Amid reports that Israel’s security cabinet was to meet early Tuesday morning to consider a cease-fire proposal advanced by the Egyptian regime, there was no letup in this onslaught, and Israeli troops and tanks remained poised on the border of Gaza for a potential ground invasion.


Obama administration drops investigation into CIA spying on US Senate

Patrick Martin

The US Department of Justice announced Thursday that it would not investigate charges that the CIA had spied on members of the staff of the Senate Intelligence Committee, whitewashing the brazenly illegal actions of the US intelligence apparatus. “The department carefully reviewed the matters referred to us and did not find sufficient evidence to warrant a criminal investigation,” read the Justice Department statement.

The department will also not investigate countercharges by the CIA that Senate staffers had gained unauthorized access to CIA documents, effectively equating the two and prompting the corporate-controlled media (which has largely buried the story) to portray the action as a neutral, “hands-off” position in a murky dispute between the Senate and the CIA.

The CIA surveillance of the activities of the Senate committee—which is charged by law with oversight of the CIA—was such a flagrant violation of the constitutional separation of powers that the panel’s chairman, Senator Dianne Feinstein of California, took the extraordinary step of denouncing the agency in a lengthy speech on the Senate floor on March 11.

A longtime hardline defender of the intelligence apparatus, Feinstein was visibly disturbed by what she had learned of the CIA’s actions, which she said “may well have violated the separation-of-powers principle embodied in the United States Constitution,” and also “the Fourth Amendment, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, as well as Executive Order 12333, which prohibits the CIA from conducting domestic searches or surveillance.”


Israel bombs Gaza Strip, masses army on border

Patrick Martin


A ball of fire is seen following an Israel airstrike in Rafah, southern
Gaza, on Tursday. Israeli warplanes launched dozens of airstrikes on
different targets in the Gaza Strip.
(Said Khatib/AFP/Getty Images)

Isaeli warplanes struck the Gaza Strip again on Thursday, hitting at least 15 targets in the blockaded Palestinian territory, causing extensive damage and wounding at least 10 people, including a pregnant woman and a 65-year-old man.

The Israel Defense Forces moved tanks and artillery units towards Gaza, positioning them in advance of any order from the cabinet to invade the densely populated enclave, with nearly two million people crammed into an area of less than 200 square miles. The IDF also called up an undisclosed number of reservists for duty.

The military mobilization was the largest on the border of Gaza since Israel’s last major attack on the Palestinian territory, eight days of bloody bomb and missile strikes in November 2012.

An Israeli military spokesman claimed the sites targeted by bombs and missiles were linked to Hamas, the Islamic party that has ruled Gaza since it won elections in 2006. The Israeli government has declared Hamas responsible for the kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank, although that territory is controlled by the secular Palestinian party Fatah, with Israeli support.

The killing of the three teenagers, whose bodies were found on June 30 outside Hebron, is being used as a pretext by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to escalate tensions with Hamas and threaten an invasion or re-occupation of the Gaza Strip. Israeli military forces and settlers were withdrawn from Gaza in 2005.


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