The Victory of ‘Perception Management’

Robert Parry

In the 1980s, the Reagan administration pioneered “perception management” to get the American people to “kick the Vietnam Syndrome” and accept more U.S. interventionism, but that propaganda structure continues to this day getting the public to buy into endless war.

To understand how the American people find themselves trapped in today’s Orwellian dystopia of endless warfare against an ever-shifting collection of “evil” enemies, you have to think back to the Vietnam War and the shock to the ruling elite caused by an unprecedented popular uprising against that war.

While on the surface Official Washington pretended that the mass protests didn’t change policy, a panicky reality existed behind the scenes, a recognition that a major investment in domestic propaganda would be needed to ensure that future imperial adventures would have the public’s eager support or at least its confused acquiescence.

This commitment to what the insiders called “perception management” began in earnest with the Reagan administration in the 1980s but it would come to be the accepted practice of all subsequent administrations, including the present one of President Barack Obama.

In that sense, propaganda in pursuit of foreign policy goals would trump the democratic ideal of an informed electorate. The point would be not to honestly inform the American people about events around the world but to manage their perceptions by ramping up fear in some cases and defusing outrage in others – depending on the U.S. government’s needs.

Thus, you have the current hysteria over Russia’s supposed “aggression” in Ukraine when the crisis was actually provoked by the West, including by U.S. neocons who helped create today’s humanitarian crisis in eastern Ukraine that they now cynically blame on Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Yet, many of these same U.S. foreign policy operatives – outraged over Russia’s limited intervention to protect ethic Russians in eastern Ukraine – are demanding that President Obama launch an air war against the Syrian military as a “humanitarian” intervention there.

In other words, if the Russians act to shield ethnic Russians on their border who are being bombarded by a coup regime in Kiev that was installed with U.S. support, the Russians are the villains blamed for the thousands of civilian deaths, even though the vast majority of the casualties have been inflicted by the Kiev regime from indiscriminate bombing and from dispatching neo-Nazi militias to do the street fighting.


The Liberal Idiocy on Russia/Ukraine

Robert Parry

American pundits are often more interested in scoring points against their partisan rivals than in the pain that U.S. policies inflict on people in faraway lands, as columnists Paul Krugman and Thomas L. Friedman are showing regarding Russia and Ukraine.

Among honest and knowledgeable people, there really isn’t much doubt about what happened in Ukraine last winter. There was a U.S.-backed coup which ousted a constitutionally elected president and replaced him with a regime more in line with U.S. interests. Even some smart people who agree with the policy of going on the offensive against Russia recognize this reality.

For instance, George Friedman, the founder of the global intelligence firm Stratfor, was quoted in an interview with the Russian liberal business publication Kommersant as saying what happened on Feb. 22 in Kiev – the overthrow of President Viktor Yanukovych – “really was the most blatant coup in history.”

Brushing aside the righteous indignation and self-serving propaganda, Stratfor’s Friedman recognized that both Russia and the United States were operating in what they perceived to be their own interests. “The bottom line is that the strategic interests of the United States are to prevent Russia from becoming a hegemon,” he said. “And the strategic interests of Russia are not to allow the U.S. close to its borders.”

Another relative voice of reason, at least on this topic, has been former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger who – in an interview with Der Spiegel – dismissed Official Washington’s conventional wisdom that Russian President Vladimir Putin provoked the crisis and then annexed Crimea as part of some diabolical scheme to reclaim territory lost when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991.

“The annexation of Crimea was not a move toward global conquest,” the 91-year-old Kissinger said. “It was not Hitler moving into Czechoslovakia” – as former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had suggested.

Kissinger noted that Putin had no intention of instigating a crisis in Ukraine: “Putin spent tens of billions of dollars on the Winter Olympics in Sochi. The theme of the Olympics was that Russia is a progressive state tied to the West through its culture and, therefore, it presumably wants to be part of it. So it doesn’t make any sense that a week after the close of the Olympics, Putin would take Crimea and start a war over Ukraine.”


War by media and the triumph of propaganda

John Pilger

Why has so much journalism succumbed to propaganda? Why are censorship and distortion standard practice? Why is the BBC so often a mouthpiece of rapacious power? Why do the New York Times and the Washington Post deceive their readers?

Why are young journalists not taught to understand media agendas and to challenge the high claims and low purpose of fake objectivity? And why are they not taught that the essence of so much of what's called the mainstream media is not information, but power?

These are urgent questions. The world is facing the prospect of major war, perhaps nuclear war - with the United States clearly determined to isolate and provoke Russia and eventually China. This truth is being turned upside down and inside out by journalists, including those who promoted the lies that led to the bloodbath in Iraq in 2003.

The times we live in are so dangerous and so distorted in public perception that propaganda is no longer, as Edward Bernays called it, an "invisible government". It is the government. It rules directly without fear of contradiction and its principal aim is the conquest of us: our sense of the world, our ability to separate truth from lies.

The information age is actually a media age. We have war by media; censorship by media; demonology by media; retribution by media; diversion by media - a surreal assembly line of obedient clichés and false assumptions.


Treating Putin Like a Lunatic

Robert Parry

Official Washington treats whatever comes out of Russian President Putin’s mouth as the ravings of a lunatic, even when what he says is obviously true or otherwise makes sense, as the New York Times has demonstrated again.

When reading the New York Times on many foreign policy issues, it doesn’t take a savant to figure out what the newspaper’s bias is. Anything, for instance, relating to Russian President Vladimir Putin drips of contempt and hostility.

Rather than offer the Times’ readers an objective or even slightly fair-minded account of Putin’s remarks, we are fed a steady diet of highly prejudicial language, such as we find in Saturday’s article about Putin’s comments at a conference in which he noted U.S. contributions to chaos in countries, such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria and Ukraine.

That Putin is correct appears almost irrelevant to the Times, which simply writes that Putin “unleashed perhaps his strongest diatribe against the United States yet” with his goal “to sell Moscow’s view that American meddling has sparked most of the world’s recent crises.”

Rather than address the merits of Putin’s critique, the Times’ article by Neil MacFarquhar uncritically cites the “group think” of Official Washington: “Russia is often accused of provoking the crisis in Ukraine by annexing Crimea, and of prolonging the agony in Syria by helping to crush a popular uprising against President Bashar al-Assad, Moscow’s last major Arab ally. Some analysts have suggested that Mr. Putin seeks to restore the lost power and influence of the Soviet Union, or even the Russian Empire, in a bid to prolong his own rule.”


Ukraine’s Neo-Nazis Demand Respect

Robert Parry

Thousands of Ukraine’s neo-Nazis surrounded the parliament in Kiev demanding that the government honor Ukrainian paramilitary forces who fought for Adolf Hitler in World War II, another embarrassing reminder of the extremism unleashed by last February’s U.S.-backed coup.

For months, the New York Times and other major U.S. news outlets have insisted that it’s just Russian propaganda to say that a significant neo-Nazi presence exists inside Ukraine, but thousands of these “non-existent” neo-Nazis battled police on Tuesday outside the parliament building in Kiev demanding recognition of their Hitler-collaborating forebears.

The parliament, aware of the obvious public relations fiasco that would follow if it bowed to far-right demands to honor members of the Nazi-affiliated Ukrainian Insurgent Army (or UIA), defeated the proposal. That touched off riots by an estimated 8,000 protesters led by Ukraine’s right-wing Svoboda party and the Right Sektor.

Historians blame the UIA and other Ukrainian fascist forces for the extermination of thousands of Poles and Jews during World War II as these right-wing Ukrainian paramilitaries sided with the German Nazis in their fight against the Soviet Union’s Red Army. Svoboda and the Right Sektor have elevated UIA leader Stepan Bandera to the level of a Ukrainian national hero.

But Svoboda and Right Sektor activists are not just neo-Nazi street protesters. They were key figures in last February’s violent uprising that overthrew elected President Viktor Yanukovych and established a coup regime that the U.S. State Department quickly recognized as “legitimate.” Many far-right militants have since been incorporated into the Ukrainian military in its fight to crush resistance to the coup regime from ethnic Russians in Ukraine’s east.

Though played down by the Western press, the neo-Nazi affiliations of these militants have occasionally popped up in news stories, including references to displays of Nazi insignias, but usually these citations are mentioned only in passing or are confined to the last few paragraphs of lengthy stories or are dismissed as “Russian propaganda.”


Obama’s Propagandistic UN Address

Robert Parry

The longer President Obama has been in office the less honest he has become, a problem growing more apparent in his second term as he reads speeches containing information that he knows to be false or at least highly misleading.

During President Barack Obama’s first term, he generally was careful in making comments about world affairs – not that he was always completely honest but he was circumspect about outright lying. Over the past two years, however, he appears to have lost any such inhibitions.

That’s the case even when he is engaged in something as serious as addressing the United Nations General Assembly on issues of war or peace as occurred both last year and this year. In September 2013, Obama made what he knew was a deceptive comment about the mysterious Sarin gas attack in Syria a month earlier. He did something similar on Wednesday in describing the Ukraine crisis.


Obama’s Novel Lawyering to Bomb Syria

Robert Parry


President Barack Obama talks with Ambassador to the United
Nations Samantha Power, a leading “liberal interventionist,”
following a Cabinet meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White
House, Sept. 12, 2013.
(Photo by Pete Souza/White House)

The U.S. government likes international law when it serves Washington’s purposes, but not when it constrains U.S. desires to use military force. Then, the rules are bent, ignored or subjected to novel lawyering, as President Obama is doing with airstrikes into Syria.

The Obama administration has devised an extraordinary legal justification for carrying out bombing attacks inside Syria: that the United States and its Persian Gulf allies have the right to defend Iraq against the Islamic State because the Syrian government is unable to stop the cross-border terror group.

“The Syrian regime has shown that it cannot and will not confront these safe havens effectively itself,” said the U.S. letter delivered by Ambassador Samantha Power to United Nations officials. “Accordingly, the United States has initiated necessary and proportionate military actions in Syria in order to eliminate the ongoing ISIL [Islamic State] threat to Iraq, including by protecting Iraqi citizens from further attacks and by enabling Iraqi forces to regain control of Iraq’s borders.”

Yet, beyond the danger to world order if such an expansive theory is embraced by the international community (does anyone remember how World War One got started?), there is the hypocrisy of the U.S. government and many of those same Gulf allies arming, training and funding Syrian rebels for the purpose of preventing the Syrian military from controlling its territory and then citing that lack of control as the rationale to ignore Syria’s sovereignty. — In other words, the United States, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan and other enemies of Syria covertly backed the rebels inside Syria and watched as many of them – including thousands of the U.S.-preferred “moderates” – took their newly acquired military skills to al-Qaeda affiliates and other terrorist organizations. Then, the U.S. and its allies have the audacity to point to the existence of those terror groups inside Syria as a rationale for flying bombing raids into Syria.


"Russia was always elected to be the enemy"

Ruth Schneider interviews Ray McGovern

On the eve of the NATO summit earlier this month, CIA veteran Ray McGovern, NSA whistleblower William Binney and five other intelligence colleagues sent an open letter to Angela Merkel, "briefing" her about the situation in Ukraine: reminding the German chancellor of the precedent of the Iraq War 12 years ago, they urge her not to trust the "fixed intelligence" presented by the US State Department and NATO officials. There is no evidence of a Russian invasion of Ukraine.

As the civil war rages on killing hundreds of civilians and displacing thousands of others, the self-dubbed Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity point out that the US and NATO are stoking the flames of a new confrontation with Russia through shameless media propaganda, reminiscent of a time they know something about: the Cold War.

McGovern served as a CIA analyst under seven presidents from John F. Kennedy to George H.W. Bush, and prepared the President’s Daily Brief for Ronald Reagan's most senior national security advisers from 1981 to 1985. Fluent in German and Russian, he was stationed in West Germany as a CIA liaison officer.


Losing Credibility: The IMF’s New Cold War Loan to Ukraine

Michael Hudson

In April 2014, fresh from riots in Maidan Square and the February 22 coup, and less than a month before the May 2 massacre in Odessa, the IMF approved a $17 billion loan program to Ukraine’s junta. Normal IMF practice is to lend only up to twice a country’s quote in one year. This was eight times as high.

Four months later, on August 29, just as Kiev began losing its attempt at ethnic cleansing against the eastern Donbas region, the IMF signed off on the first loan ever to a side engaged in a civil war, not to mention rife with insider capital flight and a collapsing balance of payments. Based on fictitiously trouble-free projections of the ability to pay, the loan supported Ukraine’s hernia currency long enough to enable the oligarchs’ banks to move their money quickly into Western hard-currency accounts before the hernia plunged further and was worth even fewer euros and dollars.

This loan demonstrates the degree to which the IMF is an arm of U.S. Cold War politics. Kiev used the loan for military expenses to attack the Eastern provinces, and the loan terms imposed the usual budget austerity, as if this would stabilize the country’s finances. Almost nothing will be received from the war-torn East, where basic infrastructure has been destroyed for power generation, water, hospitals and the civilian housing areas that bore the brunt of the attack. Nearly a million civilians are reported to have fled to Russia. Yet the IMF release announced: “The IMF praised the government’s commitment to economic reforms despite the ongoing conflict.”[1] A quarter of Ukraine’s exports normally are from eastern provinces, and are sold mainly to Russia. But Kiev has been bombing Donbas industry and left its coal mines without electricity.


Malaysia Airlines Whodunnit Still a Mystery

Robert Parry

More than seven weeks after Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 crashed in eastern Ukraine killing 298 people, a preliminary report failed to address the mystery of who shot the plane down. The Dutch investigators didn’t even try to sort through conflicting allegations and evidence.

Beyond confirming that Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 apparently was shot down on July 17, the Dutch Safety Board’s interim investigative report answered few questions, including some that would seem easy to address, such as the Russian military radar purporting to show a Ukrainian SU-25 jetfighter in the area, a claim that the Kiev government denied.

Either the Russian radar showed the presence of a jetfighter “gaining height” as it closed to within three to five kilometers of the passenger plane – as the Russians claimed in a July 21 press conference – or it didn’t. The Kiev authorities insisted that they had no military aircraft in the area at the time.

But the 34-page Dutch report is silent on the jetfighter question, although noting that the investigators had received Air Traffic Control “surveillance data from the Russian Federation.”

The report is also silent on the “dog-not-barking” issue of whether the U.S. government had satellite surveillance that revealed exactly where the supposed ground-to-air missile was launched and who may have fired it.


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