Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

July 10, 2019

Gray Zone versus the deep state, regime change, Trotskyite devils

Filed under: conspiracism,mechanical anti-imperialism — louisproyect @ 7:03 pm

On their Gray Zone website, Max Blumenthal and his mini-me Ben Norton (aka Ned Borton) have just come out with a 5,600 word diatribe against the Socialism 2019 Conference in Chicago. Most people still tethered to the planet would understand that the main political questions raised by the DSA/ex-ISO conference was whether support for Democratic Party candidates is tactically permissible. Instead, the two geniuses were playing Vishinsky-like prosecuting attorneys making the case that “Socialism is now apparently brought to you by the US State Department”.

They dug up every connection that conference speakers had to inside-the-beltway NGOs and government agencies like the NED to read the DSA and ex-ISOers out of the radical movement. One would think that these two nitwits would put more energy into helping the left put together a conference that did not have such nefarious ties. I can recommend some left groups that are as unsullied as them: Workers World, the Party for Socialism and Liberation, the Socialist Equality Party, the Spartacist League and Socialist Action. These five groups have never been implicated in smoke-filled room deals with officials of the Deep State, to be sure. In fact, if all of them got together to stage a Communism 2019 Conference, they wouldn’t need to line up a Hyatt hotel. A church basement would do just fine.

To turn NED funding, or any kind of aid from other such bodies, into a litmus test as to a group’s leftist credentials is problematic since it turns the nation-state into the unit of analysis rather than the social class.

For example, they excoriate the China Labour Bulletin for taking money from the NED but do not say anything about what it stands for. If you go to their website, you’ll find articles, for example, on coal mine safety in China that contains such data:

The Daping coal mine in Zhengzhou, Henan province, where 148 people died in a gas explosion on 20 October 2004, had been inspected and approved for an annual production capacity of 900,000 tonnes. In 2003, the mine produced 1.32 million tonnes of coal, and from January to September 2004 it had already produced 960,000 tonnes. Similarly, the Sunjiawan coal mine in Liaoning province, where a gas explosion killed at least 214 miners on 14 February 2005, had been approved for a production capacity of 900,000 tonnes, but its actual output in 2004 was 1.48 million tonnes. The Shenlong coal mine in Fukang county, Xinjiang province, where 83 miners died in a gas explosion on 11 July 2005, had a safe production capacity of only 30,000 tonnes, but during the first half of 2005 alone it had already produced almost 180,000 tonnes of coal.

You will find absolutely nothing about “regime change” in the CLB. It is simply one of the few outlets Chinese workers have for making their case. If the NED provides funding for their work, there is no stigma as long as the money comes with no-strings-attached.

The truth is that the NED and similar bodies from George Soros’s Open Foundation to Human Rights Watch will always try to take advantage of protests in every corner of the world in order to influence them. Why would anybody expect anything different? To be consistent, you’d have to condemn the student movement in Egypt in 2011 in the same way you condemn CLB. In fact, Global Research—Gray Zone’s closest relative—did exactly that. Tony Cartalucci put it this way in an article titled “The US Engineered “Arab Spring”: The NGO Raids in Egypt”:

It is hardly a speculative theory then, that the uprisings were part of an immense geopolitical campaign conceived in the West and carried out through its proxies with the assistance of disingenuous organizations including NED, NDI, IRI, and Freedom House and the stable of NGOs they maintain throughout the world. Preparations for the “Arab Spring” began not as unrest had already begun, but years before the first “fist” was raised, and within seminar rooms in D.C. and New York, US-funded training facilities in Serbia, and camps held in neighboring countries, not within the Arab World itself.

In 2008, Egyptian activists from the now infamous April 6 movement were in New York City for the inaugural Alliance of Youth Movements (AYM) summit, also known as Movements.org. There, they received training, networking opportunities, and support from AYM’s various corporate and US governmental sponsors, including the US State Department itself. The AYM 2008 summit report states that the Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, James Glassman attended, as did Jared Cohen who sits on the policy planning staff of the Office of the Secretary of State. Six other State Department staff members and advisers would also attend the summit along with an immense list of corporate, media, and institutional representatives.

Can you tell the difference between Tony Cartalucci and the Gray Zone? I can’t.

Much venom is sprayed at Anand Gopal and Dan La Botz for the same kinds of reasons. Gopal is an acclaimed journalist who has made repeated trips to Syria from Turkey without Baathist approval. As with other reporters who refuse to write propaganda for the dictatorship, he had to find other ways to interview Syrians. He would crawl beneath a barbed wire fence on the border and follow painted rocks that were placed there by villagers, allowing him to avoid land mines. In a talk on Syria recently, Gopal argued that part of the explanation for the failure of the revolution was that the leadership were small proprietors in the local governments of rebel-controlled territory that insisted on preserving private property relations. If this book is nearly as good as his book on Afghanistan that was a Pulitzer prize runner up, it should gain widespread attention. Meanwhile, Blumenthal’s reporting on Syria is the same as Vanessa Beeley’s, just regime propaganda. At least Beeley went to Syria, even if was limited to 4-star hotels and tea parties with the dictator. Can you imagine Sidney Blumenthal’s golden boy crawling under barbed wire fences and walking through an obstacle course of land mines to get a story? I can’t.

The attacks on Dan La Botz are just as apolitical. I am opposed to La Botz’s special pleading for the reactionary student movement in Nicaragua but I wouldn’t dream of smearing him as a State Department tool. This kind of attack has roots in Stalin’s demonization of his opponents who were supposedly trying to overthrow socialism in the USSR because both they and the capitalist media described him as a ruthless dictator. Trotsky had a different motivation than Winston Churchill even if Stalin made an amalgam between the two. When Stalin bonded with Churchill, the symbol of British colonialism then became a paragon of democracy. Those twists and turns were studied by the two ex-opponents of Assad, to be sure.

In channeling Stalin, Norton and Blumenthal make sure to use the word “Trotskyite” throughout, a term that is a dead giveaway for politics that have largely died out after the collapse of the USSR and the transformation of the CPs into Eurocommunist type parties, except for the KKE in Greece that is cut from the same cloth as Gray Zone.

Looking back at the history of the radical movement, you will find many attempts to take advantage of imperialist rivalry. For Blumenthal and Norton, the only imperialist powers in the world are those in the West. They clearly see China and Russia as anti-imperialist states even though the subjugation of the Uyghurs and Syrians would have been denounced by Lenin as imperialist. I am not sure where Gray Zone gets most of its ideas nowadays but it sounds like they may have been plagiarizing Enver Hoxha.

If Uyghurs and Syrians have to pass their litmus test, it would mean suicide since the world is divided into two major geopolitical blocs. For all of their ranting against the White Helmets for receiving funding from the West, you would be hard-pressed to see how else they could have otherwise assembled a first responder team that has saved thousands of lives. The implication from Gray Zone is that rescuing people from bombed out buildings is the first step in invading Syria and that bombing hospitals is warranted in rebel-controlled territory to preempt sharia law.

Fortunately, people like Roger Casement and others trying to exploit the differences between Anglo-American and German imperialism didn’t take Gray Zone type advice, not that anybody would be that stupid to offer it it in the early 20th century..

Who could blame Irish freedom fighter Roger Casement for trying to strike deals with Kaiser Wilhelm to get weapons to liberate his people? During a period of inter-imperialist rivalries, it was not considered a betrayal of socialist principles to look for such opportunities. In MN Roy’s case,  an Indian Marxist who sought weapons from the Kaiser, there was the added dimension of his writing the theses on national liberation adopted by the Comintern. How could you cozy up with imperialists and then write such classic statements of Marxist policy? The answer: easy unless you are moralizing twits like Norton and Blumenthal.

This is not to speak of V.I. Lenin’s stance with respect to the same bogeymen. In “To the Finland Station”, Edmund Wilson describes the uneasy feelings that some of his comrades had that were by no means as disgusting as Gray Zone’s attack on Socialism 2019:

In the train that left the morning of April 8 there were thirty Russian exiles, including not a single Menshevik. They were accompanied by the Swiss socialist Platten, who made himself responsible for the trip, and the Polish socialist Radek. Some of the best of the comrades had been horrified by the indiscretion of Lenin in resorting to the aid of the Germans and making the trip through an enemy country. They came to the station and besieged the travelers, begging them not to go. Lenin got into the train without replying a word.

Even after Hitler took power, some nationalists continued in the same vein, the most notable among them Subhas Chandra Bose who relied on both German and Japanese support for an army that could liberate India. Despite this marriage of convenience, Bose was politically on the left and an admirer of the USSR. Indeed, Stalin’s nonaggression pact with Hitler served his policy aims well as indicated by his 1941 Kabul Thesis written just before he travelled to Germany to consult with the Nazis:

Thus we see pseudo-Leftists who through sheer cowardice avoid a conflict with Imperialism and argue in self-defence that Mr. Winston Churchill (whom we know to be the arch-Imperialist) is the greatest revolutionary going. It has become a fashion with these pseudo-Leftists to call the British Government a revolutionary force because it is fighting the Nazis and Fascists. But they conveniently forget the imperialist character of Britain’s war and also the fact that the greatest revolutionary force in the world, the Soviet Union, has entered into a solemn pact with the Nazi Government.

While some sought advantage by aligning with the axis, others found the allies more amenable to their broader goals. While he would eventually find himself locked in a deadly struggle with American imperialism, Ho Chi Minh had no problem connecting with the OSS during WWII as recounted by William Duiker in his 2000 biography “Ho Chi Minh: a Life”:

While Ho Chi Minh was in Paise attempting to revitalize the Dong Minh Hoi, a U.S. military intelligence officer arrived in Kunming to join the OSS unit there. Captain Archimedes “Al” Patti had served in the European Theater until January 1944, when he was transferred to Washington, D.C., and appointed to the Indochina desk at OSS headquarters. A man of considerable swagger and self-confidence, Patti brought to his task a strong sense of history and an abiding distrust of the French and their legacy in colonial areas. It was from the files in Washington, D.C. that he first became aware of the activities of the Vietminh Front and its mysterious leader, Ho Chi Minh.

The next day, Patti arrived at Debao airport, just north of Jingxi, and after consultation with local AGAS representatives, drove into Jingxi, where he met a Vietminh contact at a local restaurant and was driven to see Ho Chi Minh in a small village about six miles out of town. After delicately feeling out his visitor about his identity and political views, Ho described conditions inside Indochina and pointed out that his movement could provide much useful assistance and information to the Allies if it were in possession of modern weapons, ammunition, and means of communication. At the moment, Ho conceded that the movement was dependent upon a limited amount of equipment captured from the enemy. Patti avoided any commitment, but promised to explore the matter. By his own account, Patti was elated.

Right now, the biggest question facing the left is class independence, something clearly of little importance to Ben Norton who is a big Tulsi Gabbard fan. In this interview, he is positively glowing about her political growth even though she had “odious” views in the past.

Trying to stake out a position that will stand out in a crowded “anti-imperialist” left will be tough for Norton and Blumenthal. You can read the same sort of thing in Consortium News, Moon of Alabama, Mint Press, Off-Guardian, 21st Century Wire, DissidentVoice, Information Clearing House, et al. To separate themselves from the pack, my advice to the two careerists is to find some sugar daddy that can throw some money their way. Ron Unz of UNZ Review not only has deep pockets but lots of sympathy for their tilt toward Russia and Syria. That is, if you can put up with his neo-Nazism.

June 1, 2019

Was the Douma chlorine gas attack a “false flag”?

Filed under: conspiracism,Syria — louisproyect @ 9:34 pm

Did jihadis do this rather than Assad?

Starting in May 2013, I have written 84 articles about sarin gas attacks in Syria, with another 9 dealing with the chlorine gas attack in Douma. So, whether you agree with my analysis or not, you’d have to accept that I have spent more time than the average person looking closely at one of the major issues dividing the left: whether all these attacks were “false flags” intended to justify an American regime change operation in the same vein that WMD’s were used by Bush, Cheney and Powell to drag us into Iraq. For people like Max Blumenthal, Jonathan Cook, Seymour Hersh, Robert Fisk, Theodore Postol, Vanessa Beeley, Eva Bartlett, Gareth Porter, and dozens of others, time has stood still. In 8 years of asymmetric warfare in which aerial bombardment has virtually annihilated the opposition to Assad, nothing has changed. We are still in the same situation as we were in 2013 when Obama was making empty threats about “red lines”. The “false flag” brigades are still at it, with the latest flare-up occurring over a leaked OPCW document that tries to make the case that the death of dozens of men, women and children in Douma on April 7, 2018 was not a result of a helicopter dropping weaponized chlorine tanks on a tenement but being placed there by jihadists who hoped to persuade Donald Trump to go to war because some working-class Sunnis were gassed to death. Yes, I know, this is an idiotic proposition but it is necessary to debunk it.

This propaganda offensive is taking place at the very moment when Syrian and Russian jets are bombing Idlib, the last piece of territory out of the dictatorship’s control, into oblivion. The NY Times reported on the situation there yesterday:

Over a quarter-million people have been displaced in the past month and 160 people have been confirmed killed, the United Nations said on Thursday, warning of an impending disaster if the violence is not stopped. Officials say the actual number of dead is much higher than 160.

Video footage of the bombardments, and of dead and injured children being pulled from the wreckage of homes, has flooded social media. In one, a small girl screams as she tugs at the arm of her brother, trapped under rubble. In another, a teenager pulled from a crushed building is told that his brother, lifeless beside him, is sleeping.

As has taken place in Aleppo and East Ghouta before, bombs have been dropped on hospitals. Since Blumenthal and company tend to regard the people living in Idlib like Netanyahu regards those in Gaza, none of this matters. In the war against jihadist, al-Qaeda, Salafist terror, only final victory will guarantee peace and the possibility of Bashar al-Assad moving forward with Baathist socialism.

On May 13, British academic Tim Hayward got his hands on a leaked OPCW (Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons) document written by one Ian Henderson, a former employee of the agency. In essence, Henderson argues that the two chlorine tanks found in Douma could not have been dropped from the air because the physical evidence of both the damage done to the tanks and to the buildings was not reproducible through computer models. Hayward and his small group of pro-Assad academics then launched a campaign to get the word out. Among the websites pushing hardest to absolve Assad are Moon of Alabama, Off-Guardian, World Socialist Website, Grayzone, and Consortium News—mainstays of “false flag” conspiracy-mongering confederacy of dunces.

One of the first reporters to jump on Hayward’s whistle-blowing bandwagon was Peter Hitchens, the British conservative and brother of Dubya’s chief “leftist” supporter Christopher Hitchens. Writing for the Daily Mail, Hitchens uses an argument that you have heard 10,000 times from the left:

I ask again and again why the Syrian state would choose to use poison gas in a battle it had all but won, when using poison gas was probably the only way to ensure American backing for the Syrian rebels. Why do so when with the aid of Russian airpower and Iranian and Hizbollah ground troops, it had turned the tide of the war already? What possible calculation could lead it to such a course?

If Christopher Hitchens supported a war on the basis of a WMD “false flag”, brother Peter supported Assad’s war against his own people using arguments found in the conspiracist left. Of course, it should be understood that the rightwing and the Assadist left are in total agreement about the jihadi menace to Enlightenment Values. David Duke, the LaRouche cult, Tucker Carlson, Ann Coulter, and the entire European far-right have all been keen on establishing Assad’s innocence.

Writing for CounterPunch on May 29th, British Palestinian solidarity activist Jonathan Cook claimed that Henderson’s report indicated that the Douma attack “ was very possibly staged, a false-flag operation by…al-Qaeda groups.” He adds that “It was vitally important that the OPCW reached that conclusion — and not only because the west has an overarching ambition for regime change in Syria.”

Most people familiar with American foreign policy probably understand that if the USA was really interested in “regime change”, it would have not taken 8 years to achieve its goal.

Keep in mind that after a sarin gas attack took place in Khan Shaykhoun a year earlier, Donald Trump’s decision to fire missiles at Shayrat air force base in Syria had little impact. To start with, the runway was not damaged—something that was never even part of the plans—and jets and helicopters took off a few hours afterward. According to Wikipedia, even the Russian defense ministry said that the “combat effectiveness” of the attack was “extremely low” and that only 23 missiles out of 59 fired hit the base, destroying six aircraft. It did not know where the other 36 landed. Russian television news, citing a Syrian source at the airfield, said that nine planes were destroyed by the strike but that they were inoperative at the time.

This time Trump did not even bother with a slap on the wrist.

Grayzone’s Aaron Maté allowed Theodore Postol to weigh in on Henderson’s report. Postol is a retired MIT professor who has been a consistent supporter of Assad’s innocence. He has relied on the chemistry knowhow of Maram Susli, better known as the Partisan Girl. To put it bluntly, she is a fascist who has appeared on David Duke’s podcasts. I guess that’s the sixth degree of separation between Grayzone and David Duke.

Postol reprises Henderson’s findings along the same lines found on most of these conspiracy-mongering websites:

That is to say: somebody was firing rockets and mortars; some of them landed on the roof of this building, one of them landed on the roof of this building. It produced a hole. And somebody else came along and hauled the cylinder to this location and stuck it through the hole and tried to make it look like there was a scene that was created where the cylinder fell, caused the hole, and then it happened to be sticking through the hole. Well it turns out when you do the mathematical calculation that’s not what would occur — this cylinder would just pass through pass through the roof.

This is the same Postol who concluded that it was Syrian rebels who launched a sarin gas attack in East Ghouta in 2013 and followed that up with another false flag narrative about a sarin attack in Khan Sheikhoun two years ago. When a missile was found in the ground at Khan Sheikhoun, he came to the conclusion that it was placed there just like the chlorine tanks in Douma. He wrote, “If this is in fact the mechanism used to disperse the sarin, this indicates that the sarin tube was placed on the ground by individuals on the ground and not dropped from an airplane.” His analysis drew from the Partisan Girl’s vast reservoir of chemistry knowhow (odd that an MIT professor emeritus never thought of consulting colleagues from his own institution.) Eliot Higgins and Dan Kazseta offer a useful rebuttal to Postol here.

Much of the focus on Douma has been on computer modeling, engineering ABC’s, photos of damaged ceilings and chlorine tanks, etc. What’s missing is any engagement with the people who were most impacted by this incident, the Syrians themselves.

Based on Postol’s account above, try to imagine what might have taken place in that building in Douma. To start with, the hallways were filled with people desperately fleeing a bombing attack. Accepting Postol’s version of the timeline, jihadists entered the building sometime before that morning and climbed the stairs with two tanks full of chlorine, each one weighing between two and three hundred pounds according to one chemical company. One tank was on a terrace just beneath the roof and the other was resting on a bed on a top floor apartment. So if you assume that it took a couple of men to transport these tanks up the stairs without attracting any attention, you probably have a dim view of Syrian working people. If “jihadis” would risk being identified as willing to kill men, women and children in order to get Donald Trump to bomb an air force base just for show, you have lost the ability to see Syrians as part of the human race. Only those so degraded by “Salafist” ideology would kill their supporters in such a manner. Frankly, the real degradation is that taking place is on the Assadist left, which has reached the point of no return advancing a theory this deranged.

Whenever I hear these tales about jihadis being so open to killing their own supporters, I wonder if those who advance them might be basing them on what Bill Maher has wisecracked about the Quran or a version of the Orientalism that Edward Said wrote about—the fanatical Arabs who don’t value life because their reward is in heaven. Indiana Jones versus al-Nusra, that sort of thing.

One more thing about the tanks. There is clear evidence of them being weaponized through a a metal harness with three key features: lugs for lifting them, tail fins at the rear to improve their aerodynamic performance, and a wheel assembly (presumably for maneuvering them out of helicopters. So, in addition to hauling these 300 pound tanks to the top of an apartment building without being noticed, you’d have to fashion the metal parts to give them the appearance of the actual bombs that Assad has used. This means finding a machine shop in Douma that would keep its role in this “false flag” incident a secret. As you can see from the picture of one of the tanks used in Douma, this is not a trivial matter:

I should add that the image above came from the conspiracy-mongering Off-Guardian’s media library. Apparently, it never entered the minds of these geniuses to consider how difficult it would be to construct such a harness from scratch. Then again, there was always Seymour Hersh with his belief that sarin gas could be cooked up in your kitchen.

Finally, there is the question of why the jihadis had never used such chlorine bombs to attack Damascus if they had the capability of building them. For men so indifferent to human life, especially their own supporters, why wouldn’t they have been willing to kill Alawite infidels? After all, Douma is very close to downtown Damascus and was deemed necessary by the Baathists to crush because it had been in mortar duels with the regime since the war began.

All you need to do is search for articles in Lexis-Nexis on “Douma”, “Damascus”, “Chlorine”, and “attack”, and you will not find a single article pointing to chlorine gas attacks emanating from rebel-controlled suburbs.

For that matter, your best bet is to have a look at probably the most comprehensive report on chemical attacks in Syria prepared by the Global Public Policy Institute titled “Nowhere to Hide: the Logic of Chemical Weapon Use in Syria”. I realize that this recommendation will be ignored by the Aaron Matés and Ben Nortons of the world who are likely being paid to write the garbage they write.  But for those not corrupted by rubles, it is a very informed presentation of the facts.

They were able to identify 336 confirmed chemical attacks in Syria. Of those, 98 percent were attributed to the regime and the other 2 percent to ISIS. While sarin gas is more deadly, chlorine is very useful because it has been tacitly accepted by the USA as legitimate weapon given the slap on the wrist at Shayrat air force base. The GPPI report lays out in some detail how chlorine is weaponized:

In the case of improvised air-delivered chlorine munitions, Syrian regime forces went through multiple phases of development. The available evidence suggests that chlorine barrel bombs are delivered almost exclusively via the Syrian Arab Air Force (SyAAF) fleet of Mi-8/17 transport helicopters. Again, we can see the influence of designs for conventional improvised munitions used by the same units from the same platforms. The initial attempts at developing air-delivered chlorine munitions in the spring of 2014 very clearly drew upon conventional “barrel bomb” designs used by government forces since August 2012: instead of high explosives and shrapnel, industrial gas vessels were lodged inside metal drums, occasionally wrapped with detonation charges to ensure rupture and the dispersion of the gas. Eventually, regime engineers developed a simpler, more functional munition design by using a welded steel “cradle” to convert a single, usually yellow, standard industrial chlorine canister into a crude but functional munition. The complete contraption features stabilizing tail fins, two “eyes” for easier loading and transportation, and two small sets of wheels that make it easier for the munition to roll off – two at a time – a ramp installed in the back of Mi-8/17 “Hip” helicopters. No explosives are needed, as the high-pressure canister – or its valve – are expected to rupture on impact. This design appears to have superseded all previous chlorine barrel bomb variants and has been in exclusive use since late 2016. Remnants of this type have since been recovered from dozens of sites across Aleppo, Idlib, Hama, and rural Damascus, including the site of the 7 April 2018 Douma attack.

Of course, none of this happened according to Assad’s propagandists at Grayzone, Consortium News, and other propaganda outlets. Probably the only other craziness that matches this is 9/11 Trutherism. It is no accident that Tim Hayward’s gang of conspiracy-mongers includes people like Vanessa Beeley who in addition to smearing the White Helmets as jihadis like Max Blumenthal does, believes that the attack on French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo was a false flag, that al-Qaeda wasn’t behind the 9/11 attacks, and that there are NATO “sleeper cells” living in suburban America that have infiltrated the anti-war movement. She has appeared onstage alongside holocaust deniers and has been interviewed for far-right German magazines. This information was furnished by Chris York in the British edition of Huffington Post titled “’Whitewashing War Crimes’: How UK Academics Promote Pro-Assad Conspiracy Theories About Syria”. It will help you understand how these loathsome, degraded, and cynical apologists for war crimes operate.

 

October 21, 2018

The murder of Jamal Khashoggi and the leftist tilt toward Mohammad bin Salman

Filed under: conspiracism,Saudi Arabia — louisproyect @ 10:10 pm

Leon Trotsky wrote an article in 1938 titled “Learn To Think: A Friendly Suggestion to Certain Ultra-Leftists” that warned about basing your politics on putting a minus wherever your own ruling class puts a plus:

In ninety cases out of a hundred the workers actually place a minus sign where the bourgeoisie places a plus sign. In ten cases however they are forced to fix the same sign as the bourgeoisie but with their own seal, in which is expressed their mistrust of the bourgeoisie. The policy of the proletariat is not at all automatically derived from the policy of the bourgeoisie, bearing only the opposite sign – this would make every sectarian a master strategist; no, the revolutionary party must each time orient itself independently in the internal as well as the external situation, arriving at those decisions which correspond best to the interests of the proletariat.

For most leftists who are still connected to the planet Earth, the focus must be on the brutality of the Saudi state and the Trump mafioso that is finding ways to discredit Jamal Khashoggi. Typical was Glenn Beck who tweeted: “If the Saudis did what the world is now saying they did, perhaps we will see what we all already knew: we should not be in bed with SA! But let’s also remember, Khashoggi was with the Muslim Brotherhood and not a good guy either. Both sides are bad here.”

This is basically the same thing heard from the Angry Arab who was interviewed on the Real News Network. If anything, he was even more vitriolic than Beck: “For much of his life, for the whole of his life mind this last year, this man was a passionate, enthusiastic, unabashed advocate of Saudi despotism. He started his career by joining bin Laden and being a comrade of bin Laden. There are pictures of him with weapons. He fought alongside the fanatic mujahideen, who were supported by the United States in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan among others, against the communist, progressive side in that war. And he was unrelenting in his advocacy on their behalf, as well as for his praise for bin Laden.”

Do the beliefs Khashoggi held 40 years ago when bin Laden was leading jihadists against the Russian occupation really matter today? On that basis, I probably should be denounced by the Angry Arab for having been a member of the Young Americans for Freedom in high school.

It is consistent with the Real News editorial outlook to invite the Angry Arab. For as long as I have been aware, Paul Jay’s broadcasts have featured the kind of people diagnosed by Leon Trotsky in 1938, especially the Grayzone crew that got booted from Alternet. Among them is Ben Norton who got into the act by Tweeting:

So one has to wonder if Norton is taking the side of MBS. If the CIA is the greatest danger to humanity, why not defend someone who they are targeting? As it happens, there are signs that he has shared the analysis of the Saudi state press on important matters especially when it comes to dealing with al-Qaeda, a group that keeps Norton awake at night for fear that one of its agents might put a bomb under his bed.

In July 2017, he and Blumenthal wrote an article fingering one Bilal Abdul Kareem as an al-Qaeda member. Kareem had gotten on their wrong side by interviewing jihadists in Syria. But some of their indictment came from an unlike source—the Saudi press. Given their obsession with Saudi Arabia as the source of Wahhabist terror worldwide, it is odd that they would find its media reliable.

They article states: “In fact, the Saudi Arabian news outlet Al Arabiya reported on June 7 that Abdul Kareem officially joined al-Nusra in 2012.” It turns out that Al Arabia was full of crap. It reported that Kareem was guilty because the man who produced videos with him was also an al-Nusra member according to British authoritiesThis is the same state that is about to suffer economic hardship just so it can keep Muslims out and is also the same state that put down the red carpet for MBS just seven months ago. That doesn’t get in the way of Norton taking its allegations at face value.

As far as I know, the only other person who is warning about a CIA coup against the Saudi monarchy besides Norton is the Moon of Alabama blogger, a German only known as Gerhard, who wrote: “Recently Khashoggi started a number of projects that reek of preparations for a CIA controlled color-revolution in Saudi Arabia.”

What evidence do they offer, other than the fact that some people who formerly held top posts in the Obama national security apparatus go on MSNBC and CNN to denounce MBS? Isn’t it obvious that Donald Trump administration is so committed to that he likens the attack of out-of-power figures like John Brennan to the opposition to Kavanaugh? These conspiracy-mongers don’t really care very much if their predictions don’t bear out. Three years ago, I told WSWS.org cult leader David North that WWIII was not on the agenda just because Nicholas Kristof called for a stepped up defense of Kyiv. For this, I was labeled a NATO tool. When you are dealing with the likes of David North, Ben Norton, the Angry Arab et al, you are entering a fact-free zone unfortunately.

Some on the left (using the term in its most expansive manner) treated news of Khashoggi’s assassination as “fake news”. The Off-Guardian, an Assadist conspiracist website, was one example with an editor weighing in just three days ago: “Do we currently know the man is dead? Let alone who may have killed him? I don’t think we can make that claim. We have an allegedly vanished journalist. We have a number of unproven claims, of varying plausibility. None of this is evidence of anything.” Caitlin Johnstone, who sees the world in exactly the same way as the conspiracy-mongers at Off-Guardian, used the same argument on the same day, almost as if they had been in contact: “So stay skeptical. Just because the talking heads are telling you that Jamal Khashoggi has been brutally murdered and it’s very important that you care doesn’t mean you have to believe them. If this is a propaganda narrative to advance a new oligarchic agenda, there’s no reason to go helping them advance it. Eyes wide.”

Eyes wide? More like the title of Kubrick’s last movie: eyes wide shut.

November 1, 2017

A Gray State

Filed under: conspiracism,Film — louisproyect @ 9:59 pm

Directed by Erik Nelson, “A Gray State” is a documentary about a man whose dark soul clearly piqued the interest of Werner Herzog, the film’s executive producer. Nelson produced Herzog’s “Grizzly Man”, another documentary about psychic disintegration, so the two obviously share the same sensibility. If you are a fan of Herzog’s work, this could not be a higher recommendation for “A Gray State” that opens on Nov. 3rd in NY (Cinema Village) and Nov. 24th in LA (Laemmle’s Music Hall) followed by a national release.

Its title is derived from that of the stillborn fictional film by David Crowley who killed his wife, their 5-year old daughter and then himself in January 2015—leaving behind words scrawled in his wife’s blood on the living room wall: “Allahu akbar”. His inability to finish the film, or even get a sizable chunk of it done, was probably one of the main factors leading to the tragedy. Using a film journal that Crowley left behind as a kind of suicide note, Nelson paints a picture of someone breaking down psychologically like Jack Nicholson’s Jack Torrance in “The Shining”. In contrast to Stanley Kubrick’s classic, “The Gray State” is far more chilling because it is about real people. Indeed, David Crowley is someone immediately recognizable to those following the rise of the alt-right. In the crowd-funding that led to the film’s trailer that went viral on YouTube, its success was virtually guaranteed since Alex Jones was one of its most ardent supporters.

David Crowley’s “Gray State” was a mash-up of conspiracist memes about globalism, the Deep State, out-of-control cops, and government snooping culminating in a civil war between men inspired by Rand Paul’s ideas on one side and the American military with FEMA leading the charge on the other. The trailer for the film evokes “Red Dawn”, except that the bad guys speak American rather than Russian.

Born in 1986, Crowley was one of those men who joined the military shortly after 2001 as part of the war on terror. Tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan turned out to be a disillusioning experience. In Afghanistan, he told a commanding officer that he could not feel responsible for another’s soldier’s life and was reassigned to sorting mail.

On leave from the military in Texas, he met a woman named Komel at a Waco bar and the two felt an immediate attraction to each other. Despite being the daughter of a well-to-do Pakistani immigrant, Komel was totally assimilated into American culture and open to the kind of adventurous, edgy existence that the free-thinking David Crowley sought.

After his discharge, she followed him up to Minnesota, where he enrolled in the Digital Video and Media program at the Minnesota School of Business, a for-profit school like so many that exploited veterans anxious to find a career outside of the military. After found guilty of ripping off students with illegal 18 percent tuition loans, the school was closed down in 2016.

While the film does not dwell on this, I suspect that a large part of Crowley’s difficulty in finishing the film was a lack of screenwriting skills. It is difficult enough to write a good screenplay, even if you have years of experience behind you. Just go see a recent Woody Allen movie and you’ll see what I mean. Judging from the trailer of “Gray State”, it looks like Crowley learned how to pull together some snazzy action scenes but probably had no idea about how to tell a story or create characters who could interact meaningfully with each other.

He certainly couldn’t have created such characters based on his own marriage since it was a case study in a failure to communicate. Just a month after meeting Crowley in the Waco bar, Komel accepted his marriage proposal. In the old days, they used to call that falling in love with a uniform. My mom made that mistake when she met my dad in Kansas City during WWII after he began attending Friday night kosher dinners at her mom’s house.

The marriage started off on a high note when Crowley became the charismatic figure addressing fellow libertarians at crowd-sourcing gatherings for his film. Articulate, muscular and handsome, he soon had them eating out of his hand. Unfortunately for him, the grueling task of writing a screenplay turned out to be a bridge too far. The final half of the film depicts him breaking down over an insurmountable task and, even worse, taking his frustrations out on his wife who had no idea that his disintegration would lead to a bloodbath. One can almost imagine her happening upon the screenplay he was working on, which only consisted of the words “All Work and No Play Makes Jack a Dull Boy” repeated ten thousand times.

In looking over the press notes for the film just now, I was pleasantly surprised to see that director Erik Nelson had “The Shining” in mind when he was asked about the beginnings of “A Gray State”:

I became aware of the story of David Crowley as a random news item. When I read a description of who he was and what he was doing, out of curiosity, I went to his Gray State website and saw his trailer, and, more importantly, a lot of the promotional materials he had shot of the making of this film. Concurrently, I was aware that his death was immediately being characterized by some conspiracists as being a SEAL Team 6 helicopter-ninja-hit, and I’ve always had a fascination with that kind of subculture in America.  When I produced Grizzly Man, I went out after subject Timothy Treadwell’s material, brought it back and put it together, and negotiated the rights for it, and was prepared to direct the film myself. I brought the idea of a narrative feature to Werner Herzog and he said, “That’s fine, but what about the documentary you are doing? Who’s doing that?” And I said, “I am.” And Werner said, “Well, what would you think about me directing the documentary?” I had the idea that I could direct a good documentary, or I could have the chance to produce a great one, and I just knew that Werner, combining his prowess, his myth and his persona with the material could result in something special. But I always felt I sort of had missed the opportunity to do the film myself, so I was looking for a story similarly striking to that, and when you discover it, you know it. This story felt, to me, like it could have the appeal of a psychological horror narrative like The Shining or Fatal Attraction. Within four days of the news breaking, I started reaching out through intermediaries to Crowley’s family, and there was a year hiatus while the police report was being prepared.

October 4, 2017

Was Saudi Arabia behind 9/11? A reply to Andrew Cockburn

Filed under: conspiracism,Saudi Arabia,September 11 — louisproyect @ 8:54 pm

In the latest issue of Harpers Magazine (dated October), Andrew Cockburn tries to make the case that Saudi Arabia orchestrated the 9/11 attacks. Key to this conspiracy-mongering is 28 pages of a previously classified 2002 Congressional report that supposedly connected the dots between the hijackers and Saudi governmental officials. This is typical:

The FBI files in California were replete with extraordinary and damning details, notably the hijackers’ close relationship with Omar al-Bayoumi, a Saudi living in San Diego with a no-show job at a local company with connections to the Saudi Ministry of Defense and Aviation. The FBI had investigated his possible connections to Saudi intelligence. A couple of weeks after the two hijackers flew into Los Angeles from Malaysia, in February 2000, he had driven up to the city and met with Fahad al-Thumairy, a cleric employed by his country’s Ministry of Islamic Affairs who worked out of the Saudi Consulate. Thumairy, reported to be an adherent of extreme Wahhabi ideology — he was later denied a U.S. visa on grounds of jihadi connections — was also an imam of the King Fahad mosque in Los Angeles County, which the hijackers had visited soon after their arrival.

Those 28 pages only surfaced because a former Democratic Senator from Florida named Bob Graham had raised a ruckus about Saudi complicity. As co-chair of the Congressional committee that produced the report in 2002, he had the clout to make it happen. You wouldn’t know it from Cockburn’s reporting but the Saudi government was just as vociferous in demanding that the 28 pages be released since they were sure it would clear them.

If you’ve read the 28 pages or articles about them, you’ll discover that there are three Saudis who had contact with a couple of the 9/11 hijackers when they were taking flying lessons in San Diego:

  1. Omar al-Bayoumi, who Cockburn describes as having a no-show job with a local company with connections to the Saudi Ministry of Defense and Aviation.
  2. Fahad al-Thumairy, a cleric who was on the payroll of the Ministry of Islamic Affairs. After al-Bayoumi met with al-Thumairy, he “accidentally” met the two hijackers at a Middle Eastern restaurant in San Diego.
  3. Osama Bassnan. He was a friend of al-Thumairy who funneled money from Prince Bandar bin Sultan Al Saud, the former Saudi ambassador in Washington.

Clearly, the Bandar connection is critical to establishing high-level support for the 9/11 plot since he was widely regarded as about as close to the ruling dynasty as you can get. Of course, he was also widely regarded as just as close to the White House, whichever president sat in the oval office. He had such a close relationship to George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, he was often referred to as Bandar Bush.

Cockburn cites a Hillary Clinton memo dated December 2009 that refers to Saudi donors funding Sunni terrorists all around the world, clearly agreeing with her claim. Yet this does not jibe exactly with Bandar advocating Saddam Hussein’s overthrow in Iraq in March 2003. I guess if you are into false flags, this might make sense since it would provide the necessary cover for Prince Bandar to have worked with al-Qaeda to completely destroy the Twin Towers—the symbol of American financial power—and inflict massive damage on the Pentagon, the symbol of American military power.

It does not seem to make much difference to Andrew Cockburn that Saudi Arabia has been a stalwart defender of American imperialism for decades. He does not bother to provide an analysis of why the chief voice of the ruling dynasty would act against his country’s strategic interests but instead invokes the wild card whenever this business comes up: Wahhabism.

It was the Al Saud family’s alliance with “the puritanical and intolerant Wahhabi sect” that explains the royal family’s support for the hijackers. Fahad al-Thumairy was an adherent of “extreme Wahhabi ideology” so naturally he would make himself available for the aid and comfort of the hijackers in San Diego.

What about Prince Bandar? How much of a Wahhabist fanatic was he? In 2013, when Prince Bandar stepped down from his diplomatic duties, Christopher Dickey wrote about his austere lifestyle in the Daily Beast: “When the prince was the ambassador he was the toast of Washington, and plenty of toasts there were. Bandar bin Sultan smoked fine cigars and drank finer Cognac.” Oh, I guess this was just a clever ruse to get the Americans to believe that he was a good old boy. When all the infidels finally went home from these affairs, I am sure he lashed himself with a cat o’ nine tails just to get right with Allah.

If George W. Bush was so determined to keep the 28 pages a secret, maybe he was in on the plot as well. And how about that Robert Mueller? He was also in on the act suppressing information that would blow the Saudi complicity sky-high. Cockburn writes:

The reason we know so much about the West Coast activities of the hijackers is largely because of Michael Jacobson, a burly former FBI lawyer and counterterrorism analyst who worked as an investigator for the Joint Inquiry. Reviewing files at FBI headquarters, he came across a stray reference to a bureau informant in San Diego who had known one of the hijackers. Intrigued, he decided to follow up in the San Diego field office. Bob Graham, the former chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told me recently that Robert Mueller, then the FBI director (and now the special counsel investigating connections between Russia and the Trump campaign) made “the strongest objections” to Jacobson and his colleagues visiting San Diego.

Whoa, Nellie! Mueller was trying to cover things up. The plot thickens…

The truth is that allegations of Saudi connections to al-Qaeda are bullshit and only a hair’s width in distance from the “controlled demolitions” people.

If the USA connived to open doors for men bent on its destruction, why wouldn’t it send in operatives to prepare a planned detonation of the twin towers or fire a missile at the Pentagon? If the ruling class was so desperate to launch a new war in the Middle East based on a “false flag”, why not?

The guilt of the Saudi government has been accepted by much of the conspiracy-minded left for obvious reasons. Osama bin-Laden admitted he was behind it and 15 out of the 19 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia just like him. Isn’t that proof enough? As so many guests on the Bill Maher or Jon Stewart show used to put it, we should have invaded Saudi Arabia rather than Iraq.

If you buy into this, it is probably a good idea to gloss over the long-standing relationship between the ruling class of the USA and the Saudi royal family. Saudi Arabia has been staunchly opposed to radical movements in the Middle East and supportive of stability in the West, where much of its oil wealth was invested. It supported the first Gulf War and has provided an open door to the construction of American military bases. In 2010 the USA signed a 60 billion dollar arms deal with Saudi Arabia, not exactly consistent with reports that they might be used to destroy American assets both economic and personal.

In fact, it makes no sense at all, especially in light of al Qaeda’s hostility to the monarchy. Indeed, one of the reasons bin-Laden gave for the 9/11 attack was the presence of American troops on the land where Muhammad was born.

But an alternative interpretation begins to make sense if you look beneath the surface. Bin-Laden and the 15 hijackers might have been Saudi but their roots were in the Yemeni tribe that has been brutally oppressed by the Saudi monarchy since the early 20th century.

The Arabian Peninsula was home to two major tribes historically, the Adnan who lived in the north and became the rulers of contemporary Saudi Arabia, and the Qahtani who dwelled in the south and are now referred to as Yemenis. Bin-Laden was a Qahtani descendant as were every single one of the Saudi hijackers. Furthermore, most of the initial cadre of al Qaeda were Yemenis from the Asir region of Saudi Arabia that borders Yemen and was Qahtani homeland. Like Texas, this was a piece of foreign territory that a more powerful nationality was able to conquer and absorb.

If you have trouble with the word tribe, it is simply a synonym for the more anthropologically precise “segmentary lineage” term that is defined in Wikipedia as:

A simple, non-anthropologist’s explanation is that the close family is the smallest and closest segment, and will generally stand with each other. That family is also a part of a larger segment of more distant cousins and their families, who will stand with each other when attacked by outsiders. They are then part of larger segments with the same characteristics. Basically, if there is a conflict between brothers, it will be settled among all the brothers, and cousins will not take sides. If the conflict is between cousins, then brothers on one side will align against brothers on the other side. However, if the conflict is between a member of a tribe and a non-member, then the entire tribe including distant cousins could mobilize against the outsider and his or her allies. This tiered mobilization is traditionally expressed e.g. in the Bedouin saying: “Me and my brothers against my cousins, me and my cousins against the world.”

In 1906 the Asiris formed a state under the leadership of Muhammad al-Idrisi, the great-grandson of a revered Sufi scholar known for his skillful debates against Wahhabists from the north. Following the collapse of the Ottoman Empire in the aftermath of WWI, al-Idrisi cast his lot with the British who he hoped could guarantee the sovereignty of his people. Instead the British chose alignment with Saudi Arabia that had became a state in 1932. Did this have something to do with the fact that the north had oil and the south virtually none? Do I have to ask?

Deciding that Asir must become part of Saudi Arabia, its monarch Ibn Saud went to war and was victorious. Some historians believe that as many as 400,000 Asiris and other tribesmen died as a result of Ibn Saud’s onslaught.

Once the Asiris were brought under Riyadh’s thumb, a process of forced assimilation took place with Wahhabi beliefs being forced down the throats of people whose customs could not be more remote from the austere but mammon-worshipping norms of the north. Qahtani tribesmen wore garments that amounted to skirts, revealing much of their legs. They were known as the “flower men” and frankly could pass for people walking around Haight-Ashbury in 1969.

As for the women, they liked to dress in colorful clothes and shunned the veil. Their elaborate headdresses were customarily bedecked with coins and jewelry.

To consolidate its grip on a people that obviously resented being forced into the Wahhabist mold, the Saudis constructed Highway 15 that would be the backbone of an economic-military presence in its newly acquired territory. It would have air bases, missile sites, and garrison outposts just like the Alamo. Guess who got the job of building Highway 15. Osama bin-Laden’s father. That project and others in Saudi Arabia generated billions for the family but did little to mollify his son. Even though the Asiris appeared to have been re-engineered as Wahhabi robots, they harbored resentment against the American presence in the region as well as the ostentation of the Saudi ruling class. From its inception, the Qahtani tribe had preferred a simple life and tribal camaraderie. Bin-Laden might not have had flowers in his hair but there were aspects of Saudi society he found deeply objectionable, in fact far more irritating than the reputed “Western” values like Madonna videos he supposedly reviled.

In order to understand the clash between the Asiris and the royal family, as well as to help debunk the outlandish claim that top Saudi government officials were involved with 9/11, you have to read Akbar Ahmad’s “The Thistle and the Drone” that I reviewed for Critical Muslim two years ago. Ahmad lays out the social divide between the descendants of the Adnan and the Qahtani:

Muhammad [bin-Laden] had come to feel at home in Asir. He loved its tribes, its ways, its history, and its cultural ambiance. One of his favorite wives was from Asir. In turn, the tribes of Asir accepted Muhammad as one of their own. Not only was he a fellow Yemeni, but they were won over by his easy charm as he held court sitting in a large white canvas tent with brightly colored cushions and carpets covering the floor. Muhammad received tribesmen who would petition him to settle disputes or for other assistance. He had become more than a mere construction worker. He had become their sheikh. The tribes would respond with loyalty when Muhammad’s son Osama would come to them for support. Twelve of the 9/11 hijackers were from towns along Highway 15.

While the oil boom made the Saudi royal family and its supporters very rich, little was done for the people of Asir. The large, extravagantly built holiday villas owned by the Saudi elite in Asir seemed to add nothing but salt to their wounds. In 1980 the poverty-stricken province had only 535 hospital beds for a population of about 700,000. Besides, given their religious background and its emphasis on austerity, the Yemenis disapproved of the Saudis’ arrogance and vulgar displays of wealth. Poor Yemeni tribesmen desperate for work looked for jobs in the Saudi cities. Typically, they could only find employment in the military or as cooks, gardeners, or drivers. After the kingdom began to invite immigrant workers from the Philippines and India, the Yemenis could not even obtain those menial positions. Their resentment against the Saudi centers of power remained a constant undercurrent of Asir society.

Eventually, the grievances against the ruling family reached a critical mass and led to open revolts. A cleric from Asir named Juhayman al-Otaybi led the seizure of the Grand Mosque in Mecca in December-January 1979 that was directed both against infidelity to Islam and the worship of riches in the country’s top echelons.

Finally, despite the emphasis on radical Islam versus the civilized world, a more plausible explanation for the violent clashes taking place around the world is not that different from that between tribes and civilization more generally. Indeed, Islam does not have to enter the picture as the British conquest of Ireland might indicate.

For Osama bin-Laden, the loyalty to Qahtani values might trump his Wahhabi beliefs. Indeed, if you take a close look at his statements around 9/11, there is a tribal element that stands out as Murad Batal al-Shishani pointed out in a March 4, 2010 Jamestown Foundation article:

A focus on tribes in Yemen has been a main reason behind al-Qaeda’s success in finding a safe haven there.  Abu Musab al-Suri, the first to see Yemen’s potential as a safe haven for the jihadist movement, has said that the main reason for considering Yemen a stronghold for jihadis is the tribal nature of its people and the solidarity between tribes. [3]. It was for similar reasons that Osama bin Laden addressed the southern tribes of Saudi Arabia in 2004, specifically in Asir province (which borders Yemen), naming the tribes and encouraging them to fight in Iraq. “Oh heroes of Asir and champions of Hashed, Madhaj, and Bakeel, do not stop your supplies to assist your brothers in the land of Mesopotamia [i.e. Iraq]. The war there is still raging and its fire spreading.”

Abdul-Ilah al-Sha’e, a Yemeni journalist, confirms that al-Qaeda has succeeded in building an alliance with the tribal system in Yemen because the country has not been “tamed” or “civilized” like other countries.  Tribes are still in control and thus it was easy to build alliances with them. [5] Abdul-Illah said that al-Qaeda wanted to recruit young people who were not afraid of death and found these young people in Yemen’s tribal and Bedouin societies, where acts of revenge and battles between tribes are still dominant, given the absence of state institutions (al-Jazeera.net, January 21).

 

February 19, 2017

Deep State, Deep Confusion

Filed under: conspiracism,Deep State — louisproyect @ 9:20 pm

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Googling “Deep State” and “Donald Trump” will return 833,000 links, with most posing the question of whether the CIA and other government agencies operating beneath the radar are working to unseat the president. While this concern has been expressed even before he took office, it spiked after Michael Flynn was fired by Trump for lying about whether he discussed sanctions with the Russian ambassador Sergey I. Kislyak. For most on the left, their hatred for “Deep State” tactics trumps their hatred for Donald Trump. Glenn Greenwald probably spoke for most in a Democracy Now interview:

One of the main priorities of the CIA for the last five years has been a proxy war in Syria, designed to achieve regime change with the Assad regime. Hillary Clinton was not only for that, she was critical of Obama for not allowing it to go further, and wanted to impose a no-fly zone in Syria and confront the Russians. Donald Trump took exactly the opposite view. He said we shouldn’t care who rules Syria; we should allow the Russians, and even help the Russians, kill ISIS and al-Qaeda and other people in Syria. So, Trump’s agenda that he ran on was completely antithetical to what the CIA wanted. Clinton’s was exactly what the CIA wanted, and so they were behind her. And so, they’ve been trying to undermine Trump for many months throughout the election. And now that he won, they are not just undermining him with leaks, but actively subverting him. There’s claims that they’re withholding information from him, on the grounds that they don’t think he should have it and can be trusted with it. They are empowering themselves to enact policy.

As should be obvious, there is a strong affinity between people like Greenwald and the Baathist amen corner. These people don’t understand how ridiculous it is to refer to the CIA trying to achieve regime change in Syria for 5 years. If the CIA was truly intent on removing Assad, it would have not acted with Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar (the three nations supposedly most committed to such goals) to block the shipment of MANPADs to Syrian rebels as the Wall Street Journal reported on October 17, 2012:

U.S. officials say they are most worried about Russian-designed Manpads provided to Libya making their way to Syria. The U.S. intensified efforts to track and collect man-portable missiles after the 2011 fall of the country’s longtime strongman leader, Moammar Gadhafi.

To keep control of the flow of weapons to the Syrian rebels, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar formed a joint operations room early this year in a covert project U.S. officials watched from afar.

The U.S. has limited its support of the rebels to communications equipment, logistics and intelligence. But U.S. officials have coordinated with the trio of countries sending arms and munitions to the rebels. The Pentagon and CIA ramped up their presence on Turkey’s southern border as the weapons began to flow to the rebels in two to three shipments every week.

In July, the U.S. effectively halted the delivery of at least 18 Manpads sourced from Libya, even as the rebels pleaded for more effective antiaircraft missiles to counter regime airstrikes in Aleppo, people familiar with that delivery said.

Reading between the lines, the Pentagon and the CIA only “coordinated” with the Sunni states to get its foot in the door. Without having a presence on Syria’s borders, it never could have been able to block the shipment of weapons that could have made the country a graveyard for MIGs and armored helicopters. That would have been the best way to facilitate a no-fly zone, by removing air power from the equation. There is little doubt that “regime change” could have taken place if the USA had not intervened.

Others like Alistair Crooke, a former British diplomat writing for the Putinite Consortium News, emphasize Trump running afoul of the Deep State for seeking détente with Russia:

Initially (and perhaps it still is so), Trump’s start point was détente with Russia. In terms of his aim to transform America’s foreign policy, that made sense. And one can understand why President Trump might be treading somewhat slowly on Russia, in the wake of the Deep State coup against Trump’s National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and the continuing attrition aimed against the President, but simply, were he to pursue his son-in-law’s plan, Trump will be handing over his foreign policy to the neocons.

I always get a chuckle out of the notion that Trump and the neocons are mortal enemies. Do you know who co-wrote Michael Flynn’s “The Field of Fight: How We Can Win the Global War Against Radical Islam and Its Allies”? Does the name Michael Ledeen ring a bell? A profile on Flynn in the New Yorker Magazine revealed that much of the book is practically plagiarized from Ledeen’s sorry body of books and articles. Ledeen is the Freedom Scholar at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. This is about as neocon as you can get with founder Clifford D. May now serving as President, who is also a member of the Henry Jackson Society, an outfit that is infamous for supporting the war in Iraq. Here is Ledeen on the countries posing the greatest threat to the USA:

It’s no coincidence. Russia, Iran and North Korea are in active cahoots. They are pooling resources, including banking systems (the better to bust sanctions), intelligence and military technology, as part of an ongoing war against the West, of which the most melodramatic battlefields are in Syria/Iraq and Ukraine.

To judge by their language, the leaders of the three countries think the tide of world events is flowing in their favor. Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei delivered an ultimatum to the West, saying that Iran’s war against “evil” would only end with the removal of America. Russian President Vladimir Putin marches on in Ukraine, blaming the West for all the trouble, and the North Koreans are similarly bellicose.

They are singing from the same hymnal. And they aim to do us in.

Right, they aim to do us in. So it turns out that the guy that Flynn is most closely allied to ideologically is ten times scarier than Hillary Clinton. If you still have doubts about Flynn’s close ties to Ledeen, I recommend The New Yorker profile linked to above. It states:

Flynn and Ledeen became close friends; in their shared view of the world, Ledeen supplied an intellectual and historical perspective, Flynn a tactical one. “I’ve spent my professional life studying evil,” Ledeen told me. Flynn said, in a recent speech, “I’ve sat down with really, really evil people”—he cited Al Qaeda, the Taliban, Russians, Chinese generals—“and all I want to do is punch the guy in the nose.”

Get that, people? Flynn said he’d like to punch a Russian in the nose. People get confused over Flynn’s ideological core beliefs by missing that his interest in Russia is solely based on its usefulness against ISIS. Just because he favored a united military front against ISIS, it does not mean that he has the same affinity for the Kremlin that someone like Stephen F. Cohen has. Just remember that the USA and Stalin were allied against Hitler. You know how far that went.

Even the NY Times got in the act, sounding a bit like Glenn Greenwald. In an article titled “As Leaks Multiply, Fears of a ‘Deep State’ in America” co-written by Amanda Taub and Max Fisher, there are concerns that the USA is becoming more like Egypt and Turkey where you had an elected president (Morsi) toppled by a deep state and another (Erdogan) overcoming the Kemalists, who are in many ways the deep state paradigm. For Taub and Fischer, the main worry is the leaks that Washington insiders are channeling to the Washington Post and the NY Times. Trump, of course, loved such leaks when they were used against Hillary Clinton. Now he is beside himself with anger. He has announced plans to have financier Stephen A. Feinberg conduct a review of the agencies responsible for such leaks and perhaps recommend a clean sweep that might look like Erdogan’s purge of the Gulenists who had become embedded in the military, police, universities and courts just like the Kemalists before them.

There is always the possibility that the campaign to dump Flynn had other motives besides his supposed tilt to Assad and Putin, even if there is scant support for such an analysis. CounterPunch editor Jeff St. Clair weighed in:

In an administration where prevarication has gone pathological, are we really to believe that Flynn was fired for not fully briefing Mike Pence on his calls with the Russian ambassador? Perhaps Flynn was canned for a simple reason, namely that he was in over his head, like most of Trump’s inner circle. Like many intelligence officers, Flynn is a professional paranoid, seeing conspiracies everywhere he looks. This can be a useful psychological trait in a field agent, but it can prove disastrous in an administer. Consider the case of spy-hunter James Jesus Angleton, one of the most wretched figures in the history of the CIA, whose mental collapse led him to see Soviet agents on every barstool and bus bench in DC.

Probably the most intelligent analysis of the Deep State was written for The Nation by Greg Grandin. Titled “What is the Deep State?”, it makes many very good points especially about the tendency for it to become a pet hobbyhorse of the conspiracist left. He writes:

Much of the writing frames the question as Trump versus the Deep State, but even if we take the “deep state” as a valid concept, surely it’s not useful to think of the competing interests it represents as monolithic, as David Martin in an e-mail suggests. Big Oil and Wall Street might want deregulation and an opening to Russia. The euphemistically titled “intelligence community” wants a ramped-up war footing. High-tech wants increased trade. Trump, who presents as pure id wrapped in ambition motived by appetite, wants it all—which makes him both potentially useful and inherently unstable, simultaneously a product and target of the deep state. In 1956, C. Wright Mills wrote that “the conception of the power elite and of its unity rests upon the corresponding developments and the coincidence of interests among economic, political, and military organizations.” If nothing else, the “Trump v. Deep State” framings show that unity is long gone.

In my view, trying to understand the concept as it applies to the USA is made more difficult by the political terrain that inhibits the growth of political parties tied to a social class. In a typical parliamentary system, you can have dozens of parties that speak for clearly delineated segments of society even if they use rhetoric that aspires to the universal. For example, there have been parties that cater to the interests of the landed gentry, the manufacturers, the urban petty bourgeoisie, the workers and even fractions within each distinct class formation, especially in France and Italy–always referred to in my high school civics classes as places where it is impossible to get things done.

When you form a government based on a parliamentary majority, you typically bring in loyalists from the winner or a coalition of parties. In the USA, there is an extreme tendency to homogenize politics with Obama’s “team of rivals” setting the tone for the bipartisanship over an 8-year period. The Democrats are obviously more committed to this type of governance but even the Republicans have reached “across the aisle”. When he was a Senator, John Kerry chastised Republicans for failing to be more like Reagan, who supposedly “put politics aside” to work with the Dems, especially “Tip” O’Neill. Within the state apparatus, there are bureaucrats who are less interested in party politics than advancing their own career goals. Given Trump’s open hostility to this machinery that operates within the narrow framework of Democratic-Republican centrism, you can expect resistance just as you would in a corporation that has a new CEO bent on shaking things up. As someone who has worked in places like Goldman-Sachs, I can assure you that the same internecine battles that are taking place in the American state apparatus also take place in the corporate world where sharp elbows are a fact of life.

To a large extent, the torrent of abuse directed against Trump from CNN, the NY Times and Washington Post as well as the leaks are rooted in the desire of all the Democrats and a growing number of Republicans like John McCain to return to the status quo ante. It is not so much Trump’s programs that stick their craws but his utter lack of the talents and experience that are need to shepherd the world’s biggest imperialist power in a period marked by economic decline and instability. Trump is under siege not from the “deep state” but by the professional political class and their servants in the media who would much prefer someone like Mike Pence to run the country. In other words, like Trump on “The Apprentice”, they desperately want to see him fired even if they are incapable of mounting a serious resistance to those of Trump’s choices who were not hoisted on their own petard like Flynn.

The challenge for the left in this period is to stake out and define its own identity and goals when much of the country will be mobilizing because of initiatives taken by Democratic Party officials, labor unions, university presidents, mainstream environmental organizations, et al. Without going too far in making such an analogy, it might be possible to see the current period as having something in common with the late 50s as the USA began thawing from McCarthyism. The winds of change were generally being fanned by groups such as SANE, the NAACP and the UAW. As the civil rights and student movement began to pick up speed, the demands became sharper and the independence from liberal politics became more pronounced. By 1967, there was a feeling that if the radical movement could break out of its confines and connect to the working class, it would be possible to have a revolution in the USA. That, of course, was an over-projection. But given the failure of the American economy to satisfy the expectations of a working population that can remember when the country was “great” (for those fortunate enough to get a union job), things can get very polarized rapidly. As Lenin put it, “There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.” Even if it is only apocryphal, it makes a lot of sense.

January 25, 2017

Is George Soros promoting a color revolution against Donald Trump?

Filed under: conspiracism,Soros — louisproyect @ 8:18 pm

George Soros

Recently one of the trolls who visits my website on occasion presented a rather unique interpretation of why the Kasama Project came to an end, differing with my analysis that it was a surfeit of Maoist sectarianism that was the cause.

Interestingly, the site flded [sic] quickly after the trolls began making connection between Kasama, BLM and George Soros. It’s interesting to note Kasama’s involvement with Occupy which is another Soros project. This helps to confirm the trolls assertion that Kasama (and RCP) are Soros fronts.

Could Occupy Wall Street have been a “Soros project”? Well, the first thing that came up when I googled Soros and Occupy Wall Street was an article in RT.com titled “Is George Soros behind Occupy Wall Street?” dated October 14, 2011 and strongly implying that the answer was yes. Meanwhile, Russia Insider went one step further. It published an article titled “George Soros: The Ugly Face Behind Many Protest Movements” that posed the question:

What do the “Arab Spring”, the “Maidan Protests”, “Black Lives Matter”, “Occupy Wall Street”, “Open Borders” and many other movements have in common? George Soros.

Further research revealed that among the other schemes Soros has hatched deep within the bowels of his Open Society, which for websites such as Russia Insider assumes the character of the villain’s lair in a James Bond movie, is the protests that took place in the USA on January 21. It was, as conspiracist Michel Chossudovsky par excellence put it, a “colored revolution”. He repeats the arguments of the Russian Insider as if they had been written by the same person:

What is at stake is a “color revolution” Made in America which is marked by fundamental rivalries within the US establishment, namely the clash between competing corporate factions, each of which is intent upon exerting control over the incoming US presidency.

The OTPOR-CANVAS-CIA model is nonetheless relevant. Several foundations involved in funding color revolutions internationally are involved in funding the anti-Trump campaign.

Moreover, while CANVAS’ mandate is to oversee “color revolutions” internationally, it also has links with a number of NGOs currently involved in the anti-Trump campaign including The Occupy Wall Street Movement (OWS). OWS launched by Adbusters was funded via the Tides Foundation which in turn is funded by a number of corporate foundations and charities, including the Ford Foundation, Gates Foundation and the Open Society Institute. Ford is known to have historical links to US intelligence.

Iran’s PressTV was in sync with Professor Chossudovsky and Russian Insider. They ran an article titled “Soros orchestrating color revolution against Trump: Analyst” that began “Jewish business magnate George Soros has orchestrated a ‘color revolution’ against US President-elect Donald Trump, says an American political analyst, pointing to nationwide anti-Trump protests as evidence.” Very important to get that “Jewish” thing going on except most of these types of commentaries are a bit more discreet about their anti-Semitism like when RT.com published an article about a trip Soros made to the Ukraine: “Soros, born György Schwartz in Hungary, fled in the 1940s for the UK and later became an American citizen.” How can anybody trust someone with a name like György Schwartz, I tell you.

The “analyst” referred to in the PressTV article is one E. Michael Jones, the editor of Culture Wars Magazine, who asserted: “What we are seeing here now is George Soros once again intervening in the internal politics of the United States by creating a color revolution.” Wow, very radical. Succumbing to my insatiable curiosity, I visited Culture Wars Magazine and learned that it is behind a publishing company called Fidelity that includes titles by Jones and like-minded deep thinkers. One by Jones is titled “The Jewish Revolutionary Spirit and Its Impact on World History” that according to one sympathetic critic makes the case that “when Jews rejected Christ, they rejected Logos in all its forms and became enemies of the social order”. I confess that sounds a bit like me.

Jeff Rense, an anti-Semite second to none, wrote a glowing review of the book that includes these intriguing insights:

The true “Jewish revolutionary spirit” is “to overturn” God and replace Him with Lucifer who represents the self-interest of the Illuminati (i.e. central bankers, Organized Jewry and Freemasonry.) This also was confirmed by Christian Rakovsky in his KGB interrogation.

 This also was confirmed by Christian Rakovsky in his KGB interrogation. “Christianity is our only real enemy since all the political and economic phenomena of the bourgeois states are only its consequences,” Rakovsky, says. Peace is “counter-revolutionary” since it is war that paves the way for revolution.

It’s not every day when you run into something like this. A convergence of Iranian clerical reaction, anti-Semitism and a defense of the legitimacy of the Moscow Trials. But then again after 6 years of deepening insanity on the left about the role of Iran and Russia in the world, I suppose anything is possible.

Turning to the question of “color revolutions”, I admit to originally having the same kind of Pavlov dog’s reaction as most people on the left, especially when I was writing about the Balkan Wars. Just mention the word Soros and I’d begin to salivate. But when I saw some on the left defending Putin’s invasion of Chechnya in 1999, I was sickened by the response. The carpet bombing of Grozny that became the template for the disaster in East Aleppo was unacceptable and no amount of “anti-imperialism” could justify it.

One of the first color revolutions took place in Ukraine in 2004. At the time, as far as I can remember, I was not quite a supporter of either the Orange movement as it was called or the Kremlin, largely a result of lingering concerns about NATO’s role in Yugoslavia. But it never occurred to me to look too deeply into what drove people to demand a break with Russia.

It was the “Green Revolution” in Iran in 2009 that helped me clarify my thinking. By that time I had become a friend and comrade of Reza Fiyouzat, an Iranian living in the USA who was part of the Iranian revolutionary movement. He was blogging at http://revolutionaryflowerpot.blogspot.com/ at the time, a website that is no longer active but that still can be accessed for a first-rate introduction to Iranian Marxist thought. Unlike most of the left, Reza was able to stake out a position that was distinguished from both Ahmadinejad and his opponent in the 2009 elections, Mir-Hossein Mousavi who was a leader of the Green Revolution supported by Nicholas Kristof, George Soros and all the other usual suspects. He wrote an article for CounterPunch in 2009 that could serve as a guide to all of these “color revolution” scenarios:

Where Ahmadinejad has made loud claims of victory — e.g., pushing forth Iran’s nuclear program — the ‘reformists’ hit back with the assertion that the nuclear program started some 25 years ago (when the ‘reformist’ candidate, Mir-Hossein Mousavi, was the prime minister), and that Ahmadinejad should stop pretending as if he was the sole creator of the nuclear program.

Where the ‘reformists’ have piled on the accusations of economic mismanagement, topped with a 25% inflation, Ahmadinejad has hit back with (I’m paraphrasing here): “It does not take a mere four years to be in such economic mess. Did it all just start with my government? Was there no unemployment before my government? Were there no addiction problems? Was there no inflation? Was I handed a spotless Garden of Eden created by you (Mousavi) and your reformist colleagues, which has now turned into ruins?”

If you see the conflict between Ahmadinejad and Mousavi as analogous to the current polarized situation in the USA, it is necessary to make distinctions that would be lost on conspiracist minded figures such as Michel Chossudovsky and other pro-Kremlin websites that have been propagating the nonsense about a color revolution taking place in the USA (including such Assadist strongholds such as Zero Hedge, 21st Century Wire, Signs of the Times and the Wayne Madsen Report).

It is certainly true that Soros is funding groups that are opposed to Trump but they would exist without his money, which seems to be rapidly vanishing. Apparently, Soros has lost a billion dollars on a gamble that the market would plummet after Trump took office. That’s on top of another two billion he lost betting against the possibility of a Brexit. People haven’t gone to Washington to protest Trump because Soros has funded them. It is because he is deeply unpopular as this graph would indicate:

screen-shot-2017-01-25-at-2-44-57-pm

Soros’s goal is not to foment a coup. It is to throw his weight behind an emerging movement that is clearly designed to channel discontent into supporting Democratic Party candidates in Congressional elections, culminating in a recapture of the White House in 2020.

What is the role of the left in all this? As was the case in Iran, we should be for channeling that discontent into specific issues where the Democratic voter might be moved to rally around a struggle that has a class dynamic such as the pipelines that Trump has given the green light to, the right of a woman to have an abortion, his ban on immigrants from Syria, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen, the proposed wall separating the USA from Mexico, etc.

Some on the left are wary about the Women’s March because so many Democratic Party officials were involved with it. I have some experience dealing with such issues as a socialist and Vietnam antiwar activist. In 1969, David Hawk and Sam Brown, two staff members of the unsuccessful 1968 Eugene McCarthy campaign, proposed a Moratorium as a deliberate alternative to the coalition that the SWP had been part of. If we had taken a sectarian position, we would have denounced it and kept our distance. Instead we embraced it and joined the organizing drive to make it as big and as successful as possible. So instead of a watered-down and pro-DP festival, the Moratorium turned into one of the most powerful protests of the 1960s.

People who have not become radicalized always tend to follow the cues of bourgeois politicians. When I was 21 years old, I kept hoping (and even praying) that a peace candidate could be elected and end the war in the same way people today hope that a liberal Democrat could replace Trump and be a far better keeper of his or her promises than Barack Obama. While Bernie Sanders might run again in 2020, I expect that the candidate will be someone much more in the Elizabeth Warren mold. Soros is pumping money into groups that are promoting such hopes. It will be up to the left to figure out a way to exploit the rising discontent with Trump to channel it into mass actions that can have the same kind of impact that the Standing Rock protest did. Condemning this ferment as “reformist” would be a mistake but none so nearly as rotten as those on the far reaches of the American “left” that have the low political IQ to take Michel Chossudovsky, PressTV and RT.com seriously.

September 18, 2016

The uncontrolled demolition of the Truther brain

Filed under: conspiracism,September 11 — louisproyect @ 8:20 pm

Over the past five years I have monitored various pro-Assad websites in order to keep track of the amen corner’s latest talking points. At various times I have read Global Research, World Socialist Website and Moon of Alabama towards that end but never simultaneously since that would overload my circulatory and nervous systems to dangerous levels.

About three months ago I began monitoring a new website after one of my FB friends, who disagrees with me on Syria but like so many people is quite good on other questions, posted a link to an article on something called Off-Guardian that is focused on exposing the Guardian newspaper. As you might expect, they serve up articles crossposted from RT.com and other media associated with the “axis of resistance”. Given the generally fact-free environment of Off-Guardian, I am surprised nobody has started something called Off-Off-Guardian.

This month I was mildly surprised to see that they were avid 9/11 Truthers, posting numerous articles about a vast conspiracy that helped the USA launch wars on Afghanistan and Iraq. I say mildly surprised since Off-Guardian relies on conspiratorial “false flag” mumbo-jumbo rather than any kind of class analysis. When I quoted Alexander Cockburn on Trutherism, who certainly would have agreed with them on the need to back Assad, they took great umbrage:

These days a dwindling number of leftists learn their political economy from Marx via the small, mostly Trotskyist groupuscules. Into the theoretical and strategic void has crept a diffuse, peripatetic conspiracist view of the world that tends to locate ruling class devilry not in the crises of capital accumulation, or the falling rate of profit, or inter-imperial competition, but in locale (the Bohemian Grove, Bilderberg, Ditchley, Davos) or supposedly “rogue” agencies, with the CIA still at the head of the list. The 9/11 “conspiracy”, or “inside job”, is the Summa of all this foolishness.

In some ways, it makes perfect sense that Trutherism would resonate with the Assadist left since their analysis of the war is based on the idea that intelligence agencies in the West plotted to remove Assad and then exploited “false flags” to justify its intervention. I reviewed this in an article I posted a year ago titled “Baathist Truthers” that points out how Wikileaks and other hacked material matters much more to them than class relations in Syria. One supposes that given the unfamiliarity with historical materialism in such circles, it could have hardly turned out differently.

As it happens, the spasm of Truther articles on Off-Guardian and some videos that cropped up on FB “proving” once and for all that 9/11 was a “false flag” got the old noggin worked up enough to say something about this nonsense. I realize that most of my regular readers would never believe that crap to begin with but as happens with me frequently, I write in order to get something out of my system rather than change anybody’s mind. It is self-administered psychotherapy.

This article will not attempt to refute all of the Truther claims since that would require more time and more words than is justified, plus the last thing that I have an appetite for is arcane discussions of whether jet fuel can melt steel, etc. Instead I want to explore the whole question of controlled demolitions, which is a sine qua non for the conspiracy theorists.

As I pointed out to the Off-Guardian people in a comment on an article titled “On the physics of high-rise building collapses”, “If you don’t think the impact of the plane was a factor but instead ‘controlled detonation’, you need to believe that a building as tightly guarded as the WTC (I know because I used to work two blocks from it and was there 3 or 4 times a week) allowed a small army of demolitions experts to come in unimpeded and deploy a huge amount of TNT.”

Except for that and a few other comments posted there, I was ready to let the whole thing drop because I understood that belief in a 9/11 conspiracy is about as far-fetched as believing that the moon landing didn’t occur, etc. However, when a FB friend posted a link to an article titled “15 Years Later, Physics Journal Concludes: All 3 WTC Towers Collapsed Due to Controlled Demolition”, I commented that it was nonsense. In the course of defending the article, he insisted that I watch a video that I dutifully did. That video and the Off-Guardian junk convinced me that this rebuttal was necessary even if doesn’t change a single mind. I need to get it off my chest, damn it.

When I got to the point in the video where there was some kind of proof of a conspiracy to bring down the towers through a controlled demolition, I was shocked to discover that it was this:

screen-shot-2016-09-16-at-11-51-21-am

In other words, we are led to believe that because the Ace Elevator Company had unlimited access to the elevator shafts, its men could have served as co-conspirators along with al-Qaeda and the CIA. This is rather mind-boggling when you stop and think about it.

You can get a flavor for the “analysis” about the role of Ace Elevator from an article titled “ACE Elevator Company: 9/11 Questions and Research” by Rick Shaddock. He finds it quite suspicious that the company is not mentioned in the official report. Neither is the security company that would have vouchsafed its work. But he does find it significant that the Larry Silverstein, the owner of the WTC complex, was able to hire “the Jewish firm Kroll for security.” Oh, I got it. Silverstein…the Jewish firm Kroll”. Now the scales are falling from my eyes.

One of the Truther commenters at Off-Guardian recommended a book titled “The Host and the Parasite” to help me understand how security could have bypassed prior to 9/11. To show how I take my ideological adversaries seriously, I even downloaded the book to Kindle (taking advantage of a temporary premium membership that I will terminate after I’d had a chance to look at the stupid book.)

Okay, here’s the deal. The Host is the USA and the parasite is Israel. Basically Felton argues that American politics is subservient to the state of Israel and that American Jews have no loyalty to the country—people like Larry Silverstein et al are dirty rats. You can get a flavor for Felton’s scientific acumen by his taking seriously the possibility that a “small-yield hydrogen bomb” might have been detonated on 9/11 in addition to explosives planted in the basement by unidentified agents. Why a hydrogen bomb? Because of the pulverization of the building into a micron-sized dust aerosol, the high incidence of cancer among emergency responders and the recording of an electromagnetic pulse by broadcast cameras. So where did they get the hydrogen bomb, you ask. Well, maybe Larry Silverstein called someone up at the Pentagon to get their help. Those Jews know how to use their influence after all. Small-yield hydrogen bomb coming right up.

Felton’s explanation of the WTC attack was “overdetermined” in Althusserian terms. His main emphasis is on it being a “false flag” as the chapter on the WTC being titled “A New Pearl Harbor” would indicate. But he also believes that it might have been the intention of Silverstein and Lewis Eisenberg, the chairman of PATH, to blow up the buildings to get the insurance needed for a more profitable real estate development. In other words, these were a couple of sneaky Jewish landlords who hired people to destroy existing low-yield property just like happens when parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn become gentrified.

While Felton is committed to the idea that it was explosives in the basement that brought the towers down, others finger Ace, which had a maintenance contract on the elevators. This means that someone was assigned to push a button an hour or so after the planes crashed in order to detonate the explosives that led to the collapse. The problem with this is that a remote control operation like this is obviously based on a radio signal in the same fashion as an IED being set off by a cell phone like in Iraq. But when a plane smashes into the WTC, the damage is extensive. One of two things would likely happen. The flames from the crash would have detonated the explosives immediately or if not, they would have destroyed the radio receiver that would be used to detonate them. In other words, this was an operation that had zero possibility of succeeding in conspiratorial terms.

But going even further into cloud cuckoo land, consider the possibility that an elevator company that has been operating for some number of years prior to 9/11 would have been staffed by men who were secret agents willing to place explosives in the WTC that killed 3000 of their countrymen. You would imagine that these would be the kind of super-villains like in Bruce Willis’s “Die Hard”, nihilists ready to take part in a Pearl Harbor attack on their own country and at the same time experienced elevator mechanics. Can you imagine recruiting people for such a job?

ACE corporate recruiter: So, Joe, I see you were in the marines. Any particular skills you learned there?

Joe: I was trained in the use of explosives.

ACE corporate recruiter: Perfect. We’re staffing up for a project to bring down the WTC so that Bush will have the excuse he needs to invade Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as help Larry Silverstein get the insurance payments he needs for a new real estate development. When can you start?

Joe: Um, I have to talk it over with my wife first since her dad works in the WTC. But I guess we’ll have no problems as long as the pay is good. We want to build a swimming pool in the back yard plus I have same sort of devil may care attitude as another marine named Lee Harvey Oswald.

But for sheer imagination, nothing can top Kevin Ryan’s four-part series “Demolition Access to the WTC Towers.”  This is a 94-page treatise that would have you believe that there were six degrees of separation between the Pope and Osama bin Laden.

Marsh & McLennan is an investment firm that lost all its employees on 9/11 when a plane hit the north tower. For Ryan, however, CEO Jeffrey Greenberg might have been part of the conspiracy along with ACE elevators and al-Qaeda since he was a member of the Brookings Institution, the Trilateral Commission, and the son of the chairman of American International Group (AIG), a firm reported to be at the center of a number of CIA operations.

Can you imagine the conversation between Jeffrey Greenberg and the CIA agent supervising the 9/11 attacks?

CIA biggie: Look, Jeffrey, we want to run something by you. The agency is part of a top-secret operation that will result in the WTC and the Pentagon being attacked and leveled to the ground on 9/11 with the loss of thousands of lives, including all the people who work for you at Marsh & McLennan. This is a big deal for America since we need an excuse to invade Afghanistan and Iraq as part of an overall exercise to control oil resources everywhere.

Greenberg: Sounds good to me. I’ve gotten bored with the investment business anyhow and am thinking about starting a yoga ranch in the Hamptons. I’ll just make sure to call in sick that day.

In part two, Ryan explores the shady connections of the man who ran Kroll, the “Jewish security firm”. His name was Brian Michael Jenkins. While clearly not a Jew, there were all sorts of red flags associated with his career. He was “chairman of the RAND Corporation’s Political Science department and he directed RAND’s research on political violence. He also had served as a captain in the Green Berets in the Dominican Republic and later in Vietnam.” At the risk of sounding like I was part of the conspiracy myself, I would only point out that this is the typical CV for someone heading up a security firm, especially one that oversaw an obvious target like the WTC that had been attacked once before in 1993. What kind of prior work experience wouldn’t arouse Ryan’s suspicions? A lead guitarist for a punk rock band? A professional ice skater?

What seems beyond the realm of possibility for these people is that Islamic fundamentalists conspired to attack the WTC because of American support for the Saudi potentates, the Israeli apartheid state and other affronts to Muslims. Occam’s Razor states that simpler theories are preferable to more complex ones because they are more testable. In the case of 9/11, it is best to test what happened not so much on the basis of physics but on that of political plausibility. The Truthers strike me as people who have read far too many of those cheesy spy novels that you can find in airport magazine shops. They would be better off reading Karl Marx. In fact everybody would be. It is far more useful politically and more important than ever in a period of growing class struggle.

 

May 6, 2016

Left Forum 2016: The Truth is Out There

Filed under: conspiracism,Left Forum — louisproyect @ 5:02 pm

Ever since I left the SWP in late 1978, I have been attending the yearly Left Forums in NY that were known as the Socialist Scholars Conference prior to a split in the leading bodies in 2004 over Yugoslavia. Veteran social democrat Bogdan Denitch, who died a few months ago, was viewed as a Serbophobe by the faction that would go on to form the Left Forum in 2005. That year there were two conferences, one in the name of the Socialist Scholars Conference and the other as the Left Forum. Next year there was only the Left Forum as many of the figures aligned with Denitch reconciled with their erstwhile ideological opponents.

From 2005 until 2015 (excluding 2007 for some reason I can’t recall), I have written reports on the Left Forum and more recently produced videos of the sessions I attended. This year I have decided not to attend since it has reached the point where quantity has turned into quality as Plekhanov might have put it. Or more accurately, it has reached the point where quantity has turned into excrement. In a nutshell, the same sort of idiocy that has taken over the left on Syria has become so pervasive this year that I cannot justify spending $70 to attend. Are there panel discussions that would be worth my while? I suppose so but that is almost like someone trying to convince me to tune into WBAI. The station exudes such a stench that my hand refuses to obey my brain’s order to dial up 99.5FM.

In a very real sense, the Left Forum has been transformed into something resembling WBAI—leading to the pun that it has been subject to Pacification. The other night the hand got the upper hand over the brain and I listened to WBAI for a couple of minutes. I was not surprised to see that they were in the midst of one of their biweekly fund-drives. Nor was I surprised to see that they were offering premiums for a 5 DVD documentary titled “The Great Lies of History”. One, of course, is about 9/11. Another is: “Cancer: The Forbidden Cures”. It claims that the “drug-dominated medical profession” has suppressed cures including Mistletoe and Bicarbonate of Soda. I suppose they are geared to oral and stomach cancer respectively. I don’t think that Lew Hill had this in mind when he launched Pacifica in 1946.

While WBAI is much more fixated on such quackery from the likes of Gary Null, it too traffics in the sort of “anti-imperialism” that has swamped the Left Forum. Amy Goodman, the station’s star for what that’s worth, has allowed Seymour Hersh to babble on about Syria in the very week that Robin Yassin-Kassab and Leila Al-Shami were in NY on a book tour for “Burning Country”. When Goodman was approached about doing an interview with them, she said no.

Meanwhile, Goodman and Slavoj Zizek are doing the closing plenary on Sunday night. At this stage of the game, inviting Zizek to speak to a left audience is almost as much of an insult as inviting Donald Trump. I have heard through the grapevine that Verso Press has cut its ties to the Elvis Superstar of Marxism over his filthy insistence that Syrian refugees adapt to Western norms but he is good enough for the Left Forum apparently.

I have to give credit to Amber A’lee Frost who sized up the 2015 Left Forum conference accurately in The Baffler.

That’s right: If you pay your registration fee and fill out the proper forms, you get a room and a table and a spot on the schedule. So in addition to all those experienced and intelligent rabble-rousers, Left Forum is a home for 9/11 Truthers, those who would save us from the terrors of “mandatory fluoridation,” and the generally batshit and/or pathologically anti-social. No one is required to observe their lectures, but they wander into other people’s and there is something truly dispiriting about not being able to distinguish self-identified radicals from the parodies of us imagined by the right wing.

Frost singled out a panel from 2014 as a “wackjob nadir”, the infamous “Žižek Delenda Est” (“Žižek Must be Destroyed.”).

The thesis of the panel—which featured at least one “tankie,” slang for Soviet apologist, or actual Stalinist—was that Slovenian Marxist philosopher Slavoj Žižek is some kind of COINTELPRO crypto-Nazi.

What’s odd about their obsession with Zizek is a failure to see how close he is to them ideologically. With his disparagement of the Syrian rebels as “a mess of fundamentalist Islamist groups”, you’d think he’d be hoisted on their shoulders. Of course, on the far left some of the bitterest quarrels take place among sects that were born from the same womb. Just look at the Trotskyists.

It must be said at the outset that the people who run the Left Forum are not identified with this kind of conspiracism. It just so happens that it is a Big Tent that allows virtually anybody to schedule a panel discussion. The fact that this year’s conference is flooded with “Žižek Delenda Est” type barking dogs only reflects the siren’s call of conspiracism on the left, one in which a Marxist class analysis is so sorely lacking.

Let me walk you through a few of the panels to give you an idea of what you can get for your $70, starting with Deep State: The Fabricated Global War on Terrorism — Why the Left Should Unite to Expose and Rebel Against It that pretty much epitomized the malaise that afflicts the Left Forum. The organizers breathlessly announce:

The yellow-journalism press rarely reports that ISIS was 100% planned, created and controlled by US/NATO/Israel/Turkey/Saudi forces. Publicly this newest bogeyman is reviled and used to whip up fear and bellicosity. Behind the scenes, ISIS is our shock troops, the go-to mercenaries to effect regime change in places like Libya and Syria, and ensure wavering countries like France tow the line.

One of the speakers is Wayne Madsen, an “investigative reporter” and author of “Unmasking ISIS”. He is a 9/11 Truther, as are many in this neck of the woods. As part of his investigative reporting, he came up with the startling revelation that Barack Obama is a homosexual who belonged to the same Chicago gay bath house as Rahm Emmanuel. Madsen was able to provide about the same amount of proof as those who allege that Obama was born in Kenya. Madsen’s articles have appeared in  CounterPunch, In These Times, The Progressive and The Village Voice. Don’t ask me why.

For more of the same, you can attend How Universal U.S. Sovereignty Threatens World Peace. It features Sarah Flounders of the Workers World Party and Michael Perino, who once told CounterPunch readers that about 50,000 Blacks were “massacred” in Libya. Since the highest estimate for all casualties in the Libyan civil war was half of that, who knows where Perino got his number.

Want to know about The Situation in Ukraine? Then haul your ass over to a panel organized by UNAC, the “coalition” made up of Socialist Action members and other like-minded leftists who have succumbed totally to the “axis of resistance” disease now an epidemic on the left. The SA members were educated in the Socialist Workers Party, a group that was distinguished by its embrace of Ukrainian opponents of Soviet domination in the 1960s. One of the speakers is Bruce Gagnon, who like many in this milieu blames Kiev for starting the civil war in Ukraine when it threatened to remove Russian as one of the official languages as if the people in Donetsk and Luhansk would suffer the same kind of fate as Kurds in Turkey. This was essentially a Goebbels type of big lie. The truth is that Russian would continue as a regional language along with 17 other languages including Yiddish but Ukrainian would be the sole official language, which only meant that it would be used in driver license applications, etc. Was that a reason for Putin to dispatch thousands of special forces into Eastern Ukraine? Obviously not. His real intention was the same as Catherine the Great’s—to keep Ukraine under Russia’s thumb.

You can guess from the title The US, Israel, Saudi Arabia and War in the “Middle East” (I have no idea what the scare quotes in the title indicate) what this one is about. Organized by the pro-Assad International Action Center, it includes Kazem Azin as one of the speakers, a contributor to Workers World newspaper and an ardent supporter of the Islamic Republic who once claimed that “Imam Khomeini was able for the first time to unite all religious groups and the majority of the people under the banner of Islam.” Of course, if you were stiff-necked enough to refuse being so united, you might end up being tortured in Evin prison.

If you miss the X-Files, as I certainly do, you might want to check in on Deep State: False Flags — How a United Left Could Defeat a “Global Gladio” Agenda since it features Richard Dolan as a panelist. Dolan is the author of “A History of False Flag Operations” but he is probably best known for his books on UFO’s and the National Security State. This leftist version of Fox Mulder once met with a CIA agent referred to as “Anonymous” who on his death bed revealed that The Truth Is Out There:

Facing impending kidney failure, this individual felt compelled to disclose secret information he feels is too important to keep secret. In the video, he claims to have served in the U.S. Army, worked for the CIA, and worked on the U.S. Air Force’s Project Blue Book–one of the USAF’s official studies of UFOs. And he refers to the project as “partially a fraud.” Asking for clarification, Dolan states, “You’re saying some of the Blue Book cases were completely fictitious?” The anonymous man responds, “Yes.”

“Anonymous” alleges that, after an invasion threat from President Dwight Eisenhower, he and his superior at the CIA were allowed inside the secretive Area 51 in Nevada to gather intel and report back to the president. There, “Anonymous” describes seeing several alien spacecraft, including the craft that crashed in Roswell, New Mexico. Then, he and his superior were taken to the S-4 facility southwest of Area 51 where they observed live extraterrestrials.

On Sunday there’s more from UNAC at The Fight to End US Wars as well as two 9/11 Truther panels, one titled Time to Take Down the Wall Between the Left and the Truth Movement and the other Exposing 28 Pages of 9/11 Evidence, Legislating Transparency. Don’t forget to bring the Sunday NY Times crossword puzzle in case your mind begins to wander. Also, for vintage conspiracy theory navel-gazing, you can’t top The JFK Murder Cover-up: Your Rosetta Stone to Today’s News, Elections, Policy. I suppose that one of the speakers will argue that Al Qaeda was on the grassy knoll at the rate things are going.

Just to be clear, 90 percent of the workshops are more conventional in nature. I wish I could say that this would be sufficient for me to shell out $70 but I am afraid that far too many are empty theorizing that I have little use for. For example, something titled Marx, Hegel, and the Current Situation  is a non-starter. Apparently the participants have been studying Hegel for years at the Brecht Forum and at the Marxist Education Project at the Brooklyn Commons. With all due respect to the speakers, I studied Hegel fifty years ago at the New School mostly to maintain a student deferment and don’t want to go back there now. But if Hegel works for you, don’t let me get in the way. That’s a helluva lot better than nattering about Area 51 but then again just about anything else is–especially for $70 that can be better spent on dinner for two at a Thai restaurant.

 

June 8, 2015

A reply to cult leader David North on an American “first strike” on Russia

Filed under: conspiracism,cults,nuclear power and weapons — louisproyect @ 5:36 pm

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David North

UPDATE: Comments have been closed on this article because I simply cannot waste my time replying to people who are not worth replying to. I regard the Socialist Equality Party as detritus left over from the period when sect and cult formations operated in much more fertile soil. Today they are completely irrelevant. I only commented on the WSWS’s laughable article because the website is influential to an extent on people who are not mentally ill. Those who are part of David North’s fan base had their moment to make their case here and they ruined it by evading my repeated demands that they explain the obvious contradiction between Robert Scher’s written statement and the comments he made–at least how they interpreted them–during the Congressional questioning seen on Youtube. That’s all folks. Don’t go away angry. Just go away.

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I don’t want to spend too much time replying to David North, the cult leader of a tiny group called the Socialist Equality Party that is one of the fragments left over from the breakup of sexual predator Gerry Healy’s International Committee of the Fourth International but it is worth pointing out once again why you read WSWS.org at your own risk, like smoking cigarettes or having unprotected sex. If the CP was syphilis in Trotsky’s eyes, this tiny group is not much more than a case of the crabs.

North thinks he has the goods on me because I referred my readers to Robert Scher’s opening statement to Congress. Scher, you will recall, was the source of a quote in AP reporter Robert Burns’s article that the WSWS interpreted as a possible first-strike nuclear attack on Russia after the fashion of Jack D. Ripper in Stanley Kubrick’s “Doctor Strangelove”. Burns told his readers that Scher said “we could go about and actually attack that missile where it is in Russia.” Taking Burns at his word, WSWS.org posted an article titled “U.S. Officials Consider Nuclear Strike Against Russia”.

North claims that the words do appear but not in the written statement Scher presented to Congress and only in the verbal response to questions posed by members of the committee:

The plain truth is that Robert Scher did make the statement attributed to him by the AP correspondent. However, the critical phrase (“we could go about and actually attack that missile where it is in Russia.”) does not appear in the written statement prepared by Scher in advance of the hearing. His opening statement, as is usually the case in congressional hearings, was not actually read by Scher. It was formally accepted and included in the record.

The real work of the subcommittee consisted of a 50-minute hearing at which Scher and several other witnesses answered questions put to them by congressmen. It was during the question and answer period that the statement relating to the Obama administration’s nuclear policy toward Russia was made.

The full video of the hearing is available on the YouTube channel of the House Armed Services Committee. Whether from laziness, dishonesty, or—most likely—a combination of the two, Proyect did not bother to consult the video record of the hearing.

In fact not much more than an hour after my article was posted, an old friend and professional archivist referred me to the Youtube clip in which Scher replies to the Congressmen. I listened to it and concluded that it reinforced my case. North admits that the word “attack” is not audible in the recording but is convinced that this is the only conclusion that makes sense. Sad, really.

Who knows if North read the written statement that I referred my readers to but it is clear that there is no difference between it and the answer he gave, as is obvious from North’s words, even if he did not understand their import: “He reviews three categories of military action (beginning at 17:50) that the US is considering if this does not happen.”

Undoubtedly the “three categories” are a reference to Scher’s Triad strategy outlined in his written statement that I alluded to in my article. As I pointed out, the Triad is not about a first strike but simply a restatement of long-standing Pentagon policy in line with “deterrence”, more accurately described as Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). This is a policy deeply inimical to world peace but not a throwback to American threats brandished during the Korean War about nuking China, etc. when the USSR was not in a position to provide a nuclear umbrella for itself and its allies.

As it turns out, the word “attack” that North insists was either inaudible or clipped was supposed to be in the second leg of the Triad. Below is the text of Scher’s written statement. If you believe that any of this is a first-strike manifesto, then there’s not much I can say to persuade you otherwise—least of all the people in David North’s cult who maintain that Joseph Hansen, Leon Trotsky’s bodyguard, collaborated with the Kremlin to have Trotsky assassinated. They are beyond help and would probably only benefit from a stiff dose of Thorazine.

Each leg of the Triad contributes unique characteristics to the overall force. Strategic submarines (SSBNs) provide maximal survivability. Current U.S. nuclear posture preserves survivability by maintaining a continuous SSBN at-sea presence.

Land-based ICBMs provide the most rapid response capability, while maximizing Presidential decision making time and preventing accidental launch. Current U.S. nuclear posture preserves that responsiveness and reinforces crisis stability by maintaining most ICBMs on alert. The ICBM force complicates the planning of any adversary contemplating a disarming counterforce strike by vastly increasing the required scale of such an attack. For regional adversaries with smaller nuclear arsenals, the challenge of even targeting our ICBM force is insurmountable.

Nuclear-capable aircraft that can be forward-deployed provide the United States with flexibility and visibility that supports strategic deterrence, extended deterrence of potential adversaries, and assurance of U.S. allies and partners. The air leg represents the full Triad when used by the President to help signal resolve. In this capacity, these aircraft provide the President options for controlling and limiting escalation throughout all stages of a potential conflict.

The combined effect of all three legs is to force any adversary seeking to negate our deterrent to invest in multiple expensive capabilities, including large-scale hard-target kill capability, advanced anti-submarine warfare (ASW) technology, and extensive, multi-layered air defense.

The scale and complexity of this task protect the long-term survivability and credibility of our deterrent. Sustaining a full Triad also enables the policy objective of maintaining the ability to hedge effectively against failure of any single warhead or platform, and against shifts in the strategic and geopolitical environments.

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