• All governments lie, but disaster lies in wait for countries whose officials smoke the same hashish they give out.

  • I.F. Stone

vrijdag 28 juli 2017

Rebuilding Aleppo


Out of the Ruins of Aleppo: a Syrian Community Begins to Rebuild

The crumpled heap of stones, all that is left of the minaret of the Great Mosque of Aleppo, asks questions of us all. How do we “restore” or “repair” or “rebuild” a jewel of Seljuk civilization from which millions of Muslims – perhaps even Saladin himself – were called to prayer five times each day for 900 years in one of the oldest cities of the world? I run my hands over these great blocks of masonry, chipped, gashed, some perhaps reusable, others hopelessly broken, fitted together with infinite care in 1090, less than 25 years after the Battle of Hastings. I notice others doing the same.
Mustafa Omran Kurdi has a face so deeply lined and expressive that it might be a map of ancient Aleppo, marks of mourning for both his lost brother and for the minaret of the mosque also known as the Ummayad. The Syrian war has destroyed other shrines, religious and profane. Isis blew up bits of Palmyra, the Syrian army and its enemies fought each other in the glorious souks of Homs and Aleppo. The Syrians say the rebels destroyed the Aleppo minaret, just as the Iraqis blame Isis for detonating the “leaning” minaret of Mosul. The Islamist cultists of Aleppo and Mosul, of course, both blame their opponents; rare indeed is it that the Iraqi regime and the Americans and the Syrian regime end up on the receiving end of the same accusation.
Given the surviving eyewitnesses in Aleppo, the Ummayad seems to have collapsed during a storm of shellfire, although several soldiers and civilians close to the structure say they felt the vibration of its fall when the rest of the city lay in momentary silence. The rebels of the time dug deep beneath the streets of Aleppo to advance their forces and dynamite their opponents. Did they simply undermine the Ummayad minaret in the north-west corner of the mosque? It wouldn’t have taken much of a vacuum amid the underground foundations to shift this gentle, 114-foot high stone creature off balance. The stones are covered today in a benevolent white dust, untouched since they fell more than two years ago. The dust clings to your hands. You can’t do much with dust.
But Mustafa Kurdi is the Great Mosque’s reconstruction supervisor – and if energy alone could restore history, he is the man to do it. His hands move around him like construction equipment, as fast as the Bobcat earth-shifter carries rubble from the colonnades five hundred feet away, sandbags and stones and rotting food bags, the detritus of war. “We are preparing now to bring the equipment to move the stones of the minaret and put them together and start to build as close as possible as the original minaret was,” he says. “Maybe some of the stones cannot be used again because they are broken. We shall have to find new stones from perhaps other old sites. If needs be, we can make new stones look like old ones. This is a vast task but we consider our main work is the rebuilding of the minaret.”
The black and white geometrical stone concourse of the mosque has largely survived, and although Kurdi and his men were forced to wall up part of a colonnade temporarily and support two collapsing pillars with iron bars, much of the structure is – dare one use the word? – “restorable”. There are wicked bullet gashes in the magnificent bronze chandeliers with their Koranic script in the colonnade, and stone walls pitted with holes crueller than any smallpox epidemic would leave on the human face. Once, this had been a pagan temple and then a Roman basilica, a Byzantine church – the pattern is familiar in Syria’s heritage – and then, under the Ummayads in 715 AD, a mosque.
Is there, perhaps, some comfort in the knowledge that the destruction of the Aleppo Great Mosque and its minaret is a recurring feature of ancient history? It was constantly attacked, restored after fire in 1159 by Nureddin and then totally destroyed by the Mongols in 1260. But we are supposed to be better than the Mongol hordes. Besides, there are fewer caliphs to provide the money for such work in the 21st century. And thus we come to the mysterious generosity of Chechnya.
All who work on the mosque say they have heard of this. None admits any contact with Chechens. It’s all up to the Syrian Ministry of Religious Affairs, they say. But Russia’s recalcitrant province has much to do with the Aleppo mosque these days. Chechnya’s chief mufti, Salakh Mezhiyev, arrived here to lead prayers for a delegation of Chechen officials. The Kadyrov Foundation, run by the family of Ramzan Kadyrov, the rebel-turned-loyalist Chechen leader, is apparently funding the reconstruction of the Aleppo mosque for £5.5m within one year – a snip if you believe the figures which, according to more architecturally-minded foreign experts, is far less than half the money needed for restoration. But, needless to say, it makes Russia look good. If Moscow can destroy Syria, as the Americans claim, it can also help to rebuild it. Russian reports that the Kadyrov Foundation publishes no financial data save for a 2015 asset statement of £19m – and that Chechens are forced to subscribe to the Kadyrov projects from their earnings – have not made their way into the Syrian press or television.
It is happier to return to Mustafa Kurdi and his love of the Great Mosque. “When we first entered the mosque [after the fall of eastern Aleppo last winter], the library of the mosque was full of stones and debris and pieces of iron and broken wood,” he says. “We have now cleared 95 per cent of this. Aleppo University made a three-dimensional topographical survey of the sites and the eastern colonnade is now under repair. This will open the way to the eastern souk. You must understand that the difficulty of all this is heritage, historical ‘value’. This is a living structure – a place to pray – and you cannot leave it in this condition. If my house looked like this mosque, I would not live in it.”
But Kurdi’s argument is more subtle than it might seem. “We have the materials and the experience in dealing with damage of this sort but we must remember that when the mosque is restored, everything else will return – not only those who pray but people shopping who stop in the colonnades to rest – because the mosque is the heart of this area. This is not just a religious symbol. It is a social place, part of our culture.”
He was at home in western Aleppo, he says, when he heard of the minaret’s collapse. “My wife’s tears ran down her face,” he says. “Later, these past few months, I saw young people of 16 or 17 come here to learn what happened. Some of the older people were crying. The younger ones were silent. I used to bring my daughter here when she was much younger – she was only eight or nine years old when this happened, but now she says, ‘I remember this place.’”
There is no doubt where Kurdi places the blame. “It is all these fighters who attacked this place. How can you make people leave their houses and their homes? I myself left my home in the Saef al-Dowla area and didn’t know where to go. Why did the militias attack our houses and our homes? Islam says you are forbidden from entering a home without permission. And this mosque is more important than that. After four days, I left my home in Saef al-Dowla with only the clothes I was wearing.”
By chance, I was in Saef al-Dowla on the very day that Kurdi fled his home. I don’t remember him, but I saw other men and women leaving their homes and asking the soldiers there if they would be protected if they stayed. Gunmen were attacking the soldiers too. It was a middle class area, now back under government control, although Kurdi’s imprecations about “entering a home without permission” did raise other questions in one’s mind. Should these same Islamic instructions not also apply, for example, to the state security police? This was not a question which Mustafa Kurdi asked. He took his family to his aunt’s home in western Aleppo, originally living in just one room. “We all lived there. Then my brother one day went to see our mother and on the way to her a bullet hit him and he was killed and he left four children.”
And each child’s soul, surely, was worth more than a mosque. No, this was not a question to ask Mustafa Kurdi. “We need a soul,” he said. “When Aleppo is rebuilt, it will be because of the love of its people. I have seen people in the destroyed streets putting chairs in front of their shops today, even though the shops have been destroyed. They gradually clean everything away. Aleppo will be rebuilt by its people. We need to see Aleppo again – all of it, because otherwise we will go on missing it. A poet once wrote that the ‘spirit of eagerness to see’ was sufficient for one person in just a glance at a city – but that for those who live there, even if we look constantly at it, it is not enough.”
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U.S. Deep State


The Deep State, Now and Then

Photo by Seattleye | CC BY 2.0
“…since grasping the present from within is the most problematic task the mind can face.”
— Frederic Jameson
Have you ever seen a photograph of yourself from the past and laughed or grimaced at the way you were dressed or your hair style? It’s a common experience.  But few people draw the obvious conclusion about the present: that our present appearance might be equally laughable.  The personal past seems to be “over there,” an object to be understood and dissected for its meaning, while the present seems opaque and shape-shifting – or just taken-for-granted okay.  “That was then,” says the internal voice, “but I am wiser now.”  Historical perspective, even about something as superficial as appearance, rarely illuminates the present, perhaps because it makes us feel ignorant and unfree.
This is even truer with political and social history.
In recent years there has been a spate of books and articles detailing the CIA’s past Cold War cultural and political propaganda efforts, from the creation of the Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF) with its string of magazines, to its collaboration with many famous writers and intellectuals, including Peter Matthiessen, George Plimpton, Richard Wright, Irving Kristol, et al., and its penetration and working relationships with so many publications and media outlets, including The New York Times, the Paris Review, Encounter, etc. These exposés show how vast was the CIA’s propaganda network throughout the media and the world, and how many people participated in the dirty work.
Joel Whitney, in his recently published book, Finks: How the CIA Tricked the World’s Best Writers (the word “tricked” ignores the eager accomplices), tells this scandalous story in illuminating detail.  His account informs and nauseates simultaneously, as one learns how the CIA penetrated NGOs, television, universities, magazines, newspapers, book publishing, etc., finding willing collaborationists everywhere – scoundrels eager to spy on and betray even their friends as they deceived the public worldwide; how well-meaning leftist writers such as Ernest Hemingway and Garcia Marquez were tricked into lending their names and work to propaganda publications; how leftists were set against leftists in an elaborate effort to sow paranoia and confusion that could be used to put the Soviet Union in the worst possible light; and how many front organizations were created to secretly funnel money to support these endeavors and make and break careers.  The story makes your skin crawl.
But that was then.  What about now?  Whitney doesn’t say, presumably because he doesn’t know; doesn’t have documentary evidence to name names.  This is not a criticism.  He does say that “we understand vaguely that our media are linked to our government still today, and to government’s stated foreign policy,” and he wonders if the ideology that drove the CIA’s past endeavors “remains with us. (I am reminded of Emerson’s words: “What you do (or don’t) speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.”).  Despite his use of tepid language about the present, especially that word “vaguely,” it seems that Whitney thinks similar propaganda activities are going on today, which is why a blurb for Finks at his publisher’s website (OR Books) and at amazon.com by James Risen of the New York Times, who has written two books about the CIA, strikes such an odd note.  It reads:
It may be difficult to believe that the American intellectual elite was once deeply embedded with the CIA.  But with Finks, Joel Whitney vividly brings to life the early days of the Cold War, when the CIA’s Ivy League ties were strong, and key American literary figures were willing to secretly do the bidding of the nation’s spymasters.
“Difficult to believe.”  For whom?
“Once.”  When? In the bad old days?
“When the CIA’s Ivy League ties were strong.” Does the CIA now recruit from community colleges?
Are these the good old days?  Such language usage makes one wonder: is it just a quickly scribbled blurb or carefully chosen words?
The Future is Now
No doubt the archives and sealed documents will be pried loose through repeated FOIA requests in thirty or forty years and the moans and groans about today’s bad old days will fill the air.  How could they have done such things?  It’s just outrageous!  But that was then, not now.  It’s different now; we are older but wiser.
It’s hard to suppress a sardonic laugh, so I won’t.  Today we are obviously drowning in CIA propaganda throughout the corporate mainstream media, and in the alternative online media as well. One has only to see “what they do, or don’t.” The documentation is in the doing, and it doesn’t take a genius to grasp how blatant it is.  It is in no way “vague.” But it does take good faith, and a passion for truth, which is sorely lacking.  Why this is so is a key issue I will return to.
As in the past, some propaganda is obvious and other subtler and indirect.  Yet it is relentless.  There may or may not be a comparable Congress for Cultural Freedom today, but with advanced technology and the internet, it may not be needed.  Methods may change; intentions remain the same. What was once done surreptitiously is now done blatantly, as I wrote in January: the deep state has gone shallow. Fifty years ago the CIA coined the term “conspiracy theory” as a weapon to be used to dismiss the truths expressed by critics of its murder of President Kennedy, and those of Malcom X, MLK, and RFK.  All the media echoed the CIA line.  While they still use the term to dismiss and denounce, their control of the MSM is so complete today that every evil government action is immediately seconded, whether it be the lies about the Attacks of September 11, 2001, the wars against Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen, etc., the coup in Ukraine, the downing of the Malaysian jetliner there, drone murders, the looting of the American people by the elites, alleged sarin gas attacks in Syria, the anti-Russia bashing – everything.  The New York Times, the Washington Post, CNN, NPR, etc. – all are stenographers for the deep state.
Denying Existential Freedom 
One of the first things an authoritarian governing elite must do is to convince people that they are not free.  This has been going on for at least forty years, ever since the Church Committee’s revelations about the CIA in the mid-seventies, including its mind-control programs.  Everyone was appalled at the epiphany, so a different tactic was employed.  Just have “experts,” social, psychological, and biological “scientists,” repeat ad infinitum that there is no longer any mind control since we now know there is no mind; it is an illusion, and it all comes down to the brain.  Biology is destiny, except in culturally diversionary ways in which freedom to choose is extolled – e.g. the latest fashions, gender identity, the best hair style, etc.  Create and lavishly fund programs for the study of the brain, while supporting and promoting a vast expansion of pharmaceutical drugs to control people.  Do this in the name of helping people with their emotional and behavioral problems that are rooted in their biology and are beyond their control.  And create criteria to convince people that they are sick.
We have been told interminably that our lives revolve around our brains (our bodies) and that the answers to our problems lie with more brain research, drugs, genetic testing, etc. It is not coincidental that the U. S. government declared the 1990s the decade of brain research, followed up with 2000-2010 as the decade of the behavior project, and our present decade being devoted to mapping the brain and artificial intelligence, organized by the Office of Science and Technology Project and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. How convenient! George H. W. Bush, Clinton, George W. Bush, Obama, Trump — what a difference! But this is science and the welfare of the world.  Science for idiots.
Drip by drip, here and there, articles, books, media reports have reiterated  that people are “determined” by biological, genetic, social, and psychological forces over which they have no control.  To assert that people are free in the Satrean sense (en soir, condemned to freedom, or free will) has come to be seen as the belief of a delusional fool living in the past , a bad philosopher, an anti-scientist, a poorly informed religionist, one nostalgic for existential cafes, Gauloises, and black berets, but being totally out of it.  One who doesn’t grasp the truth since he doesn’t read the New York Times or watch CBS television.
The conventional propaganda – I almost said wisdom – created through decades-long media and academic (don’t forget the pathetic academy) repetition, is that we are not free.  Let me repeat: we are not free.
Investigator reporter John Rappoport has consistently exposed the propaganda involved in the creation and expansion of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM) with its pseudo-scientific falsehoods and collusion between psychiatrists and the pharmaceutical industry.  As he correctly notes, the CIA’s MKULTRA mind-control program has morphed into modern psychiatry, both with the same objectives of disabling and controlling people by convincing them that they are not free and are in need of a chemical brain bath.
Can anyone with an awareness of this history doubt there is a hidden hand behind this development?  Once you have convinced people that they are not free in the most profound sense, the rest is child’s play.  Convinced that they are puppets, they become puppets to be played. Who would want to get people to believe they were not free?
Terrified to See the Current Truth?
There are many excellent writers who, because they are truth seekers, have used logical analysis to deconstruct the patent propaganda of deep state forces and their media scribes.  They do so through close reading (a skill once taught in schools) and historical knowledge without waiting for documentation, though sometimes it arrives from sources such as Wikileaks, FOIA requests, or government leakers like Edward Snowden or Chelsey Manning.  While not always definitive, many of these analyses clearly raise disturbing questions that give the lie to the presstitutes’ claims of innocent objectivity. Their arguments are laid bare so the CIA’s and deep-state’s handiwork shines through.  Robert Parry, Michel Chossudovsky, Paul Craig Roberts, John Pilger, James Petras, David Ray Griffin, Graeme MacQueen and many others have so demolished the propaganda that the question of why so many liberals and left-leaning people still refuse to accept the obvious echoes in the ears of those familiar with the Congress for Cultural Freedom’s machinations to set leftists and liberals against each other through media manipulation. While left and right-wing disinformation collaborationists are everywhere and the CIA obviously has its people placed throughout the cultural and media landscape, it is clear to me that there is something else involved.
So much of the ongoing propaganda travels under the banner of “the war on terror,” which is, of course, an outgrowth of the attacks of September 11, 2001, appropriately named and constantly reinforced as 9/11 in a wonderful example of linguistic mind-control: a constant emergency to engender anxiety, depression, panic, and confusion, four of the symptoms that lead the DSM “experts” and their followers to diagnose and drug individuals.  The term 9/11 was first used in the New York Times on September 12, 2001 by Bill Keller, the future Times’ editor.
Douglas Valentine, a true expert on the CIA and author of The CIA as Organized Crime and The Phoenix Program, has shown that the CIA’s highly structured assassination program in Vietnam – the Phoenix Program – is the template for “the war on terror.”  In other books he has shown how the CIA’s role in drug trafficking is directly linked to the massive increased usage of heroin and other street drugs, another face of the drugging of the country. Thus the “institutional” structure and consequent practices of one of the most ruthless propaganda and terrorist organizations of the United States’ deep-state (the Phoenix program) continues to this day here and abroad.  To think that the Agency’s handiwork once carried on under the banner of the Committee for Cultural Freedom does not continue today would take extreme naïveté, the inability to reason, historical ignorance, plain bad faith, or a combination thereof.
Which brings me back to the issue of why so many “liberal” Democrats – those whose bibles are the New York Times, NPR, The Washington Post, Democracy Now, etc. – can only see propaganda when they can attribute it to Donald Trump or the Russians.  Why has this group, together with their Republican and conservative fellow travelers, embraced a new McCarthyism and allied itself with the deep-state forces that they were once allegedly appalled by?  It surely isn’t the policies of the Trump administration or his bloviating personality, for these liberals allied themselves with Obama’s anti-Russian rhetoric, his support for the U.S. orchestrated neo-fascist Ukrainian coup, his destruction of Libya, his wars of aggression across the Middle East, his war on terror, his trillion dollar nuclear weapons modernization, his enjoyment of drone killing, his support for the coup in Honduras, his embrace of the CIA and his CIA Director John Brennan, his prosecution of whistle-blowers, etc.  The same media that served the CIA so admirably over the decades became the media that became liberals’ paragons of truth.  Why?
Let me try to answer by referring to two articles that appeared side-by-side in The New York Times Magazine for May 28, 2017.  Their content, style, and juxtaposition suggest an answer to the schizoid subtleties of master manipulators, and how cultural/political propaganda works in oblique ways off the front pages.
The cover story for that issue, “Aleppo After the Fall,” accompanied by the words “Life And Loss Amid The Ruins of Syria’s Fractious And Devastating Civil War” and a photo of a demolished Aleppo district, sets the tone, especially the lie in the words “civil war.”  The war was started under President Obama in March 2011 by the United States/NATO/Israel with the arming of Islamist “freedom fighters” in an effort to overthrow President Bashar al Assad. But the Sunday morning Times reader is immediately told otherwise, as they have been for the past six years of carnage. Most probably don’t notice the deception as they flip to the table of contents where they see a photo of cream puffs and coffee.
As they sip their morning coffee and think about cream puffs, let’s imagine our readers turning to the first major story preceding the Aleppo piece by Robert F. Worth, a contributing writer for the magazine.  It is an article titled “Empire of Dust” by Molly Young, also a contributing writer.  It is a title that suggests further disintegration of a most serious nature (no, not the American Empire), yet it is an article about Amanda Chantal Bacon and the rise of the wellness industry. A photo of this “beatific” 34 year old entrepreneurial guru in a flowing white gown in a half-lotus position, seated on a marble kitchen countertop surrounded by some “magical” rocks, takes up an entire page.  The photo, a Barthian signifier if ever there were one, is clearly meant to be deciphered by the Times’ clientele for secrets to the beautiful, luxurious, and peaceful life due to one of means and exquisite taste, one who will spend five dollars on a newspaper and live a balanced, Epicurean life of self-care and sophistication. Bacon’s massive light-filled kitchen with its marble countertops – a sine qua non of today’s “good life” – serves the usual elitist function of drawing in readers with a discerning, moneyed eye.
Alternately fawning and critical, Young begins by telling the reader, “The amount of time I waste finding and consuming alternative-medicine supplements for ‘brain function’ has made me at least 10 percent dumber, and that paradox is not lost on me.  It was that impulse that made me pause last year at a fancy store in Brooklyn when I spotted a glass jar labeled ‘Brain Dust’.”  From there Young takes us to Los Angeles, where she interviews the lifestyle guru Bacon, and we hear about Spirit Dust, Beauty Dust, Sex Dust, vaginal steaming, spirit truffles, and sunbathing the vagina, and to the Hamptons where she again spots Brain Dust in an expensive store that also sells “boeuf-bourguignon-flavored dog biscuits.” Young, having traversed the golden triangle – Brooklyn, L.A., and the Hamptons – tells us how Bacon captures her imagination even as she “was ashamed of its capture.” She drinks Power Dusted coffee with the Moon Juice founder who tells her, “I was told growing up in NYC that I had learning disabilities and mental illness. That was all the rage in the ‘90s.” (Presumably they are raging no longer.) After offering mild criticisms’ and writing that after visiting Bacon’s house she “wanted to move to California and eat bee pollen,” Young covertly orders bee pollen from her phone and ends by telling us that the Moon Juice bee pollen she has ordered “would arrive in two to four business days.” The reader is left to wonder who is dumber or smarter despite or because of the Brain Dust.
But if one is feeling brain dead, one can move or jump-cut to the next article, a piece of cosmopolitan gravitas meant to clarify who are the good guys and who the bad in the Middle East, specifically Syria.
Turning to this article on Aleppo, a juxtaposing of pornographic proportions, one is greeted with a two page photo of totally destroyed buildings in front of which walk a woman pushing a toddler in a stroller and a man pushing another toddler in a makeshift wooden cart covered in plastic sheeting. One flips from “Sex Dust” to disgust and heartbreak in a page turn. The reader is walked step-by-step into a piece of political propaganda, as Robert Worth tells us that “The Syrian tragedy started in a moment of deceptive simplicity, when the peaceful protesters of the 2011 Arab Spring seemed destined to inherit the future.”  This deception is then quickly followed with the claim that Assad used “chemical weapons in the town of Khan Sheikhoun in early April,” an assertion backed by no evidence and clearly refuted by Seymour Hersh, among others.  Worth tells us that “the Syrian regime (note the sly use of the word regime, a staple of linguistic mind-control) and its Russian allies repeatedly bombed hospitals and civilian areas,” and that in the United States such actions were “widely deplored as a war crime comparable to the worst massacres of the Bosnian war during the 1990s.”  One has to give credit to Worth for a masterful double-deception here, first by accusing the Syrians and Russians but not the United States of repeatedly bombing hospitals and civilian areas, and then segueing to the “Bosnian” war with nary a mention of the U.S./NATO conspiracy to dismantle Yugoslavia through proxies and the subsequent massive bombing of Serbia and Serbian civilians that were clearly war crimes committed by the liberal saint, Bill Clinton.  Throughout this piece Worth repeatedly accuses the Assad government of war crimes and atrocities while whitewashing the United States.  Immediately following his assertion of Syrian war crimes, he tells the Sunday Times’ readers that “ the State Department released satellite photographs suggesting that the regime is burning the bodies of executed prisoners in a crematory at the Sednaya prison complex, north of Damascus, in an alleged effort to hide evidence.”  This claim is based on a totally discredited claim  made in February 2017 by Amnesty International, and Worth, knowing that there is no evidence for this, cagily uses the words “suggesting” and “alleged.”  But juxtaposed with the war crimes assertions, only a careful reader searching for truth would notice the trick, surely not a Time Magazine reader already predisposed by the daily Times’s constant flow of government lies.  Quoting a speech by Assad in which he claimed there was a “huge conspiracy” to dismantle and destroy Syria, Worth dismissively rejects this obvious truth by quoting an anonymous former regime official (a common tactic) who says he was shocked by the speech.  If Assad had given a different speech, Worth notes, “the past six years would have unrolled very differently, and oceans of blood might have been spared.”  This is the imperial mindset at its finest, all rolled into an extensive New York Times Magazine article meant to enlighten and inform its alleged sophisticated readers.
Stylish Substance Abuse
What I am suggesting with these magazine examples is that the old trick perfected by the Congress for Cultural Freedom to juxtapose cultural pieces with political ones is alive and well today, even if the CCF or its equivalent doesn’t exist, since it isn’t needed.  Illiteracy has become the norm and stupidity the rule as the electronic revolution has destroyed people’s ability to concentrate or stay focused long enough to realize they are being taken for a ride by propagandists and that they are being purposely overloaded with information meant to create a felt need for “Brain Dust.” This has been going on for so long that to admit one is still being taken for a ride is equivalent to admitting to gullibility so profound that it must be denied. It is one thing criticize the politicians you hate – George W. Bush and Donald Trump for liberal Democrats and Bill Clinton and Obama for conservative Republicans – and to call them liars; but to contemplate the fact that the CIA has been lying to you through all these mouthpieces and your vaunted news sources are stenographers for the intelligence agencies is too much reality to bear. “I might have looked funny in that old photograph, but today I am with it and stylish.”
Sure.
Everything has become style today, and no doubt the CIA has learned that the trick is to hide truthful substance behind the style. Evidence is beside the point.  Just assert things in a slick style.  Assert them repeatedly, even when they have been proven false or fraudulent. Sex Dust and Power Dust may be absurd con jobs, but they sell.  They meet a “need,” a need created by the society that has slyly equated power with sex for a population that has been convinced they have neither and need drugs to endow them with both. A piece about Brain Dust may not have the drawing power of a Paris Review interview with Ernest Hemingway or Boris Pasternak, but then there were no “lifestyle gurus” in those days when people read real literature, not today’s New York Times best sellers. Propaganda was more literary in those days; it had to have substance. In a “wellness culture,” it has to have style. Today the only time you hear the word substance, is in “substance abuse,” which is fitting.
The CIA is in the styling business; they’ve gone shallow.  Everyone looks great that way, or so they think.
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Edward Curtin is a writer whose work has appeared widely.  He teaches sociology at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. His website is http://edwardcurtin.com/

The Myth of American Exceptionalism


The Myth of American Exceptionalism

Photo by August Kelm | CC BY 2.0
Like too many nations, the United States likes to think of itself as a chosen nation and a chosen people.  Presidential inauguration statements are typically an exercise in proclaiming American exceptionalism, and this mentality has far too much influence in the United States.  It’s particularly regrettable when individuals who should no better indulge the kind of hubris and triumphalism associated with American exceptionalism.
An excellent example of our exceptionalism appeared in Sunday’s Washington Post in the form of an op-ed by Tom Malinowski, the former assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor in the Obama administration.  In a fatuous display of ignorance, Malinowski lambasted Russian President Vladimir Putin for stating that the United States frequently meddles in the politics and elections of other countries.  Malinowski argued that it is Russia that interferes in democratic elections, such as the U.S. presidential race in 2016, but that the United States consistently “promotes democracy in other countries.”
One of the reasons why the United States has so little credibility in making the case against Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election is the sordid record of the White House and the Central Intelligence Agency in conducting regime change and even political assassination to influence political conditions around the world.  In 1953, the United States and Great Britain conspired to overthrow the democratically elected government of Mohammed Mossadegh in Iran; the following year, the Eisenhower administration backed a coup in Guatemala that led to the introduction of Central America’s most brutal regime in history.  Similarly, Eisenhower’s willingness to pursue the assassination of Patrice Lumumba in the Congo led to the installation of the worst tyrant in the history of Africa, Sese Seku Mobutu.
The Bay of Pigs is the “poster child” for American operational failure, and the CIA’s Office of the Inspector General put the blame squarely on what it described as “arrogance, ignorance, and incompetence” within the CIA.  Ten years later, however, another American administration and the CIA tried to prevent the election of Salvador Allende, a leftist, as president of Chile.  After Allende’s election, the CIA moved to subvert his government.  CIA director Richard Helms was given a two-year suspended prison sentence for lying to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee about the operation in Chile.  But it was national security adviser Henry Kissinger who ordered the operation and explained that he couldn’t “see why the United States should stand by and let Chile go communist merely due to the stupidity of its own people.”
The revelation of assassination plots in Cuba, the Congo, the Dominican Republic, and Vietnam finally led to a ban on CIA political assassination in the mid-1970s.  Nevertheless, when Libyan leader Muammar Qadafi was killed, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton boasted that “we came, we saw, he died.”  In an incredible turn of events, the United States invaded Iraq to overthrow Saddam Hussein, although it was a CIA-sponsored coup against Colonel Abdul Kassem that led to the emergence of Saddam Hussein in the first place.
Vladimir Putin is certainly aware of CIA intervention of behalf of the Solidarity movement in Poland to destabilize the communist government there in the early 1980s; to bolster the regime of former president Eduard Shevardnadze in the Republic of Georgia in the 1990s; and more recently to undermine the regime of former president Viktor Yanukovych in Ukraine.
Putin’s intervention in Syria in 2015 was designed in part to make sure that the U.S. history of regime change didn’t included another chapter in the Middle East.
Before former U.S. officials such as Tom Malinowski decide to lambaste Putin for cynicism and treachery, it would be a good idea to become familiar with U.S. crimes and calumny. Forty years ago, former senator Frank Church said the United States “must never adopt the tactics of the enemy. Each time we do so, each time the means we use are wrong; our inner strength, the strength that makes us free, is lessened.” Malinowski should ponder William Faulkner’s admonition about the land of his birth: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”
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Melvin A. Goodman is a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy and a professor of government at Johns Hopkins University.  A former CIA analyst, Goodman is the author of Failure of Intelligence: The Decline and Fall of the CIA and National Insecurity: The Cost of American Militarism. His latest book is A Whistleblower at the CIA. (City Lights Publishers, 2017).  Goodman is the national security columnist for counterpunch.org.

Declining Palm Trees

Computer census aids declining palm trees

Concerned that palm trees vital to his home country are vanishing in large numbers, a scientist has devised how to count them for conservation.
By Paul Brown

LONDON, 28 July, 2017
 – A method of counting palm trees by using images on Google Earth is being used to plot the decline of valuable trees across large tracts of dry land in the tropics.
The project was initially launched to raise awareness of the decline of the Palmyra palmBorassus flabellifer, in northern Sri Lanka, but the method can be used to count any palm or coconut species for a census of tree numbers. 
It is 93% accurate and will save both time and many hours of work, because the alternative is manual counting from the ground. The idea is to document the decline of trees and identify areas where new plantations can be introduced.
The Palmyra palm, a 100-ft (30 m) giant, has many uses, including as a roofing material for millions of people, and has been a vital resource for generations. There are as many as 40 million specimens in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu alone. Across the narrow strait in northern Sri Lanka, however, numbers have diminished substantially because of the country’s civil war, and human development.

Shade givers

Senthan Mathavan, a visiting research fellow of the School of Architecture, Design and the Built Environment at Nottingham Trent University, UK, is from Jaffna in northern Sri Lanka. He has watched the decline of the species with sadness. He said: “Even two decades ago, every backyard used to have five to 10 trees, and these provided the much-needed shade in the hotter months. This has become a rarity now.”
Outside developed areas there were groves of the trees. All tree cover has a cooling effect on the climate, and here the summer heat is becoming an increasing problem. “For me this is about using the technology I know very well to solve a problem that is going to change the landscape of the region I was born in,” said Dr Mathavan.
The system can be adapted to count other tree species with similar characteristics and to help formulate conservation programmes. The counts are being done in collaboration with the National University of Science and Technology (NUST) in Pakistan, where the trees are also a valuable resource.
Co-investigator Dr Khurram Kamal of NUST said: “It’s important that we’re able to gather reliable data on the decline of these trees to help ensure that something is done to mitigate their decreasing numbers.”
The Palmyra palm is distinguished by its blue-green fronds, which grow in a circular pattern, and its impressive height, which casts a distinctive shadow. Because the trees grow on dry land and a distance apart, it is possible using freely available Google Earth maps to do an accurate count.

“It’s important that we’re able to gather reliable data on the decline of these trees to help ensure that something is done”

The Palmyra palm has never been planted traditionally because it regenerates itself from seed, and local people have allowed them to grow. The fruit is eaten raw and used as an additive for food. It can be boiled, beaten and made into a flour that is high in nutrients and is added to rice to made traditional dishes. 
Palm shoots from the top of the tree are also used to make drinks, some of them alcoholic. A non-fermented drink is made into palm sugar, which is said to have medicinal properties.   The wood for building and the palm leaves make particularly good thatch and are used on millions of poor people’s homes.
However, in many places the trees have been cleared for development or replaced by coconut palms, which are used for a cash crop. 
The Sri Lankan government-backed Palmyrah Development Board hopes the survey will help it to promote a tree-planting programme. – Climate News Network
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