zaterdag 2 maart 2024

John Berger reads Ghassan Kanafani's 'Letter from Gaza'

The Psychology of Israeli Propaganda

Assange, Navalny, Gaza, Oekraine. Kees vd Pijl, Stan van Houcke

The Fascism of Revisionist Zionism / Rick Perlstein

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EPISODE 1705

The Fascism of Revisionist Zionism / Rick Perlstein

FEB 29

 

Zeev jabotinsky
RICK PERLSTEIN

The Fascism of Revisionist Zionism / Rick Perlstein

The American Prospect's Rick Perlstein on Israel's neglected history of revisionism, and a belated obit for Henry Kissinger. Also, we're announcing the winner of this week's Question from Hell!, a QFH! suggested by Rick.

Check out Rick's The American Prospect column, "The Infernal Triangle."

Help keep This Is Hell! completely listener supported and access weekly bonus episodes by subscribing to our Patreon.

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The CIA in Ukraine — the NY Times Gets a Guided Tour

 The CIA in Ukraine — the NY Times Gets a Guided Tour

Credit: Scheerpost/Wikimedia Commons

If you have paid attention to what various polls and officials in the U.S. and elsewhere in the West have been doing and saying about Ukraine lately, you know the look and sound of desperation. You would be desperate, too, if you were making a case for a war Ukrainians are on the brink of losing and will never, brink or back-from-the-brink, have any chance of winning. Atop this, you want people who know better, including 70 percent of Americans according to a recent poll, to keep investing extravagant sums in this ruinous folly.

And here is what seems to me the true source of angst among these desperados: Having painted this war as a cosmic confrontation between the world’s democrats and the world’s authoritarians, the people who started it and want to prolong it have painted themselves into a corner. They cannot lose it. They cannot afford to lose a war they cannot win: This is what you see and hear from all those good-money-after-bad people still trying to persuade you that a bad war is a good war and that it is right that more lives and money should be pointlessly lost to it.

Everyone must act for the cause in these dire times. You have Chuck Schumer in Kyiv last week trying to show House Republicans that they should truly, really authorize the Biden regime to spend an additional $61 billion on its proxy war with Russia. “Everyone we saw, from Zelensky on down made this very point clear,” the Democratic senator from New York asserted in an interview with The New York Times. “If Ukraine gets the aid, they will win the war and beat Russia.”

Even at this late hour people still have the nerve to say such things.

You have European leaders gathering in Paris Monday to reassure one another of their unity behind the Kyiv regime—and where Emmanuel Macron refused to rule out sending NATO ground troops to the Ukrainian front. “Russia cannot and must not win this war,” the French president declared to his guests at the Elysée Palace.

Except that it can and, barring an act of God, it will.

Then you have Jens Stoltenberg, NATO’s war-mongering sec-gen, telling Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty last week that it will be fine if Kyiv uses F–16s to attack Russian cities once they are operational this summer. The U.S.–made fighter jets, the munitions, the money—all of it is essential “to ensure Russia doesn’t make further gains.” Stephen Bryen, formerly a deputy undersecretary at the Defense Department, offered an excellent response to this over the weekend in his Weapons and Strategy newsletter: “Fire Jens Stoltenberg before it is too late.”

Good thought, but Stoltenberg, Washington’s longtime water-carrier in Brussels, is merely doing his job as assigned: Keep up the illusions as to Kyiv’s potency and along with it the Russophobia, the more primitive the better. You do not get fired for irresponsible rhetoric that risks something that might look a lot like World War III.

What would a propaganda blitz of this breadth and stupidity be without an entry from The New York Times? Given the extent to which The Times has abandoned all professional principle in the service of the power it is supposed to report upon, you just knew it would have to get in on this one.

The Times has published very numerous pieces in recent weeks on the necessity of keeping the war going and the urgency of a House vote authorizing that $61 billion Biden’s national security people want to send Ukraine. But never mind all those daily stories. Last Sunday it came out with its big banana. “The Spy War: How the C.I.A. Secretly Helps Ukraine Fight Putin” sprawls—lengthy text, numerous photographs. The latter show the usual wreckage—cars, apartment buildings, farmhouses, a snowy dirt road lined with landmines. But the story that goes with it is other than usual.

Somewhere in Washington, someone appears to have decided it was time to let the Central Intelligence Agency’s presence and programs in Ukraine be known. And someone in Langley, the CIA’s headquarters, seems to have decided this will be O.K., a useful thing to do. When I say the agency’s presence and programs, I mean some: We get a very partial picture of the CIA’s doings in Ukraine, as the lies of omission—not to mention the lies of commission—are numerous in this piece. But what The Times published last weekend, all 5,500 words of it, tells us more than had been previously made public.

Let us consider this unusually long takeout carefully for what it is and how it came to make page one of last Sunday’s editions.

In a recent commentary I reflected on the mess The Times landed in when it published a thoroughly discredited p.o.s.—and I leave readers to understand this newsroom expression—on the sexual violence Hamas militias allegedly committed last Oct. 7. I described a corrupt but routinized relationship between the organs of official power and the journalists charged with reporting on official power, likening it to a foie gras farmer feeding his geese: The Times’s journalists opened wide and swallowed. For appearances’ sake, they then set about dressing up what they ingested as independently reported work. This is the routine.

It is the same, yet more obviously, with this extended piece on the CIA’s activities in Ukraine. Adam Entous and Michael Schwirtz tell the story of—this the subhead—“a secret intelligence partnership with Ukraine that is now critical for both countries in countering Russia.” They set the scene in a below-ground monitoring and communications center the CIA showed Ukrainian intel how to build beneath the wreckage of an army outpost destroyed in a Russian missile attack. They report on the archipelago of such places the agency paid for, designed, equipped, and now helps operate. Twelve of these, please note, are along Ukraine’s border with Russia.

Entous and Schwirtz, it is time to mention, are not based in Ukraine. They operate from Washington and New York respectively. This indicates clearly enough the genesis of “The Spy War.” There was no breaking down of doors involved here, no intrepid correspondents digging, no tramping around in Ukraine’s mud and cold, unguided. The CIA handed these two material according to what it wanted and did not want disclosed, and various officials associated with it made themselves available as “sources”—none of the American sources named, per usual.

Are we supposed to think these reporters found the underground bunker and all the other such installations by dint of their “investigation”—a term they have the gall to use as they describe what they did? And then they developed some kind of grand exposé of all the agency wanted to keep hidden? Is this it?

Sheer pretense, nothing more. Entous and Schwirtz opened wide and got fed. There appears to be nothing in what they wrote that was not effectively authorized, and we can probably do without “effectively.”

There is also the question of sources. Entous and Schwirtz say they conducted 200 interviews to get this piece done. If they did, and I will stay with my “if,” they do not seem to have been very good interviews to go by the published piece. And however many interviews they did, this must still be counted a one-source story, given that everyone quoted in it reflects the same perspective and so reinforces, more or less, what everyone else quoted has to say. The sources appear to have been handed to Entous and Schwirtz as was access to the underground bunker.

The narrative thread woven through the piece is interesting. It is all about the two-way, can’t-do-without-it cooperation between the CIA and Ukraine’s main intel services—the SBU (the domestic spy agency) and military intelligence, which goes by HUR. In this the piece reads like a difficult courtship that leads to a happy-at-last consummation. It took a long time for the Americans to trust the Ukrainians, we read, as they, the Americans, assumed the SBU was thick with Russian double agents. But the Ukrainian spooks enticed them with stacks and stacks of intelligence that seems to have astonished the CIA people on the ground and back in Langley.

So, a tale with two moving parts: The Americans helped the Ukrainians get their technology, methods, and all-around spookery up to snuff, and the Ukrainians made themselves indispensable to the Americans by providing wads of raw intel. Entous and Schwirtz describe this symbiosis as “one of Washington’s most important intelligence partners against the Kremlin today.” Here is how a former American official put it, as The Times quotes him or her:

The relationships only got stronger and stronger because both sides saw value in it, and the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv—our station there, the operation out of Ukraine—became the best source of information, signals and everything else, on Russia. We couldn’t get enough of it.

As to omissions and commissions, there are things left out in this piece, events that are blurred, assertions that are simply untrue and proven to be so. What amazes me is how far back Entous and Schwirtz reach to dredge up all this stuff—even to the point they make fools of themselves and remind us of the Times’s dramatic loss of credibility since the current round of Russophobia took hold a decade ago.

Entous and Schwirtz begin their account of the CIA–SBU/HUR alliance in 2014, when the U.S. cultivated the coup in Kyiv that brought the present regime to power and ultimately led to Russia’s military intervention. But no mention of the U.S. role in it. They write, “The CIA’s partnership in Ukraine can be traced back to two phone calls on the night of Feb. 24, 2014, eight years to the day before Russia’s full-scale invasion.” Neat, granular, but absolutely false. The coup began three days earlier, on Feb. 21, and as Vladimir Putin reminded Tucker Carlson during the latter’s Feb. 6 interview with the Russian president, it was the CIA that did the groundwork.

I confess a special affection for this one: “The Ukrainians also helped the Americans go after the Russian operatives who meddled in the 2016 U.S. presidential election,” Entous and Schwirtz write. And later in the piece, this:

In one joint operation, a[n] HUR team duped an officer from Russia’s military intelligence service into providing information that allowed the C.I.A. to connect Russia’s government to the so-called Fancy Bear hacking group, which had been linked to election interference efforts in a number of countries.

Wonderful. Extravagantly nostalgic for that twilight interim that began eight years ago, when nothing had to be true so long as it explained why Hillary Clinton lost to Donald Trump, and why Donald Trump is No. 1 among America’s “deplorables.”

I have never seen evidence of Russian government interference in another nation’s elections, including America’s in 2016, and I will say with confidence you haven’t, either. All that came to be associated with the Russiagate fable, starting with the never-happened hack of the Democratic Party’s mail, was long ago revealed to be concocted junk. As to “Fancy Bear,” and its cousin “Cozy Bear”—monikers almost certainly cooked up over a long, fun lunch in Langley—for the umpteenth time these are not groups of hackers or any other sort of human being: They are sets of digital tools available to anyone who wants to use them.

Sloppy, tiresome. But to a purpose. Why, then? What is The Times’s purpose in publishing this piece?

We can start, logically enough, with that desperation evident among those dedicated to prolonging the war. The outcome of the war, in my read and in the view of various military analysts, does not depend on the $61 billion in aid that now hangs in the balance. But the Biden regime seems to think it does, or pretends to think it does. The Times’s most immediate intent, so far as one can make out from the piece, is to add what degree of urgency it can to this question.

Entous and Schwirtz report that the people running Ukrainian intelligence are nervous that without a House vote releasing new funds “the CIA will abandon them.” Good enough that it boosts the case to cite nervous Ukrainians, but we should recognize that this is a misapprehension. The CIA has a very large budget entirely independent of what Congress votes one way or another. William Burns, the CIA director, traveled to Kyiv two weeks ago to reassure his counterparts that “the U.S. commitment will continue,” as Entous and Schwirtz quote him saying. This is perfectly true, assuming Burns referred to the agency’s commitment.

More broadly, The Times piece appears amid flagging enthusiasm for the Ukraine project. And it is in this circumstance that Entous and Schwirtz went long on the benefits accruing to the CIA in consequence of its presence on the ground in Ukraine. But read these two reporters carefully: They, or whoever put their piece in its final shape, make it clear that the agency’s operations on Ukrainian soil count first and most as a contribution to Washington’s long campaign to undermine the Russian Federation. This is not about Ukrainian democracy, that figment of neoliberal propagandists. It is about Cold War II, plain and simple. It is time to reinvigorate the old Russophobia, thus—and hence all the baloney about Russians corrupting elections and so on. It is all there for a reason.

To gather these thoughts and summarize, This piece is not journalism and should not be read as such. Neither do Entous and Schwirtz serve as journalists. They are clerks of the governing class pretending to be journalists while they post notices on a bulletin board that pretends to be a newspaper.

Let’s dolly out to put this piece in its historical context and consider the implications of its appearance in the once-but-fallen newspaper of record. Let’s think about the early 1970s, when it first began to emerge that the CIA had compromised the American media and broadcasters.

Jack Anderson, the admirably iconoclastic columnist, lifted the lid on the agency’s infiltration of the media by way of a passing mention of a corrupted correspondent in 1973. A year later a former Los Angeles Times correspondent named Stuart Loory published the first extensive exploration of relations between the CIA and the media in the Columbia Journalism Review. Then, in 1976, the Church Committee opened its famous hearings in the Senate. It took up all sorts of agency malfeasance—assassinations, coups, illegal covert ops. Its intent was also to disrupt the agency’s misuse of American media and restore the latter to their independence and integrity.

The Church Committee is still widely remembered for getting its job done. But it never did. A year after Church produced its six-volume report, Rolling Stone published “The CIA and the Media,” Carl Bernstein’s well-known piece. Bernstein went considerably beyond the Church Committee, demonstrating that it pulled its punches rather than pull the plug on the CIA’s intrusions in the media. Faced with the prospect of forcing the CIA to sever all covert ties with the media, a senator Bernstein did not name remarked, “We just weren’t ready to take that step.”

We should read The Times’s piece on the righteousness of the CIA’s activities in Ukraine—bearing in mind the self-evident cooperation between the agency and the newspaper—with this history in mind.

America was just emerging from the disgraces of the McCarthyist period when Stuart Loory opened the door on this question, the Church Committee convened, and Carl Bernstein filled in the blanks. In and out of the profession there was disgust at the covert relationship between media and the spooks. Now look. What was then viewed as top-to-bottom objectionable is now routinized. It is “as usual.” In my read this is one consequence among many of the Russiagate years: They again plunged Americans and their mainstream media into the same paranoia that produced the corruptions of the 1950s and 1960s.

Alas, the scars of the swoon we call Russiagate are many and run deep.

Patrick Lawrence, a correspondent abroad for many years, chiefly for theInternational Herald Tribune , is a media critic, essayist, author and lecturer. His new book, Journalists and Their Shadows , is out now from Clarity Press. His website is Patrick Lawrence. Support his work via his Patreon site

(Republished from Scheerpost by permission of author or representative)




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