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who’s afraid of seymour hersh & his pentagon sources?

Seymour Hersh and What Really Happened in Khan Sheikhoun
Dirk Laabs, Die Welt, Jun 25 2017 (Translation: Charles Hawley)

[…] Now 80 years old, Seymour Hersh has proved to be an almost obsessive reporter during his career, willing to go to great lengths to overcome obstacles. And he has seldom demonstrated a willingness to compromise, a characteristic that hasn’t always made him friends at the publications for which he has worked, including the New Yorker and the NYT. He has pushed more than one editor to their limits. His reporting on Pres Obama was just as critical as it was on Nixon, the Bushes or Clinton. In an article two years ago, he wrote that some within the Obama administration knew that Osama bin Laden was living under the protection of Pakistani intelligence in Abbottabad long before the raid to kill him was ultimately launched (Bin Laden died in Nov 2001 in Abbottabad Hospital, with a CIA man taking notes at his bedside – RB). The story led to a falling out between Hersh and the editor-in-chief of the New Yorker and it was ultimately published in the LRB. In another story for the same publication, he quoted from a secret Congressional report which claimed that the CIA, during the Obama administration, had developed a rat-line to smuggle weapons from Libya to Syria in order to support militias fighting against Assad. The fake companies established as part of the rat-line, Hersh wrote, were later thought to have been used by the Turkish secret service to arm Islamist militias inside of Syria.

As has been the case so often in his professional life, Hersh was harshly criticized for his most recent stories about Syria, about Obama, and about bin Laden. Many say he goes too far and relies too heavily on anonymous sources. Crucially, though, no source who is actively working for a government can reveal classified information “on the record” without incurring considerable personal risk. That holds true in Germany as well. As has always been his practice, Hersh has told Welt am Sonntag the identities of all the sources he quotes anonymously in his story about Trump’s retaliatory strike against Syria. The paper was thus able to speak independently to the central source in Pindostan. Hersh had also offered the article to the LRB. The editors accepted it, paid for it, and prepared a fact-checked article for publication, but decided against doing so, as they told Hersh, because of concerns that the magazine would vulnerable to criticism for seeming to take the view of the Syrian and Russian governments when it came to the Apr 4 bombing in Khan Sheikhoun. Hersh had met a few times with Stefan Aust when he was editor of Der Spiegel and followed his career. According to Hersh, he knew Aust to be someone who was unafraid of the consequences of publishing stories that, when verified and checked, he knew to be true. It was a natural move to send the story, as edited, to him. It was a situation that Seymour Hersh had experienced before. At the very beginning of his career, no publication wanted to print his My Lai story either.

What exactly happened in western Syria on Apr 4 2017, when Khan Sheikhoun was bombed, is still not entirely clear. The events continue to be obscured by the thick fog of war. A Russian-Syrian-Iranian alliance is fighting against militia groups in the Idlib region, both Jihadi and otherwise. All parties to the war have two things in common: they reject democracy, and they view journalists as enemies, making it extremely difficult to report freely from this battlefield. As such it is quite surprising that, just hours after the attack on Khan Sheikhoun, politicians and the majority of media outlets had established such a clear picture of what had happened: that Assad’s troops had attacked the town with the dreaded poison gas sarin. But the town is under the control of Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS), aka Jabhat al-Nusra. It is impossible to know precisely how freely people can move about in this region and how openly they can report on the war, including doctors and members of Syrian relief organizations. Even in the very first interviews that were said to have come directly from Khan Skeikhoun, all of those interviewed agreed that sarin had been used. One doctor in town, who was quoted frequently throughout the day, took the time to film extensive video footage, conduct Skype interviews and, shortly after the attack, tweet:

OUR HOSPITAL GETTING FULL FROM THE SARIN ATTACK TODAY. ANYONE THAT WANTS EVIDENCE, I WILL VIDEO CALL YOU.

It is in fact quite difficult to ascertain at first glance whether sarin, another toxic gas or a chemical agent was used. The first reporter from a Western newspaper to reach the town worked for the Graun. His article included several quotes from people who claimed to be eyewitnesses: “We could smell it from 500 m away,” one said, referring to the gas. Yet sarin is odorless. To clear up the contradictions and questions, an independent investigation on site is needed. Were that to happen, it would be quite possible to determine if sarin was used, but such a process takes time in an active war zone like Idlib. Yet on Apr 6, when the Pindo Navy launched cruise missiles at the Syrian airport, the process of initiating an independent investigation hadn’t even been started. By bombing the Syrian airport, Trump set the tone for how the attack on Khan Sheikhoun would ultimately be interpreted and Pindostan’s Western vassals quickly concurred with his viewpoint. France published a classified intelligence report that claimed there were no doubts that Assad’s military had deployed sarin. Two hours earlier, then-French Pres Hollande had already committed to this position. He and Angela Merkel issued a joint statement about “the massacre with chemical weapons” following the Pindosi strikes. The statement read:

Pres Assad bears sole responsibility for this development. His repeated use of chemical weapons … demanded sanctions.

Their position was clear. Ultimately, though, it is up to a UN commission to decide whether an attack in Syria should be considered a war crime. The commission was formed in 2011 to investigate the war in Syria. The statement it issued after the Apr 4 attack was carefully worded, and the commission has been silent since. Members of the Geneva-based Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic are also aware of the complexities of the situation in the war zone. Analyzing, comparing, verifying and rebutting statements, data and reports takes time. It was a different organization, though, that pushed to the forefront to provide the quick answers everyone was asking for, the OPCW, an inter-governmental organization financed by the signatories to the CWC that works together with the UN. The organization has become more careful since Syrian rebels took an OPCW team hostage in 2014 and after the April attack, an OPCW team traveled not to the location of the presumed gas attack, but to the neighboring country of Turkey. Team members were able to observe the autopsies of three alleged victims of the poison gas attack. An NGO had delivered the bodies to the hospitals, though OPCW will not publicly comment on the identity of the NGO. Samples from the bodies were provided to two separate laboratories, which independently confirmed indications of sarin or sarin-like substances. In criminal proceedings, which are similar to the process followed by the UN in determining a war crime, it is a fundamental principle that all evidence be under the control of investigators at all times. That didn’t happen in this case. Indeed, the Syria Commission doesn’t intend to report its version of events to the UNGA until September, after it investigates all sources, particularly those on site in Khan Sheikhoun. Fighting through the fog of war to discover the truth takes time. But on Apr 4, when Pres Trump awoke and saw photos of dead babies and decided to respond immediately, the final results of a thorough investigation were as far away as peace in Syria. Asked if government lies still make him as angry as in his first days of his career, Hersh replied:

It is more than being upset about lying. It’s about the reluctance of us in the press to hold the men and women who run the world’s governments to the highest possible standards. We have a President in Pindostan today who lies repeatedly about the most meaningless of information, but he must learn that he cannot lie about the intelligence relied upon before authorizing an act of war. There are those in the Trump administration that understand this, which is why I learned the information I did. If this story creates even a few moments of regret in the white house it will have served a very high purpose.

Intel Behind Trump’s Syria Attack Questioned
Ray McGovern, Antiwar.com, Jun 25 2017

Seymour Hersh is challenging the Trump administration’s version of events surrounding the Apr 4 “chemical weapons attack” on the northern Syrian town of Khan Sheikhoun, though Hersh had to find a publisher in Germany to get his information out. In the Sunday edition of Die Welt, Hersh reports that his national security sources offered a distinctly different account, revealing Pres Trump rashly deciding to launch 59 Tomahawk missiles against a Syrian airbase on Apr 6 despite the absence of intelligence supporting his conclusion that the Syrian military was guilty. Hersh draws on his usual Pentagon inside sources to dispute that there ever was a “chemical weapons attack” and to assert that Trump was told that no evidence existed against the Syrian government but ordered “his generals” to “retaliate” anyway. JCoS Dunford and Mad Dog Mattis ordered the attacks apparently knowing that the reason given was what one of Hersh’s sources called a “fairy tale.” They then left it to H R McMaster to further the deceit with the help of a compliant mainstream media, which broke from its current tradition of distrusting whatever Trump says in favor of its older tradition of favoring “regime change” in Syria and trusting pretty much whatever the “rebels” claim. According to Hersh’s sources, the normal “deconfliction” process was followed before the Apr 4 strike. Russia and Syrian Air Force officers gave details of the flight path to and from Khan Sheikhoun in English, Hersh reported. The target was a two-story cinderblock building in which senior leaders of the two Jihadi groups controlling the town were about to hold a meeting. Because of the perceived importance of the mission, the Russians took the unusual step of giving the Syrian air force a GPS-guided bomb to do the job, but the explosives were conventional, not chemical, Hersh reported. The meeting place was on the floor above the basement of the building, where a source whom Hersh described as “a senior adviser to the intelligence community” told Hersh:

The basement was used as storage for rockets, weapons, and ammunition … and also chlorine-based decontaminants for cleansing the bodies of the dead before burial.

Hersh describes what happened when the building was struck on the morning of Apr 4:

An assessment by the Pindosi military later determined that the heat and force of the 500 lb Syrian bomb triggered a series of secondary explosions that could have generated a huge toxic cloud that began to spread over the town, formed by the release of fertilizers, disinfectants, and other goods stored in the basement, its effect magnified by the dense morning air, which trapped the fumes close to the ground. According to intelligence estimates, the strike itself killed up to four Jihadi leaders and an unknown number of drivers and security aides. There is no confirmed count of the number of civilians killed by the poisonous gases that were released by the secondary explosions, although opposition activists reported that there were more than 80 dead, and outlets such as CNN have put the figure as high as 92.

Due to the fog of war, which is made denser by the fact that Jihadis associated with AQ control the area, many of the details of the incident were unclear on that day and remain so still. No independent on-the-ground investigation has taken place. But there were other reasons to doubt Syrian guilt, including the implausibility of Assad choosing that time, when his forces were finally making dramatic strides in defeating the Jihadis, and immediately after the Trump administration had indicated it had reversed Obama’s “regime change” policy in Syria, to launch a sarin attack, which was sure to outrage the world and likely draw Pindosi retaliation. However, logic was brushed aside after local “activists,” including some closely tied to the Jihadis, quickly uploaded all manner of images onto social media showing dead and dying children and other victims said to be suffering from sarin nerve gas. Inconsistencies such as the “eyewitness” who insisted, “We could smell it from 500 m away,” although in fact sarin is odorless, were brushed aside. Whether credible or not, these social-media images had a potent propaganda effect. Hersh writes that within hours of watching the gruesome photos on TV, and before he had received any intelligence corroboration, Trump told his national security aides to plan retaliation against Syria. According to Hersh, it was an evidence-free decision except for what Trump had seen on the TV shows. Hersh quotes one officer who upon learning of the White House decision to “retaliate” against Syria, remarked:

We KNOW that there was no chemical attack! … The Russians are furious, claiming we have the real intel and know the truth!

A similar event had occurred on Aug 21 2013, outside Damascus, and although the available evidence now points to a “false-flag” provocation pulled off by the Jihadis to trick the West into mounting a full-fledged assault on Assad’s military, Western media still blames that incident on Assad, too. In the Aug 21 2013 case, social media also proved crucial in creating and pushing the Assad-did-it narrative. On Aug 30 2013, Jackass Kerry pinned the responsibility on Assad no fewer than 35 times, even though earlier that week, then-DNI Clapper had warned Pres Obama privately that Assad’s culpability was “not a slam dunk.” Jackass was fond of describing social media as an “extraordinarily useful tool,” and it sure did come in handy in supporting his repeated but unproven charges against Assad, especially since the Pindosi government had invested heavily in training and equipping Syrian “activists” to dramatize their cause. The mainstream media also has ignored evidence that the Jihadis staged at least one chlorine gas attack. And, as you may recall, Bush 43 also spoke gleefully about the value of “catapulting the propaganda.”

To the extent Hersh’s account finds its way into Western corporate media, most likely it will be dismissed out of hand simply because it dovetails with Moscow’s version of what happened and thus is, ipso facto, “wrong.” But the Russians (and the Syrians) know what did happen, and if there really was no sarin bombing, they recognize Trump’s reckless resort to Tomahawks and the subsequent attempts to cover up for him. All this will have repercussions. This is as tense a time in Pindo-Russian relations as I can remember from my five decades of experience watching Russian defense and foreign policy. It is left to the Russians to figure out which is worse: a President controlled by “his generals” or one who is so out of control that “his generals” are the ones who must restrain him. With Russia reiterating its threat to target any unannounced aircraft flying in Syrian airspace west of the Euphrates, Pres Putin could authorize his own generals to shoot first and ask questions later. Then, hold onto your hat. As of this writing, there is no sign in “mainstream media” of any reporting on Hersh’s groundbreaking piece. It is a commentary on the conformist nature of today’s Western media that an alternative analysis challenging the conventional wisdom,even when produced by a prominent journalist like Hersh, faces such trouble finding a place to publish.The mainstream hatred of Assad and Putin has reached such extraordinary levels that pretty much anything can be said or written about them with few if any politicians or journalists daring to express doubts regardless of how shaky the evidence is. Even the London Review of Books, which published Hersh’s earlier debunking of the Aug 21 2013 sarin-gas incident, wouldn’t go off onto the limb this time despite having paid for his investigation. According to Hersh:

(They feared becoming) vulnerable to criticism for seeming to take the view of the Syrian and Russia governments when it came to the April 4 bombing in Khan Sheikhoun.

So much for diversity of thought in today’s West. Yet, what was interesting about the Khan Sheikhoun case is that was a test of whom the mainstream media detested more. The MSM has taken the position that pretty much whatever Trump says is untrue or at least deserving of intense fact-checking. But the MSM also believes whatever attacks on Assad that the Syrian “activists” post on social media are true and disbelieves whatever Putin says. So, this was a tug-of-war on which prejudices were stronger – and it turned out that the antipathy toward Syria and Russia is more powerful than the distrust of Trump. The MSM bought into Trump’s narrative to such a degree that any criticism, no matter how credentialed the critic, gets either ignored or ridiculed. For instance, the Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity produced a memo on Apr 11 questioning Trump’s rush to judgment. Former MIT professor Ted Postol, a specialist in applying science to national security incidents, also poked major holes in the narrative of a government sarin attack. But the MSM silence was deafening. In remarks to Die Welt, Seymour Hersh explained that he still gets upset at government lying and at the reluctance of the media to hold governments accountable:

We have a President in Pindostan today who lies repeatedly … but he must learn that he cannot lie about intelligence relied upon before authorizing an act of war. There are those in the Trump administration who understand this, which is why I learned the information I did. If this story creates even a few moments of regret in the White House, it will have served a very high purpose.

But it may be that the Germans reading Welt am Sonntag may be among the few who will get to read Hersh’s account of the Apr 4 incident in Khan Sheikhoun. Perhaps they will begin to wonder why Chancellor Angela Merkel continues with her “me-too” approach to whatever Faschingstein wants to do regarding tensions with Russia and warfare in Syria. Will Merkel admit that she was likely deceived in parroting Faschingstein’s line making the Syrian government responsible for a “massacre with chemical weapons” on Apr 4? Mercifully, most Pindosis will be spared having to choose between believing President Trump and Seymour Hersh.

my coercive telepath is full of childish glee every time anything irritates me – especially hillary! i wonder why?

Schumer Defends Pelosi By Telling Dems “You Don’t Blame Other People For Losing”
Tyler Durden, Zero Hedge, Jun 25 2017

After months of blaming everything under the sun for their November presidential shocker, from Putin to racism to misogyny to you name it, Chuck Schumer, the lead Democrat in the Senate, has a message for John Ossoff and all the Dems now calling for Nancy Pelosi’s resignation over their latest embarrassing defeat in Georgia’s 6th district:

But you lose an election, you don’t blame other people, you blame yourself.

Really? Because we’re almost certain Democrats and every mainstream media outlet has done nothing but launch an all out crusade against Russia for the past 6 months rather than blame the fact that they ran a corrupt process (poor Bernie) and a failed candidate.  Again, if someone can please tell us why the Russians were only effective in flipping votes to Trump in MI, WI, OH and PA but not in CO, NM or NV we would very much love to hear your thoughts… Here is what Schumer had to say earlier on ABC’s “This Week” with the always fair and balanced George Stephanopoulos.

Demagogs need a strong, bold, sharp-edged and commonsense economic agenda. Policy, platform, message that appeal to the middle class, that resonate with the middle class, and show that, and unite Democrats. This economic message platform is going to resonate.  It’s what we were missing, and it’s not going to be baby steps, it’s going to bold. But you lose an election, you don’t blame other people, you blame yourself.

But, if Schumer is suddenly having a change of heart on the whole blame game thing, we would fully support it. That said, he should probably reach out to Hillary to relay the new strategy because apparently she “Has 39 Problems, But Hillary Ain’t One.”

updates to trump saga

Trump Accuses Hillary Of “Colluding” With Democrats “To Beat Crazy Bernie Sanders”
Tyler Durden, Zero Hedge, Jun 25 2017

It is Sunday morning, and Trump celebrated the start of the new week with a tweet at exactly 8 am EDT in which the president lashed out against both Hillary Clinton and the Demagog Party, accusing them of colluding to “beat Crazy Bernie Sanders.”

Trump is referring to the disclosures that emerged last summer when it was revealed by email leaks from hacker Guccifer 2.0 that the DNC had colluded with the Clinton campaign to prevent Bernie from winning the Demagog primary. It’s not the first time Trump has accused the Demagogs of cheating Sanders out of the nomination, although today’s tweet comes amid probes ongoing probes into Russian meddling into the presidential election and possible collusion between Trump’s campaign and Moscow. In an interview airing Sunday on Fox and Friends Weekend, Trump blasted Obama over Russia’s interference, accusing Obama of doing “nothing” before the election. Trump said in an interview airing in full on Fox and Friends Sunday:

Well I just heard today for the first time that Obama knew about Russia a long time before the election, and he did nothing about it! But nobody wants to talk about that! The CIA gave him information on Russia a long time before they even, before the election, and I hardly see it, it’s an amazing thing, in other words the question is, if he had the information, why didn’t he do something about it? He should have done something about it!  But you don’t read that! It’s quite sad.

On Saturday evening, Trump mused some more on this topic when he tweeted:

Sensing a shift in sentiment, as reported yesterday, angry grassroots Demagogs are increasingly turning on leaders such as Obama, Pelosi, Schumer with demands that they “talk less about Russia” and focus on core economic issues instead. Needless to say, nothing could make Trump happier than to put the Russian scandal in the past, especially if he can do it while redirecting attention to his arch-nemesis, Hillary Clinton. As for Bernie Sanders, we doubt he will care much about what Trump has to say. As reported yesterday, the Vermont senator and his wife are now under investigation for bank fraud, and have far bigger problems on their heads than a Trump tweet.

world’s ugliest dog, no contest

Screen Shot 2017-06-25 at 12.00.10https://www.theguardian.com/world/gallery/2017/jun/24/worlds-ugliest-dog-competition-2017-photosScreen Shot 2017-06-25 at 12.03.24

on the ball, mate, on the ball

minutes to go, by brion gysin

M I N U T E S   T O    G O

By Brion Gysin

the hallucinated have come to tell you that yr utilities are being shut off         dreams monitored         though directed sex is shutting down everywhere        you are being sent         all word are taped         agents everywhere marking down the live ones         to exterminate         they are turning out the lights         no       they are not evil         nor the devil but men on a mission         with a spot of work to do         this         dear friends         they intend to do on you         you have been offered a choice         between liberty and         freedom         and          No!         you cannot have both         the next step is everyone into space         but it has been         a long dull wait         since the last tower of babel        that first derisive visit of the         paraclete         let’s not hear that noise again         and again         that may well be         the last word anywhere         this is not the beginning         in the beginning was the word         the word has been in for a too long time         you in the word and         the word in you         we are out         you are in         we have come to let you out         here and now we will show you         what you can do         with and to         the word         the words        any word         all the words         Pick a book         any book         cut it up         cut up         prose         poems          newspapers           magazines         the bible          the koran         the book of moroni           la-tzu          confucius          the bhagavad gita         anything         letters         business correspondence         ads         all the words         slice down the middle         dice into sections         according to taste         chop in some bible         pour on some Madison Avenue prose         shuffle cards         toss like confette         taste it like piping hot         alphabet soup         pass yr friends’ letters         yr office carbons         through any such sieve as you may find or invent         you will soon see         just what they really are saying         this is the terminal method for finding the truth         piece together a masterpiece a week         use better materials         more highly charged words         there is no longer a need         to drum up a season of geniuses         be your own agent         until we deliver the machine in commercially reasonable quantities         we wish to announce         that while we esteem         this to be truly         the American Way         we have no commitments        with any government groups         the writing machine         is for everybody         do it yourself         until the machine comes         here is the system         according to us

ray mcgovern steps into the big doodoo

Report on Putin’s ‘Instructions’ for Election Meddling: More Hot Air?
Brian Becker, Loud & Clear Interview, Jun 24 2017

A WaPo investigation says that Pres Putin gave specific instructions to help get Donald Trump elected. But, as usual, these explosive allegations are backed up no named sources or hard evidence. Former CIA analyst and political activist Ray McGovern joins the show.

Russia Hacking Allegations Driven By a Serial Liar
George Washington, Zero Hedge, Jun 24 2017

Today’s lengthy WaPo’s story makes it clear that former DCI Brennan is largely responsible for driving the claim that Russia hacked the election. But Brennan is a proven, documented liar.  He was busted for lying to Congress and the Pindo sheeple by claiming  that the CIA wasn’t spying on the Congressional investigation into torture, when it was. Indeed, the WaPo called on Brennan to be fired for lying. And Brennan lied when as Obama’s counter-terrorism advisor, he said that in the past year there had not been a single collateral death from drone strikes. He later changed that slightly to say there was no “credible evidence” of such deaths. But there was abundant and credible evidence of collateral deaths from drone strikes.  As just one example among many, a Mar 2011 CIA drone attack in Pakistan killed some 50 people, including tribal elders who were gathered for a tribal conclave. Trevor Timm pointed out at the Guardian:

Internal intelligence documents leaked to McClatchy later confirmed Brennan to have lied at the time …. When Brennan was approved by the Senate, many of his friends told the media he wanted to get the CIA out of the drone business and hand operations over to the Pentagon, but of course once he assumed his office, he seems to have reversed course and kept the drone program under CIA control. Brennan also fed the public wildly inaccurate details about the Osama bin Laden raid in 2011, and despite condemning leaks of classified information from others, he has often leaks classified information himself to suit his own needs. This is the type of spy … who lies because he doesn’t like to tell the truth.

Indeed, Brennan’s CIA even created hacking techniques to frame other countries for hacking incidents. Why is the media taking Brennan’s claims at face value? Especially when some of the other claims of Russian hacking have officially been debunked? As Seymour Hersch said in January in a story questioning the whole Russian hacking story:

I would have made Brennan into a buffoon, a yapping buffoon in the last few days. Instead, everything is reported seriously.

Postscript: The other intelligence official behind many of the Russian hacking claims, James Clapper, is also a confirmed liar. And see this and this.

what a pity there is no legal way to instantaneously abolish the JYT

NYT’s New ‘Reader Center’ Already Proving a Step Backward in Accountability
Reed Richardson, FAIR, Jun 23 2017

The NYT’s public editor role was killed off a mere three weeks ago (6/1/17), but its absence is already being felt. Yesterday, the NYT published the first installment of the paper’s new “Reader Center,” the ostensible replacement to the public editor, and, not surprisingly, it thoroughly underwhelmed. Reading much like an online version of a letters to the editor page, the inaugural Reader Center was comprised of five short items, only two of which were of serious import to the paper’s coverage. The other three included a breezy social-media back-and-forth between a staff photographer and a reader about an archive photo, one item of self-promotion about a NYT investigative piece, and a update on the subscriber who won a contest to visit the newsroom. Quite a mixed signal to readers who have serious questions or issues with the paper’s coverage. The Reader Center added an additional administrative item this morning noting that, contrary to right-wing media reports, James Comey did not visit the NYT offices yesterday.

NYT-Torture

Even among the two items that did raise coverage concerns, the degree to which this new Reader Center pales in comparison to a dedicated public editor was clear. Both of these issues, one on the NYT’s use of the word “torture” in a recent exposé, and one critiquing the ethics of how the paper visualized obesitythrough photography, elicited cursory responses from the paper’s editorial staff. On the former, NYT executive editor Dean Baquet brushed off reader complaints about the exposé’s use of the phrase “widely viewed as torture” as tantamount to simply writing “torture.” He then indulged in a little more self-praise about the paper’s commitment to covering the issue. With no public editor to mediate, push back or add context, Baquet’s word became the final one. Readers are left with no advocate to push Baquet on the NYT’s long, ignominious history of bowing to White House pressure by not using the word “torture” (8/8/14) or, contrary to Baquet’s boasting, sidestepping coverage of the issue altogether (8/18/14). A real public editor might have pointed that the “widely viewed as” caveat also appeared in the exposé’s subhead, giving it more narrative power than Baquet suggested, and might questioned the logic of using this caveat at all, since by own Baquet’s account it was aimed at “describing the perspective” of the architects of a torture program: hardly the point of view you’d want investigations of torture to adopt. This step backward in accountability and transparency is to be expected, however. By removing the interrogatory power of a staff ombudsman, the NYT not only insures it will have the last word on any issue of its coverage, it effectively tilts the conditions for all critical debate fully in favor of its staff and masthead. It’s a media criticism version of “the house always wins.” Back in 2013, the WaPo tried to pass off a similar “Reader’s Representative” replacement when it killed off its ombudsman. The paper quietly ended that experiment too, after nine months of similarly useless, ephemeral and unresponsive columns. Now more than ever, the NYT’ coverage is in the spotlight, but the veneer of faux accountability it’s offering is not only bad for readers, it’s a long-term gamble for the paper. It’s a given that the next big missed story or ethical lapse the NYT makes won’t be prevented by this Reader Center. And if future installments of it are like the first, the paper likely won’t learn any journalistic lessons from those mistakes after the fact, either.

excuse me if i fail to be breathtaken with all this trivial pindo-jewish gesture politics

Lawyer who says Palestinians don’t exist sues San Francisco university
Charlotte Silver, Electronic Intifada, Jun 23 2017

A lawyer who denies that Palestinians exist is suing San Francisco State University, alleging the administration there fosters a hostile environment for Jewish students. But faculty and civil rights lawyers say the lawsuit, filed on behalf of six plaintiffs, is yet another attempt at censorship by conflating criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism. The complaint, filed in federal court in Northern California on Jun 19, was prepared by The Lawfare Project, which describes itself as “the legal arm of the pro-Israel community.” Last year, the group’s director, Brooke Goldstein, was filmed asking Israel lobby leaders in New York:

Why are we using the word Palestinian? There’s no such thing as a Palestinian person!

In the same speech, Goldstein also revealed new strategies to undermine the movement for Palestinian rights, including preparing legal challenges against Pindosi institutions, among them specifically San Francisco State University. Goldstein explained:

The goal is to make the enemy pay!

The Lawfare Project says that the lawsuit was filed after the Dept of Education’s Office for Civil Rights announced it would be “scaling back” investigations of alleged discrimination on campuses around the country. Claiming that San Francisco State University is “among the worst of the worst” campuses for Jewish students, the plaintiffs, three students and three area residents, say administrators have “fostered, fomented and systematically instilled an anti-Jewish animus” on the campus. The 73-page complaint lists about a dozen incidents, some dating back to the early 1990s, before many of the university’s current students would have been born, in an attempt to paint of picture of systematic discrimination. Nearly all of those incidents involve disputes between pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian communities on campus, including the disruption of an event last year featuring Jerusalem mayor Nir Barkat. Israel’s municipality includes occupied East Jerusalem, which no country recognizes as part of Israel. Dima Khalidi, director of Palestine Legal, told EI:

The incidents they are complaining about involve activism for Palestinian rights, which is political speech that is protected by the First Amendment. The whole premise of their complaint relies on the conflation of anti-Jewish animus and criticism of Israeli policies. That’s where the complaint is going to fail.

The lawsuit invokes the State Dept definition of anti-Semitism, which describes much criticism of Israel as anti-Semitic. The definition has no legal force, but Israel lobby groups have been been pressing institutions and governments around the world, including Congress, to formally adopt it. But even Kenneth Stern, the former AJC executive who authored the definition, has vigorously opposed its adoption into legislation, warning that it would be used by Israel advocacy groups to police speech. Stern told Congress in Dec 2016:

(As law, this would be) unconstitutional and unwise (and would) actually harm Jewish students and have a toxic effect on the academy.

In recent years, Israel lobby groups have urged the Dept of Education to investigate Palestine advocacy as a potential violation of Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, landmark legislation that requires administrators to ensure campuses are free from a pervasive atmosphere of bias. But in 2013, the strategy hit a dead end as the Dept of Education’s Office for Civil Rights threw out a slew of Title VI complaints against the University of California campuses at Berkeley, Santa Cruz and Irvine, where there had been active Palestine solidarity campaigns. Khalidi says it is revealing that The Lawfare Project is now citing the State Dept definition in its lawsuit. She says:

This is about an effort to categorize any and all criticism of Israel as anti-Semitic and crush a growing movement that is looking critically at Israel.

While painting a lurid broad-brush picture of anti-Jewish hatred on campus, the lawsuit is centered on only two specific incidents: a protest of Israeli government official Nir Barkat’s visit in Apr 2016, and the exclusion of the campus chapter of the Jewish student organization Hillel from a “Know Your Rights” fair in Feb 2017. Students disrupted the Barkat event with chants, forcing his audience to huddle around to hear his speech. Leslie Wong, SFSU’s president, immediately condemned the protest and announced an investigation. That investigation upheld the students’ right to protest and found that campus police and administrators acted in accordance with how they had handled protests in the past. The investigative report also affirms:

The protestors did not create a credible threat to public safety (and) did not engage in any threatening physical conduct or raise any direct threats that could be interpreted as incitement to imminent lawless action.

Yet the lawsuit claims that by not intervening to stop the protest as it happened, the administration violated the audience members’ First Amendment right to hear Barkat. This video, posted online by a pro-Israel group, shows Barkat speaking to students gathered around him, while chants of “Free, Free Palestine” can be heard from protesters in the back of the room:

In the second incident, plaintiffs claim Hillel was barred from a Know Your Rights fair on campus because of its Jewish identity. The university is still investigating the incident. Responding to the lawsuit, San Francisco State University affirmed its dedication to free speech, diversity and inclusion. But its statement repeats the allegation that the protest of Nir Barkat was anti-Semitic. It says:

The disruption of the event featuring Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat in spring 2016 and bias incidents that were reported this year were ugly reminders that anti-Semitism, like all forms of discrimination, is real and our community has work to do.

This new position contradicts the university’s own earlier investigation, which found that the protest targeted Barkat’s politics, not his Jewish identity. The investigation concluded:

In the end, the record demonstrates that the protest was directed towards the Mayor of Jerusalem based on his politics, and not towards any of the audience members.

Barkat oversees the ongoing forced displacement of Palestinians from their homes in occupied East Jerusalem to make way for Jewish settlers. In 2016, Israeli demolitions of Palestinian homes in the occupied West Bank, including Jerusalem, hit a new record. Yet the lawsuit frames the protest against Barkat as an attack on Jewish students on campus, not as political speech against a foreign government’s objectionable behavior. The complaint alleges for instance:

(Protesters) had every intention of making the Jews in the room feel intimidated and that they reveled in threatening them.

Such assertions manufacture the anti-Semitism the lawsuit claims to expose, by identifying all Jews with Israel and Israel with all Jews. This is absurd on its face, not least because Israeli settlements are illegal under international law and are opposed not only by Palestinians and dozens of governments but by also by many Jewish groups and activists, including Israelis. The lawsuit also describes the BDS movement for Palestinian rights as “inherently anti-Semitic.” It attempts to link BDS activists to “terrorist” organizations. It even claims that murdered Palestinian cartoonist Naji al-Ali’s iconic character Handala, a child holding a key who represents Palestinian refugees’ desire to return home, is “an established anti-Semitic symbol.” The image of a key is often used by Palestinians as a reminder of the houses they left behind in the Nakba, but to the plaintiffs, “the key represents the destruction of Israel as a Jewish state.” Another target of the lawsuit is San Francisco State University’s College of Ethnic Studies (CES). The complaint claims:

Unfortunately, part of the legacy that evolved from CES has been an extremely disturbing pattern of blatant anti-Jewish animus at SFSU.

The first of its kind, the CES was founded in 1969 after the Black Student Union and the Third World Liberation Front waged the longest campus strike in Pindosi history, starting the year before. It quickly became a model for Black and ethnic studies programs across the country. In 2007, in the same spirit, San Francisco State University founded the Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas Initiative. Professor Rabab Abdulhadi, who teaches in the department, is named as a defendant in the lawsuit, along with the dean of the CES. The university’s statement responding to the lawsuit does not mention or defend the college. Abdulhadi has been the repeated target of Islamophobic and anti-Palestinian attacks by Israel advocates. Abdulhadi told EI:

These right-wing, pro-Israeli groups are well funded but tiny. They don’t represent a consensus of the Jewish community. They are trying to stop the scholarship and activism on campus. They are attacking the spirit of 1968.

just like hamas is retaliated upon for any & all rockets from gaza

Israel’s Fire Support For Its AQ Mercenaries Started Three Years Ago
Moon of Alabama, Jun 24 2017

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AQ attacked a SAA position in Madinat al-Baath (map) next to the Israel occupied Golan heights. AQ requested Israeli fire support by launching some mortars towards empty space in the Israel occupied area. The IDF accepted the request and destroyed two SAA tanks. Two Syrian soldiers were killed. The SAA held steady and the AQ attack on its position failed. This was very easy to predict. Israel has supported AQ in the area since at least 2014. The AQ fire request by mortar scheme has been in place for at least three years. In Oct 2014, UNDOF, which back then still covered the area, reported to the UNSC:

On Jun 23 (2014), Israel targeted nine Syrian army positions with tank fire and air strikes after mortar fire from the Syrian side the previous day killed an Israeli civilian. Israel’s assessment is that most of these incidents are due to errant fire resulting from fighting in Syria. Israel said that armed opposition groups were probably responsible, but that its forces fired on Syrian military positions to stress that Syria was responsible for security on its side of the ceasefire line.

The UN observers mentioned the “black flags” the “rebels” were using. The “rebels” in that area are AQ forces. This “fire support request by mortar” scheme has been repeated again and again. The Israeli argument is an insult to logic: “The SAA is responsible for keeping AQ out of the area so we respond to “errant” AQ fire by destroying the SAA.” But “Western” and Israeli media did and do not report or analyzed the obvious scheme. This even as this theater act gets repeated over and over again. They lie and simply report the “errant fire” nonsense even when it is clear that this is coordinated military support for AQ. For years they have hidden Israeli support for AQ and its deep involvement in the Syrian war. Witness Haaretz which only today(!) headlines Israel’s Slow Creep Into the Syrian Civil War. That “slow creep” which Haaretz describes and analyzes as a new phenomenon, started at least three years ago and was neither slow nor a creep. It is full-fledged support for terrorism and has been such since its beginning. The WSJ, also three years late, reported last week that Israel had set up a special IDF unit to advise, train, support and control AQ in the Golan: Israel Gives Secret Aid to Syrian Rebels. Israel even pays AQ’s salaries:

The person familiar with Israel’s assistance confirmed that cash moves across the border, but said it goes for humanitarian purposes. However, rebels interviewed said they use the cash to pay fighters’ salaries and to buy weapons and ammunition, something the Israeli military wouldn’t comment on.

Israel wants to steal and occupy even larger parts of Syria than the parts of the Golan heights it illegally holds. It pays AQ and supports it by fire to achieve that. The main stream reporting on this is at least three years late. Why is it now starting to publish about this? Is there a new media advisory that Haaretz and the WSJ are now allowed (or required) to report on the issue? To what purpose?