Monday, October 31, 2016

The Moral Cowardice of Lesser Evilism

“How many more of these stinking, double-downer sideshows will we have to go through before we can get ourselves straight enough to put together some kind of national election that will give me and the at least 20 million people I tend to agree with a chance to vote FOR something, instead of always being faced with that old familiar choice between the lesser of two evils?” - Hunter S. Thompson (Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail '72)

"Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?" - John Lydon

People died for your right to vote!

This admonition - an example of social shaming (and hence control) - will be familiar to all thinking citizens daring to suggest that voting is meaningless when no viable candidate holds views or proposes policies that come anywhere close to their own.

As with most methods of social control, the premise is a misrepresentation - in other words, a lie.  Those brave, worthy souls who gave their lives died not for the right to vote, but the right to a meaningful and representative vote.  It follows that there is no worse debasement of their sacrifice imaginable than the idea of voting for a perceived lesser evil; the ultimate insult to these martyrs is that people in their tens of millions vote willingly for evil because they feel they have no other choice - especially when the only candidates who stand a chance of winning represent no one but the most privileged and protected people in society.

Political control of the US has long been dominated by the two main parties.  Administrations are dominated by men and women connected through revolving doors in a bewildering array of networks, lobby groups, think tanks, banks, corporations and institutions.  All are rich and all benefit from the continuation of the status quo.  Serious studies have concluded what every sentient American already knows: That the US is an oligarchy.  That the two-party system is the means of offering the illusion of democratic choice.  That a powerful elite remains in power whoever claims electoral victory.

This fact alone renders irrelevant the vapid, insipid rants of 'analysts' and 'experts' on the relative strengths and flaws of Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton on mainstream cable shows and throughout the corporate media.  It is distraction: white noise designed to elevate emotional responses and to reinforce loyalty to a viewer's chosen team and disgust toward the enemy.  In short - we are all being played.

The term lesser evil is itself a misnomer.  The principle of lesser evil is a key feature of realpolitik - a Machiavellian form of politics closely associated with the likes of war criminal at-large (and Nobel Peace Prize recipient) Henry Kissinger.  It states that when faced with two unpleasant choices, it is rational to choose the least unpleasant.  US voters are faced instead with what is known as a false dilemma - a situation where only limited choices are seriously considered, while in fact other choices are available like Jill Stein and Gary Johnson et al.
Many Americans can be forgiven for being unaware of this, conditioned as they are to dismiss as a 'wasted vote' the other available options: Namely third-party candidates and - the option most likely to earn you a people-died-for-your-right-to-vote scolding - the perfectly moral choice of spoiling one's ballot or not voting at all, moral in that if a system in which you participate leads to unacceptable actions on the part of your government whoever you choose, you have the moral right - some would say responsibility - to refuse to participate.
For those who support neither of the two candidates who can realistically win, this is a classic catch-22 situation - you lose whatever, and the establishment elites win whatever.  At this point you are faced with a moral choice: Do you accept that you live in a fixed system or not?  Do you want to live in a democratic society where every person has an equal voice or not?  Are you OK living in a de facto tyranny of the rich and powerful?
Motivated - as most are in our late-stage capitalist societies - by self-interest, those sufficiently well-off, privileged or protected are likely to either accept this or at least avoid answering the question.  Those who suffer under the system - and those motivated by conscience or altruism - will probably demur.  But the evil genius in the apparatuses of indoctrination (education, media etc.) is that those who suffer - even those who suffer greatly - can be easily coaxed into supporting - often fanatically - one of the two wings of the Republican-Democrat duopoly.  This is aided by the cognitive bias known as system justification, a social psychology construct that 'proposes that people have several underlying needs, which vary from individual to individual, that can be satisfied by the defense and justification of the status quo, even when the system may be disadvantageous to certain people'.
In practice one cannot escape from the fact that within the system as it stands, the duopoly - and therefore the power elites - will win.  A simple glance at the current betting odds for all the presidential candidates makes that clear.  Even if one votes with one's conscience for, say, Green Party candidate Jill Stein, one does so in the knowledge that it can only ever be a protest vote and the duopoly will still win.  One can discuss the many serious flaws in the US electoral system all day long but the duopoly will still win.
We return then to 'lesser evil'.  Proponents of this principle who say that it is the only realistic choice ignore two vital points:
First, the definition of lesser evil itself is debatable when one compares Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, both of whom have unfavorability ratings currently averaging 59% and 52% respectively, according to Real Clear Politics. [Note: polls like these can only be taken as a barometer].
The establishment line is firmly against Trump, targeting his contradictory and sometimes overtly fascistic or racist comments, his obvious boorishness and overall personality flaws, and his - real or not [which no longer matters in modern political discourse] - alleged indiscretions with women.
For all these serious flaws, however, Trump has never held public office and can not therefore be judged on his record at the very highest echelons of power as Clinton can.  Given that Clinton is strongly favored [according to bookmakers] to win the election, an objective analysis of her record is necessary for her supporters.  This is not necessary for Trump, whose flaws are plastered all over the media daily in fine detail: Trump is Trump and the whole world knows it.  The opposite holds for Clinton, who continues to benefit from media deflection of the recent WikiLeaks disclosures (where all emails are - according to the various talking heads and with zero evidence - either doctored or part of a Russian plot).  Other WikiLeaks disclosures are simply ignored, and one CNN reporter even went so far as to lie outright to his viewers, telling them it was illegal to read the emails.

The recent bombshell announcement by James B. Comey, the head of the FBI, that the Clinton email investigation - which was thought to be dead and buried in July - has been re-opened is potentially more damaging for Clinton, with the media unable to ignore the story.  The response of the Clinton campaign and its sympathetic media has been to deflect attention away from Clinton and pile pressure on Comey, suggesting that he may have broken the law.

Clinton was rebuked at a July press conference by Comey for the 'extremely careless' way in which she handled emails containing classified information on insecure servers, a violation of statutes.  He nevertheless said at the time that the FBI would not recommend that prosecutors seek criminal charges against Clinton.
Suspicions that the FBI was going light on Clinton in return for undisclosed concessions were bolstered by a report in the Wall Street Journal this week:
The political organization of Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, an influential Democrat with longstanding ties to Bill and Hillary Clinton, gave nearly $500,000 to the election campaign of the wife of an official at the Federal Bureau of Investigation who later helped oversee the investigation into Mrs. Clinton’s email use.
Campaign finance records show Mr. McAuliffe’s political-action committee donated $467,500 to the 2015 state Senate campaign of Dr. Jill McCabe, who is married to Andrew McCabe, now the deputy director of the FBI.
The Virginia Democratic Party, over which Mr. McAuliffe exerts considerable control, donated an additional $207,788 worth of support to Dr. McCabe’s campaign in the form of mailers, according to the records. That adds up to slightly more than $675,000 to her candidacy from entities either directly under Mr. McAuliffe’s control or strongly influenced by him. The figure represents more than a third of all the campaign funds Dr. McCabe raised in the effort.
Mr. McAuliffe has been a central figure in the Clintons’ political careers for decades. In the 1990s, he was Bill Clinton’s chief fundraiser and he remains one of the couple’s closest allies and public boosters. Mrs. Clinton appeared with him in northern Virginia in 2015 as he sought to increase the number of Democrats in the state legislature.
At the end of July 2015, Mr. McCabe was promoted to FBI headquarters and assumed the No. 3 position at the agency. In February 2016, he became FBI Director James Comey’s second-in-command.  As deputy director, Mr. McCabe was part of the executive leadership team overseeing the Clinton email investigation, though FBI officials say any final decisions on that probe were made by Mr. Comey, who served as a high-ranking Justice Department official in the administration of George W. Bush.
Professor of History Gary Leupp provides in his article 'The Warmongering Record of Hillary Clinton' a useful overview that should concern every citizen on the planet, including a more detailed description of her part in the destruction of an entire nation state: Libya.  Highlights include:
Clinton has been a keen advocate for the expansion of an antiquated Cold War military alliance that persists in provoking Russia.
As New York senator Clinton endorsed the murderous ongoing sanctions against Iraq, imposed by the UN in 1990 and continued until 2003.
She was a strident supporter of the Iraq War.
She actively pursued anti-democratic regime change in Ukraine.
She wanted to provide military assistance to the “moderate” armed opposition in Syria, to effect regime change, and after leaving office criticized Obama for not supplying more than he did.
She has been an unremitting supporter of Israeli aggression, whenever it occurs.
Hillary tacitly endorsed the military coup against elected Honduran president Manuel Zelaya in 2009, refusing to call it such (even though Obama did).
[Please read original article for full details]
Salon notes that a British Parliament report concluded that the NATO attack on Libya was based on an 'array of lies':
“We have seen no evidence that the UK Government carried out a proper analysis of the nature of the rebellion in Libya,” the report states. “UK strategy was founded on erroneous assumptions and an incomplete understanding of the evidence.”
The Foreign Affairs Committee concludes that the British government “failed to identify that the threat to civilians was overstated and that the rebels included a significant Islamist element.”
A Vox analysis of the recent WikiLeaks disclosures concluded that 'leaked emails confirm Clinton Foundation blurred public/private lines and that the 'disclosures detail Clinton’s coziness with Wall Street and top donors'.

A group of Reddit users compiled a sourced list of the 100 most serious WikiLeaks disclosures that - when read - utterly damns Clinton as one of the most corrupt politicians ever to run as US president - if not the most.

The second truth that lesser evilists ignore is the undeniable fact that decades of pressing the lesser evil argument has succeeded only in bringing about more and more evil.  Artist and filmmaker Mara Ahmed writes:
Police brutality, mass incarceration, the breakup of families via record deportations, pre-emptive wars, remote-control wars, dirty wars, the deepening of the surveillance state and the widening of economic disparity, the continuing corporatization of the government and the poisoning and pillaging of the planet--these didn't just start with Bush or slow down during Obama's presidency. If anything, these policies were turned up a notch over the last eight years.
Any objective comparison of the US along with the overall global situation pre-9/11 and now shows a marked deterioration in all areas, with widespread violence at home and abroad now the norm.
A vast tissue of poor judgment, obfuscation and outright corruption.  A long history of support for illegal wars and violent interventions based - again - on lies.  Alleged collusion with terrorist groups for geostrategic gain.  There are Americans who have received life sentences for crimes such as stealing socks, baby shoes or a slice of pizza under the Three-Strikes Laws of the 1990s, yet Clinton is not only spared investigation for this unfathomable web of likely criminality, but has even been allowed to run for the highest office in a nation of over 300 million people, where she would have executive control over the world's most powerful military as well as the nuclear codes.  Even worse - for the rest of the planet's inhabitants - she has made no secret of her desire to pursue a more 'muscular' foreign policy than Obama.
To any right-thinking, peace-loving person this is insane.  Don't expect many in the corporate media to agree with that analysis, however, as WikiLeaks has revealed the names of 'at least 65 MSM reporters [who] were meeting with and/or coordinating offline with top Hillary advisors'. 
Jim Hoft writing at Gateway Pundit added:
They were invited to top elitist dinners with Hillary Campaign Chairman John Podesta or Chief Campaign strategist Joel Benenson.  The Clinton campaign sent out invites to New York reporters in April 2015 on their off-the-record meeting on how to sell Hillary Clinton to the public.
Those with experience debating Clinton supporters can confront them with all this and more but the response is always the same: "She might be bad, but Trump is worse".
Mara Ahmed writes:
Lesser evilism is one thing but hardcore Clintonism is another. The complete break from reality (couched in inclusive, feminist language), the privileged belief that as long as we recycle our trash and drive fuel-efficient cars, we are going to be okay, and the lack of empathy with the pain we create in the world and at home, astonishes me.

There is a larger issue here.  Lesser evilism is a symptom of human malaise under the dominant system of predatory capitalism. That millions of people can even consider willingly casting a vote for a candidate as demonstrably corrupt as Clinton, whatever the justification (fear of Trump), instead of demanding something better only demonstrates how whipped into timidity and passivity the human spirit has become.

Instigators like Edward Bernays and others that have brought to life this monstrous system of control through fear and distraction are guilty of the single greatest crime in human history.  For pay, power and fame, they have employed their knowledge and research of psychology and propaganda methods in full awareness of what the results would be.  They have reduced vast swathes of humanity to mindless consumption addicts, have attempted to destroy the social bonds that define our species, and have caused the waste of billions of lives.  The human brain - one of the greatest wonders in nature - which, through the ineffable interactions between intelligence, emotions and inspiration is capable of genius could have been employed to raise humanity into an enlightened age; instead it has been utterly wasted, used instead as a tool for dreaming up new ways to consume, as well as new ways of deceiving people to consume.

That in itself is a horror, but this malaise has spread throughout the world and multitudes suffer hideously for it.  The 21,000 people (many of whom are children) who die of hunger - an easily preventable condition - every day - a silent holocaust of the meek far removed from Western cameras.  The children who die in US-instigated wars.  The democratically elected governments subverted in CIA coups, often leading to decades of killing, torture and rape of the people.  The environmental catastrophes.  The mass extinctions.  The use of torture.  The use of depleted uranium and chemical weapons.  The list is endless.

The lesser evil scam has to end because the world is now at a critical juncture.  The US elites, through their presidential puppets, are drawing the world into a potentially deadly confrontation with nuclear-armed Russia.  Russian military doctrine makes it clear that nuclear weapons can be used as a response even to conventional attack on its soil:
The Russian Federation shall reserve the right to use nuclear weapons in response to the use of nuclear and other types of weapons of mass destruction against it and/or its allies, as well as in the event of aggression against the Russian Federation with the use of conventional weapons when the very existence of the state is in jeopardy.  The decision to use nuclear weapons shall be taken by the President of the Russian Federation.
Even a limited nuclear exchange could be catastrophic for life on earth.  Lesser-evilists who lack the courage, foresight and historical awareness to try to force radical change from outside the system, to demand change in a mass, organised assault on the power elites, could soon be faced with a very unpleasant radical change not of their choosing sooner than they expect.  If - when - Clinton presses for war with Russia, how will the lesser evil argument sound in the depths of a nuclear winter?

There is lesser evil writ large.  The US electoral system is gamed to ensure a win that means the psychopaths in Wall Street and the certifiable lunatics in the Pentagon and the CIA get to carry on doing what they've been doing for all our lifetimes.   These people have demonstrated their disdain for risk, their greed, hubris and incompetence again and again.  They are perfectly capable of bringing the whole planet down and us with it.
The concept of freedom - a word now coughed out with a cynical laugh - has been replaced by a forest of empty slogans - soundbites for the soundbitten generation - that ape the commercial mantras which now dominate every facet of human existence.  People trapped in the party political paradigm believe - with earnest naivete - that change can come from within the system, that if they wait long and ask politely enough, the elites will voluntarily - in some inexplicable act of humanitarianism - relinquish their stranglehold and hand over power to the humanitarians.

This is dangerous idiocy.  Change will never come from within. The key institutions are too deeply corrupted, infested with precisely the wrong types of people. Any short-term progress will be superficial and swiftly subsumed; any protest brutally crushed and/or co-opted.  Inquire of Occupy.  With a nuclear exchange now a real possibility - one that would kill almost every living thing on the planet - the time is now or never to stop playing the game.
"What has happened," asks John Pilger, "to the great tradition of popular direct action, unfettered to parties? Where is the courage, imagination and commitment required to begin the long journey to a better, just and peaceful world? Where are the dissidents in art, film, the theatre, literature?   Where are those who will shatter the silence? Or do we wait until the first nuclear missile is fired?"

Written by Simon Wood

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Monday, October 3, 2016

Syria Propaganda - The Death Rattle of the Corporate Media

"The role of the corporate media is to protect, promote and legitimize the destructive and amoral aims of profit-seeking private power. Any journalist or columnist working within that system is actively aiding the corporate media achieve this goal. These gatekeepers, especially those regarded as liberal, are therefore culpable in the illegal wars and rapacious, planet-destroying actions of the worst corporations." - 'The Gatekeepers', The 99.99998271%, April 7th 2015 [Source]

"I listened to my colleague from Russia — and I sort of felt [we're] in a parallel universe here" - US Secretary of State John Kerry on Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov [Source]

As corporate media rhetoric against the current priority targets - Russia and Syria - is ramped up to extreme levels, a battle is raging within the only remaining global space for freedom of thought and expression: the internet - social media.  Two warring, diametrically opposed realities vie for supremacy over the perceptions of the world's people.  In one reality, the US and its NATO allies are benevolent forces fighting the good fight against an evil regime (that of Syria's President Assad) and its powerful backer, (the 'aggressive' Russia) led by the 'enigmatic' Vladimir Putin.  In the other, the legitimate government of Syria is fighting - with the aid of its ally Russia - against a US-led proxy war of aggression waged by Western-backed mercenary rebels.

This information war is characterised by intractability - a natural state of affairs given that both sides - backed with reams of 'evidence' from the sources they trust - are convinced that they are in the right and that the other side has been deceived by propaganda.  Disputes between proponents of these opposing views spiral rapidly into mutual contempt, ad hominem attacks and blocking - also unsurprising given that the two realities permit no middle ground or compromise.

The NATO-supporting side generally feels it has the moral and intellectual advantage, in that it is backed by traditional media organs that are brand names in themselves - names that have been trusted by millions of readers for generations.  After all, their view is being challenged - wholly rejected as bogus - by an unknowable band of small independent media sites and unpaid bloggers: amateurs or worse in the minds of those who read only mainstream news.  This view is strongly encouraged by many high-profile corporate media journalists - also no surprise, given that they and the narratives they sustain are being challenged directly.

Imagine a friend - or at least someone you basically trusted - lied to you to obtain something they really wanted, something they went on to materially profit from to a huge degree.  Imagine that you later discovered that they had lied, and - on asking for an explanation - were given one that may or may not have been plausible.  Imagine then that you discovered that this same friend had lied to others in pursuit of the same goal.  Asking once more for an explanation, you were given excuses and even changed criteria from the original lie.

Would you trust them again?  Possibly, if you have a long history with the person in question.  But what if they then lied to you again to get something else that they wanted?  And what if they lied to others just as before?  Surely this repeated lie would be the end of any trust.  Indeed, no sane person would ever listen to the liar again...and would probably warn others to keep well away.

What if someone had been killed in the acquisition of the goal?  What if several people had?  What if over a million completely innocent people had died?  Would you trust that person then?  The question of trust is reduced to absurdity.

Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction.
Dick Cheney
August 26, 2002

Right now, Iraq is expanding and improving facilities that were used for the production of biological weapons.
George W. Bush
September 12, 2002

If he declares he has none, then we will know that Saddam Hussein is once again misleading the world.
Ari Fleischer
December 2, 2002

The president of the United States and the secretary of defense would not assert as plainly and bluntly as they have that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction if it was not true, and if they did not have a solid basis for saying it.
Ari Fleischer
December 6, 2002

We know for a fact that there are weapons there.
Ari Fleischer
January 9, 2003

Our intelligence officials estimate that Saddam Hussein had the materials to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent.
George W. Bush
January 28, 2003

We know that Saddam Hussein is determined to keep his weapons of mass destruction, is determined to make more.
Colin Powell
February 5, 2003

For bureaucratic reasons, we settled on one issue, weapons of mass destruction [as justification for invading Iraq] because it was the one reason everyone could agree on.
Paul Wolfowitz
May 28, 2003

A 2008 study by the (2014) Pulitzer Prize-winning Center for Public Integrity found 935 false statements about the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's Iraq issued by senior Bush administration officials (including Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and Condoleeza Rice and George W Bush himself) that were reported with no (or virtually no) verification by major news outlets. This orchestrated campaign of lies designed to build public support for a military invasion was reported uncritically not only in the US but also around the world.

The editors of the New York Times even issued a public apology for its dereliction in 2004:

But we have found a number of instances of coverage that was not as rigorous as it should have been. In some cases, information that was controversial then, and seems questionable now, was insufficiently qualified or allowed to stand unchallenged. Looking back, we wish we had been more aggressive in re-examining the claims as new evidence emerged -- or failed to emerge.


On April 21, 2003, as American weapons-hunters followed American troops into Iraq, another front-page article declared, ''Illicit Arms Kept Till Eve of War, an Iraqi Scientist Is Said to Assert.'' It began this way: ''A scientist who claims to have worked in Iraq's chemical weapons program for more than a decade has told an American military team that Iraq destroyed chemical weapons and biological warfare equipment only days before the war began, members of the team said.''
The informant also claimed that Iraq had sent unconventional weapons to Syria and had been cooperating with Al Qaeda -- two claims that were then, and remain, highly controversial. But the tone of the article suggested that this Iraqi ''scientist'' -- who in a later article described himself as an official of military intelligence -- had provided the justification the Americans had been seeking for the invasion.
The Times never followed up on the veracity of this source or the attempts to verify his claims.

Do you still believe your vaunted mainstream media sources?  Many readers even at this point would accept this apology and take it on faith that it was all an honest mistake, pledging inwardly to keep a close eye on future conduct and/or later revelations...

Like a new report [re-posted at the Daily Beast] from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism (in conjunction with the Sunday Times) [Source (behind paywall)]:

The Pentagon gave a controversial UK PR firm over half a billion dollars to run a top secret propaganda program in Iraq, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism can reveal.
Bell Pottinger’s output included short TV segments made in the style of Arabic news networks and fake insurgent videos which could be used to track the people who watched them, according to a former employee.

The agency’s staff worked alongside high-ranking U.S. military officers in their Baghdad Camp Victory headquarters as the insurgency raged outside.

Bell Pottinger's former chairman Lord Tim Bell confirmed to the Sunday Times, which has worked with the Bureau on this story, that his firm had worked on a “covert” military operation “covered by various secrecy documents.”

Bell Pottinger reported to the Pentagon, the CIA and the National Security Council on its work in Iraq, he said.

In the first media interview any Bell Pottinger employee has given about the work for the U.S. military in Iraq, video editor Martin Wells told the Bureau his time in Camp Victory was "shocking, eye-opening, life-changing.”
The firm’s output was signed off by former General David Petraeus – then commander of the coalition forces in Iraq - and on occasion by the White House, he said.

There were three types of media operations commonly used in Iraq at the time, said a military contractor familiar with Bell Pottinger’s work there.

“White is attributed, it says who produced it on the label,” the contractor said. “Grey is unattributed and black is falsely attributed. These types of black ops, used for tracking who is watching a certain thing, were a pretty standard part of the industry toolkit.”
Bell Pottinger’s work in Iraq was a huge media operation which cost over a hundred million dollars a year on average. A document unearthed by the Bureau shows the company was employing almost 300 British and Iraqi staff at one point.

The London-based PR agency was brought into Iraq soon after the U.S. invasion. In March 2004 it was tasked by the country’s temporary administration with the “promotion of democratic elections” —a “high-profile activity” which it trumpeted in its annual report.


It soon became apparent he would be doing much more than just editing news footage.

The work consisted of three types of products. The first was television commercials portraying al Qaeda in a negative light. The second was news items which were made to look as if they had been “created by Arabic TV”, Wells said. Bell Pottinger would send teams out to film low-definition video of al Qaeda bombings and then edit it like a piece of news footage. It would be voiced in Arabic and distributed to TV stations across the region, according to Wells.

The American origins of the news items were sometimes kept hidden. Revelations in 2005 that PR contractor the Lincoln Group had helped the Pentagon place articles in Iraqi newspapers, sometimes presented as unbiased news, led to a Department of Defense investigation.


The third and most sensitive program described by Wells was the production of fake al Qaeda propaganda films. He told the Bureau how the videos were made. He was given precise instructions: “We need to make this style of video and we’ve got to use al Qaeda’s footage,” he was told. “We need it to be 10 minutes long, and it needs to be in this file format, and we need to encode it in this manner.” 

Iraq was a lucrative opportunity for many communications firms. The Bureau has discovered that between 2006 and 2008 more than 40 companies were being paid for services such as TV and radio placement, video production, billboards, advertising and opinion polls. These included US companies like Lincoln Group, Leonie Industries and SOS International as well as Iraq-based firms such as Cradle of New Civilization Media, Babylon Media and Iraqi Dream.
[Note: The article is lengthy and only excerpts have been included here (above) with my emphasis in bold]

This is proof in black and white that part of the work paid for by the Pentagon and then disseminated throughout the corporate media to achieve US strategic aims includes the production of fake films intended to deceive you - the trusting, unwitting reader - into further supporting Western military actions, giving you the impression that you are on the right side, destroying an evil, implacable enemy.  It also motivates those taken in by these lies to (often viciously) attack anyone questioning the official line.

The obvious question that should arise even to the most rabid supporter of Western military interventions is this: If they've deceived you before, what would stop them trying to do it again now with similar fake videos and fake stories, all created to support and sustain a narrative that evokes enormous outrage and keeps public opposition at bay.

The answer is absolutely nothing at all would stop them.  In fact, there is plenty of evidence that what happened in Iraq is precisely what has also been occurring with regard to Syria for a decade.

Firstly, it is an established fact that the US and its allies had a plan for regime change in Syria.  An internal email dated 7th December 2011 of the Stratfor 'global intelligence' company published by WikiLeaks makes it clear that US-aligned forces have long been covertly operating in Syria. It is a remarkable email, in that it clearly demonstrates the intent of the US to intervene in the affairs of Syria, and strongly implies that - among many other things - agents from the US, France, Jordan, Turkey, and the UK were already on the ground carrying out reconnaissance and the training of opposition forces.

Secondly, there is motive - within the Murdoch press at least - to publish articles that paint Assad's government as evil and in need of 'intervention' in that Murdoch is on the board of New Jersey-based Genie Energy. Journalist Nafeez Ahmed explains:

A US oil company is preparing to drill for oil in the Golan Heights. Granted the license in February 2013 by Israel, Afek Oil and Gas is a subsidiary of Genie Energy Ltd, whose equity-holding board members include former US Vice President Dick Cheney, controversial media mogul Rupert Murdoch and financier Lord Jacob Rothschild.

[Note: article dated January 28th 2015. Murdoch remains on the board]

Aside from personal financial interest for Murdoch, a post-Assad, US-friendly Syrian government would mean one less major Russia-Iran-axis power in the Middle East to worry about, a turn of events also greatly desired by Israel, while economically Syria would be opened up to all manner of 'opportunities' for Western corporations.

Julian Assange, interviewed in the Ecuadorean embassy in London - where he is forced to stay out of fear of US reprisals against him for the secret documents published by WikiLeaks that detail vast webs of criminality - explains how a book - The WikiLeaks Files - details US Assad overthrow plans from as far back as 2006.  And watch here the US Peace Council condemn the whole US Syria narrative as a lie.

Readers of mainstream Western media reporting on Syria will be familiar with oft-cited groups like the White Helmets and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights etc.  Journalist Vanessa Beeley travelled to Syria and wrote a detailed report that raises serious questions about the credibility and true motives of these groups:


The use of chemical weapons against civilians in western Aleppo by the terrorist groups, particularly the Nusra Front, is anathema to Western media. Instead, the media picks up spurious reports issued by “activist” groups and “citizen journalists” which claim to be working inside Aleppo. As in the case of a Sept. 7 report from Al-Jazeera on the Syrian Arab Army launching chemical attacks on civilians, this information is disseminated with alarming alacrity by journalists based in Washington, London or elsewhere, who have limited ability to verify this information or assess what’s really happening on the ground prior to publishing. The fact that the Nusra Front took over the only chemical factory in Aleppo in 2012 is swept under the carpet of inconvenient truths. And while the mainstream media doesn’t report it, former U.N. weapons inspectors and MIT rocket scientists have also confirmed that the Nusra Front has powerful chemical weapons capabilities.

Media pundits outside Syria rely on “activist groups” and “citizen journalists,” who are invariably embedded in areas occupied by groups such as the Nusra Front, Ahrar al-Sham, assorted Free Syrian Army brigades, and even Daesh (an Arabic acronym for the terrorist group known in the West as ISIS or ISIL). Whether they are individual activists or groups like the White Helmets or Aleppo Media Center, it is hard to define them as independent or objective when they are known to receive funding from the United States, NATO member states, and state-funded institutions like USAID–all of which have a vested interest in the “regime change” road map in Syria. The “evidence” these sources produce rarely deviates from the official U.S. narrative and reinforces the propaganda that drives the train of lies that justifies intervention.

Beeley exposes the White Helmets here:

Did I hear a pin drop?  The real Syria Civil Defence? Are the west’s iconized ‘White Helmets’ not the only emergency first-responders inside Syria?

For the REAL Syria Civil Defence you call 113 inside Syria.  There is no public number for the White Helmets.  Why not? Why does this multi-million dollar US & NATO state-funded first responder ‘NGO,’ with state of the art equipment supplied by the US and the EU via Turkey, have no central number for civilians to call when the “bombs fall”?

Before we introduce the real Syria Civil Defence, who are Syria’s real ICDO certified civil fire and rescue organisation, let’s first take a closer look at the imposters; terrorists in white hats, and agents of war – NATO’s pseudo ‘NGO’ construct, embedded exclusively in terrorist-held parts of Syria…

We’re told that the White Helmets routinely scale the walls of collapsed buildings and scrambling over smouldering rubble of bombed out buildings to dig a child out with their bare hands. Of course, never without a sizeable camera crew and mobile phone carrying entourage in tow.

UK media watchdog Media Lens mentioned the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights in a 2012 article on the Houla Massacre:

Curiously, the Guardian has published numerous second hand accounts from Syrian ‘opposition activists’ based in the UK. For example, on June 7, the Guardian’s Ian Black reported the al-Qubair massacre under the title, 'Syria accused of massacring 100':

‘The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said the massacre was carried out at a farm by pro-regime shabiha militiamen armed with guns and knives after regular troops had shelled the area.’

The Guardian has quoted the Syrian Observatory dozens of times. And yet, according to Reuters, the organisation consists of a single individual, Rami Abdulrahman, the owner of a clothes shop, who works from his ‘two bedroom terraced home in Coventry’.

This analysis has established beyond doubt that the corporate media acts as an uncritical echo chamber for information that originates from PR firms and dubious sources that practice deliberate deception.  It has established that the US had planned regime change in Syria at least a decade ago, as proved by its own secret communications written by a US ambassador (see the Assange interview).  It raises extremely serious questions about the credibility of the sources that the media use habitually and unquestioningly - behaviour that even the NYT publicly apologised for after its last journalistic debacle.

Yet you still believe the MSM narrative?

If this is not enough to persuade, consider the selective outrage expressed in the media about dictators around the world.  If the US and its allies along with the corporate media are such warriors for human rights and justice, why did we almost never hear anything about - say - the recently deceased President of Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov?

Former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig Murray gave an interview to the Guardian in 2004:

Murray has plenty of first-hand evidence of the Uzbekistani's "routine methods". Sitting in the plush living room of his ambassadorial residence, he tells me: "People come to me very often after being tortured. Normally this includes homosexual and heterosexual rape of close relatives in front of the victim; rape with objects such as broken bottles; asphyxiation; pulling out of fingernails; smashing of limbs with blunt objects; and use of boiling liquids including complete immersion of the body. This is not uncommon. Thousands of people a year suffer from this torture at the hands of the authorities."

As Murray saw apparently innocent Muslims being sentenced to death after confessions extracted by torture and show trials, he became furious at the "conspiracy of silence" practised by his fellow diplomats. "I tried to find out whether anyone had made a policy decision to [say nothing]", he says. "But certainly within the British government no minister had ever said such a thing. I was determined to blow the lid on [the conspiracy of silence]."

In October 2002, Murray made a speech to his fellow diplomats and Uzbekistani officials at a human rights conference in Tashkent in which he became the first western official for four years to state publicly that "Uzbekistan is not a functioning democracy", and to highlight the "prevalence of torture in Uzbekistani prisons" in a system where "brutality is inherent". Highlighting a case in which two men were boiled to death, he added: "All of us know that this is not an isolated incident."

Uzbekistan, a nation of strategic importance to the US and its allies, somehow escaped the front-page exposes, the live-update feeds, and the outraged hand-wringing from liberal Western journalists demanding that something be done. Meanwhile, in a series of incredible coincidences, the nations targeted by the West (as stated by US General Wesley Clark) all got the blanket 'evil dictator' treatment prior to their 'intervention' (devastation).

Indoctrinated Western journalists, unwilling to risk their status and privilege (and paychecks) are wilfully blind to this deception - an unforgivable failing for a professional journalist.  Given that this failure to even attempt to expose this deception - and in fact, in most cases, vocally support it - has resulted in the deaths of countless innocent people, not to mention the worst refugee crisis since WWII, these newspaper and cable-news employees can more accurately be described as collaborators with an imperial power that is operating illegally in Syria: funding, training and supplying openly terrorist groups in order to achieve their strategic goals (as this US arms shopping list for 'rebels' demonstrates).

The corporate media, exposed here as an active tool of disinformation and misinformation, must be boycotted completely, starved of the funding and clicks for ad revenue needed for survival.  Why - after all - would anyone spend time or money reading analyses proven to be intentionally misleading?  Look instead and open your mind to credible non-corporate organizations that deal in source material like WikiLeaks, and to independent writers and analysts that have proved their credibility, accuracy and honesty through their work over time, not from riding the now-dead reputation of the brand of their employer.  Treat them with the same skepticism as any mainstream source.

The purveyors of lies are trying to pull the same scam they did with Iraq, Libya and anywhere else one cares to name going back through history.  They do it because it works - time and time again - and that's because we let them.  For the sake of the refugees and innocent victims of this criminal empire and its paid media sycophants, stand up, draw the line and refuse to be led around by the nose like cattle ever again.

Written by Simon Wood

Twitter: @simonwood11

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Sunday, August 7, 2016

Two Weddings and a Funeral Redux

"Anytime bombs are used to target innocent civilians, it is an act of terror" - Barack Obama

A US presidential policy guidance document on drone strikes - often referred to as the 'drone playbook' - was last week made public in edited form in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union.

Politico's Josh Berstein writes:

President Barack Obama has to personally approve the killing of a U.S. citizen targeted for a lethal drone strike outside combat areas, according to a policy Obama adopted in 2013.

The president also is called upon to approve drone strikes against permanent residents of the U.S. and when "there is a lack of consensus" among agency chiefs about whom to target, but in other cases he is simply "apprised" of the targeting decision, the newly-disclosed document [pdf] shows.

The guidance provides more detail on some of the more controversial aspects of the drone strike policy, such as official claims that the government only uses lethal force when it isn't "feasible" to capture someone alive. The document seems to limit the sweep of that restriction by saying that officials can approve a drone strike if they make "an assessment that capture is not feasible at the time of the operation."

That suggests the U.S. can go forward with a strike even if there's reason to believe it might be possible to capture someone at some later point, perhaps if he transits between one place and another. On the other hand, given that those targeted are considered involved in imminent terrorist activities, a delay could potentially cost lives.

[]... the document also makes clear that Obama can bypass the process whenever he sees fit, particularly in situations where those in danger of a terrorist attack are not Americans but "another country's persons." It's unclear whether Obama has ever made such exceptions.

The policy also includes procedures for presidentially-approved last-minute variations to a targeting plan when "fleeting opportunities" arise, as well as policies for Congressional notification. Congressional leaders get an update on so-called "high-value targets" at least every three months, although the policy also allows for so-called "signature" strikes where the specific identity of a target isn't known, just his role.

A 2015 report by the Intercept found that 90% of the victims of drone strikes are not the intended targets.  President Obama, who as we now know is personally required to authorize drone strikes in certain situations, is therefore fully aware that he is likely to be personally bringing about the deaths of completely innocent people - including children - perhaps on a large scale; the definition - in his own words - of a terrorist attack.

The US by now has quite a resume on state-sponsored terror...

In July 2008 47 Afghan civilians, mostly women and children, were killed in a US military airstrike. The group was escorting a bride to her wedding ceremony in the groom's village in Nangarhar province. Three bombs hit the group in succession as they stopped for a rest. The first bomb killed a group of children that were ahead of the main group. The aircraft returned and dropped a second bomb in the middle of the main group, killing a large number of women. The bride and two other girls miraculously escaped the second bomb, but the third finished them as they tried to escape. The US government initially denied that any civilians had been killed until an Afghan government investigation determined the facts. It is known as the Deh Bala wedding party airstrike.

In November of the same year 63 people including 37 civilians - again mostly women and children - were killed in another US military airstrike at a housing complex where a wedding was being celebrated in the village of Wech Baghtu in Kandahar province, Afghanistan. Two days after the strike, Afghan President Hamid Karzai demanded that then newly-elected Barack Obama (soon to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize) end the killing of civilians: "Our demand is that there will be no civilian casualties in Afghanistan. We cannot win the fight against terrorism with airstrikes — this is my first demand of the new president of the United States — to put an end to civilian casualties." A US government official commented, "If innocent people were killed in this operation, we apologize and express our condolences."

In June 2009 US drones launched an attack on a funeral procession in the city of Makeen, South Waziristan. Militants killed earlier that same day were being buried. 60 people were killed, while other sources claim that there were up to 83 casualties. The 'Makeen airstrike' is considered to be one of the most deadly attacks in the drone era.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism based in London has carried out painstaking research on drone strikes, using extremely conservative methods, meaning it is likely that its figures are well below the reality. Its research has found clear evidence that not only do the US and NATO bomb weddings and funerals, they also target rescuers aiming to recover the bodies of their loved ones and neighbors in so-called 'double-tap' strikes.

John Brennan, CIA Director and former top counter-terrorism adviser to Barack Obama stated that the US has the right to unilaterally strike terrorists anywhere in the world, even away from battlefields:

"Because we are engaged in an armed conflict with al- Qaeda, the United States takes the legal position that, in accordance with international law, we have the authority to take action against al-Qaeda and its associated forces. The United States does not view our authority to use military force against al-Qaeda as being restricted solely to 'hot' battlefields like Afghanistan."

The stance of the US raises serious questions with regard to international law and the strategies employed in the 'war on terror'.

From an earlier article on this blog:

Let's take a closer look at international law. The Third Geneva Convention states that a so-called 'unlawful combatant' is a civilian who directly engages in armed conflict in violation of the laws of war.

Targeted killing, often executed by drone aircraft, is the intentional killing of a target deemed to be an 'unlawful combatant' not currently in the custody of the attacking power. This assumes that the person has allegedly lost the immunity granted by the Third Geneva Convention because they are allegedly engaged in terrorism or another form of armed conflict. Note that under the most basic concepts of most legal systems, such intent can only be surmised in a court of law or similar tribunal.


The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) provided in August 2010 a succinct FAQ of what is wrong with targeted killing, [standing] in stark contrast to the assertions of Mr. Brennan.

From the FAQ:

Both the Constitution and international law prohibit the use of lethal force against civilians outside of armed conflict except in very narrow circumstances: as a last resort to prevent an imminent attack that is likely to cause death or serious physical injury.

Allowing the use of warlike tactics far from any battlefield — using drones or other means — turns the whole world into a war zone and sets a dangerous example for other countries which might feel justified in doing the same. If the U.S. claims it can kill suspected enemies of the U.S. anywhere — using unmanned drones or otherwise — then other countries will regard killing their enemies within our borders as justified. We wouldn't be okay with the prospect of other countries executing their suspected enemies within U.S. borders.

The targeted killing of individuals who are suspected — but not proven — to be guilty of crimes also risks the deaths of innocent people. Over the last decade, we have seen the U.S. government wrongly imprison hundreds of men as terrorists based on weak, wrong or unreliable evidence, only to eventually free them. The consequence of such mistakes is far greater when the end result is death; there is no recourse for killing the wrong person.

What about innocent until proven guilty? The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which all NATO nations are signatories to, states in article 11:

"Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence."

Tragic consequences are not limited to the strikes themselves: A Los Angeles Times article reports that a militant group called Khorasan Mujahedin targets people suspected of being US or NATO informants. The group kidnaps, tortures and usually kills suspects, then distributes videotapes of killings in street markets to serve as warnings. Almost certainly many of these 'informants' will be mistakenly kidnapped, while local power brokers will inevitably abuse the climate of fear to remove rivals: more innocent deaths and grief for families.

As stated by the ACLU, John Brennan's attempt to justify these killings sets an extremely dangerous precedent. By US logic, any suspected terrorist defined as 'in conflict' with a nation state is a viable target at any location on the planet. China or Russia, therefore, can now feel perfectly free to target anyone they deem a 'terrorist' anywhere, including - say - a wedding in New York or a funeral in Boston. Can one even begin to imagine what would happen if Russia bombed a New York wedding? Would the Western media label the act as anything other than the most repugnant act of terror possible? Such an action is unacceptable, whatever the justification, and is a textbook example of a terrorist act, hence making the US and its NATO allies purveyors of terrorism on an industrial scale in the nations it targets.

International law, embodied in treaties signed between the nations of the world in good faith, must be regarded neither as an inconvenience nor something to be twisted using weasel reasoning. Any legal 'ambiguity', seized upon by the US and NATO for their own strategic goals, is a threat to world security. This faux-perceived ambiguity must be urgently addressed, and any nation which regards itself as moral must stand up to this campaign of mass murder disguised as warfare. There can only be one answer to the murder of children.

Written by Simon Wood

Twitter: @simonwood11

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Monday, June 6, 2016

West Papua - Crushing Freedom for Profit

“It’s about a political strategy that brings to worldwide recognition the plight of the people of West Papua, forces it onto a political agenda, forces it to the UN, forces an exposure of it and ultimately that allows the people of West Papua to make the choice of the kind of government they want and the kind of society in which they want to live.  That is a fundamental right.” - Jeremy Corybn,  calling for a visit by the UN special rapporteur, the reinstatement of NGOs in the region and questioning of international companies working in West Papua. (6 May 2016)

 "You should tell [Suharto] that we understand the problems they face in West Irian" - National Security Adviser Henry Kissinger to President Nixon on the eve of Nixon's July 1969 visit to Indonesia.

"The illegal we do immediately. The unconstitutional takes a little longer." - Henry Kissinger

Leader of the UK's Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn last month drew attention to the long-suffering and ignored people of West Papua, stating that 'recognition of human rights and justice should be the “cornerstone” of the UK Labour party’s foreign policy'.  He was addressing a group of international ministers and activists, including West Papuan independence leader Benny Wenda.  The Indonesian embassy in Australia released a statement dismissing the meeting as a publicity stunt organised by a “small group of Papua separatists and sympathisers”.
Declassified documents published in 2004 by the National Security Archive 'detail United States support for Indonesia's heavy-handed takeover of West Papua despite overwhelming Papuan opposition and United Nations requirements for genuine self-determination'. 

When Indonesia gained its independence from the Netherlands in 1949, the Dutch government retained control over the territory of West New Guinea. From 1949 until 1961 the Indonesian government sought to "recover" West New Guinea (later known as West Irian or West Papua), arguing that the territory, a part of the former Netherlands East Indies, rightfully belonged with Indonesia.
In late 1961, after repeated and unsuccessful attempts to secure its goals through the United Nations, Indonesia's President Sukarno declared a military mobilization and threatened to invade West New Guinea and annex it by force. The Kennedy administration, fearing that U.S. opposition to Indonesian demands might push the country toward Communism, sponsored talks between the Netherlands and Indonesia in the spring of 1962. Negotiations took place under the shadow of ongoing Indonesian military incursions into West New Guinea and the threat of an Indonesian invasion.

The U.S.-sponsored talks led to the August 1962 New York Agreement, which awarded Indonesia control of West New Guinea (which it promptly renamed West Irian) after a brief transitional period overseen by the UN. The agreement obligated Jakarta to conduct an election on self-determination with UN assistance no later than 1969. Once in control, however, Indonesia quickly moved to repress political dissent by groups demanding outright independence for the territory.

U.S. officials understood at the outset that Indonesia would never allow West Irian to become independent and that it was unlikely to ever allow a meaningful act of self-determination to take place. The Johnson and Nixon administrations were equally reluctant to challenge Indonesian control over West Irian, especially after the conservative anti-Communist regime of General Suharto took over in 1966 following an abortive coup attempt which led to the slaughter of an estimated 500,000 alleged Communists. Suharto quickly moved to liberalize the Indonesian economy and open it to the West, passing a new foreign investment law in late 1967. The first company to take advantage of the law was the American mining company Freeport Sulphur, which gained concessions to vast tracts of land in West Irian containing gold and copper reserves.

Over six weeks from July to August 1969, U.N. officials conducted the so-called "Act of Free Choice." Under the articles of the New York Agreement (Article 18) all adult Papuans had the right to participate in an act of self-determination to be carried out in accordance with international practice. Instead, Indonesian authorities selected [1025] West Papuans to vote publicly and unanimously in favor of integration with Indonesia.

The 'Act of Free Choice', now habitually referred to as the 'Act of No Choice' by Papuan independence advocates, was a farce from beginning to end.   The suggestion that almost a million people who had already prepared a flag and an anthem for their imminent independence would unanimously vote for foreign control is derisory.

From New Internationalist:

One of the few journalists there at the time (the world’s media was focused on Indochina), Hugh Lunn, has written an account which records Papuans’ heartfelt and ignored pleas to the outside world. On arriving at his hotel he found a letter soaked in blood which said Indonesia was killing dissenting Papuans. Then a Papuan who came into his room supposedly to repair a light mimed himself being shot in the back of the head while another pretended to be handcuffed. UN staff who spoke to Lunn off-the-record had all experienced but not publicized similar creative requests for international support.

Australia also ignored such pleas. At the request of Indonesia, it arrested two pro-independence activists when they entered Australian-administered Papua New Guinea. They carried testimonies from Papuans calling for independence and for the UN to abandon the Act of Free Choice. These were never delivered – instead the activists were put in jail.

A statement prepared by the US Embassy in Jakarta and presented to Australia before the UN-supervised vote says: ‘Personal political views of the UN team are... 95 per cent of Irianese (West Papuans) support the independence movement and that the Act of Free Choice is a mockery.’

This new evidence confirms that the UN, Australia and the US all knew that the Act of Free Choice was actually what Papuans call the ‘Act of No Choice’. The duplicity is incomprehensible to most Papuans – the UN had embraced many new nations; the US, in its anti-Communist crusade, avowed support for freedom and Australia followed suit. But all these promises and pronouncements were void when it came to their own oppression.

After West Papua was officially proclaimed Indonesian, the small rebel group, Organisasi Papua Merdeka (OPM or Free Papua Movement) although armed only with bows, arrows and spears, provided the Indonesian military with a rationale to clamp down on the province. An estimated 60,000 troops were deployed. From 1967 to 1972 the military violence is estimated to have caused between 30,000 and 100,000 Papuan deaths. Then, in the late 1970s, a series of ceremonies raising the West Papuan flag in the Highlands resulted in the military bombing and strafing of whole villages, killing at least 1,000 people and causing at least 5,000 to flee and hide out in the forest.

To the lasting shame of the United Nations, not only did it knowingly permit this travesty, but its official stance on the Act of Free Choice remains unchanged, making a mockery of its own charter and the idea that it is independent of the influence of powerful nations.

What could explain this turning of a blind eye by the UN?  In an astounding coincidence, the largest gold mine and third largest copper mine in the world is located in this region.  The Grasberg mine is 90.64% owned by the US mining company, Freeport McMoRan (formerly the Texas Freeport Sulphur Company).  By the mid-1980s, with the original mine largely depleted, Freeport explored for other deposits in the area, identifying in 1988 reserves valued at $40 billion at Grasberg just 3 kilometres from the Ertsberg mine.  A 2003–2006 boom caused by extra consumption of copper for Asian electrical infrastructure caused prices to increase from around $1500/ton to $8100/ton, greatly increasing the profitability of the mine.

[As a noteworthy aside, in his book The Trial of Henry Kissinger, Christopher Hitchens wrote:

In 1989 Freeport-McMoRan paid Kissinger Associates a retainer of $200,000 and fees of $600,000, not to mention a promise of a 2% commission on future earnings.  Freeport-McMoRan also made [Henry] Kissinger a member of its board of directors, at an annual salary of at least $30,000.]

Environmental groups are concerned with the potential for copper contamination and acid mine drainage from the mine tailings into surrounding river systems and groundwater.   Concerns are such that both Freeport and its partner Rio Tinto were excluded from the investment portfolio of The Government Pension Fund of Norway, the world's second-largest pension fund, due to criticism over the environmental damage caused by the Grasberg mine. Stocks at a value of US$870 million were divested from the fund as a result of the decisions.

According to the Free West Papua campaign, 'Freeport is Indonesia’s biggest taxpayer, making billions of dollars for the Indonesian government every year.  The company reportedly pays the Indonesian military around $3 million every year in “protection money”, ensuring that local West Papuans are kept out of the area.  The mine reportedly pumps over 238,000 tonnes of toxic waste into the local river system every day, leading to mass fish deaths and swathes of biologically dead lands'.

Unsurprisingly, the human rights situation is horrific, with numerous incidences of torture, rape and murder:

Many towns and villages have witnessed wholesale massacres of their people. One such example was the 'Biak Massacre' in 1998, where over 200 people including women and children were rounded up by the Indonesian military, loaded onto vessels, taken to sea and thrown overboard.  In 2010 the UK's Channel Four News broadcast a [graphic] report on torture in the region.  In a public report to the U.N. Commission on Human Rights in 1999, the Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women concluded that the Indonesian security forces used rape “as an instrument of torture and intimidation” in West Papua, and “torture of women detained by the Indonesian security forces was widespread”.

There are currently hundreds of West Papuan political prisoners being held in West Papua and across Indonesia. Many are serving long prison terms for peacefully protesting against Indonesian rule or for being members of organisations calling for West Papuan independence.
Filep Karma is a particular case in point, serving a 15 year jail sentence simply for raising the West Papuan national flag. He is an Amnesty International prisoner of conscience. Conditions in the prisons are often very poor and maltreatment of prisoners is common with many being beaten and tortured while detained. Prisoners have often developed severe health problems and been denied access to medical care.

Many Papuans live in a constant state of fear and intimidation. People living in villages across West Papua can at any time be subject to military sweeping operations.  Under the pretence of looking for insurgents, the military have repeatedly swept through entire rural areas killing arbitrarily and burning whole villages to the ground, destroying subsistence food crops and livestock and forcing people to flee into the forests where they are prone to starvation and disease.

West Papua is currently off limits to international journalists. If discovered without permission they are arrested and deported by the Indonesian authorities. Some have even been attacked and imprisoned.

The ongoing tragedy in West Papua is just one more example out of thousands where human welfare is trumped every time by economic, financial and/or geopolitical interests, where the widespread torture, rape and murder of locals are merely PR obstacles.  This is an inevitable consequence of the pursuit of profit, the fundamental principle behind capitalism; a system that is antithetical to preservation of the environment and human rights.

Written by Simon Wood

[Author's note: There are several ways for readers to take action to aid the West Papuan people here.  See also a secretly filmed 2013 Al Jazeera documentary here]

Twitter: @simonwood11

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Thursday, May 26, 2016

Obama Does Hiroshima

"He started suffering nosebleeds about a week after the bombing. They called a doctor, and my aunt put a wash basin by his side and stayed up all night taking care of him. But the bleeding from his gums and nose grew worse, and he finally died on the 22nd. Before he breathed his last, he complained that his stomach and legs hurt very much. I was sleeping next to him, and he told me to bring a knife because an atomic bomb was lodged in his stomach. I couldn’t bear to watch him suffer, so I got up to get him a knife, but my uncle scolded me. My brother’s corpse had no blood at all. It was as white as a wax dummy. My mother died in Nagasaki at about the same time, and my sister and younger brother died weeping over her body. I was told they held the funeral for all three on the same day." - Emiko Fukahori, survivor of Nagasaki nuclear bombing [Source]

“Since I only have a few months left in the office, I thought it was a good time for me to reflect on the nature of war. Part of my goal is to recognise that innocent people caught in war can suffer tremendously. And that’s not just the thing of the past. That is happening today in many parts of the world.” - US President Barack Obama on his reasons for visiting Hiroshima [Source]

In Japan for the 2016 G-7 summit, US President Barack Obama will make history as the first acting US president to visit Hiroshima, the site of the world's first nuclear bombing. Obama, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009 to 'encourage his initiatives to reduce nuclear arms, ease tensions with the Muslim world and stress diplomacy and cooperation rather than unilateralism', might well be expected to explain to observers the inherent contradiction of visiting a scene of unspeakable nuclear tragedy as he authorizes the spending of $1 trillion on 'redesigned nuclear warheads, as well as new nuclear bombers, submarines, land-based missiles, weapons labs and production plants'.

On August 6th 1945 the US dropped a uranium gun-type atomic bomb (Little Boy) on Hiroshima, directly over Shima hospital. The hospital along with its staff and patients were instantly vaporized and much of the city was destroyed. Three days later a plutonium implosion-type bomb (Fat Man) was dropped on the city of Nagasaki in Kyushu.

The code names of the bombs, chosen to reflect their design shapes, were taken from the 1941 movie, The Maltese Falcon. At least 129,000 people were killed.

Obama's visit to Hiroshima has revived debate over the bombings. Much of this debate has focused on whether the bombings were necessary to force the surrender of the Japanese. Those in agreement with this generally cite the standard historical US government line that multitudes of lives on both sides that would have been lost in a ground invasion were preserved, conventional wisdom that is rarely - if ever - questioned in mainstream analysis. This conclusion, however, which assumes benign and humanitarian motives on the part of the US commanders in killing some to save many, does not stand up to proper scrutiny.

First, one cannot assume benign motives on the part of the US. Indeed, one need only look at the firebombing of Tokyo five months earlier. The Operation Meetinghouse air raid of 9-10th March 1945 was the single deadliest air raid of World War II. 330 B-29 bombers - 'packed with various incendiary explosives, including white phosphorous and napalm, a gasoline-based, fuel-gel mixture developed at Harvard University' - were dropped on the civilian inhabitants of Tokyo. The incendiaries were chosen specifically to target the wooden residential structures.

Rory Fanning writing in Jacobin magazine elaborates:

Like a sticky fiery plague, the globs of napalm clung to everything it touched. The M-69s were so effective at starting fires in Tokyo that night that gale force winds turned thousands of individual fires into one massive firestorm. Temperatures around the city raged between 600 and 1800 degrees Fahrenheit. In some areas, the fires melted asphalt.

[Architect of Tokyo firebombing General Curtis] LeMay planned the attack to coincide with 30 MPH winds in order to intensify the effect of the bombs. Ultimately, sixteen square miles of Tokyo were reduced to ash.

LeMay claimed that the Japanese government relied on residential “cottage” war production, thus making the civilians living in Tokyo a legitimate military target. However, by 1944 the Japanese had essentially terminated its home war production. A full 97 percent of the country’s military supplies were protected underground in facilities not vulnerable to air attack the day of the bombing. The Americans knew this.

The United States had broken Japan’s Red and Purple cipher machines well before 1945, allowing them access to the most classified enemy intelligence. American generals understood the war would soon be materially impossible for the Japanese.

The US Naval blockade had also prevented oil, metal, and other essential goods from entering Japan long before March 9. Japan was so cut off from basic supplies that it was constructing its planes partially out of wood.

The Japanese population at this point in the war was most concerned with starvation. The 1945 rice harvest was the worst since 1909. Surveys commissioned by Japan’s government in April 1945 reported the population was “too preoccupied with the problems of food” to worry about fighting a war. Victory for the Allies was guaranteed by the start of the year.

The most damning evidence against the firebombing can be traced to August 19, 1945, when Walter Trohan of the Chicago Tribune finally published a piece gracefully titled “Roosevelt Ignored M’Arthur Report on Nip Proposals” that he had been sitting on for seven months.

Trohan wrote: Release of all censorship restrictions in the United States makes it possible to report that the first Japanese peace bid was relayed to the White House seven months ago. . . .

The Jap offer, based on five separate overtures, was relayed to the White House by Gen. MacArthur in a 40-page communication, [who] urged negotiations on the basis of the Jap overtures. . . .

The offer, as relayed by MacArthur, contemplated abject surrender of everything but the person of the Emperor. President Roosevelt dismissed the general’s communication, which was studded with solemn references to the deity, after a casual reading with the remark, “MacArthur is our greatest general and our poorest politician.”

The MacArthur report was not even taken to Yalta.

In January 1945 — two days before Franklin Roosevelt was to meet with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin in Yalta — the Japanese were offering surrender terms almost identical to what was accepted by the Americans on the USS Missouri in the Japan Bay on September 2, 1945.

The Japanese population was famished, the country’s war machine was out of gas, and the government had capitulated. The Americans were unmoved. The firebombing and the nuclear attacks were heartlessly carried out. If anyone is guilty of disregarding the “context” of the firebombing of Tokyo, it’s the sycophantic and biased American historians who deride these critical facts.


So why did the Americans continue to raid and terrorize the Japanese civilian population knowing the war could have been over? Many argue that the Americans were flexing their muscles for Russia in anticipation of the ensuing Cold War. Countless pages have been written about this.

But what is too often overlooked is the racism of the day. It is America’s racism that best explains the extent of the firebombing and the nuclear attacks. The racist mindset that all too many Americans were comfortable with in the Jim Crow era easily bled onto the Japanese. The horror stories of the almost two hundred thousand Japanese Americans who lost their livelihoods as a result of Roosevelt’s internment camps are just one example of how Americans saw not only the Japanese but Japanese-Americans.

The firebombing of Japan was about testing new technologies on a civilian population. Significant funds had gone into the development of American military technology — 36 billion in 2015 dollars funded the creation of the atomic bomb. Napalm was new as well. The firebombing of Tokyo marked the first time it was used on a dense civilian population. The Americans wanted to assay their new inventions on a group of people who they thought were less than human.

LeMay famously remarked, “Killing Japanese didn’t bother me very much at that time . . . I suppose if I had lost the war, I would have been tried as a war criminal.” LeMay later leveraged his war credentials and racism to earn a spot on segregationist Gov. George Wallace’s 1968 presidential ticket.

A 1944 opinion poll found that 13% of Americans favored exterminating the entire Japanese race - man, woman and child - after the war, with 33% saying that Japan should be split up and destroyed as a political entity and 28% advocating 'supervision and control'. While the well-documented atrocities of the Japanese can explain much of this hatred, this dehumanization of the Japanese people as a whole can only have made it easier to justify the mass bombing of civilians. There is ample evidence that a large number of American citizens at the time viewed the Japanese as subhuman.

From a sourced summary of anti-Japanese sentiment [Sources]:

U.S. historian James J. Weingartner attributes the very low number of Japanese in U.S. POW compounds to two key factors: a Japanese reluctance to surrender and a widespread American "conviction that the Japanese were 'animals' or 'subhuman' and unworthy of the normal treatment accorded to POWs." The latter reasoning is supported by Niall Ferguson, who says that "Allied troops often saw the Japanese in the same way that Germans regarded Russians [sic] — as Untermenschen." Weingartner believes this explains the fact that a mere 604 Japanese captives were alive in Allied POW camps by October 1944. Ulrich Straus, a U.S. Japanologist, believes that front line troops intensely hated Japanese military personnel and were "not easily persuaded" to take or protect prisoners, as they believed that Allied personnel who surrendered, got "no mercy" from the Japanese. Allied soldiers believed that Japanese soldiers were inclined to feign surrender, in order to make surprise attacks. Therefore, according to Straus, "[s]enior officers opposed the taking of prisoners[,] on the grounds that it needlessly exposed American troops to risks ..."

Genocide researcher Daniel Goldhagen in his book Worse than War wrote: "So it is no surprise that Americans perpetrated and supported mass slaughters - Tokyo's firebombing and then nuclear incinerations - in the name of saving American lives, and of giving the Japanese what they richly deserved."

Weingartner argues that there is a common cause between the mutilation of Japanese war dead and the decision to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki. According to Weingartner both were partially the result of a dehumanization of the enemy, saying, "[T]he widespread image of the Japanese as sub-human constituted an emotional context which provided another justification for decisions which resulted in the death of hundreds of thousands."

On the second day after the Nagasaki bomb, Truman stated: "The only language they seem to understand is the one we have been using to bombard them. When you have to deal with a beast you have to treat him like a beast. It is most regrettable but nevertheless true".

Dehumanization makes atrocities easy to justify, even when they are perpetrated against children. A recent example can be found during the 2014 Israeli bombing of Gaza, when groups of Israelis gathered on a hillside to watch their government's bombs (supplied by nations like the US and UK) striking Palestinian residential areas, cheering in full knowledge that children were being murdered in their homes. Journalist Jonathon Cook has documented how the language of genocide and dehumanization has already entered Israeli mainstream discourse.

With the widespread US racism and hatred against the Japanese established and the benign intentions of the US forces in World War II discredited, a disturbing question arises: were the atomic bombings, as with the firebombing of Tokyo, opportunities taken to test new weapons and substances on a civilian population? The notion must be examined, given that several objectives could be achieved simultaneously in using the bomb (providing motive). These objectives include demonstrating the will and ability to use such destructive, deadly weapons on civilians, thereby sending a terrifying message to the Soviet Union and China, both already identified as powerful future adversaries. The materials and technology could be tested in the field, with the opportunity to examine the physical, medical and psychological consequences of using such a weapon. It was less than a month after the first nuclear test (Trinity) on July 16th 1945 and the first two types of nuclear bomb were rushed to completion soon after. With hindsight, it is a striking coincidence that these two different types were tested on two different Japanese cities? And all this could be justified with a ready-made excuse, one that the American public would easily swallow given the overall feelings toward the Japanese at the time: that thousands of needless American deaths would be averted.

In order to add credence to such a claim, one must discredit the commonly employed argument that use of atomic bombs was unavoidable - absolutely necessary - to spare the lives that would be lost in a ground invasion.

Researcher Jonah Walters writes:

There is no truth to the common argument that the United States military had to use nuclear bombs on Japanese civilians to end World War II.

American leaders at the time understood well that they had other options. In fact, Truman mentions this in his memoirs, recalling his worry that, should American atomic tests fail, the Soviet ground invasion of Japan would precipitate the Japanese surrender, thus amplifying Soviet influence in East Asia. The Joint Chiefs of Staff of the US military had begun planning a detailed ground invasion of their own, a strategy deliberately developed to avoid the use of nuclear warfare in the Pacific.

But more importantly, Japan was profoundly isolated in the region and in the world following the surrender of Nazi Germany. The Japanese state had already begun to collapse, with military and executive bureaucracies in disarray. The Soviet declaration of war — which occurred on August 8, between the bombing of Hiroshima and the bombing of Nagasaki — so panicked Japanese Prime Minister Kantarō Suzuki that, when he was advised not to plan a military response to the imminent invasion, he reportedly replied, “then the game is up.”

The 1946 United States Strategic Bombing Survey in Japan after examining numerous documents and interviewing hundreds of military and civilian leaders in Japan after the surrender concluded:

There is little point in attempting precisely to impute Japan's unconditional surrender to any one of the numerous causes which jointly and cumulatively were responsible for Japan's disaster. The time lapse between military impotence and political acceptance of the inevitable might have been shorter had the political structure of Japan permitted a more rapid and decisive determination of national policies. Nevertheless, it seems clear that, even without the atomic bombing attacks, air supremacy over Japan could have exerted sufficient pressure to bring about unconditional surrender and obviate the need for invasion.

Based on a detailed investigation of all the facts, and supported by the testimony of the surviving Japanese leaders involved, it is the Survey's opinion that certainly prior to 31 December 1945, and in all probability prior to 1 November 1945, Japan would have surrendered even if the atomic bombs had not been dropped, even if Russia had not entered the war, and even if no invasion had been planned or contemplated

Another question that arises and adds credence to the theory that the official justifications for using the bomb were lies is the fact that the invasion of Kyushu was planned for October/November. Given that US intelligence was well aware of Japan's desperate situation under the naval blockade, the destruction of its infrastructure and the poor 1945 rice harvest that was causing widespread starvation, and was also long aware of Japan's willingness to surrender under certain terms that could be negotiated, there is no reason why these surrender terms were not discussed before the use of such a terrible weapon was sanctioned.

Indeed, Truman's eagerness and glee at the use of the bomb is documented:

The successful test of the atom bomb on July 16, shortly before the formal opening of the Potsdam Conference, gave Truman what he later called “a hammer on those boys.” Truman’s demeanor at Potsdam completely changed, and he became much more aggressive and arrogant in negotiations with Stalin. During the initial days of the Potsdam Conference, Truman was still seeking to get assurance from the Soviet Union that it would join the war with Japan. However over the next several weeks, it is clear that administration officials hoped that use of the bomb would bring a quick end to the war before the Soviet invasion progressed very far and before Japan made a separate deal with Stalin.

Many of the scientists who worked or supported the Manhattan Project did so because of their intense hatred of Hitler and the Nazi regime. The project was originally justified on the grounds that if Hitler were to acquire the bomb first the consequences would be absolutely devastating. But by the time the United States had perfected the technology, Germany had been defeated. Nevertheless, the Truman administration not only decided to use the bomb, but did so with evident glee. Truman famously declared that he did not lose a night’s sleep over the decision. According to one account, when he heard the news about Hiroshima while crossing the Atlantic, he declared, “This is the greatest thing in history,” and then “raced about the ship to spread the news, insisting that he had never made a happier announcement. ‘We have won the gamble,’ he told the assembled and cheering crew.”

Commenting on this phenomenon, the historian Gabriel Jackson remarked, “In the specific circumstances of August 1945, the use of the atom bomb showed that a psychologically very normal and democratically elected chief executive could use the weapon just as the Nazi dictator would have used it. In this way, the United States—for anyone concerned with moral distinctions in the different types of government—blurred the difference between fascism and democracy.”

A common argument employed to justify the atomic bombings is that Japan 'deserved it' because of its own atrocities. One wonders if these same people would also support a nuclear attack by Vietnam over a major US city, killing hundreds of thousands and destroying most of the buildings, in response to atrocities committed by US forces during the Vietnam War like the My Lai massacre (one among many). Would the American toddlers murdered in their schools also 'deserve it' because troops from their nation did terrible things to people in wars long before their birth? That educated adults can even for a moment entertain the idea that civilians - including infants - can somehow be held responsible for the crimes of their governments and/or soldiers and somehow deserve retribution in the form of violent death is a particularly damning indictment of the current ethical standards of great swathes of humanity, especially those who have grown up and live in an environment saturated by a corporate-owned media that creates a false picture of 'humanitarian wars' waged by Western powers.

The other pressing question that has dominated media analysis and discussion is the question of whether Obama should apologise for the nuclear bombings. State Department officials have ruled out an apology and the Japanese government appears not to expect or require one, for reasons spelled out by Jake Adelstein. He notes that this is despite a 2015 Russian news agency poll that found that 60% of the Japanese people want an apology of some sort.

Any apology offered by Obama on behalf of his nation, however, would be meaningless.

For an apology to have meaning, the sentiments behind the words have to correspond to reality. Implicit in any genuine apology by Obama for the needless deaths of the civilians of Hiroshima and Nagasaki would be a demonstrated sorrow for civilian deaths elsewhere in the world both now and in the past. This is manifestly not the case. Obama personally authorizes drone strikes from the Oval Office in full awareness of the fact that 90% of drone strike victims are not the intended targets, often innocent bystanders - including hundreds of children.

An honest, heartfelt apology would imply that the United States is concerned with human rights or mass killing. Time and again, the US has proved that the polar opposite is true; that its strategic objectives trump human welfare every time. A fairly comprehensive list compiled of US interventions and actions that have led to deaths in foreign nations estimates that at least 20 million people have been killed by the US since World War II.


Guatemala: In 1951 Jacobo Arbenz was elected president of Guatemala. He appropriated some unused land operated by the United Fruit Company and compensated the company. That company then started a campaign to paint Arbenz as a tool of an international conspiracy and hired about 300 mercenaries who sabotaged oil supplies and trains. In 1954 a CIA-orchestrated coup put him out of office and he left the country. During the next 40 years various regimes killed thousands of people. In 1999 the Washington Post reported that an Historical Clarification Commission concluded that over 200,000 people had been killed during the civil war and that there had been 42,000 individual human rights violations, 29,000 of them fatal, 92% of which were committed by the army. The commission further reported that the U.S. government and the CIA had pressured the Guatemalan government into suppressing the guerilla movement by ruthless means.

Indonesia: In 1965, in Indonesia, a coup replaced General Sukarno with General Suharto as leader. The U.S. played a role in that change of government. Robert Martens, a former officer in the U.S. embassy in Indonesia, described how U.S. diplomats and CIA officers provided up to 5,000 names to Indonesian Army death squads in 1965 and checked them off as they were killed or captured. Martens admitted that “I probably have a lot of blood on my hands, but that’s not all bad. There’s a time when you have to strike hard at a decisive moment.” Estimates of the number of deaths range from 500,000 to 3 million. From 1993 to 1997 the U.S. provided Jakarta with almost $400 million in economic aid and sold tens of million of dollars of weaponry to that nation. U.S. Green Berets provided training for the Indonesia’s elite force which was responsible for many of atrocities in East Timor.

Chile: The CIA intervened in Chile’s 1958 and 1964 elections. In 1970 a socialist candidate, Salvador Allende, was elected president. The CIA wanted to incite a military coup to prevent his inauguration, but the Chilean army’s chief of staff, General Rene Schneider, opposed this action. The CIA then planned, along with some people in the Chilean military, to assassinate Schneider. This plot failed and Allende took office. President Nixon was not to be dissuaded and he ordered the CIA to create a coup climate: “Make the economy scream,” he said. What followed were guerilla warfare, arson, bombing, sabotage and terror. ITT and other U.S. corporations with Chilean holdings sponsored demonstrations and strikes. Finally, on September 11, 1973 Allende died either by suicide or by assassination. At that time Henry Kissinger, U.S. Secretary of State, said the following regarding Chile: “I don’t see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist because of the irresponsibility of its own people.” During 17 years of terror under Allende’s successor, General Augusto Pinochet, an estimated 3,000 Chileans were killed and many others were tortured or “disappeared.”

The full sordid, horrifying list, which is not complete, makes it clear that the United States is indifferent to its treaty obligations with regard to international law, human rights and democracy, all the while maintaining an image - carefully cultivated and protected by indoctrinated, 'gatekeeper' journalists in the corporate media - of benign intent.

Obama apologising for the nuclear bombings would be like a still-active serial arsonist apologising to you for burning down your house in the distant past: a fake, meaningless gesture. While US representatives are certainly capable of such dishonesty, it is fortunate at least that the wronged people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki will be spared treatment of this nature. Their earnest hopes for a nuclear-free world, however, will not be realised by the likes of Obama or any of the presidential candidates that will succeed him.

Hiroshima's online peace memorial guide tells us: 'The flame of peace has burned continuously since it was lit on August 1, 1964. It symbolizes the anti-nuclear resolve to burn the flame until the day when all such weapons shall have disappeared from the earth'. With NATO posturing on Russia's borders and growing confrontations with China showing no signs of abating, the possibility is there that it is humans that will 'disappear from the earth' before these terrible weapons do.

Co-president Tilman Ruff of the Geneva International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War addressed the Open-Ended Working Group on nuclear weapons on May 13 in Geneva:

The scenario presented by Dr. Helfand last week for a regional nuclear war between India and Pakistan used 100 Hiroshima size weapons—fewer than half the 220 nuclear weapons those two states currently possess.

These 100 weapons would constitute less than 0.5% of the nuclear weapons in the world, and less than 0.1% of their explosive yield. More than five million tons of sooty black smoke would be injected high into the atmosphere.

The subsequent global cooling, darkening and drying over decades, is conservatively estimated to put two billion people in jeopardy from starvation.

This is without factoring in markedly increased ultraviolet radiation and disruption of agricultural inputs—seed, fertiliser, pesticides, fuel and transport—that would inevitably follow a nuclear war.

Nor does this estimate include the epidemics of infectious disease that inevitably accompany famines, nor conflict within and between countries over dwindling food supplies.

Declines in food production following such a relatively small regional nuclear war would be greatest at higher latitudes. The nuclear-dependent states in this room who support the “progressive” business-as-usual approach all lie predominantly at mid and high latitudes. They would be among the countries experiencing the greatest declines in their major food crops. In higher latitudes, such as in northern Europe, food production would virtually cease.

Suddenly injecting five million tons of smoke into the upper atmosphere would very likely end human civilization.

Up to 144 nuclear warheads can be carried by one US Ohio class submarine, each 6-30 times the size of the Hiroshima bomb. Even at the low end of their yield, if targeted on Chinese cities, the warheads on one submarine would produce 23 million tons of smoke. The US has 14 such submarines, Russia a similar number. Each of them is a global climate catastrophe waiting to happen.

Instead of accepting platitudes from Obama on his earnest desire for world peace, the world must demand action on mankind's possession of this weapon that amounts to a possible death sentence for the entire human species and most life on the planet if there is even one miscalculation or misunderstanding between nuclear-armed powers. In our increasingly volatile global climate, nuclear disarmament must be treated as an urgent priority.

Written by Simon Wood

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