IMF Tells Bolivia to Drop Its Successful Economic Model

By Kawsachun News

16 Sep 2022The IMF released a report today on the Bolivian economy in which it recommends adopting drastic neoliberal measures, including; reducing workers’ salaries, cutting public investments, and ending currency controls. These policies have turned Bolivia from one of the poorest countries in the region into it’s fastest-growing economy.

The report takes aim at the government’s spending on development, saying, “The government must restrict spending, including eliminating the end of year wage bonus for workers, they must restrict the growth of wages for public sector workers, and limit the growth of public investment and subsidies.”

The ‘end-of-year wage bonus’ for workers (in both the public and private sector) refers to a policy introduced under Evo Morales that requires employers to pay their workers a bonus equal to double their monthly wage, but only if annual GDP growth is over 4.5%.

The bulk of public investment is destined for infrastructure, while the majority of subsidies are for ensuring the price of fuel doesn’t rise. Bolivia is the only country in the region to see no rise in fuel prices, a policy that has kept inflation at less than 2%, unlike the rest of South America.

The report even states that fuel prices must rise, and the inflation that would inevitably cause could be offset by cash-transfer programs for the poorest sectors, says the IMF:

“The successful implementation of an increase in domestic fuel prices will require recycling a part of the budget savings in cash transfer programs aimed at the poorest deciles of the population.”

Bolivia’s Economy Minister, Marcelo Montenegro, emphatically rejected the report, stating today; “They prescribe the old recipes from many decades ago where they call for reducing subsidies, lowering public spending, gradually eliminating the end of year bonus for workers. We are not going to accept these recommendations because we are a sovereign country, and we have a sovereign economic policy.”

The policies criticized by the IMF have helped Bolivia reduce poverty by over 50% since Evo Morales took office in 2006. It has also helped keep inflation at the lowest rate in Latin America. Meanwhile, when IMF policies were implemented in the early 2000s, over 60% of the country lived below the poverty line.

In a recent speech in Brazil, Bolivia’s President Luis Arce stated that the country’s impressive growth is due to rejecting IMF recommendations; “We are in better conditions because, since 2006, Bolivia doesn’t have a single agreement with the IMF. In 2020 with the de facto government, they tried to enter into a loan program with the IMF, which we stopped as soon as we entered government, we reversed that IMF loan because believe the best way to make economic policy is to have a sovereign monetary and economic policy without being submitted to any international organism.”

19 September 2022


Latin Americans Reject Resource Plundering by Same NATO Countries Fueling Military Conflict in Ukraine

By Camila Escalante

13 Sep 2022 On August 6 we celebrated 197 years of independence here in Bolivia. We listened intently to the speech by President Luis Arce delivered in Sucre, the capital city in Bolivia’s Chiquisaca department. Among other issues, he spoke about the current military conflict in Ukraine and the need for peace in today’s world.

President Arce said there cannot be peace in the world so long as there is continued foreign military intervention and economic blockades and sanctions, so very painful to humanity. He went on to say that Bolivians are placing much attention on the conflict taking place in Ukraine. He cautioned against the propaganda being generated in Western countries about all of the harm and violence that people are suffering as a consequence of this conflict.

He also reminded his listeners that we in Latin America have been plagued with intervention, war, bombings and deaths for generations right here in our lands and territories as the United States continues to apply its anachronistic ‘Monroe Doctrine’. First the colonialists and then the imperialists have imposed this doctrine for hundreds of years, long before the current conflict in Ukraine began in February of this year. [You can view a brief excerpt of the August 6 speech by Luis Arce, here.]

Matters could not be clearer than they are today here in Latin America. One consequence of the conflict in Ukraine has been to reveal exactly who is on the side of a more just and equitable world, and who opposes that.

Sadly, in the Western countries, many left-wing and other progressive voices have been terribly confused about events. They are blaming Russia for the conflict, calling for its withdrawal from Ukraine, which at the present time amounts to a call for Russian surrender to NATO.

They are calling for ‘diplomacy’ instead of war, ignoring the fact that it is the U.S., NATO and Kyiv who have turned their backs on diplomacy. They ignore the long history of the conflict in Donbas in which Russia has ultimately been obliged to intervene in order to defend the people of that region against Ukraine military attacks and in order to resist the military and economic encroachment upon Russia’s borders by the NATO powers.

Many alleged anti-imperialists in Western countries have dismissed the positions on Ukraine-Russia taken by anti-imperialist parties, social movements and revolutionary leaders here in Latin America and the Caribbean. They ignore the fact that we, here in the Global South, in Latin America and the Caribbean, are obliged to fight every day to defend our lands and natural resources against imperialist plunder. This is becoming clearer and clearer by the day.

Leaders such as Evo Morales of Bolivia and President Nicolas Maduro of Venezuela were the first out of the gates earlier this year to call for an end to imperialist NATO’s continued expansion efforts. They have warned of the dangers of the extremist, far-right, white supremacist neo-Nazi forces in Ukraine that are being defended, protected and uplifted by countries in Europe and North America and by imperialists and fascists all over the world.

Evo Morales issued a call in July for an international campaign in favour of the abolition of NATO.

So I would say that there is, in fact, a consistent left-wing position here in Latin America, in contrast to the incoherent and inconsistent stances taken by too many in the global north. That consistent position continues to oppose NATO imperialist expansion and any new, manufactured pretexts for encroaching on our territories with new U.S. military bases. I am thinking, in particular, of the ‘SOUTHCOM’ military command for Latin America of the United States, located in Florida. It can be viewed as the representation of NATO on our continent.

Neither Russia and China, nor any other country in the world, has a presence anywhere remotely comparable to what the United States has all around our continent, particularly in Colombia where there are seven active U.S. military bases right now.

Coincidentally, on August 7, Colombia celebrated the inauguration of left-wing President Gustavo Petro and Vice-President Francia Marquez. It’s a very important date, a very momentous time for us. Their election on May 29 is an historic achievement for the people of Colombia.

Finally, we have seen the outgoing president Ivan Duque out the door. But he had welcomed NATO and the U.S. military to establish itself permanently in our continent and it is going to be very difficult to get rid of them.

Our position is also against additional plundering of our natural resources and the dismantling and privatization of our strategic nationalized industries.

Juan Ramon Quintana was a former minister of the Evo Morales government and he’s given several talks to social movements here in Bolivia to try to help bring clarity to the conflict and geopolitical situation in and around Ukraine. At a talk at the headquarters of the Six Federations of the Trópico of Cochabamba in March, he said, “The West, the European Union, the United States, NATO–what they’re trying to do is survive through their political, economic, financial and cultural crisis because the West has not given any answer to humanity. The West today is synonymous with war, destruction, weapons, atomic arsenals.”

Quintana asks, “What is the culture of the West? We are coming from 500 years of colonial violence—our ears have been mutilated, our noses and hands cut off, our bodies dismembered. That is what has been left with us, comrades. This is a culture of destroying nature and Mother Earth. It doesn’t cease in its compulsive, materialistic appetite to wage war, to appropriate other people’s strategic resources.”

Investment projects involving companies from Russia and China do exist. However, what we see there is cooperation among equals. As far back as July 2014, Russian president Vladimir Putin made an official visit to Cuba where he confirmed an agreement between the two countries in which the financial debt owed to Russia by Cuba stemming from the years of cooperation between Cuba and the Soviet Union was officially canceled.

Imagine—$32 billion in debt cancelled by common agreement! No wonder the Western imperialists wish to weaken if not crush Russia and such ‘bad examples’ of its cooperation with other countries!

It is absurd to even point all this out, considering the massive presence of Canadian, U.S. and European mining companies in our continent and the long list of their blatant meddling in our internal affairs of the countries. We know too well the well-documented coups they have waged and their funding of political opposition groups, which is ongoing, notably in Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Bolivia.

It is blatantly obvious what has been happening with the global energy crisis. The U.S. is currently searching for oil supplies and trying to barter access to them. It is once again descending on Caracas and on every other country in the region that has energy, including Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, and Guyana. It’s very clear what this is all about.

New pretexts are being created to come in and swoop up our resources. If you listen to any of the press conferences, speaking events, interviews or statements by SOUTHCOM and its commander, General Laura Richardson, you will see that they are very clear about their fascination and obsession with exploiting our rare minerals, our rocks, everything we have here, in what they still continue to consider their backyard.

We’re witnessing a witch hunt in our region in which Washington is saying either you are with the U.S., NATO and the West, or you’re against us. That’s the choice that they’re giving us. Anyone who tries to be ‘neutral’ in these global conditions is placed into a category of being ‘pro-Russia’. They become subject to U.S. blackmail, intimidation and other pressures. These take the form of blocking loans and imposing new additional sanctions, as we see so clearly with countries that are closest to Russia, China, and Iran, namely Nicaragua, Venezuela and Cuba.

Meanwhile, no one is sanctioning the U.S. or the EU for their plundering wars or their violent crimes against humanity and war crimes in the Middle East.

Beyond inflation, the loss of access to inputs for production, and the various other ways in which our productive sectors and industries are being affected here—beyond the harsh economic effects on the working class of the Caribbean and Latin America and how difficult it is for people to access and afford fuel and food—we face the real threat of increased militarization and hostility towards our peoples and governments because we are rejecting and confronting imperialist policies.

We are seeing increased hostility and new attempts at destabilization against those countries which are choosing to reject the NATO propaganda and partner with, develop with, and move forward and advance with China, Russia and Iran. The most important consequence of this conflict for our region is this greater pressure by the Western countries for the looting of our natural strategic resources, our oil, our gas, our minerals, our lithium. They couldn’t be more overt about it.

This is radicalizing people here. And the situation has nothing to do with ‘democracy’ or ‘human rights’. It is about the expansion of NATO countries into other territories to grab resources in a system that maintains our populations in permanent servitude, absolute terror and tyranny by the imperialist north.

All this is being rejected and it’s due time that the people of the North understand and learn why.

Camila Escalante is the co-founder and editor of Kawsachun News.

19 September 2022


UN Special Rapporteur Calls for the End of All Unilateral Sanctions against Iran

By Peoples Dispatch

Alena Douhan also expressed the need to create a legal framework to prevent countries such as the US taking unilateral action against others.

14 Sep 2022 – Claiming that unilateral coercive measures taken by the US and some of its allies against Iran had harmed ordinary Iranians’ rights to employment, health, and food, the UN Special Rapporteur Alena Douhan demanded the withdrawal of all such sanctions immediately and proposed mechanisms to prevent such measures being taken in the future.

Douhan’s report on Iran was released on Monday, September 12.

Douhan, a professor of international law, told Iranian news website Tehran Times in an interview on Monday that, contrary to claims by countries who pursue such policies, “ordinary people are directly affected by the sanctions.” She also drew attention in the interview to the work the Iranian state was doing for the millions of refugees in the country from Afghanistan and elsewhere. Iran provides refugees, many of them undocumented, with free access to primary health care and schooling, and the sanctions could render such projects untenable.

Douhan said that the humanitarian impact of such unilateral sanctions is further magnified because of the “over-compliance of states, banks, businesses, and private individuals.”

Douhan’s report is based on an extensive set of interviews conducted across the country with affected people, UN missions, NGOs, and government officials. She, in particular, underlines the impact of sanctions on patient care.  According to Douhan, despite the fact that Iran produces close to 95% of all medicines it needs, there have been shortages as a result of the sanctions, as Iran has been unable to access all the raw materials it requires.

Asserting that unilateral sanctions have an impact on people’s right to food, medicine, and economic opportunities in societies such as Iran, Venezuela, and others, Douhan underlined the need to have “legal action against unilateral coercive measures within the framework of the UN” to safeguards people’s rights.

In May this year Douhan became the first UN rapporteur to visit Iran in more than 17 years. She had expressed similar views about the impact on sanctions on the Iranian people after her visit to the country at the time as well.

Iran has been a subject of multiple US sanctions under various pretexts, dating back as far as the 1979 Iranian Revolution. US allies such as the European Union, Australia, and Canada have imposed sanctions on Iran as well.

The number of the US sanctions has only increased following then president Donald Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from the multi-party Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in May 2018, under the so-called “maximum pressure campaign.” The Joe Biden administration has imposed fresh sanctions on Iran as well since coming to power, despite claims to want to restore the nuclear deal and engaging in talks with Iran for over a year now.

On September 9, the US imposed fresh sanctions on Iran alleging that it was supplying drones to Russia. The US Treasury Department suggested in a press release that these sanctions would hold Iran “accountable.” The US also imposed sanctions against Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence alleging its involvement in cyber attacks in Albania.

At a UN Human Rights Council meeting Kazem Gharibabadi, Iran’s Vice-President of the Judiciary for International Affairs, described the US sanctions as crimes against humanity. He also claimed that sanctions prevented cooperation in the field of refugee crisis management and in the fight against narcotics.

Iran has denied both the sale of drones to Russia and its participation in cyber attacks against Albania. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Nasser Kanaani had said recently that allegations of cyber attacks against Albania had been fabricated by the US in order that it might take further action against Iran. Javad Zarif, former Foreign Minister of Iran, who had termed US sanctions on Iran “economic terrorism,” said on Tuesday, following the release of Douhan’s report, that current US sanctions on Iran were attempts to weaponize food and medicines against Iranians. He also alleged that the US uses sanctions as a means to serve Israeli interests in the region.

19 September 2022


Ukraine: War, Statecraft, and Geopolitical Conflict—the Nuclear Danger

By Richard Falk

14 Sep 2022 – The following interview was previously published in September by the online Global Governance Forum. My responses to the questions posed by Asli Ü. Bâli have been somewhat updated to take account of intervening developments. Asli was my last PhD student at Princeton, has emerged as a star of the UCLA School of Law in recent years, and just now has joined the faculty of Yale Law School. Although her brilliance as a Princeton student both stimulated and challenged me, it as a cherished friend that Asli has most impacted my life.


Ukraine: War, Statecraft, and Geopolitical Conflict — A Focus on the Return of the Nuclear Question


The risk of nuclear escalation in the context of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been a subject of considerable debate in the United States among scholars, policy analysts and media commentators. These debates reveal a broad spectrum of views from those who dismiss Russian references to nuclear capabilities as mere saber rattling to those who worry that if Russian President Vladimir Putin finds his back to the wall in Ukraine, he may resort to tactical nuclear strikes. Whatever the assessment of the risks in Ukraine, it is clear that questions of nuclear deterrence are back on the table after nearly a generation in which most North American analysts viewed non-proliferation as the sole U.S. foreign policy objective regarding nuclear arsenals.

For those who have continued to press concerns about nuclear disarmament since the end of the Cold War, the return of the nuclear question may raise awareness among new audiences about the existential threat posed by existing nuclear arsenals. Richard Falk has for decades been an outspoken authority calling for denuclearization. In this interview, Asli Ü. Bâli invites Richard to reflect on whether the Ukraine conflict risks becoming a military confrontation that tips the world into further nuclear escalation or whether there remains an opportunity to move the world away from the nuclear precipice.


Asli Ü. Bâli: To begin our conversation, it would be useful to provide some context as to why nuclear disarmament was largely sidelined as an urgent international question in the post-Cold War period. How might we think about the last two decades in particular, during which the possibility of the development of an Iranian nuclear arsenal was deemed so much more threatening than the existence of extensive nuclear arsenals in the hands of other states?

Richard Falk: I think the last two decades since the Soviet collapse reflect a period in which the nuclear weapons states, particularly the US, have felt comfortable with the nuclear status quo. Their preference was to organize this arrangement—in which they maintain nuclear arsenals and other states forego that option—as a permanent regime anchored in the non-proliferation treaty (NPT) interpreted in such a way as to drop the disarmament requirements of that treaty. Article VI of the NPT contains the good faith nuclear disarmament obligation, which was supposedly the bargain offered to induce non-nuclear states to become parties to the treaty. The attempt by nuclear weapons states to drop this element from the treaty arrangement creates an interesting international law situation: There’s a breach of an essential provision of the NPT, yet this treaty regime is regarded by the US and NATO countries as a great achievement of international law in relation to nuclear threat reduction.

The existential scope of the NPT is reduced to a hegemonic arrangement that imposes limits on the proliferation of nuclear weapons, while keeping the development and control of the weapons restricted to a small group of nuclear weapons states. This includes the discretion to develop and threaten their use, as well as determining how and whether they would be used, and to what extent, in crisis or combat situations. This is a regulatory framework that neither reflects the NPT as a negotiated text, nor is prudent and equitable, and it certainly violates the major premise of the rule of law—treating equals equally.

I participated in a Council on Foreign Relations webinar event a year or so ago about the future of national security, and one of the participants introduced the idea that Article VI of the NPT is best understood as ‘a useful fiction.’ That is, Article VI was included in the treaty as a way of satisfying non-nuclear countries that they were being offered an equitable bargaining framework by becoming parties to the NPT. Whereas in fact there was a tacit understanding from the beginning that disarmament, despite the treaty language of commitment, was not viewed by political elites of the nuclear weapons states as a realistic, or even a desirable goal, to be pursued by the nuclear weapons states, and most especially it was so viewed by the United States.

In considering the broader context that has, as you put it, sidelined the issues of nuclear disarmament, the other thing to be emphasized is that there had crept in a kind of complacency about this weaponry. There are thousands of nuclear weapons, preponderately in the US and Russia, and very little public understanding of existing constraints on their threat or use or under what circumstances these arsenals might be introduced into diplomacy or even combat situations.

The U.S. in particular, and some other countries like Israel, have been developing combat roles for certain types nuclear weapons—styled as tactical nuclear arms or so-called “mini-nukes”—that strongly implied that such weapons might actually be introduced into local or regional conflicts. Given the array of bilateral conflicts that have the risk of nuclear escalation including in Ukraine, if confrontation escalates in relation to Taiwan, on the Korean peninsula, in India/Pakistan, perhaps if Israel’s security is under pressure in the Middle East. Despite these possibilities being widely feared, there has been so far no concerted or consistent international response exhibiting opposition or even anxiety.

The risks of the overall situation are well-reflected for those who follow the nuclear issue by the fact that the Doomsday clock—maintained by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists and often relied upon as a reliable assessment of nuclear danger at a given time—has moved ever closer in this period to midnight. Prior to the Ukraine crisis I think it was already only one hundred seconds away from midnight. In the words of the editors, “the Clock remains the closest it has ever been to civilization-ending apocalypse.” The UN Secretary General has recently warned that the world is but ‘one miscalculation’ away from nuclear catastrophe.

There is another worrisome aspect of the manner in which the three NATO nuclear weapons states have assumed the authority to enforce the NPT regime as it applies to non-nuclear states. There is nothing about enforcement in the treaty, and Article X grants non-nuclear states a right of withdrawal if facing severe security threats. And yet the U.S. and Israel have made unlawful claims to use force if they believe Iran intends or achieves a nuclear weapons capability. This is hegemonic geopolitics, which not be confused with the implementation of international law.

The complacency toward this weaponry and the satisfaction with the NPT regime that has allowed powerful states to retain a hierarchical and hegemonic relationship to non-nuclear states are important dimensions of this doomsday risk. Thus, the situation prior to Ukraine, Taiwan, and Iran require urgent action to avoid existential dangers, but global complacency and the diversionary priority given to containing proliferation threats posed by non-nuclear states rather than addressing the risks of existing arsenals has kept the nuclear agenda from any serious engagement with disarmament and war threats for many decades. This must stop or disaster is virtually assured.

Asli Bâli: Your response raises one further question: why, in your view, have the non-nuclear states acquiesced in the violation of the core bargained-for agreement they had negotiated in the NPT? 

Richard Falk: I think the non-nuclear weapons states, too, have adapted to this complacent atmosphere when it comes to nuclear weapons, although this may be changing, and not primarily because of Ukraine. It may reflect a sense of a lack of leverage over global nuclear policy in a post-Cold War context. During the Cold War, there had been some willingness on the part of the Soviet Union and then China to engage in a disarmament process on negotiating arsenal reductions, and this seemed realistic to the rest of the world. But in the post-Cold War period, the U.S. shifted away from even the pretense of disarmament priorities and there has been an absence of powerful states pushing back against this trajectory.

That said, I do think there is now emerging a critical outlook on the part of the Global South that may alter course back in manner more supportive of the views of disarmament advocates. This ‘new look’ of the Global South has been most clearly expressed in the negotiation and adoption a new treaty, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), signed in 2017 and coming into force with over sixty ratifications in 2021. The treaty itself was originally supported by as many as 120 countries, though it has only garnered signatures from about two-thirds of that number and been ratified so far by half.

Another indication of renewed Global South resistance to overlooking the nuclear weapons states disarmament obligations is evident in the twice delayed review conference called for by the NPT. Such a review conference is supposed to take place every five years and the pivotal Tenth Review Conference was scheduled for 2020. Originally postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was supposed to be rescheduled for 2021 and was postponed again to 2022 and finally took place in August 2022. But in addition to pandemic-related reasons, it is understood that the deferrals have been prompted by the concern among nuclear weapons states that there may encounter friction with the Global South over disarmament. Although the failure to produce a consensus outcome document was blamed on Russia, there were also present signs of resentment about the continuing refusal of the nuclear weapons states to implement their Article VI obligations.

In short, even prior to Ukraine and Taiwan there was reason to think that there is a new international mood at the intergovernmental level concerning the threat posed by existing nuclear arsenals. I think the Ukraine and Taiwan encounters have now added momentum to this shift by a reawakening at the civil society level of palpable apprehensions over the threat or use of nuclear weapons, and in Ukraine the additional risk that nuclear power facilities will be accidentally, or even deliberately, attacked. I believe this is a time when I am hoping for a revival of pressure from below to put nuclear disarmament back on the global policy agenda, and this time with greatly increased participation of non-Western civil society and governments.

Asli Bâli: Some have characterized the Ukraine conflict as illustrating the degree to which global powers might stumble blindly into a nuclear confrontation. Is it your sense that there are opportunities to contain this risk today whether through intergovernmental diplomacy or global civil society mobilization?

Richard Falk: Well, I think at the civil society level there is a definite concern though it is not too well-focused at this point. There is sort of a free-floating anxiety about the possibility that nuclear weapons use might occur on the European continent and this may have a galvanizing effect that leads to forms of domestic pressure in some European states to take action to offset such a risk. I also think that some high officials in the Biden inner circle have changed their views of the Ukraine conflict as the potential nuclear dimensions of the conflict have come into clearer focus. At an earlier stage of the Ukraine war, it seemed as if the Biden administration didn’t consider very seriously the nuclear risk, though they were always present fortunately to some degree wider war dangers of escalation.

This sensitivity was evident, for example, in Biden’s early resistance to calls, especially from Congress and right-wing think tanks, to establish a no-fly zone in Ukraine, and in his original hesitancy to supply offensive weaponry to the Ukrainians. Similarly, the early posture of not interfering with Ukrainian President Volodomir Zelensky’s efforts at seeking some sort of negotiated compromise further confirmed that the Biden administration was wary of escalation, and willing to allow Ukraine to control its own future.

But in a second phase of the conflict, when the Ukrainian resistance turned out to be more successful than anticipated, and strategic defeat or weakening of Russia seemed possible and strategically attractive, the Biden administration’s priorities visibly shifted and they manifestly treated the Ukraine war as an opportunity to teach Russia a lesson and at the same time, and perhaps of greater significance, to signal China that if they tried anything similar with Taiwan, they would face an even worse outcome.

This latter point was provocatively underscored by Biden during his recent trip to Asia that featured a strong public statement committing the US to the defense of Taiwan, followed by an irresponsibly provocative visit to Taiwan by Nancy Pelosi that violated the spirit of the One China Policy that represented the core of the 1972 Shanghai Communique, which has kept peace and stability for 50 years.

With respect to the Ukraine conflict, I have drawn a distinction between two levels. First, there is the Russia-Ukraine confrontation over issues that pertain to their bilateral conflict. But secondly, there is the geopolitical level of interaction between the US and Russia, which entails a confrontation whose stakes exceed the question of Ukraine. Here, escalation was stimulated by what I view as the quite irresponsible rhetoric from the Biden administration that demonized Putin from the outset of the crisis in February 2022.

To be sure, Putin is not an attractive political leader, but even during the Cold War North American leaders sensibly refrained from demonizing Stalin or other Soviet leaders, and vice versa. Some public officials, congresspeople, did demonize Soviet officials and policies but leaders in the executive branch refrained from such behavior because it would create such an evident obstacle to keeping open necessary diplomatic channels between the US and the Soviets, and significantly the Soviets did the same even during such encroachments on sovereign rights as in the Vietnam War.

Regrettably, in the second phase of the current conflict in Ukraine, the U.S. became a source of escalation. North American influence was directed also at more or less discouraging President Zelensky from further seeking a negotiated ending of the war on the ground. Instead, the U.S. position seemed to harden around pursuit of strategic victory. This was made explicit by Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin who commented on the opportunity to weaken Russia after a visit to Ukraine in which they pledged increased economic and military support. I think that now we have passed a third phase of the Ukraine conflict where there was some recognition in Washington and elsewhere that the Biden administration went too far in an escalatory direction from the perspective of prudence and with regard to the spillover harm from prolonged warfare.

Now in a fourth phase where once more a Ukrainian victory together with a Russian/Putin defeat has changed Washington tactics once more, with such favorable results seemingly within reach at what are viewed as acceptable costs. The tragic result, already partly consummated, will be a prolonged war in Ukraine, with terrible adverse consequences for the world economy  and the wellbeing of poorer people in a series of countries in the Global South. It will hardest those countries most dependent on affordable access to food and energy, and this includes European countries. It is not only the continuation of Ukraine warfare and China tensions, but the unintended consequences of anti-Russian sanctions that will result in harmful impacts in many parts of the planet.

Asli Bâli: Given your analysis of the U.S. role in escalating the conflict in Ukraine, what in your view is the current risk of either nuclear confrontation or further erosions of the possibility of promoting U.S.-Russian arms control and nuclear disarmament?

Richard Falk: The discouraging thing about the third phase is that the Biden administration still hasn’t clearly opened wide the door to a diplomatic resolution or emphasized the importance of a cease fire that might stop the immediate killing and enable de-escalation, and now in the midst of the fourth stage it seems too late. What this suggests is that there will be either of two bad scenarios unfolding as the Ukraine Crisis continues: the first is that the risk and costs of a long war in Ukraine results in the U.S. further escalating in order to try to bring the war to a faster conclusion by making Moscow give in, or withdraw, or do something that allows Ukraine and the U.S. to claim victory.

That approach really would put maximum pressure on Putin who, in turn, might determine that facing such a serious existential danger to Russian security justifies a robust response that includes the threat and possibly even the use of tactical nuclear weapons as a way, and maybe the only way, to avoid impression of strategic defeat to be the beginning of the end of his leadership.

The second scenario is that the U.S. might be prepared to live with a prolonged war and hope that it at some point Moscow will tire of the experience, the way the Soviets did in Afghanistan and that the US did in Vietnam. But recent experience suggests just how destructive this course would be for Ukraine and the world. It took the U.S. twenty years to extricate itself from Afghanistan, leaving that country as receptive to the Taliban as was twenty years earlier before driven from power, millions permanently displaced and millions more wandering the world as refugees, while those who stay home face famine and extreme gender discrimination, and untold hundreds of thousands of Afghanis have been maimed or worse. Equally depressing, as others have pointed out, the likely outcome from the Ukrainian point of view will not change very much because of what happens on the bloody battlefields, whether the war is ended next week or ten years from now except that a longer war will result in more casualties, greater devastation, and enduring embitterment.

Asli Bâli: Could you say more about what you would expect at the end of the Ukraine conflict whether it happens through early negotiations or at the end of a protracted war?

Richard Falk: Well, I expect that the most likely scenario for an end to the conflict will entail some concessions by Ukraine in relation to the Donbas region of Eastern Ukraine, together with a pledge of neutrality for the country as a whole, and non-membership in NATO. In exchange for such concessions, Russia would likely be expected to pledge in turn that it would heretofore respect the sovereign rights and political independence of the Ukraine. In all likelihood the question of Crimea will not be addressed in the course of ending the current conflict.

The contours of such a negotiated end to the conflict had already emerged in talks between the Russian and Ukrainian sides in March of 2022 and there is little reason to think these parameters will change substantially, although if the Ukrainian battlefield successes in the fourth phase hold up, it may alter a future peace process. Yet the probability still remains that such a compromised political outcome could have been achieved earlier, certainly in the first phase of the conflict if not prior to the Russian attack, before early Ukrainian victories led to the second, and then, a fourth geopolitical phase of escalation. It has become clearer as the conflict has persisted that the U.S. is prepared to go to extreme lengths, if necessary to retain its post-Cold War status as sole manager of a unipolar configuration of power in the world.

Asli Bali: Given this assessment, what opportunities, if any, do you see for reviving calls for nuclear disarmament in response to the nuclear risks made evident by the Ukraine conflict?

Richard Falk: Of course, there is a very dark form of opportunity that might emerge if there is indeed a nuclear confrontation and the use of tactical or other nuclear weapons. Such a development would undoubtedly generate a widespread call for disarmament—one hopes that doesn’t occur, of course. Beyond this apocalyptic scenario, it is a little unpredictable whether there will emerge a recognition that the pursuit of permanent stability via the non-proliferation approach should be superseded by a new effort at nuclear disarmament. I think it would be very globally popular to explore that possibility, and I would imagine the Chinese at least would be quite open to that.

In the background of such speculation is the question of whether the US is prepared to live in a multipolar world. Certainly, the post-Cold War period afforded the U.S. the opportunity to nurture illusions that the collapse of the Soviet Union might usher in a durable era in which it was the only global geopolitical actor. In a sense this is what Secretary Blinken presumably meant when he says in speeches that the idea of spheres of influence should have been discarded after World War II.[1]

The thought is that after WWII, or at the very least following the Cold War, the U.S. prefers to preside over a system in which its own influence is confined by no sphere and extends in a truly global fashion. Of course, had the US adopted this posture in the immediate aftermath of WWII, as Secretary Blinken suggests, it would have amounted to a declaration of a third world war. This is because ruling out spheres of influence would have mean blocking Soviet intervention in Eastern Europe, whether in Hungary in 1956 or Czechoslovakia in 1968.

Moreover, what Blinken is suggesting today is not a world without spheres of influence but rather an adaptation of a Monroe Doctrine for the world in which the US regards the global order as its singular sphere of influence. And, of course, the Monroe Doctrine in its narrower hemispheric form is also alive and well as the US continues to assert its prerogative to dictate policies and interfere with internal politics in countries throughout Latin America from Cuba to Venezuela to Nicaragua and beyond. We can hardly imagine the bellicosity of the U.S. response if Russia had dared meddle in Mexico for a decade in the manner that Washington did in Ukraine.

Against this backdrop, it is worth noting that the ongoing US effort at global supremacy does put it at a massive asymmetric advantage over all other actors in exerting influence without geographic bounds. With some 800 foreign bases—and a context in which 97% of all foreign bases globally are North American—and troops stationed in every continent the US has spread its influence globally, on land, in the air, on the sea, and is investing heavily to be sure it will control space.

Meanwhile, of course, alongside this enormous investment in militarism is profound disinvestment in the infrastructure and social services needed to sustain its own population domestically. In short, the US effort to prevent a multipolar order from challenging its own claim to global supremacy is coming at an enormous cost at home and is currently faltering abroad. The risk is that this strategy is increasingly tied to an investment in ensuring strategic weakness for the Russians in Ukraine, which, in turn, raises temptations to engage in nuclear brinksmanship.

Asli Bâli: There is something distressing about the way in which the Ukraine conflict has reset the domestic debate, which at the end of the Trump years and in the 2020 presidential election had begun to converge around the idea of restraining North American militarism and ending endless wars. Today, bipartisan consensus around an enhanced defense budget and massive military aid to Ukraine may be eclipsing those earlier commitments. Do you consider the Ukraine conflict as providing a new lease on life for the project of U.S. primacy?

Richard Falk: I’m afraid that might be right. Biden was so committed to unifying the country as part of his presidential campaign—the image of projecting himself as someone who is able to “cross the aisle” and generate bipartisan consensus, profoundly believing that a unified America remains a country capable of doing unlimited good at home and internationally. In fact, however, this unity project failed miserably with the Republican side converging around Trump’s constituencies. The Ukraine war has somewhat reshuffled the deck and Biden seems keen to embrace this opportunity to forge bipartisan consensus around war, but with a belated recognition that currently seeking unity at home is not only a lost cause but exhibits his lost sense of the realities of the country.

His popularity level remains surprisingly low, but the surge of Cold War bipartisanship in relation to appropriating billions of dollars for Ukraine is undeniable. From a global perspective, however, this great show of empathy for Ukrainian suffering and civilian damage and refugees, and so on, sets a stark contrast to the ways in which the US and the West responded to other humanitarian crises. Thus one price of this partial unity at home may be an increasingly divided world in which US standing declines further. The specific comparisons between the Western response to Ukraine and their indifference and callous disregard for the plight of Palestinians, the consequences of the Iraq War, and the displacement generated by the Syrian conflict is difficult to explain without taking into account an element of racism. This reality has hardly escaped the attention of governments and communities in the Global South.

Asli Bâli: Returning to the nuclear question, you have suggested that the Ukraine war has awakened a new generation to the real risks of the nuclear arsenals retained by global powers. Do you believe that this awareness alongside concerns about the double standards attached to US hegemony might mobilize new global social movements calling for disarmament and a more equitable international order?

Richard Falk: I certainly hope that might be the case. I think it would be premature to expect the Ukraine conflict alone to rekindle a vibrant anti-nuclear movement at this point. But there may be further developments that do have such a galvanizing effect, something that unfortunately cannot be discounted as the Russians engage in nuclear drills to remind Western states of the risks of escalation in Ukraine. There are also other nuclear dangers that are looming in the world. I think the Israel-Iran relationship is very unstable and may produce some renewed awareness of nuclear risk; the same is also true of the conflicts in India-Pakistan, the Korean peninsula, and above all the looming conflict involving Taiwan. In the latter instance Pentagon war games have achieved results showing that unless the U.S. is prepared itself to abandon the nuclear taboo it loses in the event of a naval confrontation in the Taiwan Straights.

So new generations may come to understand that the idea of achieving stability with nuclear weapons is a dangerous and unstable illusion. This brings me back to the cynical idea that I encountered at the Council on Foreign Relations about disarmament being a useful fiction to appease publics in the Global South. At the time, and there was no pushback against such an assertion at the meeting. The response of the audience was to simply acknowledge that this is how realist elites talks about national security. It is this kind of acquiescence and complacency that poses the greatest obstacle to global social organizing around disarmament and, thus, the greatest risk that we may stumble into crises where one side is prepared to risk nuclear war to avoid a strategic defeat.

I hope that the threats that are now manifest in Ukraine, Taiwan, Iran, and beyond might spark new forms of awareness among the now more mobilized younger generations leading social movements for environmental and racial justice. Nuclear arsenals pose an existential threat to our planet alongside the reckless climate policies, massive wealth disparities, and the virulent structural racism that plague the global order.

There is much work to do if we are to address all of these challenges, and there might be no better place to launch a new phase of transformative global politics by championing nuclear abolition.

Richard Falk is a member of the TRANSCEND Network, Albert G. Milbank Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University, Chair of Global Law, Faculty of Law, at Queen Mary University London,  Research Associate the Orfalea Center of Global Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and Fellow of the Tellus Institute.

19 September 2022


Horn of Africa Moving Rapidly Towards Famine, Millions Face Starvation

By Bharat Dogra

The greater part of the Horn of Africa region is seeing a steady worsening of hunger and starvation, as four years of rain failure have tasted the limits of the coping mechanisms of people.

In Somalia, a country of around 16 million people, nearly 260,000 people are reported to have died in the famine of 2010-11. The international community was alerted to the serious threat at a very late stage then. This year there have been more warnings from the United Nations and other sources but nevertheless aid commitments are much lesser than actual needs.

Earlier Somalia used to get much of its food imports from Russia and Ukraine, but these supplies have become very difficult this year. The situation is particularly serious in southern and central parts, particularly Baidoa and Burhakaba.

A recent UN report said that 3 million animals have died in recent times. The last three months of the year may see the beginning of famine conditions which can last till March, if not longer. The situation is already described to be potentially more serious than in 2010-11.

There is also the problem of humanitarian workers not having easy access to areas affected by conflicts. Some of these areas have a large number of internally displaced persons. While elections were held in May, a terror attack in Hayat hotel in the capital city of Mogadishu has raised concerns over the possibilities of violence increasing in times of such a serious hunger situation. 40 people are reported to have died in this attack while nearly 70 were injured.

The situation of hunger is also reported to be serious in Ethiopia, particularly its southern and eastern parts, and in Kenya, particularly northern and eastern parts. In mid-August, the World Food Program stated that nearly 22 million people are at risk of starvation in these three countries which now face the worst drought in 40 years following four years of rain failures. These three countries ( Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya) have a total population of around 185 million people.

However some agencies refer to a Greater Horn of Africa region, including other countries Djbouti, Sudan, South Sudan and Uganda as well. In August the WHO released a statement saying that 37 million people including 7 million children less than five years of age are at serious risk. While serious drought is the main issue in the bulk of this region, South Sudan has suffered from three years of consecutive flooding, this statement said. Nearly 8.3 million people here, or almost 75% of the population, face serious risks.

It is strange indeed that in a region which is experiencing such a serious situation, regarding which repeated warnings too are being voiced by the United Nations, there has not yet been adequate commitment of essential aid funds from various parts of world. A well-funded system of ensuring relief should have been in place by now, not having to worry much about the funding part so as to be able to devote more attention to detailed planning, but unfortunately the situation we still see is that even essential funding is lagging behind. If one looks at all the frivolous and wasteful expenditure taking place in some of the richest countries, what is needed to meet the most essential needs of the people of this region (suffering from some of the worst disaster situations and the worst impacts of climate change, resulting in turn in very serious hunger/starvation situation and impending famine) is only a very small share of this , but even this is not becoming available readily and the aid commitments still ( at a time when several areas are close to famine) are falling much short of what is required.

Of course just now the most pressing need is to somehow make available adequate food and meet other basic needs as well as to set in place relief disbursement systems with community involvement so that all those who need urgent help can be covered. But later there is also a clear need to go beyond this and also look at how time-honored coping mechanisms and survival strategies for difficult times have been disrupted due to not just conflicts but also distorted development strategies and projects pushed by big business interests. While the need for having development priorities and patterns which are most appropriate keeping in view local conditions has always been there, this need has increased all the more in recent times of climate change. The bigger challenge ahead is to move towards such development patterns which are most in keeping with local needs and conditions.

Bharat Dogra is Honorary Convener, Campaign to Save Earth Now. His recent books include Planet in Peril, Man over Machine and A Day in 2071.

10 September 2022


Silencing the Lambs: How Propaganda Works

By John Pilger

8 Sep 2022 – In an address to the Trondheim World Festival in Norway, John Pilger charts the history of power propaganda and describes how it appropriates journalism in a ‘profound imperialism’ and is likely to entrap us all, if we allow it.

In the 1970s, I met one of Hitler’s leading propagandists, Leni Riefenstahl, whose epic films glorified the Nazis. We happened to be staying at the same lodge in Kenya, where she was on a photography assignment, having escaped the fate of other friends of the Fuhrer.

She told me that the ‘patriotic messages’ of her films were dependent not on ‘orders from above’ but on what she called the ‘submissive void’ of the German public.

Did that include the liberal, educated bourgeoisie? I asked. ‘Yes, especially them,’ she said.

I think of this as I look around at the propaganda now consuming Western societies.

Of course, we are very different from Germany in the 1930s. We live in information societies. We are globalists. We have never been more aware, more in touch, better connected.

Are we? Or do we live in a Media Society where brainwashing is insidious and relentless, and perception is filtered according to the needs and lies of state and corporate power?

The United States dominates the Western world’s media. All but one of the top ten media companies are based in North America. The internet and social media – Google, Twitter, Facebook – are mostly American owned and controlled.

In my lifetime, the United States has overthrown or attempted to overthrow more than 50 governments, mostly democracies. It has interfered in democratic elections in 30 countries. It has dropped bombs on the people of 30 countries, most of them poor and defenceless. It has attempted to murder the leaders of 50 countries. It has fought to suppress liberation movements in 20 countries.

The extent and scale of this carnage is largely unreported, unrecognised; and those responsible continue to dominate Anglo-American political life.

In the years before he died in 2008, the playwright Harold Pinter made two extraordinary speeches, which broke a silence.

‘US foreign policy,’ he said, is ‘best defined as follows: kiss my arse or I’ll kick your head in. It is as simple and as crude as that. What is interesting about it is that it’s so incredibly successful. It possesses the structures of disinformation, use of rhetoric, distortion of language, which are very persuasive, but are actually a pack of lies. It is very successful propaganda. They have the money, they have the technology, they have all the means to get away with it, and they do.’

In accepting the Nobel Prize for Literature, Pinter said this: ‘The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them. You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It’s a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.’

Pinter was a friend of mine and possibly the last great political sage – that is, before dissenting politics were gentrified. I asked him if the ‘hypnosis’ he referred to was the ‘submissive void’ described by Leni Riefenstahl.

‘It’s the same,’ he replied. ‘It means the brainwashing is so thorough we are programmed to swallow a pack of lies. If we don’t recognise propaganda, we may accept it as normal and believe it. That’s the submissive void.’

In our systems of corporate democracy, war is an economic necessity, the perfect marriage of public subsidy and private profit: socialism for the rich, capitalism for the poor. The day after 9/11 the stock prices of the war industry soared. More bloodshed was coming, which is great for business.

Today, the most profitable wars have their own brand. They are called ‘forever wars’: Afghanistan, Palestine, Iraq, Libya, Yemen and now Ukraine. All are based on a pack of lies.

Iraq is the most infamous, with its weapons of mass destruction that didn’t exist. NATO’s destruction of Libya in 2011 was justified by a massacre in Benghazi that didn’t happen. Afghanistan was a convenient revenge war for 9/11, which had nothing to do with the people of Afghanistan.

Today, the news from Afghanistan is how evil the Taliban are – not that Joe Biden’s theft of $7billion of the country’s bank reserves is causing widespread suffering. Recently, National Public Radio in Washington devoted two hours to Afghanistan – and 30 seconds to its starving people.

At its summit in Madrid in June, NATO, which is controlled by the United States, adopted a strategy document that militarises the European continent, and escalates the prospect of war with Russia and China. It proposes ‘multi domain warfighting against nuclear-armed peer-competitor. In other words, nuclear war.

It says: ‘NATO’s enlargement has been an historic success’.

I read that in disbelief.

A measure of this ‘historic success’ is the war in Ukraine, news of which is mostly not news, but a one-sided litany of jingoism, distortion, omission. I have reported a number of wars and have never known such blanket propaganda.

In February, Russia invaded Ukraine as a response to almost eight years of killing and criminal destruction in the Russian-speaking region of Donbass on their border.

In 2014, the United States had sponsored a coup in Kyiv that got rid of Ukraine’s democratically elected, Russian-friendly president and installed a successor whom the Americans made clear was their man.

In recent years, American ‘defender’ missiles have been installed in eastern Europe, Poland, Slovenia, the Czech Republic, almost certainly aimed at Russia, accompanied by false assurances all the way back to James Baker’s ‘promise’ to Gorbachev in February 1990 that NATO would never expand beyond Germany.

Ukraine is the frontline. NATO has effectively reached the very borderland through which Hitler’s army stormed in 1941, leaving more than 23 million dead in the Soviet Union.

Last December, Russia proposed a far-reaching security plan for Europe. This was dismissed, derided or suppressed in the Western media. Who read its step-by-step proposals? On 24 February, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy threatened to develop nuclear weapons unless America armed and protected Ukraine. This was the final straw.

On the same day, Russia invaded – according to the Western media, an unprovoked act of congenital infamy. The history, the lies, the peace proposals, the solemn agreements on Donbass at Minsk counted for nothing.

On 25 April, the US Defence Secretary, General Lloyd Austin, flew into Kyiv and confirmed that America’s aim was to destroy the Russian Federation – the word he used was ‘weaken’. America had got the war it wanted, waged by an American bankrolled and armed proxy and expendable pawn.

Almost none of this was explained to Western audiences.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine is wanton and inexcusable. It is a crime to invade a sovereign country. There are no ‘buts’ – except one.

When did the present war in Ukraine begin and who started it? According to the United Nations, between 2014 and this year, some 14,000 people have been killed in the Kyiv regime’s civil war on the Donbass. Many of the attacks were carried out by neo-Nazis.

Watch an ITV news report from May 2014, by the veteran reporter James Mates, who is shelled, along with civilians in the city of Mariupol, by Ukraine’s Azov (neo-Nazi) battalion.

In the same month, dozens of Russian-speaking people were burned alive or suffocated in a trade union building in Odessa besieged by fascist thugs, the followers of the Nazi collaborator and anti-Semitic fanatic Stephen Bandera. The New York Times called the thugs ‘nationalists’.

‘The historic mission of our nation in this critical moment,’ said Andreiy Biletsky, founder of the Azov Battalion, ‘is to lead the White Races of the world in a final crusade for their survival, a crusade against the Semite-led Untermenschen.’

Since February, a campaign of self-appointed ‘news monitors’ (mostly funded by the Americans and British with links to governments) have sought to maintain the absurdity that Ukraine’s neo-Nazis don’t exist.

Airbrushing, a term once associated with Stalin’s purges, has become a tool of mainstream journalism.

In less than a decade, a ‘good’ China has been airbrushed and a ‘bad’ China has replaced it: from the world’s workshop to a budding new Satan.

Much of this propaganda originates in the US, and is transmitted through proxies and ‘think-tanks’, such as the notorious Australian Strategic Policy Institute, the voice of the arms industry, and by zealous journalists such as Peter Hartcher of the Sydney Morning Herald, who labeled those spreading Chinese influence as ‘rats, flies, mosquitoes and sparrows’ and called for these ‘pests’ to be ‘eradicated’.

News about China in the West is almost entirely about the threat from Beijing. Airbrushed are the 400 American military bases that surround most of China, an armed necklace that reaches from Australia to the Pacific and south east Asia, Japan and Korea. The Japanese island of Okinawa and the Korean island of Jeju are loaded guns aimed point blank at the industrial heart of China. A Pentagon official described this as a ‘noose’.

Palestine has been misreported for as long as I can remember. To the BBC, there is the ‘conflict’ of ‘two narratives’. The longest, most brutal, lawless military occupation in modern times is unmentionable.

The stricken people of Yemen barely exist. They are media unpeople. While the Saudis rain down their American cluster bombs with British advisors working alongside the Saudi targeting officers, more than half a million children face starvation.

This brainwashing by omission has a long history. The slaughter of the First World War was suppressed by reporters who were knighted for their compliance and confessed in their memoirs. In 1917, the editor of the Manchester Guardian, C.P. Scott, confided to prime minister Lloyd George: ‘If people really knew [the truth], the war would be stopped tomorrow, but they don’t know and can’t know.’

The refusal to see people and events as those in other countries see them is a media virus in the West, as debilitating as Covid. It is as if we see the world through a one-way mirror, in which ‘we’ are moral and benign and ‘they’ are not. It is a profoundly imperial view.

The history that is a living presence in China and Russia is rarely explained and rarely understood. Vladimir Putin is Adolf Hitler. Xi Jinping is Fu Man Chu. Epic achievements, such as the eradication of abject poverty in China, are barely known. How perverse and squalid this is.

When will we allow ourselves to understand? Training journalists factory style is not the answer. Neither is the wondrous digital tool, which is a means, not an end, like the one-finger typewriter and the linotype machine.

In recent years, some of the best journalists have been eased out of the mainstream. ‘Defenestrated’ is the word used. The spaces once open to mavericks, to journalists who went against the grain, truth-tellers, have closed.

The case of Julian Assange is the most shocking. When Julian and WikiLeaks could win readers and prizes for the Guardian, the New York Times and other self-important ‘papers of record’, he was celebrated.

When the dark state objected and demanded the destruction of hard drives and the assassination of Julian’s character, he was made a public enemy. Vice President Biden called him a ‘hi-tech terrorist’. Hillary Clinton asked, ‘Can’t we just drone this guy?’

The ensuing campaign of abuse and vilification against Julian Assange – the UN Rapporteur on Torture called it ‘mobbing’ — brought the liberal press to its lowest ebb. We know who they are. I think of them as collaborators: as Vichy journalists.

When will real journalists stand up? An inspirational samizdat already exists on the internet: Consortium News, founded by the great reporter Robert Parry, Max Blumenthal’s Grayzone, Mint Press News, Media Lens, Declassified UK, Alborada, Electronic Intifada, WSWS, ZNet, ICH, Counter Punch, Independent Australia, the work of Chris Hedges, Patrick Lawrence, Jonathan Cook, Diana Johnstone, Caitlin Johnstone and others who will forgive me for not mentioning them here.

And when will writers stand up, as they did against the rise of fascism in the 1930s? When will film-makers stand up, as they did against the Cold War in the 1940s? When will satirists stand up, as they did a generation ago?

Having soaked for 82 years in a deep bath of righteousness that is the official version of the last world war, isn’t it time those who are meant to keep the record straight declared their independence and decoded the propaganda? The urgency is greater than ever.

John Pilger has won an Emmy and a BAFTA for his documentaries, which have also won numerous US and European awards.

12 September 2022


The Triumph of the Official Narrative: How the TV Networks Hid the Twin Towers’ Explosive Demolition on 9/11

By Prof. Graeme MacQueen and Ted Walter

This article is the second installment of a two-part research project we began in July 2020 with the article “How 36 Reporters Brought Us the Twin Towers’ Explosive Demolition on 9/11.”

In that article, our goal was to determine the prevalence, among television reporters on 9/11, of the hypothesis that explosions had brought down the Twin Towers. Through careful review of approximately 70 hours of news coverage on 11 different channels, we found that the explosion hypothesis was not only common among reporters but was, in fact, the dominant hypothesis.

Our second question, which we set aside for the present article, was to determine how, despite its prevalence, the explosion hypothesis was supplanted by the hypothesis of fire-induced collapse.

In this article, we shall concentrate not on reporters in the field, as in Part 1, but on the news anchors and their guests who were tasked with discovering and making sense of what was happening. As we trace the supplanting of the explosion hypothesis with the fire-induced collapse hypothesis, we witness the great shift toward what quickly became the Official Narrative.

We do not see our task as trying to discover whether the Official Narrative of 9/11 is true or false. In the 21 years since the attacks took place, it has been proven beyond all reasonable doubt, we believe, that the Official Narrative is false.

While we support and participate in the further accumulation of evidence for this position, as well as the presentation of this evidence to the public, we believe it is also important to look into how the triumph of the Official Narrative was accomplished. If we are able to discover this, we will greatly advance our understanding of the psychological operation conducted on September 11, 2001 — and, thus, our understanding of how other psychological operations are perpetrated on the public.

Our Argument

Our argument is that two strategies were employed to accomplish the triumph of the Official Narrative:

(a) Where news anchors were sincerely dedicated to discovering the facts of the situation, Strategy One was employed. This strategy involved directly confronting the news anchor of the relevant network with an “expert” who would explain that the destruction of the Twin Towers was caused by structural failure induced by the airplane impact and the ensuing fires. This would allay concerns about reports of explosions in the towers and would domesticate the news anchor so that he or she would stop raising problematic questions. Of course, as we can see clearly today, these experts could not possibly have known what they so confidently proclaimed. In fact, we can now see that their explanations were simply wrong. But their interviews seem to have accomplished their goals on 9/11. To illustrate this strategy, we shall choose as our chief examples CNBC and CNN, whose anchors showed the most interest in the explosion hypothesis, and we will also look at CBS and NBC.

(b) Strategy Two was used on all networks, regardless of the stance of the news anchors. This strategy involved developing two related narratives — two engaging, emotionally charged stories — that appeared to explain the day’s horrors and offered viewers a set of active responses. They were not scientific hypotheses and were not directly related to the destruction of the Twin Towers, but indirectly they appeared to favor the fire-induced collapse hypothesis more than the explosion hypothesis. By the end of the day, they had silenced the explosion hypothesis.

The first of these two stories is what we shall call the War on Terror narrative. This grand narrative, resonant with older storied events, explained how the righteous, the civilized, the United States had been subjected to an act of war from the evil, the uncivilized, the terrorists supported by nations in the Middle East and Central Asia; and how American leaders must respond to this aggression with an initiative that was warlike on many levels. This narrative was articulated early (before noon on 9/11) and was repeated throughout the day. It established the foundations of the Global War on Terror.

The second story is the Bin Laden narrative, which nested within the wider War on Terror narrative and was used to transform myth into plausible history. According to this narrative, an evil Saudi national based in Afghanistan had masterminded the attacks.

It is extremely important to grasp the relationship between these two narratives and what may seem as detailed — even esoteric — facts about the destruction of the Twin Towers. If the buildings were destroyed by pre-planted explosives — as we believe has been demonstrated through years of research — the two narratives, however rational and moral they appeared to be to many television viewers, are profoundly misleading in their political analysis and profoundly immoral in their prescriptions.

Numerical Analysis of Statements by News Anchors and Experts Articulating the Explosion Hypothesis

To understand how the explosion hypothesis was supplanted by the fire-induced collapse hypothesis, it is first important to establish whether, and to what degree, the explosion hypothesis was considered by news anchors, their guests, and others at the television networks.

As we showed in Part 1, the great majority of reporters who witnessed the destruction of the Twin Towers either perceived an explosion or perceived the towers as exploding. This hypothesis of how the Twin Towers were destroyed then continued to be prevalent among reporters on the ground, who essentially viewed the destruction of the towers as an explosion-based attack subsequent to the airplane strikes.

Given what the reporters were communicating to the rest of the world, how did their colleagues in the studios absorb this information and make sense of what had happened for the viewing public?

As in Part 1, to answer this question, we reviewed approximately 70 hours of continuous news coverage from 11 different networks, cable news channels, and local network affiliates.

Table 1 below shows the news coverage we compiled and reviewed. (For further description of our data collection, see Part 1 of the series.) Table 2 lists the mentions of the explosion hypothesis by network. Table 3 lists the mentions of the explosion hypothesis by the time they occurred.

Videos and transcripts of every mention of the explosion hypothesis are shown in Appendix A.

Table 1: Television Coverage Compiled

Table 2: Explosion Hypothesis Mentions by Network

Table 3: Explosion Hypothesis Mentions by Time

In total, when we include seven ambiguous mentions of the explosion hypothesis — which we defined as an anchor describing the occurrence of an explosion in conjunction with the collapse of either tower but not implying that the explosion necessarily caused the collapse — we found that the explosion hypothesis was mentioned 70 times across all 11 channels.

To our great interest, we found that news anchors or guest experts on every channel, with the exception of Fox News, at some point in the day believed, considered, or at least articulated the possibility that explosions had caused the Twin Towers’ destruction. In addition, several channels, including Fox News, displayed banners or captions or crawls in their lower thirds stating that explosions had caused the Twin Towers’ destruction.

The explosion hypothesis was first mentioned by several anchors on several different channels within minutes of the South Tower’s destruction at 9:59 AM and — within our pool of television coverage — was mentioned for the final time by NBC’s Tom Brokaw at 4:48 PM. It is noteworthy that more than half of the mentions of the explosion hypothesis occurred in the first 31 minutes after the South Tower’s destruction. As we shall discuss below, on some channels the explosion hypothesis was eventually explicitly discarded while on other channels it simply stopped being mentioned.

In some cases, discussion of the explosion hypothesis was driven by the anchors’ own observation and intuition while in other cases it was driven by information provided by reporters on the ground (and, in some cases, both). In a few cases, especially in the lower third captions, mention of the explosion hypothesis appears to have been driven by information circulated on the newswire.

Altogether, the data reflect that the explosion hypothesis was broadly, though in most cases fleetingly, considered by news anchors, their guests, and others at the networks.

The one notable exception was on Fox News, where the anchor, Jon Scott, assertively pushed the fire-induced collapse hypothesis while fabricating the War on Terror and Bin Laden narratives before our eyes. All the while, he seemed uniquely unsurprised and unbothered by the events, as compared to other anchors who exhibited varying degrees of shock, disbelief, and horror. Although Fox News reporters on the ground, like those of other networks, were describing explosions, Scott went out of his way to correct their impressions of what they had witnessed and make the fire-induced collapse hypothesis seem credible to viewers. Because of Scott, no experts were needed to establish the Official Narrative on Fox News. There was only one hypothesis in the foreground, and this hypothesis was so quickly solidified that by noon on 9/11, all of the major elements of the coming Global War on Terror had been set forth.

However, for the anchors who were sincerely dedicated to discovering the facts, Strategy One was employed.

Strategy One for Accomplishing the Triumph of the Official Narrative: An “Expert” Visits a News Anchor

In discussing Strategy One we shall use CNBC and CNN as our chief examples and also look briefly at CBS and NBC.


CNBC saw, perhaps, the most notable rise and fall of the explosion hypothesis.

CNBC’s consideration of the explosion hypothesis started at 10:01 AM with news anchor Mark Haines hearing from witnesses on the street that a third airplane had crashed into the South Tower. He surmised that this third airplane impact was responsible for the South Tower’s total destruction.

In a discussion with CNBC reporter Maria Bartiromo, who was on the ground at the New York Stock Exchange, Haines’ suspicion of a third airplane causing the South Tower’s destruction was reinforced by Bartiromo’s repeated reference to “the explosion,” which Bartiromo deduced was “just the actual collapse of the building” but that Haines suggested was a third airplane impact.

After about 15 minutes, Haines was informed that the Associated Press was reporting only two airplane strikes. As Haines began to accept that there was no third airplane strike, he and another anchor (we were unable to determine this person’s name) agreed that some sort of explosion must have caused the South Tower’s destruction. At around 10:21 AM, Haines looked closely at footage of the South Tower’s destruction and began to analyze it with an accuracy and clarity that was unique among news anchors:

“But here you see an enormous explosion about midway up in the South Tower, and the entire structure collapses. It just disappears. . . . Now that’s interesting from a forensic point of view. The explosion that leveled the South Tower came, it seemed, roughly halfway up. And yet it took the entire tower out.”

Minutes later, Haines reacted in horror as he watched the destruction of the North Tower in real time, exclaiming:

“We have an enormous explosion in the remaining World Trade Tower Center!”

Haines then went on to analyze the destruction as he had done before with the following series of comments:

“It happened the same way. The explosion started high in the building and worked its way down.”

“There you see — I don’t understand, and I would be very anxious to hear in the future some, the forensics of this situation.”

“This is — there you see the building imploding. It, it — do you see what’s happening? Now, what would cause that I don’t know.”

In response to Haines’ comments, his co-anchor, Bill Griffeth, acknowledged the possibility of what Haines was suggesting, stating:

“Certainly, the structure had been weakened by the impact. But you’d have to wonder if there was something else there. But we just don’t know at this point.”

Haines responded with his opinion that the destruction of both towers could not have been accidental:

“I don’t think . . . I think we’re safe — here I think I’m on safe ground, Bill. I don’t think — This was clearly, the way the structure is collapsing, this was the result of something that was planned. This is not — it’s not accidental that the first tower just happened to collapse and then the second tower just happened to collapse in exactly the same way. How they accomplished this, we don’t know. But clearly this is what they wanted to accomplish.”

A few minutes later, at around 10:34 AM, Haines left the studio, apparently in shock, and did not return for the day. We can only wonder how aggressively Haines might have continued to pursue the explosion hypothesis had he remained in the newsroom. (Sadly, Haines died of congestive heart failure in 2011.)

At 11:07 AM, co-anchor Griffeth brought structural engineer Eric Gass into the studio for an interview, asking him “whether it would be necessary for a further attack upon the buildings before they would collapse.” Gass happened to be working on the construction of a nearby building for CNBC at the time.

Over the course of his interview, Gass extinguished any remaining suspicion Griffeth and others may have had, making a number of unfounded assertions about the inability of the buildings to withstand the airplane impacts and fires.

Bill Griffeth: “Which is something I wanna get into here, Sue, because there’s been all kinds of speculation about how that would happen, whether it would be necessary for a further attack upon the buildings before they would collapse. And as it happens we have with us in studio here is a structural engineer, Eric Gass, who happens to be in the process of building a building that we’re putting together here at CNBC down the road. And you would have some sense since you’ve been a part of the construction of buildings of this magnitude, Eric, to give us some insight of what would happen with the kind of damage that was done with the jet attacks on the buildings and whether that’s enough to bring those buildings down by themselves.”

Eric Gass: “Well, I think you’ve a got a couple of issues that are going on here. One is, these are concrete reinforced structures. And concrete is a compressive material. So as you can see, especially from the second attack, as it comes in, it appears to shear into the side of the building.”

Herrera: “The plane.”

Griffeth: “Right.”

Gass: “Absolutely. So you have a couple of issues. One, it probably has taken all the concrete away from the steel.”

Herrera: “And now you’re seeing that second plane.”

Gass: “Absolutely. So this structure, and I think as you see as it will collapse later on, it begins to tilt to that side. It has taken all of the concrete and put it into tensile property.”

Herrera: “And these are large planes.”

Gass: “Absolutely. If we’re dealing with a Boeing 767, you’re not just dealing with a large plane, you’re dealing with a large plane that’s coming in at over 500 mph. So you have all of the impact going in to those members. There is no building that I’m aware of that can take this kind of impact.”

Griffeth: “So as we watch the first of the towers collapsing there, it was enough from the initial attack by the jet to bring the tower down eventually. Is that your understanding?”

Gass: “I would say so. Especially the second thing you would have going on, of course, is the airplane’s going to have a great deal of fuel, and the fire is going to be working against that structural steel, which of course is why the fire codes are so stringent in this country. So then you’re going to have a problem with once the fire takes place it’s going to work against the structural strength of that steel and begin to collapse.”

Griffeth: “So you’re not surprised that these would go down just based on the jet crashing into the buildings here, Eric?

Gass: “No. As a matter of act, as we were seeing the explosion the first time, that was the first thing that occurred to us, is that there would be an immediate weakening on that side of the building. I think if you look at the second tower that collapsed, you will see that it begins to collapse straight down, which as it appears from what happened in the impact, it impacted much more into the center of the building. Again, you would have gotten rid of all of the ability for fire protection to have gotten rid of some of the fire and the flames, which apparently is why it took longer. The other point too is that you have 15 floors of extremely heavy material bearing down on this situation. It would be impossible to see why it would be able to hold up.”

Griffeth: “The terrorist bombing of some years ago against the World Trade Center, which occurred essentially in the parking structure below the building, why didn’t that bring that down at the time?”

Gass: “Well, I think you’re dealing with a different issue. One, you’re dealing with a static explosion, where someone pulls a small truck underneath so you have all of the concrete not only keeping both of the floors above and below. But you’re dealing with the biggest structural strength of that building is sitting underground. Of course, New York is pure bedrock. So that would have been the worst place to attack it. Clearly it did not do that much damage, enough structurally to make major structural problems with the design, as I understand it. Here, you have a much larger vehicle, with much more speed, and literally shearing any of its structural capacity in those particular areas.”

Hours later, at around 2:25 PM, Griffeth repeated Gass’s unfounded assertions.

Griffeth: “We were witness to this horrifying spectacle of the Twin Towers just disintegrating to the ground. And we had heard from this structural engineer that we interviewed earlier that once these towers had been struck by these jets — I mean, these are structures that are built mainly, of course with steel, but with concrete. The concrete essentially was liquefied. Not to that degree, but it just was very suspect in the structure. And according to him it was only a matter of time before it came down. And course that is exactly what happened after the crashes.”

To summarize, engineer Eric Gass, the “expert,” was able to put a stop to the legitimate questioning of Mark Haines and Bill Griffeth. Although we know now that Gass’s hypothesis is false, it would have seemed plausible at the time both to news anchors and the viewing public.


Shortly after 9:59 AM, news anchor Aaron Brown was standing on a roof in New York City about 30 blocks from the World Trade Center. He was looking directly at the South Tower as it was destroyed. He was, therefore, not just a journalist and not just a news anchor: He was an eyewitness.

He immediately interrupted a journalist who was reporting live on the Pentagon:

“Wow! Jamie. Jamie, I need you to stop for a second. There has just been a huge explosion…we can see a billowing smoke rising…and I can’t…I’ll tell you that I can’t see that second Tower. But there was a cascade of sparks and fire and now this…it looks almost like a mushroom cloud, explosion, this huge, billowing smoke in the second Tower…”

Having reported honestly what he saw with his own eyes, Brown next did exactly what he should have done as a responsible news anchor. He let his audience know that, while he did not know what had happened, it was clear that there were two hypotheses in play, the explosion hypothesis and the fire-induced collapse hypothesis. And then he went to his reporters on the scene, as well as to authorities, to try and sort out which hypothesis was correct.

Here are examples of his setting forth — after the first building was destroyed and again after the second was destroyed — the rival hypotheses:

At 10:03 AM: “…and then just in the last several minutes there has been a second explosion or, at least, perhaps not an explosion, perhaps part of the building simply collapsed. And that’s what we saw and that’s what we’re looking at.”

At 10:04 AM: “This is just a few minutes ago…we don’t know if…something happened, another explosion, or if the building was so weakened…it just collapsed.”

At 10:29 AM: “[W]e believe now that we can say that both, that portions of both towers of the World Trade Center, have collapsed. Whether there were second explosions, that is to say, explosions other than the planes hitting them, that caused this to happen we cannot tell you.”

At 11:17 AM: “Our reporters in the area say they heard loud noises when that happened. It is unclear to them and to us whether those were explosions going on in the building or if that was simply the sound of the collapse of the buildings as they collapsed, making these huge noises as they came down.”

Brown’s honest reporting of his perceptions was balanced repeatedly by his caution. Here is an example:

At 10:53 AM: “…it almost looks…it almost looks like one of those implosions of buildings that you see, except there is nothing controlled about this…this is devastation.”

His next move, having set forth the two hypotheses, was to ask his reporters on the scene, who were choking on pulverized debris and witnessing gruesome scenes, what they perceived.

Reporter Brian Palmer said honestly that he was not in a position to resolve the issue.

Brown at 10:41 AM: “Was there…Brian, did it sound like there was an explosion before the second collapse, or was the noise the collapse itself?”

Palmer: “Well, from our distance…I was not able to distinguish between an explosion and the collapse. We were several hundred yards away. But we clearly saw the building come down. I heard your report of a fourth explosion: I can’t confirm that. But we heard some ‘boom’ and then the building fold in on itself.”

Two other reporters were more definite about what they perceived.

Brown at 10:29 AM: “Rose, whadya got?”

Rose Arce: “I’m about a block away. And there were several people that were hanging out the windows right below where the plane crashed, when suddenly you saw the top of the building start to shake, and people began leaping from the windows in the north side of the building. You saw two people at first plummet and then a third one, and then the entire top of the building just blew up…”

Brown at 10:57 AM: “Who do we have on the phone, guys? Just help me out here. Patty, are you there?”

Patty Sabga: “Yes, I am here.”

Brown: “Whaddya got?”

Sabga: “About an hour ago I was on the corner of Broadway and Park Place — that’s about a thousand yards from the World Trade Center — when the first tower collapsed. It was a massive explosion. At the time the police were trying desperately to evacuate people from the area. When that explosion occurred, it was like a scene out of a horror film.”

Clearly, the explosion hypothesis was flourishing on CNN. In what is striking to read today, even the news caption at the bottom of the screen at 10:03 AM, shortly after the destruction of the South Tower, was dramatically articulating the explosion hypothesis:


After checking with his reporters, Brown continued to explore his two hypotheses, this time by consulting authorities.

First Brown consulted a political authority. He got the mayor of New York City on the line.

Brown at 12:31 PM: “Sir, do you believe that…was there another set of explosions that caused the buildings to collapse, or was it the structural damage caused by the planes?”

Giuliani: “I don’t, I don’t know, I, uh, I, uh…I, I saw the first collapse and heard the second ‘cause I was in a building when the second took place. I think it was structural but I cannot be sure.”

Later in the afternoon, Giuliani had more confidence in his script. At a press conference that aired on nearly every channel, he ruled out the explosion hypothesis when a reporter asked him, “Do you know anything about the cause of the explosions that brought down the two buildings yet?”

Finally, at 4:20 PM, Brown was visited by an engineer, Jim DeStefano, who we were told was with the National Council of Structural Engineers (the actual name of DeStefano’s organization is the National Council of Structural Engineers Associations). His brief comments put an end to Brown’s explosion hypothesis and rendered CNN’s news coverage safe for public consumption.

Brown: “Jim DeStefano is a structural engineer. He knows about big buildings and what happens in these sorts of catastrophic moments. He joins us from Deerfield, Connecticut on the phone. Jim, the plane hits…what…and I hope this isn’t a terribly oversimplified question, but what happens to the building itself?”

DeStefano: “…It’s a tremendous impact that’s applied to the building when a collision like this occurs. And it’s clear that that impact was sufficient to do damage to the columns and the bracing system supporting the building. That coupled with the fire raging and the high temperatures softening the structural steel then precipitated a destabilization of the columns and clearly the columns buckled at the lower floors causing the building to collapse.”

DeStefano, surely, had a right to make a guess, but he had no right to claim that he knew what had happened. He did not say, “Here is one hypothesis.” He said, in effect, “This is what happened.” But there had been no photographic or video analysis of the buildings’ destruction, no analysis of the physical remains, no cataloguing of eyewitnesses, no examination of seismic or thermal evidence, and so on. He was shooting in the dark, and he was silencing a journalist who was sincerely trying to discover the truth.

As we have discovered since that day, DeStefano’s confidence was misplaced and his hypothesis was wrong. But his explanation appears to have succeeded in ending Aaron Brown’s interest in the explosion hypothesis.


The deployment of Strategy One was not unique to CNBC and CNN. Dan Rather, Peter Jennings and Tom Brokaw, the evening news anchors for CBS, ABC and NBC, respectively, all considered the explosion hypothesis at various points during the course of the day. Two of them, Rather and Jennings, were met with experts who apparently put an end to their curiosity.

In Rather’s case, he was visited by a government official named Jerome Hauer. On 9/11, Hauer was director of the federal Office of Public Health Preparedness and was senior advisor to the Secretary for National Security and Emergency Management. In January 2001, Hauer had been hired to run a new crisis management group at Kroll Associates, the security consulting firm that had designed the security system for the World Trade Center complex in response to the 1993 bombing. And before that, from 1996 to 2000, he was director of the New York City Office of Emergency Management (OEM), where he was chiefly — and controversially — responsible for installing the OEM’s Emergency Operations Center on the 23rd floor of World Trade Center Building 7, which would also collapse later that day.

A little after 12:00 PM on 9/11, Rather and Hauer had this exchange:

Rather: “Is this massive destruction of the World Trade Center — based on what you know, and I recognize we’re dealing with so few facts — is it possible that just plane crash could have collapsed these buildings? Or would it have required the sort of prior positioning of other explosives in the building? What do you think?”

Hauer: “No, my sense is that just, one, the velocity of the plane, and the fact that you have a plane filled with fuel hitting that building that burned. The velocity of the plane certainly had an impact on the structure itself. And then the fact that it burned and you had that intense heat probably weakened the structure as well. I think it was simply the planes hitting the building and causing the collapse.”

One would expect a national security official, especially one working for a company responsible for security at the World Trade Center, to be pursuing all possibilities. Indeed, we know that officials at the FDNY, the NYPD, and the FBI suspected that explosives had brought down the towers. Hauer’s confidence that explosives had nothing to do with the towers’ destruction, less than two hours after it had happened, is at best grossly irresponsible.

In the case of Jennings, he interviewed a structural engineer by the name of Jon Magnusson, who on 9/11 was a partner at the structural engineering firm that had designed the Twin Towers. Magnusson would go on to be a member of the FEMA Building Performance Study, the first official investigation into the Twin Towers’ and Building 7’s destruction.

Earlier that morning, upon learning that the South Tower had completely collapsed, Jennings remarked:

“We have no idea what caused this. If you wish to bring — anybody who’s ever watched a building being demolished on purpose knows that if you’re going to do this you have to get at the under infrastructure of a building and bring it down.”

Twenty minutes later, apparently having trouble accepting NBC reporter Don Dahler’s interpretation that the building had simply collapsed from the airplane impact and fires, Jennings said:

“I’m still desperately confused, John, about what may have caused the building to collapse.”

To our knowledge, Jennings did not articulate the explosion hypothesis after that point. Nevertheless, later in the day, Magnusson was brought on to explain to Jennings and millions of viewers why the buildings had collapsed. Magnusson’s interview on ABC was preceded by a pre-recorded piece that put forth the fire-induced collapse hypothesis, basing its claims on advice from engineers at Magnusson’s firm. Once the piece ended, Jennings began his interview with Magnusson.

Jennings: “This is the second time from Robert Krulwich and also from some architect engineers we talked with a little bit earlier that say it was the heat which caused the building to collapse, because the steel at the top of the building would maybe have only been able to sustain an hour, hour-and-a-half of intense fire, and then the steel begins — as Robert points out so clearly — collapse upon itself all the way down to the bottom.

“I think we have with us, on the phone or in person, from Seattle, Jon Magnusson, who is an engineer — Jon, are you there? — Jon Mangusson, who is with the company that actually built the World Trade Center towers. Jon, have you heard our two laymen explanations tonight of what it was we think collapsed the building? And do you agree or disagree?”

Magnusson: “I agree. . . . The description of the fact that steel, when it gets up to 1,500, 1600°F, that it loses its strength is accurate. The buildings actually survived the impact of both the planes. And it was really the fire that created the disaster.”

Jennings: “And the upper floor fell on the next floor down, which fell on the next floor, and the sheer accumulation of weight just forced the whole building to collapse on itself?”

Magnusson: “Right. From the videotape — and I can only go from what I’ve seen on television — but the videotape showed that several of the upper floors fell onto the next lower floor that was still intact. And once that happens, there’s going to be an instant overload situation. And then it will fail. And then that will drop down to the next floor, into another instant overload situation. And so the floors just progressively collapsed down all the way to the bottom.”

Magnusson was somewhat more cautious in his explanation than Gass, DeStefano and Hauer. At the same time, he was arguably the most equipped to recognize that the towers had possibly been destroyed with explosives, yet he advocated solely for the fire-induced collapse hypothesis. As a partner at the very firm that had designed the Twin Towers, his early endorsement of the fire-induced collapse hypothesis was essential in supplanting the explosion hypothesis.

Was it chance that led a series of “experts” to disarm these independent-minded news anchors with one false hypothesis after another? We think that is unlikely.

Consider that many building professionals and technical experts are known to have immediately suspected that explosives were responsible for the Twin Towers’ destruction. Notable examples of experts who first suspected explosives but then quickly changed their position include Van Romero, an explosives expert from New Mexico Tech, and Ronald Hamburger, a structural engineer who went on to work on the FEMA Building Performance Study and later on the NIST World Trade Center investigation. On 9/11, Romero told the Albuquerque Journal:

“The collapse of the buildings was ‘too methodical’ to be the chance result of airplanes colliding with the structures…. ‘My opinion is, based on the videotapes, that after the airplanes hit the World Trade Center there were some explosive devices inside the buildings that caused the towers to collapse.’”

On September 19, 2001, Hamburger told the Wall Street Journal:

“‘It appeared to me that charges had been placed in the building,’…Upon learning that no bombs had been detonated, ‘I was very surprised.’”

Much like these experts, Dr. Leroy Hulsey, a professor emeritus of civil engineering at the University of Alaska Fairbanks who conducted a four-year computer modeling of Building 7’s collapse, has said that he told his students the week after 9/11 that the Twin Towers could not have collapsed in the way they did due to the airplane impacts and ensuing fires. Similarly, Dr. Fadil Al-Kazily, a civil engineering professor from Sacramento State, once commented to this author (Ted Walter) that he was not aware of a single colleague of his who believed the fire-induced collapse hypothesis.

So, how is it that every “expert” who appeared on national television that day advocated the fire-induced collapse hypothesis when there were so many who favored the explosion hypothesis?

Although it cannot be proven, we suspect that intentionality, coordination, and deception are on display in these interviews. We shall see even more of this in the deployment of Strategy Two.

Strategy Two for Accomplishing the Triumph of the Official Narrative: The War on Terror and Bin Laden Narratives

“We tell ourselves stories in order to live, or to justify taking lives…tell ourselves stories that save us and stories that are the quicksand in which we thrash and the well in which we drown.” — Rebecca Solnit, The Faraway Nearby

On 9/11, the power of narrative to evoke horror, anger and a call-to-arms was drawn on by one prominent television guest after another. Genuine evidence, such as was produced early in the day by eyewitnesses, was pushed aside by the two narratives outlined below — the quasi-metaphysical War on Terror narrative and the Bin Laden narrative, which nested within the wider War on Terror narrative.

To the extent that these narratives were convincingly conveyed to viewers, no further argument against the explosion hypothesis was necessary. The foreign evildoers had crashed airplanes into the buildings and the buildings had come down, and that was all one needed to know.

The process of sowing these two narratives relied in part on a propaganda technique visible throughout the day’s coverage. It may be called “normalizing the abnormal.”

A good example of this technique can be seen later in the day. Both before and after World Trade Center Building 7 came down, the television audience was led to believe that such an event was normal. After all, the building was on fire, so of course it might come down! This was exemplified by the captions that began running on CNN around 4:10 PM — “BUILDING 7 AT WORLD TRADE CTR. ON FIRE, MAY COLLAPSE” — and on Fox News around 4:13 PM — “TRADE CENTER BLDG 7 ON FIRE, MAY COLLAPSE” — both more than an hour before the building came down. Of course, no such building had ever come down from fire in a way remotely similar to Building 7. Nevertheless, the television networks portrayed this event as perfectly normal, to the point of being utterly predictable.

In the case of the War on Terror and Bin Laden narratives that were imposed on the attacks as a whole, viewers received a large dose of “normalizing the abnormal.” This massive, complex operation was almost immediately blamed on a relatively small and poorly funded non-state organization based far away in one of the poorest countries of the world. It would have been far more “normal” for the operation to have been carried out by a well-funded military-intelligence apparatus. To exclude this more normal scenario in favor of a much more abnormal scenario required quickly setting forth the non-state terrorism hypothesis, almost immediately offering Osama bin Laden as the prime suspect, and choreographing the repetition of these ideas by various authorities.

As documented below, many claims were made about Osama bin Laden by the prominent television guests. On 9/11, these would have been seen by many as plausible, much like the statements by the building professionals brought on as experts. Many of us expected at the time that the claims made by these guests would soon be supported by actual, usable evidence. But this did not happen.

As this author (MacQueen) wrote in The 2001 Anthrax Deception (p. 31) of the period when the U.S. was making preparations for the invasion of Afghanistan:

“Secretary of State Colin Powell stated that the U.S. would soon be preparing, for the edification of the world, a document detailing evidence of Bin Laden’s guilt. When no such document was produced, the government of the United Kingdom stepped forward. The British document of October 4 [2001] was, however, astonishingly weak. The preamble noted that, ‘this document does not purport to provide a prosecutable case against Osama Bin Laden in the court of law’ even as it was purporting to provide something of much greater import: a casus belli. Indeed, the document consisted mainly of unverifiable claims from intelligence agencies, the evidence seldom rising to the level of circumstantial. Anthony Scrivener, Q.C., noted in The Times that, ‘it is a sobering thought that better evidence is required to prosecute a shoplifter than is needed to commence a world war [the War on Terror].’”

When the 9/11 Commission later produced its report in 2004, it was unable to support its central narrative with solid evidence and resorted repeatedly to using statements obtained under torture.

In other words, on 9/11, actual evidence usable in a court of law (eyewitness evidence of explosions) was defeated by claims that, however dramatically appealing, would not be admissible in a court of law.

(a) The War on Terror Narrative

The story of the War on Terror, as publicly set forth on television on 9/11, is a story of evil and aggression, a story that extends into the future as the righteous take up the sword of justice and vengeance. This very broad narrative, of mythical dimensions, includes the following eight elements. (Not all speakers include all eight elements, but by the end of the day all eight had been articulated.)

    1. Those who carried out the 9/11 operation were evil, a threat to all of civilization.
    1. These “terror thugs” have carried out an act of war against the U.S., so the U.S. should recognize and accept that a state of war now exists.
    1. States that support the terror thugs (for example, Afghanistan, allegedly supporting Bin Laden) are as responsible as the terrorists themselves for the evil deeds done, so the condition of war must extend to such supporting states.
    1. Not only the 9/11 terrorists and their supporters but all terrorists who have expressed evil intentions against the U.S., together with their supporters — most of whom are explicitly named — are, from 9/11 onward, to be regarded as at war with the U.S.
    1. This new and comprehensive war, known as the “War on Terror” or “War Against Terror,” is a metaphorical war (a vigorous striving, using all means, such as economic, political, and cultural), a spiritual war, and a literal war, waged with all military methods and technologies. The terrorists and their supporters, being evil, must be eliminated.
    1. The righteous must not wait for the evil doers and their supporters to strike out but must take whatever actions are necessary to strike first.
    1. All countries in the world must commit themselves to action within this global conflict framework. They must make a choice whether they will be on the side of the righteous or the side of the evil — there will be no middle ground.
    1. Parties at one time enemies of the righteous (Russia, China, and “moderate” Arab states) should be permitted to join in the War on Terror.

Although Bush administration officials gave voice to these principles in various public speeches and policy statements over a period of time after 9/11, the principles were articulated publicly on television on the day of 9/11 itself and in some cases before noon.

Presented below are three examples of the development of this narrative on 9/11: one on Fox News (by Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives), one on BBC (by Ehud Barak, the former prime minister of Israel), and one on CNN (by Richard Holbrooke, a former U.S. diplomat and assistant secretary of state).

Other speakers — whose words can be found in Appendix B, which contains statements setting forth the Bin Laden narrative — also articulated the elements of the War on Terror narrative.

Note: Although elsewhere in this study we have not used BBC footage, by a stroke of fortune Ehud Barak was in London on 9/11 and was able to spend time in the BBC studio. We include his remarks as useful expressions of this narrative by a very prominent political player.

Videos of the Newt Gingrich and Richard Holbrooke interviews are presented below along with their transcripts. Videos of Ehud Barak appearing on BBC can be found in the Internet Archive’s “Understanding 9/11” archive.

(i) Newt Gingrich, Fox News

11:32 AM: Newt Gingrich Speaking to Jon Scott

Prof. Graeme MacQueen, renowned author and distinguished professor of religious studies.

Ted Walter is the director of strategy and development for AE911Truth.

8 September 2022


Peace Talks Essential as War Rages on in Ukraine

By Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J.S. Davies

Six months ago, Russia invaded Ukraine. The United States, NATO and the European Union (EU) wrapped themselves in the Ukrainian flag, shelled out billions for arms shipments, and imposed draconian sanctions intended to severely punish Russia for its aggression.

Since then, the people of Ukraine have been paying a price for this war that few of their supporters in the West can possibly imagine. Wars do not follow scripts, and Russia, Ukraine, the United States, NATO and the European Union have all encountered unexpected setbacks.

Western sanctions have had mixed results, inflicting severe economic damage on Europe as well as on Russia, while the invasion and the West’s response to it have combined to trigger a food crisis across the Global South. As winter approaches, the prospect of another six months of war and sanctions threatens to plunge Europe into a serious energy crisis and poorer countries into famine. So it is in the interest of all involved to urgently reassess the possibilities of ending this protracted conflict.

For those who say negotiations are impossible, we have only to look at the talks that took place during the first month after the Russian invasion, when Russia and Ukraine tentatively agreed to a fifteen-point peace plan in talks mediated by Turkey. Details still had to be worked out, but the framework and the political will were there.

Russia was ready to withdraw from all of Ukraine, except for Crimea and the self-declared republics in Donbas. Ukraine was ready to renounce future membership in NATO and adopt a position of neutrality between Russia and NATO.

The agreed framework provided for political transitions in Crimea and Donbas that both sides would accept and recognize, based on self-determination for the people of those regions. The future security of Ukraine was to be guaranteed by a group of other countries, but Ukraine would not host foreign military bases on its territory.

On March 27, President Zelenskyy told a national TV audience, “Our goal is obvious—peace and the restoration of normal life in our native state as soon as possible.” He laid out his “red lines” for the negotiations on TV to reassure his people he would not concede too much, and he promised them a referendum on the neutrality agreement before it would take effect.

Such early success for a peace initiative was no surprise to conflict resolution specialists. The best chance for a negotiated peace settlement is generally during the first months of a war. Each month that a war rages on offers reduced chances for peace, as each side highlights the atrocities of the other, hostility becomes entrenched and positions harden.

The abandonment of that early peace initiative stands as one of the great tragedies of this conflict, and the full scale of that tragedy will only become clear over time as the war rages on and its dreadful consequences accumulate.

Ukrainian and Turkish sources have revealed that the U.K. and U.S. governments played decisive roles in torpedoing those early prospects for peace. During U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s “surprise visit” to Kyiv on April 9th, he reportedly told Prime Minister Zelenskyy that the U.K. was “in it for the long run,” that it would not be party to any agreement between Russia and Ukraine, and that the “collective West” saw a chance to “press” Russia and was determined to make the most of it.

The same message was reiterated by U.S. Defense Secretary Austin, who followed Johnson to Kyiv on April 25th and made it clear that the U.S. and NATO were no longer just trying to help Ukraine defend itself but were now committed to using the war to “weaken” Russia. Turkish diplomats told retired British diplomat Craig Murray that these messages from the United States and United Kingdom killed their otherwise promising efforts to mediate a ceasefire and a diplomatic resolution.

In response to the invasion, much of the public in Western countries accepted the moral imperative of supporting Ukraine as a victim of Russian aggression. But the decision by the U.S. and British governments to kill peace talks and prolong the war, with all the horror, pain and misery that entails for the people of Ukraine, has neither been explained to the public, nor endorsed by a consensus of NATO countries. Johnson claimed to be speaking for the “collective West,” but in May, the leaders of France, Germany and Italy all made public statements that contradicted his claim.

Addressing the European Parliament on May 9, French President Emmanuel Macron declared, “We are not at war with Russia,” and that Europe’s duty was “to stand with Ukraine to achieve the cease-fire, then build peace.”

Meeting with President Biden at the White House on May 10, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi told reporters, “People… want to think about the possibility of bringing a cease-fire and starting again some credible negotiations. That’s the situation right now. I think that we have to think deeply about how to address this.”

After speaking by phone with President Putin on May 13, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz tweeted that he told Putin, “There must be a cease-fire in Ukraine as quickly as possible.”

But American and British officials continued to pour cold water on talk of renewed peace negotiations. The policy shift in April appears to have involved a commitment by Zelenskyy that Ukraine, like the U.K. and U.S., was “in it for the long run” and would fight on, possibly for many years, in exchange for the promise of tens of billions of dollars worth of weapons shipments, military training, satellite intelligence and Western covert operations.

As the implications of this fateful agreement became clearer, dissent began to emerge, even within the U.S. business and media establishment. On May 19, the very day that Congress appropriated $40 billion for Ukraine, including $19 billion for new weapons shipments, with not a single dissenting Democratic vote, The New York Times editorial board penned a lead editorial titled, “The war in Ukraine is getting complicated, and America isn’t ready.”

The Times asked serious unanswered questions about U.S. goals in Ukraine, and tried to reel back unrealistic expectations built up by three months of one-sided Western propaganda, not least from its own pages. The board acknowledged, “A decisive military victory for Ukraine over Russia, in which Ukraine regains all the territory Russia has seized since 2014, is not a realistic goal.… Unrealistic expectations could draw [the United States and NATO] ever deeper into a costly, drawn-out war.”

More recently, warhawk Henry Kissinger, of all people, publicly questioned the entire U.S. policy of reviving its Cold War with Russia and China and the absence of a clear purpose or endgame short of World War III. “We are at the edge of war with Russia and China on issues which we partly created, without any concept of how this is going to end or what it’s supposed to lead to,” Kissinger told The Wall Street Journal.

U.S. leaders have inflated the danger that Russia poses to its neighbors and the West, deliberately treating it as an enemy with whom diplomacy or cooperation would be futile, rather than as a neighbor raising understandable defensive concerns over NATO expansion and its gradual encirclement by U.S. and allied military forces.

Far from aiming to deter Russia from dangerous or destabilizing actions, successive administrations of both parties have sought every means available to “overextend and unbalance” Russia, all the while misleading the American public into supporting an ever-escalating and unthinkably dangerous conflict between our two countries, which together possess more than 90% of the world’s nuclear weapons.

After six months of a U.S. and NATO proxy war with Russia in Ukraine, we are at a crossroads. Further escalation should be unthinkable, but so should a long war of endless crushing artillery barrages and brutal urban and trench warfare that slowly and agonizingly destroys Ukraine, killing hundreds of Ukrainians with each day that passes.

The only realistic alternative to this endless slaughter is a return to peace talks to bring the fighting to an end, find reasonable political solutions to Ukraine’s political divisions, and seek a peaceful framework for the underlying geopolitical competition between the United States, Russia and China.

Campaigns to demonize, threaten and pressure our enemies can only serve to cement hostility and set the stage for war. People of good will can bridge even the most entrenched divisions and overcome existential dangers, as long as they are willing to talk – and listen – to their adversaries.

Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J. S. Davies are the authors of War in Ukraine: Making Sense of a Senseless Conflict, which will be available from OR Books in October/November 2022.

Medea Benjamin is the cofounder of CODEPINK for Peace, and the author of several books, including Inside Iran: The Real History and Politics of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Nicolas J. S. Davies is an independent journalist, a researcher with CODEPINK and the author of Blood on Our Hands: The American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq.

6 September 2022


Free Speech Doesn’t Matter if Propagandists Determine What People Say

By Caitlin Johnstone

29 Aug 2022 – None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.

None are more hopelessly ignorant than those who falsely believe they’re informed.

None are more hopelessly propagandized than those who don’t know they are propagandized.

Living in a liberal western democracy means having the freedom to criticize the tyranny of your government, but instead spending your time criticizing the tyranny of foreign governments who your government doesn’t like.

Free speech in a liberal western democracy means you have the freedom to say whatever you want about the abuses of your government, and the press has the freedom to hammer you with propaganda to ensure that you never do.

In a liberal western democracy you are free to criticize your government, but instead you are propagandized into criticizing the impotent puppets who get rotated in and out of office while your government continues doing all the same evil things regardless of who gets elected.

In liberal western democracies you are free to call the president “Drumpf” or “Brandon”, but you are not free to know who’s actually calling the shots in your country underneath the official government.

In liberal western democracies people say, “I’m so glad I don’t live in a country like Russia or China where people are forbidden to criticize their government. I live in the west, where I’m free to criticize Russia and China all I want.”

It doesn’t matter if you have freedom of speech if those in power can control what you will say. And in liberal western democracies, this is exactly what happens.

We grow up saturated with US empire propaganda in the west. We marinate in it. It pervades our consciousness. But because it’s all we’ve ever known, most of us don’t even notice it.

We think it’s normal that we’re always told our government is on the good and righteous side of every international conflict. We think it’s normal that we hear constantly about the tyranny of foreign governments while only occasionally hearing about bad things our own government did years ago (but it was an innocent mistake and it’ll never happen again).

“If we were being propagandized, I’m sure we’d have heard about it in the news,” we tell ourselves.

But the news is the propaganda. And it will never report on that bombshell story.

Propaganda is the single most overlooked and underappreciated aspect of our society. In controls how the public thinks, acts, votes and behaves, but hardly anyone ever talks about it. Because the sources they’ve been trained to look to for information never say anything about it.

So people say what’s on their mind, after what’s on their mind has been carefully curated by the imperial narrative managers who are responsible for controlling what information goes into their mind.

And they say it with complete freedom. Sure if what they’re saying goes against the interests of the western empire they won’t be allowed to speak on any large platforms where they might infect the mainstream herd with wrongthink, and sure if what they’re saying is really inconvenient they might get banned from even speaking on any of the major online platforms, but they still get to speak. Alone, where no one can hear them. Preferably into a hole in the ground.

And everyone else gets to ingest the mainstream swill. The authorized narratives that get amplified on traditional media and by the algorithms of Silicon Valley. The authorized narratives which mask the abuses of their own government — foreign and domestic — while magnifying and exaggerating the abuses of empire-targeted governments.

That’s why when some people hear my objections to the empire, they say “Well at least where I live we’re allowed to criticize our government!”

And that’s why I reply to them, “Okay. But you don’t.”

If speech wasn’t free people would realize they’re being oppressed, but if people started using their speech to voice real grievances about real power, they would swiftly discover that their speech is being ignored and power is doing as it likes. So inconvenient speech is curtailed by propaganda, by censorship, by algorithm manipulation and by media marginalization.

People are kept hopelessly enslaved by giving them the illusion that they are free, and any voice which interrupts that illusion is silenced by whatever means necessary.

That’s what free speech means in a liberal western democracy. You can say whatever you like, as long as it’s what they like.

Caitlin Johnstone is a rogue journalist, poet, and utopia prepper who publishes regularly at Medium.

5 September 2022


Getting It Wrong on Ukraine

By Scott Ritter

Newsweek’s William Arkin is a prisoner of his sources, a problem that pervades Western reporting on the conflict in Ukraine.

1 Sep 2022 – Six months into Russia’s “Special Military Operation,” fact-challenged reporting that constitutes Western media’s approach to covering the conflict in Ukraine has become apparent to any discerning audience. Less understood is why anyone would sacrifice their integrity to participate in such a travesty. The story of William Arkin is a case in point.

On March 30 (a little more than a month into the war), Arkin penned an article which began with the following sentence: “Russia’s armed forces are reaching a state of exhaustion, stalemated on the battlefield and unable to make additional gains, while Ukraine is slowly pushing them back, continuing to inflict destruction on the invaders.”

Arkin went on to quote a “high-level officer of the Defense Intelligence Agency,” who spoke on condition of anonymity, who declared that “The war in Ukraine is over.”

A little less than three months later, on June 14, Arkin wrote a piece for Newsweek with the headline: “Russia Is Losing the Ukraine War. Don’t Be Fooled by What Happened in Severodonetsk.”

Apparently neither Arkin nor his editorial bosses at Newsweek felt any need to explain how Russia could be losing the war twice.

Anyone who has been following what I’ve been writing and saying since the beginning of Russia’s “Special Military Operation” in Ukraine knows I hold the exact opposite view. Russia, I maintain, is winning the Ukraine conflict, in decisive fashion.

But I don’t write for Newsweek.

William Arkin does.

Arkin proclaims that Russia is losing though it had, at the time the article was published, just taken the strategic city of Severdonetsk, killing and capturing thousands of Ukrainian forces, and rendering thousands more combat ineffective since they had to abandon their equipment to flee for their lives. (Russia has since captured all of the territory encompassing the Lugansk People’s Republic, including the city of Lysychansk, inflicting thousands of additional casualties on the Ukrainian military.)

“The Russian army’s so-called victory,” Arkin proclaimed at the time, “is the latest installment in its humiliating military display and comes with a crushing human cost.”

The humiliating display instead is Arkin’s lack of acumen in conducting an independent assessment of the military situation on the ground in Ukraine.

This was again reinforced last week when Arkin penned another article in which he helps disseminate the outlandish claims of his Pentagon sources.

“[F]rom late February through August, with only a moderate infusion of weapons from the West, some supportive declarations from Western leaders and a smattering of ‘We Stand with Ukraine’ signs on U.S. lawns,” Arkin writes, Ukraine has been able to “hold at bay the mighty Russian military,” something apparently none thought it could do.

Ignore the jaw-dropping contention by Arkin that the tens of billions of dollars in military assistance provided by the U.S. and its NATO and European allies constitutes but “a moderate infusion of weapons.” No, don’t ignore it — focus on it. This is the signature style of Arkin and his Pentagon handlers, a sort of Orwellian double-speak where one can rest assured whatever bold statement is made, the truth is the exact opposite.

Arkin quotes “U.S. intelligence officials who have been watching the war,” writing that “Russian troops have had to contend with bad battlefield leaders, inferior weapons and an unworkable supply chain.”

Anyone who has been tracking the events in Ukraine might have thought that this was the situation as it applies to the Ukrainian military. Not so, says Arkin and his source. Moreover, it is not Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky who has been interfering with his Ministry of Defense, but Russian President Vladimir Putin with his. These same Russian troops, Arkin declares, have “also been hobbled by Putin himself,” who has “ignored, overruled and fired his own generals.”

This is baseless fiction, written by a man who seems determined to cement himself in the annals of the Russian-Ukraine conflict as an unabashed Ukraine partisan and vehicle for Pentagon information warriors. Arkin’s narrative of the war to date is so far removed from the factual record it belongs in The Onion.

What Arkin writes cannot even be called propaganda, because for propaganda to be effective it needs to be both believable at the moment of consumption, and able to sustain a narrative over time. Arkin’s work fulfills neither criterion.

His Sources

Like most erstwhile journalists covering the conflict for western media outlets, Arkin appears to be a prisoner to his sources, which in this case are a combination of anonymous U.S. defense intelligence personnel and pro-Ukrainian propagandists.

I used the term “erstwhile” in describing Western journalists because normal journalistic standards dictate that one seeks to report a story — any story — from a position of dispassionate neutrality, drawing on sources which reflect all sides of the story.

There is nothing wrong about drawing conclusions from such reporting, even assigning weight when it comes to which aspects of the coverage are deemed more credible than others. But before such conclusions can be made, foundational reporting needs to take place. Simply parroting what you’re being told from sources exclusively drawn from one part of the story is stenography.

In the interests of full disclosure, Arkin and I were colleagues for a brief period in late 1998-early 1999, when we were both contracted to NBC News as “on air talent” to talk about the situation in Iraq. Arkin apparently did not hold my analysis in high regard then. I have no idea what he thinks today — Consortium News has reached out for an answer, but as of publication has not received a reply.

Arkin did not respond to an invitation to debate me on Ukraine on a weekly podcast I do with Jeff Norman.

I’ll let our respective track records speak for themselves, especially when it comes to Iraq and the threat posed by weapons of mass destruction. Arkin says he is “proud to say that I also was one of the few to report that there weren’t any WMD in Iraq and remember fondly presenting that conclusion to an incredulous NBC editorial board.”

I’m pretty sure I was saying something similar to an equally incredulous Congress and to the entire mainstream U.S. media (NBC included), as well as the international press corps.

Congratulations, Bill — we once were on the same page.

But no more.

Arkin’s Achievements

Arkin is no run-of-the mill journalist. He’s a smart guy. He got accepted to New York University, although he dropped out to join the Army, claiming NYU “wasn’t for me.” While stationed in Berlin, he completed his undergraduate studies, getting a bachelor’s degree in government and politics. After leaving the Army he got a master’s degree in National Security Studies from Georgetown University.

For the next 40 years, Arkin worked for numerous employers, specializing in nuclear issues and military affairs, before landing his current gig as Newsweeks‘ senior editor for intelligence.

For The Washington Post in 2010, after a two-year investigation, he wrote a ground-breaking story with Dana Priest about the vast and until then little-understood explosive growth of the national security state post 9/11.

Arkin then showed integrity when he resigned from MSNBC and NBC News in 2019. His reasons for leaving, spelled out here, include how he was “especially disheartened to watch NBC and much of the rest of the news media somehow become a defender of Washington and the system.”

In March this year he wrote a startling story that questioned the dominant Western reporting that Russia was committing repeated war crimes by wantonly slaughtering huge numbers of civilians just for the hell of it.

“As destructive as the Ukraine war is, Russia is causing less damage and killing fewer civilians than it could, U.S. intelligence experts say. Russia’s conduct in the brutal war tells a different story than the widely accepted view that Vladimir Putin is intent on demolishing Ukraine and inflicting maximum civilian damage,” he wrote.

The article corroborated what Russia had been saying all along, which until that point was dismissed in the West as propaganda.

So how does Arkin transition from debunking Ukrainian and Western propaganda about Moscow deliberately killing huge numbers of civilians, to embracing the fanciful notion that Russia is losing the war? (Further underscoring Arkin’s assessment of Russia’s battlefield performance is the uninterrupted string of battlefield successes by Russia in the Donbass since that June article was published, further undermining his argument.)

It’s not a lack of education that has led Arkin down the path so many of his colleagues in mainstream media have stumbled down; there is no doubting the man is not only well educated, but also innately intelligent, something that doesn’t necessarily follow the other.

Military ‘Expertise’

Arkin can be said to be a victim of his own CV, which is light on relevant military experience for someone selling himself as an expert in military affairs based on his time in the U.S. Army.

Arkin purports to be one of the foremost military analysts of our times, a man whose track record in military affairs dates to his time as a junior enlisted soldier in the U.S. Army where, from 1974 to 1978, he served in occupied West Berlin as an intelligence analyst working for the Deputy Chief of Staff Intelligence (DCSI), U.S. Commander Berlin (USCOB).

On his WordPress page, Arkin writes that in the army he “rose to be senior intelligence analyst for the Berlin military occupation authorities and served under civilian cover as part of a number of clandestine human and technical intelligence collection efforts.”

In Berlin, Arkin adds in his LinkIn bio, “I worked on a number of clandestine projects and was an analyst of Soviet and East German activities in East Germany.”

He was not just any military analyst, mind you, but someone who, according to himself, “was once one of the world’s leading experts on two military forces that don’t even exist anymore.” I worked closely with military officers who were in fact the foremost experts on both the Soviet and East German militaries during the time Arkin served. This Newsweek senior editor has engaged in more than a little self-promotion.

That someone of the rank of specialist or sergeant (I have no idea what rank Arkin achieved, but four years’ time in service is a self-limiting reality when it comes to advancement) being the “senior intelligence analyst” in all of Berlin on matters pertaining to the Soviet military is patently absurd; Berlin was home to numerous specialized intelligence units and organizations, any one of which would have been staffed with personnel far more senior and, as such, experienced, in intelligence analysis on the Soviet and East German target than Arkin. Simply put, Arkin was not, nor has he ever been, one of the world’s leading experts on the Soviet military.

Not even close.

Arkin was never involved in combat arms, nor did he serve in combat. Without that experience he cannot understand the military realities of war — logistics, communications, maneuvering, fire support, etc. Berlin was, from everything I’ve heard, a fascinating place to serve — but it wasn’t combat.

Not even close.

As Arkin has no combat experience, his military analysis is held hostage to his sources within the Defense Intelligence Agency who pass along such cutting-edge insights as the notion that Russia is suffering ten casualties for every Ukrainian soldier lost since the Donbass offensive began in April.

Arkin seemed unaware of documents alleged to have been leaked from the Ukrainian Ministry of Defense, dated April 21, which state that Ukraine had, as of the date, suffered 191,000 combined killed and wounded. According to Arkin’s math, this would mean Russia has suffered nearly 2 million casualties of its own.

Despite the absurdity, Arkin keeps parroting what his Defense Intelligence Agency sources tell him.

He repeats, without hesitation, his intelligence source’s assessment of Ukraine’s “greater morale and motivation, better training and leadership, superior knowledge and use of the terrain, better maintained and more reliable equipment, and even greater accuracy.”

It doesn’t matter that literally every assertion made by Arkin’s intelligence source is demonstrably false. If Arkin knew about artillery (the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine is primarily an extended artillery duel), he would understand the concepts of probability of hit and probability of kill, and how the volume of artillery fired increases both.

He might then understand how absurd it is to think that an artillery duel where one side fires 6,000 rounds and the other 60,000 rounds could produce an outcome where the side firing 10 times fewer rounds achieves a 10-fold advantage in lethality.

Any expert on Soviet/Russian military affairs would have known that artillery was going to be a major factor in any large-scale combat operation involving Russian forces. By way of example, three days before the Russian operation began, I tweeted (when I could still tweet):

“If you haven’t done a schedule of fires for at least three artillery battalions in the field using live rounds while maneuvering, I’m probably not interested in your military opinion about Ukraine.”

Arkin, to the best of my knowledge, has never done a schedule of fires for multiple battalions of artillery. His apparent lack of knowledge of artillery shows when he repeats verbatim the dreck fed him by his intelligence sources.

Arkin’s has to be aware that NBC News reported about the deliberate declassification and release by the U.S. intelligence community of intelligence information that intelligence officials knew was not true. And yet, Arkin still relies on these types of sources to provide the fodder for his headline-grabbing tales. The question of Arkin’s motives in writing such stories now remains.

That someone with Arkin’s background would allow a lifetime of diligent work to be squandered by serving as little more than a shill for U.S. intelligence is one thing. That media outlets like Newsweek keep printing it is another. Together, these twin phenomena represent what I call “The Arkin Effect,” which is nothing less than the total debasement of journalism in the U.S. when it comes to Russia’s war in Ukraine.

Six months into Russia’s “Special Military Operation”, most military analysts admit that Russia enjoys the upper hand on the battlefield, despite the billions of dollars in military aid that has been sent to Ukraine by the U.S. and its European allies.

But not Bill Arkin and his employers at Newsweek. They seem to be content with serving as the Defense Intelligence Agency’s stenographers, putting out stories which have not, and will not, stand the test of time.

Scott Ritter was a US Marine Corps intelligence officer for 12 years. As a chief weapons inspector for the UN Special Commission in Iraq, he was labeled a hero by some, a maverick by others and a spy by the Iraqi government.

5 September 2022