Mad Man vs. Rocket Man: North Korea Crisis Hits Fever Pitch

For The Real News, I speak to Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, former chief of staff to U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, about the latest salvo in the war of words between Trump and North Korea’s dictator. According to Col. Wilkerson, Trump’s speech at the United Nations was “horrible, atrocious, unbelievable” and the “most embarrassing speech.” Even more troubling is Col. Wilkerson’s view that Trump is perfectly capable of ignoring advice from his military advisers to exercise restraint. My interview of Col. Wilkerson can be seen here:

After Trump’s Inauguration, Right-Wing Media Waste No Time In Attacking a Muslim-American Human Rights Activist

Linda Sarsour is inspirational. She is a Muslim woman struggling peacefully for human rights in the United States, where an anti-Muslim misogynist warmonger who advocates the use of torture and wants to fill Guantanamo with ‘bad dudes’ has just ascended to the Presidency.

In such deplorable conditions, speaking truth to power is an act of considerable moral courage, especially if the speaker is a Muslim woman.

That is precisely what Linda Sarsour did: she spoke truth to power at the Women’s March in Washington, D.C., the day after the Bigot-in-Chief was inaugurated. And for this, she was immediately subjected to the most scurrilous attacks.

Exhibit 1: a venomous smear-job that appeared in The Daily Caller on January 21, the very day on which hundred of thousands rallied around the world to denounce The Donald and all that he represents.

Those of you who have never heard of The Daily Caller are not missing much. It was founded with much fanfare by right-wing talking head Tucker Carlson, but contrary to Carlson’s stated ambition, The Daily Caller has embraced rather than rejected the worst tendencies of the corporate media. As stated by Joel Meares in the Columbia Journalism Review:

[W]hen The Daily Caller has reached for the big scoop, the results have been less impressive. Headline-grabbing exclusives—mostly intercepted e-mails and tweets and attacks on media rivals—have exploded across the web before fizzling under scrutiny. Sexed-up headlines burned above stories too twisted or bland to support them. Quotes were ripped out of context, corrections buried, and important disclosures dismissed. It’s a picture that sits uncomfortably alongside the vision laid out by Carlson at CPAC, one that has drummed up clicks but little respect.

With its attack on Linda Sarsour, The Daily Caller might well have sunk to a new low.

Entitled “Women’s March Organizer Recently Met Ex-Hamas Operative, Has Family Ties To Terror Group”, The Daily Caller article does not identify a single instance in which Linda Sarsour has been accused – let alone convicted – of any crime.

Nowhere is the intellectual dishonesty of The Daily Caller article more apparent than in its commentary on the allegation that Linda Sarsour has family members who are associated with Hamas. The Daily Caller article states “Though she avoids discussing it now, Sarsour has acknowledged in past interviews that she has cousins serving prison time in Israel because of their work for Hamas.”

In an apparent attempt to substantiate this claim, The Daily Caller article provides a link to an August 7, 2012 article in the New York Times in which Sarsour is quoted. According to that New York Times article:

Linda Sarsour, a community worker from Brooklyn, a borough of New York City, has also been the focus of a recent debate after she was appointed to a neighborhood advisory panel. The main reason for the controversy: Members of her family had been arrested on accusations of supporting Hamas, the Islamist group that governs the Gaza Strip. One member of the Tea Party and other community workers asked that she be removed.

For “Michele Bachmann and some people of the Tea Party movement — the fact that we are Muslim means we are disloyal to our country and have hidden agendas,” Ms. Sarsour said.

She denies having any contact with Hamas or other radical Muslim groups. Otherwise she never would have received a ‘Champion of Change’ award from President Barack Obama some months ago, she said.

Nowhere in the New York Times article does Linda Sarsour ‘acknowledge’ that “she has cousins serving prison time in Israel because of their work for Hamas.” On the contrary, Mr. Sarsour is quoted in the New York Times article as denying having any contact with Hamas or other radical Muslim groups. Thus, The Daily Caller’s suggestion that the New York Times article contains such an acknowledgement from Ms. Sarsour is blatantly false.

But let us imagine for the sake of argument that Ms. Sarsour does have cousins serving prison time in Israel based on an allegation by Israeli authorities that those cousins support Hamas. That does not remotely mean that her cousins are in fact supporters of Hamas, because when it comes to the due process rights of Palestinians, Israel’s ‘justice’ system is a travesty.

Consider the following findings in Amnesty International’s 2015/2016 report on the Occupied Palestinian Territories:

The [Israeli] authorities detained thousands of Palestinians from the OPT; most were held in prisons inside Israel, in violation of international law. Hundreds were held without charge or trial under renewable administrative detention orders, based on information withheld from them and their lawyers; some engaged in prolonged hunger strikes in protest. Mohammed Allan, a lawyer, went on hunger strike for 65 days to protest against his administrative detention; he was released in November without charge.

The Israeli authorities launched a new clampdown on protests by Palestinians in the OPT amid the escalation in violence from October, arresting more than 2,500 Palestinians, including hundreds of children, and significantly increasing their use of administrative detention. More than 580 Palestinian administrative detainees were held by the end of the year, including at least five children. In addition, several Israeli Jews suspected of planning attacks on Palestinians were held in administrative detention.

Palestinians from the OPT who were charged faced unfair trials in military courts. In December, Palestinian parliamentarian Khalida Jarrar was sentenced to 15 months’ imprisonment and a fine following a plea bargain made after months of unfair military court proceedings.

Human rights organizations have long documented that many Palestinians who are held in Israeli jails are non-violent dissenters against whom the Israeli authorities have made false or unsubstantiated accusations of terrorism. Thus, the mere fact that a Palestinian is accused by Israel of being a supporter of Hamas does not mean that the accused is in fact a supporter of Hamas.

Let us assume further that Linda Sarsour does in fact have cousins who are supporters of Hamas. So what? Although Canada, the United States and certain of their allies regard Hamas as a terrorist organization, many countries do not, including Norway, Switzerland, Brazil and China. More to the point, the mere fact that some of Linda Sarsour’s cousins or other acquaintances may be supporters of Hamas does not make Linda Sarsour a supporter of Hamas.

In fact, that does not make Linda Sarsour guilty of anything – other than the ‘crime’ of having spoken truth to power.

That loud hissing noise we hear is the hot air emanating from the U.S. ‘intelligence’ services

I have just reviewed the newly released declassified version of the U.S. ‘intelligence’ community’s report on Russia’s alleged attempts to influence the outcome of the U.S. election. I did not find in that report any proof that the Russian government or persons acting on its behalf committed the hacking activities it is alleged to have committed by the U.S. government.

On the contrary, the report contains nothing but unsubstantiated allegations of hacking, and a whole lot of circumstantial evidence that Putin strongly preferred that Trump rather than Clinton win the election.

The mere fact that Putin preferred that Trump win the election (which is hardly surprising, given Trump’s stated desire to work constructively with Putin) or that Putin’s government wanted to discredit the warmonger Hillary Clinton (also, hardly a surprise) does not amount to proof of Russian hacking.

Standing alone, a motive to commit an act does not prove that the alleged perpetrator committed the act. Take, for example, an individual who is desperately poor – such an individual may well have a motive to steal food or clothing, but the existence of that motive does not prove that the individual committed theft.

Furthermore, a rational evaluation of these accusations obliges us to examine not only the motives of the accused, but also the motives of the accusers.

The Democratic establishment has a strong motive to accuse Putin falsely of undermining Clinton through hacking. The election of Trump is an unmitigated disaster and, by pointing the finger at Putin, the Democratic establishment deflects attention away from its shameless efforts to undermine Bernie Sanders, who was far better qualified and positioned than Clinton to defeat Trump.

The U.S. intelligence and military establishments also have a powerful motive to generate fear and loathing toward Russia: such sentiments can be exploited – and frequently have been – to justify ever larger budgetary outlays on intelligence services and the military.

Quite apart from all of this, the U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper is a proven liar. It is now beyond reasonable dispute that Clapper committed perjury when he responded “no, sir” and “not wittingly” to a question about whether the National Security Agency was collecting “any type of data at all” on millions of Americans. Yet Clapper has evaded prosecution. Why would anyone believe a government official who is known to have lied under oath to lawmakers on a matter of national importance, and who has never had to pay any price for his criminal lies?

Finally, note the following statement from the newly released report on Russia’s attempts to influence the U.S. election:

Intelligence Community rarely can publicly reveal the full extent of its knowledge or the precise bases for its assessments, as the release of such information would reveal sensitive sources or methods and imperil the ability to collect critical foreign intelligence in the future. Thus, while the conclusions in the report are all reflected in the classified assessment, the declassified report does not and cannot include the full supporting information, including specific intelligence and sources and methods.

Again and again, Western intelligence services have demanded that we simply trust them, because the disclosure of their sources and methods would imperil national security. Yet these same intelligence services urge or provide support for military actions that undermine our security.

The most notorious example of this from recent history is the CIA’s woefully erroneous assessment that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, an assessment used by the Bush administration to justify a criminal war of aggression against Iraq.  Islamic State, a terrorist organization widely considered to be worse than Al-Qaeda, rose to power precisely because of the devastation wrought by the Iraq war. Therefore, we should be sceptical that the reason for the U.S. intelligence community’s refusal to disclose its sources and methods is a desire to protect the American people.

For the time being, there are plenty of reasons to criticize Trump and Putin. An as yet unsubstantiated allegation of hacking isn’t one of them.