Tag Archives: Syria

Oh the Places You’ll Go…to Die!

Recently Russia lost a high-ranking general in Syria. Lt. General Valery Asapov (nope, not Valery Gerasimov in disguise) was killed along with two colonels in a mortar attack near the town of Deir-ez-Zor. Apart from the high rank of the deceased, this wouldn’t be particularly remarkable were it not for the fact that Asapov commanded the “1st Army Corps” of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic in a conflict that Russia calls a “civil war” and swears it has no part in.

Isn’t it amazing how despite being a “civil war” and an “internal matter” of Ukraine, so many Russian military personnel have taken part with zero reprimand from the Russian government? Here we have a general who decided to go on vacation to fight in a conflict for a “country” his government does not recognize, and then he returned to the Russian army with zero consequences (possibly with a promotion) and got deployed to Syria.

Given Russia’s constant denials (against overwhelming evidence to the contrary) of any significant involvement in this “civil war,” you think they’d want to come down hard on all these “volunteers,” especially the military personnel who supposedly “went on leave” to fight for Ukraine. I guarantee you that if US military personnel took leave and then joined the YPG in Syria, or any other military force for that matter, there would be hell to pay. For starters that’s desertion, plain and simple. Yet the only deserters the Kremlin sees happen to be those who left the army because they say they were being pressured to sign contracts and fight in Ukraine. Curioser and curiouser.

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Russian Defense Ministry Worried About Positive Image

 

MOSCOW- Recent photographs showing Russian soldiers assisting Kurdish fighters of the leftist “People’s Protection Units” in Northern Syria have become a cause for concern among the Russian military’s top brass. According to a source in the Russian Ministry of Defense, publicity surrounding the photos might reflect positively on the Russian armed forces, which have worked hard to cultivate an image of pure, unadulterated evil since 2014.

The concern over the threat of positive connotations may explain Moscow’s official denials of involvement. Speaking at a press briefing the day after the photos emerged on social media, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov insisted that Russia is not involved in helping the Kurds in the North Syrian Confederation.

“All this talk of the Russian military doing something positive or morally correct is nothing but nonsense from the typical sources,” Peskov told journalists.

“I can assure all of you that Russia and its Armed Forces are working their absolute hardest to fulfill their duty of spreading misery to the fullest extent of our reach,” he added.

State media has also hit back at the allegations, calling them “hypocritical,” pointing out that US forces are assisting the same Kurds, and listing numerous historical examples of when the United States’ armed forces acted as a force for good. Sunday news presenter Dmitry Kiselyov reminded his viewers that the US military had been instrumental in such positive historical developments as the abolition of slavery and the destruction of Nazi Germany. He too denied that Russia was deliberately helping the Kurdish movement, insisting that Russia would never support a democratic movement favoring local autonomy, self-administration, and radical women’s rights.

“It’s absurd,” Kiselyov told his viewers.

“Why would we, a nation with a highly centralized authoritarian bureaucracy bolstered by a fascist-inspired imperialist ideology want anything to do with these so-called ‘democratic confederalists,’ who insist that women are something other than breeding stock, entertainment, and a means for obtaining kompromat?”

Despite official denials, sources within the Ministry of Defense say that the command is taking the issue of its image very seriously and is looking for ways to compensate for its potential improvement.

“They’re frantically searching for ways to offset the potential improvement of their reputation,” said Gennady Borisov, a retired Soviet/Russian General who now works for a Moscow-based think tank dedicated to security issues.

“Any potentially positive action on the part of the Russian armed forces is a serious black mark on their image, so all options are on the table- stepping up the shelling of civilians in Ukraine, bombing hospitals in Syria- these are just two examples.”

Borisov said that the Ministry of Defense may even decide to take even stronger, proactive measures such as dropping napalm on a maternity ward in a relatively peaceful area of Syria or releasing a video of Russian soldiers crushing newborn kittens.

“Desperate times call for desperate measures, as they say. It might sound revolting, but it’s nowhere near as bad as having people all over the globe think that our armed forces were involved in something positive.”

Didn’t I Warn You?

So today I woke up to find out that His Orangeness launched a series of cruise missile strikes against Assad’s military airfields in Syria.

I must say this was a bit unexpected, but look who we’re talking about here. But then again, I did predict something like this, as one Twitter follower reminded me:

That old tweet of mine was based on Trump’s assertion that he’d shoot down Russian planes for buzzing American ships in the Black Sea, something which, incidentally, isn’t really justifiable. So yes, I’m going to gloat about predicting this, because in general the situation developed more or less as I thought it would, if only a bit more quickly.

If you had been reading my blog during the run-up to the election, I wrote about how the idea of a grand bargain and partnership between Putin and Trump was highly unlikely. Trump might personally deal with Putin, if only because he loves people who flatter him, but contrary to the beliefs of Trump supporters, he is only a man with limited powers in a big, institutional system. Far more important is the fact that Trump’s whole campaign was based on this idea that America sucks, and he’s going to make it great again. When it came to foreign policy, the line was that America was weak, “always losing,” etc., and this was emboldening America’s enemies. One Trump ad even pegged Putin as one of those enemies.

Trump’s tough-guy routine and his tough-guy wannabe supporters pretty much guaranteed that he would clash with Putin over some issue at some point. It was inevitable. As I’ve written plenty of times before, there really is no foreign policy the United States can pursue that would appeal to Russia save for total isolationism, which looks like submission in the minds of Trump and Trumpkins. Since the latter are basically of a similar mindset, submission is anathema, and any military action is better than none at all.  It’s also interesting to note that the Trump State Department has had tough words for Putin over Ukraine, though I doubt the US will back those words with deeds apart from very incremental targeted sanctions. From the look of things, Putin still has a free hand to wreak havoc in the Donbas.

Still, this Syria operation is a major propaganda defeat for Putin. Remember, the Russian state media worked people into a euphoria over Trump in the weeks running up to the election. High profile personalities in Moscow’s circles of power cheered his victory, including the aforementioned Margarita Simonyan, head of RT. Pro-government astroturf activists actually threw a victory party for him in Moscow. And, although we cannot say that Russia swayed the election in favor of Trump, they certainly tried.

Now what have they got for all that ass-kissing? If we were to adopt the hilariously self-owning terminology of the alt-right, I’d say they got cucked. Hard. Truly this is the Great Cuckening. Up till now, Putin was winning in Syria propaganda-wise, and propaganda is everything to his regime. The United States and the rest of the West appeared impotent. They couldn’t establish a no-fly zone, they couldn’t save Aleppo, and Russia was dictating events on the ground in spite of some setbacks. This proved Russia was a great power capable of projecting military force and of course Putin is the wise chess player orchestrating it all. Then suddenly Cheeto Benito comes in from out of nowhere and bombs the shit out of Assad’s airfields. Those super-deadly S-300 SAM systems the Russians sent were useless. Supposedly the US warned Russia ahead of the strike but that’s even worse. The Americans tell the Great Leader Putin that they’re about to plaster his ally with Tomahawks and all he can do is maybe plead with them a bit before giving in and hanging his head in shame. That doesn’t go over well with the fanboys, be they vatniks in Russia or alt-righties in the West.

putincuck

Even worse for Putin is the fact that there’s not much he can do about this. I’m afraid at most he’ll try to ratchet up the violence in Ukraine, knowing that the US isn’t nearly as interested in Eastern Europe, but he’s already suffered a minor defeat there now that Ukraine got visa free travel to the EU. Chicken Littles are already screaming about how we’re on the eve of WWIII, but what they fail to realize is that Putin’s military, compared to the US and the rest of NATO, is a paper tiger. He could cause a fair bit of damage early on, but he wouldn’t be able to sustain such a war and his ruling class won’t allow it. And with Putin’s upcoming election and rising protest sentiments, the Kremlin media’s going to be scrambling to spin this and other inconvenient facts.

While I don’t trust Trump’s ability to solve the issue of Syria any more than I trust in his abilities to understand the basic duties of his office, this latest action shows how a moronic elephant bumbling around in a china shop can sometimes produce some positive results.

 

Selective skepticism

Facebook has a weird “related” stories function when people share news stories. While the original story your “friend” shared might be from a reputable source, the recommended links almost always seem to be from conspiracy nut sites. Recently I saw what looked like a rather idiotic link and clicked on it.

The article is basically a conspiracy theory about a car bomb attack in Syria which apparently left some Russian military personnel dead. Apparently some folks are saying the Russian KIA were generals, but I doubt it. In any case, the conspiracy article claims that “dozens of Russian generals” were killed by a US missile. It also claims, with no evidence whatsoever, that Putin was “supposed to be” at this base, which is reminiscent of the initial MH17 conspiracy theory that Ukraine shot the airliner down believing it to be Putin’s plane.

What evidence do they provide? Well this is from the ridiculously short “article:”

” Even though camera footage made it appear like a car bomb, it’s suspicious because how could a huge bomb like that get into a secured Russian Base without it being noticed?”

Conspiracy theorist logic at its finest, folks. Confronted with actual video evidence, they say that the footage “made it appear like a car bomb.”  And it’s suspicious because the author, arguing from ignorance, cannot figure out how they could get the bomb into the Russian base. Then it’s followed up with a video rant from a man who would make an excellent “political analyst” on RT.

Obviously the story is bullshit. There are stories online about “US missiles” killing Russian military personnel, but this is about front-line action involving US-made TOW missiles. So why am I highlighting it at all?

Well you see, Russian state media loves conspiracy theories. Ukraine supposedly shot down MH17 with a Buk, an Su-25, and Su-27, and they had a bomb on board just for good measure. They were using American mercenaries, then Polish mercenaries, then African mercenaries, and finally, they started using Turkish mercenaries, conveniently right after Turkey shot down an Su-24 over Syria. And of course the bloodthirsty Nazi junta army is slaughtering civilians left and right in the Donbas, even shelling people on their own side! Ever notice anything missing though?

In the Kremlin narrative, “NATO” legions always inflict civilian casualties, even against their own populations in “false flag” attacks. But what you don’t see are defeats inflicted on the Russian military or its proxies. Instead their successes are always inflated, often to laughable extremes. ISIS was devastated in 24 hours. Ukraine lost 3,000 armored vehicles in the Debaltseve (this is more than the entire Ukrainian army had at the time, and keep in mind the rebels claim all their armor was captured from Ukrainian motor pools), an Su-24 unleashed some kind of EMP on a US ship and shut down its electronics. Of course in real life things are a bit different. For one thing, when American made technology met the Su-24 it blew the latter out of the sky. Russian technology has proven just as vulnerable on the battlefield as any other nation’s arms.

So when I saw this story I began to wonder if the Russian state media or sites like Fort Russ and Russia Insider would cover it. I mean sure, it’s a great conspiracy theory if you want to claim the US is deliberately trying to sabotage Russia, right? Well no. The story tells us that the US can wipe out a dozen Russian generals in “their” base, in a hostile country, and basically get away with it since Putin didn’t have a word to say about it in spite of supposedly being a target for assassination.

For those reasons, you can be the pro-Kremlin expats and staff writers will suddenly turn into critically thinking skeptics. They may point out that the base in question was actually under Syrian control, whether that was actually the case or not. They could suggest that cars enter and exit the base all the time, and the security staff are too overworked to thoroughly search each car. They might claim the rebels found a turncoat on the inside. Whatever the excuse, I doubt there’s any pro-Kremlin hack out there who wants to openly suggest that the US can wipe out dozens of Russian generals at a time without any repercussions whatsoever. Alright, to be fair, you can no doubt find plenty of such people who insist that the CIA/SBU/Praviy Sektor was able to assassinate a Russian political figure on a bridge just outside the Kremlin and totally get away with it, but this only points to the total incompetence of a number of Russian security agencies. You can do that, but you mustn’t ever suggest the same about Russia’s military.

Of course this wouldn’t be the only conspiracy theory that turns pro-Kremlin people into temporary skeptics. The 1999 apartment bombings give us another such example (to be sure, I’ve never been really convinced about the false flag explanation myself). They’d probably even attack this more detailed explanation, which apparently saddles Yeltsin and Berezovsky with a lot of the blame for masterminding the attacks. There was also a false flag theory about MH17 that said the Russians deliberately shot it down thinking it was an Aeroflot flight to Larnaka, Cyrpus. How much you want to bet you can turn the usual 9/11 truthers into rational thinkers on a dime with that little theory?

In truth this is a funny thing about all conspiracy theorists. There are so many conspiracy theories often backing different narratives. I’ve often noticed that backers of a particular theory tend not to argue against one another regardless of political alignment, the alleged culprit (e.g. Zionists vs. Illuminati), or even differing explanations (e.g. bombs planted in towers before 9/11 vs. towers built with explosives pre-planted). Generally you can choose any theory you like so long as it’s not “the official story.”

Of course conflict is inevitable at some point, because people who adhere to such theories typically have their own political agenda. The neo-Nazis and fellow travelers who believe these conspiracies are aimed at advancing the Zionist, Cultural Marxist agenda will inevitably clash with the vulgar left-wing populists who believe in hidden Nazi conspiracies that go back to Operation Paperclip. A Ukrainian, Baltic, or Polish conspiracy theorists may buy into the same Western conspiracy theories about Cultural Marxists, but they’re going to be more inclined to believe anti-Russian conspiracy theories rather than pro-Kremlin ones.

Unfortunately I don’t see much progress in the direction of critical thinking and combating conspiracy theories. If anything it seems things are moving in the opposite direction. A lot of think tank types like to blame this on the Russian media offensive, but in reality even America alone is so adept at producing conspiratorial bullshit that a lot of the Russian media, both foreign and Russian-language, relies on Western sources for many of their conspiracy ideas. The subject of this post is an example of a home-grown conspiracy theory that the Russians probably won’t touch.

As for solutions? Well I’ve said before that teaching critical thinking makes a lot of people nervous, because the same logic you can use to take down a conspiracy theory can also take down more “respectable,” mainstream theories on economics, society, crime, and politics. Some people actually explicitly oppose the teaching of critical thinking.

One thing I can recommend is for people to stop referring to conspiratorial thinking as “crazy.” Yes, it is true that there are many conspiracy adherents who are actually certifiably mentally ill, but if this kind of thinking were limited to such people it would never be so prevalent in mainstream society. These theories are in fact simple explanations for complicated issues, they smooth over contradictions that are hard comprehend and fill in the gaps left by ignorance about the world. On the latter point, better history education would be a major step forward. More education on how the government works would be useful too.

Another possible solution is to take some advice from Cracked.com and examine the influence of pop culture on our perceptions. Movies influence behavior, and movies where heroes explore vast conspiracies and attain esoteric knowledge have a major impact. Most readers have probably heard something about the so-called “Red Pill” community, but in fact The Matrix was inspiring conspiracy theory peddlers almost from the time of the theatrical release. Using the movie as an analogy, con-men like David Icke and Alex Jones offer their marks a way to feel like a real-life Neo, taking the red pill, waking up in the real world, and then reentering “the Matrix” with superior knowledge than that of the mindless drones around them.

It reality of course, this is bullshit. In virtually every debate with a conspiracy theorist I’ve found that they actually possess less knowledge, sometimes no knowledge, about the subject they’re discussing. If it’s 9/11 they’ll incorrectly quote “the official story,” getting the most basic details wrong. Maidan conspiracy theorists don’t seem to know when Maidan started, nor do they know anything about the parties involved or the internal conflicts within the movement. Basic chronology tends to be a major problem.

What can be done about that? Well I think that burden falls on the media. Unfortunately very few people seem to have any idea how the news is made. What is more, they don’t seem to know why the news looks the way it does. Lastly, a lot of news coverage is oversimplified, and it also wouldn’t hurt if news outlets stuck with a story a bit longer, so that people get the most basic details about a story.

I also know from personal experience how difficult journalism can be, but it also might be helpful for journalists to cover angles of major stories that aren’t getting a lot of attention. This way it would be harder to make allegations of a deliberate cover-up, or at least those allegations would look that much more stupid. In this era of “information war,” failure to cover certain topics effectively cedes the battlefield to other actors, who fill in those gaps with their own narratives.

Of course there’s one thing we cannot help, and we may just have to basically evolve as a species in order to overcome this obstacle. Here I’m referring to the deluge of information we face on a daily basis. It’s quite possible that the prevalence of conspiratorial narratives is in some part a natural reaction to being overwhelmed by information our ancestors never had access to. Not only are we hearing about global news stories, but we’re hearing about them constantly, from the TV, the radio, newspapers, magazines, and our mobile phones. When millions of otherwise educated people have zero experience in the Middle East (or anywhere outside their country in many cases), and have never read any serious examination of the politics of radical Islamic terrorism, how are they to understand that Al Qaeda and ISIS are mortal enemies? With their poor historical knowledge about the history of US involvement in Afghanistan and a righteous distaste for US policy in Iraq, is it not a lot easier to believe that the US created both groups and lump this into a larger conspiracy theory?

That’s what it’s all about- what is easier. Make the truth easier to comprehend than the convoluted conspiracy theories, and it will probably go a long way toward putting con men like Alex Jones out of business.

Major mission creep with Sputnik

This initially started out as a sort of How to Amnesty International for Dummies, but in the course of my research on the topic I found a gem that I simply couldn’t ignore. So forgive me but this post is going to read something like a double feature that appears to go way off topic.

First let’s get the Amnesty story out of the way. If you follow Russia news on Twitter you may have heard that Amnesty International released a report about Russian bombing of civilians in Syria, and apparently the report also accused them of using cluster munitions. Human Rights Watch has also reported the use of cluster munitions either by Russia or the Syrian government.

Naturally the Russian state run totally independent media went ape shit, as did the Russian Ministry of Defense.  Just check out this tweet of theirs:

This one has been making the rounds and frankly I like it a lot, if only because the veiled threat basically serves as a warning that they’re about to make shit up. But to get to the heart of the matter, one needs to read this quote from the Sputnik article:

“We have a question for Amnesty International: why did this organization keep silent and turn a blind eye to material, undeniable, real evidence of the use of cluster munitions by the Ukrainian Armed Forces against cities in eastern Ukraine?”

As is typical for the Russian government, the denial follows a typical pattern. Accuse anybody and everybody of deliberately lying to frame Russia. Claim no evidence was given. Claim that contrary evidence was given, even when it hasn’t been or it is highly suspect. And then…WHAT ABOUT?! 

In this case, the what about was directed at Ukraine of course. Strangely, the intrepid journalists at Sputnik didn’t bother to actually go to the Ukraine section of Amnesty’s website, a task I accomplished in roughly 15 seconds thanks to Google. Here is that link.  In the end notes one finds links to the actual detailed reports. As is clear from the summary and the report titles, Amnesty International certainly didn’t turn a blind eye to human rights violations on the part of the Ukrainian armed forces and volunteer units. Several times we see the term “both sides” being used. Of course naturally Kremlin supporters will, with all sincerity, insist that those crimes Amnesty attributed to the Ukrainian side are 100% genuine, while all those attributed to the “rebel side” are sinister lies cooked up by the international conspiracy against poor, persecuted Russia.

This is the point I’m trying to make about Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch- they actually do document human rights abuses pretty much anywhere. Here, take a look at their section on the United States.

“Ah yes,” the Moscow supporter exclaims. “The US has its own human rights abuses! There’s proof, from the West itself!”

Oh but wait, sir! When you’re done with that you can read this report on Russia!

LIES! All lies! This is nothing but information war waged by Washington against Russia! Who funds Amnesty International anyway?! It’s probably a CIA front!”

Yes, yes, brave dissident. Of course it is. Such is the ridiculously childish Kremlin mentality. And when it comes to the topic of civilian casualties, sure, nearly all governments engage in these double standards about collateral damage, human shields, and the slaughter of innocent civilians from the air. But when Russia does it is is ridiculously childish, black and white, and unlike the West there is no significant counterweight, no real criticism. All criticism is a sign of treason. George W. Bush era on steroids.

Now that I’ve got that out of the way it’s time for our second story. As I said it is not on the same topic, but the common thread is that Sputnik was the source. First a little background though.

You remember that idiotic story about Putin’s so-called “gunslinger gait,” the one that alleges his mode of walking was somehow influenced by his “KGB training?” I tore this one apart in the second half of my post Vladipocalypse. Mark Adomanis did one better and wrote an article for Russia! about it. I know a lot of Russia/Ukraine journalists and commentators, both in person and online, and pretty much every one of them found the story to be rather ridiculous. Oh but we were wrong. So wrong.

As it turns out, one of Sputnik’s aggressive, muckraking investigative journalists has apparently discovered that this was in fact a “CIA smear” against the glorious leader Putin. The headline reads: CIA Smoking gun in Latest Putin Slur. This promises to be intriguing! Excuse me while I put on some mood-enhancing music.

 

Alright that’s better. It’s called “Spy Music” and god dammit it delivers! Just leave that playing from now until the end of the article, just to keep your heart pounding till the bitter end.

Now before we go through the looking glass, it’s probably worth pointing out that several other people and myself would strongly disagree that this non-story was a “slur” against Putin. On the contrary, I argued from the start that it’s essentially pro-Putin propaganda that feeds into his undeserved macho tough guy image. If some credible evidence emerged to suggest that the so-called “study” of Putin’s gait was in fact sponsored and disseminated by a Kremlin PR firm, I would not have been surprised at all. Suffice to say, implying that Putin was such a highly trained KGB agent that he still retains some kind of Bond-like handgun training decades after the fact isn’t black propaganda. You’ll rarely hear Putin critics say things like, “Damn that Putin! He’s such an efficient killing machine because of his superior KGB agent training!”

Sputnik’s Finian Cunningham is having none of that though. He’s convinced this was a CIA plot to slander His Majesty. So what’s his smoking gun? Well if we assume he did his homework properly, it seems that the “smoking gun” is the fact that Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty supposedly put out the story before some British publications. It’s not clear whether they were the first in the world to publish the story, but let’s leave that aside for the moment. What does this prove, exactly?

“The concerted way the British press ran with the tawdry story points to a politicized agenda – and in particular orchestration by the American Central Intelligence Agency.”

This is a typical tactic of conspiracy theorists. In reality there are several other, far more likely things this points to. I and many others have said for years that poor coverage of Russia (and many other countries for that matter) is largely caused by the cutthroat struggle for profits and the lack of experienced correspondents on the ground. Sensationalism sells, and Russia garners very little attention without it, unfortunately. Even with everything that has happened since 2014, most readers and viewers simply don’t care about Russia. When it comes to big, old school media outlets, they seem to have a formula- KGB stuff, nuclear weapons, war, and stories about prostitutes and strippers. That’s what they think gets the attention of their readers.

This isn’t even exclusive to coverage of Russia. These big dinosaurs and even some of the newer media outlets are notorious for being taken in by bogus stories about China and North Korea, for example. Strangely, however, you don’t see these Western crusaders for media fairness coming to the rescue of poor China. No, it looks like it’s up to Cracked.com to do that kind of fact checking.

That’s a topic for another article. Actually that was originally intended to be the main topic of this blog before the Kremlin and its media decided to go cuckoo bananas in the end of 2013. It really makes me wish I’d started this blog a lot earlier, but what’s done is done. What’s important now is tracking down the CIA role in this story.

So getting back to Cunningham’s theory, RFERL was the first to publish the story, and then the British media fell for it.

“Several other British newspapers, such as the Daily Express, Daily Star, The Mirror and Daily Telegraph, as well as the state-owned BBC, all ran similar headlines. Notably, too, all the reports were written in very similar style, sharing the same wording and “talking points.”

Why wouldn’t they be written in a similar style with the same talking points? This is not a major feature, and they’re all quoting the same source. Perhaps there was a press release that accompanied the paper, which would explain a lot. When you look around at routine stories from different outlets, particularly about the same event and quoting the same sources, you’re going to get a lot of similarity. Then there’s the whole matter of journalistic style. Individual outlets will often have their own style guides, but they’re all following a more or less similar pattern. Do you even journalism, bro?

Still, I want to get to that CIA link. Where is it?

“Now here is where it gets interesting. The paper was published in the BMJ on Monday, December 14. Within hours it was then made into a story and published on Tuesday by the US government-owned news outlet, Radio Free Europe (RFE). It is well documented that RFE has close ties with the CIA, and has served as a propaganda outlet since the heady days of the Cold War back in the late 1940s and 50s.”

He promised it would get interesting, but alas, it didn’t. First of all, The Daily Mail, just the kind of publication you’d expect to run with such a story, ran it on the same day as RFERL, at 10:55 GMT. Cunningham claims, with no substantiation, that RFERL publishes at midnight, Central European time, but again, none of this matters because his assertion about the CIA is far more important.

Note he says it is “well documented that RFE has close ties with the CIA.” Indeed, RFE was affiliated with the CIA. Key word: was. The CIA stopped funding RFE in 1972. That’s a bit late to be using the present perfect there, Mr. Cunningham. Basic research, folks. Indeed, RFERL is funded by the US government and as such one should be on the lookout for bias. That is a far cry from a CIA operation to spread black propaganda, however. In fact, all this is basically saying is at worst, RFERL is just like RT or Sputnik. But hold on, we’re getting to the best part. This would be a good time to find your favorite part of that spy music mix in the video above.

“In recent years, Western news media have shown a sporadic tendency to engage in negative stories about Putin. And the telling thing is that this negative Western media coverage shows a concerted response.
Newspapers and other news outlets tend to publish the same pejorative stories about Putin at the same time. That indicates a centrally manipulating source.”

Once again I’m forced to ask if this guy has any idea how news is made? The Gunslingergaitgate (See what I did there?) non-story was a perfect example of the type of sensationalist click-bait that publications like The Daily Mail and Daily Express are known to lap up. Curiously, he didn’t give us any examples from the American media. Did the CIA forget about its own home turf?

The author is also using another tactic here, whereby without even having proven his first example, he’s using it as proof that this happens all the time without providing other examples. We’ll look at more of that later.

“But what is revealing from the latest Putin “gunslinger” smear story is that the triggering media source was evidently and specifically the CIA-affiliated RFE outlet.”

Cunningham still failed to prove this point. We’re supposed to take his word about the publishing time of RFERL, which he claims to be midnight, Central European Time. We also have no idea if this study was announced via press release, which would explain why so many publications jumped on it when they did. Also note that yet again he has called RFE “CIA-affiliated” when it hasn’t been so since 1972.

Are you on the edge of your seat yet? Here it comes! Get ready for a tsunami of bullshit!
“In previous bouts of Western media slandering against Putin, such as his alleged millionaire daughter, or his alleged ordering of the shoot-down of the Malaysian airliner over Ukraine in 2014 by Russian-backed rebels, it is plausible to speculate that there was covert media manipulation going on.
However, in this week’s media smear job carried out by British publications, it is clearly traceable that the disinformation came from the CIA operation RFE.”

Once again we see the typical tactic in action. He hasn’t proved his point and he’s already using it to make unsubstantiated claims about other, unrelated stories which incidentally didn’t come from the very not CIA-affiliated RFERL.

First of all the story about Putin’s daughter started with Reuters, not RFE. Reuters sticks by its story and the Kremlin has thus far failed to provide even a remotely convincing answer to its allegations. If they are in any way inaccurate, Putin has no one to blame but himself for making even the most basic details of his family a matter of state security. Would it really be such a risk to actually show Putin’s daughters, living in Russia?

Cunningham tries to hammer through an even bigger lie after that, however, when he speaks of the Western media slandering Putin with stories of his “alleged ordering of the shoot-down of the Malaysian airliner over Ukraine…” Excuse me but what Western media publication ever claimed that Putin had ordered the plane to be shot down? What Western media publication even suggested that the civilian plane was shot down intentionally? The only side that has ever accused the other of intentionally shooting down a civilian plane is the Russian side, and maybe a handful of Ukrainian crackpots whom no one takes seriously.

So no, Mr. Cunningham, it isn’t “plausible to speculate” about covert media manipulation, especially when you can’t get your basic stories straight. And once again he refers to RFE as being affiliated with the CIA when it isn’t. Laziness or deliberate lying, take your pick.

He just gets better and better though:

“Nevertheless, what should be alarming to anyone upholding independent, critical journalism is the odious way that supposedly independent news media are played as political tools to sell a propaganda message.”

Says the guy writing for a state-owned media outlet whose own bosses openly claim there’s no such thing as objectivity and that they are fighting an information war. And what does he mean by propaganda message? If RT had published a story about what a badass Putin is with a gun, would it still be slander?
“If in this instance it is clear that British media are so pliable to serve as propaganda outlets to demonize Vladimir Putin what does that say about the credibility of all their other news and information?
What of their coverage on events in Ukraine, Syria, or any other major international development?”

See what I mean, the way they try to get an inch and then take a mile? He’s never even proved his initial point and he’s either deliberately lied or included false information (about RFE and the CIA), and now he wants us to use this to call into question all the coverage of the so-called “Western media.” Well how about this- RT, Sputnik, and other Russian state-owned media outlets have been busted numerous times deliberately misrepresenting sources or in some cases actually fabricating stories. I’ve yet to see any example of anyone being punished for these instances, unlike in the Western media where a failure to thoroughly fact check ended Dan Rather’s career. So that given the case, should we then just dismiss any and all coverage coming from outlets like RT? Brace yourselves…

No. You’re not hallucinating. I said no, as in “No, we should not immediately dismiss anything that comes out of RT offhand.” All claims must stand or fall on the merits of their evidence. No exceptions. Imagine you’re on trial for your life, in spite of the fact that you’re 100% innocent of the charges. Which standard of evidence would you prefer, mine as expressed above, or Mr. Cunningham’s?

I could end this here, but I’d be doing you a disservice if I didn’t let you see the author’s hilarious ass-kissing session with Putin.

“As already noted, the CIA-British media smear job about “gun-toting Putin” came out just as the Russian leader was holding a major international press conference. In recent months and especially over the conflict in Syria, Putin has shown himself to be probably the best world leader there is.”

Notice how he goes from suggesting that the CIA was involved via RFERL, to just flat out calling it a CIA-British media (again, why no American media?) “smear job?”  I’m also not sure what major press conference he was referring to; Putin’s annual press conference was held three days after the non-story broke, and people who actually pay attention to that press conference are the last people to take that Putin walk article seriously.

“Best world leader there is?” Are you shitting us? This is an impulsive dictator whose best defense is that he is completely ignorant of what is going on in his country (aka “Good Tsar, Bad Boyars”). According to his own propaganda machine, in 15 years Russia has failed to produce even one more man capable of properly leading Russia, and even according to his own supporters Russia cannot have democracy. That’s right- America with over twice the population of Russia and shit tons of firearms for everyone is capable of having regular, contested elections according to rules that have changed very little since the country came into being, but Russians cannot handle this minuscule freedom, even after over a decade of Putin’s brilliant leadership. Best leader indeed.

“Putin has proven himself to be a noble world leader – unlike mediocre Western politicians, who are not fit to tie his shoelaces.”

Okay seriously how do you write this and not feel like a prostitute? One thing I notice about Western media critics of Putin is that you’d be hard pressed to see them launch into such pathetic, groveling praise of Western leaders, from Cameron to Obama, or Poroshenko for that matter. Most of them have scathing criticism for their leaders, because you know, that’s kind of what we’re supposed to do. How do you launch into this kind of diatribe and then pretend that you’re somehow more objective, and imply that people should trust you over experienced journalists who don’t lavish fawning praise over political figures?

 

Anyway, maybe Western politicians need to gut their constitutions, destroy their electoral institutions, and then run their national economies into the ground. Then maybe they’d be fit to tie Putin’s shoelaces. On second thought, maybe Putin should tie their shoelaces, if only because he is closer.

journo

Someone needs to ship a dump truck full of these things to Sputnik.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Neocons and idiots

Hey remember how I’ve said a gajillion times that since 2014, the Kremlin and its supporters abandoned all pretense of believing in national sovereignty and non-intervention and became the very same “neocons” they claim to oppose? Well shit, looks like I’m right again. Just look at that headline:

Shock and Awe: Deadly Weapons Unleashed by Russia Against ISIL in Syria

That’s right, “shock and awe.” When the US does it, it’s bad (because it actually is), but when Russia does it, it’s awesome (no, it’s not). The slideshow of shiny Russian weapons and things that explodes even contains this hilarious line at the bottom:

These are the weapons that turned the tide of the Syrian conflict and will hopefully help save the country from the encroaching Islamic State.

Turned the tide? Saved Bashar’s ass, maybe, but from the look of things we’ve yet to see Operation Bagration 2015. As it turns out, Putin’s latest brilliant gambit has only managed to help the Syrian government forces regain a pitiful amount of territory.

Anyway, with all this Russian neoconservatism, I can’t help but ask where’s Russia’s Toby Keith to make a song about this? You know what I’m talking about. How could any American forget this train wreck of a country song:

Maybe Putin can contract Keith to write a new song for Russia’s neocon war on terror, entitled “Courtesy of the White, Blue, and Red.”

CHORUS

Putin put your name, somewhere on his list

and millions of vatniks started shaking their fists

And two-headed eagle will fly

And it’s gonna be hell

When you hear Mother Russia as her head starts to swell

In it feels like the the whole world is raining down on you

Brought to your courtesy of- HEY WHO TURNED OUT THE LIGHTS?! GODDAMMIT WHAT IS HAPPENING?

 

Wow that was fun wasn’t it? Well now let’s go on to the idiots feature, where we have another gem from the smug red pill taking cool kids at Zero Hedge. As always, the author is Tyler Durden, named after a fictional character from a book so bad the movie was considerably better, though it transformed countless males of my generation into insufferable douchebags.

In this article, Tyler smacks us sheeple upside the head and drops some major knowledge on us about the Syrian war. Turns out, the US has been giving TOW anti-tank missiles to Al Qaeda! Oh wait, hang on a second. Who is their source on that?

Well now, in what can only be described as an embarrassment of truly epic proportions, al-Qaeda has released a video thanking the FSA for supplying al-Nusra with American-made TOWs. Here’s Sputnik:

Yup, Sputnik. So I followed the link to find their source.

A recently released video shows an Al-Nusra Front field commander thanking the FSA commanders for giving his forces TOW missiles, according to a report released by the Iranian news agency FARS.

And that’s it. An Iranian news agency. We don’t get to see the video they report. So I did a little research into this matter of TOWs to the FSA and found a few articles in slightly more reputable sources. This link contains a video with some information about the TOWs. In the video, note that some of the men are clearly wearing the eagle insignia of the Free Syrian Army and not anything that would suggest they are jihadists like the Al Nusra fighters.

Also note that the word moderate appears in quotes on the video. That article linked above does mention that in at least one case, Al Nusra jihadists bragged about capturing some TOW missiles from a group that was supplied by the CIA. Here’s a link to that article. So when push comes to shove, the US has certainly risked its weapons falling into the hands of Al Qaeda linked groups like Al Nusra, which is one reason they have consistently opposed supplying any rebels with man portable surface to air missiles such as Stingers. That being said, it’s a far cry from supplying Al Qaeda directly or even indirectly. Al Nusra actively fights against other Syrian rebel groups (including ISIS, incidentally), and their “thank you” to the FSA for the TOWs, if it happened at all, was most likely gloating over loot they took from a defeated enemy.

Getting back to the Zero Hedge article, the third photograph used in the post is not a TOW at all, but rather a Russian-made missile or licensed copy. I’m guessing a Kornet. Tyler Durden finishes off this failure with this pithy line:

Hopefully no one from al-Qaeda ends up firing a TOW at a Paris cafe.

Well Tyler, if you actually knew anything about TOW missiles you’d understand how idiotic that idea is, and if someone actually did manage to do that, I bet at least half of your readership would claim the whole thing was a “false flag.”

You know this guy really is kind of like Tyler Durden, in the sense that reading his theories makes you want to shoot yourself in the face to make him go away.

 

Not gonna work

Russia expert Mark Galeotti has provided an excellent preliminary explanation of what is going on between Russia and Syria at the moment. As it turns out, if you were expecting massive combat action involving Russian naval infantry, paratroopers, and spetsnaz, you’re going to be sorely disappointed. I was in fact surprised to learn that Russia’s “naval base” in Tartus is barely a base at all. Obviously Russia wants to defend its quasi-client state and keep selling it arms, but losing the regime and the base won’t be too much of a disaster for the Kremlin.

What is striking about the explanation are these paragraphs near the end, where Galeotti writes:

“Putin is coming to the UN General Assembly in September, itself a big deal given that his last attendance was in 2005. With the prospects of an acceptable deal over the conflict in Donbas receding, with the Russian economy expected to continue to decline, he’s looking for his own “reset” and sees it in some civilizational anti-jihadist coalition.

For some time, Moscow has hoped that cooperation against IS and terrorism in general could be the leverage point to get the West to relax its tough line over Ukraine. The appointment in March of former FSB deputy director Oleg Syromolotov to a new deputy foreign minister for counter-terrorism cooperation position was an early indication, one which has borne little fruit.

So the Russians seem to be upping the ante, making Syria a battleground not so much for the preservation of an ally – though they will hardly mind if they also manage to save Assad – but instead the formation of an anti-jihadist coalition. That way Moscow does its best to wipe out IS militants in the Middle East, before they manage also to infiltrate the North Caucasus, and also makes its case to be the West’s ally against a common enemy.

It is unlikely to work. The West will gladly take what intelligence cooperation Russia offers – even while treating the fruits with a certain skepticism – and will hardly mourn any IS fighters killed by Russian bombs or Russian guns. Just as the US and Iran have an arm’s length understanding in Iraq against IS without becoming friends, so too a Russian role in Syria is not going to create any deep or lasting amity.”

If you’ve been following Russian foreign ministry statements on the Middle East, Galeotti’s theory makes a lot of sense. This strategy of finding common ground in the struggle against international terrorism goes all the way back to 2001, when Russia became a willing partner in Bush’s “War on Terror” and a founding member of US CENTCOM. In recent times there has been this refrain of “let’s all put our differences aside and unite to regulate these conflicts and fight murderous fanatics.”

Indeed, that’s a great idea. The problem is that the Kremlin blew this chance when they decided to throw a tantrum over Ukraine and pretend to be a great power opposed to the West. In my first years in Russia, you could easily find the anti-Western rhetoric if you were looking for it. The conspiracy theories, the paranoia about NATO encirclement even as the US reduced troop levels and closed bases in Europe- they were all there too. The difference in those days was that everyone kind of rolled their eyes at all of this- the people, the government, the West. You’d have various “geopolitical experts” babbling about Russia opposing “globalization” while Putin and Medvedev would be charming Western investors and ultimately managing to secure Russia’s membership in the WTO. And good for them for doing all that, because it was precisely that kind of realistic policy that helped attract investment and by extension bring better living standards to Russia. The problem was that Putin could never really take credit for it. His most reliable base consisted of nationalists, xenophobes, and generally bitter people unable to adapt to modern reality.

Western Europeans and Americans probably weren’t too aware of the anti-Western rhetoric, but who cared? There was money to be made in Russia and Russia’s elite were stocking their money away in the West. Of course we all know how that worked out, however, and with Ukraine and the subsequent failures of the Russian economy, the seeds of which predated Maidan, Putin was forced to play his anti-Western card, louder than before. He needed the new Cold War. Now the cat’s out of the bag. As Russia has begun to descend into something resembling a more traditional dictatorship, more people in the West are paying attention to its propaganda, and learning the truth: “They hate us!” People are starting to notice the disparity between what Russia’s diplomats say to their Western counterparts, and what they say to their own populace. In the former case, it’s “Let’s work together to solve the biggest problems in the region.” In the latter it’s “Look how those Gayopean degenerates bend over for the United States in their never-ending war to destroy Russia.”

In spite of all that, Russia’s leaders actually expect the West to just ignore this constant hostile rhetoric so we can all team up in Syria and Iraq like G.I. Joe and the October Guard. The worst thing is that it can’t just be dismissed as rhetoric for domestic consumption, as bad as that is. Now there are deeds to match Kremlin rhetoric, in Ukraine and in the Baltic states. I’m sorry whose fault is this? Did NATO force Russia to annex the Crimea and sponsor a military insurgency in Eastern Ukraine? Whatever Team Russia fans might say- no, it did not. Did NATO force Russia to kidnap an Estonian policeman? Nope. Putin did this, and we know why he did this. He’s painted himself into a corner and now everyone knows that he can’t normalize relations with the West at this point. Any attempt to actually do so will be seen as backing down, actually bending over, as vatniks love these prison rape metaphors, for the West. The West can happily forgive a Russia that has the courage to admit its recent mistakes and go back to normal relations with its neighbors. Nobody intelligent will cry about humiliation. Not so in Russia, and Putin and his political technologists made it this way.

So once again we have another potential gambit, no doubt cooked up by the same “geopolitical experts” who have failed to produce anything of value for Russia to date and yet who still get to keep their jobs for some unknown reason. Once again it will fail, in this case largely because it is another one of these have cake and eat it too scenarios. Russia wants to be in the club, but when they don’t measure up to the standards (which to be fair aren’t really that stringent), they start screaming about their “special path” and how they won’t be “rushed.” If Galeotti is right about the Kremlin’s motives in Syria, he’s most likely right about the outcome. The West will welcome the aid against the Islamic State, if any is truly forthcoming, but still tell Putin to fuck off from Ukraine.

The dream of a united Europe, America, and Russia saving the Levant from a mess that was arguably originally caused by the US is long dead. Putin killed it. Master strategist indeed.