Fake News: the new name of propaganda

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There used to be a song with the lyrics “before you accuse me take a look at yourself” which was popularized by the English singer and songwriter Eric Clapton. The ‘mass hysteria’ regarding the frenzied ‘proliferation’ of what they now brand as ‘fake news’ has enraged the ruling establishment and the media alike. But really, who is accusing who?

Just a few days back Reuters, the international news agency from London, has accused the Russian television network RT and the Russian news outlet Sputnik of spreading fake news against the accusation that the Russian government intervened in the very recent French presidential elections.

To begin with, Reuters quoted their usual anonymous “US officials” (who are therefore unaccountable) stating that the Russian government attempted to influence the outcome of the French elections in order to favor far right leader Marine Le Pen against Emmanuel Macron who favors a stronger stance against the Kremlin, and who’s political party also accused the Russians of meddling in their campaigns.

Macron has since taken the presidency in a definitive win against the softer, anti-NATO and reconciliatory Le Pen. He is widely believed to be pro-European Union, elitist, and staunchly anti-Russian who favors even more damaging sanctions. And although any evidence to back up their claims has not since surfaced (or ever will) the fake news accusations has since been mirrored by the mainstream media outlets in the other side of the Atlantic.

For instance CNN ran a story with the usual fear mongering tone with a headline declaring “Fears of Russian meddling as France prepares to go to the polls”. In the article, they quoted Richard Burr, head of the US Senate Intelligence Committee, as saying “I think it’s safe by everybody’s judgement that the Russians are actively involved in the French elections…part of our responsibility is to educate the rest of the world.” And buried in between the paragraphs there is a link with the title “Read: How Russia hacks you”. To top it all off, not a single evidence has been presented regarding this fantastical claim of Moscow’s meddling and hacking.

Not too far ago the same stories were published across the mainstream news media regarding Russia’s ‘push’ to help Donald Trump win the American elections. Does anyone remember how the likes of CNN, The New York Times, The Washington Post and others have monitored ‘the polls’ showing that Hillary ‘the warmonger’ Clinton was leading, and we eventually knew how surprised and upset the news outlets were when ‘suddenly’ Trump won the race to the Oval Office.

In the past decade alone, the United States government together with its media tentacles have spewed false news in order to rally the public into taking destructive action abroad. This may be in the form of an outright military intervention, or it can be by means of economic and political war waged against America’s enemies.

Such was the case with Iraq when the whole American and British mainstream media establishments ran the unescapable fake news that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and that the Iraqi leader had ties to Osama Bin Laden. Who could forget Colin Powel, then Secretary of State during George W. Bush’s presidency, presented the ‘physical evidence’ of Saddam’s WMDs to the United Nations Security Council. The world, but perhaps not Iraq, has since moved on with these fake news from the US government itself and the United States has since been bogged down in that country up to the present time.

Led by the American establishment the world has time and again been witness to various unfounded ‘facts’ (and therefore fake news) against Washington’s enemies, including the Syrian chemical attacks alleged to have been instigated by the Syrian government (no evidence has since been presented), to the Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 that crashed over Ukraine and was attributed to “Putin’s missile” immediately (not even a day after the accident), to how Edward Snowden and Julian Assange are traitors and spies, that ISIS presented an “existential threat to the security of the United States of America”, that China aims to become the dominant military power in the next few decades, that foreigners are stealing American jobs, that the 2014 Sochi Olympics in Russia was plagued by “security concerns”, that the Cold War was over and NATO had no plans to expand to the East to Russia’s doorsteps, that Western Europe needed anti-ballistic missile installations near Russia’s borders are necessary to counter the “Iranian missile threat”, and so on and so forth. We all know by now that such emotion-stirring headlines and “worst case scenarios” didn’t happen to the benefit of the world.

British media in a state of hysteria as Russian aircraft carrier passes by the English Channel

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As Russia’s aircraft carrier, the Admiral Kuznetsov, heads to Syria via the English Channel, the UK’s mainstream news outlets have gone on a mad frenzy of fear mongering headlines to further paint Russian president Vladimir Putin of ‘flexing Moscow’s military might’ and of ‘provoking another world war.”

Mail Online, a British news outlet featured a rather terrifying click-bait story with the headline “The Russians are here! Putin’s attack fleet arrives at Dover as warships enter channel on their way to launch strikes in Syria.”

Another popular mainstream news website, The Independent has produced a video clip showing “Russian warships in English water “a smokescreen to distract world” while the BBC has bashed the Admiral Kuznetsov with stories concerning the sorry state of toilets in the aircraft carrier to its troubled engine and to a large tug boat accompanying the vessel ‘in case it breaks down.’ Also, British ‘analysts’ commented that the Russians ‘have achieved complete media and public opinion focus on one bright, shiny object.”

Be that as it may, but the UK does not even have its own aircraft carrier to match the Russian flotilla, which by now has passed the English Channel onto the Mediterranean and probably towards Syria to launch strikes against Islamic State terrorists. The British military will not have a new aircraft carrier until next year with the HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales by 2020.

The British Defense Ministry for its part has bragged about its capabilities, where Secretary Michael Fallon reassured “to keep Britain safe” by “man marking” the Russian fleet passing the narrow English Channel.

Alas the hysteria is completely uncalled for. The Russian aircraft carrier group’s deployment to Syria has been announced a few months back. To make matters preposterous, Admiral Kuznetsov and its supporting warships passage is via international waters and is being completely transparent in their movements; there has been a deliberate and exasperated attempt to sensationalize and plant even more hate against Moscow.

Meanwhile, in American mainstream media, the deployment of the Russian aircraft carrier has been seen “as a kind of infomercial for its weapons sales” and that the “battle group adds to Russia’s military leverage in diplomatic negotiations with the United States and other Western powers over the future of Syria.” The Russian flotilla was also described as “a threat to its crew than anything else.”

These so called journalists have clearly missed how America and its allies in Western Europe have ‘manufactured’ conflicts around the world to merit their military’s deployment around the globe and with it billions of dollars of weapons. Indeed, the Admiral Kuznetsov, a floating airbase carrying more than 40 aircraft at a time, is just a ‘threat to its crew than anything else.”

South China Sea: How the Philippines is being used as geostrategic pawn by the US

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It turns out that vis-à-vis the South China Sea dispute, the Philippines not only lacks in understanding their neighbor, but also exposes Filipinos as being ignorant to how it is being manipulated by Western powers, particularly the United States, to counter China’s undeniable influence in the region and to the rest of the world.

A month has passed since The Hague ruling regarding the arbitration case concerning the Philippines’ right to be heard in its claims to the disputed seas. What most Filipinos do not know is the fact that this ruling put before the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea only covers the legal status of the maritime dispute, as opposed to whether the said ruling decides on who owns anything.

Even the tribunal to which the Philippines initiated its arbitration case is not the body that represent the position of the United Nations. As the spokesperson of the UN Secretary General said “the UN doesn’t have a position on the legal and procedural merits of the case or on the disputed claims.”

The reaction from Beijing is understandable and unsurprising, at least from realists observing the issue: it has fiercely rejected the jurisdiction of The Hague ruling on an otherwise sovereignty dispute, and reminded others that the United States is not even a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Law of The Sea (UNCLOS) and thus compromises Washington’s real intentions on the maritime dispute.

An editorial appearing in The Greenville Post made the correct assumption on the matter stating “many observers, in Beijing and abroad, pointed out that the ruling was clearly political, and that out of five, four judges were citizens of the EU, while one (the chairman) was Ghanaian but also a long-term resident of Europe.”

Also widely unknown to Filipinos is Washington’s clearly stated pivot to Asia policy, which asserts an increased military and political pressure to be pursued against China. This interventionist policy, announced in 2011 when Obama was about to be reelected to office, requires a sustained effort to increase diplomatic and military pressure against what the United States sees as opposing its hegemonic status, including in the South China Sea. As a leading academic in the Philippines correctly asserts “What’s happening is that our political elites are clearly encouraged by the US to provoke China, and there is also the big influence of the US military on our armed forces. I would say that the Philippine military is very vulnerable to such type of ‘encouragement’. So the US is constantly nurturing those confrontational attitudes.”

Even the Philippine government’s ties to the United States during the Cory Aquino administration deserves scrutiny to help understand why the UNCLOS issue was put forward during the time of Benigno Aquino III’s presidency. Although it ultimately failed, it was Cory Aquino who supported the renewal of maintaining US military bases in Subic and Clark. For his part, Aquino III also supported the highly contentious Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) military exercises with the United States. Thus, the timing of putting forward an illegitimate case against China on the South China Sea issue (which the Philippines now calls as West Philippine Sea) should not be surprising and also that  that the Aquinos have been a willing pawn in playing Uncle Sam’s warmongering stance in the region.

Some realist scholars in the Philippines admit that through the decisions made by the previous Arroyo and Aquino III administrations, the United States has successfully inserted ‘anti-terror’ forces in the Philippines which of course is a guise to counter Beijing’s growing interest in the region, a region where some $5 trillion dollars of trade passes annually.

As for the resources stored in the South China Sea itself, Washington’s aim is to ensure that the weakest nations get to control this region, particularly its allies in East Asia. As an observer accurately asserts “We (Filipinos) are totally dependent on foreign companies for the exploitation of our natural resources…Foreign multinationals would greatly profit from the natural resources of the China Sea, if a weak and dependent country like this one (The Philippines) were to be put in charge of them.”

To conclude, undeniably the Philippines’ memory is chillingly short-sighted. Its present guarantor of ‘peace and security’ the United States invaded it a century ago and has made the country an economic, diplomatic, and military puppet ever since. None of these shameless history have ever been put forth by China against the Philippines in the past. Will someone please stand up and remind the Filipinos about their unfortunate history with Uncle Sam?

Britain says EU no more in historic referendum

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In a surprising and historic move, Britain has voted to leave the European Union. It is important to note that this has been the decision of ordinary Brits and not by those Eurocrats whose leadership is unpopular across Europe.  EU bureaucrats be warned: if Britain who’s not as affected by the so-called peripheral countries can do it, all the more by those countries that are at the mercy of severe austerity and left to guess what Brussels is up to next.

For the uninformed, how important was this decision? Remember that the European Union project has its roots in the post-World War II economic integration, with the goal of avoiding conflict in Europe. The EU project has fulfilled this purpose quite decently in the past 60 years. It has allowed the free movement of people within the Eurozone, created a common currency (not joined by Britain), established preferential trade among member states, and most importantly the preservation of peace in the continent.

But as the unelected predatory capitalists leaders in Brussels became increasingly more focused on unnecessary bureaucracy and squeezed the life out of ordinary Eurozone citizens as banks “too big to fail” have received privileges despite their enormous failures, the Brits in this Brexit referendum clearly confirmed they have had enough.

To be fair with the British people, they have been half-footed in the EU from the beginning. Perhaps the most obvious indication is their separate currency from the Euro, as well as its non-observance of the Schengen Agreement, which allows the free movement of EU nationals without the usual hassle of traveling to other countries.

The decision to leave the EU will be not be smooth for sure. The initial euphoria the referendum created will have to come to terms with the consequences of opposing the Remain vote. Already, for instance, the conservative party in Britain has hinted it will invoke Article 50 where Britain will be faced with years of ‘proper exits’ through possibly endless renegotiations.

Elsewhere in Europe, German Chancellor Angela Merkel called the Brexit referendum “a break in Europe’s history” and that it reflects “a fundamental doubt about the current direction of European integration.”

Some British mainstream media have already propagandized a few interesting points in the Brexit referendum. For instance, some news outlets have already downplayed the public’s decision as uninformed with headlines like “Brits frantically searched what the EU means hours after voting out of the EU” and that the “EU will treat Britain like Greece.” Such fear mongering should not be surprising as before the referendum London’s mouthpiece media have already done their part to dissuade the British public from bailing out of the EU.

And of course, Mr. David Cameron, the British Prime Minister, has already intensified the drama when he resigned the next day. In a visibly emotional speech, Cameron stated that “I was absolutely clear about my belief that Britain is stronger, safe and better off inside the EU… (But) the British people made a different decision to take a different path. As such I think the country requires fresh leadership to take it in this direction.”  Indeed, the man who proclaimed “Assad must go” became the man who would go first.

Prospect of a massive war grips the Middle East

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The developments of the past few days in the Middle East, especially in Syria, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia have triggered an atmosphere of fear concerning a conflict that may involve the entire region.

In the past day, Turkey has already pursued Kurdish militants inside Syria using heavy artillery against targets south of its border with Syria. The Syrian government and Turkish military have confirmed that targets have been hit in Hatay Province, Aleppo Province, Idlis Province, and Latakia Province inside Syria.

Damascus has already sent a letter of complaint to the United Nations, where it described the attacks as an assault on Syrian government forces. It called for the UN to “take responsibility for international peace and security by putting an end to the crimes committed by the Turkish regime.” It also added that Ankara’s offensive is “an attempt to increase the morale of armed terrorist groupings, who are being defeated (by the Syrian Arab Army).”

On the other hand, Saudi Arabia has started to mass its troops near Syria as part of a military ‘exercise’, announcing it as the “largest and most important” in the region’s history. Over the weekend, Riyadh also announced its commitment to oust the Islamic State (ISIL/ISIS) threat out of Syria thus justifying its planned military drills, which as of press time, will commence in a few hours.

Riyadh’s and Ankara’s military escalation an act of desperation

Although far from being implemented, last week’s talks of a cessation in hostilities in Syria as discussed by major world powers in Munich have been received rather negatively by the Saudis and Turkish government. For one, both countries fear that a cease fire agreement might benefit Bashar Al Assad, Syria’s legitimate president, to stay in power and put to waste their 5-year effort of supporting the so-called ‘moderate’ rebels fighting the Syrian government.

Syria’s government described the Turkish attack on Aleppo, Syria’s second largest city and stronghold of different terrorist groups including Islamic State, as retaliation for the advances made by the Syrian military against rebel groups fighting Assad’s regime. The Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu insisted that the artillery firing was in response to Kurdish insurgency crossing into Turkey’s border with Syria. Contrary to this claim, it has been revealed that Turkey’s interest in Syria has been the supply of illegal oil being shipped from IS to refineries in Turkey – an operation which was stopped by the Russian air campaign against Islamic State.

Escalation will lead to total war in the region

The Turks and Saudis possible ground offensive in Syria will have unimaginable consequences for the region. At present, the conflict in Syria already involves all major rebel and terror groups in the region, including the likes of Al Qaeda, Al-Nusrah Front, and Islamic State. The United States and Russia are involved in ‘fighting’ IS, but both having a different outcome in mind for Syria’s future. NATO forces are also involved in the military operations, as provided by the UK, France, and now Turkey.

Experts and commentators alike have described the Syrian Civil War as a “proto-world war with nearly a dozen countries embroiled in two overlapping conflicts.” In the latest Munich Security Report, it has been stated that “for the first time since the end of the Cold War, the escalation of violence between major powers cannot be dismissed as an unrealistic nightmare.”

Russia is aiming to maintain a transitional government that includes the present leadership of Syria, a prospect opposed by the United States, NATO, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and their allies. Syria’s main ally in the region, Iran, also supports Moscow’s position. Iraq and Lebanon also shares a Syria that still involves Bashar Al Assad’s regime.

The government of Turkey, which authorized the downing of Russian bomber jet back in November 2015, is currently bombarding targets in Syria, choosing to use artillery instead of its air force to avoid Russia’s anti-aircraft installation in the northern part of Syria.

Syria has warned that any invasion force that challenges the country’s sovereignty will be considered an act of war. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who for years has advocated a negotiated settlement for Syria, gave a grim warning against such invasion force, saying that “the Americans and our Arab partners must think well: do they want a permanent war? All sides must be compelled to sit at the negotiating table instead of unleashing a new world war.”

So far, the American position in this latest conflict escalation is to lead the different factions back into the negotiating table and warned Turkey and the Saudis against destabilizing actions in Syria, as stated by US Secretary of State John Kerry in a recent Munich Security Conference. Curiously though, behind the negotiations US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said he expects commando units from Saudi and the UAE to start covertly invading Syria.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir announced in a conference that “there is some serious discussion going on with regards to looking at a ground component in Syria, because there has to be a possibility of taking and holding ground, that one cannot do from the air.” The Foreign Minister is advocating for a ground offensive, but that which should involve and be led by the United States. Earlier, he also called for the removal of Bashar al-Assad “by force.”

As for the Iranians they have warned that a military escalation led by the Saudis will be met in kind. Speaking in Tehran, Iranian Deputy Staff Brigadier General Masoud Jazayeri declared that “we will not let the situation in Syria get out of control so that some rogue states could implement their policies. If needed, we will take some appropriate decisions.”

2016: What’s ahead for the world?

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By and large the previous year was a year of crisis escalation, brought forth by the emergence of new sources of tension not only in diplomacy but also in actual military conflict. On the one hand, fresh sources of armed engagement and humanitarian issues had world leaders worried overnight (ISIS beyond Syria and Iraq, Russian intervention in Syria, migrant crisis in Europe). These events were not predicted before 2015.

2016 will be marked by an increase in local conflicts, like in Ukraine and in the Arabian Peninsula where the rift between Sunni and Shia Muslims will intensify. In fact, as of press time, Saudi Arabia has cut off all diplomatic ties with Iran, the latter infuriated over the execution of a prominent Shia cleric. It is expected to be joined by other Sunni majority countries in the Middle East. This year might just be the time for the spreading of these conflicts to more states.

The presidential elections in the United States will put on hold major foreign policy decisions, as the American public gets distracted by the convoluted race to the White House. As for the exiting American president, Obama will protect what he has accomplished in 2015, including the rapprochement with Iran and Cuba.

As the United States continues to be rejected in many areas of the world, the leadership vacuum that it will create will give opportunities to other major powers, and with it, a new era of anti-West geopolitics will emerge. The post-American century is an irreversible occurrence now as other major powers like Russia, China, and Brazil take on responsibilities beyond their typical spheres of influence. In the military sphere, Russia has re-entered the Middle East in a big way, while China will now formally launch the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), aimed at rivaling the IMF and World Bank.

The global economy is expected to be ‘disappointing and uneven’ in 2016 because of the continuing slowdown in China, sluggishness in world trade, the threat of rising interest rates in the US, the ongoing fall of oil prices, and the vulnerability of emerging economies to absorb economic shocks, according to the IMF.

General elections will take place in Taiwan, a Western-backed state that is unsure about its identity vis-à-vis China. The emerging leader might give Beijing fresh fears regarding the longstanding One-China policy. The UK public will go to the polls to decide whether to stay or leave the European Union, while in the Philippines, presidential elections will decide whether a future leader will continue to provoke China and further impress the United States for its own benefit.

Islamic State (ISIS) is expected to be put on hold territorially in Syria and Iraq, thanks to Russia’s military intervention. However, it might gain influence beyond the region as other terrorist groups (like Boko Haram in Nigeria, and other groups from Somalia to terror groups in South East Asia) pledge their allegiance to Daesh.

The United States and NATO will further infuriate Moscow as it decides on sending nuclear weapons to Poland, a former Warsaw Pact member. As a result of Washington’s antagonizing policies in Europe, Russia will further invest in its armed forces, which might trigger a new, expensive, and unnecessary arms race in continental Europe.

Europe’s most powerful leader, Angela Merkel, is expected to leave office after three successive terms. What this might mean for Europe is a change in policy towards Russia (sanctions), the migrant crisis, the German commitment to the entire Eurozone project and Berlin’s attitude towards economically and socially troubled states like Spain, Greece, and Italy.