Written by Robert Roth; Originally appeared at The Unz Review
Disinformation and lies have been used to justify the wars on Syria that started in 2011. But lately I’ve been amazed at the extent to which our entire public discourse now rests on disinformation and lies. This is a broader problem, but it also affects the prospects for peace in Syria, one of several places where U.S./NATO activities heighten the risk of nuclear war.
I’ve been feeling pretty overwhelmed by it all lately, capped (most recently) by the third U.S. attack on Syria. As I put that together with President Trump’s giving the military free rein over “tactics,” it sank in that, with this delegation of authority, war-making power has now devolved from the Congress through the President to the military itself, in areas where not only Syrians but Russians, Iranians and others operate.
In the apparent absence of an organized peace movement, the concentration of so many people on opposing Trump, rather than on opposing U.S. wars, distracts attention from this problem. Otherwise under fire from all directions, Mr. Trump gets approval – across the spectrum – when he does something awful but military, like launching cruise missiles at Syria or dropping that horrific bomb in Afghanistan. Meanwhile his attempt to reset U.S. relations and reduce tension with Russia is being used to lay the groundwork for impeachment and/or charges of treason.
The lies about Syria have of course continued. First, Amnesty International issued “Human Slaughterhouse: Mass Hangings and Extermination at Saydnaya Prison Syria,” claiming that the Syrian government executed between 5,000 and 13,000 people over a five-year period. Then another chemical weapons incident, blamed without evidence on the government, was used as the excuse for a second U.S. attack on Syria. Both of these charges were widely and uncritically reported in the major media, though neither of them is credible.
But the use of disinformation has been expanded in what I now see as an attempt to destabilize the U.S. government itself, to achieve “regime change” at home as it has been practiced in many foreign countries over the last 70 years. It started right after the election with the attacks on General Mike Flynn. And as it has continued, the campaign to demonize Russia and Russian president Vladimir Putin has also intensified.
Bottom line: It seems clear there is no evidence, let alone proof, that computers at the DNC were hacked at all, let alone by Russia, or that Russia tried in any way to “meddle” in the U.S. election. It has thus far made no difference that, soon after the charge of Russian interference in the last election was first made, an organization of intelligence veterans who have the expertise to know pointed out that U.S. intelligence has the capability of presenting hard evidence of any such hacking and had not done so (and, I would add, still hasn’t). Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity stated bluntly: “We have gone through the various claims about hacking. For us, it is child’s play to dismiss them. The email disclosures in question are the result of a leak, not a hack.” They then explained the difference between leaking and hacking.
There was ample justification for President Trump’s firing of FBI director Comey. Ray McGovern and William Binney observed:
The Washington establishment rejoiced last week over what seemed to be a windfall “gotcha” moment, as President Donald Trump said he had fired FBI Director James Comey over “this Russia thing, with Trump and Russia.” The president labeled it a “made-up story” and, by all appearances, he is mostly correct.
That’s because Mr. Trump
had ample reason to be fed up with Mr. Comey, in part for his lack of enthusiasm to investigate actual, provable crimes related to “Russia-gate” – like leaking information from highly sensitive intercepted communications to precipitate the demise of Trump aide Michael Flynn.
And there was nothing unlawful, or even wrong, in his meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov and Ambassador Kislyak at the White House. This is, after all, what foreign ministers and ambassadors do – confer with leaders of other nations – but that didn’t stop the media and what James Howard Kunstler called “the Lindsey Graham wing of the DeepState” from acting “as if Trump had entertained Focalor and Vepar, the Dukes of Hell, in the Oval Office.”
Regarding the continuing investigations by the FBI, several Congressional committees, and others looking for, if not proof, at least evidence of pre-election “collusion” by Trump or his people with Russians supposedly hacking computers to influence the U.S. election, these are thus far based on no – as in zero – evidence, and it’s hard to know what might be made of anything they eventually claim to find, in light of this:
On March 31, 2017, WikiLeaks released original CIA documents — ignored by mainstream media — showing that the agency had created a program allowing it to break into computers and servers and make it look like others did it by leaving telltale signs like Cyrillic markings, for example.
Or as Mr. Putin himself points out,
today’s technology is such that the final address can be masked and camouflaged to an extent that no one will be able to understand the origin of that address. And, vice versa, it is possible to set up any entity or any individual [so] that everyone will think that they are the exact source of that attack.
Granted, this can be a costly enterprise, in that “The capabilities shown in what WikiLeaks calls the “Vault 7″ trove of CIA documents required the creation of hundreds of millions of lines of source code. At $25 per line of code, that amounts to about $2.5 billion for each 100 million code lines.” But not to worry, “the DeepState has that kind of money and would probably consider the expenditure a good return on investment for ‘proving’ the Russians hacked.”
Put it all together and you now have “an extraordinary proportion of our public discourse [resting] on nothing but ideologically inspired disinformation.” A glaring example is the most recent baseless charge against the Assad government. Of this Patrick Lawrence writes, in part quoting Nation magazine contributing editor and Princeton University professor emeritus Stephen F. Cohen:
The May 16 editions of the government-supervised New York Timescarried a report that we—we Americans, this is all done in our names—now accuse the Assad government of running a crematory at one of its prisons to dispose of the corpses of murdered political prisoners so as to eliminate evidence of war crimes. This is based on satellite photographs in the possession of American spooks for the past three or four years … released a few days prior to the next round of peace talks co-sponsored by Russia, Iran, and Turkey. Trump, a day after meeting Lavrov, sent a fairly senior State Department diplomat to the talks in Astana, the Kazakstan capital. …
I note this latest on Syria only in part because it is a here-and-now adjunct of the Russiagate insanity in Washington. It also marks a new low, and I do not say this for mere rhetorical effect, in what now passes for credible assertion in our nation’s capital. Here’s my favorite passage in the piece—which, had a student in one of my courses submitted it to fulfill an assignment, would have merited an ‘F’ and a private discussion in my office:
“Mr. Jones acknowledged that the satellite photographs, taken over the last four years, were not definitive. But in one from 2015, he said, the buildings were covered in snow— except for one, suggesting a significant internal heat source. ‘That would be consistent with a crematorium,’ he said. Officials added that a discharge stack and architectural elements thought to be a firewall and air intake were also suggestive of a place to burn bodies. ‘That would be consistent of a crematorium,’ he said.”
Most certainly it would. And also a bakery, a heated basketball court, a machine shop, and… I think you will understand: The assertion means bananas. Even the Times, to my surprise, took a step back from this silliness. The next paragraph:
“The United Nations is scheduled to begin another round of Syria peace talks in Geneva on May 23. The timing of the accusations seemed intended to pressure Russia, Mr. Assad’s principal foreign ally, into backing away from him.”
Well, half a step in the direction of reality—which is half a step more than our Pravda on the Hudson typically takes.
[As Professor Cohen said on the evening of May 16 to Tucker Carlson on the latter’s daily Fox News program:]
“The preposterous nonsense about the Syria crematorium pushes me into positing a kind of meta-phenomenon. The Russia case is a problem, the Syria case, the Ukraine case: There is a far larger and more consequential problem running through all of these matters. It is the frightening extent to which we are succumbing to fabrication. An extraordinary proportion of our public discourse now rests on nothing but ideologically inspired disinformation.”
As Prof. Cohen has said, we’re thus creating our own new national security “threat,” in that, as Mr. Lawrence put it, we are watching as our 45th president is deposed.
There are many sound and urgent reasons to oppose many of Mr. Trump’s policies – and I do. But a constitutionally elected sitting president should not be removed from office by an orchestrated campaign of disinformation and lies. Nor should “ideologically inspired disinformation” dominate our public discourse on critical issues – in any case, but especially when the result is a heightened risk of nuclear war.
Prof. Cohen, frozen out by the mainstream media, summarizes the risks we confront:
[W]e’re at, maybe, the most dangerous moment in U.S.-Russian relations, in my lifetime, and, maybe, ever. The reason is, that we’re in the new Cold War, by whatever name. We have three Cold War fronts that are fought with the possibility of hot war – in the Baltic region, where NATO is carrying out an unprecedented military buildup on Russia’s border, in Ukraine, where there’s a civil and proxy war between Russia and the West, and, of course, in Syria, where Russian aircraft and American warplanes are flying in the same territory. Anything could happen.
Looking for a little light in this deepening darkness, I find some comfort in former Australian diplomat Tony Kevin’s book Return to Moscow (University of Western Australia, 2017). Mr. Kevin examines past and present attitudes toward the people of Russia and to its leaders with sympathetic eyes, and a deep understanding of Russian history and culture. Regarding the treatment of Russian president Putin in Western media, for example, Mr. Kevin observes:
Not since Britain’s concentrated personal loathing of their great strategic enemy Napoleon in the Napoleonic wars was so much animosity brought to bear on one leader. Propaganda and demeaning language against Putin became more systemic, sustained and near universal in Western foreign policy and media communities than had ever been directed against any Soviet communist leader at the height of the Cold War. This hostile campaign evoked an effective defensive global media strategy by Russia. […] A new kind of information Cold War took shape, with – paradoxically – Western media voices more and more speaking with one disciplined Soviet-style voice, and Russian counter voices fresher, more diverse and more agile.
I have been watching in some dismay as those disciplined Soviet-style voices do their best to, among other things, discredit and thwart Mr. Trump’s efforts to normalize relations with Russia. This is especially troubling in the case of The New York Times, whose relentless summaries of the various investigations are routinely reprinted in local newspapers all over the country, which can’t afford to follow such “news” with their own reporters. The Times’ mantra-like repetition and characterization of the activities ostensibly under serious investigation is a subtle, but effective, form of brain-washing – or as Vanessa Beeley puts it, gaslighting.
In an insightful exploration of the psychological issues we confront in criticizing U.S. foreign policy and countering the media that support it, which I think helps explain the ease with which the current batch of lies is being successfully promulgated, Caitlin Johnstone opens with this powerful combination:
“What we’ve been undergoing to a large extent is a form of psychological abuse, actually, by very narcissistic, hegemonic governments and officials for a very long time. It’s a form of gaslighting where actually our own faith in our ability to judge a situation, and to some extent even our own identity, has been eroded and damaged to the point where we’re effectively accepting their version of reality.” ~ Vanessa Beeley
The only thing keeping westerners from seeing through the lies that they’ve been told about Syria is the unquestioned assumption that their own government could not possibly be that evil. They have no trouble believing that a foreigner from a Muslim-majority country could be gratuitously using chemical weapons on children at the most strategically disastrous time possible and bombing his own civilians for no discernible reason other than perhaps sheer … sadism, but the possibility that their government is making those things up in order to manufacture consent for regime change is ruled out before any critical analysis of the situation even begins.
Unless we can penetrate the resulting fog, we confront the situation described by Tony Kevin:
Under the false and demonizing imagery of “Putin’s Russia” which has now taken hold in the United States and NATO world, the West is truly “sleepwalking”, as Kissinger, Gorbachev, Sakwa, Cohen and others have urgently warned, into a potential nuclear war with Russia. It is the Cuban missile crisis all over again, but actually worse now, because there are so many irresponsible minor European actors crowding onto the policy stage, and because American policy under recent U.S. presidents has been so lacking in statesmanship, consistency or historical perspective where Russia is concerned.
Hopefully, the efforts of activists and analysts to make the real facts known, combined with the escalating preposterousness of what we are told to believe, will produce enough cognitive dissonance to wake us up before we sleepwalk into the end of the world. Meanwhile, if you share these concerns, stay tuned to each of the dedicated and courageous authors I’ve mentioned, and the sites that have posted their work, express your concerns to your federal legislators – and tell your friends!
Robert Roth is a retired public interest lawyer. He received his law degree from Yale in 1971 and prosecuted false advertising for the attorneys general of New York (1981-1991) and Oregon (1993-2007).
 I explored these in “What’s Really Happening in Syria: A Consumer Fraud Lawyer’s Mini-Primer” – “the primer” for short – which may be downloaded at http://www.syriasolidaritymovement.org/2017/01/21/mini-primer-on-syria-by-former-assist-attorney-general-ny-oregon/ )
 I first became aware of that heightened risk in following US/NATO activities in Ukraine, also widely misrepresented by the media; my work on that matter is posted at https://www.newcoldwar.org/how-obamas-aggression-in-ukraine-risks-nuclear-war/ .
 Regarding the first, as Margaret Kimberley of Black Agenda Report pointed out, the AI report “is based on anonymous sources outside of Syria, hearsay, and the dubious use of satellite photos reminiscent of Colin Powell’s performance at the United Nations in 2003.” http://www.blackagendareport.com/shamnest-international-human-slaughterhouse . See further Tony Cartalucci, US Revives Discredited Syria “Slaughterhouse” Story (Global Research, May 16, 2017), Land Destroyer Report, http://www.globalresearch.ca/us-revives-discredited-syria-slaughterhouse-story/5590306 .)
The second charge seemed preposterous to me under all the circumstances, including its predictably negative results for the Syrian government, and its reliance on “reports” from outside Syria based on hearsay from such biased sources as anti-government fighters and their media. The analyses of others confirmed and reinforced my own impression, e.g., RayMcGovern, The Syrian-Sarin “False Flag” Lesson, (December 13, 2016), http://www.mintpressnews.com/syrian-sarin-false-flag-lesson/223106/ ; Daniel Lazare, Luring Trump into Mideast War (Consortium News, April 8, 2017),https://consortiumnews.com/2017/04/08/luring-trump-into-mideast-wars/ ; Mike Whitney, The Impending Clash Between the U.S. and Russia (CounterPunch, April 7, 2017), http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/04/07/why-the-united-states-use-of-force-against-syria-violates-international-law/ (citing interview with former CIA officer Philip Giraldi); Robert Parry, Another Dangerous Rush to Judgment in Syria (Consortium News, April 5, 2017), https://consortiumnews.com/2017/04/05/another-dangerous-rush-to-judgment-in-syria/ ; Patrick Henningsen,Reviving the ‘Chemical Weapons’ Lie: New US-UK Calls for Regime Change, Military Attack Against Syria (21st Century Wire, April 4, 2017), http://21stcenturywire.com/2017/04/04/reviving-the-chemical-weapons-lie-new-us-uk-calls-for-regime-change-military-attack-against-syria/ ; The Saker, A Multi-level Analysis of the US attack on Syria (April 11, 2017), http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/46845.htm ; Theodore A. Postol, A Critique of ‘False and Misleading’ White House Claims About Syria’s Use of Lethal Gas (April 14, 2017), http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/critique_white_house_fabrications_syrias_alleged_use_of_lethal_gas_20170414/ (The third of MIT Prof. Postol’s reports; the first is at http://images.shoutwiki.com/acloserlookonsyria/f/f3/Postol_assessment_041117.pdf and the second, an addendum to the first, is at https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B_Vs2rjE9TdwUE9tam16a3F0Wjg/view ); andTim Hayward, Chemical attacks in Syria: Is Assad responsible? (April 15, 2017), https://timhayward.wordpress.com/2017/04/15/chemical-attacks-in-syria-is-assad-responsible/ . (Prof. Hayward recommends Prof. Postol’s reports; says, “The premise of my post comes from the [UK] government’s position. I aim to show that even if one suspends disbelief and grants it, their claimed conclusion still needs to be properly demonstrated”; and says further that “a fuller and more formal statement of the question that I am introducing here is to be found at: http://turcopolier.typepad.com/sic_semper_tyrannis/2017/04/habakkuk-on-urgent-need-to-release-test-results-from-porton-down-on-samples-from-khan-sheikhoun-ghouta.html .”).
 See, for example, William Blum, Overthrowing other people’s governments: The Master List, Published February 2013, at http://williamblum.org/essays/read/overthrowing-other-peoples-governments-the-master-list .
 U.S. Intel Vets Dispute Russia Hacking Claims (December 12, 2016), https://consortiumnews.com/2016/12/12/us-intel-vets-dispute-russia-hacking-claims/ .
 Trumped-up claims against Trump (May 17, 2017), http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/oped/bs-ed-trump-russia-phony-20170517-story.html . For a detailed discussion, see Kenneth W. Starr, “Rosenstein’s Compelling Case Against Comey,” The Wall Street Journal, May 15, 2017, p. A21.
 A Monster Eating the Nation, http://kunstler.com/clusterfuck-nation/monster-eating-nation/ (May 19, 2017). And see Ted Van Dyk, “Anti-Trump Democrats Invite Chaos,” The Wall Street Journal, May 22, 2017, p. A21.
 McGovern and Binney, op cit. McGovern was a CIA analyst for 27 years; he briefed the president’s daily brief one-on-one to President Reagan’s most senior national security officials from 1981-85. Binney worked for NSA for 36 years, retiring in 2001 as the technical director of world military and geopolitical analysis and reporting; he created many of the collection systems still used by NSA.
 Valdimir Putin’s televised interview on NBC (June 4, 2017), Interview with Vladimr Putin by NBC News propagandist Megyn Kelly, text published on the website of the President of Russia, June 5, 2017 – https://www.newcoldwar.org/valdimir-putins-televised-interview-on-nbc-june-5-2017/ .
 McGovern and Binney, op cit.
 Mike Whitney outlines the facts behind the entire Russiagate insanity and presents a detailed analysis connecting a great many dots with specificity in Seth Rich, Craig Murray and the Sinister Stewards of the National Security State (May 19, 2017), http://www.counterpunch.org/2017/05/19/seth-rich-craig-murray-and-the-sinister-stewards-of-the-national-security-state/ ; and see Norman Solomon and Paul Jay (Interview), Warfare State at War with Trump as He Plans Warfare Against Iran (May 22, 2017),http://therealnews.com/t2/story:19149:Warfare-State-at-War-with-Trump-as-he-Plans-Warfare-Against-Iran .
Andrew C. McCarthy, Fighting the Politicized, Evidence-Free ‘Collusion with Russia’ Narrative, The National Review (May 24, 2017), http://www.nationalreview.com/article/447915/trump-russia-collusion-john-brennan-testimony-how-fight-politicized-narrative , suggests steps to resolve the matter.
 James Howard Kunstler adds that “Trump, whatever you think of him – and I’ve never been a fan, to put it mildly – was elected for a reason: the ongoing economic collapse of the nation, and the suffering of a public without incomes or purposeful employment.” And though I’ve never been a fan, either, a discussion I found helpful to understanding the reasons for Trump’s election was posted by John Michael Greer, “When the Shouting Stops,” November 16, 2016, at http://thearchdruidreport.blogspot.com/2016/11/when-shouting-stops.html ).
 Prof. Cohen discusses these issues with great clarity in an interview posted as Dems crippling Trump’s plans to cooperate with Russia out of own ambitions (May 19, 2017) at https://www.rt.com/shows/sophieco/388910-trump-scandal-russia-us/ .
 Cited from Return to Moscow. An interview with Mr. Kevin by Associate Professor Judith Armstrong, former head of European Languages Department at MelbourneUniversity, appears at https://www.youtube.com/embed/NtNjpXozRKY .
 You Only Hate Assad Because Your TV Told You To (May 27, 2017), http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/47136.htm (first published by 21wire at http://21stcenturywire.com/2017/05/27/syria-you-only-hate-assad-because-your-tv-told-you-to/ ). I found it enormously helpful to read this piece in conjunction with Vanessa Beeley’s Gaslighting: State Mind Control and Abusive Narcissism (May 26, 2016), http://21stcenturywire.com/2016/05/26/gaslighting-state-mind-control-and-abusive-narcissism/ .
 Return to Moscow, page 255, citing The Slide Toward War with Russia, editorial in the Nation, 19 October 2016, https://www.thenation.com/article/the-slide-toward-war-with-russia/ , and Richard Sakwa, West could sleepwalk into a Doomsday war with Russia – it’s time to wake up, The Conversation (UK), https://www.theconversation.com/west-could-sleepwalk-into-a-doomsday-war-with-russia-its-time-to-wake-up-59936 .