Pale Fire and London Fog: Illuminating Outliers in the Death of Alexander Litvinenko

by Chris Floyd

This is an updated version of the piece that appeared yesterday at Truthout.org.

I. The Baron and the Billionaire


Everyone knows that Russian exile Alexander Litvinenko was killed by radiation poisoning in London last month. But beyond that bare fact, almost nothing is clear about the case. The truth has disappeared, probably forever, into the shadowlands – that murky confluence of crime, violence, money and politics where so much of the real business of the world is conducted. However, an examination of some of the curiously overlooked aspects of the affair might send at least a few shafts of light into the cloud of unknowing that has enveloped Litvinenko's death.

Of course, one of the chief obstacles in assessing the situation is the fact that almost everything we knew about the case for weeks was spoonfed to the media by the most elite PR operation in Britain. Almost from the moment that Litvinenko fell ill, he disappeared behind a phalanx of handlers paid for by his patron, Boris Berezovsky, the fugitive Russian billionaire and shadowlands operator par excellence. To handle – and generate – the publicity surrounding the incident, Berezovsky called on his old friend, Baron Bell of Belgravia, who, back when he was just plain old Tim Bell, served as the private propaganda chief for Margaret Thatcher, as Sourcewatch reports. The baron has also flacked for disgraced media mogul Conrad Black, disgraceful media mogul Rupert Murdoch, and the Coalition Provisional Authority, the mechanism set up by the Bush Administration to eviscerate Iraq. Add a comment

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  • Written by Ramzy Baroud

Ethnic Cleansing and Israel’s Racist Discourse

By Ramzy Baroud

“The term ethnic cleansing refers to various policies of forcibly removing people of another ethnic group. At one end of the spectrum, it is virtually indistinguishable from forced emigration and population transfer, while at the other it merges with deportation and genocide.”

According to this definition, and others including those emerging in the 1990s, following the ethnic cleansing in the Balkans, Palestinians have been and remain victims of a determined and unwavering ethnic cleansing policy that began in 1947-48 and continues until today.

However, it is important that when we examine the subject of ethnic cleansing in Palestine, we take into account its various dimensions, one of which is the accompanying racist discourse, which has become part and parcel of Israel’s ethnic cleansing policies.
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  • Written by Anwaar Hussain

As America Slept

by Anwaar Hussain

It all happened while America slept.

As America slept, airline jets appeared in the azure blue New York Skies some five years back and within minutes bumped through tall wonders of human achievements reducing them and their occupants to a tangled mass of steel, concrete and human flesh. While the world stood horror-struck and frozen from the pain of the victims and the sheer scale of the crime, somewhere in some dark unlit corners of America, a small leering cabal of malicious, hateful and warmongering few backslapped each other. But America slept.

As America slept, this small but ruthless group of men stole democracy from the American people and almost knocked her over with a noxious blow of fascism. The political philosophy of these creatures sent instant shivers up the collective spine of global citizenry. But America slept.

As America slept, their liberties were curtailed, their freedoms taken away, their economy bankrupted, their private lives spied upon and their nation kept in a constant state of fear. Riding on the wings of ‘terror’, their leaders sleep marched America into history's hall of shame. But America slept. Add a comment

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  • Written by David Swanson

Closer to Home

By David Swanson

I did something worse than St. Augustine did when I was a kid. I must confess I broke into a house on the other side of town, and I did it just because it was such an ugly beat-down house that needed work so badly. Well, that and I kind of wanted to move out of my parents'.

I broke in at night and I started the renovations. I smashed a lot of the furniture up and actually knocked out a couple of walls. I destroyed the electric panel and stopped up the toilets. The place was a serious, serious wreck, and I was pretty tired, and the owners came home.

They were an elderly couple, and they threatened me and threw stuff at me, but – I'm ashamed to say -- I got a little rough with them and put them in their place. The trouble was, there were two of them and the phone still worked. One of them called the cops, who showed up pretty fast.

I explained to the cops what a wreck the house had been before I'd gotten there, and that seemed to satisfy them at first. Eventually I had to slip them $200 before they would leave me alone. But they were the least of my problems. And when they left, I didn't know what the old man had given them. Add a comment

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  • Written by William Bowles

Capitalism – past its sell-by date?

by William Bowles

Review: The Chávez Code – Cracking US Intervention in Venezuela by Eva Golinger

Chavez & BushPerhaps the greatest triumph of modern capitalism has been its ability to sell itself and to do it by fair means and foul with the emphasis on the foul.

Historically, it has been the CIA which up until the 1990s did the dirty work for US imperialism as the record clearly shows. However, the CIA’s record in overthrowing foreign governments is far from being a success story. A new strategy was needed, and one which was untainted with the ‘dirty tricks’ label of the Nixon years and which could be sold to the public under the umbrella of ‘spreading democracy’, Western-style of course.

Aside from the obvious harnessing of the corporate and state media in this process has been the creation of innumerable ‘foundations’, ‘NGOs’ and spin-offs of the various organs of the state such as the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and a plethora of quasi-governmental structures like the National Endowment for Democracy [sic] or NED.

Big business has been an integral part of this process funnelling literally billions of dollars into a plethora of foundations and ‘think tanks’ which work hand-in-glove with the state in not only projecting the capitalist way of life but in directly interfering in the internal affairs of foreign countries whenever ‘private property’ is seemingly threatened.
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  • Written by Phil Rockstroh

Prisoners of Envy: Wal*Mart Nihilism Versus the Punk Rock of Blogging

by Phil Rockstroh

The Holiday Season has arrived, unfolding before us, like a cheap vinyl wallet, here in The United States of American Express. The days spill forth, their hours comprised of shopping and shooting sprees, of retail and retaliation. Jingle bells and the crackle of gunfire. This is the way an empire falls, with armies of confused killers abroad and legions of killer clowns at home.

A decade and half ago, we watched smugly as The Kremlin came undone. Yet, somehow we believe ourselves to be immune from the rot that causes empires to collapse from within.

The Social Realist poets of the former Soviet Union made themselves the objects of much (deserved) derision, when, in the service of the dogmatic dictates of state communism, they penned poetic odes to crop yields, tractors and other farm implements.

When a Russian attempts to convey his passions, his soul is prone to reach inward seeking poetic depths. In contrast, nowadays, in situations of crucial importance, such as the anxious waiting in long lines involved when attempting to procure PlayStation 3s among the throngs of their fellow Home Entertainment Unit-lusting Fred C. Dobbs types, Americans express their ardor -- by reaching for a gun. For we all know that The Baby Jesus would find the sound of Yuletide gunfire to be as soothing as a celestial lullaby.  Add a comment

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  • Written by Mickey Z

Vietnam, Iraq, and the M Word

by Mickey Z.

Jimmy Carter was the latest to use the M Word. The former president said he believes the "occupancy of Iraq and all the consequences of it are a big mistake." This echoes John Kerry's infamous 1971 question: "How do you ask a man to die for a mistake?" Hmm...perhaps recalling a few details about the Vietnam "mistake" might shine some light on the Iraq "blunder."

In 1954, Vice President Richard Nixon explained the need for U.S. intervention in Southeast Asia: "The Vietnamese lack the ability to conduct a war or govern themselves." Over the next two decades, the U.S. (by mistake?) dropped the equivalent of one 500-pound bomb for every person living in Vietnam. (Those bomber doors really needed better latches.) In 1966, David Lawrence, editor of U.S. News & World Report, wrote: "What the United States is doing in Vietnam is the most significant example of philanthropy extended by one people to another that we have witnessed in our times." When challenged with stories of American atrocities in Vietnam, Lawrence corrected his little gaffe, "Primitive peoples with savagery in their hearts have to be helped to understand the true basis of a civilized existence." When at war with savages, you can rationalize dumping 400,000 tons of napalm on them.

What Americans (mistakenly) called the "Viet Cong" was really the National Liberation Front (NLF) and the NLF enjoyed the broad support of the Vietnamese people. In response, the U.S. Army began, as author Mark Zepezauer explains, "destroying villages, herding people into internment camps, weeding out the leaders and turning the countryside into a 'free-fire zone' (in other words, shoot anything that moves)." Add a comment

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  • Written by Larry C. Johnson

Gee Whiz, Iran Training Militia, Who Knew?

by Larry C Johnson

Well, the New York Times just got sucked in again to help the Bush Administration make the case for starting a war with Iran and Syria. Sorry, but how obtuse can some folks be? I refer to the so-called news reported by Michael Gordon and Dexter Filkins in today's New York Times. The essence of their breathless report is that Iran, via Hezbollah, is training the Shia militia in Iraq. Well, NO SHIT SHERLOCK! Consider this quote from today's article:

Iran has facilitated the link between Hezbollah and the Shiite militias in Iraq, the official said. Syrian officials have also cooperated, though there is debate about whether it has the blessing of the senior leaders in Syria.
For informed readers, you will recall that Pat Lang and I wrote about this in August of 2005. We said: Add a comment

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Hideous Kinky: The Genocidal Fury of Thomas Friedman

By Chris Floyd

You would think that by now we would have "supp'd full with horrors" on the New York Times op-ed pages. What could be worse than the atrocities that have filled those gray columns in the past few years, the loud brays for war, the convoluted excuses for presidential tyranny, the steady murmur of chin-stroking bullshit meant to comfort the comfortable elite and confirm them -- at all times, at any cost -- in their well-wadded self-righteousness? Surely, you would think, we have seen the worst.

If this was your thought, then alas, alas, alack the day, you were bitterly mistaken, my friend. Comes now before us the portly, fur-lipped figure of Thomas Friedman, Esq., who today has penned what must be the most morally hideous and deeply racist column ever to appear in those rarefied journalistic precincts: "Ten Months or Ten Years."

It seems that this very enthusiastic promoter of the unprovoked war of aggression against Iraq - which he proudly called "a war of choice," apparently not realizing that he was parroting the propagandists of the Nazi regime that killed millions of his ethnic kindred -- has now discovered that Iraqi Arabs are hopeless, worthless barbarians, broken by "1,000 years of Arab-Muslim authoritarianism" and can only be held together by an "iron fist." (He got all this from reading a new book, apparently. Well, a little literacy, like a little learning, is a dangerous thing, I reckon -- and as anyone who has ever exposed themselves to the dull, flat buzz of Friedman's prose can attest, his literacy is little indeed.)

In fact, the only thing America did wrong in its "effort to bring progressive politics or democracy to this region" was not coming down hard enough on this darky riff-raff: "Had we properly occupied the country, and begun political therapy, it is possible an American iron fist could have held Iraq together long enough to put it on a new course. But instead we created a vacuum by not deploying enough troops." Instead, we took it easy on them -- I mean, Jesus H. Jiminy Cricket Walker Christ, we only killed 600,000 of them; what kind of pussyfooting around is that? -- and look what happened. A Sunni insurgency sprang up, whose only goal -- whose ONLY goal, mind you -- was to make America look bad: "America must fail in its effort to bring progressive, etc., etc. America must fail – no matter how many Iraqis have to be killed, America must fail." What was their "only one goal" again, Tom? Oh yeah: America must fail. Not a single ding-dang one of them ornery critters ever had any other motive whatsoever to take up arms against an army of foreigners who had invaded and occupied their country.
 

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Get Putin

From Erinys website. Kalashnikovs for sale or rent.
ServicesPic

As Beatroot notes, the crescendo of Russophobia has climaxed into the international press declaring a new Cold War.

Are we at war with Russia? Well, with Putin, certainly, in case anyone hadn’t noticed. Ever since he started throwing his oil weight around.

It’s a war which puts some very strange bedfellows on the same side. Martin Kelly, who has dug up any number of iffy relationships in the Litvinenko affair, yesterday connected Boris Berezovsky, Erinys, Bell, PR and Iraq. And by association, The Blairs and Richard Perle. Er, what?

The story so far.
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  • Written by Mickey Z

This Christmas, say no to fir

by Mickey Z.

On my way to the elevated subway station today, I caught sight of my neighborhood's most clearcut (pun very much intended) sign that Santa season is fully upon us: Christmas tree lots. I detect the familiar faces of the folks‹positioned, as always, in front of Rite Aid‹hawking pines and firs long since separated from their roots. According to the National Christmas Tree Association, approximately 30-35 million "real" Christmas trees are sold in the U.S. every year and roughly 100,000 people are employed in the Christmas tree industry.

"As soon as the turkey's in the Tupperware, thoughts turn to getting ready for Christmas," begins one recent newspaper story. "And what says Christmas more than the tree?" Yep, as Thanksgiving is to the turkeys, Christmas is to evergreen. It almost seems to go unnoticed that the enduring symbols of winter's two most celebrated holidays are the annual targets of human killing sprees. You can sing "O Christmas Tree" until you go hoarse, but that tree you just bought is dying before your eyes.

Ninety-eight percent of all American Christmas trees are grown on the more than 21,000 Christmas tree farms; these farms eat up about 450,000 acres of land. It takes about 7-10 years for a Christmas tree to mature, and for every harvested tree, 2-3 seedlings are planted. Think of it like factory farming for firs. Add a comment

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  • Written by Stephen Lendman

Noam Chomsky and Gilbert Achcar's New Book: Perilous Power

by Stephen Lendman

Noam Chomsky needs no introduction. He's MIT Institute Professor Emeritus of linguistics and a leading anti-war critic and voice for over 40 years for social equity and justice. He's also one of the world's most influential and widely cited intellectuals on the Left. Gilbert Achcar is a Lebanese-French academic, author, social activist, Middle East expert and professor of politics and international relations at the University of Paris. Their new book, Perilous Power, is based on 14 hours of dialogue between them over three days in January, 2006 and updated six months later in July in a separate Epilogue at the end. It covers US foreign policy in the most volatile and turbulent region in the world, the Middle East, and discusses the wars in Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon and Afghanistan as well as such key issues as terrorism, fundamentalism, oil, democracy, possible war against Iran and much more. Chomsky and Achcar collaborated with Stephen Shalom, Professor of Political Science at William Paterson University acting as moderator to pose questions and keep the discussion on track.

The book is divided into five chapters. This review will cover each of them in enough detail to give the reader a good sense of their flavor and content. Add a comment

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