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Here’s why Sean Spicer’s ‘warning’ to Assad really was just news management

Theories which have abounded since Sean Spicer the White House spokesman ‘warned’ Syria against launching a chemical attack are over complicated. All the facts point to the ‘warning’ being part of a successful campaign to bury reporting of Seymour Hersh’s story about the alleged Khan Sheikhoun attack.

Alexander Mercouris

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On Monday Sean Spicer, President Trump’s press officer, published a statement on the White House website purportedly ‘warning’ President Assad and the Syrian government against a chemical attempt which the US had supposedly detected the Syrian military preparing to carry out.

In the hours that followed it became clear that the statement had not been coordinated within the US government.  The State Department and CENTCOM were taken by surprise, and apart from the inconsequential Nikki Haley all the senior officials of the US government – Tillerson, Mattis, Coats, Pompeo, McMaster and President Trump himself – maintained a stony silence about it.

In the hours that followed reports dribbled out that US intelligence had supposedly detected the movement of something which might be a sarin gas container to a single aircraft at Syria’s Al-Shayrat air base.

This is of course the same air base the US attacked in April, and from which according to the US the Khan Sheikhoun chemical attack was carried out, and which the Russians and the Syrians ever since have been unsuccessfully trying to get the OPCW inspectors to inspect.

US officials speaking informally to the media have declined to say what level of confidence the US has in this latest ‘intelligence’.

Subsequently US Defense Secretary General James Mattis said that the US is seeking ‘de-escalation’ in Syria, and the fact that no chemical attack had taken place showed that the ‘warning’ had been ‘heeded’.

This has now been followed with reports – so far unconfirmed – that the US is preparing to evacuate the base it has established in Syria at Al-Tanf.

Ever since there have been any number of attempts to make sense of this strange episode, with speculations by those who do not believe the claims made in the ‘warning’ that some sort of ‘false flag’ attack is being prepared, either to justify another US military attack on Syria, or to wreck the coming meeting at the G20 summit between Presidents Putin and Trump, or for some other sinister purpose.

There is also a theory that the episode reveals some sort of conflict within the US government between conciliators, who would presumably include General Mattis, who wish to ‘de-escalate’ in Syria, and hardline interventionists, who want to escalate there.  In support of this theory some point to reports a week ago that some hardline officials in the US government were looking to stage a conflict in Syria with Iran.

The fundamental problem with all these theories is that if the US really were planning a ‘false flag’ chemical attack in Syria then there would be no need to announce it in advance by publishing a ‘warning’ about it.   On the contrary, all that announcing such a ‘warning’ is likely to do – especially when it is backed by ‘intelligence’ which is so unconvincing – is foster more doubts about it rather than reduce them.

As it happens there is no previous case of the US warning about a chemical attack in Syria before one happens, whether that be the chemical attack which happened in Ghouta in 2013, or the alleged chemical attack which happened in Khan Sheikhoun in April this year, or any of the many other chemical attacks which have also taken place in Syria over the course of the war there.

Since there is no sense in warning of a ‘false flag’ chemical attack in advance, and since the ‘intelligence’ that the Syrian military was preparing such a chemical attack is unconvincing to say the least, and since the State Department and CENTCOM appear to have been taken completely by surprise by a ‘warning’ issued not by a senior official of the US government but by the President’s press officer, what is the explanation for this bizarre affair?

My view that it was an over-the-top piece of news management, intended to discredit and bury Seymour Hersh’s story about the Khan Sheikhoun attack, has been received with predictably little enthusiasm, but I would submit that it is the only one that makes sense.  I notice that one other writer reviewing the same facts – Jonathan Cook writing for Counterpunch – has however now come to the same conclusion.

Moreover as Jonathan Cook also says, the OPCW report published today, which appears to support the Trump administration’s claims – that there was a deliberate sarin attack on Khan Sheikhoun, with the sarin spreading from the small hole in the ground where the alleged gas canister is supposed to have been found – also seems to have been rushed out for the same purpose.

As Cook rightly says, it has long been known that the OPCW would report that a sarin gas attack took place at Khan Sheikhoun, and as Cook and the Russians also say, since the OPCW inspectors have refused to carry out an on the spot inspection of the alleged crime scene at Khan Sheikhoun (allegedly for ‘security reasons’, though a local ceasefire is supposed to be in place), and as the provenance of the samples (supposedly taken from a Jihadi controlled town without any external check of the way they were collected) cannot therefore be fully trusted, this conclusion is unsafe.

I understand the reluctance to accept that an incendiary suggestion that the Syrian government might be planning a chemical attack can have been nothing more than a grossly disproportionate and incredibly dangerous way to bury Seymour Hersh’s story.  It is human nature to think that something greater and more sinister must be involved.  I would however point out that the Trump administration has form in this regard.  By way of example, it persisted for weeks in making the ridiculous claim that the crowds which turned out for Donald Trump’s inauguration were bigger than the crowds which had turned out for Barack Obama’s first inauguration, even though comparisons of the films of the two events show that this was obviously not the case.

There have been any number of other such cases, with the reflex reaction of this administration when it is caught saying something which turns out to be untrue being to double down and go on repeating it.  That I am sure is what has happened in this case.

There will however be serious consequences even if the cause of the ‘warning’ almost certainly was a trivial one.

Firstly, as I have said previously, the Trump administration’s ‘warning’ to the Syrian government not to stage a chemical attack is a green light to the various Jihadi groups in Syria to stage a ‘false flag’ chemical attack, even if that is not the Trump administration’s intention.  There are any number of dangerous people in Syria – and any number of unscrupulous agents of the various local intelligence agencies who support them – who must now be thinking and looking for ways to carry out such an attack in order to force Trump’s hand.  I should say that I interpret Maria Zakharova’s comments hinting that Russia knows where such attacks might take place first and foremost as a warning directed to these people.

Secondly, the Russians are utterly furious because of this episode, a fact made crystal clear by the angry words they have said about it.  Not only do they (of course) know the truth that the ‘intelligence’ upon which the ‘warning’ was based is fictional, but they almost certainly suspect the cause, and they must be completely exasperated that the Trump administration is acting in such a reckless way.

Beyond this it seems that the ‘warning’ contradicts assurances which were given to the Russians during US Secretary of State Tillerson’s visit to Moscow in April.  It seems that Tillerson may have told the Russians that incidents like the Al-Shayrat attack would never again recur.  If so then the threat contained in the ‘warning’ – that President Assad and his military would “pay a heavy price” if another chemical attack took place – has told them that Tillerson’s assurances are worthless.  Probably they already suspected the fact, but it must nonetheless be exasperating for the Russians to have the truth of this exposed to them so clearly.

Whatever else this episode has done, its effect will therefore be to make the Russians trust the US if possible even less, this at a time when US and Russian military officials have been working hard together in Syria to try to reduce tensions between their militaries there.

Last but not least, I can do no better than repeat and endorse these comments by Jonathan Cook about the total blackout in the US and British media which has been imposed on Seymour Hersh’s story.  To my knowledge not a single British newspaper has reported its existence, and nor has the BBC.  This in respect of a story put together by the single most famous US investigative journalist who has in the past exposed scandals like the My Lai massacre and the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib.

the US threats increase, rather than reduce, the chances of a new chemical weapons attack. Other, anti-Assad actors now have a strong incentive to use chemical weapons in false-flag operation to implicate Assad, knowing that the US has committed itself to intervention. On any reading, the US statements were reckless – or malicious – in the extreme and likely to bring about the exact opposite of what they were supposed to achieve.

But beyond this, there was something even more troubling about these two stories [the ‘warning’ and the OPCW report- AM]. That these official claims were published so unthinkingly in major outlets is bad enough. But what is unconscionable is the media’s continuing blackout of Hersh’s investigation when it speaks directly to the two latest news reports.

No serious journalist could write up either story, according to any accepted norms of journalistic practice, and not make reference to Hersh’s claims. They are absolutely relevant to these stories. In fact, more than that, the intelligence sources he cites are are not only relevant but are the reason these two stories have been suddenly propelled to the top of the news agenda.

Any publication that has covered either the White House-Pentagon threats or the rehashing of the OPCW report and has not mentioned Hersh’s revelations is writing nothing less than propaganda in service of a western foreign policy agenda trying to bring about the illegal overthrow the Syrian government. And so far that appears to include every single US and UK mainstream newspaper and TV station.

These comments speak the whole truth, and I have nothing to add to them.

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The social media ‘DEPLATFORM’ end game: Self-censorship (Video)

The Duran – News in Review – Episode 82.

Alex Christoforou

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Alex Jones’ account was put in “read only” mode and will be blocked from posting on Twitter for seven days because of an offending tweet. Twitter declined to comment on the content that violated its policies.

A Twitter spokesperson told CNN the content which prompted the suspension was a video published Tuesday in which Jones linked to within his tweet saying, “now is time to act on the enemy before they do a false flag”.

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey last week defended Twitter’s decision to not suspend Infowars and Alex Jones from the platform, claiming they had not violated Twitter policies.

Dorsey refused to take down Alex Jones and his popular Infowars account, even as his Silicon Valley buddies over at Apple, Facebook, YouTube and Spotify were colluding to remove any sign of Jones or Infowars from their platforms…

“We’re going to hold Jones to the same standard we hold to every account, not taking one-off actions to make us feel good in the short term, and adding fuel to new conspiracy theories,” Dorsey said in a tweet last week. He later added that it was critical that journalists “document, validate and refute” accounts like those of Mr. Jones, which “can often sensationalize issues and spread unsubstantiated rumors.”

According to Zerohedge, still after a CNN report identifying numerous past tweets from Infowars and Jones that did violate Twitter’s rules, those posts were deleted. Tweets by Infowars and Jones deleted last week included posts attacking transgender and Muslim people; a claim that the 2012 shooting massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School was a hoax perpetrated by “crisis actors”; and a video calling David Hogg, a survivor of the Parkland, Fla., high-school shooting, a Nazi.

Dorsey finally caved overnight, with a “temporary suspension”, which will likely become permanent upon Jones’ next violation.

Twitter’s crackdown came more than a week after technology companies, including Apple, YouTube and Facebook removed content from Jones and his site, Infowars. As the WSJ notes, the actions against Infowars intensified a growing debate over what role tech companies play in policing controversial content on their platforms while they simultaneously support the principle of free speech.

RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou examine the aggressive purge of conservative right, libertarian, and progressive accounts from Silicon Valley social media platforms, and how Alex Jones’ was the first step towards driving so much fear into the population, that self censorship takes over and authoritarian rule over the Internet takes hold.

Remember to Please Subscribe to The Duran’s YouTube Channel.

Via Zerohedge

In the latest media pit stop, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey sat down with NBC News Lester Holt, where he defended the company’s decision to put Infowars’ Alex Jones under a seven-day timeout over an offensive tweet linking to a video in which Jones encourages his audience to “act on the enemy before they do a false flag,” and to get “battle rifles” ready.

Dorsey said that despite calls to ban Jones last week amid a seemingly coordinated multi-platform blacklisting, he resisted until now.

“We can’t build a service that is subjective just to the whims of what we personally believe,” Dorsey told Holt, while saying he believes a suspension can be an effect deterrent which can change user behaviors.

“I feel any suspension, whether it be a permanent or a temporary one, makes someone think about their actions and their behaviors,” Dorsey added – though he admitted he has no idea if Jones’ timeout will result in any changes in behavior.

Dorsey stated: “Whether it works within this case to change some of those behaviors and change some of those actions, I don’t know. But this is consistent with how we enforce.”

Jones was banned or restricted from using the services of at least 10 tech companies this month, including Facebook and YouTube. Twitter had been the most high-profile holdout, until it announced on Tuesday that Jones was suspended from posting for seven days.

Dorsey later clarified on Twitter that he was “speaking broadly about our range of enforcement actions” with regards to the company’s use of timeouts.

in a follow-up question on weighing the importance of Twitter’s rules versus its moral obligation, Dorsey said the company has “to put the safety of individuals first in every single thing that we do, and we need to enforce our rules and also evolve our rules around that.” –NBC News

Jack Dorsey said on Twitter.

“I don’t assume everyone will change their actions. Enforcement gets tougher with further reported violations.”

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The Discarded Wisdom of America’s Founders

The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible.

Eric Zuesse

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A good example of the discarded wisdom of America’s Founders is George Washington’s Farewell Address to the nation, delivered by him not orally but instead solely in printed form, published in Philadelphia by David C. Claypoole’s American Daily Advertiser, on 19 September 1796, and distributed to the nation. The following extended excerpt from it is the most famous part of it, and is being blatantly raped by today’s U.S. Government, and therefore it might indicate the necessity for a second American Revolution, this one to disown and throw out not Britain’s Aristocracy, but America’s aristocracy. America’s Founders had done all they knew how to do to conquer Britain’s aristocracy, and they embodied in our Constitution all that they knew in order to prevent any aristocracy ever from arising in this nation; but the Founders clearly had failed in this their dearest hope, because a domestic U.S. aristocracy has arisen here and destroyed American democracy, as this nation’s Founders had feared, and as Washington in this document effectively affirms — and, by these words, proves — to have happened (they’ve taken over this country, in and by both of its Parties, and so we have here a profound and scathing, blistering, criticism of today’s American Government):

Observe good faith and justice towards all nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all. Religion and morality enjoin this conduct; and can it be, that good policy does not equally enjoin it? It will be worthy of a free, enlightened, and at no distant period, a great nation, to give to mankind the magnanimous and too novel example of a people always guided by an exalted justice and benevolence. Who can doubt that, in the course of time and things, the fruits of such a plan would richly repay any temporary advantages which might be lost by a steady adherence to it ? Can it be that Providence has not connected the permanent felicity of a nation with its virtue? The experiment, at least, is recommended by every sentiment which ennobles human nature. Alas! is it rendered impossible by its vices?

In the execution of such a plan, nothing is more essential than that permanent, inveterate antipathies against particular nations, and passionate attachments for others, should be excluded; and that, in place of them, just and amicable feelings towards all should be cultivated. The nation which indulges towards another a habitual hatred or a habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest. Antipathy in one nation against another disposes each more readily to offer insult and injury, to lay hold of slight causes of umbrage, and to be haughty and intractable, when accidental or trifling occasions of dispute occur. Hence, frequent collisions, obstinate, envenomed, and bloody contests. The nation, prompted by ill-will and resentment, sometimes impels to war the government, contrary to the best calculations of policy. The government sometimes participates in the national propensity, and adopts through passion what reason would reject; at other times it makes the animosity of the nation subservient to projects of hostility instigated by pride, ambition, and other sinister and pernicious motives. The peace often, sometimes perhaps the liberty, of nations, has been the victim.

So likewise, a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest in cases where no real common interest exists, and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and wars of the latter without adequate inducement or justification. It leads also to concessions to the favorite nation of privileges denied to others which is apt doubly to injure the nation making the concessions; by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained, and by exciting jealousy, ill-will, and a disposition to retaliate, in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld. And it gives to ambitious, corrupted, or deluded citizens (who devote themselves to the favorite nation), facility to betray or sacrifice the interests of their own country, without odium, sometimes even with popularity; gilding, with the appearances of a virtuous sense of obligation, a commendable deference for public opinion, or a laudable zeal for public good, the base or foolish compliances of ambition, corruption, or infatuation.

As avenues to foreign influence in innumerable ways, such attachments are particularly alarming to the truly enlightened and independent patriot. How many opportunities do they afford to tamper with domestic factions, to practice the arts of seduction, to mislead public opinion, to influence or awe the public councils? Such an attachment of a small or weak towards a great and powerful nation dooms the former to be the satellite of the latter.

Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow-citizens) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government. But that jealousy to be useful must be impartial; else it becomes the instrument of the very influence to be avoided, instead of a defense against it. Excessive partiality for one foreign nation and excessive dislike of another cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other. Real patriots who may resist the intrigues of the favorite are liable to become suspected and odious, while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people, to surrender their interests.

The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial relations, to have with them as little political connection as possible. So far as we have already formed engagements, let them be fulfilled with perfect good faith. Here let us stop. Europe has a set of primary interests which to us have none; or a very remote relation. Hence she must be engaged in frequent controversies, the causes of which are essentially foreign to our concerns. Hence, therefore, it must be unwise in us to implicate ourselves by artificial ties in the ordinary vicissitudes of her politics, or the ordinary combinations and collisions of her friendships or enmities.

Our detached and distant situation invites and enables us to pursue a different course. If we remain one people under an efficient government, the period is not far off when we may defy material injury from external annoyance; when we may take such an attitude as will cause the neutrality we may at any time resolve upon to be scrupulously respected; when belligerent nations, under the impossibility of making acquisitions upon us, will not lightly hazard the giving us provocation; when we may choose peace or war, as our interest, guided by justice, shall counsel.

Why forego the advantages of so peculiar a situation? Why quit our own to stand upon foreign ground? Why, by interweaving our destiny with that of any part of Europe, entangle our peace and prosperity in the toils of European ambition, rivalship, interest, humor or caprice?

It is our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world; so far, I mean, as we are now at liberty to do it; for let me not be understood as capable of patronizing infidelity to existing engagements. I hold the maxim no less applicable to public than to private affairs, that honesty is always the best policy. I repeat it, therefore, let those engagements be observed in their genuine sense. But, in my opinion, it is unnecessary and would be unwise to extend them.

Taking care always to keep ourselves by suitable establishments on a respectable defensive posture, we may safely trust to temporary alliances for extraordinary emergencies.

Harmony, liberal intercourse with all nations, are recommended by policy, humanity, and interest. But even our commercial policy should hold an equal and impartial hand; neither seeking nor granting exclusive favors or preferences; consulting the natural course of things; diffusing and diversifying by gentle means the streams of commerce, but forcing nothing; establishing (with powers so disposed, in order to give trade a stable course, to define the rights of our merchants, and to enable the government to support them) conventional rules of intercourse, the best that present circumstances and mutual opinion will permit, but temporary, and liable to be from time to time abandoned or varied, as experience and circumstances shall dictate; constantly keeping in view that it is folly in one nation to look for disinterested favors from another; that it must pay with a portion of its independence for whatever it may accept under that character; that, by such acceptance, it may place itself in the condition of having given equivalents for nominal favors, and yet of being reproached with ingratitude for not giving more. There can be no greater error than to expect or calculate upon real favors from nation to nation. It is an illusion, which experience must cure, which a just pride ought to discard.

—————

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of  They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of  CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity.

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Bruce Ohr Texts, Emails Reveal Steele’s Deep Ties to Obama DOJ, FBI

There are indications that the FBI knew that Steele was in contact with the media before the bureau submitted the first FISA application.

The Duran

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Authored by Sara Carter via SaraCarter.com:


A trove of emails and handwritten notes from Department of Justice official Bruce Ohr exposes the continuous contact and communication between the DOJ attorney and anti-Trump dossier author Christopher Steele, according to notes and documents obtained by SaraACarter.com. The emails and notes were written between 2016 and 2017.

The notes and emails also reveal that Ohr was in communication with Glenn Simpson, the founder of the embattled research firm Fusion GPS, which was paid by the Hillary Clinton campaign and DNC to hire Steele.

In one of Ohr’s handwritten notes listed as “Law enforcement Sensitive” from May 10, 2017, he writes “Call with Chris,” referencing Steele. He notes that Steele is “very concerned about Comey’s firing, afraid they will be exposed.” This call occurred months after FBI Director James Comey testified before the House Intelligence Committee and revealed for the first time that the FBI had an open counterintelligence investigation into President Donald Trump’s campaign and alleged collusion with Russia.

Steele is also extremely concerned about a letter sent from the Senate Judiciary Committee asking Comey for information on his involvement with Steele. Grassley sent 12 questions to Comey regarding the bureau and Steele’s relationship and wanted all information on any agreements they had during the investigation into alleged Russia-Trump collusion. Grassley also wanted to know if the FBI ever verified any of the information in Steele’s reports.

In Ohr’s notes from May 10, 2017, he goes onto write that Steele is concerned about a letter from the Senate Intelligence Committee, writing:

“Asked them 3 questions:

  1. What info (information) did you give to the U.S. govt (government)?
  2. What was the scope of yr (your) investigation?
  3. Do you have any other info that would assist in our question?”

SaraACarter.com first reported this week text messages between Steele and Ohr, revealing that Steele was anxious about Comey’s testimony and was hoping that “important firewalls will hold” when Comey testified.

Those text messages in March 2017 were shared only two days before Comey testified to lawmakers.

The House Intelligence Committee revealed in their Russia report earlier this year that Steele–who was working for the FBI as a Confidential Human Source (CHS)–had shopped his dossier to numerous news outlets in the summer of 2016.  According to the report, the FBI terminated Steele after discovering that he was leaking to news outlets, breaking a cardinal rule by the bureau to not reveal ongoing investigations and information to the media.

However, there is growing concern that the FBI was well aware that Steele was in contact with media outlets about his dossier before the FBI applied to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for its first warrant in the fall of 2016 to conduct surveillance on former Trump campaign volunteer advisor, Carter Page.

There are indications that the FBI knew that Steele was in contact with the media before the bureau submitted the first FISA application…

“There are indications that the FBI knew that Steele was in contact with the media before the bureau submitted the first FISA application and that question needs to be resolved,” said a congressional official with knowledge of the investigation.

The documents from March 2017, reveal how concerned Steele is with Grassley’s committee and the letter from the senator’s office seeking answers from Steele on the dossier.

In June 2017, Steele tells Ohr,  “We are frustrated with how long this reengagement with the Bureau and Mueller is taking.  Anything you can do to accelerate the process would be much appreciated.  There are some new, perishable, operational opportunities which we do not want to miss out on.”

In October 2017, Steele notes that he is concerned about the stories in the media about the bureau delivering information to Congress “about my work and relationship with them.  Very concerned about this.  People’s lives may be endangered.”

And in November 2017, Steele, who is trying to engage with Robert Mueller’s Special Counsel, writes to Ohr saying, “we were wondering if there was any response to the questions I raised last week.”

Ohr responds by saying, “I have passed on the questions (apparently to the special counsel) but haven’t gotten an answer yet.”

Steele then says,  “I am presuming you’ve heard nothing back from your SC (special counsel) colleagues on the issues you kindly put to them from me.  We have heard nothing from them either.  To say this is disappointing would be an understatement!  Certain people have been willing to risk everything to engage with them in an effort to help them reach the truth.  Also, we remain in the dark as to what work has been briefed to Congress about us, our assets and previous work.”

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