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Syria update: Syrian army advances in East Ghouta; Turkish army advances in Afrin

Syrian and Turkish army advances strengthen the positions in the conflict of both Damascus and Ankara

Alexander Mercouris

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In the last few days the pattern the Syrian conflict has been taking is one of continuing advances by the Syrian army against the Jihadi fighters in East Ghouta, and by the Turkish army against the Kurdish militia in Afrin.

Reports from East Ghouta suggest that 40% of the former Jihadi enclave has now been recaptured by the Syrian army, up from the 30% of the enclave which the Syrian controlled just two days ago.

It seems that Jihadi resistance in the enclave is crumbling even faster than most expected, with the Jihadi fighters in the enclave unable despite their desperate resistance to stop or slow down the advance of the Syrian army.

Latest reports from the normally reliable Al-Masdar news agency speak of further planned advances by the Syrian army in the enclave, with the Syrian army now preparing to storm the strategically important Jihadi controlled town of Mesraba within the enclave.

These rapid Syrian army advances in East Ghouta are taking place despite the daily five hour bombing halts which have been insisted on – much I suspect to the Syrian leadership’s frustration – by Russian President Putin.

This is despite the fact that the daily bombing halts are failing to achieve their stated purpose, as the Jihadi fighters refuse to leave and refuse to allow the civilians trapped in the enclave to leave.

The main effect of the bombing halts is therefore to give the Jihadi fighters in East Ghouta a daily respite from the bombing, and to force the Syrian army to carry out many of its operations at night.

Nonetheless, despite these obstacles, the Syrian army continues its advance, and as I said previously there appears to be nothing that the Jihadi fighters can do to slow it down or stop it.

Simultaneously with the advance of the Syrian army in East Ghouta, the Turkish army has been pressing ahead with its offensive against the Kurdish controlled enclave of Afrin.

Despite the Kurdish militia sending strong reinforcements to Afrin, and despite the arrival of pro-Syrian government militia there, latest reports speak of the Turkish army and its Jihadi allies advancing to within seven kilometres of the town of Afrin.

The Kurdish militia’s response to this Turkish advance in Afrin appears however to be to double down.  Instead of withdrawing from Afrin and handing over what remains of the canton to the Syrian government, it seems that the Kurdish militia is redeploying 1,700 Kurdish fighters from the Euphrates river valley to Afrin, and is also redeploying other fighters from Raqqa province to Afrin.

That risks creating a vacuum in the Euphrates river valley, which if it is not filled quickly by the Syrian army risks being filled by ISIS instead, which Al-Masdar already reports is preparing to launch a major offensive in the area.

In fact reports that a pro Syrian government militia unit is being formed for operations in Raqqa province may suggest that the Syrian government is already preparing to fill the gaps caused by Kurdish withdrawals from the Euphrates river valley and Raqqa.

As I have discussed previously, neither the Syrian government nor the Russians welcome the Turkish operation in Afrin.

President Erdogan’s barely concealed plan to link up Afrin, the Jarablus corridor which he already controls, and Jihadi controlled Idlib province, in a large zone of Turkish controlled territory, taken together with the Turkish military’s ongoing work to build up a 25,000 strong Turkish trained Jihadi force in this zone, represents a major ongoing threat to the Syrian government.

The advance of pro-Syrian government militia fighters into Afrin was intended to forestall that move, and President Putin’s repeated conversations with Turkish President Erdogan (another took place yesterday) are at least in part intended to dissuade Erdogan from continuing with it.

However the reality is that with President Erdogan seemingly determined to press ahead, and with the Kurds showing no willingness to retreat or to make concessions even as their military position deteriorates, there is little that Russian diplomacy can for the moment do.

Needless to say the option of a direct clash between the Syrian and Turkish militaries, with the Russians providing air support to the Syrian military, is one which the Russians are extremely anxious to avoid, and they will be acting to prevent it taking place.  Here is how I discussed Russian thinking about that two weeks ago

The Russians will however be anxious to prevent an open clash between the Turkish and Syrian militaries from taking place in Afrin.

The Russians and the Syrian government are of course fully aware that in any one to one clash between the Turkish and Syrian militaries the advantage lies with the Turkish army.  The Russians would be loathe to see such a clash happen not just because it is likely that the Syrian military would be defeated, but because were it to happen they would come under immense pressure from Syria and Iran to come to the Syrian army’s aid.

Were they to do so their relationship with President Erdogan and Turkey would however be damaged probably beyond repair, thereby ending any prospect of their securing President Erdogan’s help to end the conflict in Syria.

This explains the understated nature of Russia’s moves.

It is known that the Russians tried to preempt Turkey’s Afrin operation by trying to persuade the Kurds to hand over Afrin to the Syrian government.  The Kurds however refused, so when the Turks attacked the Russians gave them the green light.

Now that the Kurds in Afrin are coming under pressure they have been forced to turn to the Syrian government.  The Russians have therefore given the Syrian government the green light to deploy its forces there.  At the same time they have almost certainly brokered an agreement whereby the Kurds in return for Syrian help will surrender districts they control in Aleppo and the town of Manbij to the Syrian government.

At the same time the Russians – anxious to maintain a dialogue with President Erdogan and to help him save face – have ensured that the Syrian deployment to Afrin is of a limited nature, being made up exclusively of pro-government militia forces, with no involvement by the Syrian army

The Al-Masdar news agency has confirmed that no Syrian troops are actually present in Afrin, showing that the deployment of pro-government militia forces to Afrin is intended first and foremost as a piece of positioning in advance of negotiations

If the Russians cannot for the moment broker a deal between the Turks, the Syrian government and the Kurds to end the fighting in Afrin – which is undoubtedly their preferred course – they can nonetheless use the crisis in Afrin to improve the position of the Syrian government in other ways.

The Kremlin’s summary of the latest conversation between Putin and Erdogan shows that the Russians are using Turkey’s focus on Afrin to get Turkey to accept the Syrian army’s ongoing offensive in East Ghouta, and to get the Turks to persuade their Jihadi allies to quit East Ghouta

The situation in Eastern Ghouta in the context of implementation of UN Security Council’s resolution 2401 was discussed. The importance of settling the humanitarian problems and the necessity of further uncompromising fight against the terrorist groups in this region was underlined.

The Russians have made it repeatedly clear that they see the removal of “terrorist groups” (ie. the Jihadi fighters fighting the Syrian army in East Ghouta) as the precondition for the imposition of the 30 day ceasefire that UN Security Council Resolution 2401/18 requires.

The Kremlin’s summary of Putin’s latest conversation with Erdogan suggests that this is what Putin told Erdogan, and that Erdogan accepted this logic.

The fact that once the Jihadi fighters had left East Ghouta there would be no one there for the Syrian government to agree a ceasefire with – enabling the Syrian government to take over complete control of the whole enclave – is of course something that all the parties to the conflict – the Syrians, the Russians, the US and the Turks – are fully aware.

That of course is precisely what happened in December 2016 in Aleppo, and as I predicted previously, we are now seeing a rerun of it now in East Ghouta.

Moreover just as happened during the final stages of the fighting in Aleppo, so now in East Ghouta it is becoming increasingly clear that some at least of the civilians trapped in East Ghouta actually want to see the Syrian government return there (see these two reports from Al-Masdar; here and here).

In all this diplomacy with the Turks the Russians have been handed a gift by the West in the form of Western insistence to the Turks that UN Security Council Resolution 2401/18 covers the fighting in Afrin as well as the fighting in East Ghouta, and that the Turks must therefore cease fighting the Kurds in Afrin and observe a 30 day ceasefire in Afrin, just as the Syrian army should cease fighting and observe a 30 day ceasefire in East Ghouta.

Here is how the US based Al-Monitor describes this

Turkey may have to pay a steep diplomatic price for ignoring a UN-ordered cease-fire in Syria. UN Security Council Resolution 2401, passed Feb. 24, calls on parties in Syria to observe a 30-day cease-fire. Ankara initially supported the decision, until realizing the resolution applies to it as well.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov had said, “All the actors in Syria must comply with the 30-day cease-fire call of the UN all over the country.” But now Ankara is pretending the call wasn’t meant for Turkey.

The cease-fire aims to permit humanitarian aid to reach civilians. However, the resolution does allow for continued combat against the Islamic State (IS), al-Qaeda, Jabhat Fatah al-Sham and their affiliates. Turkey is seeking to drive out of Afrin the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), which it considers a terrorist-affiliated group.

But the United States, France and Germany soon made it clear that the cease-fire indeed includes Afrin. As the disagreement with its Western partners continued, Turkey deployed its special operations teams for the second phase of the operation.

On Feb. 26, French President Emmanuel Macron spoke by phone with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. According to a statement from Macron, he told Erdogan that the “humanitarian agreement covers all of Syria, including Afrin, and has to be implemented all over without delay.”

The next day, US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert also said the resolution applies to all of Syria and called on Turkey to read the text again. This was followed by the German Foreign Ministry calling on Turkey to respect the resolution. Statements from the European Union also called on Turkey to stop its Afrin operations.

The Western claim that Resolution 2401/18 covers Afrin as well as East Ghouta is strictly speaking true based on a narrow reading of its text.  However it is difficult to imagine saying anything more likely to infuriate President Erdogan than saying this.  Not surprisingly, as Al-Monitor says, his response has been harsh

Turkey’s response to all these warnings was equally harsh: Its Foreign Ministry said Afrin was not mentioned in the conversation with Macron and accused France of lying. Ankara also said Nauert’s remarks had no basis and that she either didn’t understand the resolution or was being intentionally misleading in her interpretation.

Erdogan said Turkey will struggle against anyone confronting it. He pointed out that cement-mixing machinery from Paris-based company Lafarge can be seen in Afrin — insinuating that France supports the YPG. France has investigated Lafarge’s role in financing IS and other extremist groups in Syria.

As it happens President Erdogan has a right to be angry.  In the run up to the vote in the UN Security Council for Resolution 2401/18 nothing at all was said about Afrin, with the all the discussion being about East Ghouta.

President Erdogan – who supported the Resolution – therefore has a right to feel that the Western powers tricked him, getting him to support a Resolution which he thought was about East Ghouta whereas the way it was drafted has made it possible for the Western powers to argue that it is also about Afrin.

The Western powers are of course acting in this way because in accordance with the US’s Plan C the US wants to keep the Kurdish militia intact in order to further its objective of undermining the Syrian government.

However President Erdogan cannot fail to contrast this further example of Western duplicity (as he is bound to see it) with the careful respect and consideration he always gets from the Russians.

That inevitably is going to predispose him to listen more carefully to what the Russians are telling him, not just about Afrin but about East Ghouta.

That presumably explains his muted response to the fighting in East Ghouta and – according to the Kremlin’s summary of their conversation – his agreement with Putin as to “the necessity of further uncompromising fight against the terrorist groups in this region”.

In summary, it seems that over the next few days or weeks both the Syrian government and the Turkish government will achieve their immediate objectives in Syria.

It is now only a question of time before the Syrian government achieves total control over East Ghouta, and it is likely though still not absolutely certain that the Turkish government will also shortly achieve total control over Afrin.

Both the Syrian and the Turkish governments will have moved closer to fulfilment of their medium term objectives in Syria.

The Syrian government will have finally secured the countryside around the Syrian capital of Damascus and will have increased its leverage over the Kurds.

The Turkish government will have prevented the continued growth of Kurdish power in northern Syria, and will have strengthened the zone under its control, in which it is continuing to build up a Jihadi force loyal to itself.

The struggle for Syria continues, with the two strongest players in the game – Turkey and the Syrian government backed by Russia – having improved their positions.

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Rise of the Western Dissidents

The only reason Assange is being targeted is that he tangled with the highest levels of the western establishment. He is far from alone.

The Duran

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Authored by Allum Bokhari via Breitbart:


We’re used to Russian dissidents, Chinese dissidents, Iranian dissidents, and Saudi Arabian dissidents. But those who rightly believe the west is superior to authoritarian regimes must now contend with a troubling trend — the rise of the western dissident.

Chief among them is Julian Assange, who for a half-decade has been forced to live in the tiny Ecuadorian embassy in London, where he has claimed political asylum since 2011. Assange claimed that he would be extradited to the U.S. to face charges over his work at WikiLeaks if he left the embassy, and was routinely mocked as paranoid for doing so.

This week, we learned that Assange was right and his critics were wrong. Thanks to a clerical error by the U.S. attorney’s office in Alexandria, Virginia, reporters were able to confirm the existence of sealed criminal charges against the WikiLeaks founder.

Because the charges are sealed and the evidence is unknown, it’s impossible to say if the case has merit. But it likely relates to WikiLeaks’ release of unredacted diplomatic cables in 2011, which forced the U.S. to relocate several of its foreign sources.

Some allegations are more serious. While he was alive, neoconservative Senator John McCain maintained that leaks provided to WikiLeaks by Chelsea Manning, which included the diplomatic cables, caused U.S sources to be murdered.

Those who see Assange as a villain will end the story here. What is typically left out is that WikiLeaks originally released the diplomatic cables in piecemeal form, with names redacted to prevent loss of life and minimize harm.

It was only after a Guardian journalist’s error led to the full unredacted cables leaking to third parties on the web that WikiLeaks published them as well — and not before Assange attempted to warn the office of Hillary Clinton, then U.S. Secretary of State.

In other words, WikiLeaks behaved precisely as any responsible publisher handling sensitive material should, redacting information that could cause harm. The redactions only stopped when they became pointless. Assange is unlikely to have won more than a dozen journalism awards if he were completely reckless in his publications.

The Pentagon later admitted under oath that they could not find any instances of individuals being killed as a result of being named in Manning’s leaks to WikiLeaks, contradicting Sen. McCain’s allegations.

At worst, Assange and WikiLeaks can be accused of negligence, not deliberate recklessness, in the way it handled sensitive material. But as Breitbart Tech reporter Lucas Nolan points out, a far stronger case can be made against Hillary Clinton for the way she handled State Department emails — yet we see no criminal charges against her.

It’s hard to escape the conclusion that the only reason Assange is being targeted is that he tangled with the highest levels of the western establishment. In that, he is far from alone.

In the late 2000s to early 2010s, western governments targeted all manner of individuals associated with Assange and the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, including Laura Poitras, Glenn Greenwald’s partner David Miranda, and The Guardian newspaper.

This was the early growth period of the internet, when the web had become a truly popular medium but had yet to be censored by pliant social media corporations. It was a time of profound unease at the power of the internet to undermine authority, both through the dissemination of information as in the case of WikiLeaks and Snowden, and in the new mobilization of political forces, as in the case of Occupy Wall Street and the SOPA/PIPA protests. Heavy-handed crackdowns against individuals and groups that were seen, rightly or wrongly, as symbols of the web’s early anarchic tendencies, like Kim DotcomAaron SwartzAnonymous, and LulzSec, were not uncommon.

These days, however, a new class of western dissident has emerged — the populist dissident.

Populist Dissidents

Who would have thought that the highest court in Europe, home of the enlightenment, would uphold a case in which a woman was prosecuted for blasphemy against Islam?

Who would have thought that Britain, the birthplace of liberalism and the free press, would ban an independent journalist from its shores for satirizing the same religion?

Who would have thought that Germany, whose living memory of the totalitarian Stasi is just three decades old, would put its largest opposition party under surveillance?

Just a few years ago, all three would sound far-fetched. But cases like these have become common as elites in virtually every western country mount a panicked attempt to contain the rise of populism (the goal, in the words of a Google executive, is to render it a “hiccup”in history’s march towards progress).

Look at the case of Tommy Robinson, the British critic of Islam who was dragged through Britain’s courts on fuzzy contempt-of-court charges. Sentenced to an astonishing thirteen-month imprisonment, Robinson was eventually freed after a successful appeal and now awaits a final trial before Britain’s Attorney General. Shaky charges that have been successfully appealed were exploited to persecute a British citizen who was inconvenient to the establishment. And there’s still a further trial to come.

Then again, Britain is a country that routinely bans foreign politicians and media figures from the country for being too right-wing. Michael SavageGeert WildersLauren SouthernPamela Geller, and Robert Spencer all enjoy this dubious distinction. Theresa May, who was responsible for internal affairs and immigration when Spencer and Geller were banned, is now the Prime Minister.

But it’s not just Britain. Not only has Trump’s White House, supposedly an ally of populists, failed to publicly intervene on behalf of the American citizens banned from the U.K. for expressing populist viewpoints, but it hasn’t even investigated allegations that far-left Antifa activists were able to stop conservative Rebel Media personality Jack Buckbyfrom entering the country by spreading false criminal allegations.

Julian Assange, a left-libertarian may share little ideological ground with right-wing critics of Islam. But they all share at least one thing: persecution by western states coupled with anti-establishment political speech or activities. They are also targets of the security establishment — Assange because of leaks that have exposed their secrets, and the populists because they refuse to censor themselves to avoid angering Muslims. (The UK justified its attempted ban of Geert Wilders by arguing that his presence in the country could lead to “inter-faith violence.”)

We also see attacks on free speech, with governments and politicians across the west pressuring Silicon Valley to suppress its critics. An unaccountable, unelected elite can sweep away a person’s livelihood in minutes, and cut their political message off from millions of American citizens. As I wrote in my column two weeks ago, the overarching trend is the gradual destruction or delegitimization of every tool, digital or otherwise, that non-elites use to express their preferences. Does that sound like a free society, or a controlled one?

You don’t have to agree with any of the individuals or groups listed above to see that surveilling political parties, blocking journalists from entering countries, jailing critics of religion, upholding blasphemy laws and censoring the net is the behavior of authoritarian nations, not liberal democracies. Yet this is the disturbing pattern we now see in the west.

Worse, foreign authoritarian regimes now provide safe harbor for western dissidents, in the same way that the west does for foreign dissidents. Edward Snowden, accused of violating the U.S. Espionage Act of 1917 for blowing the whistle on the NSA’s mass surveillance of Americans, has for years resided safely in Russia, a country that persecutes and even kills its own journalists. Before that, he sought refuge in Hong Kong, a “Special Administrative Region” of the People’s Republic of China, an even more terrifyingly totalitarian state.

Will there now be a quid pro quo, with Russia and other authoritarian regimes protecting our dissidents while the west protects theirs? Or will western countries remain true to their liberal traditions, and stop its alarming attempts to surveil, suppress, and persecute a growing number of its own citizens? On present trends, a dark and dystopian future seems to loom on the horizon.

Allum Bokhari is the senior technology correspondent at Breitbart News. You can follow him on TwitterGab.ai and add him on Facebook. Email tips and suggestions to [email protected].

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Zuckerberg’s “War Face” Has Driven Key Executives Away, Stoked Tension With Sandberg

About a dozen senior or highly visible executives disclosed their resignations or left Facebook in 2018.

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Via Zerohedge


Earlier this year, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg gathered around 50 of his key executives and told them that the company was at war – more specifically, under siege from lawmakers, investors and angry users over the Cambridge Analytica data harvesting scandal and Russian influence on the platform.

Zuckerberg, according to the Wall Street Journal, told his top lieutenants during that June meeting that while executives can move more slowly and methodically on key decisions during “peacetime,” he would be acting more decisively going forward, said people familiar with the remarks.

The result? Tension which has boiled over to the point where several key executives have left the country – as well as friction between Zuckerberg and longtime COO, Sheryl Sandberg.

The 34-year-old CEO believes Facebook didn’t move quickly enough at key moments this year and increasingly is pressing senior executives to “make progress faster” on resolving problems such as slowing user growth and securing the platform, said people familiar with the matter. Mr. Zuckerberg also at times has expressed frustration at how the company managed the waves of criticism it faced this year.

On Friday, that tension was on display when, during a question-and-answer session with employees at Facebook’s headquarters in Menlo Park, Calif., he blasted a fresh round of critical news coverage as “bullshit,” according to the people familiar with the remarks. –WSJ

One Facebook employee at the Friday session asked if the company could mitigate leaks by publishing internal reports on how frequently offenders are found and fired. While Zuckerberg said that Facebook does fire leakers, the root cause is “bad morale” thanks to negative press coverage.

And while the WSJ notes Zuckerberg has taken on ambitious annual goals, such as learning Mandarin and reading 25 books, this year his biggest challenge is fixing Facebook through his tougher management style, according to a person familiar with his thinking (so says the WSJ). Perhaps the Facebook CEO hired a drill sergeant to coach him on bringing out his inner-Alpha?

According to the Journal, Zuckerberg and Sandberg have had confrontations over his new management style, after she had long been afforded considerable autonomy over the company’s teams which handle communications and policy.

This spring, Mr. Zuckerberg told Ms. Sandberg, 49, that he blamed her and her teams for the public fallout over Cambridge Analytica, the research firm that inappropriately accessed private data on Facebook users and used it for political research, according to people familiar with the exchange.

Ms. Sandberg later confided in friends that the exchange rattled her, and she wondered if she should be worried about her job.

Mr. Zuckerberg also has told Ms. Sandberg she should have been more aggressive in allocating resources to review troublesome content on the site, said one person familiar with the matter, a problem that the company still struggles to fix. –WSJ

Meanwhile, Zuckerberg seems to be pleased of late with internal improvements, telling reporters last week that Sandberg is a “very important partner to me, and continues to be, and will continue to be.”

Privately, Zuckerberg has told executives that some of the fallout from the Cambridge Analytica data harvesting scandal was just “hysteria,” to which Facebook simply didn’t mount an effective response.

Clash of the tech titans

Zuckerberg famously has butted heads with the co-founders of photo-sharing app Instagram, over his desire to share user location data on the main Facebook platform in order to help better target ads. The now-resigned Instagram founders strongly opposed the idea, and abruptly left the company in September.

The founders of WhatsApp similarly bailed on Facebook after disagreements over how to best extract revenue from the messaging service, according to people familiar with the matter.

And most recently, was the departure of Oculus VR co-founder Brendan Iribe, who was forced out by Zuckerberg in part due to a disagreement over the future of the virtual-reality handset, the people said. The decision to leave was reportedly “mutual.”

All told, about a dozen senior or highly visible executives disclosed their resignations or left Facebook in 2018. In May, Facebook announced a major reshuffling of top product executives in a way that helped free up Mr. Zuckerberg to oversee a broader portfolio within the company.

This turmoil at the top of Facebook has made it difficult for the company to execute on some product decisions and shore up employee morale, which has been sinking over the last year along with the stock price, which has fallen 36% since its peak. Many employees are frustrated by the bad press and constant reorganizations, including of the security team, which can disrupt their work, according to current and former employees. –WSJ

Doing whatever it takes

Facebook has come under fire recently – most notably after a New York Times report that the company used GOP operatives to smear the company’s detractors and promote negative news about competitors Google and Apple.

When the Cambridge Analytica data harvesting scandal broke – the resultant rebukes from Apple CEO Tim Cook and Google executives sent Zuckerberg ballistic. The Facebook CEO “later ordered his management team to use only Android phones —arguing that the operating system had far more users than Apple’s,” according to the Times.

Facebook then went on the offensive against the fellow tech giants.

On the advice of Joel Kaplan – a well-connected Republican friend, Bush administration official, and former Harvard classmate of Sandberg, Facebook began to go after Google and Apple.

Mr. Kaplan prevailed on Ms. Sandberg to promote Kevin Martin, a former Federal Communications Commission chairman and fellow Bush administration veteran, to lead the company’s American lobbying efforts. Facebook also expanded its work with Definers.

On a conservative news site called the NTK Network, dozens of articles blasted Google and Apple for unsavory business practices. One story called Mr. Cook hypocritical for chiding Facebook over privacy, noting that Apple also collects reams of data from users. Another played down the impact of the Russians’ use of Facebook.

The rash of news coverage was no accident: NTK is an affiliate of Definers, sharing offices and staff with the public relations firm in Arlington, Va. Many NTK Network stories are written by staff members at Definers or America Rising, the company’s political opposition-research arm, to attack their clients’ enemies. –NYT

Facebook has responded, initially saying they didn’t put out “fake news” against their competitors, and they had no idea what their marketing department was doing. On Friday, however, Sandberg said she took full responsibility for the actions of the communications team.

Facebook has tried to move forward following its various scandals; spearheading efforts to reign in data harvesting, and looking for someone to oversee its corporate, external and legal affairs.

Hopefully whoever is ultimately in charge of oversight won’t be scared away by Zuckerberg’s war face.

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The “Resistance” Struggles To Justify Support For Trump’s Prosecution Of Assange

When you find yourself supporting conflicting principles, it’s a sure sign that you were never guided by principle to begin with.

The Duran

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Authored by Caitlin Johnstone via Medium.com:


Ever since suspicions were confirmed that the Trump administration is indeed working to prosecute and imprison WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for publishing authentic documents, the so-called “Resistance” has been struggling to explain exactly why it is so enthusiastically supportive of that agenda. And when I say struggling, I am being very, very generous.

When news broke that a court document copy-paste error had inadvertently exposed the fact that the Trump administration is pursuing an agenda which experts of diverse political persuasions agree would have devastating effects on the freedom of the press, #Resistance pundit and DC think tank operative Neera Tanden responded by tweeting, “Never mess with karma”. As of this writing if you do a Twitter search for the words “Assange” and “karma” together, you will come up with countless Democratic Party loyalists using that concept to justify their support for a Trump administration assault on the press that is infinitely more dangerous than the president being mean to Jim Acosta.

The trouble with that of course is that “karma”, as far as observable reality is concerned, is not an actual thing. It’s a Hindu religious concept that is supported by no more factual evidence than the Roman Catholic claim that a priest literally turns bread and wine into the body and blood of a Nazarene carpenter who died thousands of years ago. A Democratic pundit using the concept of “karma” to justify enthusiastic support for Trump’s fascistic attack on press freedoms is exactly the same as a Republican pundit using “God wills it” to justify the existence of poverty, and it is just as intellectually honest.

But it’s also the best argument these people have got.

I mean, think about it. There’s really no other way you can justify supporting a Trump administration agenda — an administration you claim to oppose — in a prosecution with legal implications that are severely detrimental to the free press, which you claim to support.

The only way to justify it is with some vague, abstract notion that Assange is just “getting what he deserves” since the 2016 WikiLeaks publications of Democratic Party likely contributed to Trump’s electoral victory over Hillary Clinton, and the only way to reify that vague, abstract notion is with an appeal to some imaginary metaphysical principle, i.e. karma.

But, again, that is not a thing. There is no invisible eight-armed deity floating around behind the scenes arbitrating and distributing the consequences of WikiLeaks drops, and there is no rational argument that the Trump administration prosecuting Assange is desirable because Assange “deserves” it. The fact of the matter is that these people are supporting Trump’s fascism in the most toxic ways possible, they are utterly incapable of defending that support with any intellectual honesty, and the self-proclaimed “Resistance” would be more aptly named “the Assistance”.

Journalist Glenn Greenwald described this phenomenon as follows:

But the grand irony is that many Democrats will side with the Trump DOJ over the Obama DOJ. Their emotional, personal contempt for Assange  – due to their belief that he helped defeat Hillary Clinton: the gravest crime  –  easily outweighs any concerns about the threats posed to press freedoms by the Trump administration’s attempts to criminalize the publication of documents.

This reflects the broader irony of the Trump era for Democrats. While they claim out of one side of their mouth to find the Trump administration’s authoritarianism and press freedom attacks so repellent, they use the other side of their mouth to parrot the authoritarian mentality of Jeff Sessions and Mike Pompeo that anyone who published documents harmful to Hillary or which have been deemed “classified” by the U.S. Government ought to go to prison.

…It is this utterly craven and authoritarian mentality that is about to put Democrats of all sorts in bed with the most extremist and dangerous of the Trump faction as they unite to create precedents under which the publication of information — long held sacrosanct by anyone caring about press freedoms — can now be legally punished.

And indeed this is exactly what has been happening. Check out the joyous celebrations in online comments sections from when the news broke that the Trump administration has brought sealed charges upon Assange (herehere, or here for example) for a taste of where the “blue wave” zeitgeist is at right now. Their hatred for Assange has overpowered not only their hatred for Trump, but the most important ways in which they are meant to be resisting him.

When you find yourself supporting conflicting principles, it’s a sure sign that you were never guided by principle to begin with.

And this is really the lesson we can take from all this. The noxious strain of American liberalism which promotes Russia conspiracy theories, supports the prosecution of government transparency advocates, and only attacks Trump as an idea rather than actually resisting his actual policies was never about any principle of any kind. There were preexisting agendas against Russia, alternative media, WikiLeaks, and government transparency long before Trump took office, and all of those agendas have been systematically advanced by the powerful using the “us vs them” herd mentality of the McResistance. These people aren’t supporting the prosecution of a leak publisher because of their ideological values, they are supporting it because that’s what powerful manipulators want them to do.

Trump’s despicable prosecution of Assange, and corporate liberalism’s full-throated support for it, has fully discredited all of mainstream US politics on both sides of the aisle. Nobody in that hot mess stands for anything. If you’re still looking to Trump or the Democrats to protect you from the rising tide of fascism, the time to make your exit is now.

*  *  *

Thanks for reading! The best way to get around the internet censors and make sure you see the stuff I publish is to subscribe to the mailing list for my website, which will get you an email notification for everything I publish. My articles are entirely reader-supported, so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, liking me on Facebook, following my antics on Twitter, checking out mypodcast, throwing some money into my hat on Patreon or Paypal,buying my new book Rogue Nation: Psychonautical Adventures With Caitlin Johnstone, or my previous book Woke: A Field Guide for Utopia Preppers.

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