Syria
Aleppo

End impunity for chemical weapons use in Syria

The United Nations’ top disarmament official stressed the urgent need to identify those who have used chemical weapons in Syria, and hold them accountable for their deeds. “Without such an action, we are allowing the use of chemical weapons to take place with impunity,” Izumi Nakamitsu, UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, told the Security Council in a virtual briefing. Nakamitsu was briefing Council members on implementation of Resolution 2118, in which unanimous agreement was reached in 2013 to condemn “in the strongest terms” any use of chemical weapons in Syria. Yet the country has seen continued chemical attacks since then. In a new report, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) summarized 19 “outstanding issues” that remain, six-and-a-half years after the Bashar Assad regime claimed that it had handed over all chemical agents and destroyed all facilities. The OPCW expressed concern that at least one chemical weapons production facility in the country remains operational. (Photo of ruins of Aleppo, where chemical weapons were used in 2017: OCHA/Halldorsson via UN News)

Palestine
Apartheid wall

‘Apartheid’ Israel: semantic implications

The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem has issued a report with the provocative title: This is Apartheid: A Regime of Jewish Supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. It documents systematic discrimination against Palestinians in the spheres of land, citizenship, freedom of movement, and political participation—on both sides of the Green Line. It echoes the 2017 findings of the UN Economic & Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) in its report, Israeli Practices towards the Palestinian People and the Question of Apartheid. But the fact that this time the comparison between Zionism and South African apartheid is being made by an Israeli organization poses a challenge to the increasingly entrenched dogma that all anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism. (Photo: Filippo Minelli)

Watching the Shadows
Kremlin

Katie Halper: ‘Useful Idiot’ or Russian ‘infiltrator’?

Popular vlogger and comedian Katie Halper, whose journalistic take-downs of the Democratic Party establishment have been deftly exploited by the Kremlin propaganda machine, wears the accusation that she is a “useful idiot” for Russia as a badge of pride—”Useful Idiots” is actually the sarcastic name of the podcast she co-hosts with the equally problematic Matt Taibbi. We’ve always wondered if such figures really are useful idiots, or something more sinister—knowing propagandists for Vladimir Putin’s reactionary global ambitions. The debate has suddenly exploded onto the left-wing vlogosphere. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Watching the Shadows
headlines

Targeted disinformation neutralizes US left

Progressives in the United States show little awareness of the disinformation specially targeting them. Denialism about Russian interference in the US elections is now translating into denialism about how dangerous the Trump presidency is. In 2016, we saw Russian-promoted “left” sites and writers post memes and articles that trashed Hillary Clinton, equated Clinton and Trump, or even portrayed Clinton as the worse choice. They dominated “Leftbook” social media and helped depress the progressive vote—a decisive factor in Trump’s win. We are seeing a replay now. Biden and Harris are denounced far more than Trump on some “left” sites, while Trump’s incipient fascism is downplayed. This influence has also been felt in the appalling lack of protest against Trump. Through his round-ups of undocumented immigrants, his abandonment of climate and arms control treaties, the impeachment, progressives failed to fill the streets—until the Black Lives Matter uprising, bringing a new and different leadership to the fore. In a presentation for Women’s March Minnesota, longtime activist Terry Burke examines how the US left is in danger of being manipulated and neutralized by a sophisticated online propaganda campaign, facilitated by the Kremlin and its media arms and corporate enablers like Facebook. (Image: TerryBurke)

Watching the Shadows
Xinjiang

China elected to UN rights council: Orwellian irony

In another one to file under #OrwellWouldShit, the UN General Assembly elected China to the Human Rights Council—despite the country holding some one million Uighur Muslims in concentration camps. The General Assembly also elected Russia, Cuba, Uzbekistan and Pakistan—all similarly accused of human rights violations, if not quite such ambitious ones. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo criticized the election of countries with “abhorrent human rights records.” A week before the General Assembly vote, China’s UN ambassador Zhang Jun read a statement before the body, denouncing the US for “systematic racial discrimination and violence,” which was endorsed by 25 other nations—including Russia, Iran and North Korea. Of course the perverse irony of this is that Pompeo and Zhang are both correct. And therefore neither has any moral credibility to criticize the other. (Photo: Xinjiang Judicial Administration via The Diplomat)

The Andes
paramilitaries

Colombia: Duque denies ongoing massacres

Amid the relentless and escalating wave of massacres and assassinations in Colombia, President Iván Duque is adopting openly euphemistic terminology in an attempt to downplay the crisis. This week he acknowledged that massacres at various points around the country over the past days had left more than 30 dead—but refused to call them “massacres.” Visiting Pasto, capital of Nariño department which has been the scene of several recent attacks, he said: “Many people have said, ‘the massacres are returning, the massacres are returning’; first we have to use the precise name—collective homicides.” (Photo via Contagio Radio)

Syria
Khan Sheikhoun

OPCW condemns Assad regime over chemical attacks

Member states of the Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) voted 29-1 to condemn Syria’s Bahsar Assad regime over chemical attacks on civilians in opposition-held areas. Overriding a sustained propaganda campaign by Russia, the regime and their supporters, the member states endorsed the conclusions by the OPCW Investigation & Identification Team that regime forces used sarin and chlorine in attacks on al-Lataminah, Hama governorate, in March 2017. Russia and Iran, the primary backers of the Assad regime since the Syrian uprising began in 2011, voted no, joined by China. There were nine abstentions. (Photo from April 2017 Khan Sheikhoun attack via EA Worldview)

The Andes
Hugo Blanco

Peru: ‘disinfo’ campaign against Hugo Blanco

Supporters of longtime Peruvian social leader Hugo Blanco are protesting what they call a disinformation campaign launched by the military and political right in response to release of a documentary film about his life. The documentary, Hugo Blanco, RĂ­o Profundo, produced by filmmaker Malena MartĂ­nez, won last year’s National Competition for Feature Film Distribution Projects, sponsored by Peru’s Ministry of Culture. This has prompted a group of current and former generals and admirals of the armed forces to issue a joint statement accusing the Culture Ministry of helping to disseminate a film that glorifies “extreme terrorist violence.” The statement falsely implies that Blanco had been involved in the Shining Path movement—which had actually threatened his life for his refusal to support it.

East Asia
minneapolis-hong_kong

Podcast: for Minneapolis-Hong Kong solidarity

In Episode 53 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg discusses the pathological propaganda game in which Donald Trump exploits the pro-democracy uprising in Hong Kong and Xi Jinping exploits the uprising that has exploded across the US since the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. With Trump scolding China over the Hong Kong repression even as he threatens to unleash military troops on protesters in the US, the contradictions could not be more evident. Weinberg urges the Hong Kong protesters to put down their American flags, and stateside protesters not to be fooled by Chinese Foreign Ministry statements in support of the uprising in the United States. Protesters in Hong Kong and the US are natural allies of each other—not of each other’s respective oppressors. Listen on SoundCloud. (Photo composite by Chris Rywalt, with images from AP and Reuters; fair use asserted)

Watching the Shadows
Kremlin

Kremlin in new drive to co-opt US ‘alternative’ voices

In a truly surreal irony, CounterVortex chief blogger Bill Weinberg got e-mail from RT.com editor-in-chief Igor Ogorodnev, saying he’s impressed with our website and extending an invitation to contribute to RT. This is evidently part of a concerted push by RT—a direct organ of Russian state propaganda—to appropriate dissident and alternative voices in the American blogosphere ahead of this year’s elections. The strategy here is clear: Wth Fox News playing to the right and RT playing to the left, the Putin-Trump agenda will control both sides of the debate. It is imperative that progressives do not take the RT bait. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Watching the Shadows
Kremlin

Kremlin propaganda machine weaponizes Tara Reade

You don’t have to dismiss Tara Reade’s claims of sexual assault by Joe Biden to note how they are being exploited, and by whom. It is hardly surprising that her accusations are widely touted by Kremlin propaganda outlets like Sputnik. Nor that Douglas Wigdor, a prominent Trump donor, has been named as Reade’s attorney. Of greater interest to followers of Moscow propaganda efforts on behalf of Trump is a second attorney now working for Reade: William Moran—a Sputnik veteran editor who Sputnik star contributor Max Blumenthal sicced on the Southern Poverty Law Center two years ago to get them to suppress researcher Alexander Reid Ross’ exposĂ© of Russian-lubricated fascist entryism on the American left. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Watching the Shadows
conspiranoia

Podcast: COVID-19 and conspiracy theory

In Episode 51 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg rants against the dangerous, irresponsible and politically weaponized claims being avidly propagated about COVID-19. In addition to paving the way for Facebook and other platforms being given greater power to censor content, these claims serve to delegitimize any critique of actual abuses of power by the medical establishment, government and corporations. Worse, claims originating from social-media trolls and the yellow press are being weaponized by the US State Departmentand Chinese Foreign Ministry as propaganda in their New Cold War. Whether the virus originated in a Chinese government lab in Wuhan or the US government lab at Fort Detrick is probably unknowable, and of limited relevance to the dilemma of how to resist the fast-consolidating biological police state. Listen on SoundCloud. (Photo via Twitter)