Posts Tagged ‘United States’

Donald Trump’s chief strategist and ideologue will be party to all discussions on the White House National Security Council unlike military and intelligence chiefs

The White House chief strategist, Steve Bannon, far right, sits alongside the national security adviser, Michael Flynn, in the Oval Office with President Donald Trump.
The White House chief strategist, Steve Bannon, far right, sits alongside the national security adviser, Michael Flynn, in the Oval Office with President Donald Trump. Photograph: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

The formal inclusion of Steve Bannon, Donald Trump’s chief strategist and ideologue in the small circle of top officials who decide US national security policy, sparked alarm among former officials who described it as an unprecedented politicisation of decisions that could mean the difference between peace and war.

Bannon, a former executive of the rightwing Breitbart news site, will be a permanent fixture of the “principals committee” of the National Security Council (NSC), the White House announced, but said that the director of national intelligence and chairman of the joint chiefs of staff would only attend if the “issues pertaining to their responsibilities and expertise are to be discussed”.

David Rothkopf, author of a history of the NSC, said the turbulence of Trump’s foreign policy, intricately connected to the deliberative processes that led to it, was already creating a crisis with international reverberations.

“We have an escalation of chaos as a consequence of White House decision-making, made without consultation with the federal bureaucracy, that has no precedent in modern history and now has people taking to the streets in numbers and ways that is evocative of the 1960s,” Rothkopf said.

“It is not an overstatement to say we have a brewing crisis.”

Placing Bannon on the NSC, with his lack of national security experience, was a “radical” step, Rothkopf said, as the former Breitbart media chairman had shown himself to hold “racist, misogynist and Islamophobic” views. His seat on the NSC principals committee was “essentially putting a thumb on the scale of deliberation in the direction of that kind of thinking”.

Trump, Rothkopf said, was building a security apparatus “with the wrong people at the table and the wrong person at the head of the table” – Trump himself.

Foreign governments, seeing the diminished influence of the established pillars of national security decision-making in the US, were likely to begin dealing with Bannon and his cohort directly to secure their influence with Trump, he continued.

The White House spokesman, Sean Spicer, insisted that the composition of the National Security Council’s principals committee under the Trump administrationwas no different than it had been under Bush or Obama and waved sheaves of paper to prove his point as television screens showed highlighted text on either side of him.

He said the chairman of the joint chiefs and the director of national intelligence were welcome to attend, but did not have to if the issues under discussion were not directly part of their brief.

The announcement of Bannon’s national security role came at the end of the Trump administration’s first week in office, during which Bannon was increasingly seen as the most powerful figure in the White House after the president himself, spurring on the issuance of a string of executive orders culminating in the radical immigration ban on travellers and refugees from seven Muslim-majority countries.

As more details emerged about the chaotic launch of Trump’s flagship immigration ban, it emerged the White House office of management and budget, responsible for coordinating executive action with the rest of the government, was told not to put the ban through the normal review process with the justice, state, homeland security and defense departments, so it was as surprised as everyone else about the announcement.

The newly confirmed homeland security secretary, John Kelly, was airborne when it took effect on Friday and only discovered the president was signing the order on Friday because an aide he was talking to by phone saw the signature ceremony on television, according to the New York Times.

Although the defense secretary, James Mattis, was standing at Trump’s shoulder at the Pentagon when the order was signed, the defense department was also not consulted on its contents beforehand.

Trump’s choice for secretary of state, Rex Tillerson, who is expected to be confirmed in the Senate this week, was also not consulted, according to a source he spoke to at the annual Alfalfa Club dinner in Washington, an event which brings the country’s mega-rich together with top politicians. Tillerson, as a former oil executive, is both.

Tillerson, who will be America’s top diplomat, appeared unruffled by the executive order and by a purge of top career officials at the state department, the source said, but made it clear he had not been consulted on either issue.

He will inherit a department in turmoil, in the wake of the dismissals of top administrative staff and a growing mutiny over the refugee ban among diplomats, who were circulating a draft cable dissenting from the executive order on Monday.

Steve Bannon: his appointment to the NSC was ‘a radical departure from any national security council in history’, according to Senator John McCain.
Steve Bannon: his appointment to the NSC was ‘a radical departure from any National Security Council in history’, according to Senator John McCain. Photograph: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

The elevation of Bannon, who ran a media organisation that offered itself as a platform for the far right and promoted fake news during the election, has alarmed European capitals as he is a fervent opponent of the European Union. It has also provoked unease about how the new administration will take decisions on intelligence and national security issues, among former officials with experience of the way the NSC functions at the heart of Washington.

“What is striking about it is it is such an explicit rejection of the well-entrenched principle that when it comes to matters of national security that politics doesn’t have any place in the room,”

said James Steinberg, former deputy national security adviser in the Clinton administration.

“It is a flat rejection of what has been a shared view of Republican and Democratic administrations.”

National security professionals considered Bannon’s placement on the NSC an indicator that the institutional disarray following Trump’s immigration halt would be replicated in future policy decrees.

The leadership of the influential Senate armed services committee appeared stunned and appalled by the Trump White House elevating Bannon and diminishing the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and the director of national intelligence.

The Senate armed services committee chairman, John McCain, who as recently as Thursday lavished praise on Trump’s security team at a Republican retreat, saidBannon’s appointment was

“a radical departure from any National Security Council in history”.

His Democratic colleague, Jack Reed, called it “outrageous and potentially dangerous” and said Trump was turning the NSC into

“an entity that is without a non-partisan military voice”.

With the senior, non-partisan US military officer or the US intelligence chief absent for critical deliberations, presidents are more likely to stumble into unforced errors with significant global repercussions, said Kori Schake, a defense analyst at the Hoover Institution who has advised McCain and co-edited a book with the defense secretary, Mattis.

“Any president should want their intel and military advisers in on the decisions for the same reason you want a lawyer present: they keep you from making mistakes,” Schake said.

“A president would not, for example, want to find out after issuing an executive order banning immigration from countries fighting alongside us that those countries would reciprocally ban Americans, to great detriment for the war effort.

“Evidently the president’s political advisers lacked the judiciousness to see that coming; the experience it takes to make it to the top of the intelligence or military leadership would easily have been able to call that in advance.”

Stephen Hadley, national security adviser in the last Bush administration, argued that the new administration’s guidelines for the new National Security Council were “not very dissimilar from other orders that other administrations have adopted”.

He said that George W Bush had vetoed the participation of his own closest political adviser to the NSC principals committee, but that the Obama administration had not observed such a distinction between politics and national security. “Karl Rove at one point wanted to participate in the NSC meetings and I ran it by President Bush, who said no. He did not want to suggest in any way that national security decisions are made on domestic politics, which is something that I respect,” Hadley told the Guardian.

“David Axelrod, [who] was President Obama’s political person in the first term, I am told attended a number of NSC meetings. This is something where there is no rule written in stone. Presidents basically make the decisions on who they want at their meetings. You can make a stronger case for Bannon because he is not just political adviser … So I can see why the president would want him at the NSC meetings.”

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Link: https://vimeo.com/149970851

Jarecki/ Why We Fight from Lawrence Christopher Skufca on Vimeo.

Synopsis:

Documentary filmmaker Eugene Jarecki’s in-depth look at how the United States has built the largest peace time military/corporate/industrial complex in the history of the World.

The film received the Grand Jury Prize at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival and raises important moral and ethical questions about the revolving door between our government and the defence contractor industry and the underlying economic decisions which influence U.S. policymakers to lead the nation into war.

Fair Use.
This video contains copyrighted material. Such material is made available for educational purposes only in an effort to advance the understanding of human rights and social justice issues and is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. This constitutes a ‘fair use’ of any such copyrighted material in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Law.

https://archive.fo/1inAb#selection-449.0-481.329 By John Pilger on October 28, 2016.


A silent war continues, led by the west, ignored by the media, writes John Pilger.
The American journalist, Edward Bernays, is often described as the man who invented modern propaganda.
The nephew of Sigmund Freud, the pioneer of psycho-analysis, it was Bernays who coined the term “public relations” as a euphemism for spin and its deceptions.
In 1929, he persuaded feminists to promote cigarettes for women by smoking in the New York Easter Parade – behaviour then considered outlandish.
One feminist, Ruth Booth, declared, “Women! Light another torch of freedom! Fight another sex taboo!”
Bernays’ influence extended far beyond advertising. His greatest success was his role in convincing the American public to join the slaughter of the First World War. The secret, he said, was “engineering the consent” of people in order to “control and regiment [them]according to our will without their knowing about it”.
He described this as “the true ruling power in our society” and called it an “invisible government”.
Today, the invisible government has never been more powerful and less understood. In my career as a journalist and film-maker, I have never known propaganda to insinuate our lives as it does now, and to go unchallenged.
Imagine two cities. Both are under siege by the forces of the government of that country. Both cities are occupied by fanatics, who commit terrible atrocities, such as beheading people.
But there is a vital difference. In one siege, the government soldiers are described as liberators by Western reporters embedded with them, who enthusiastically report their battles and air strikes. There are front page pictures of these heroic soldiers giving a V-sign for victory.
There is scant mention of civilian casualties.
(IMAGE: The U.S. Army, Flickr)
(IMAGE: The U.S. Army, Flickr)
In the second city – in another country nearby – almost exactly the same thing is happening. Government forces are laying siege to a city controlled by the same breed of fanatics.
The difference is that these fanatics are supported, supplied and armed by “us” – by the United States and Britain. They even have a media centre that is funded by Britain and America.
Another difference is that the government soldiers laying siege to this city are the bad guys, condemned for assaulting and bombing the city – which is exactly what the good soldiers do in the first city.
Confusing? Not really.
Such is the basic double standard that is the essence of propaganda. I am referring, of course, to the current siege of the city of Mosul by the government forces of Iraq, who are backed by the United States and Britain, and to the siege of Aleppo by the government forces of Syria, backed by Russia.
One is good; the other is bad.
What is seldom reported is that both cities would not be occupied by fanatics and ravaged by war if Britain and the United States had not invaded Iraq in 2003.
That criminal enterprise was launched on lies strikingly similar to the propaganda that now distorts our understanding of the civil war in Syria.
Without this drumbeat of propaganda dressed up as news, the monstrous ISIS and Al-Qaida and al-Nusra and the rest of the jihadist gang might not exist, and the people of Syria might not be fighting for their lives today.
Some may remember in 2003 a succession of BBC reporters turning to the camera and telling us that Blair was “vindicated” for what turned out to be the crime of the century. The US television networks produced the same validation for George W. Bush. Fox News brought on Henry Kissinger to effuse over Colin Powell’s fabrications.
Former US president George W Bush (IMAGE: Peter Stevens, Flickr).
Former US president George W Bush (IMAGE: Peter Stevens, Flickr).
The same year, soon after the invasion, I filmed an interview in Washington with Charles Lewis, the renowned American investigative journalist. I asked him,
“What would have happened if the freest media in the world had seriously challenged what turned out to be crude propaganda?”
He replied that if journalists had done their job, “there is a very, very good chance we would not have gone to war in Iraq”.
It was a shocking statement, and one supported by other famous journalists to whom I put the same question – Dan Rather of CBS, David Rose of the Observer and journalists and producers in the BBC, who wished to remain anonymous.
In other words, had journalists done their job, had they challenged and investigated the propaganda instead of amplifying it, hundreds of thousands of men, women and children would be alive today, and
there would be no ISIS and no siege of Aleppo or Mosul.
There would have been no atrocity on the London Underground on 7th July 2005.
There would have been no flight of millions of refugees;
there would be no miserable camps.
When the terrorist atrocity happened in Paris last November, President Francoise Hollande immediately sent planes to bomb Syria – and more terrorism followed, predictably, the product of Hollande’s bombast about France being “at war” and “showing no mercy”.
That state violence and jihadist violence feed off each other is the truth that no national leader has the courage to speak.
“When the truth is replaced by silence,” said the Soviet dissident Yevtushenko, “the silence is a lie.”
The attack on Iraq, the attack on Libya, the attack on Syria happened because the leader in each of these countries was not a puppet of the West. The human rights record of a Saddam or a Gaddafi was irrelevant. They did not obey orders and surrender control of their country.
The same fate awaited Slobodan Milosevic once he had refused to sign an “agreement” that demanded the occupation of Serbia and its conversion to a market economy. His people were bombed, and he was prosecuted in The Hague.
Independence of this kind is intolerable.
Syria-Assad
As WikLeaks has revealed, it was only when the Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad in 2009 rejected an oil pipeline, running through his country from Qatar to Europe, that he was attacked.
From that moment, the CIA planned to destroy the government of Syria with jihadist fanatics – the same fanatics currently holding the people of Mosul and eastern Aleppo hostage.
Why is this not news? The former British Foreign Office official Carne Ross, who was responsible for operating sanctions against Iraq, told me: “We would feed journalists factoids of sanitised intelligence, or we would freeze them out. That is how it worked.”
The West’s medieval client, Saudi Arabia – to which the US and Britain sell billions of dollars’ worth of arms – is at present destroying Yemen, a country so poor that in the best of times, half the children are malnourished.
Look on YouTube and you will see the kind of massive bombs – “our” bombs – that the Saudis use against dirt-poor villages, and against weddings, and funerals.
The explosions look like small atomic bombs. The bomb aimers in Saudi Arabia work side-by-side with British officers.
This fact is not on the evening news.
Propaganda is most effective when our consent is engineered by those with a fine education – Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard, Columbia – and with careers on the BBC, the Guardian, the New York Times, the Washington Post.
These organisations are known as the liberal media.
They present themselves as enlightened, progressive tribunes of the moral zeitgeist.
They are anti-racist, pro-feminist and pro-LGBT.
And they love war.
While they speak up for feminism, they support rapacious wars that deny the rights of countless women, including the right to life.
In 2011, Libya, then a modern state, was destroyed on the pretext that Muammar Gaddafi was about to commit genocide on his own people. That was the incessant news; and there was no evidence. It was a lie.
An anti-Gaddafi rally, Libya 2011. (IMAGE: mojomogwai, Flickr)
An anti-Gaddafi rally, Libya 2011. (IMAGE: mojomogwai, Flickr)
In fact, Britain, Europe and the United States wanted what they like to call “regime change” in Libya, the biggest oil producer in Africa.
Gaddafi’s influence in the continent and, above all, his independence were intolerable.
So he was murdered with a knife in his rear by fanatics, backed by America, Britain and France.
Hillary Clinton cheered his gruesome death for the camera, declaring, “We came, we saw, he died!”
The destruction of Libya was a media triumph.
As the war drums were beaten, Jonathan Freedland wrote in the Guardian: “Though the risks are very real, the case for intervention remains strong.”
Intervention – what a polite, benign, Guardian word, whose real meaning, for Libya, was death and destruction.
According to its own records, Nato launched 9,700 “strike sorties” against Libya, of which more than a third were aimed at civilian targets. They included missiles with uranium warheads.
Look at the photographs of the rubble of Misurata and Sirte, and the mass graves identified by the Red Cross.
The UNICEF report on the children killed says, “most [of them]under the age of 10”.
As a direct consequence, Sirte became the capital of ISIS.
Ukraine is another media triumph. Respectable liberal newspapers such as the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Guardian, and mainstream broadcasters such as the BBC, NBC, CBS, CNN have played a critical role in conditioning their viewers to accept a new and dangerous cold war.
All have misrepresented events in Ukraine as a malign act by Russia when, in fact, the coup in Ukraine in 2014 was the work of the United States, aided by Germany and Nato.
This inversion of reality is so pervasive that Washington’s military intimidation of Russia is not news; it is suppressed behind a smear and scare campaign of the kind I grew up with during the first cold war. Once again, the Ruskies are coming to get us, led by another Stalin, whom The Economist depicts as the devil.
The suppression of the truth about Ukraine is one of the most complete news blackouts I can remember. The fascists who engineered the coup in Kiev are the same breed that backed the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941.
Of all the scares about the rise of fascist anti-Semitism in Europe, no leader ever mentions the fascists in Ukraine – except Vladimir Putin, but he does not count.
Russian president Vladimir Putin. (IMAGE: IoSonoUnaFotoCamera, Flickr).
Russian president Vladimir Putin. (IMAGE: IoSonoUnaFotoCamera, Flickr).
Many in the Western media have worked hard to present the ethnic Russian-speaking population of Ukraine as outsiders in their own country, as agents of Moscow, almost never as Ukrainians seeking a federation within Ukraine and as Ukrainian citizens resisting a foreign-orchestrated coup against their elected government.
There is almost the joie d’esprit of a class reunion of warmongers. The drum-beaters of the Washington Post inciting war with Russia are the very same editorial writers who published the lie that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.
To most of us, the American presidential campaign is a media freak show, in which Donald Trump is the arch villain.
But Trump is loathed by those with power in the United States for reasons that have little to do with his obnoxious behaviour and opinions. To the invisible government in Washington, the unpredictable Trump is an obstacle to America’s design for the 21stcentury.
This is to maintain the dominance of the United States and to subjugate Russia, and, if possible, China.
To the militarists in Washington, the real problem with Trump is that, in his lucid moments, he seems not to want a war with Russia; he wants to talk with the Russian president, not fight him; he says he wants to talk with the president of China.
In the first debate with Hillary Clinton, Trump promised not to be the first to introduce nuclear weapons into a conflict. He said, “I would certainly not do first strike. Once the nuclear alternative happens, it’s over.” That was not news.
Did he really mean it? Who knows? He often contradicts himself. But what is clear is that Trump is considered a serious threat to the status quo maintained by the vast national security machine that runs the United States, regardless of who is in the White House.
The CIA wants him beaten.
The Pentagon wants him beaten.
The media wants him beaten.
Even his own party wants him beaten.
He is a threat to the rulers of the world – unlike Clinton who has left no doubt she is prepared to go to war with nuclear-armed Russia and China.
US Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump. (IMAGE: Gage Skidmore, Flickr)
US Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump. (IMAGE: Gage Skidmore, Flickr)
Clinton has the form, as she often boasts. Indeed, her record is proven. As a senator, she backed the bloodbath in Iraq. When she ran against Obama in 2008, she threatened to “totally obliterate” Iran. As Secretary of State, she colluded in the destruction of governments in Libya and Honduras and set in train the baiting of China.
She has now pledged to support a No Fly Zone in Syria — a direct provocation for war with Russia. Clinton may well become the most dangerous president of the United States in my lifetime –a distinction for which the competition is fierce.
Without a shred of evidence, she has accused Russia of supporting Trump and hacking her emails. Released by WikiLeaks, these emails tell us that what Clinton says in private, in speeches to the rich and powerful, is the opposite of what she says in public.
That is why silencing and threatening Julian Assange is so important. As the editor of WikiLeaks, Assange knows the truth.
And let me assure those who are concerned, he is well, and WikiLeaks is operating on all cylinders.
Today, the greatest build-up of American-led forces since World War Two is under way – in the Caucasus and eastern Europe, on the border with Russia, and in Asia and the Pacific, where China is the target.
Keep that in mind when the presidential election circus reaches its finale on November 8th, If the winner is Clinton, a Greek chorus of witless commentators will celebrate her coronation as a great step forward for women. None will mention Clinton’s victims:
the women of Syria,
the women of Iraq,
the women of Libya.
None will mention the civil defence drills being conducted in Russia. None will recall Edward Bernays’ “torches of freedom”.
Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton. (IMAGE: iprimages, Flickr)
Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton. (IMAGE: iprimages, Flickr)
George Bush’s press spokesman once called the media “complicit enablers”.
Coming from a senior official in an administration whose lies, enabled by the media, caused such suffering, that description is a warning from history.
In 1946, the Nuremberg Tribunal prosecutor said of the German media:
“Before every major aggression, they initiated a press campaign calculated to weaken their victims and to prepare the German people psychologically for the attack. In the propaganda system, it was the daily press and the radio that were the most important weapons.”

This is adapted from an address to the Sheffield Festival of Words, Sheffield, England.JohnPilger.com – the films and journalism of John Pilger

 

(I have shared this important article under “fair use”, with full recognition to the author)

Vice News article: By Samuel Oakford April 19, 2016 | 8:05 pm

https://news.vice.com/article/ungass-portugal-what-happened-after-decriminalization-drugs-weed-to-heroin

As diplomats gather at the United Nations in New York this week to consider the future of global drug policy, one Portuguese official, João Goulão, will likely command attention that far outstrips his country’s influence in practically any other area. That’s because 16 years ago, Portugal took a leap and decriminalized the possession of all drugs — everything from marijuana to heroin. By most measures, the move has paid off.

Today, Portuguese authorities don’t arrest anyone found holding what’s considered less than a 10-day supply of an illicit drug — a gram of heroin, ecstasy, or amphetamine, two grams of cocaine, or 25 grams of cannabis. Instead, drug offenders receive a citation and are ordered to appear before so- called “dissuasion panels” made up of legal, social, and psychological experts. Most cases are simply suspended. Individuals who repeatedly come before the panels may be prescribed treatment, ranging from motivational counselling to opiate substitution therapy.

“We had a lot of criticism at first,” recalled Goulão, a physician specializing in addiction treatment whose work led Portugal to reform its drug laws in 2000, and who is today its national drug coordinator. After decriminalizing, the first inquiries Portugal received from the International Narcotics Control Board — the quasi-judicial UN oversight body established by the UN drug convention system — were sharp and scolding.

“Now things have changed completely,” he went on. “We are pointed to as an example of best practices inside the spirit of the conventions.” Indeed, Werner Sipp, the new head of the board, said as much at the UN’s Commission on Narcotic Drugs in Vienna earlier this year.

‘It was the combination of the law and these services that made it a success. It’s very difficult to find people in Portugal who disagree with this model.’

Though often narrowly assessed in reference to its decriminalization law, Portugal’s experience over the last decade and a half speaks as much to its free public health system, extensive treatment programs, and the hard to quantify trickle down effects of the legislation. In a society where drugs are less stigmatized, problem users are more likely to seek out care. Police, even if they suspect someone of using drugs, are less likely to bother them. Though at least 25 countries have introduced some form of decriminalization, Portugal’s holistic model and its use of dissuasion panels sets it apart.

The rate of new HIV infections in Portugal has fallen precipitously since 2001, the year its law took effect, declining from 1,016 cases to only 56 in 2012. Overdose deaths decreased from 80 the year that decriminalization was enacted to only 16 in 2012.

In the US, by comparison, more than 14,000 people died in 2014 from prescription opioid overdoses alone. Portugal’s current drug-induced death rate, three per million residents, is more than five times lower than the European Union’s average of 17.3, according to EU figures ( http://www.emcdda.europa.eu/attachements.cfm/att_239505_EN_TDAT15001ENN.pdf).

Related: Here’s What to Expect at the Big Drug Meeting This Week at the UN

When Portugal decided to decriminalize in 2000, many skeptics assumed that the number of users would skyrocket. That did not happen. With some exceptions, including a marginal increase among adolescents, drug use has fallen over the past 15 years and now ebbs and flows within overall trends in Europe. Portuguese officials estimate that by the late 1990s roughly one percent of Portugal’s population, around 100,000 people, were heroin users.

Today, “we estimate that we have 50,000, most of them under substitution treatment,” said Goulão before adding that he’s recently seen a small uptick in use of the drug, predominantly among former addicts that got clean. This reflects Portugal’s tenuous economic condition, he contends.

“People use drugs for one of two reasons — either to potentiate pleasures or relieve unpleasure — and the types of drugs and the type of people who use drugs carries a lot according to the conditions of life in the country,” he remarked.

Parallel harm reduction measures, such as needle exchanges and opioid substitution therapy using drugs like methadone and buprenorphine, he said, serve as a cushion to prevent the spread of communicable diseases and a rise in overdoses even if the number of users injecting heroin happens to increase for a period of time.

“I think harm reduction is not giving up on people,” said Goulão. “I think it is respecting their timings and assuming that even if someone is still using drugs, that person deserves the investment of the state in order to have a better and longer life.”

Such statements, once considered radical, are becoming more appealing to drug officials in other countries. Decriminalization and harm reduction lends greater attention to the human rights of users while allowing law enforcement resources to be spent elsewhere. And though it’s a major shift, Portuguese decriminalization is not a revolution in terms of international law.

Drugs are still illegal in Portugal, drug dealers and traffickers are still sent to jail, and the country has carefully kept itself within the confines of the UN’s drug convention system that inform national drug laws. For decades the three treaties were seen as prescribing jail time for users, but experts have long contended — and governments now increasingly recognize — that they give countries wide latitude in how to treat and police users.

When Portugal decriminalized, UN member states were just years removed from a 1998 special session of the General Assembly that convened under the fanciful pretext of eliminating drug use worldwide. On Tuesday, member states adopted a new outcome document that is meant to reposition drug policy. It stops short of what many advocates would have liked, excluding the actual words “harm reduction” while failing to address the death penalty for drug offenders, which member states noted repeatedly on Tuesday. The document reflects both an evolution in drug policy in many parts of the world over the last two decades, but is also a testament to the continued influence of conservative countries that still favour interdiction.

Related: How Russia Became the New Global Leader in the War on Drugs

Goulão himself is skeptical of some aspects of marijuana reform in places like the United States, which he says can conflate medical use with recreational markets. “Sometimes I feel the promoters of this discussion are mixing things together using a lack of intellectual seriousness,” he said.

Though heroin use is often highlighted to show the efficacy of Portugal’s model, today most users that come before panels are in fact caught with either hashish or cannabis, said Nuno Capaz, a sociologist who serves on Lisbon’s dissuasion panel. Between 80 to 85 percent of all people who report to the panels are first-time offenders and deemed to be recreational users, meaning their cases are suspended.

For those who have been repeatedly caught or are identified as addicts, the panels can order sanctions or treatment. Recreational users may face fines or be ordered to provide community service. If an addict refuses treatment, they are required to check in regularly with their “family doctor” — the medical professional in the person’s locality that provides checkups and other services to them under Portugal’s free national healthcare program. Such a close, pre-existing relationship between medical professionals and Portuguese residents is another feature of the model, and one that could be hard to replicate in a country like the US.

“If the person doesn’t show up at the doctor, we ask the police to personally hand them a notification so they know they are supposed to be in a specific place,” said Capaz. “The important part is to maintain the connection to the treatment system.”

The role of police coordinating with health officials to ensure treatment demonstrates the altered relationship between them and drug users over the past decade and a half, and one that contrasts dramatically with how police orient themselves in countries like the US.

“This small change actually makes a huge change in terms of police officers’ work,” said Capaz, referring to decriminalization. “Of course every police officer knows where people hang out to smoke joints. If they wanted to they would just go there and pick up the same guy over and over. That doesn’t happen.”

Working in parallel to government efforts, non-profit groups play a role in providing clean needles and even distributing crack pipes as a way to entice drug users into the network of state service providers.

Ricardo Fuertes, project coordinator at GAT, an outreach organization founded by people living with HIV, works at one of the group’s drop-in centers, nestled in a residential building in Lisbon. The location, he says, is a sign of the decrease in stigma towards drug use.

“It’s very obvious that it’s a place for people who use drugs. It’s very open, but we don’t have complaints,” said Fuertes, referring to the drop-in center. “The general population even comes to get tests done. I think it shows this isn’t a ghetto service.”

But care and outreach providers and the people they help have felt the pinch of Portugal’s economic troubles. In 2011, the country was bailed out by the European Union and the IMF, and later passed austerity measures that imposed considerable cuts on public services.

Related: Here’s How Zero-Tolerance Drug Policies Have Damaged Public Health Worldwide

Goulão said that drug treatment programs have been relatively insulated, but funds for job programs that could help employers pay the wages of drug users were decreased. Fuertes went a bit further, saying that some providers have had to lower costs. He explained that government funding may be allocated only for a year at a time, making long-term planning difficult.

“It’s not easy for many people, and of course people who use drugs are not the exception,” he said. “We see many of our clients facing very difficult situations.”

Portuguese health workers refer to Greece as a cautionary tale. Wracked by a budgetary crisis and the austerity conditions of repeated bailouts, Greece experienced an explosion of HIV transmission rates after budget cuts left health programs drastically underfunded. According to EU figures, only Greece and Latvia experienced larger cuts than Portugal to its public health services between the period of 2005 to 2007 and 2009 to 2012.

And yet Portugal experienced no discernable rise in HIV transmission — the cushion effect in action.

“Usually the focus is on the decriminalization itself, but it worked because there were other services, and the coverage increased for needle replacement, detox, therapeutic communities, and employment options for people who use drugs,” said Fuertes. “It was the combination of the law and these services that made it a success. It’s very difficult to find people in Portugal who disagree with this model.”

In the run-up to the UN General Assembly’s special session, Goulão cautioned that countries had to consider their own domestic environments first in learning from Portugal’s experience.

“We don’t assume that this is the silver bullet, but in my view it has been very important because it introduced coherence into the whole system,” he said. “If our responses are based in the idea that we talking about addiction, that we are talking about chronic disease, talking about a health issue — to have it out of the penal system is a clear improvement. It was really important for our society because it allowed us to drop the stigma.”

Follow Samuel Oakford on Twitter: @samueloakford

 

War by media and the triumph of propaganda

Why has so much journalism succumbed to propaganda?

Why are censorship and distortion standard practice?

Why is the BBC so often a mouthpiece of rapacious power?

 

full transcript: http://johnpilger.com/articles/war-by-media-and-the-triumph-of-propaganda

 

Why has so much journalism succumbed to propaganda? Why are censorship and distortion standard practice? Why is the BBC so often a mouthpiece of rapacious power? Why do the New York Times and the Washington Post deceive their readers?

 

Why are young journalists not taught to understand media agendas and to challenge the high claims and low purpose of fake objectivity? And why are they not taught that the essence of so much of what’s called the mainstream media is not information, but power?

 

These are urgent questions. The world is facing the prospect of major war, perhaps nuclear war – with the United States clearly determined to isolate and provoke Russia and eventually China. This truth is being turned upside down and inside out by journalists, including those who promoted the lies that led to the bloodbath in Iraq in 2003.

 

The times we live in are so dangerous and so distorted in public perception that propaganda is no longer, as Edward Bernays called it, an “invisible government”. It is the government. It rules directly without fear of contradiction and its principal aim is the conquest of us: our sense of the world, our ability to separate truth from lies.

 

The information age is actually a media age. We have war by media; censorship by media; demonology by media; retribution by media; diversion by media – a surreal assembly line of obedient clichés and false assumptions.

 

This power to create a new “reality” has building for a long time. Forty-five years ago, a book entitled The Greening of America caused a sensation. On the cover were these words: “There is a revolution coming. It will not be like revolutions of the past. It will originate with the individual.”

 

I was a correspondent in the United States at the time and recall the overnight elevation to guru status of the author, a young Yale academic, Charles Reich. His message was that truth-telling and political action had failed and only “culture” and introspection could change the world.

 

Within a few years, driven by the forces of profit, the cult of “me-ism” had all but overwhelmed our sense of acting together, our sense of social justice and internationalism. Class, gender and race were separated. The personal was the political, and the media was the message.

 

In the wake of the cold war, the fabrication of new “threats” completed the political disorientation of those who, 20 years earlier, would have formed a vehement opposition.

 

In 2003, I filmed an interview in Washington with Charles Lewis, the distinguished American investigative journalist. We discussed the invasion of Iraq a few months earlier. I asked him, “What if the freest media in the world had seriously challenged George Bush and Donald Rumsfeld and investigated their claims, instead of channeling what turned out to be crude propaganda?”

 

He replied that if we journalists had done our job “there is a very, very good chance we would have not gone to war in Iraq.”

 

That’s a shocking statement, and one supported by other famous journalists to whom I put the same question. Dan Rather, formerly of CBS, gave me the same answer.  David Rose of the Observer and senior journalists and producers in the BBC, who wished to remain anonymous, gave me the same answer.

 

In other words, had journalists done their job, had they questioned and investigated the propaganda instead of amplifying it, hundreds of thousands of men, women and children might be alive today; and millions might not have fled their homes; the sectarian war between Sunni and Shia might not have ignited, and the infamous Islamic State might not now exist.

 

Even now, despite the millions who took to the streets in protest, most of the public in western countries have little idea of the sheer scale of the crime committed by our governments in Iraq. Even fewer are aware that, in the 12 years before the invasion, the US and British governments set in motion a holocaust by denying the civilian population of Iraq a means to live.

Those are the words of the senior British official responsible for sanctions on Iraq in the 1990s – a medieval siege that caused the deaths of half a million children under the age of five, reported Unicef.

The official’s name is Carne Ross. In the Foreign Office in London, he was known as “Mr. Iraq”. Today, he is a truth-teller of how governments deceive and how journalists willingly spread the deception.

“We would feed journalists factoids of sanitised intelligence,” he told me, “or we’d freeze them out.”

The main whistleblower during this terrible, silent period was Denis Halliday. Then Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations and the senior UN official in Iraq, Halliday resigned rather than implement policies he described as genocidal.  He estimates that sanctions killed more than a million Iraqis.

What then happened to Halliday was instructive. He was airbrushed. Or he was vilified. On the BBC’s Newsnight programme, the presenter Jeremy Paxman shouted at him: “Aren’t you just an apologist for Saddam Hussein?”

The Guardian recently described this as one of Paxman’s “memorable moments”. Last week, Paxman signed a £1 million book deal.

The handmaidens of suppression have done their job well. Consider the effects. In 2013, a ComRes poll found that a majority of the British public believed the casualty toll in Iraq was less than 10,000 – a tiny fraction of the truth. A trail of blood that goes from Iraq to London has been scrubbed almost clean.

Rupert Murdoch is said to be the godfather of the media mob, and no one should doubt the augmented power of his newspapers – all 127 of them, with a combined circulation of 40 million, and his Fox network. But the influence of Murdoch’s empire is no greater than its reflection of the wider media.

The most effective propaganda is found not in the Sun or on Fox News – but beneath a liberal halo. When the New York Times published claims that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, its fake evidence was believed, because it wasn’t Fox News; it was the New York Times.

The same is true of the Washington Post and the Guardian, both of which have played a critical role in conditioning their readers to accept a new and dangerous cold war. All three liberal newspapers have misrepresented events in Ukraine as a malign act by Russia – when, in fact, the fascist led coup in Ukraine was the work of the United States, aided by Germany and Nato.

This inversion of reality is so pervasive that Washington’s military encirclement and intimidation of Russia is not contentious. It’s not even news, but suppressed behind a smear and scare campaign of the kind I grew up with during the first cold war.

Once again, the evil empire is coming to get us, led by another Stalin or, perversely, a new Hitler. Name your demon and let rip.

The suppression of the truth about Ukraine is one of the most complete news blackouts I can remember. The biggest Western military build-up in the Caucasus and eastern Europe since world war two is blacked out. Washington’s secret aid to Kiev and its neo-Nazi brigades responsible for war crimes against the population of eastern Ukraine is blacked out. Evidence that contradicts propaganda that Russia was responsible for the shooting down of a Malaysian airliner is blacked out.

And again, supposedly liberal media are the censors. Citing no facts, no evidence, one journalist identified a pro-Russian leader in Ukraine as the man who shot down the airliner. This man, he wrote, was known as The Demon. He was a scary man who frightened the journalist. That was the evidence.

Many in the western media haves worked hard to present the ethnic Russian population of Ukraine as outsiders in their own country, almost never as Ukrainians seeking a federation within Ukraine and as Ukrainian citizens resisting a foreign-orchestrated coup against their elected government.

What the Russian president has to say is of no consequence; he is a pantomime villain who can be abused with impunity. An American general who heads Nato and is straight out of Dr. Strangelove – one General Breedlove – routinely claims Russian invasions without a shred of visual evidence. His impersonation of Stanley Kubrick’s General Jack D. Ripper is pitch perfect.

Forty thousand Ruskies were massing on the border, according to Breedlove. That was good enough for the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Observer – the latter having previously distinguished itself with lies and fabrications that backed Blair’s invasion of Iraq, as its former reporter, David Rose, revealed.

There is almost the joi d’esprit of a class reunion. The drum-beaters of the Washington Post are the very same editorial writers who declared the existence of Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction to be “hard facts”.

“If you wonder,” wrote Robert Parry, “how the world could stumble into world war three – much as it did into world war one a century ago – all you need to do is look at the madness that has enveloped virtually the entire US political/media structure over Ukraine where a false narrative of white hats versus black hats took hold early and has proved impervious to facts or reason.”

Parry, the journalist who revealed Iran-Contra, is one of the few who investigate the central role of the media in this “game of chicken”, as the Russian foreign minister called it. But is it a game? As I write this, the US Congress votes on Resolution 758 which, in a nutshell, says: “Let’s get ready for war with Russia.”

In the 19th century, the writer Alexander Herzen described secular liberalism as “the final religion, though its church is not of the other world but of this”. Today, this divine right is far more violent and dangerous than anything the Muslim world throws up, though perhaps its greatest triumph is the illusion of free and open information.

 

In the news, whole countries are made to disappear. Saudi Arabia, the source of extremism  and western-backed terror, is not a story, except when it drives down the price of oil. Yemen has endured twelve years of American drone attacks. Who knows? Who cares?

In 2009, the University of the West of England published the results of a ten-year study of the BBC’s coverage of Venezuela. Of 304 broadcast reports, only three mentioned any of the positive policies introduced by the government of Hugo Chavez. The greatest literacy programme in human history received barely a passing reference.

In Europe and the United States, millions of readers and viewers know next to nothing about the remarkable, life-giving changes implemented in Latin America, many of them inspired by Chavez.

Like the BBC, the reports of the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Guardian and the rest of the respectable western media were notoriously in bad faith.

Chavez was mocked even on his deathbed. How is this explained, I wonder, in schools of journalism?

Why are millions of people in Britain are persuaded that a collective punishment called “austerity” is necessary?

Following the economic crash in 2008, a rotten system was exposed. For a split second the banks were lined up as crooks with obligations to the public they had betrayed.

But within a few months – apart from a few stones lobbed over excessive corporate “bonuses” – the message changed.

The mugshots of guilty bankers vanished from the tabloids and something called “austerity” became the burden of millions of ordinary people.

Was there ever a sleight of hand as brazen?

Today, many of the premises of civilised life in Britain are being dismantled in order to pay back a fraudulent debt – the debt of crooks.

The “austerity” cuts are said to be £83 billion.

That’s almost exactly the amount of tax avoided by the same banks and by corporations like Amazon and Murdoch’s News UK.

Moreover, the crooked banks are given an annual subsidy of £100bn in free insurance and guarantees – a figure that would fund the entire National Health Service.

The economic crisis is pure propaganda. Extreme policies now rule Britain, the United States, much of Europe, Canada and Australia.

Who is standing up for the majority?

Who is telling their story?

Who’s keeping record straight?

Isn’t that what journalists are meant to do?

In 1977, Carl Bernstein, of Watergate fame, revealed that more than 400 journalists and news executives worked for the CIA.

They included journalists from the New York Times, Time and the TV networks.

In 1991, Richard Norton Taylor of the Guardian revealed something similar in this country.

 

None of this is necessary today. I doubt that anyone paid the Washington Post and many other media outlets to accuse Edward Snowden of aiding terrorism. I doubt that anyone pays those who  routinely smear Julian Assange – though other rewards can be plentiful.

 

It’s clear to me that the main reason Assange has attracted such venom, spite and jealously is that WikiLeaks tore down the facade of a corrupt political elite held aloft by journalists. In heralding an extraordinary era of disclosure, Assange made enemies by illuminating and shaming the media’s gatekeepers, not least on the newspaper that published and appropriated his great scoop. He became not only a target, but a golden goose.

 

Lucrative book and Hollywood movie deals were struck and media careers launched or kick-started on the back of WikiLeaks and its founder. People have made big money, while WikiLeaks has struggled to survive.

 

None of this was mentioned in Stockholm on 1 December when the editor of the Guardian, Alan Rusbridger, shared with Edward Snowden the Right Livelihood Award, known as the alternative Nobel Peace Prize. What was shocking about this event was that Assange and WikiLeaks were airbrushed. They didn’t exist. They were unpeople. No one spoke up for the man who pioneered digital whistleblowing and handed the Guardian one of the greatest scoops in history. Moreover, it was Assange and his WikiLeaks team who effectively – and brilliantly – rescued Edward Snowden in Hong Kong and sped him to safety. Not a word.

 

What made this censorship by omission so ironic and poignant and disgraceful was that the ceremony was held in the Swedish parliament – whose craven silence on the Assange case has colluded with a grotesque miscarriage of justice in Stockholm.

“When the truth is replaced by silence,” said the Soviet dissident Yevtushenko, “the silence is a lie.”

It’s this kind of silence we journalists need to break.

We need to look in the mirror.

We need to call to account an unaccountable media that services power and a psychosis that threatens world war.

 

In the 18th century, Edmund Burke described the role of the press as a Fourth Estate checking the powerful. Was that ever true? It certainly doesn’t wash any more. What we need is a Fifth Estate: a journalism that monitors, deconstructs and counters propaganda and teaches the young to be agents of people, not power. We need what the Russians called perestroika – an insurrection of subjugated knowledge. I would call it real journalism.

 

It’s 100 years since the First World War. Reporters then were rewarded and knighted for their silence and collusion. At the height of the slaughter, British prime minister David Lloyd George confided in C.P. Scott, editor of the Manchester Guardian:

“If people really knew [the truth] the war would be stopped tomorrow, but of course they don’t know and can’t know.”

 

It’s time they knew.

 

Follow John Pilger on twitter @johnpilger