This Russia-Afghanistan Story Is Western Propaganda At Its Most Vile
Caitlin Johnstone / Medium
(June 27, 2020) — All western mass media outlets are now shrieking about the story The New York Times first reported, citing zero evidence and naming zero sources, claiming intelligence says Russia paid out bounties to Taliban-linked fighters in Afghanistan for attacking the occupying forces of the US and its allies in Afghanistan. As of this writing, and probably forevermore, there have still been zero intelligence sources named and zero evidence provided for this claim.
As we discussed yesterday, the only correct response to unsubstantiated claims by anonymous spooks in a post-Iraq invasion world is to assume that they are lying until you’ve been provided with a mountain of hard, independently verifiable evidence to the contrary. ‘
The fact that The New York Times instead chose to uncritically parrot these evidence-free claims made by operatives within intelligence agencies with a known track record of lying about exactly these things is nothing short of journalistic malpractice. The fact that western media outlets are now unanimously regurgitating these still 100 percent baseless assertions is nothing short of state propaganda.
The consensus-manufacturing, Overton window-shrinking western propaganda apparatus has been in full swing with mass media outlets claiming on literally no basis whatsoever that they have confirmed one another’s “great reporting” on this completely unsubstantiated story.
“The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post have confirmed our reporting,” the NYT story’s co-author Charlie Savage tweeted hours ago.
“We have confirmed the New York Times’ scoop: A Russian military spy unit offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants to attack coalition forces in Afghanistan,” tweeted The Washington Post’s John Hudson.
“We matched The New York Times’ great reporting on how US intel has assessed that Russians paid Taliban to target US, coalition forces in Afg which is a pretty stunning development,” tweeted Wall Street Journal’s Gordon Lubold.
All three of these men are lying.
John Hudson’s claim that the Washington Post article he co-authored “confirmed the New York Times’ scoop” twice uses the words “if confirmed” with regard to his central claim, saying “Russian involvement in operations targeting Americans, if confirmed,” and “The attempt to stoke violence against Americans, if confirmed”. This is of course an acknowledgement that these things have not, in fact, been confirmed.
The Wall Street Journal article co-authored by Gordon Lubold cites only anonymous “people”, who we have no reason to believe are different people than NYT’s sources, repeating the same unsubstantiated assertions about an intelligence report. The article cites no evidence that Lubold’s “stunning development” actually occurred beyond “people familiar with the report said” and “a person familiar with it said”.
The fact that both Hudson and Lubold were lying about having confirmed the New York Times’ reporting means that Savage was also lying when he said they did. When they say the report has been “confirmed”, what they really mean is that it has been agreed upon. All the three of them actually did was use their profoundly influential outlets to uncritically parrot something nameless spooks want the public to believe, which is the same as just publishing a CIA press release free of charge. It is unprincipled stenography for opaque and unaccountable intelligence agencies, and it is disgusting.
None of this should be happening. The New York Times has admitted itselfthat it was wrong for uncritically parroting the unsubstantiated spook claims which led to the Iraq invasion, as has The Washington Post. There is no reason to believe Taliban fighters would require any bounty to attack an illegitimate occupying force. The Russian government has denied these allegations. The Taliban has denied these allegations. The Trump administration has denied that the president or the vice president had any knowledge of the spook report in question, denouncing the central allegation that liberals who are promoting this story have been fixated on.
Yet this story is being magically transmuted into an established fact, despite its being based on literally zero factual evidence.
Outlets like CNN are running the story with the headline “Russia offered bounties to Afghan militants to kill US troops”, deceitfully presenting this as a verified fact. Such dishonest headlines are joined by UK outlets like The Guardian who informs headline-skimmers that “Russia offered bounty to kill UK soldiers”, and the Murdoch-owned Sky News which went with “Russia paid Taliban fighters to attack British troops in Afghanistan” after “confirming” the story with anonymous British spooks.
Western propagandists are turning this completely empty story into the mainstream consensus, not with facts, not with evidence, and certainly not with journalism, but with sheer brute force of narrative control. And now you’ve got Joe Biden once again attacking Trump for being insufficiently warlike, this time because “he failed to sanction or impose any kind of consequences on Russia for this egregious violation of international law”.
You’ve also got former George W Bush lackey Richard Haas promoting “a proportionate response” to these baseless allegations.
“Russia is carrying out covert wars vs US troops in Afghanistan and our democracy here at home,” Haas tweeted with a link to the New York Timesstory. “A proportionate response would increase the costs to Russia of its military presence in Ukraine and Syria and, using sanctions and cyber, to challenge Putin at home.”
Haas is the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, a wildly influential think tank with its fingers in most major US news outlets.
And indeed, the unified campaign to shove this story down people’s throats in stark defiance of everything one learns in journalism school does appear to be geared toward advancing pre-existing foreign policy agendas which have nothing to do with any concern for the safety of US troops. Analysts have pointed out that this new development arises just in time to sabotage the last of the nuclear treaties between the US and Russia, the scaling down of US military presence in Afghanistan, and, as Haas already openly admitted, any possibility of peace in Syria.
“This story is published just in time to sabotage US-Russia arms control talks,” Antiwar’s Dave DeCamp noted on Twitter. “As the US is preparing for a new arms race — and possibly even live nuclear tests — the New York Times provides a great excuse to let the New START lapse, making the world a much more dangerous place. Russiagate has provided the cover for Trump to pull out of arms control agreements. First the INF, then the Open Skies, and now possibly the New START. Any talks or negotiations with Russia are discouraged in this atmosphere, and this Times story will make things even worse.”
“US ‘intelligence’ agencies (ie, organized crime networks run by the state) want to sabotage the (admittedly very inadequate) peace talks in Afghanistan,” tweeted journalist Ben Norton. “So they get best of both worlds: blame the Russian bogeyman, fueling the new cold war, while prolonging the military occupation. It’s not a coincidence these dubious Western intelligence agency claims about Russia came just days after a breakthrough in peace talks. Afghanistan’s geostrategic location (and trillions worth of minerals) is too important to them.”
All parties involved in spreading this malignant psyop are absolutely vile, but a special disdain should be reserved for the media class who have been entrusted by the public with the essential task of creating an informed populace and holding power to account. How much of an unprincipled whore do you have to be to call yourself a journalist and uncritically parrot the completely unsubstantiated assertions of spooks while protecting their anonymity? How much work did these empire fluffers put into killing off every last shred of their dignity? It boggles the mind.
It really is funny how the most influential news outlets in the western world will uncritically parrot whatever they’re told to say by the most powerful and depraved intelligence agencies on the planet, and then turn around and tell you without a hint of self-awareness that Russia and China are bad because they have state media.
Sometimes all you can do is laugh.
Caitlin Johnstone is a reader-supported journalist and the author of Rogue Nation: Psychonautical Adventures With Caitlin Johnstone and Woke: A Field Guide for Utopia Preppers. For more info the author, click here.
Veterans Group Targets Trump in New Ads
The fact that this story might not be factual hasn’t stopped Trump’s critics from using it in some new attack ads. The following, from the anti-war veterans group, VoteVets, was recently aired on the Rachel Maddow Show.
The Russian Menace and the Dangers of Believing the New York Times
(June 28, 2020) — The New York Times claims that Russia offered to pay Afghans to kill US (and allied) troops. It does not claim that any payments were made. It does not claim that any troops were killed. It does not claim that any impact was had on anything. It does not name its sources. It does not offer any evidence other than the supposed assertions of nameless government officials. I
t does not offer any justification for not naming them. It does not provide the context of all the years the US government spent arming and funding Afghans to kill Russians, nor all the more recent years during which the US military has been both the enemy of the Taliban and its top funding source (or at least second to opium). It promotes the ridiculous and debunked Russiagate notion that Trump is too kind to Russia.
But is it true?
Well, anything’s possible. Trump has denied millions of true statements. Russia has killed many people. But we do know that much of what’s going on here is not true. One of the authors of the New York Times article, Charlie Savage, has been tweeting links to other media outlets that supposedly confirm his report. “Reports that a Russian intelligence unit paid Taliban fighters to kill coalition troops in Afghanistan are true,” he claims.
But the links don’t add much or do what Savage says they do. ABC News claims, without proof, that an unnamed person says Russia offered money, then adds: “’There is no way to really confirm if it actually worked,’ the military official, who’s not authorized to speak on the record about such matters, told ABC News.” Sky News claims without any evidence that Russia paid (not offered, but actually paid) for killings.
As Caitlin Johnstone has noted, various sources cited by Savage (the Washington Post and Wall Street Journal) cite only unnamed people, so we have no way of knowing whether they are the same unnamed people or different ones, and the same articles actually preface their claims with the words “if confirmed,” which hardly amounts to a confirmation.
The fact that Sky News cites unnamed British officials has generated claims on social media that all the countries of the world are confirming the New York Times story, a line familiar from the wars of the past 20 years, the first failing of which is the fact that there are more than 2 or 3 nations in the world.
There’s a great volume of reporting on who supposedly told whom what when within the Trump White House, some of which could be true, but none of which is accompanied by any evidence, and all of which avoids the apparently hard-to-grasp fact that people can and have told Trump things that weren’t actually true.
The US government pays its own troops and mercenaries to kill people all the time, constantly, non-stop. The US president brags about taking steps that ensure more US people will die of COVID-19. The Russian government pays its troops and mercenaries to kill. Every nation with a military pays people to commit murder, and it’s evil, always.
Why did someone decide that they could make a big story in particular out of Russia supposedly paying Afghans to kill US troops and their side-kicks? Clearly because the US media has spent years demonizing and lying about Russia and ludicrously persuading the US public that Donald Trump is a servant of Russia.
Who benefits? Democrats. Joe Biden. Weapons dealers. Media oligarchs.
Who suffers? The victims of military spending, which is so badly needed for better things, and the victims of possible future wars and continued endless wars. The war on Afghanistan is more likely to continue. The Congress is less likely to move money from militarism to human needs. Weapons corporations are more likely to dump even more money into Joe Biden. The world is more likely to suffer the horrific direct and indirect consequences of yet more wars. And we’re all more likely to have our last thought in life be “So that’s a nuclear explosion.”
David Swanson is an author, activist, journalist, and radio host. He is executive director of WorldBeyondWar.org and campaign coordinator for RootsAction.org. Swanson’s books include War Is A Lie. He blogs at DavidSwanson.org and WarIsACrime.org. He hosts Talk Nation Radio.He is a Nobel Peace Prize nominee, and was awarded the 2018 Peace Prize by the US Peace Memorial Foundation. Longer bio and photos and videos here. Follow him on Twitter: @davidcnswanson and FaceBook.
Intel Official: NYT Russian Bounty Story ‘Uncorroborated’
House Republicans briefed on intel Monday, Democrats to be briefed Tuesday
(June 29, 2020) — An unnamed intelligence official told CBS News reporter Catherine Herridge that intelligence reports of Russia offering the Taliban bounty payments to kill US soldiers were “uncorroborated,” and the information was not presented to President Trump.
The official told Herridge that the National Security Council (NSC) assessed the intelligence and found it “does not match well-established and verifiable Taliban and Haqqani practices” and lacks “sufficient reporting to corroborate any links.” The official also said the intelligence reached low-levels of the NSC but did not make it into the president or vice president’s daily briefing.
On Friday, The New York Times claimed that President Trump received a briefing on intelligence that said Russia offered bounties to Taliban-linked militants to kill US and NATO troops, citing anonymous intelligence officials who were “briefed on the matter.” Media outlets and Trump’s political opponents jumped on the story, accusing Trump of ignoring the intelligence and putting US troops in danger.
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany made similar comments to Herridge’s source at a press conference on Monday. McEnany said there was “no consensus” on the validity of the Russian bounty story in the intelligence community, and said the president is only briefed on “verified” intelligence.
The White House briefed eight House Republicans on the intelligence on Monday. Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN) attended the briefing and said on Twitter that the Times used “unconfirmed” intelligence from an “ongoing” investigation.
Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT) also attended the briefing. “Media reports that POTUS was briefed on Russian plans to pay bounties for killing US soldiers is not true. The raw intelligence simply did not reach the level of credibility sufficient to brief the president,” Rep. Stewart said. House Democrats are expected to be briefed on the intelligence Tuesday morning.
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